by Martin Maenza
As the sun dropped down below the tops of the skyscrapers of Manhattan and set in the western sky, a long, muscular figure lurked underwater in the murky depths of the East River. With unnatural skill, and relative ease, he kept just below the surface, waiting — waiting and thinking.
Gotta play this cool, he reminded himself. After my last time out, it’s clear now that I’ll need some real power before I go up against my arch-enemy again!
The dark-skinned figure zigzagged about with ease, much like the fish he’d absorbed abilities from earlier that day. And I know just the place to get what I need!
On a nearby island, the lit rooms of the unique structure helped outline the building’s shape in the night sky. The T-shaped headquarters of the New Teen Titans was nearby, drawing the lurking figure like a moth to a flame.
Just gotta time this right, he thought to himself.
His ears then picked up a sound like stones skipping across the surface of a lake. Skip-skip-skip-skip the sound made in quick succession.
The submerged man smiled. It was time.
Dressed in a yellow costume with red leggings and gloves, the brown-haired youth known to the world as Kid Flash glided easily across the surface of the East River. Like his mentor, Wally West possessed super-speed that allowed him to do many amazing things. One of those things was running across water, moving fast enough so that he could take each stride before his previous foot had sunk below the surface.
Things have been so crazy of late, what with helping Gar look for his old comrades in the Doom Patrol and all, Kid Flash thought. (*) It’ll be nice just to relax for once and hang out. Fighting bad guys left and right gets real old, real fa–!
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Friends and Foes Alike,” The New Teen Titans #13 (November, 1981), “Revolution,” The New Teen Titans #14 (December, 1981), “The Brotherhood of Evil Lives Again,” The New Teen Titans #15 (January, 1982).]
A few feet from the dock of the island, a hand thrust out of the water and grabbed him by the calf near the top of his yellow boots.
The young speedster was caught off-guard as his foot was snagged by something or someone. “What the–?!” he exclaimed.
Just then, a surge hit Kid Flash, running up his leg from where the hand had him caught all the way through his spine. “Aaah!” he cried out, falling forward suddenly as if he’d stumbled. He fell forward, his torso and face slamming down hard on the dock’s surface. He lay there, not moving, his breath shallow as he slipped into an unconscious state.
A dark-purple-skinned figure emerged from the water, trudging up onto the shore with a great big smile. “Enjoy the nap, Flash-in-the-pan!” the Parasite chuckled. “You’ll get your powers back eventually, but not before I’ve finished stealing the skills of your little playmates!”
And with that, the Parasite rushed toward the gleaming Titans Tower and his unsuspecting next victims.
A large glass window that opened to one of the upper terraces was cracked wide enough to allow the cool, fresh evening air to fill the room. From the room, a sound of electronic blips and explosions could be heard. “Take that, you scum-bags!”
Sitting on a beanbag chair in the center of the room was a fifteen-year-old boy with green wavy hair. In his green-skinned hands was a black plastic control stick with a bright orange button, which he jammed down repeatedly with his left thumb. On a large television monitor before him, three rows of computer-generated graphics moved ominously from one side of the screen to another, descending down a row after hitting an edge.
The cannon at the bottom of the screen fired another round of shots. “These space invaders are as easy to beat as real ones,” Garfield Logan laughed to himself.
There was a whooshing sound behind him. Gar didn’t even turn away from the mesmerizing game, because he knew the sound. “Hey, Flasher, is that you?” Changeling asked. “How’s about grabbing a joystick and give me a hand, here?”
“Oh, I’ll give you a hand, all right!” said a sinister voice, one that the green hero had not been expecting.
Changeling whirled around suddenly to see a man in green trunks standing in the center of the room. His skin was purple and scarred, his facial features roughed over, and his eye sockets dark and foreboding. He knew the intruder in an instant.
“The Parasite!” he exclaimed.
“And people say you aren’t smart, kid!” the villain laughed. “Now, how’s about a proper greeting? A great big bear hug, perhaps?”
“Uh-uh,” Changeling said, shaking his head. “I know all about you!” In an instant, his shape-changing powers kicked in, transforming him from a green human to a green bird. “I’ll just fly for a little help, if you don’t mind!” The bird started for the open terrace window.
Suddenly, the Parasite was there. He moved in the blink of an eye, much to Changeling’s dismay, and slammed the window shut. The purple figure stood in front of the closed window, his arms crossed over his chest with a smile on his face. “Sorry, kiddo, the party’s just gettin’ started! Stay awhile! You and your junior Justice League pals are the perfect source of power, easy to find and easy to beat! Then I can take on Superman again!”
The green bird cut back. “How’d you do that?” Then it hit him. Super-speed. He must have run across Wally first. Changeling started for the door.
The Parasite was now there. “Nowhere to run, boy! Nowhere to hide!” The villain got a determined look on his face. “Now, about those powers of yours…” The Parasite lunged forward, his arms wide in hopes to snag the bird in the air.
Changeling used his powers again to transform into something smaller and harder to catch. He dropped to the floor as a green mouse and scurried across the floor. “Another time, perhaps.” He darted into a crack in the wall before the Parasite’s quick-moving hands could snag him.
“Aargh! Come back here, you little rat!” the Parasite exclaimed. He started digging at the wall at super-speed, hoping that the green hero was cornered.
But Changeling was already scurrying through the support beams. Gotta get downstairs and get some help!
Minutes later, in a hallway downstairs, two young women walked together. One was a dark-haired beauty with girl-next-door kinds of qualities. She wore a skintight sleeveless red jumper and dark blue boots. The other was an exotic alien beauty with copper skin and long, flowing brown hair. She wore purple armor pieces that scarcely covered her shapely, attractive body.
“So, you’re dating someone, Kory?” asked Wonder Girl.
“Oh, yes, Donna!” the alien Starfire squealed with delight. “Though we’ve just started to see each other, I think he’s really very nice. I think you’d like him a lot. His name is Franklin–”
“I hate to break up your gossip time, ladies,” a voice said behind them as heavy footfalls approached, “but we’ve got us a situation!”
The two turned around to see their friend, an African-American teen whose body was grafted with cybernetic parts, running up the hallway. A green monkey sat perched on his shoulder, holding on for dear life.
“Cyborg!” Starfire exclaimed.
“What’s wrong?” Wonder Girl asked.
“Salad-head, here, says we’ve got company!” Cyborg replied. “The dangerous kind!” The quartet hurried toward the lift to get to the upper floors.
Parasite, in his anger, continued to trash the recreation room. He yanked the small couch hard, sending it skidding across the floor and into the television screen. The appliance shattered upon the impact.
Come on, kids! he thought to himself. Come rush right into this so’s I can tag you good!
“Hold it right there!” a female voice commanded. The Parasite spun around to see Wonder Girl and the others enter the room.
The villain smiled. “I won’t give up without a fight!” the Parasite sneered. He hoisted a small coffee table into the air and threw it.
“Look out!” Wonder Girl said as she caught the piece of furniture.
“I’ll stop him!” Starfire exclaimed, and she took to the air and rocketed toward him.
“Kory, careful!” Changeling warned.
“I can stop him without getting near him!” The Tamaran heroine fired a round of her star-bolts at the villain. The searing energy hit him squarely, knocking him back into one of the walls. His body slumped to the ground.
“See?” Starfire said as she landed near his fallen body. “He’s not so tough.”
The Parasite opened one eye and smiled. He then lunged forward with the stolen super-speed of Kid Flash and grabbed the exposed flesh of the alien heroine. “My, what a pretty body!” he chuckled. “What a pleasure to touch!”
As his hand made contact with her, Starfire felt a searing pain throughout her body. “Oooh!” she exclaimed and started to collapse.
“Kory!” the others shouted out to warn her, but it was too late.
The Parasite scooped her up in his arms, holding her tightly in front of him like a shield. He could feel her unique abilities now surging through his body, and that made him feel good. She was like a battery of pure energy. He couldn’t wait to let some of it out, to test it against the others.
“Don’t you worry about the little pretty,” the villain said. “She’ll be fine, until I snap her neck!”
“You creep!” Cyborg exclaimed, adjusting one of the devices on his forearm. “Let goldie go now!” He fired a blast from his sonic cannon at the Parasite.
The sound was deafening, almost unnerving. The villain dropped his hold on Starfire, letting her fall to the floor, so he could put his hands to his ears. “Aaah! Cut it out!”
Cyborg smiled. “Not a chance!”
“We’ll see about that!” the Parasite said. He thrust his hands forward, causing the stolen stellar energy in his body to surge. He fired a round of star-bolts toward the heroes.
“Watch out!” Wonder Girl shouted as she leaped in front of the others. Using her Amazon bracelets, she did her best to dodge the blasts being fired at them. She thanked Hera that the villain, while able to absorb Starfire’s powers, did not have her warrior’s training as well. Normally, Wonder Girl would have a hard time blocking the bolts if they had been coming from the Tamaranian herself. The Parasite, however, lacked their teammate’s experience.
Still, Wonder Girl didn’t know how long they’d be able to hold him off.