by Doc Quantum and Libbylawrence
Donna Troy, the Teen Titan known as Wonder Girl, sat in the chair next to the hospital bed of Kole Weathers, silently praying for recovery from the coma she was in. She had briefly considered transporting the young woman to Paradise Island for a special healing treatment, but then decided against it. Kole would be better off not being moved at the moment. Besides, the doctors were hopeful that she would recover soon.
And she hoped that she did recover soon. Kole’s recovery would mean quite a lot to her, a bright spot in a very dark time. It was bad enough that her sister had been slain during the final hours of the Crisis on Infinite Earths, but the funeral ceremonies for Diana had taken a lot out of her. Wonder Woman had been one of this world’s greatest heroines. And in the space of a few days, Earth had lost two amongst the greatest of those heroines.
The funeral ceremony on Paradise Island had been the hardest one, though. She did not relish the thought of returning to her childhood home just yet. Not unless she had a good reason to.
Donna rose from the bedside and bent over to kiss Kole’s forehead. “Sleep well,” she said, and walked out of the hospital. The weight of the world seemed to rest on her shoulders now. She had been racking her mind, trying to decide whether or not to continue the legacy her sister had begun by becoming the new Wonder Woman.
There were other problems. Dick Grayson, Koriand’r and Joseph Wilson had left for Tamaran in the midst of the Crisis when the Princess Koriand’r (who called herself Starfire) had received a summons from her father to return home at once. After Dick Grayson — the former partner of Batman now known as Nightwing — had returned, she found him in an awful state. He was unshaven, wore only a bathrobe, and apparently hadn’t bothered showering for days. He gave her the news that Kory had gone through with an arranged marriage of state and would be staying on her home planet. Furthermore, he quit the team, leaving it entirely in Donna’s hands. Later, when Donna confronted him about this, they’d had a bit of a scene; needless to say, it had not ended well. He finally elected to search for their missing teammate, Raven, who had been missing since the Crisis. It was reported that Raven had been kidnapped by Brother Blood and his Church of Blood. Dick had gone off in search of her and had been missing ever since.
Joseph Wilson, AKA Jericho, had been spending most of his time at his lover Kole’s bedside ever since he returned from Tamaran and learned of her injured state, and he was spending the rest of his time with his mother Adeline. He assumed that the team was now disbanded; he was not far off. Garfield Logan and Vic Stone had gone off in search of the former’s adoptive father, billionaire Steven Dayton, who as Mento — formerly of the Doom Patrol — had become mentally unhinged and was now becoming dangerous. Victor Stone, the cybernetic hero known as Cyborg, had been seriously damaged in an ensuing battle with the crazed ex-hero and was in critical condition at STAR Labs. Garfield Logan, the Changeling, had decided to call it quits. And Wally — well, Wally West was stepping into some big shoes of his own.
She turned to see a red streak race up and stop in front of her. Well, speak of the devil, she thought. “Wally, it’s good to see you,” she said with a genuine smile. “How are things going with you?”
The young man dressed in his uncle’s costume looked away for a moment. “Well, it’s not easy, but… I guess you would understand, huh?” The new Flash looked back into her eyes. There was still a connection there.
“I understand totally,” Donna replied, and reached out to hug her longtime childhood friend. They just stood there, slowly rocking back and forth in a warm embrace. Dick and Wally were the closest things she had to brothers, and she suspected as well that Wally felt her to be the sister he never had. The bond they shared, now, though, had brought them closer together than they’d ever been before. They had both lost their heroes.
Dick Grayson, clad in an entirely black outfit, scaled the walls of Brother Blood’s compound on the island-nation of Zandia in the Mediterranean. He had grown a beard, and with the bags under his eyes he looked far older than his actual age. He was sure that Raven was somewhere in this building, and he had gained access to the compound by disguising himself as a security thug.
He stopped near a window, taking a quick glance inside using a small mirror. Three armed guards. And with the security patrolling below, this would not be easy. He would try the roof. Rather than risk the sound of his grappling hook’s servo engine possibly being heard by a guard or guards on the roof, he climbed hand over hand the rest of the way to the edge of the roof.
Only one guard here. He was in luck. The relaxed guard was enjoying a cigarette and had left his gun straddling his legs as he sat on the edge of the roof a few feet away. Dick watched patiently for his chance.
The guard flicked the butt of his cigarette over the edge of the roof and took a moment to watch it fall until he could see it no longer by the light of the moon. It was the last thing he saw for a while, as Dick took that chance to swing silently onto the rooftop and strike him from behind with a single, well-placed karate chop that plunged him into unconsciousness. It was one of the first tricks he’d learned from Bruce as a boy. Good to know he could still do it.
Dick made a quick decision to undress the man and wear his uniform. It was a good thing that Dick’s naturally black hair and the tanned complexion he’d gained on Tamaran made him resemble the native Zambian somewhat. The man even had a similar beard to Dick’s. As long as he kept his head down and acted relaxed, he could pull this off, he reasoned.
Minutes later, he walked through the corridors in search of Raven. He’d passed by a couple of guards who made a couple of remarks at his appearance and smell, but he’d just responded with a casual laugh. His Zambian was rudimentary, but he’d understood it was a passing joke. Coming up to the room he’d been told by his source was the one holding Raven, he relieved the guard with the one Zambian phrase he’d practiced until it sounded perfect, waited until he left, and entered the room.
“Raven!” Dick said at the sight of his friend and former teammate. “Arella,” he added at the sight of Raven’s mother, “they’ve captured you, too?”
“Dick, it’s not what you think,” Arella started to say.
“Raven, what have they done to you?” Dick interrupted as he noticed his friend still unmoved by his voice. He knelt down and attempted to see her face. “Raven, look at me.”
The Titan known only as Raven brought her hands up to her head and removed the hood on her white outfit. “Dick? It has been a long time, hasn’t it?”
He gasped in shock. “Raven! Oh my God, what happened to your face?” And he continued to stare, transfixed, into her altered visage.
Dick Grayson cradled Raven in his arms in the cell, her mother’s warning that all was not what it appeared to be falling on deaf ears. Arella was battered, and Dick gasped as he saw how roughly the woman had been treated. “You can trust me to get you two to safety. Don’t think I’ll let this madman hurt you if I can stop him,” he said softly.
Raven smiled almost beatifically. “Richard, he has the truth in him. All he says, all he does, brings that which is good. You must learn to embrace the ways of Blood.”
Dick frowned. “Hitler also had all the truth, as his warped mind determined it. She’s under his sway, isn’t she?” he said to Arella.
“Yes. In some ways, Blood has her in a grip as tightly as ever did Trigon,” she said tearfully.
“Now it is time for us to show you the light!” said Raven as she called for guards.
Dick whirled to face a squad of men. He estimated distance and speed of weapon use and acted with a single swift motion. He knocked the first man into the path of the others and spun to kick him flat. Three quick flips enabled him to crash into the rest.
“She is not going anywhere!” said an imperious voice from the shadows. “I am Mother Mayhem. Welcome to your initiation,” she said softly.
Dick realized that Raven would not leave, and with the number of guards and Arella to consider, he had better play for time.
“OK, take me to your leader,” he said with the barest hint of the punning daredevil he once had been.
In the meeting room of the newly rebuilt Titans Tower, which had been destroyed in a battle with the demonic being, Trigon the Terrible, Donna Troy and Wally West sat drinking coffee with her husband Terry Long, who had been waiting at the Tower for Donna’s return.
“There doesn’t seem to be much of a team left, is there?” she said morosely as she held the warm cup in her hands.
“I wish I could be of help, Donna, but my new responsibilities as the Flash will be keeping me busy for a while,” said Wally. Donna merely continued to stare into her cup. “Uh… but you can be sure to count on me for the time being, at least until the Titans get off the ground.”
Terry Long rose and placed his arms over his wife’s shoulders. “Honey, these things seem to go in cycles — you know that. Just give it time. I’m sure that the New Teen Titans will be back again soon.”
“Why?” she said simply. “Why should the Titans get back together? Is there a reason? Do you really think that New York or the world would miss us if we didn’t re-form?”
Terry and Wally exchanged glances. Then Wally spoke up. “Of course they would, Donna,” he said, raising her chin up to look at him. “This Tower is a testament to that fact. If there had been no New Teen Titans, how do you think that our world would’ve fared against Trigon?” At Donna’s skeptical look, Wally continued, “Oh sure, the JLA would’ve come up against him, and possibly the Outsiders too, but what if they had been too late? Because Raven was on our team, we had foreknowledge of Trigon’s coming.
“Donna, if there was no Teen Titans then, we wouldn’t have been worrying about rebuilding this Tower — we would’ve been worrying about rebuilding this entire city,” he emphasized.
Donna continued to eye him evenly. Then she broke the tension with a smile. “Thank you, Wally,” she said.
Terry Long hugged her and rose for the kitchen. “Now, I’m going to fix you two some of my famous Long Island clam chowder. And I won’t accept no for an answer,” he said, turning around a corner.
“So how’re you two doing?” Wally asked.
“It’s been hard for him. I haven’t exactly been a ray of sunshine in his life right now. But he’s really been there for me. Wally, I never knew how much married life would mean to me until after I was married. He’s been the rock in my life that I’ve desperately needed.” She looked away, a determined look on her face now. “But the time for mourning is over. It’s time for me to face up to my responsibilities — my legacy.
“I’m going to become the new Wonder Woman.”
Dick Grayson was weary. He had been subjected to lack of sleep, constant bright lights, and other tactics designed to act along with Blood’s bizarre almost vampiric manner to control his mind. He pretended to be weakening, yet in truth his strong will and meticulous training by Batman had made the young man of sturdier stuff.
Got to keep focused. If I can fool these creeps into thinking I’m ready to sign up, then I’ll have the time and space to find a way to get Arella and Raven out of here. I can’t count on any help from Raven, but just maybe, someone else could assist me, he mused.
He referred to a handsome winged man who stood ever alert at Brother Blood’s side. His name was unknown to Dick and to himself, yet Blood had given the alien youth the name Azrael.
He had encountered the Titans before and had obviously possessed odd powers and a passionate devotion to the beauty called Lilith. When she had been required to remain upon Mount Olympus, he had been filled with pain and emotional anguish and had afterward somehow fallen into the clutches of the evil Blood.
Dick wondered if his love for Lilith just might prove to be stronger than any conditioning the cult had given him. He’d find out when he got a chance.
He regretted much. He was sorry that he had blown up at Donna and had allowed his pain and bitterness over Kory’s decision to marry Karras on Tamaran to dominate his own normal clear and reasonable thinking.
He could not even bring himself to hate Karras. He was a victim of politics, too. He had a lover and was, like Kory, merely marrying for reasons of a greater good for the ending of or prevention of further civil war on the alien world.
Kory, how could you toss our relationship away? I know you don’t care as much as I do about legalities or society mores, but I can’t be with a married woman, even if she claims her marriage is merely a political ceremony and not a religious or spiritual one, he thought as he battled the whirling lights and Mother Mayhem’s coldly persuasive tones.