"The Jubilee Directive"
"Welcome to the Groove Machine"
By David Marshall
The Teen Titans gathered around an oval-shaped table emblazoned with the group’s offset double-T logo awaiting the senior team's arrival. The former took seats around the table while the latter were squirreled away in an upstairs conference room. Miss Martian didn't have to use telepathy to know what they were debating.
"Anyone else’s ears burning?” Static asked.
Blue Beetle nodded. "Mine are on fire."
Osiris fidgeted in his seat. "I don't like it. They treat us like lap dogs."
"We are guests in their headquarters," said Miss Martian. "We can't complain too much."
Osiris crossed his arms defiantly. "I know our Titans wouldn't treat us like this."
"Our Titans know us," Traci 13 countered. "Or at least most of you. I doubt they know I exist."
Blue Beetle threw his arm around his girlfriend’s shoulders and hugged her awkwardly. "You know that's not true."
Traci wriggled away from Blue Beetle's embrace. "Yeah, right. I doubt I'm a blip on their radar."
Before Blue Beetle could offer protest the doors opened and Donna Troy, Cyborg, and Arsenal walked into the room looking somber.
"I suppose you wonder why we called this meeting," said Donna.
"We have a pretty good idea," Aquagirl mumbled.
Donna eyed Aquagirl with a laser-like gaze but continued. "As you know we just rebuilt Titans Tower and had barely settled into it ourselves when you guys showed up."
"So you’re kicking us out?" Static asked.
"Please allow the lady to continue," said Cyborg.
Static shrugged his shoulders. "Sorry, man. My bad."
"Absolutely not," Donna replied. "You're Titans. You may not be native to our earth but Titans just the same and that means something to us. Our biggest concern is that you seem … rudderless."
Miss Martian raised her hand to speak.
"Yes, M'Gann?" Donna asked. "You don't have to raise your hand sweetie."
"Gar interrupts all the time," said Cyborg. "Why shouldn't you newbies?"
Miss Martian's blushed dark green as she lowered her hand. "We're in an unfamiliar situation and without our team leaders that’s why we seem lost."
Donna nodded. "All the more reason to not turn you out. We've agreed, unanimously I might add, to allow you guys to stay at the Tower if you want."
The Teen Titans erupted in cheers a moment before Rose Wilson crashed through the door wearing dark blue spandex workout pants and a light blue and orange sports bra top.
"You're late," said Arsenal.
"I didn’t realize I was punching a clock, Red" Rose shot back as she plopped into the only empty seat at the table and put her feet up. "So what did I miss?"
Rose’s ill-timed attitude tempered the good news. Miss Martian wasn't an empath but could feel the tension in the room.
Donna moved to the end of the table and leaned over Rose. "Before or after you barged into the meeting late?"
Rose rolled her eyes. "Whatever."
"We can take this outside if you like, Sunshine" said Donna.
Rose stood to her feet. "Yours wouldn't be the first Amazon butt I've kicked."
Arsenal pushed his way between the ladies and steered Donna back toward the center of the room once more. He turned to Rose "Trust me, girlie. I don't know whose Amazon's butt you kicked, but it wasn't Donna's."
"Rose, sit down and shut up!" Blue Beetle ordered. "Some of us want to hear this."
Rose stared Blue Beetle down but finally took her seat once more. "Fine, but you tell me to shut up again and I'll surgically remove your armor from your skin one plate at a time."
Static shook his head, trying to ignore the distraction. “Cool, we can stay. Why do I feel there’s more?”
Cyborg nodded. "Indeed there is. You guys can stay as long as you like but we must establish some ground rules."
"First, you guys will use the lower floors as your headquarters," said Donna. "We will share the common areas, gyms, kitchens, and other essential spaces such as the pool."
"Why do we get stuck on the lower floors like rats?" Osiris asked.
"Because it's our headquarters and we built it," Donna replied. "And no one considers you anything less than full-fledged Teen Titans. There are strategic reasons for you occupying the lower floors as well, such as providing Aquagirl with quick access to the waterways directly from her quarters. Our own Aqualad’s quarters will be across from hers for the same reason but he’s almost never here. "
"Also the building is designed with a lockdown between the upper and lower floors," Cyborg added. "If the Tower is compromised the lockdown sequence will engage and the most secure level will be granted complete control of the Tower, allowing that team to take appropriate action according to security protocols our two teams will develop between us."
"Like the cavalry charging to the rescue," Arsenal added.
"We can live with that," said Blue Beetle.
"One more thing," said Donna. "We've agreed that you need one of us serving full-time with you as an advisor since you don't really have a defined leadership role."
"What?" Static asked. "You're going to force a leader on us? Don't we get a say?"
Donna shook her head. "Not if you choose to stay here."
"Jaime's done a great job so far," said Miss Martian. "Can't we just make him leader?"
"Or me," said Static. "I’m a leader too."
"So am I," Rose added.
The room fell silent and everyone eyed Rose uncomfortably.
"What? I'm late to one lousy meeting and suddenly I can’t lead? I have more experience than anyone on this team and have been a member much longer."
“I was putting away Bang Babies in Dakota back when you still had two eyes!” said Static.
"Be that as it may," said Donna. "We feel you guys would benefit from a strong guiding hand of someone with more experience and who knows our earth."
"And who would this person be?" Rose asked. "You?"
Donna shook her head. "I have my hands full as it is. We feel Roy is the ideal candidate to act as advisor to your team, a liaison if you will."
"But he's not our leader per se?" Blue Beetle asked.
Arsenal stepped forward. "Not at all. Someone will still need to lead in the field."
"So what now?" Static asked. "We hold elections to determine who should lead us on missions?"
"An excellent idea," Cyborg replied. "A vacuum creates chaos."
"I don't like it," said Osiris. "If anyone should lead it should be the one endowed with the wisdom of Zehuti and who was co-regent of a nation - me."
"Leadership requires more than just wisdom," Arsenal challenged. He looked at Blue Beetle. "A leader is one whom others will follow into the mouth of hell."
"So let's get this over with," Aquagirl sighed. "How do we do this? A show of hands?"
Donna shook her head. "Leadership has always been filled organically on our team, but if you guys are determined to vote, then I recommend a secret ballot to eliminate hard feelings."
Hidden panels slid open in the table before each Teen Titan and computer interfaces rose to the surface from within. Vic stood at a panel by the front wall of the room fingering a switch. He spent a few minutes typing at a terminal before addressing the room once again. "I've created a simple program that will allow you to vote for the leader of your choice. Place a checkmark beside the icon of the person you wish to vote for. The program will tally the results."
"This should be easy," said Rose.
"One other thing," said Donna. "You can't vote for yourself."
"Just got more difficult," Rose added.
Miss Martian studied her peers carefully. Everyone brought something unique to the table. Blue Beetle had proven himself many times, but what Rose said actually made sense as did Osiris. Traci and Aquagirl were steady as well. She hadn’t worked much with Static but he seemed every bit as capable as the others. Voting would not be easy.
"I remove my name from consideration," said Aquagirl. "I have no desire to lead and am more of a good little soldier."
Arsenal nodded. "Don't be so fast to dismiss yourself, Lorena. It takes a wise person to know their limitations."
“I appreciate the vote of confidence but I’m not a leader,” Aquagirl replied. She studied the choices before her and tapped her screen.
Aquagirl’s icon disappeared from the screen.
Her peers voted one-by-one but Miss Martian still wasn't sure.
"M'gann?" Donna asked. "We're waiting on you."
Miss Martian’s decision was cut short by Changeling appearing on the main monitor. "Hate to interrupt guys but we have trouble in Opal City. A group calling themselves the Symphony is razing Opal University. I've got the T-Jet fueled up and ready to go."
"Sorry guys but the election will have to wait," said Cyborg. He, Donna, and Roy rushed toward the door. "Sounds like we need to teach a music lesson."
"Wait!" cried Blue Beetle. "This one's ours!"
"You know these guys?" Donna asked.
Blue Beetle nodded. "We do."
"From your world?" Cyborg asked.
"Hadn’t heard of them until a few days ago," said Traci.
Miss Martian saw Blue Beetle elbow Traci under the table.
"On this earth I mean," Traci added.
"Look, we were right about the Calculator and our experience with him helped in that situation. Give us this shot too," said Blue Beetle.
"Alright," said Donna. "It's your show. We're on call if you need us."
As everyone filed out of the room Miss Martian at last knew who would get her vote. She checked the appropriate box and hit "submit" before closing the program and joining her teammates.
Miss Martian had never seen a city quite like Opal. Its skyline lacked the glass and steel skyscrapers that towered over most modern metropolitan areas. In their stead art-deco spires and oversized neon signs dotted the landscape with a kitschy feel that reminded her of film noir. As she flew a story or two above the streets of Burnley Boulevard she was intrigued with the eclectic store fronts she passed - antique shops, a real soda shop, a florist with a neon sign shaped like a vase of flowers, an old-fashioned movie theater with an honest-to-goodness marquee, a fortune-teller, another fortune-teller, yet another fortune teller, a restaurant that boasted of the best crab legs on the east coast, and a dry cleaner. They were the kind of businesses tucked away from the tourist districts in most towns but in Opal they were the celebrated attractions.
"According to the GPS in my armor the university is dead ahead," said Blue Beetle. Arsenal appointed him leader of the mission before everyone left Titans Tower. "When we get there I'll take the conductor guy with the wild, white mane of hair. Be careful of the timpani player. He brings sound constructs to life, kind of like Green Lantern but with sound. Any questions?"
"Yeah, what's a timpani?" Aquagirl asked.
"A big drum used in orchestras," Traci replied.
"Oh yeah," Aquagirl replied. "I knew that."
"I thought you guys had faced this bunch before," Arsenal complained over the comms.
"Confession?" Blue Beetle asked.
"Go ahead," said Arsenal. "I'm not going to like this, am I?"
"Probably not," Traci replied. "You tell him, Jaime."
Blue Beetle took a deep breath. "When Traci and I fought them a few days ago it was the first time we'd ever seen them. They got away from us and we wanted another crack at them."
"So you lied?" Arsenal asked.
"Sounds more like a half-truth to me," Static replied in defense of his teammates before they could answer. "Semantics really don’t matter anyway. We're here now and have a visual!"
“We’ll chalk it up to creativity this time,” Aresenal replied. “Don’t let it happen again.”
The scene at the university was surreal, like a scene from a horror film. A giant buzz saw comprised of turquoise-colored hard light tore through the science building. The frightened crowd fled in every direction as the building teetered and threatened to collapse into twin heaps of rubble. The members of the Symphony walked calmly among the crowd and played loudly while the Conductor waved his baton.
"Osiris, get up there and see if you can keep the building together long enough for us to get everyone to safety! Traci you're with him! Rose and Lorena, I need you two on crowd control! Remember you're here to help the emergency crews not antagonize them!"
"Crowd control?" Rose shot back. "Are you kidding me? Give me one minute with any of them and this thing will be over in time to pick up some crab legs for lunch."
"I'll assist with crowd control," Miss Martian replied. "Perhaps I can use my telepathy to calm them."
"We'll talk about his later, Rose," said Arsenal.
"Big talk for a guy almost two-hundred miles removed from the action," Rose answered.
"Ok, Static and Ravager, you're with me!" said Blue Beetle.
Miss Martian rose into the air and cleared her thoughts. Touching the mind of one person was simple, but a panicked crowd was much more difficult to reach. Their panic pushed survival instincts to the forefront of their minds. It was a tough barrier to break through. Still, failure was not an option.
<"Please remain calm,"> Miss Martian broadcast. <"We are here to assist. We need everyone to move away from the building quickly and in an orderly fashion. Repeat, move away from the building as orderly as possible!">
Aquagirl disappeared into the human wave like a salmon pushing upstream. She was looking to help anyone in trouble. She disappeared momentarily but emerged again carrying an elderly lady down the building’s crumbling granite steps while dodging the falling debris.
Osiris rose into the air and landed on the roof. He straddled the gutted halves of the building and dug his fingers into the white stone and mortar roof. For a brief instant it appeared the forces of gravity would have their say as the strain showed on his face.
"Let me make that easier for you!" said Traci. Buried cables tore through the pavement and danced in the air like cobras before a snake charmer then coiled around the building to help Osiris pull it together.
Static rose into the air on his Saucer and shot toward the timpani player. A blast of ball lightning danced on his fingertips before he hurled it at the drum. It was a direct hit.
The resulting explosion was almost blinding but the attack did no damage.
If Static didn't have the timpanist's attention he had it now. The chubby percussionist banged hard on the head of his drum. A giant fist emerged and slammed into Static. It would have knocked him clear into the bay but he latched onto a street light with his magnetic powers and used it to slingshot back into action. His Static Saucer wasn't so lucky.
Static somehow spotted a garbage can lid among the debris and willed it to him. A moment later he was back in the game even if his ride wasn’t as sleek and sexy as his Saucer.
A bow and arrow comprised of blue energy emerged from the head of the timpanist's drum and fired at Static.
"Let's see if I can short out your toy with an electromagnetic burst this time!" said Static. Two powerful bursts erupted from his hands and met the arrow head-on. It exploded and rained multi-hued ectoplasm over the area like fireworks.
Before the timpanist could manipulate another construct Static rose leaped from the garbage can lid and hurled it toward his foe. A shield rose from his drum to protect him.
Ravager was locked in battle with the flautist. The wisp of a villain with the long red hair lifted her flute to her lips and played a haunting melody. As she played, the water in the fountain in front of the hall rose up and formed itself into the torso of the Greek god Poseidon. The god swatted at Rose with his hand.
Ravager braced herself for the impact but was no match for the wall of water that slammed into her. The harder she fought against the onslaught the more caught up in it she became. At last she fell.
Blue Beetle broke off his attack on the Maestro. "Hold on, Rose! I'm coming!"
He flew to the sea god's head and floated before it for a moment. He looked unsure what to do.
Once again Poseidon swatted at a Titan like a fly but Beetle raised his force field and the crushing wave bounced off him. His energy cannon emerged from his armor and blasted the construct. The remnants of the sea god inundated the plaza.
Blue Beetle landed by Ravager. He knelt down to check on her. "Rose, are you ok?"
Ravager was out.
Blue Beetle lowered his ear to her chest. She wasn't breathing. He lightly slapped Ravager’s cheeks hoping to elicit a response. "Come on, Rose! Wake up, dammit!"
Miss Martian left a mother and two children in Aqaugirl's care and rushed to Rose's side. "Let me try to reach her subconscious." She cradled Ravager's head between her palms. "I sense brain activity but she sucked in a lot of water. She's hanging between life and death."
Blue Beetle shook his unconscious teammate. "Rose, wake up! Not like this, dammit! Please God no!"
"Shaking her won't help," said Miss Martian. She pushed Blue Beetle aside and placed the heels of her hands in the middle of Ravager's chest and began compression. She performed a quick series of compressions before inching the fallen girl's mask over her mouth and nose. She then tilted her head back and raised Rose's chin before pinching her nostrils together with a free hand. She lowered her lips to Rose's and breathed into her mouth. Ravager's chest rose and fell.
Miss Martian alternated between compressions and breathing for Rose until the unconscious Titan spit up the water in her lungs and coughed hard.
Ravager pushed Miss Martian away. "Sorry M'gann. I don't swing that way but if I did and if I were into green chicks…."
"Are you ok?" Miss Martian asked.
Ravager nodded and pulled down her mask. "I'm fine. Just took a big drink of water." Blue Beetle and Miss Martian tried to assist her to her feet but she pushed them away. "Let me at that big jerk!"
"Blue Beetle blasted him apart already," said Miss Martian.
A statue of Ted Knight in his Starman costume came to life at the flautist's behest and fired a blast from his cosmic rod that hit Blue Beetle in the back. It knocked him to the ground.
Ravager stood to her feet. "M'gann you take the Stone Age Starman. I’m about to go American Pie on the chick with that damned flute!"
The flautist's eyes grew wide when she realized Ravager was coming for her. She blew frantically across the hole in the top of her flute but Ravager's reflexes and speed were too much. A right hand slammed into the musician's jaw and sent her flute flying.
Ravager paused for a moment as if considering her options then drew her sword.
"Ravager, no!" M'gann cried.
Her cry came too late. Ravager drew her sword and ran the flautist through with it. The woman fell to her knees, blood pouring from her mouth and the wounds in her stomach and back. She collapsed onto the sidewalk with her hands pulling at the sword in her belly. When she hit the pavement the Starman statue returned to its original position.
The trumpet player sounded a blast on his horn and opened a portal. The symphony and their gaggle of cohorts rushed into the vortex. The swirling eddy closed like a pinwheel behind them. The air sparkled and crackled with residual energy from the teleport.
M'gann rushed to the fallen villain and turned her over. She was dead.
"What the hell is going on there?" Arsenal asked over the comm link.
"Ravager just killed one of the villains," Static replied.
"She did what?" Arsenal barked back.
M'gann looked up at Ravager. "Oh, Rose! What have you done?"
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