In Titans Tower, a beautiful, golden-skinned woman stretched and ran a hand through her luxurious mane of hair. Her name was Kory Anders, and she looked every inch the supermodel she had become. However, there was more to the Tamaranian Titan than her outer luster would reveal. She was a princess who had lost the security of home and family at an early age.
At an age at which most children were still growing and beginning to explore their place outside their family unit, Princess Koriand’r had been ripped away from not only the royal family of Tamaran but from the world itself. She had been brutalized by aliens who saw her as nothing more than a commodity. As a slave to the reptilian Gordanians, the young girl had fought for the barest essentials so necessary to survival. She was fit and capable and more than willing to engage in battle, but the loveliest part of her personality was found in the fact that she remained an optimistic woman who cared for others and expressed the noble feelings of love and friendship without any inhibition or protective reserve.
The New Titan called Starfire had loved deeply and had suffered the loss of that love more than once. She had lost one fiancé, Franklin Crandall, to a violent death and had helplessly watched a husband, Karras, die at the hands of alien invaders. While the fiancé had secretly been a member of the criminal group the HIVE, and the husband Karras had been nothing more to her than a partner in a political union devoid of spiritual ties or any love, she had also found true love on Earth.
Dick Grayson, Robin, Nightwing — by any name, the New Teen Titans leader had won Kory’s heart, and she had waged a deliberate battle of sorts to make the logical detective see that he also had feelings for her. He had tried to deny such emotions, because he claimed a romance could interfere with their effectiveness as members of the team. This was perfectly logical, but he was also hiding a stronger reason for his reticence. Dick was somewhat afraid of letting himself experience the raw passion the alien princess exuded so naturally. It was literally alien for a young man raised by Batman to surrender himself emotionally in so complete a manner to another person’s expectations and needs.
Still, that reserve had thawed. They had found a real romance together, until the demand that she marry Karras to prevent more violence on her homeworld of Tamaran had placed a wall between them. Even after Karras died at the hands of alien invaders and Kory had returned to Earth to warn the Titans about the impending invasion of Earth, Dick had kept his distance. His values had made the end of his romance with Kory a necessity after she married another man. It was his hurt at the fact that she had done so that made him continue to treat her as just another friend upon her return.
“X’Hal! Dick, what can I do to make you realize that we belong together?” she said softly as she rose up off a divan and stood.
She was so frustrated at the continuing situation, even after more than a year, that she felt she was about to burst. She could not understand beyond a purely intellectual level why Dick could not accept that her marriage with Karras had simply been a ceremony called for by political necessity. She knew her love for Dick had never wavered. He should have understood that her actions had nothing to do with their bond.
Recalling their morning, a sudden idea came to her. She just might have thought of the best way to get through to him.
Kory had greeted the dawn with her customary joy and exuberance. Then she had soared around the gleaming tower that served as the New Titans base before entering and seeing Dick Grayson busy at work at a computer.
“Good morning, Dick! It’s a lovely day,” she had said tentatively.
He had smiled and glanced up in greeting. “Yes. Since so much of my time with Batman was spent patrolling the night, I have never taken a sunrise for granted. They can be spectacular.”
Dick hesitated for a moment. Words had usually always come to him with ease. He had been a quick-tongued punster as a boy and had matured into a capable and decisive leader as a young man. Still, he groped for something to say to this woman who had been everything to him in the recent past before their easy comfort level had disappeared. He had started to offer her a compliment about her own beauty, but the words stuck in his throat, and he left the silence hanging awkwardly between them.
“I am updating our files. After the return of the Gargoyle and that mess with the Cheetah, we were a bit behind. (*) Plus, I want to keep current with the things our California friends’ experience too,” he said slowly, referring to Titans West.
Kory had nodded; the lack of true communication between them felt like a chilly wind. It was nearly a physical ache to be near Dick and not be able to rely on his old warmth and tenderness.
Suddenly, the monitor board sprang to noisy life. The alarm had been something of a relief to the couple. Dick had switched on a computer and quickly scanned the data.
“It’s a hostage situation at the Franklin Furniture Factory. A worker who was laid off has shown up with explosives around his chest. He says he’ll blow up the place and all the employees unless the owner comes to him!” said Dick.
Kory said, “Come on, I can carry you!”
He slipped into the flying woman’s arms with a slight reluctance, and then they were crossing the city at top speed.
Kory frowned. I can learn languages through touch as I did when first I came to Earth, but I also need no special power to tell by Dick’s body language and his very lack of willingness to touch me except when necessary, that he still can’t resume our relationship like before! Still, I can’t believe that he does not care for me anymore. His eyes express more than his silence.
They reached the factory complex and saw police cars and medical personnel. One burly cop stood near a white-haired man with a cane.
“Land there! I see Officer O’Connel and Harry Franklin below!” said Nightwing.
Starfire and Nightwing approached the group, and O’Connel smiled slightly.
“Nightwing! Thank goodness. This is bad. Jacob Marlowe was laid off. He returned today, and, after getting to the very heart of the plant, he revealed that he was wearing an explosive device. Crude but dangerous. He says he’ll use it unless Mr. Franklin comes to him.”
Franklin said, “I know he has good reason to hate me. The cutbacks were necessary, but he has a family. I had no choice. None of the other men I laid off took the news in such a violent manner. Jacob wants me dead. I am an old man with a bum leg, but I want to live. Still, if it will save the men inside from his wrath, then I’ll go into the plant!”
Nightwing said, “You will, and yet you won’t. I have a plan.”