Inside Titans Tower, Raven of Azarath paused before the Foyer’s window, her normally serene face distant and troubled. She shivered slightly, despite her heavy sweater. Though she was used to seeing the more malevolent side of nature’s disposition she could not suppress the ting of uneasiness at the tempest that now whirled and raged before her.
There was another flash of lighting, followed by an unusually loud crack of thunder. Startled, the empathy stepped back, hand instinctively raised in defense against the sudden illumination. Two hands grasped her shoulders, steadying her. She turned quickly to find herself facing the blond-haired young man behind, his expression concern.
“Oh, Joseph---forgive me.” Raven said, bushing back her ebony hair from her face. “I know you’d asked my help to prepare out dinner, but…”
Joseph Wilson, also known as Jericho, lightly touch her lips, interrupting her words. Mute since childhood, Joe ‘asked’ his question by signing. He dragged his right forefinger across his left palm, and then tapped his chin with his middle finger.
“I---do not know, Joseph” Raven replied. “For some reason, I am---ill at ease tonight. Perhaps it is this storm.” She turned back to the window, raising a hand to the rain-splattered glass. “I sense forces at play here, both within---and without---“
In the Main Meeting Room, the weather was also a subject of conversation as the Titans leader, Richard (Nightwing) Grayson talked on the phone with one of his absent teammates.
“---You’re lucky you got clear skies, Vic.” Dick was saying, idly glancing at the monitor screens over the computer console. “It’s raining cats and dogs out here.”
“Yeah, heard ‘bout the storm.” Victor Stone, aka Cyborg replied. “Funny it should be just around th’ island, tho’.”
“Localized storms aren’t that unusual for New York.”
“But when it’s localized over there I get worry.” Vic retorted. “Sure you don’t need a hand?”
“Don’t you dare disappoint those kids.” Dick said firmly. “Beside, the storm’s too severe to use the barge or the jet. Looks like you’re stuck there.”
“An’ you’re stuck there.” Vic countered. “Still, I wish there was more Titans at the Tower.”
“Donna and Terry are having a party at their house. Wally is visiting his folks and I’m not that anxious on having Hank around.” Dick replied. “It’s just routine monitor duty, Vic. We’ll be fine.” He smiled as he heard a loud knocking over the phone; follow by several small voices;
“’ome on, Vic!”
“We’re gonna miss all th’ fun!”
“Sounds like your fans are getting impatient.” Dick commented, amused.
“Yeah, I better get going, ‘fore the little rug-rats start tearin’ down the door.” The warmth in Vic’s voice belied the rough words. “I’ll call ya guys when I get back from all the Trick an’ Treatin’.”
“Right. Have fun. Tower out.”
As Dick hung up the phone, two golden arms encircled his neck. He smiled at the golden hued, green-eyed face of Princess Koriand’r (Starfire) leaning over him. “Vic sounds worry.”
“Oh, he’s just doesn’t like the fact that the storm stranded us at the Tower.” Dick replied, affectingly rubbing the arms around his neck. “Actually it works both ways, it may have stopped us from leaving, but it also prevents anyone from coming here as well. Such as unfriendly visitors.”
“Even if it was possible, we five are more than enough to handle anyone who dare invade the Tower.” Kory said with a warrior’s confidence.
As if in answer, a bust of wind suddenly slammed against the window, rattling the frames. Kory whirled at the sound. Lighting briefly illuminated her tensed upturn face, fist clenched as if to fire her starbolts at an unseen enemy.
“Easy, hon, it’s just the storm.” Dick stood up, grasping the Tamaranian’s shoulders reassuringly. “It’ll take more than that to knock this Tower down.” He shifted his grip to encircled Kory’s waist and was rewarded by feeling her relaxes against him, copper hair bushing his face. “You’ve been rather tense since we got here. What is it?”
“Oh, I don’t know k’ranna.*” Kory replied, turning her gaze back to the raging storm. “I have been feeling rather edgy, but I don’t know why. Its like---what is that Terran expression---‘like someone is walking on my grave.”
*Tarmarian for beloved”
“Well, it is Halloween.” A new voice announced. The couple turned to see a green cat dart into the room. “A time for ghosts and goolies and things that go bump in the night…Merroww….”
“Gar!” Kory exclaimed as the cat leap onto her shoulder.
“A kiss, fair princess,” it purred, green fur bushing golden skin. “To turn me back into a handsome prince.”
“I’d read that story.” Kory pointed out. “It’s a frog, not a cat.”
“Not in my book---Arrakkk!” A strong hand grabbing the scruff of its neck cut off the cat’s words.
“In my book it is.” Dick remarked, unceremoniously depositing the cat onto the floor. “Down, Romeo!”
“Spoilsport.” The cat landed nimbly on its feet. There was a flash of light and Garfield Logan alias Changeling, resume his human form. His head tiled slightly, sniffing. “Mmmm---what’s that delicious smell?”
“Pumpkin Pie.” Dick replied. “Joey and Raven volunteer to cook dinner.”
“I’m glad Raven is helping.” Kory remarked. “It’s good to see her more open and outgoing.”
“Yeah.” Dick agreed, smiling. “Never thought I would be grateful to Brother Blood for---“
“What th’ heck was that?!” Gar exclaimed, head jerking in the direction of the noise.
Dick was already moving past them, running to the doorway. “It’s from the Foyer! C’mon!”
Hair flaming, Kory flew beside him as Gar shift to a green eagle to follow. At the Foyer’s doorway, Kory pulled up short, hovering in shock. “X’Hal!”
The window inside the Foyer was a shattered ruin, wind and rain pouring in from the jagged opening and flapping curtains. Crouch amidst the scattered glass fragments was Joe and Raven. Joe lay in the empath’s arms, hands covering his face as blood seeped from beneath blond curls.
Grasping his friend’s wrists, he gently pulled the hands away---and stared in shock. Joe’s face was covered with cuts and scratches, eyes squeezed shut in pain. Yet even as he noted the damage, the red markings slowly faded. He knew that Raven, still holding Joe, was using her empathic powers to heal his injuries. The wounds vanished and Joe open faintly puzzled, but pain freed eyes.
“You, OK, Joe?” Dick asked anxiously.
Joe nodded. He touches his now unmarked face and turn to Raven. Though he did not sign, the gratitude in the sea green eyes was clear and readable. Raven smiled in acknowledgement as he helped her to her feet.
Dick stood up also. “What happen, you two?”
“I am not certain, Richard.” Raven replied. “Joseph and I were setting out the food on the table when a crack suddenly appears in the window. Before we had time to react---“
Joe brought his fists together, right over left, then abruptly move them apart, hands spread.
“It exploded---?” Dick asked.
Raven nodded. “Joseph shielded me from the flying glass but was caught in its path. We do not know what caused it, however.”
Kory and Gar has been gathering towels and boxes to plug the window. Glancing down, Gar caught sight of something among the broken glass. “Hey, Dick!” he called, picking up the object. “I think this is what caused all the mess.”
Dick came over, taking the large dead tree branch Gar handed him. “The wind must had broken it off and hurl it through the window.” With the Tower surrounded by trees and a violent storm outside, such a mishap was not unusual. Yet he couldn’t help frowning as he glance at the now blocked window.
Joe tapped his shoulder, his face a question. “Just a freak accident.” Dick said, showing the branch to him and Raven. “Luckily it wasn’t worse. Gar, will you go to the Supply Room and get a glass pane so we can fix the window?”
“Gotya, boss.” A flash of light, and a green bird flew out the window.
“Well, we were about to have a party to celebrate Halloween.” Dick remarked to his friends. “We shouldn’t let this little mishap stop us. Joey, why don’t you and Raven take the food down to the Pool. We’ll join you later after we repair the window.”
Gar reform into his human shape within the Storage Room. The place was eerily silent, the piles of boxes and crates was almost reminiscence of a maze.
“All I need is a ball of twine and a Mintarus to fight---Hai!” Gar swung an imaginary sword. “’ourse it would work better if I had a fair maiden to rescue---“
He glanced around the room, frowning. “Now where did we keep the panes? It’s been ages since I came up here.” He paused at one of the boxes, blowing away the dust, which covered it. “And it shows too---“ He shook his head, coughing.
He abruptly looked up, his green eyes focused on the shadows near the far walls. He blinked. If he didn’t know any better he could almost swear that---
“Nah, it mustof been the dust.” Gar rubbed his eyes, returning his attention to searching the crates. “I’m letting this holiday get---Ah, there it is!” Catching sight of a box marked ‘Panes’ he walked toward it, not noticing the pile of crates above him had begin to tremble.
Gar reached up to take down the box, grunting with effort. “The sooner I get this back to—Hey!“ Gar yelped as he suddenly stumbled forward.
A low creaking sound caused Gar to look up to see the crates sway and toppled forward. He only had time for one startled cry as they fell about him, hiding him from view. Then silence---dead silence.
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“It was a good idea for us to hold a party, Joseph.” Raven said as she and Joe emerge from the elevator. “It has been too long since we had a chance to---“ She broke off, coming to a sudden stop that caused Joe to bump into her. “Joseph, do you hear anything? Like---splashing?”
Joe titled his head, listening. He did hear a faint sound, coming from the Pool. But that was impossible. They were the only one in the Gym. Wasn’t they?
Signaling with his head for Raven to stay put, Joe went over to the wall, hitting the switch with his elbow. The room immediately filled with light, revealing the Pool, its water placid before them. Yet he was frowning as he rejoins Raven.
The empath still stared at the water. “For a moment I thought---“Raven murmured. She shook her head. “It is gone now.”
Joe placed the plates and trays on the floor, and then reached for Raven’s load. With his hands full, he couldn’t sign, but the empath sensed his unspoken question.
“It is not similar to what I’d sensed in the Foyer.” Raven replied. “This---presence, was protective, familiar. As if I had---Hold!” Her eyes widen in concern and surprise. “Garfield! He is in danger!” She raised her arms as familiar smoke begins to surround her. “I must go to him. Please tell Richard.”
Before Joe could react, she was gone.
Floating…floating in darkness. Deep, clinging darkness. No, something else was holding him. Something…someone with slender arms and blond hair and piercing blue eyes, staring from a brown mask…
“What’s the matter, kiddo? Forgot your old teammate?”
“That Terra to ya!” Terra suddenly grinned. However, there was no warmth in her smile as her arms tighten around his neck. “Show me how much you missed me, lover…kiss me…”
“No…let go.” No longer was there a young girl looking down at him, but a thin, crumbling corpse, it’s skull still retaining her cold grin.
“Don’t you still love me…love me, Garfield…Love me, Garfield…Garfield…Garfield….”
“No!” Gar sat up with a start and found he was not facing a rotting skeleton, but the white clad form of his teammate. “Raven---?”
“Yes, my friend.” Raven removed her hand from his forehead. “I’d sensed your peril and came to your aid. Are you all right?”
“I---guess so.” Gar shook his head slightly. “Just had the weirdest dream. What happen, anyway?”
“Apparently another accident.” Raven helped him to his feet. “I found you unconscious near those fallen crates. You’d suffered a mild concussion but my empathic power revived you.” She held out her hand. “I also found this beside you. Do you know what it is?”
Gar examines the shimmering object in her hand. “Looks like a piece of glass, no, a crystal of some kind. But how---“ No, it couldn’t be!
“Garfield, is something wrong? I sense turmoil within your mind.”
“No, I’m fine.” Gar abruptly turned away, returning to the box containing the glass panes. She must have come here for something while she was staying at the Tower. It was the only possible explanation. It had to be. “C’mon. Let’s get that pane and get out of here. Wouldn’t want Dick to get worry.”
Down in the Foyer, Dick was indeed getting worried. “Now what could be keeping Gar?” He asked an equally concern Kory. “Can’t take that long to get a glass pane.”
“Maybe he’s having trouble locating it.” Kory remarked. She gave a slight smile. “Or perhaps he stopped downstairs to get an early taste of the food.”
Dick returned the smile. “That would be like him. Still, if he isn’t back in another---“
He was interrupted by a loud knock. They turned to see Joe at the doorway, rapping the wall to get their attention. His hands flashed in quick, urgent sentences.
“She’d what?!” Dick exclaimed. “Damn, I wish she would learn not to go rushing off---“
“We’ve better get up there.” Kory said, starting forward. But Dick grabbed her arm, stopping her.
“Hold it, Kory. It won’t be necessary. Look!”
A column of smoke suddenly materialized before them. Raven lowered her arms as she and Gar stepped from the dispensing clouds, Gar carrying the window glass pane. Dick and Kory approached them, both speaking at once.
“Gar, are you all right?” Kory asked, expression concern.
“What happen?” Dick demanded.
“I had a close encounter with a crate.” Gar replied wryly. “Luckily Raven show up and got me out of dreamland.”
“He was most fortunate.” Raven remarked. “If he had been closer to the pile of crates when it fell he might had been seriously injured.”
Gar recalled the hard shove he’d received moments before the crates collapse on him but decided to keep that to himself as well s the dream he had when he was unconscious. They would really think he was off his rocker then. Instead, he handed the glass pane to Dick. “Here ya go, boss. Now, if you don’t mind, I’m going down to the Gym.” A flash of light. “I don’t know about you guys, but I’m hungry.”
“You’re always hungry.” Dick remarked to the green bird fluttering about him.
“Hey, we growing superheroes need our nourishment!” The bird replied, circling his head. “To save the world and protect pretty girls, etc, etc. Catch ya downstairs, guys!”
Joe shook his head in amusement as the bird flew past him towards the door. His hands ‘spoke’ a quick statement.
Dick grinned. “You’re right, Joey, and I’m glad he’s only one of a kind. You and Raven might as well join him while Kory and I fix the window.”
Joe smiled, bringing the thumb tip of his right hand from under his chin. He touches his lips with his index finger, and then moves it along his left arm.
“We’ll try not to be.” Dick replied, picking up the glass pane. “See you later.” He turned to Kory. “OK, Kory, let’s get that stuff from the window. You can use your starbolts to burn away the remaining glass then weld this pane into place.”
The two went to work, but Kory was watching Dick closely. Finally she spoke; “All right, Dick. I know that look. What’s the matter?”
“Two ‘accidents’ in the space of an hour.” Dick replied grimly. “I don’t like those kinds of coincidences.”
“But what else could it be?” Kory asked. “If it was an intruder, the alarms would have alerted us.”
“Normally yes, “ Dick admitted. “But we both know by now things are not always normal around the Titans. When we finish here, I think we’ll have a look in the Supply Room. Just to be on the safe side.”
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“Now this is the kind of Halloween I like!” Gar grinned, stretching out on the towel. He admired the tropical scene before him. “Clear skies, soft breeze, not a care in the world. Perfect for us off duty superheroes, right Joey?”
Joe smiled in agreement. The holograph projection was real enough to make one forget the storm that raged outside. Beside him, Raven was gazing at the images with equal appreciation. She had not been present when Vic installed the projector so this was the first time she’d seen it in use.
“It’s quite lovely, Joseph. I can almost image being able to reach out and touch the sand---“
“Yeah, puttin’ in that projector was the best thing Vic’s done.” Gar remarked. He handed his friends refilled drinks. “Too bad he couldn’t be here to enjoy it.”
“Thank you, Garfield.” Raven said, accepting the glass of fruit juice. “I too, wish our other teammates could be present to participate.”
“Well, here come two late arrivals, anyway.” Gar gestured grandly with his glass to the elevator. Dick and Kory emerged from the car, both dressed in swimwear and towels. “And where have you been. As if I didn’t know.”
“Knock it off, Gar.” Dick retorted. “We were just checking out the Storage Room where you had your little accident.”
Joe raised his hand, closing thumb and index finger, then moved his thumb to the side and swinging his palm in a small arch.
“Not a thing.” Dick replied. “The only recent footprints were Gar’s and Raven’s. There hadn’t been anyone else up there in weeks. Moreover, the windows were closed and locked. The boxes must have just been misaligned, as strange as it sounds. They would have fallen anyway.”
“I could think of better time for them to do it than when I was standing there.” Gar remarked dryly. He gave a wry smile. “If I didn’t know any better I would think you were pullin’ a Bill Murray up there.”
“A what?” Kory was not as well versed in movies as her teammates.
Dick scowled. “I was checking the probability of an intruder who might have bypassed the alarms somehow. And that’s all, Garfield!”
“Ok, Ok, just asking---“
“Enough, you two” Kory interrupted, taking off the towel from around her neck. “We’re supposed to be enjoying ourselves.” She playfully threw the towel at Dick, and dashed for the pool. “Last one in is a furry snnaka!”
“I don’t know what it is either, Raven.” Gar said, sitting down to watch the fun. “But I got the feeling Dick’s about to be one.”
Not quite. Just as Kory was about to dive into the Pool, Dick gave sudden leap and tacked her around the waist. Kory gave a surprised yelp as both went into the water with a loud splash.
Seconds later both surfaced, Dick grinning in triumph. Kory indignantly splashed him. “That wasn’t fair, Dick.”
“All’s fair in love and war, hon.” Dick replied, moving to embrace her.
A sly smile crossed Kory’s features. “Well, in that case---“ She ducks under the reaching arms and submerge.
“Hey!” Dick took a quick breath and dove in pursuit.
Gar sighed. “If only she’d play with me like that---“
Raven was smiling. “I feel such joy and love between them, my friends. I am glad that Koriand’r decided to return to Earth with Richard and did not---“
A sudden splashing in the Pool interrupted her. The water swirled and froths as if agitated by an unseen force.
Gar moved to the edge of the Pool and peer down. “What on Earth are they doin’ down there?”
“It is not a game. They are in danger.” Raven said, her face alarmed. “Something is holding Koriand’r down---preventing her from surfacing. Richard cannot---“
Joe had already dived into the water. Gar followed, shifting to a green dolphin. Raven watched anxiously, the same malevolent force she’d sensed earlier was here now. A force that also seem familiar somehow. She shook her head slightly, she was receiving conflicting enumerations, and there was something else, another presence in this room---
The splashing and churning stopped as suddenly and mysteriously as it had begun. Seconds later, to Raven’s relief, her four teammates reappeared. Joe was holding Kory, who was coughing violently, while Dick was clinging weakly to the dolphin’s back.
Raven gripped Dick’s shoulders, pulling him onto the tiles. “Never mind me---“ Dick gasped. “Kory---see to---“
“Be calm, Richard. Joseph has her, she is safe.”
Gar shift back to human form to help Joe pull Kory from the water. She half-collapsed on the floor, head lowered, and tawny hair dripping and soaked. Raven placed her hands on the alien princess’ shoulders, voice gentle and calming.
“Easy, Koriand’r. Take deep breaths, you will be all right now.” Raven looked up at the anxious faces before her. “She has inhaled some water, but it is not serious.”
Kory’s coughing slowly eased as Raven’s empathic powers dispersed the pain. She raised her head, taking a deep, steadying breath, green eyes anxious as they fell on Dick. “K’ranna! Are you all right?”
“I’m fine, hon.” Dick assured her, gathering the Tamaranian in his arms. “You really had me worry for a moment. What happen?”
“I—I don’t know.” Kory murmured, burying her head on his shoulder. “I was as if something had gripped me---something I couldn’t see or fight. It was pulling me down---I couldn’t breath---everything was going dark---“
“Shhh. It’s all right now.” Dick suppressed a shudder as he tightens his embrace. He recalled his desperate struggle beneath the water as he attempted to free Kory’s weakly trashing body from whatever force had gripped it. “Whatever it was vanished right after Joey and Gar jumped in.” He looked puzzled “Then it felt as if we were being pushed back to the surface---“He and Kory glanced at the now calm waters. “What the hell is going on here?”
All eyes turned to Raven, who solemnly return their gaze. “Richard was correct in his earlier assumption of an intruder, though not the kind he’d suspect. Sine our arrival here I’d sensed some sort of---presence, within the Tower. A malevolent force no doubt connected to these so-called ‘accidents’.”
“Ghosts?” Gar said incredibly. “You’re talkin’ ghosts?”
“If you wish to use that term.” Raven paused and lowered her eyes. “I was reluctant to impart this to you because I know of your views of such things. I---did not think you would believe---“
“You’re a member of this team, Raven.” Dick interrupted, placing a reassuring hand on the empath’s shoulder. “I value your judgment as well as I do the others.”
Raven raised her head, giving a small smile in appreciation. “Thank you, Richard. These incidents are becoming more harmful and violent. Until we can find the actual source I suggest we all should be on our guard for another occurrence.”
Gar was staring over her shoulder, his expression odd. “Uh---you mean like that?”
Everybody turned to the holographic image. Kory leaped to her feet with a muffled oath. Beside her, the others had taken defensive positions. The tropical paradise was gone; in its place were a raging volcano, spewing burning lava and rocks.
“All right, who’d been foolin’ with the projector?” However, Gar’s voice lacked conviction.
“None of us touch it.” Dick said grimly. “Another of our mysterious intruder ‘pranks’ no doubt.”
Gar stepped back slightly. The picture before him was far too real for his liking. “If it’s a prank, I’m not laughing.”
“Look out!” Kory gave Dick a shove as a rock flew from the screen to land sizzling at their feet. “It’s no prank! These are real!”
Raven quickly stepped before them, arms upraised. “Quickly, my friends.” A familiar bird shaped image begins to form behind her. “I will use my soul-self to carry you to---“ Her voice was cut off by the TWACCK of a rock striking head. She fell without a cry.
“Raven!” Dick cried. Joe leaped forward to catch her limp form. “That’s it!” He snapped, “Everybody out---now!” He raised his arms to block the burning rocks as they flew at them with uncanny accuracy. “Kory, give us some cover!”
Shreeekkk---! Streaks of starbolts flew from Kory’s fingers as she dived towards the screen, disintegrating the rocks as she passed.
“Climb aboard, folks.” A green elephant scooped Dick up in its trunk. Joe, still carrying Raven, quickly scrambled onto its back. “It’s Jumbo Gar to the rescue!”
“Move it, Gar!” Dick ordered, as the rain of burning rocks grew thicker. “Kory can’t keep running interference.” He saw Kory faltered in flight, some of the rocks glancing past her. He glanced at the other side of the Pool. There might be one chance--- He looked up at Kory. “Kory! Hit the projector! If it’s destroyed maybe the volcano will be too!”
Instantly Kory flew towards the projector, crying out as several of the hot stones grazed her legs. A starbolt leap out. There was a muffled explosion as it found its target, shattering the machine. The screen blink off, the burning projectiles stopped. Kory landed lightly before the now smoking and twisted machine.
“Vic isn’t gonna forgive us, guys.” The elephant remark, stopping before the destroyed machine.
“I’ll build him another.” The trunk placed Dick back on the floor, then reached back to gently lowered Joe and Raven. Joe’s green eyes glanced at the silent empath in his arms, and then turned pleadingly to Dick.
“I don’t think it’s serious, Joey.” Dick reassured him, running a quick check on the unconscious woman. “It looks like just a mild concussion. She should wake up with nothing more than a headache. At least with her power, she’ll be able to cure that. We’ll drop you two off at the Infirmary. Join us when you can.”
“And where are we going?” Gar asked, shifting back to human as the group moved away from the Pool.
“To the computers.” Dick said, leading his teammates to the elevator. “Raven may be right about something being here, and I’m going to use the scanners to find out just what it is.”
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Ten minutes later Starfire, Nightwing, and Changeling were in the Main Meeting Room, gathered around the computer. All were in costumes via Nightwing’s suggestion. They may not know exactly what was going on, but he thought it would be best to be completely preparing for whatever or whoever it turns out to be.
Nightwing himself was sitting before the computer, running a complete interior search of the Tower. Anything bigger than a fly should show up on the Scanners. He hoped.
“Uh, look, guys, with a hostile ghost runnin’ loose I can think of better places I rather be.” Changeling remarked uneasily. “Like the basement for instance.”
“Gar, we were in the basement, and it didn’t seem to help.” Nightwing said without looking up from the console. “I’d program the Scanners to locate any signs of an outside presence within the Tower.” His hand reached out to flick a few switches. “A quick sweep should---“
He was interrupted by a loud crackling sound as both computer panel and a grey nimbus of light suddenly surrounded Nightwing. He cried out, jerking his hands back as the console exploded in a shower of sparks and lights.
“X’Hal! Dick---!” Starfire grasped Nightwing’s writhing form, quickly pulling him from the computer. They both pitch to the floor. The console begins to smolder, shooting out sparks and tongues of flames.
A giant green eagle darted passes them. “Kory, pull Dick clear! I’ll put out the fire!”
Starfire flew away from the console carrying Nightwing in her arms. The eagle flew to the far wall where the fire extinguisher hung. Powerful talons grasped the devise then wheel and streak back to the computer. Changeling resumed his human form and swung the extinguisher’s muzzle in a wide arch, covering the smoking console in thick foam. The flames flickered and danced as if resisting his effort to put them out. After what seem an eternity the fire finally sputtered and died, smother beneath the white, sizzling blanket.
Nightwing shook his head groggily as Starfire help him sit up. “Yeah, I cough think so, Gar.” His face was streaked with soot, his gloved hands still smoking from his near electrocution. “It could’ve been worse.” He managed a smile at the concern, golden face beside him. “Thanks, Kory.”
Starfire smiled and gave him a brief hug. “Well, I guess that answer our question about the intruder.” She remarked, gently pulling him to his feet.
“Yeah,” Nightwing agreed grimly, flecking scalded hands. “Something is definitely within the Tower and not at all friendly. Just before the computer went crazy the Scanners was able to give a generalized location of ---whatever it is. It’s on Level Four, the Living Quarters.”
Changeling looked stunned. “Level Four? But that’s where---“
Suddenly everything went black.
It wasn’t completely dark. The lighting flashes from the still ranging storm outside the Tower illuminated the trio’s tense, concern faces. Characteristically Changeling spoke first.
“Hey, who turn out th’ lights?”
“The electrical systems must have been affected when the computer shorted out.” Nightwing surmised. “Kory, can you give us some light?” Starfire nodded and extended her hands. She concentrated and soon a warm, reddish glow surrounds her fingers. She looked up at the two faces reflected in the low-level starfire. “How’s that?”
“Fine. Thanks, Kory.” Nightwing return to the computer and knelt at the small storage closet under the console. After a moment of rummaging, he stood up holding two flashlights. He handed one to Changeling. Together they ran a quick check on the damaged computer.
“What a mess.” Changeling muttered.
“It’s not as bad as it looks.” Nightwing remarked. “The lighting systems are out, but the secondary back up lines seems intact. The elevators and other electrical systems appear to be still working.” He straightens, frowning thoughtfully. “It’s odd that the power surge only knock out the lights. Gar, what were you about to say when they went out?”
However, for a change Changeling was unusually reticent. “Oh, nothing---“
“Gar!” Nightwing swung the flashlight to reveal Changeling’s strained face. His voice softens. “If you were going to mention that Tara’s room was on Level Four, we all know that. Surely, you don’t think---“
“Raven mentioned a malevolent force within the Tower.” Starfire pointed out. “And you said you believe her when she’d told you that it was the cause of the serious accidents around here.”
“I believe something is here.” Nightwing reluctantly admitted. “Whether it’s of supernatural origin remains to be seen. Gar, go downstairs to the generator and see what you can do to restore power to the Tower.”
Changeling didn’t look too thrill about that order. “Me? What about you two?”
“Kory and I are going to search Level Four for the source of that odd reading the Scanners picked up.” Nightwing replied, already turning to the stairs. “Oh, stop by the Infirmary first and check on Joey and Raven. That area has its own power source but it’s best to make sure.”
Starfire extinguish the starfire on her right hand and wrapped an arm around Nightwing’s waist. “Hang on, k’ranna.” They rose in the air and flew towards the spiral staircase. She called over her shoulder: “Be careful, Gar.”
“It’s gonna be my middle name, doll.” Changeling called back, his flippant tone belied by his grim expression. He watched his friends disappear into the darkness, then turn away. Taking a deep breath, he raised his flashlight and started for the elevator.
Nightwing and Starfire reached Level Four, which was also enshroud in darkness. Starfire deposited her passage on the floor, and then hover, awaiting orders. Nightwing silently gestured to the left. Starfire nodded and flew towards the two rooms located there, her hair flaming a brief trail in the darken hall. Nightwing watched her dart into Donna’s room then turn his flashlight to the right and stealthily headed for the two quarters before him.
Below, in the sub-basement, Changeling peer cautiously out from the opening door, his flashlight held before him like a weapon. The area was as dark as it was above. “Fixing that generator is gonna be a lot of fun” Gar thought, disgruntled. He stepped out of the elevator.
Something touched him on the shoulder---
Nightwing didn’t quite know what made him head for Tara’s former quarters first. He didn’t really take much stock about the theory of a malevolent ghost haunting the Tower, but Raven was rarely wrong with her assumptions, despite recent events. If anyone had it in for them, it would be that deceptive, vindictive little traitor. He activated the wall switch and the door silently slid back.
As expected, the room was bare. Tara’s personal effects were shipped back to Marhovia months ago. Yet Nightwing remain cautious as he entered the room, swinging the flashlight beam over the bed, floor and dresser. The only sound was the steady patter of wind-swept rain against the window.
A flash of lighting crackled across the skies outside, throwing everything in brief, stark highlights. A whisper of a sound caused Nightwing to whirled, hand gripping a throwing disc. For a moment, he thought he caught a glimpse of something (or someone) at the window, but the flashlight reveals nothing but its own beam reflected against the glass.
Abruptly that light went out.
“Yeoww!” Changeling whirled, swinging both flashlight and fist simultaneously. The blows were neatly blocked, as the beam reveal a familiar, blond haired face.
“Joey!” Changeling exclaimed, relaxing. “Cripes, you’d scare me out of a year’s growth, just then.”
Joe shrugged apologetically, raising his hand in a circular motion over his chest. Then he drew the tip of his index finger across his left palm and pointed his index fingers up, turning them outward.
Changeling gave a brief account of recent events upstairs. “---So Dick sent me here to check on you two.” He concluded. “How’s Raven?”
Joe shook his head; expression worried, and drew a spread hand over his face.
“Still out, eh? I’m sorry, Joey, but I’m gonna need your help with the generator.”
Joe hesitated, turning his gaze to the examination table where the unconscious empath lay.
“She’ll be all right.” Changeling assured him. “We’ll lock the door behind us when we leave and programmed it so only you, me and Dick can come in.” In view of what been happening lately he doubt that a locked door would be adequate protection. However, he kept that thought to himself. No need to worry Joe any more than he already is.
Unknown to Changeling, Joe was thinking the same thing. He didn’t like leaving Raven alone, but the
thought of his other friends possible facing an unknown threat in the darkness upstairs bothered him even more. His face grim, he turned back to Changeling and nodded. Grasping the red and white clad arm, he steer Changeling towards the door. The sooner they get the lights working again, the sooner they could find out what’s really going on within the Tower---
We can see that, the question is, what we’re gonna do now?
Well we have to do something. She’s getting dangerous.
Yeah, I wanted to see the old gang again, but not this way.
Maybe she can help.
But she’s still unconscious.
Then we’ll have to wake her. Come on, together now---
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A frustrated Nightwing shook the dead flashlight, his expression baffled. He had put fresh batteries in all of the flashlights yesterday; there was no reason it should---
A gust of cold air bush against him, almost knocking him off his feet. He swung the useless flashlight around in a sharp arch, trying to connect with the source of the unseen assault. The wind fell silent. Whoever or whatever it was had him at an advantage; it certainly wasn’t going to lose it by revealing his or her position.
He slowly back towards the door, his hand touching a hidden button on his wristband. Outside was just as dark as it was here but at least in the hallway he’ll have more space to maneuver and the addition of Kory’s starfires, as both a defense and illumination. He reaches out for the door’s release lock and presses it.
He suppresses a groan. He wasn’t particularly surprise. He hopes that Kory would respond to his wrist signal and come to his aid by burning through the door.
He glanced up at a sudden sound---almost like giggling. Two gleaming eyes seem to float in the darkness before him. He darted from the door, his hand a blur as a spinning black and yellow disc whistle forward, aimed just below the glowing orbs---with no result. Nightwing heard a slight thunk as the disc impact on the wall beyond.
He felt a sight rumbling beneath his feet and hastily leap aside, barely avoiding the mound of dirt and rocks, which suddenly shot upward from the floor.
“This isn’t possible. She’s dead! We all saw her died!” Nightwing dived into a roll as another dirt mount sprang up. He was hampered by the near total darkness in the room but was able to feel the tell tale rumbles that herald an eruption.
However, the odds weren’t good. He was fighting a foe, which he couldn’t see, or touch, but was quite capable of touching him. He sprang to his feet, eyes trying to pierce the darkness and locate the glowing points of lights he saw earlier. Where was Kory? Why hasn’t she responded to his signal? Unless she was already---
Any further thoughts were cut off as something slam against his head. There was a bust of blinding pain, and then he fell forward onto the floor, joining the shattered lamp laying there. A lamp that had mysteriously and silently floated from the bureau and hurled itself with murderous force at its target.
Again, the glowing eyes appear as if to gloat over it’s triumphant. A cold, whispering voice spoke from the darkness.
“One down---three to go---“
A thorough search of Donna Long’s room had revealed nothing. Hair flaming, Starfire flew from her friend’s room and headed for her own quarters next door. Oddly, she had not heard her teammate’s signal, so she was unaware of the brief, one-sided battle that had occurred across the hall.
A light beam of starfire activated the door switch and the Tamaranian princess sail through the opening. Once inside she hovers before the planetary mobile, which hung from the ceiling. She smiled slightly as she watched the familiar miniature worlds spin lightly in imitation of their real counterparts’ light years away.
It has been Donna’s idea to make a model of her Vega home system during her first months on Earth, to ease her homesickness. Though Tamara no longer held the same pleasant memories of the past, she still welcomes the sight of the planets of her childhood whenever she entered her room.
Starfire suddenly frown, dropping to the floor. There was more motion from the mobile than the gust of wind caused by her entrance would account for. When she had arrived at the Tower for the Halloween party, she’d closed the windows as precaution against the impending storm. Therefore, there should be no errant breezes affecting the planets.
She slowly turned, extended hands illuminating the room in red highlights. Nothing. Everything looks apparently normal.
A loud snap caused her to spin around. She had a brief impression of something hurling pass her, just missing her head. Her green eyes widen in surprise, her glowing hands revealing the mobile spinning wildly, planets moving far faster around their ‘sun’ than their outer space counterparts. Even as she stared in astonishment there was another snapping sound and a sphere suddenly hurl towards her.
“X’hal!” Starfire threw herself forward; the glob sailed overhead to crash against the wall.
She rolled quickly to one side and swung her hands towards the mobile, firing her starbolts in a wide, destructive arch. There was a loud sizzling sound, then silence. Starfire cautiously scrambled to her feet. Her hands remain glowing as she slowly advance on the now bare model. Smoldering wires dangled over multi-colored, smoking puddles. What could had possible---
As swift as a striking snake, a wire lashes out, encircling her wrist. Starfire cried out as the metal burn into her flesh. Then another wire leaps out to grip the other wrist. A wire whipped around her waist---another her throat---more circled her legs. Then they started to squeeze---
Starfire struggled, trying to pull free as she try to generate enough energy to burn the wires. But the pain prevented her from concentrating on summoning her starfire. She gasped, desperate hands fighting to reach the wire around her throat, but they held firm. A red film swim over her eyes, then darkness---
She slumped forward, dangling from the wires like a puppet whose owner had grown tired of. From the darkness came a low, childish giggle.
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“Well, that’s that!” Changeling remarked in relief, connecting the last cable. “OK, Joey, cross your fingers!”
Joe nodded and threw the switch. There was a brief flickering, and then the room’s lights flare into life amid Changeling’s jubilant exclamation;
“All right! We did it!”
Standing up, Changeling clapped Joe on the back. “Using the backup generator to boost power to this one was a good idea, Joey!”
Joe returned his smile but his eyes were serious as he glanced at the generator. Changeling’s own expression sobered as he too return his attention to the mechanical interior they’d been working on.
“Weird that the lights were the only thing knocked out.” Changeling mused out loud. “It’s almost like something had drained the power.”
Joe raised an eyebrow in response and glanced sideway at his teammate as if about to make a comment.
“Don’t ‘say’ it.” Changeling warned. “I know there’s at least one explanation for all this, and frankly, I rather not think about it. C’mon, let’s see how Dick and Kory are doing---“
They ran for the elevator, anxious to find out about the friends they’d left upstairs. Once inside, Joe gestured to the intercom. Changeling reached up to activated the speakers.
“Dick? Kory? We got the lights back. Is everything okay up there?” Changeling frowned at the silence. “Hey, you two, what’s up? Guys---?”
Nothing. Changeling and Joe exchanged concern glances. Suddenly Joe reached out, hitting the elevator’s stop button, causing it to halt at Level Two. The abrupt stop almost thrown Changeling to his knees. He regains his balance, glaring at the mutant.
“Now what was the big---“Changeling’s angry words was muffled as Joe clapped a hand over his mouth. He placed a finger to his lips then pointed to the door.
Changeling cocked his head, listening. From behind the door he heard something both unexpected and frightening---laughter. Yet there were nothing humorous about it, the sound was eerie and cold and Changeling shudders at its tone.
“Looks like we found our intruder.” Changeling whispered grimly. “Stay here, I’ll check it out.” A flash of light and a tiny mosquito flew through the seam in the door.
The shock of what he saw almost caused Changeling to revert to human. Starfire and Nightwing had arrived from upstairs but not in the usual manner of taking the stairs. They were floating downward, limp and motionless, each surrounded by a sickly grey nimbus. Between the two was another figure, though not as solid, seemly composed of fog and gas, which flickered in and out of focus, yet it was definitely female. The costume she wore was now grey and silver and not the familiar brown and yellow pattern he was used to there was no mistaking that malicious, buck-toothed grin. Or the burning eyes that glared from beneath an unruly shock of now grey hair.
“Gar? Hey, Garfield!!” The ghostly voice reverberated in the open area, a chilling parody of its original sarcastic tones. “Come out, come out, where ever you are. I’ve got somethin’ for you, bucko, something I wanna do for a long time.”
Joe sat in the elevator, back to wall, shivering. He was still in his swim trunks, which he wore at the Pool. He had borrowed a smock from Infirmary, but it offers little protection against the chill, which had spread in the car. He looked up at the whine of beating wings and focused on the green mosquito, which hovered before him.
“Joey, it is Tara!” Changeling hissed, his words almost inaudible due to his small size. “At least it sure looks like her. She got Kory and Dick. I think they’re alive, though.” He added quickly at Joe’s alarmed look. “They’re just floating in the air with Tara between ‘em and she’s looking for me.”
Joe’s hands spelled out a sharp sentence as he quickly scrambled to his feet. He started for the door, but a now human Changeling grabbed his arm.
“Hold it, Joey!” Changeling forced himself to continue to speak in a desperate whisper. “She’d almost made mincemeat of us the last time around.* God knows what powers she got now. Ya gotta go back and get Raven, wake her up somehow. Ghosts and goblins are right up her alley. Maybe she’ll know what to do---”
*Tales Of The New Teen Titans Annual #3
He broke off as Joe jabbed a finger in his direction.
“I’m going back out there and try to distract her.” Changeling replied. “Keep her occupy while you head downstairs.”
Joe looked shock. His fingers swiftly spelled out a word then sharply slid his right index finger under his left palm, giving it a twist to the left.
“She might at that.” Changeling answered. “But she may do the same to Dick and Kory if we don’t do something to stop her. It’s me she really wants. With her attention on me she’ll won’t remember that she’d left you whole and healthy---I hope.”
Joe grimaced, knowing Changeling was right. Nevertheless, he placed a curved hand against his forehead, giving it a quick twist.
Changeling smiled grimly. “I know what that means this time. You might be right. You can question my sanity when this is over, if I’m still around for you to do it.” He shifted back to a mosquito. “Now get going and good luck!”
The green mosquito briefly circled the elevator, and then darted outside again. He didn’t catch Joe’s parting gesture of a V shaped hand striking wrist. However, he did hear the faint hum of gears as the elevator car descended to the lower levels.
Certain his friend was safe for the moment, Changeling steel himself for the confrontation. A part of him wanted to talk to Tara again, to find out what really happen that day in HIVE headquarters. Well, here was his chance. Mentally taking a breath, the mosquito darted forward---there was a flash---
The ghostly figure turns to the roaring voice. She grinned maliciously at the green lion that stood before her. “Ah, if it isn’t the little green slime. Thought you might be hidin’ under a table or something.”
“Don’t call me that!!!” Terra shouted, her voice booming against the walls, the winds howling about her.
I’m Terra!” Her form seems to grow larger until it looms above her prisons and the lion below. “And
you sucker, are about to become history!”
A bolt of lightning flew from her fingers. Changeling barely managed to leap aside. The bolt struck Donna’s chair, charring one side into blacken ruin. He cast a pleading look at the girl he’d once loved. “Tara, please--- We’re your teammates, your friends. You can’t---“
”I told you I’m not Tara, ya stupid jerk!” Energy crackled around Terra’s form as her anger grew. A gust of wind swept forward, knocking Changeling off his feet. He was flung across the floor to impact painfully against the wall. Shaking his mane, he raised a dazed head to see the glowing forms of Starfire and Nightwing rise higher in the air. Terra grinned. ”Maybe I’ll start on Dicky-Boy and Ballons Bod first. Wonder how long it’ll take ‘em to hit the floor---“
Changeling struggled to his feet, his every muscles aching. “Tara---Terra---please, no---“
”You c’n keep count, Logan. When I snap my fingers---“
With an anguish roar, Changeling leap forward, claws extended to rend his tormentor. Terra remains motionless, smirking. There was a chilling blast of cold as Changeling found himself passing through the hovering form. He slammed against the post near the staircase and slid to the floor, numb and half-conscious.
”I thought even you would know that you can’t hurt a ghost.” Terra remarked smugly. ”Don’t worry, I hadn’t hurt your precious friends---yet. It would be too easy, too quick, to just let ‘em drop. I wanna do it slow an’ make ‘em suffers. As you and your goody two - shoes, pals made me suffer an’ die in that rock fall! And I’m gonna start with you---”
Terra again gestured and another grey nimbus appear around Changeling’s body. It was a lion that started to float helpless into the air but it was a human that finally stopped and hovered before Terra.
”You think my powers were something before, Logan---” Terra grinned and closed her hand; the nimbus around Changeling shrank closer against his body. ”Wait ‘til you see what I can do now!” Her hand suddenly clenched into a tight fist. ”Say goodbye, Logan---“
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An anxious Joe charged into the Infirmary, only to be brought up short by the sight of a recovered Raven. She stood calmly, garb in her usual white costume.
“I already know what has transpire, Joseph.” Raven replied to his surprised look. She pulled the hood over her head and stepped forward. “Come, we must hurry if we are to prevent Terra’s evil from once again spreading.”
Before Joe could question Raven on how she knew what had happen, he felt something lightly touch his cheek. Startled, he jerks back and turned his head. The green eyes widen in shock at what he saw. He swung a bewildered, questioning gaze to Raven.
“You shall come to no harm, Joseph.” Raven assured him. “They are here to aid our friends.” She moved closer and extended her hand. “You must trust them---and me.”
Joe met the calm, blue eyes of the empath, and then nodded. Reaching out, he grasped her hand and stepped forward. A column of black smoke envelope all and they vanish.
”Havin’ fun, Logan. I know I am!”
Changeling gazes at the gloating spirit through a haze of pain. With each contraction of the grey shimmering shield around him, agony blazed through both body and mind. He couldn’t concentrate to change form. He was dying---dying at the hands of one who was already dead---
“Hurtin’, Logan?” Terra sneered. “I hope so. I want ya to suffer like I did when you an’ your superheroes pals abandoned me in that HIVE headquarters.”
“No—“Changeling spoke from between clenched teeth, voice weak but determined. “You’re the one who’d lied to us---betrayed us. The gang was right---you’re crazy---evil---“
“Shut up!” A rock suddenly appears from nowhere, striking Changeling’s mouth. He slumped, blood smearing his face, but he continued to look defiantly at the creature that once was his teammate and friend.
“You may kill me, Terra---but the other Titans will stop you somehow. I won’t take the blame for what you’d brought on yourself---not anymore.”
“The Titans stoppin’ me? That’s a laugh!” Terra gloated. “They’ll have as much chance now as they did then---no chance at all! Pity you won’t be around to see me take care of those wimps like I’ll take care of you!” An evil smile spread over the pallid features. “Or maybe I’ll start on Dickie an’ Golden Rod over there, while you watch.” She turned to the two floating forms, raising a glowing hand. “Ladies first---“
Startled, Terra looked down at the sharp, though familiar voice. Below, smoke was slowly dispersing, revealing Raven, cloak held close to her body as if in protection against the chilled air in the room.
“Not again, Terra.” Raven continued, words unusually stern. “You shall cause no further harm to the team which I had formed. Return to your dead realm, there is nothing for you here. “
“Yeah? An’ who’s gonna stop me? You?!” Terra had recovered from her surprise and now stared scornfully at the empath. “You’re just a lily-livered witch. You couldn’t do nothin’ to me before an’ you sure as hell can’t do anything now!” She held out her arms in triumph, energy crackling around her. “I’m gonna crush these sickly sweet so-called heroes an’ there’s nothin’ you c’n do about it---‘cept die!”
“Perhaps I am indeed powerless to defeat you directly, Terra---“ Raven suddenly threw back her cloak, opening it wide. “But they are not!”
From within the swirling folds three shimmering forms darted out. Terra floated back, her face showing an emotion that Changeling never thought he would see---fear.
“No! Not you!”
Changeling watch as the three ghostly figures drifted swiftly upward. “Aw, no, not more of ‘em!” The wavering forms, two females and one male, swiftly approached Terra. Changeling frowned, they seem familiar----“No, they couldn’t be---“
Below, Raven had turned to the staircase. “Now, Joseph!”
And Joseph Wilson was suddenly in front of her, running up the stairs. He leaped forward, hoping the glowing aurora around his friend wouldn’t prevent him from grabbing him.
The three phantoms now surrounded Terra, who glared at them in fear and rage. “Stay outta this! It ain’t your business!”
“Oh, but it is, Terra.” The young man spoke softly, drifting closer. He was garb in a two-tone costume, flaps resembling small wings at his arms and sides. “They’re still our friends.”
“And we’re still Titians.” The phantom woman floated towards Terra, her costume, glittering and shimmering in the light.
“We won’t let you hurt them.” The other phantom woman also approached. She wore a two-piece bikini style garb with a belt of shells. “You’re going back---back where you belong.”
The nimbus disappeared from Changeling’s body and he begins to fall, mind too numb with pain to trigger a transformation. Joe leaped over the railing and grabbed him around the waist. They both plummet downward. The mutant gave a quick somersault and landed in a crouch on the floor, his arms shielding Changeling from the impact. Raven quickly knelt beside them, her hands easing Changeling onto the floor, her empathic power healing the injuries he suffered at the mad ghost’s hands.
Joe quickly glanced up to where Nightwing and Starfire had been floating, expression anxious. If Terra had released her grip on Changeling---. To his relief, he saw the two forms floating gently to the floor as if held by some benign force. The glow around them vanished and their bodies lay before him. A quick check shows that they were still unconscious but apparently unharmed.
Again, he felt a light touch brushed his cheek, as if a brief kiss. He heard a familiar, gentle voice whisper;
“Take good care of them, Joey. I love you.”
Surprised, Joe turned to the voice. He thought he caught a glimpse of a smiling face, framed by short red hair. Then it was gone---
A scream of rage drew his attention back to the floating figures above. The women and the man had started to glow. They pressed closer to Terra, herding her against the wall.
“Let go of me, you creeps!” Terra snarled, her face an inhuman mask, retreating from the rent less figures. “You can’t stop me!”
“Yes, we can, Terra.” The glittering girl said, her voice echoing within the walls. “You’re going to a place where you won’t hurt anyone ever again.” The glow around the phantoms grew brighter and Terra shrank back.
“No---“ All the energy seems to have drain out of Terra, leaving her a pale imitation of what she’d always been---a twisted, angry young girl.
“Nooooo------“ There was one last, futile shrike as the ghostly forms suddenly converge on her. She and they disappeared into a bright bust of light. The light grew in intensity until the onlookers below had to shield their eyes from the glare. From the shimmering ball came three ephemeral voices, speaking in unison;
“She won’t bother you again, Titans. Farewell, dear friends---“
The glowing ball flared into one intolerance blaze of light. When the three Titans could see again, it was gone---and so was Terra.
“It’s over, my friends.” Raven said, lowering her hands from her face. “May she find peace with the others---“
There was no reply. Joe glanced at Changeling, expression concern. The young shape-shifter was sitting up, but his head was bowed and his shoulders were shaking. He started to move toward him but it was Raven who gently gathers Changeling into her arms.
“Do not grieve so, Garfield.” Raven whispered, voice soft with compassion. Her power begins to heal his mental wounds as they had earlier done his physical ones. “I know how it feels to be so deceived. Be comfort by the knowledge that her tormented soul will now be at peace.” She turned to the window, smiling at the peaceful and quiet scene outside. “Look, my friends, the storm had ended.”
“Ohhh---what happen?” Starfire stirred, and then sat up, shaking her head. “I was in my room---“ Her eyes fell on Nightwing, who was also reviving. “K’ranna! Are you all right?”
“Yeah, I’m fine, hon.” Nightwing replied, accepting the Tamaranian’s relieve embrace. “Just puzzled.” He looks around the room, noting the overturned chairs and scored marks. He turned a questioning gaze to his silent teammates. His puzzlement turned to concern when he saw Changeling in Raven’s arms. “All right, people, what happen? I take it you all found and took out the intruder and everything is back to normal. I want to know how it got that way.”
Joe gave a silent sigh. It was going to be a long story.
Actually, it didn’t take as long as expected. Changeling had recovered his composure and added his version of the night’s adventure to Raven’s and Joe’s account. Yet Nightwing remain somewhat skeptical.
“Look, Nightly, you an’ Golden Girl were napping on the floor during all this.” Changeling pointed out. “If you saw what we did you would believe in ghosts too.”
“I believe something happen to us, to see what we did.” Nightwing remarked. “For all we know, something might have been put in the Tower’s water supply or the air to have us imagine it all---“ He glared as he heard Joe’s skeptic snort. “Okay, so maybe it’s a bit far fetch, but it’s better than buying the idea that we were invaded by---what’s the matter, Joey?”
The four was still sitting or kneeling on the floor. Joe reached down to pick up something, his eyes widening in surprise.
“Joey, what is it?” Starfire asked, catching sight of his expression. “You look like you seen a---“
“Don’t you dare say it, Kory!” Changeling warned.
Raven peer over Joe’s shoulder to see what he held. Slowly the mutant extended the object towards Nightwing. Raven spoke quietly; “Perhaps this will convince you of the reality of this night, Richard.”
Nightwing looked at Joe’s open palm and for once had no practical answer.
For within the hand was a crystal heart----