Teen Titans

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FDC Presents Teen Titans
#9
"Certain Doom"
Part Three

By David Marshall

“This is seriously weird and more than a little uncomfortable,” said Aquagirl, yanking at the bottom of her short red and white miniskirt and wishing for the life of her it was a few inches longer. “I’m not Rita Farr!”

Moments before, she and her teammates Blue Beetle and Static entered a club off an alley on Danny the Street’s main strip. They were accompanied by senior Titan Garfield Logan, known as the Changeling, and his stepfather Steve Dayton, also known as the strange quasi-hero, Mento. Now they were on the American side of Niagara Falls and shouting to hear one another over the roar of the majestic Horseshoe Fall’s pristine mist dropping one-hundred and eighty-eight feet into the Niagara River below.

Blue Beetle was Robotman, the Doom Patrol’s mechanical man designed by the “Chief”, Niles Caulder, to house the brain of former race car driver Cliff Steele after an accident on the speedway left him near death. The real Robotman’s metallic body was a copper-brass color but Blue Beetle’s form, while resembling the original in every other way, was cobalt blue.

Static was wrapped from head to toe in mummy-like bandages such as those worn by Larry Trainor, also known as Negative Man. He too was an original member of the Doom Patrol and could separate a shadowy energy figure from his body. The being could survive outside Larry’s body for only sixty seconds and had to return within that timeframe lest Larry perish. Like the original Negative Man, Static wore a red and white Doom Patrol uniform over his bandages.

“So why are we here?” Static asked.

Aquagirl pointed to the sky. “Three guesses and the first two don’t count!”

A large alien vessel hovered over the American side of the falls. It was armed to the teeth and opened fire on both sides of the river, scattering startled crowds in blind panic. Some on the American side scrambled to their cars in the parking lot near Terrapin Point. Others sought cover where they could find it. Those trapped in plain sight dropped to the ground. A young mother at the viewing area lost her balance and plunged over the railing. Her young son reached for her and yelled “Mommy!” but his father yanked him back before she pulled him over as well.

Mento turned to Static and pointed toward the falls. “What are you waiting for Larry? You’re the only one of us with a hope of saving her!”

“Larry?” Static asked.

“Just think Negative Man and do what comes naturally!” Changeling advised. “You guys have the original Doom Patrol’s bodies. Maybe you have their powers too.”

Blue Beetle pointed toward the Falls. “Worry about that later! Go Virgil!”

“Negative Man. Negative Man,” Static repeated. A dark energy being separated from his body and plunged over the railing faster than the eye could follow. Aquagirl wasn’t sure what to make of Static’s newfound power but hoped he was fast enough to save the young mother’s life.

He couldn’t have been gone more than five seconds but it felt like an eternity before he returned with the young mother in his arms. Her husband tried to thank Negative Man but Virgil returned to his host body, still collapsed on the ground at Elasti-Girl’s purple boots.

Virgil pushed himself up and looked around. “That was… amazing! Just freaking awesome! What a rush!”

Laser fire struck a hotel on the Canadian side of the border and set the building aflame. People rushed from the bottom floors but some were trapped above the blast line.

Mento pointed across the river. “Beast Boy! Elasti-Girl! Those people need our help! Their safety is our top priority!”

Gar morphed into a hawk and crossed the great expanse between the countries with ease. Lorena wasn’t sure what to do. She had Rita Farr’s face and powers but no experience using them. Despite the presence of millions of gallons of water so near, she felt utterly useless.

“Grow girl!” Mento ordered. “There’s no time to think!”

Aquagirl wasn’t sure how to use Rita’s powers. The suddenness of dire circumstances forced Virgil to figure out Negative Man’s powers. Perhaps if she just…

At first the ground seemed to pull away and as she dwarfed the nearby treetops Aquagirl realized she was growing in stature. Moments later she was tall as a skyscraper. She felt clumsy but took a step toward the edge of the falls and stepped into the Niagara River as if wading through a puddle. “I’ll crush the first one who peeks up my skirt!”

Jaime helped evacuate people to their cars on the American side near Terrapin Point. “You do realize that’s a thing for some people right? To be crushed by a giant lady!”

“What weird part of YouTube do you watch?” Lorena asked as she lifted a leg from the water and stepped onto the Canadian side. A blast from the vessel seared into her right shoulder. She yelped in pain as the smell of her burning flesh filled the air. She turned and lashed out at the ship with her fist. The blow rocked the vessel. Aquagirl felt so alive! Her own super-strength was limited even beneath the oceans but the raw power at her disposal at giant size was intoxicating. She unleashed a second blow upon the vessel and it too rocked the ship.

“Never mind the ship!” Mento cried. “Tend to the people on the other side!”

Lorena didn’t like Mento ordering her around and knew Jaime wouldn’t stand for it much longer either. “Then prevent this thing from cooking my shoulder again!”

Mento nodded and reached for a stand of trees leading down to the shore line near Terrapin Point. One at a time he uprooted them via telekinesis and hurled them toward the ship. Most were blasted apart before they struck the craft’s hull but a few slipped through its defenses and inflicted minor damage. While posing no real danger to the alien ship, the attack was a solid diversion that allowed Gar and Lorena to do their jobs.

“Surrender Doom Patrol!” cried a loud voice from within the ship. “The Earth is mine!”

Taking the form of a pterodactyl, Gar lowered several people at a time to the ground from the upper floors of the hotel. “I would recognize that mocking voice anywhere! Garguax!”

Lorena read about the alien despot’s previous attempted invasions of Earth as a school girl in her Earth’s San Diego before it sunk into the ocean. But like Madame Rouge, he was supposed to be dead. So what was one more impossible battle?

“Stand back, everyone!” Lorena announced as she approached the hotel. “I’m going to punch a hole in the side of the building at the sixteenth floor! Once I have cleared the area I will lower you to the ground in my hand!”

Her fist was much too large to strike the hotel without causing even more damage and perhaps hurting someone. Instead she poked a hole through the wall with her right index finger. It didn’t take long to clear the debris and soon she lowered frightened guests to the ground. Once she cleared the upper floors, she shrunk to normal size and entered the hotel lobby behind Gar who had taken the form of a cheetah. They searched every square inch of the building and found a few injured people so their search proved fruitful. They were soon joined by the fire department who took control of the situation.

“We’re needed on the other side of the river,” said Gar.

Lorena nodded and once again crossed the Niagara River in just a couple of steps. She and Gar returned to the chaos outside and found their teammates under heavy fire from Garguax. Mento was protected by a shield he created with his crazy helmet. Audible crackles of energy seared the air as the deadly beams probed his construct for a weakness. Unable to fly into action, Jaime hurled large boulders at the ship from the north side of the American waterfall. He celebrated when one took out a deflector dish. As Static, Virgil was masterful at manipulating both magnetic and electrical energy fields so commanding Negative Man’s silhouette being must have seemed somewhat familiar. Lorena worried more about his helpless human body crumpled in a comatose heap nearby. How did the original Doom Patrol fight alongside such a constant reminder of their mortality? Did they simply get used to seeing Larry Trainor’s body sprawled out in similar fashion?

Elasti-Girl made an inviting target and drew fire again but instinctively shrunk to a smaller size and the deadly blast sailed harmlessly over her head. “We’re not working together!” she shouted over the thunder of the falls. “We must work as a team!”

“Do you have a plan?” Gar asked. “I’m all ears if you do.”

Lorena nodded. “As a matter of fact, I do. Mento continue to draw the main turret’s fire! Gar…”

“But my helmet is the best offensive weapons we have,” Mento protested. “Let me…”

“My plan will work!” Lorena countered. “Give it a chance and you’ll see!”

All eyes turned to Changeling. He was the true leader of the mission and Lorena hoped their short time together would earn her at least some consideration.

“What’s your plan, Lorena?” Gar asked.

Lorena smiled. It was good to hear that Changeling trusted her. She was feeling more and more a part of the team. “Mento, continue to draw Garguax’s fire so the rest of us can attack!”

She shot up to her maximum height and towered over the Niagara tourist district. “My first move is to get our Robotman into action. Jaime! Uproot a nearby tree and get over here!”

Robotman did as he was told and found a large fir nearby and yanked it from the ground. Lorena helped clear the roots and limbs and soon he wielded a massive club.

“Now I give Robtoman a lift via the Elast-Girl express…” Lorena explained.

Robotman stepped into her open palm and she lifted him into the air. He jumped from her hand and landed on the ship’s hull like a swashbuckling metal pirate. He hoisted his club into the air and swung it. The blow took out a laser turret. “Now this is more like it! And with the magnetic soles the Chief built into my feet, Garguax won’t throw this cowboy so easily!”

As soon as Robotman was in place and inflicting damage to the ship’s weapons systems, Lorena latched onto the vessel with both hands and strained to move the massive vessel into place. Its position was crucial to her plan.

“Concentrate your efforts on the Canadian side of the ship!” said Lorena. “Target the weapons so Garguax can’t use the people of Ontario as pawns against us!”

Robotman took out a weapons array with his club. The explosion was as brilliant as it was brief and gave off excessive heat as it burned. He moved on to another array.

“Gar! Give Robotman a hand!” Lorena ordered.

Gar changed into a hummingbird and flew to Garguax’s ship and landed near the aft section. “Now I ditch the little birdie-wirdie feet for something more conducive to general mayhem!” The sweet hummingbird gave way to an angry five-hundred pound gorilla and Gar tore into the ship with his bare hands.

“What about me?” Negative Man asked from the ground below.

Lorena smiled. “Take out the main laser turret that’s firing on Mento!”

Negative Man nodded and the shadowy energy being emerged from within his body. Virgil’s bandaged body collapsed once again while his negative energy counterpart sped toward the alien craft and phased through its main cannon. It exploded into a magnificent fireball. Negative Man quickly rejoined Virgil’s body.

Mento smiled. “Good work young lady! I’m sorry I doubted you. Now I’m free to attack!”

Lorena nodded. “That was my plan all along!”

Mento concentrated and a force unlike anything Lorena witnessed before shot from his screwy helmet and tore open Garguax’s ship. It was as if giant, invisible hands ripped the ship in half. The engine thrust died immediately. Working together, the Doom Patrol tore apart Garguax’s Destroyer in mere minutes.

Lorena was unprepared to deal with a craft that was split in two. The hull crumpled in her hands and she made a strategic decision. “Gar! Get out of there now!”

Gar changed to an eagle and abandoned his post on the aft section. The mangled metal plummeted into the river below leaving Lorena holding the fore section of the ship.

Robotman slipped inside and found Garguax cowering behind his captain’s chair. The slovenly green-skinned alien tried to run but Gar flew onto the ship and changed into a small mountain goat. Robotman rushed Garguax from one side and Gar from the other. Their high-low combination slammed the beefy alien to the deck of his vessel and knocked him out.

Mento removed Garguax from the ship via telekinesis. Once the would-be invader was no longer a threat, Lorena lowered his gutted ship to the ground and shrunk to normal size. Debris was scattered everywhere.

“What now?” Lorena asked.

Negative Man rejoined Virgil and he regained consciousness. “Did we win?”

Robotman nodded. “We took out Garguax’s ship and he’s sleeping like a fat baby.”

Mento searched through a pile of rubble. “Fan out and search for anything that’s out of place. We’ve no idea what kind of object this third talisman may be.”

Lorena climbed into the damaged cross-section. She hated not knowing what they were searching for but surely something would seem out of place if their previous encounters meant anything. She found plenty of debris but it mostly fit her expectation of what she’d expect to find in a crashed spaceship. She was about to give up when a gleaming object peeking from beneath Garguax’s captain’s chair reflected the sun into her eyes. She bent down to get a closer look. Beneath the captain’s chair was a lady’s compact makeup mirror. “This just keeps getting weirder and weirder. Hey guys! I think I found it!”

Lorena hopped to the ground from the gutted ship and showed Robotman, Gar, and Negative Man what she found. They all agreed it was likely the third talisman.

“Where’s Mento?” Negative Man asked.

The team searched for at least ten minutes before they descended the carved stairs on the American side that led to the walking tour. Halfway down the staircase a door hovered in midair.

“Thank God we’re not the Doom Patrol on a regular basis,” Negative Man moaned. “I don’t know how they deal with this kind of crazy all the time.”

“You get used to it,” Gar answered. “After a while, crazy becomes your normal.” He didn’t wait for discussion. He turned the doorknob and they were staring at the front of the club they entered earlier with Niagara Falls behind them and the mysterious doorway hanging in the air between them.

“What about Mento?” Lorena asked. “We can’t just leave him behind.”

Gar shrugged. “He’s like a cockroach. No matter how bad it gets, Dayton finds a way to survive and return.”

“But if we leave this plane of existence can we get back here to find him if necessary?” Robotman asked.

Gar shrugged. “I’m not sure but knowing Dayton, he could have spotted the door and slipped through without telling us. I wouldn’t put it past him.”

Lorena looked to Robotman. He seemed just as stumped.

“It’s your decision Gar,” said Robotman. “We can look for him if you want.”

Gar shook his head and walked onto Danny’s main street. Lorena followed close behind. As soon as she was outside the club, her Doom Patrol uniform reverted to her more familiar Aquagirl threads. One by one the Titans lost their Doom Patrol identities and reverted to themselves.

Lorena held up the mirror and examined it. “I still don’t get it. I hoped securing the third talisman would shed light on the first two but they’re entirely random.”

“Hey guys! They’re back” Miss Martian called to her teammates gathered in the alley outside the club. She spotted her teammates’ return and rushed to join them. Her fellow Titans followed after her and gathered around their teammates who were part of the Doom Patrol adventure.

“We’re fine!” said Blue Beetle. “No need to worry about us!”

Traci 13 hugged Blue Beetle. “So they kicked you out babe? Just like that?”

Blue Beetle looked confused as they broke their hug. “We became the original Doom Patrol and fought Garguax at Niagara Falls!” He explained their mission in detail.

“I’m sorry we kept you waiting so long,” said Static.

Rose shrugged. “You guys were in there for maybe fifteen or twenty seconds.”

Lorena shook her head. “That’s impossible. We were gone for nearly a full day!”

“It doesn’t matter how long we were gone,” said Gar. “Show them what we found.”

Aquagirl produced the mirror and the Titans volleyed guesses back and forth amongst themselves while wondering what happened to Mento.

Miss Martian phased partially through the club’s brick façade and popped back out. She shook her head. “It just looks like a regular dance club inside. No sign of Mento anywhere.”

Traci crossed her arms. “So we lost Mento and are no closer to figuring out what these talismans mean. There is no connection between them and I can’t feel any latent magic within.”

A strong wind blew a newspaper down the street and it landed at Gar’s feet and he picked it up. The headline read. “Excuse me Titans. I may understand the mystery of the talismans.”

It was Danny the Street communicating with them.

“Go on,” said Blue Beetle.

The letters on the front page rearranged themselves beneath a headline that read, “Danny Saves The Day!” “I believe the objects represent the id, the ego, and the super-ego. The id craves instant gratification like a hungry baby crying for food and is represented by the bottle. The ego is represented by the makeup mirror, an adorable bijou item I may add! It reflects the reality of who we are. And the Navajo blanket is representative of the super-ego which hides our true selves from the world by blanketing our lustful desires with morality.”

“Very plausible,” Blue Beetle replied. “But to what end?”

“I think I can answer that,” said Gar. “The helmet has always affected Dayton’s mental state over the years. At times he’s lucid and intelligent and other times he’s crazy as a loon. And if we’re getting warnings about his mental condition…”

Lorena grabbed the newspaper from Blue Beetle. “Danny is there a mental institution nearby?”

The newsprint bled off the page and was replaced by an ad copy for a lingerie shop. It showed bearded, square-jawed men in lingerie and stockings with a headline above that blared “Dare To Bare! Lingerie Half Off Through Saturday! This Way To Savings!” A large pink arrow pointed northward beneath the transgendered models.

The Titans traversed the length of Danny’s street until they reached an old gothic-style asylum that sat in the same void where they battled Immortus. It was built from carved river rock and the letters molded into the elaborate stone and iron gate read, “Howard-Fine Asylum”. Gar pushed the gate open and the Titans followed him to the front door. It was unlocked so the Titans walked in. A smiling receptionist greeted them.

“Welcome to Howard-Fine Asylum. How may I help you?” the receptionist asked.

“We’re here to see Dayton,” said Gar. “Steve Dayton.”

The receptionist searched her information book. “He is in the children’s ward, room 316 on the third floor.” She pointed toward a hallway. “The elevator is on your left.”

The hallway smelled of old paneling and cigar smoke. Who allowed visitors to smoke in a hospital? The Titans found the elevator and boarded it. The trip to the third floor was impossibly slow for such a short distance.

“That settles one question,” said Traci. “The Children’s Ward? He’s just a boy.”

Miss Martian closed her eyes. “I’ve performed a mental sweep of the hospital and can’t find Dayton’s thought patterns anywhere.”

The elevator finally reached the third floor and opened slowly. The Titans filed into the hallway and followed the overhead signs to room 316. Inside, two doctors were huddled over a bed, one at the foot and the other seated on the far side of it. Lorena recognized the boy in the bed. It was Dayton in the guise in which he first invaded Titans Tower. He was unconscious and his chest rose and fell peacefully. Their unannounced entrance caused the doctors to look up.

A barrel-chested physician closed the patient’s chart. His thick, dark muttonchops blended into the full, wavy hair on his head. “Excusez-moi?” he asked in a thick, French accent. “Qui êtes-vous?

“Nevermind who we are,” Gar replied. “How is he?”

The doctors eyed one another suspiciously. The older ginger-haired doctor with the full beard adjusted an intravenous drip. It wasn’t until he looked up from his wheelchair that Lorena recognized him. “I’m Dr. Niles Caulder and this is my colleague Dr. Mallah. Are you friends of the patient?”

Gar nodded. “He’s my… we’re related.”

It wasn’t lost on Lorena that Mallah shared the same name and many characteristics of Monsieur Mallah, a longtime nemesis of both the Doom Patrol and Titans. Of course this Mallah wasn’t a five-hundred pound super-intelligent gorilla.

“No one has visited the patient for a very long time,” said Mallah. “Why come now? Did Caulder contact you?”

Blue Beetle shook his head. “No sir. We came of our own free will to see our… friend.”

Mallah looked unconvinced and turned to Caulder. “This is low even for you, Caulder! The staff agreed upon treatment for young Monsieur Dayton. Do you hope to delay treatment once more to sell us on your wild theories?”

“What wild theories?” Gar asked. “What treatment?”

Mallah sighed. “He is the boy’s next of kin as far as we know. He has the right to know.”

Caulder didn’t look pleased about the development at all. “Or so he says.”

Gar looked away. “Unfortunately, it’s true. Dayton and I are family. What’s wrong with him and what treatment options are you weighing?”

Mallah laid the chart on a rolling table at the foot of the bed. “An unknown radioactive energy feeds upon his brain but never consumes it. Somehow his brain rebuilds tissue as quickly as the energy consumes it or at least this is how it has worked until recently.”

“What happened recently?” Gar asked. Lorena took his hand to support her friend.

“His mad visions have increased exponentially,” Mallah explained. “He babbles incoherently about alternate realities and timelines. Some of his visions are quite extravagant down to the most minute, mundane details but in almost every vision he and his imaginary friends save the world from some fantastic calamity at great and tragic loss each time.”

“What Dr. Mallah calls alternate realities, I fix a considerably less mysterious name to,” Caulder interrupted. “Schizophrenia.”

Dayton thrashed wildly in his bed but never opened his eyes. Mallah injected him with a syringe and the young boy relaxed.

“Dayton is an extreme Schizophrenic and suffers the most vivid hallucinations of any patient I’ve treated in my years in medicine,” Caulder explained. “Unlike Mallah, I don’t monitor his ravings so closely.”

“So what of these treatments?” Gar asked.

Mallah took the boy’s wrist and checked his pulse. “I wish to lobotomize the child and insert a stint into the brain to siphon the energy away from the afflicted organ.”

“But won’t that leave him in a vegetative state?” Static asked.

Mallah nodded. “A very real possibility I’m afraid, but at least the boy will be at peace. There is also an excellent chance his brain cells will regenerate, given the hyper-rapidity the organ has exhibited thus far in regenerating tissue. And we’re talking about entirely new brain cells which may mean a cure for him, not merely a crude repair of his neural pathways.”

“I don’t like it,” said Blue Beetle. “A lobotomy? Isn’t that… extreme?”

Caulder nodded. “Thank you son. See that Mallah? Even a young man in a funny costume sees the deep flaws in your medical opinion.”

Mallah seemed crushed. “Please… the brain must be saved at all costs!”

“And what is your plan Caulder?” Rose asked. “The big gorilla here wants to stick an ice pick in the boy’s eye. What fun alternate activity do you have planned for him instead?”

“Rose!” Blue Beetle shouted. “Show some respect!”

Rose lifted her eyepatch and displayed her empty socket. “Sorry if that offends you, boss, but I’m a little sensitive about sharp objects being jabbed into people’s eyes!”

Everyone turned away but Lorena. She smiled at Rose and was surprised when Rose smiled back.

“The boy’s body will expire soon. It cannot handle the strain of the constant attacks upon his brain,” Caulder explained. “I developed a procedure that allows me to transplant the boy’s brain into a protective container hundreds of times harder than Kevlar. It would allow me direct access to study the brain further and I’ve made it so the brain can communicate until I can perfect the robotic host I’m working on now. We can treat the child’s Schizophrenia once it’s transplanted within this indestructible host.”

“A robot man?” Gar asked.

Caulder nodded. “A much safer alternative that doesn’t involve lobotomizing the child but as his next of kin it is your call son. Choose wisely.”

The Titans voiced their opinions at once, advising Gar on what to do. The sentiment was nearly-unanimous with only Static in favor of the lobotomy.

Traci shook her head at Mallah. “Do you think we would allow you to…”

“Lobotomize him!” said Gar.

“What?” the Titans gasped in unison with Caulder.

The decision obviously pleased Mallah.

Blue Beetle grabbed Gar by the arm. “Dude, you can’t be serious! Mallah could kill the boy or leave him a drooling vegetable!”

Gar yanked his arm loose from Beetle’s grip. “You think I don’t know that, Jaime? But doctors have performed lobotomies for generations. How many brain transplants has this version of Caulder done?” He peered over Beetle’s shoulder at Caulder. “How many Caulder?”

Caulder dropped his head. “None, but the science is sound son.”

Gar nodded. “I know the science is sound but this nightmare ends here. Dayton’s mental energy keeps creating these realities and all end in tragedy. I’ve watched my family die over and over again while the rest of the world forgets that it’s all happened before. I don’t even grieve anymore because I know the Doom Patrol is destined to arise from the ashes like a phoenix. I pretend it’s the first time every time but no more! It’s why I stay with the Titans and don’t rejoin the Patrol. I can’t keep losing them! Caulder’s robot man always ends in death! Let’s try another way and put an end to this madness for a change!”

“What if you lose them forever?” Aquagirl asked with a gentle squeeze of Gar’s hand.

He returned the squeeze. “Then they can finally rest in peace, Lorena. I’m okay with that but I can’t watch them die again and again! I can’t take it anymore.”

Had Gar ever mentioned the Doom Patrol dying multiple times to anyone before? Lorena wasn’t sure. She only heard about the one time and as far as she knew history only recorded the one death. But as she learned nothing had to make sense when the Doom Patrol was involved. How many times had Gar lost them? No wonder he used humor to mask his pain. There was a lot of hurt to cover. What if the talismans weren’t related to Mento’s mental state but to Gar’s instead?

“How in the hell can you trust this man?” Blue Beetle demanded, pointing to Mallah. “You know who he is and what he’s capable of!”

“You don’t know me sir!” Mallah protested.

“The truth?” Gar asked. “Everything Caulder ever did with the Doom Patrol was tainted with his own selfish motives. We were little more than a means to an end for him.”

“You are out of line son!” Caulder shouted. “As Mallah pointed out, you children don’t know either of us!”

Gar nodded. “Yes Niles, I do and for once in my life I’m going to choose a different path! I won’t allow you to manipulate me because this time the fate of the Doom Patrol is in my hands and I choose Mallah!”

“Thank you for your faith in me, Monsieur,” said Mallah. “I will not let you down.”

Gar shook Mallah’s hand. “I know you won’t.”

“Idiot,” Caulder said as he wheeled past the Titans and out of the room. “I’ll have no part of this!”

“But seriously Gar,” said Traci. “How can you trust Mallah?”

“I know from experience Caulder probably has an underlying self-serving motive but something Mallah said convinced me he was the right man for the job,” Gar replied.

“What pray tell was that, salad-head?” Rose asked.

“The brain must be saved at all costs!” Gar replied. “He always serves the Brain’s best interest.”

Mallah grinned apishly. “Oui! The brain has always been mon amour!”

Titans Tower, Six Weeks Later, Gar Logan’s Quarters

Gar Logan finally found the courage to dial the familiar number. He wasn’t sure who or what would answer or if anyone would do so for that matter, but he had to know the truth. The uncertainty ate at him every single day since the Titans returned from their Doom Patrol adventure. Even happy moments, such as formally inducting Danny the Street into the Titans, couldn’t shake the anguish. What if he made the wrong decision in allowing Mallah to carry out the lobotomy on Dayton? What if he wiped all memory of the team from existence altogether? There were many uneasy questions and the answers were perhaps far more frightening. He froze when he heard the phone ring and someone picked up.

“Hello?” asked a deep, metallic voice on the other end. “Gar is that you?”

Tears welled in the corner of Gar’s eyes. “Cliff? Hey buddy. How are things?”

The clang of Cliff’s mechanical laughter was a welcome sound. “Great considering I’m stuck here alone with Larry! I swear one of these days I’m going to dye that mummy’s bandages pink! The Chief and Rita are off on some scientific expedition in Palau, something about underwater magma flow. I don’t know.”

Gar waited for Cliff to elaborate on more of the team’s expansive roster. “And everyone else?”

“What’s wrong with you salad-head?” Cliff asked. “You know it’s been just us since you joined the Titans.”

Gar couldn’t help but wonder what happened to everyone else who joined the Patrol over the years. Perhaps their history was waiting to be written. Was reality repairing itself for the Doom Patrol? Gar wanted desperately to believe so, but couldn’t be sure. He also wondered why he was immune to the shifting sands of Mento’s realities. Perhaps it was because he, like Danny the Street, wasn’t created by the helmet. He questioned Robotman extensively about their “good ol’ days” together and Cliff remembered the many adventures they shared but barely recalled the fishing village they “saved” in Maine. The seminal event in the team’s long history was relegated to a blip on the radar of their careers in the new reality and that was welcome news indeed. Gar wasn’t sure what had come before and what no longer existed but the details could be sorted later. All that mattered was his family was alive again … and well! And for at least a brief moment while Cliff complained about Larry, that simple gift was its own reward.


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