The New Titans: Quest, Chapter 1: Switcheroo

by Libbylawrence

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Raven glanced eagerly ahead at what would have been a daunting sight to most other students at Manhattan University. She saw the long, long line of registration-seeking students as it wound out of the main office. She smiled, though, because she was happy to be doing something as mundane as signing up for classes. She smiled even at the feeling of impatience because it was a feeling. She had suppressed her emotions for her whole life due to the fear that her demonic heritage would overcome her should she give in to feelings. But with the defeat of her evil father Trigon and the further purging of her psyche during her ordeal with the vampiric Brother Blood of Zandia, the pretty young woman could now truly indulge in the wonderfully diverse and exhilarating gamut of emotions open to all people. (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See The New Titans: Fragments.]

And she did so, almost laughing with pleasure. Another student approached her in surprise. Paul Jennings, a blond man from her Philosophy class, said, “Raven, is that you?”

She smiled and said, “Why, yes, Paul. Am I so very different?”

He eyed her tank top, miniskirt, and heels, and said, “Uh, no, no. You look great!”

She touched his arm and warmly said, “You are so sweet.”

***

Elsewhere, photographer Donna Troy Long frowned as her model complained in a manner very uncharacteristic of the agreeable Kory Anders. The alien beauty looked sheepishly left and right, keeping both arms folded across her chest. She alternated this gesture with tugging futilely at the hemline of her lingerie.

“Donna, this outfit is a bit immodest,” said Kory. “I feel uncomfortable revealing so much. May I choose to wear another outfit with more fabric?”

“Sure, honey,” said Donna. “I’ll see what I can do.”

This was very strange.

***

Kole Weathers smiled appreciatively as she watched Joe Wilson apply the finishing touches to his latest painting.

She smiled more broadly as she noticed the gleam in his eyes as he reached the end of his creation. He was an artist, a musician, and a poet, and in every way Kole thought of the shy, sensitive young man as a true Renaissance man. She doubted there was any creative endeavor beyond his capabilities. She was biased, but then she was a woman in love.

When Kole had first made romantic overtures toward her fellow Titan, she had been gently rebuffed by him at first. (*) But following her recovery from serious injuries during the Crisis on Infinite Earths, Joe had moved forward into a tentative but passionate romance with her. She could still hardly believe her good fortune.

[(*) Editor’s note: See “Love Story,” The New Teen Titans #10 (July, 1985).]

Kole had felt rejected and unwanted by her obsessive parents as a child. She had been a virtual slave to the Titaness Thia for the last few years, and all of this treatment had generated a cumulative effect of making the young woman feel unloved — in fact, incapable of being loved. Then Joe had entered her life, along with the other Titans. They had done more than merely liberate her from Thia. They had freed her entire future. She now felt she could do or be anything, and just maybe Joe would be a part of her life.

She caressed his arm, and he smiled. He signed, “Do you like it?”

She nodded warmly. “It’s a beautiful painting. The skyline and the play of light are just wonderful!”

He gazed up at her face and turned her toward him. “What is it? You have something to say?” he signed.

She leaned closer. “Joe, will you marry me? I want to spend every moment with you, and I can’t afford to waste even one.”

He blinked in surprise and signed rapidly.

***

Back at Titans Tower, Raven placed her textbooks down and listened as a small cry echoed nearby.

She turned and hurried to enter the living quarters of Roy Harper, alias Arsenal. She peered into a crib and lifted a small girl into her arms.

Lian Harper was the daughter of Roy Harper and a mercenary named Jade, whose nom de guerre was Cheshire. As the mother was in prison, Lian was now all Roy’s responsibility. The young hero had lived up to fatherhood remarkably well, considering his more dynamic and amorous tendencies. Still, even he could be called away within the large headquarters, and his daughter’s cries escaped his ears.

Raven cooed gently and cradled Lian. She enjoyed the sensation, smiling as the child responded merrily.

“Okay, I charge for playing with her,” replied Arsenal as he entered silently in response to a baby monitor. “So cough up three dollars per minute.”

“Oh, Roy!” said Raven. “I heard her cries. I am sorry if I intruded.”

Roy smiled. “No problem. Thank you for helping. I was just kidding you. We have to work on this sense of humor thing, Raven.”

Raven smiled. “Which one of us?”

He grinned. “Hey, not bad. You’re coming along fine. Better than Gar already.”

“I so enjoy being with Lian, or any child,” she said. “They are so vibrant. Their emotions run freely on the surface, with no secrecy or façades to break through. I shunned them for years, since such powerful emotions pained me, made me feel even more apart. Now I relish time with children and with… well, everyone!”

Roy admired her bright and lovely features. Raven was alive for perhaps the first time to the possibilities of life. He wondered as she departed if he might not need to become aware of the possibilities of Raven herself.

***

Even as her partners experienced a variety of sensations, Donna Troy Long was worried. As Artemis she had been team leader during Nightwing’s absence. It had gone badly in her opinion, and she had readily turned the reins of leadership back to the former Boy Wonder when he had returned with Raven from Zandia, and he had led the team well during the alien invasion. Still, Dick Grayson had remained too busy both in his personal life and as Nightwing to focus much on the team even after that. And while he returned to the team for the Ra’s al Ghul case, once that was over he again departed for an indefinite leave of absence to reconcile things with his mentor Batman, and reestablish himself in Gotham City. (*) Five months had passed since then, and they had only seen him once just last month when he, along with Superman and Batman, were impersonated by Amalgamax. (*) In his absence, Donna was again in charge, and she wondered just what her best course of action should be.

[(*) Editor’s note: See Justice League of America: The Planet Seekers and Justice League of America: World’s Fiercest.]

No crisis loomed. No villain stalked them. Trigon and Brother Blood were defeated. Psimon was apparently dead. The Terminator was no longer a threat. The HIVE was inactive. Still, she worried about her friends. She had been called the calm center of the team, with Starfire the passionate heart and Raven the logical soul. Still, now she wondered what roles belonged to whom.

Starfire, alias Koriand’r, had been deeply in love with Dick Grayson for some time now, but the ceremonial marriage she had participated in to keep peace on her homeworld of Tamaran had driven a wedge between them that not even the death of her husband Karras during the alien invasion at the beginning of that year had lifted.

Dick had acted as the leader and had not turned away from Kory, but neither had he embraced her or allowed her time to explain her feelings. He had served during the invasion and departed, keeping a wall between the princess and himself. So for months now, Princess Koriand’r had been lost — adrift. She turned to Donna for help and struggled against her very nature to wait on her lover to return. She knew he needed to settle his differences at home in Gotham City, as she had done on her own world. Still, Kory was driven by raw emotion, and her pain and anxiety were obvious for all to see.

More bizarre was Raven’s sudden change in manner. The aloof witch now smiled warmly, dressed like Madonna, and flirted. Donna knew Dick had briefly mentioned a mistaken attraction Raven had formed toward him after their Zandian experience, but he had assured her that they’d realized the error and resolved to be only friends. Donna wondered if this decision was really certain, or if it was only on his part. In his absence, Raven had become more emotional and obviously waited eagerly for his return as well.

Donna knew Kory and Raven had been avoiding each other, as if each knew the other had reasons to stay away. She wondered if she could smooth out the changing currents in the team dynamics that had always flowed so evenly before.

She knew Lilith Clay had been aware of the unseen but strongly felt passions in question, and the attractive Olympian empath had tried to play the role of guide and mentor. But neither Kory nor Raven had formed a close tie to the tunic-clad Titan who had been a member of the team in earlier times. Plus, Lilith had always been the center of romance herself, as Dove, Gnarrk, and others had been under her spell at various ties. Now she devoted more time to the winged alien called Azrael than to the team. They had eyes for no one but each other, and the mysterious alien youth had devotion to Lilith that bordered on obsession in Donna’s estimation.

Meanwhile, her husband Terry Long had lost his teaching position after failing to publish and now struggled to find a new career path. Her sister Diana had been miraculously transformed back into clay during the battle with the Anti-Monitor, then reborn as an infant on Paradise Island, and thus wasn’t capable of playing the big sister anymore. (*) Nor could she get much time from her mother Queen Hippolyta, who was obsessively trying to be a super-mother to Diana as she grasped at this second chance at motherhood. Nubia, the new Wonder Woman, was an ally, but nothing more; not yet, anyway. Donna had taken a new name as well. As Artemis, she hoped to honor Diana and yet be her own woman as well. It wasn’t easy.

[(*) Editor’s note: See “Final Crisis,” Crisis on Infinite Earths #12 (March, 1986) and Wonder Woman: Paradise Lost]

***

Starfire turned to Cyborg as they walked down the streets of his neighborhood. “I still enjoy the sights and sounds of your neighborhood, Victor,” said Kory, wearing a white turtleneck and jeans.

Vic Stone grinned. “Yeah, it’s a slum, but I call it home. I’m glad you stopped by to meet my grandparents. They’re a trip.”

She nodded demurely. “I enjoyed their conversation. Very colorful and entertaining.”

Vic frowned. “You know, you sound more like Raven than Kory. What’s with the Victor stuff?”

She frowned. “I… don’t know. I have not felt like myself of late.”

A scream alerted them to a mugging. They whirled and raced forward in response.

Two goons tore away from an old woman, and the heroes gave chase after seeing that she was all right.

Cyborg vaulted over the crowd to cut off one mugger while Kory flew toward the other. Cyborg smiled coldly. “You know, I enjoy roughing up a dude who gets his kicks from messin’ with old folks. Don’t you have any sense of being a man?” he said, grabbing the thug and effortlessly pinning him down.

Meanwhile, Kory approached her own fugitive. “Surrender!” she cried.

Instead he drew a gun and fired toward her agile form. She kicked the gun from his hand and shoved him toward Cyborg, who dropped him with a left hook.

“Thank you, Victor,” she said. “I was not willing to use violence, even upon one such as he.”

Cyborg blinked in surprise and handed over the punk to the arriving police officers. “Uh… no problem,” he said slowly.

***

Cyborg, Jericho, Artemis, Kole, Arsenal, and Lilith sat around the meeting room table while Azrael stood possessively behind his lover’s chair.

Lilith Clay wore the very short tunic and sandals that had been her costume since her return from Olympus. She shook her reddish-blonde head slowly, and her delicate figures looked troubled. A slightly distant look was in her clear eyes as she spoke to her friends. “I had a dream,” she told them. “It showed you — some of you — under attack from Superman, Batman, and others of the Justice League. Yet in some manner they were both of and not of these heroes.”

“Man, legs, you got the cryptic witch bit down pat,” said Cyborg.

“Vic, she is always right,” said Artemis, “but her visions are not as clear as she would prefer.”

Arsenal grinned. “Look, it’s not like she can just tune into cable or something.”

“True,” said Lilith. “I fear I am but a modern Cassandra. My warnings are well-meant but of varying degrees of help.”

Azrael stroked her hair idly. “She does her best for all of you. You must be more appreciative.”

Lilith took his hand and smiled. “Thank you, my love. I know my friends believe in my good intentions.”

Artemis smiled as she compared the regal Olympian splendor Lilith wore — or barely wore, as Garfield Logan might have said — with the mod gear the girl had first worn as a disco dancer years before when first they had all met her. (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Titans Kill a Saint?” The Teen Titans #25 (January-February, 1970).]

“The real Batman and Superman would never willingly attack us,” said Donna. “I’d say you saw fakes or even that Amalgamax guy who posed as Nightwing and the others last month.”

“Okay, so what about our pair of mixed-up femmes?” asked Artemis. “Raven’s gone all Nina Blackwood on us, while Kory’s turned Vulcan.”

Jericho signed rapidly, “They have switched personas.”

“What about it, Lilith?” asked Kole.

Lilith tossed back her long red hair and said, “I know only that I feel they are each unwilling victims of this bizarre change in their personalities.”

“We need to talk this out, if nothing else,” said Donna. “Maybe we should have a girls’ getaway.”

“May I join you?” Kole asked eagerly.

“You aren’t heading for the Grand Canyon again, are you?” said Arsenal.

Donna smiled. “No. Something my assistant showed me sounds like just what we need. Of course you are welcome, Kole.”

Kole smiled. It felt good to be accepted. She recalled Joe’s earlier reply to her proposal.

“I do love you, but if our love is real, it will survive change and time. Let’s test it with both before we marry,” he had signed. She had agreed, but she also wished for the security of a legal and spiritual bond.

“So while you gals head off for the super-slumber party,” said Cyborg, “what do we do?”

Arsenal grinned. “Open jars?”

***

Soon Artemis, Kole, Raven, and Starfire found themselves at the Bloch Spa. The trendy retreat was popular for its seclusion, its exclusive nature, and its women-only policy. Wealthy women from all walks of life eagerly flocked to the spa to commune with their inner child and be pampered.

Thus, Donna Troy Long, Koriand’r, Raven, and Kole Weathers were alone in a private spa, soaking up warmth and wrapped in towels.

Donna began tentatively, “Raven, you’ve been acting very… boldly lately. I know you’ve been rejoicing, as have we all, in your newfound ability to experience the emotions you denied for so long, but, honey, you can’t rush into things. Take baby steps first.”

Raven frowned. “Donna, I think you mistake my new freedom for abandonment of reason. I am merely fully and freely alive to all types of emotions.”

Standing up, she paced back and forth as her voice grew louder. “I would imagine, perhaps wrongly, that my friends would be those who rejoice in my liberation,” she said as she dropped her towel.

Kole giggled idly, while Kory looked demurely away and blushed.

Donna said, “Raven, we’re all friends here, but you’re nude!

Raven’s eyes grew larger, and she gasped, “X’hal!”

Kory gasped and said, “What did you say?”

Raven clutched her discarded towel and whispered, “X’hal — I called upon your goddess. What has happened to me — to us?

“I wish Richard was here to sort this out,” said Kory.

Donna touched her arm. “Kory, you never call him Richard. Raven is not the only one acting oddly. You’ve become so reserved, so inhibited.”

“Yeah,” said Kole. “It’s like that Gilligan’s Island episode where Mary Anne thought she was Ginger.”

Donna laughed suddenly at the idea. “Kole, as odd as that image sounds, I think you’ve hit upon the exact nature of the problem. Raven, you know we all love you, but love as an emotion with many levels, many nuances, is new to you. Could you possibly have confused Dick’s feelings for you for romantic love? Could you have subconsciously projected the emotions he was drawn to in Kory through yourself and somehow suppressed such behavior in her, all without deliberate thought?”

Raven began to weep. “Oh, Kory, I’m so sorry! I have been a fool. I know that Donna is right, at least about our personality switch. I’ve been mimicking what I saw in you to win Dick, while I’ve been suppressing your natural reactions and emotions to make — to make him love me and not you.”

Kory shuddered and embraced Raven.

“Raven, I forgive you,” the warm-hearted alien princess said, beginning to weep herself. “I feel like myself again. I guess all it took was for you to realize what you were unknowingly doing. We’re all family here. Dick and I are… well, at a difficult time, and you are, too. Together, we can sort it out. He and I both love you as a friend… as family.”

As they hugged and talked with each other throughout the rest of that day and into the night, a healing of the rifts that had grown between them began.

Sadly, the owner of the Bloch Spa had decidedly unhealthy plans for all the Titan women.

***

Elsewhere, Lilith Clay leaned close in Azrael’s embrace. As she kissed the alien youth, she felt a sense of belonging. She had a true bond with the winged man, but in spite of her Olympian powers, the girl could not explain or define what tied her so strongly to him. He had no memory of his past, knowing only that he had “come across time and space,” as he put it, to find his soul mate, and that Lilith was somehow inexplicably made for him.

Her mystical ability to heal did nothing to unlock his past. Her touch did nothing except excite him. She trusted her feelings and felt her rightful place was with him, even as she pledged to use all her resources to battle her many half-siblings — the evil Children of the Sun — as they arose to plot the rebirth of their sinister mother, Thia. That crusade was what had motivated Zeus to allow her to return to Earth and to the New Titans. That crusade still drove her ceaselessly.

Yet in spite of the certainty that the threat from the other Children would surely come from Earth, she heard one name whispered again and again in her mind — Hera! Hera! Hera!

***

In Gotham City, a dark man wearing a toga eagerly looked toward a fiery beauty in a brief shift like Lilith’s own.

“What ails the wife of Zeus?” said the man. “Tell me, fair Hera, and I shall use all my resources — nay, the resources of all Olympus, to soothe your troubled brow.”

The woman, who looked much like Lilith herself, said, “Noble Zeus, I seek as always your empowerment. The Titans make plans to rise against you and replace your reign with that of your hoary father.”

Maxie Zeus roared in anger. “Beloved Queen of Olympus, fear not. The wrath of mighty Zeus, Jupiter of Rome, will utterly destroy these Titans and their mortal avatars!”

Hera smiled cunningly. “The will of Zeus be done,” she purred.

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