Number One Zero

Chapter 12

A dark shadow moved from inside the Titans West Tower. It scoured through the basement walls, counting the helicopters, jets, trucks, tanks, and numerous cars that were inside it. Afterwards, it went up to two different floors, checking the rooms within the Tower. The shadow passed through the walls, checking if they have been moved or changed in any way. It then crept up the walls toward the training room, which now had the addition of heavy artillery like guns and grenades inside of it. It took note of that important detail as it flew to the floor where it sensed the most movement in the seemingly silent Tower. It was lead to a conference room, one that the Titans West never really used before. The shadow hid inside one of the air vents, patiently waiting inside to see what was to happen next.

“Raven’s inside the Tower.” Cyborg said as he activated his earpiece, addressing to the other Titans who were hunched beside him. They were cloaked by one of Raven’s spells just on the sandy shores of the Tower, making them invisible to the naked eye. “She says the basement is filled with cars, tanks, jets and helicopters. Man, it’s like he’s hiding an army in there.” he continued, informing the Titans of everything that Raven was seeing as she passed through the Tower undetected in her soul-self.

“He probably is.” Beast Boy muttered darkly to himself.

“Beast Boy, I don’t think your negative disposition is quite helpful in our dire situation.” Starfire said with a reprimanding tone in her voice.

“When did you become so vocal?” he snapped at the Tamaranian princess, which she did not take lightly. And her boyfriend did not appreciate, either.

“She can say whatever she wants to say, especially if it’s against an ass like you.” Aqualad defended, standing in front of his girlfriend, ready to put the shapeshifter in his place.

“Stop it! We don’t have time for this!” Cyborg screamed out, startling all of the Titans around him. Though Raven’s spell was still in effect, with the way that they were shouting at each other, it wouldn’t be surprising if they were discovered soon. “I don’t know what your problem is BB, but I swear if you don’t shut up right now I am going to put you in the front door step of the Tower and I’ll let Robin deal with you.”

Beast Boy finally became quiet with his words. His fists clenched in anger when he was reminded of the one man whom he blamed for all of the misfortunes that they were going through, especially the misfortunes of his own heart.

“Where is Raven now?” Bumblebee asked, trying to bring everyone back to the matter at hand.

“She says she went through our rooms and nothing’s been changed. She says your room is still as pink as you left it, Star.” the cybernetic teen replied, teasing the hurt Tamaranian, earning a small smile from her. “Oh, okay. Now that’s scary.” He suddenly said, fear clearly etched on his face.

“What is wrong, Friend Cyborg?” Starfire asked in a worried tone.

“She passed by the training room and said that it already had guns, grenades and all that stuff in it! We didn’t have those back then, didn’t we?” he asked in disbelief.

“See? I told you he was planning for war!” Beast Boy shouted out with sudden fervor.

“Well, now we’ll know for sure. Raven is going to patch us up in a meeting with Robin and his associates.

Raven, now out of her soul-self, was quietly watching through the air vent as people started coming into the conference room. They were mostly men in expensive-looking suits, all looking quite unscrupulous in her eyes. There were also women that entered, wearing provocative dresses and high-heeled stilettos. Her eyes widened when she saw Two-Face, one of Gotham’s most notorious criminals enter the room. They all took their place in the conference table, uncharacteristically patient as they all waited for him. As if on cue, Robin walked into the room, with his head held up high in his plain black body suit, with his gold utility belt and steel toed boots. Strangely enough, it was only then that Raven truly noticed how Robin’s form had become mature in the past two years. He became much taller, almost six feet in height. His body became even more muscular, biceps and abdominals straining through his tight body suit. His ebony hair fell around his face, unlike his time as a Titan when it was always gelled up. The way he entered the room invoked respect from the other villains there, even though they were in the business much longer than he was. But they all knew that it didn’t matter as he took his place at the end of the long, rectangular table, signaling for the meeting to commence.

“Welcome to our monthly meeting. I’m sure you are all quite eager to hear what we have accomplished over the past month.” Robin’s proud, authoritative voice echoed throughout the conference room. Even with masked eyes, he exuded such confidence that it made everyone present listen intently to what he had to say.

“We now have complete control over Steel City. The final gang that was in our way has now been absorbed.” They all politely clapped at Robin’s words, praising the Master for his efforts that were partly influenced by the woman he loved. Raven didn’t know what she should have felt at the Master’s words, especially since she just helped a madman in his evil conquest.

As their applause died down, he continued with his accomplishments. “We’ve also added Merlyn to the list of our supervillain associates.” At this, the whole grouped cheered despite their supposed professional standing. Merlyn was the most powerful villain in Starling City and to have him on their side only meant success for their corporation. Raven and the Titans were nervously listening through the earpieces, especially Speedy. He was the only one who knew how dangerous Merlyn was, and to have him on Robin’s side only showed how powerful the Master truly was.

“Now... now...” Robin said, trying to calm the cheering crowd down. “I have to admit that it wasn’t easy, but I can tell you that all that hard work was definitely worth it.” The group clapped once again, but it quickly died down as they waited for the Master’s next announcement.

“As per request of the Mistress,” as he said that word, his face quickly turned into a mischievous grin, “we are moving to a new base of operations. I was thinking of Bludhaven, a nice small city outside of Gotham. It would provide rich soil for our nefarious plans. It is still a very young city, but I am confident that we can shape it to our liking.What do you all think?” The group clapped once again, voicing out their support at what Robin had said. Meanwhile, inside the air vent, Raven felt a chill race down her spine. She couldn’t believe that one small comment, which he had totally taken out of context, was enough to influence his decisions and change his plans, which she only assumed was for the worse. Fear now surged her veins as she waited on the next revelation of Robin’s future undertakings.

He cleared his throat as his eyes darkened, seemingly planning something nefarious. Raven found it odd that he was about to do something wicked, even in a room filled with his supposed colleagues. His lips curved into a mischievous grin once again, sending her heart into an erratic pace, fearing what he had planned next for the group.

His evil comrades seemed oblivious to his future schemes, which only made the Master even more pleased with himself. He looked toward one of the long-standing mob bosses in his organization, Carmine Falcone with a surge of nostalgia. In the year that he had been working with the mob boss, he realized that the man hadn’t changed at all. He still looked like Marlon Brando from The Godfather. His white hair was still slicked back while his expensive tuxedo was pressed to perfection. The large gold ring he wore on his hand reminded Robin of the first time that they had met, the first step that he made to create the vast criminal organization he had today.

Robin stood outside the abandoned warehouse just outside of Gotham. He was once again Slade’s emissary for that night’s transaction. Except this time, they were the ones that were going to double-cross their business partners. He was instructed to kill everyone from the other mob family after taking the shipment that they needed. Personally, he didn’t have a problem in doing that, but he had other things in mind for the Falcone mob, one of the most powerful criminal organizations in Gotham.

From his black and orange mask, similar to what Slade wore, he could see that a couple of cars were already approaching him. He was quite irritated with the mask that Slade made him wear, ever since the incident with Tony Zucco. He felt stupid wearing a mask that covered his whole face and a domino mask that covered his eyes, but he knew it was necessary. He didn’t want anyone else connecting him back to the Titans, especially to Raven.

He snapped out of his reverie when the line of cars stopped in front of him. The doors opened and instantly five bodyguards came from inside it. And finally, the infamous mob boss himself, Carmine Falcone stepped out of the car. Robin chuckled to himself, thinking that Batman would have jumped at the opportunity to apprehend Falcone right then and there. Unfortunately, the former Boy Wonder was on the other side of the law at that very moment, and he still had some important business to attend to.

Falcone, or “The Roman” as he was called, approached Robin confidently with an arrogant gait. “So you must be Slade’s apprentice...” he said as he looked at him from head to toe. “Well I have to admit, the mercenary knows how to choose his associates.”

Robin didn’t even flinch at his comment, still keeping perfectly still. The Roman chuckled lightly to himself, secretly admiring his discipline and skill. He could feel the potential that hid underneath Robin’s lean body, and he knew that the former Boy Wonder could be a formidable foe if he wanted to.

“We have the location of the shipment that you asked for.” The Roman spoke once again, finally getting into business. “Once you give us the microchip, we will give you the location where you can pick up the shipment. Do we have a deal?”

Robin smirked to himself. This was the part wherein he was supposed to say that the deal was off, and he would just force Falcone to give away the location and kill everyone in the group. But, fortunately for them, he had other plans.

“To tell you honestly, Slade told me to tell you the deal was off and to kill you all, then get the shipment of course.” Robin replied confidently, even as all of Falcone’s bodyguards pointed their guns at him for what he said. “But... I don’t want to play it like that.” He added, raising his hands in mock surrender.

The Roman raised his eyebrow, interested at what he had to say. “What did you have in mind?” he asked carefully, curiosity coloring his tone.

“I’ll give you the chip anyway.” He replied with a smirk, though no one could see it behind his mask. “I’ll give you the chip, you give me the location of the shipment, I won’t kill you, and we’ll all go home happy, safe and with what we came for.”

Falcone considered his offer for a moment, his hand underneath his chin, as he was in deep thought. His ring finger was right above his chin, showing off his signature gold ring. “I’ll admit, I like the offer that you are giving me, but tell me boy, why go all the trouble of betraying your master just for me?”

Robin’s smile grew wider behind his mask, hearing the one question that he wanted to answer above all. “Nothing, really. It’s just an act of good faith, I suppose. And when the time comes that I will be needing your help, you’ll remember this kindness that I extended upon you. Soon, I will make you an offer you can’t refuse.”

Once again, The Roman considered the options that Robin was giving him. He couldn’t just blindly accept his help without truly understanding his offer. It seemed like an act of good faith--nothing more, nothing less. But Falcone could feel that Slade’s apprentice was up to something, in fact he was up to something big. And accepting his help today would make him his future associate tomorrow. He narrowed his eyes at the boy, trying to figure out what his plans really were. But seeing as that was close to impossible, he simply shook his head and gave his answer.

“Alright, I accept.” He said as he extended his arm to shake Robin’s. The former Boy Wonder had a roguish smile underneath his mask as he took the mob boss’s hand.

“Thank you. I hope this is the start of a wonderful partnership.” His voice held the smile that was on his lips as he discreetly slid the chip in Falcone’s hand. The Roman slid the chip into the pocket of his tuxedo, as he turned away from the meeting.

Robin turned away as well to disappear into the night before Falcone’s voice called out to him again.

“Wait, what am I supposed to call you? Can’t you at least leave me with a name?”

At this, Robin turned back around with a mischievous smile on his lips, hidden by his mask, of course.

“Just call me... Master.”

A little more than a year after their fateful first meeting, Robin wondered if Falcone really kept his end of the bargain, especially with what he had just discovered that night.

“Now... for the sad part of our meeting...” Robin began, as he started pacing around the table, making his associates’ hearts thump in worry.

“I have received word that some shipments have gone missing. Apparently, one of you was stupid enough to double-cross me.” He tsked as he said those words, shaking his head in disgust. “And to think that the only reason that that person is still alive today is because I didn’t double-cross him a year ago; you would think he’d be man enough to give that same courtesy to me.”

The tone of his voice was so chilling that it sent shivers down everyone’s spine, including Raven’s. She knew that if he used that tone, then it only meant that he had something sinister planned for one of his associates, if not for all of them.

He took slower steps this time, sending their hearts racing in fear. They were sure that the person he would stop to was the perpetrator. But they didn’t even have time to breathe when he suddenly stopped in his tracks, and gripped on the neck of the person in front of him.

Carmine Falcone’s body was suddenly suspended in the air, bringing everyone to shock. Here was one of the most powerful mob bosses in Gotham, hanging by his neck, completely at the mercy of the former Boy Wonder.

“W-what is the meaning of this Master?” he barely choked out as he gripped upon Robin’s arm, trying futilely to escape his grasp.

“You’re the one swindling the shipments!” he shouted out, startling the whole group. Falcone was considered one of the most loyal associates in the corporation, and yet he was right in front of them, begging for his life from their Master. “Did you really think you could get away that easily? I know all of your plans; I know all of your schemes. I’m always two steps ahead of you. I have already known of your deceit a few months ago, I just didn’t think you were that stupid to think that you could fool me. Apparently, I was wrong.”

His grip tightened around Falcone’s neck, and he was quickly losing the color on his face. Everyone in the room knew what was to come next. There was only one fate for people like him. No matter how strong or how powerful they were, if they even thought of going against the Master, there was only death for them.

“Fortunately, that will be the last mistake that I will ever make.” As Robin said those words, he was ready to twist his neck, sending an audible crack throughout the whole room. Falcone seemed to know what was to come as well; he closed his eyes roughly, praying to God for forgiveness of his sins. Robin was about to send the final blow, when a voice disrupted his thoughts.

“Robin, no!” Raven screamed through his mind, desperation leaking in her tone. “Don’t kill him!”

He instantly turned his head toward the direction where he heard her voice. Their bond suddenly flared to life, and he could sense that she was in that very room. He looked straight at the air vent, and his lips turned into a twisted smile. He now realized that she had concealed their bond so as to escape his detection. But with her interference, she revealed her presence to him, and now his plans have instantly changed.

He dropped Falcone from his grasp, allowing him to fall to the floor. The whole group was shocked to see the powerful “Roman” crawling on the floor, coughing and trying to catch his breath. This was the first time that the Master showed any kind of consideration against those who wronged him. They could only guess what could have prompted him to spare the mob boss’s life after his unforgivable deceit.

Instantly, Falcone came to his feet and started kissing them, eternally grateful for the Master for sparing his life. He promised to be forever loyal to him, and to never fool him in any transaction ever again. Robin simply dismissed his act and asked him to get off the floor, saying that they had more important things to do.

“Falcone, if you ever do something like that again, I promise you I will make you suffer a fate worse than death.” He warned, as he took his place in front of the whole group. “As for everyone else, let this be a reminder. If you ever so as try to double-cross me as well, I won’t be as lenient. And that concludes our meeting for this month.” He finally said, as if he didn’t almost end someone’s life. “Just remember that Operation Τιτάν has now begun. Just take your posts and be alert at all times. Meeting adjourned.”

Instantly, the whole group got up from their seats and started exiting the conference room. Even Carmine Falcone, the one who almost lost his life just a few moments ago, walked out of the room, still in disbelief that his life was spared during that meeting.

Finally, as the last of the group came out of the room, Robin let out the breath he didn't know he was holding. A smile lit up his face as he said these words:

"Come out now, Raven. I know you're in here."

A dark portal appeared right beside his feet, giving entrance to the dark empath. She had a blank expression on her face, but Robin could feel her nervousness from their bond.

"Don't be afraid." he said softly, turning to her and reaching out to her, even as she backed away. "I'm not mad at you for interfering with my business awhile ago. At least I have one less body to dispose of." He kept his voice light, and with a smile on his face, despite the fact that he was talking about almost committing murder.

Raven simply shook her head, not trusting her mouth to speak after what had just happened. Everything was getting out of hand. Robin wasn’t even supposed to know that she was here. But she couldn't just let that man die right before her eyes, even if he was probably very sinister and evil, or a powerful mob boss. Now she has to pay the price for her interference: she now had to face the Master himself. And she honestly wasn't sure if she could defeat him on her own.

He finally had her backed up in a corner, with nowhere to go. His devilish smile grew even wider as he said, "I'm not sure why you're here, but you do know that you're not getting out, right?"

Raven gasped at his words. Her mouth fell open as she finally realized how dangerous her mission was. She failed to understand that in the event that Robin caught her inside the Tower, he wouldn't let her out at all costs. He might not kill her, but that didn't mean that he'd set her free, either.

"You can't keep me here." was all that she managed to say.

"Is that so?" he replied teasingly, trapping her wrists in a vice-like grip. "I beg to differ. See? I already have you right where I want you." He pressed his body against her own, trapping her even more between the cold, steel wall and his own muscled chest. Her heart slammed in her ribs in fear. She found the truth in his words and even if she struggled against him, it would only prove to be futile against his strong grasp.

But she'd be damned if she didn't at least try.

She suddenly lifted up both of her legs and pushed Robin off of her, sending him flying a few meters away from her. She began opening a portal behind her but Robin stopped her chances of escape with a birdarang on her cloak.

"Oh do go on, Raven. I love it when you make things rough." His devilish smile grew even wider as he lunged toward her, ready to attack. She couldn't see his eyes but she could feel the overwhelming excitement coming from him. He was actually enjoying this. And though she readied herself in a defensive stance, her heart was sputtering in fear of what was to come.

Robin had a clenched fist aimed at her stomach again, attempting to make her unconscious just like last time. Raven saw through this and blocked his attack with her arms crossed over each other. She felt the brunt force of his punch and it startled her at first, but she regained herself and took Robin’s arm and threw him toward the side. He expertly flipped mid-air and landed on his feet with such grace that irritated Raven. This was not going to be easy for her at all.

“You can’t just trap me here, Robin. I’m not just one of your lackeys that will bend to your will!” She took on the offensive this time, aiming for a spinning kick toward his head. He easily avoided the attack and used her position to wrap his arms around her stomach and pull herself toward him, trapping her in his arms.

“But don’t you see? That’s what I love about you. You keep me challenged; you keep me thinking of ways of how to finally get you. But keep in mind that I will win, Raven. It will only be a matter of time, and then I will have you in my arms.” Robin whispered teasingly into her ear as she tried her best to struggle in his arms. She was confused as to why Robin was doing this. She didn’t know why he wanted them to fight like what they were doing now. But she was sure of one thing: if it was a fight he wanted, then it was a fight that he was going to get.

Her eyes glowed white as a dark wave of energy erupted from her, setting her free from his unrelenting hold. He slammed against a nearby wall from the sheer power of her force. Though Raven knew that he felt pain as his back hit the wall, it all disappeared with the mischievous smirk playing on his lips.

“Now that’s more like it.” he said before he lunged for her once again. She put up a shield around her, protecting herself from his incoming attacks. But instead of going right for the shield, he jumped up and threw a flash bomb at her. She was able to defend herself from the light of the flash, but her surprise made her lose concentration, and in only a matter of minutes, she had her shield down and was susceptible to his attacks once again.

She was disoriented; she didn’t know where he was. But a sudden movement at the far corner of the room gave his location away. She chanted her mantra and sent the conference chairs flying toward him. Robin easily evaded all of them, but he didn’t expect her to send the whole conference table toward him. He wasn’t able to avoid the large object, and before he knew it, he was trapped underneath its weight.

When she saw what happened, Raven finally relaxed. Her eyes returned to their normal color, calming down at the sight of Robin’s momentarily defeated form- momentarily being the operative word in that statement. She had to get out of the Tower before Robin got up once again, which would probably be soon.

She clicked on her earpiece and spoke to Cyborg, hoping that things were better at their end.

Meanwhile with the Titans, everything was incredibly tense between them. Aside from the fact that they had been arguing only a few moments before, they were terrified with the events that they had been hearing throughout the entire meeting. They heard of Raven’s struggle against Robin, and they all feared for her safety. All of them faced defeat when they took on the Master one by one, and they were afraid that the same fate would befall on their dark empath.

Just then, they heard her voice through the radio system. Cyborg set it up so that everyone could hear what was going on in her end. “This is Raven to the Titans. I was almost caught by Robin but I have him down to the ground right now. Ready to go back to the location.”

Their faces lit up in the realization that she was actually able to defeat Robin. Soft cheers could be heard around them as they rejoiced with Raven in her victory. They felt hope spring forth in their hearts; it was as if they could actually succeed against the crazed Master and be victorious in their seemingly suicidal mission.

But their hope was short-lived as they heard muffled sounds of a struggle. It only lasted for a moment and then they heard nothing.

Their fears were only confirmed when they heard Robin’s voice saying : “Hello? Is this the Titans? I have Raven with me right now. If you want her back, you’ll have to get her from the Titans West Tower.” He let out a taunting laugh before he continued. “Oh and thank you for delivering my love to my doorstep. I’m sure we’ll have lots of fun together while waiting for you to arrive.”

And just like that, her earpiece went dead.
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