When the Titans arrived at the high-security warehouse they were met with a scowling police commissioner. The man said nothing, simply jerking his head to the side to lead them to a side room where several security feeds ran. He fixed the Titans with a steely glare. “Where is the green one?”
Robin shuffled uncertainty before admitting, “He’s been missing for a few days. We think he’s been abducted. We’ve been searching for him but so far we’ve had no luck.” Suddenly his heart sank as trepidation snuck in. “Why?”
The man leaned over a control panel with a scowl, clicking a button to play some of the security feed. “There was a computer chip stolen from here the last night. The guards saw absolutely nothing. We searched through the entire night’s data. This is the only anomaly we’ve found.”
The feed was empty for a few moments, showing only a computer chip sitting in an empty room. Suddenly there was a bright blur of familiar green and the chip was gone. The Titans gaped at the screen, the commissioner’s glare resting soundly on Robin, the accusation clear in his eyes. Robin had sworn to him that everything was under control after all.
Robin scowled. “We didn’t get the collar off soon enough. Someone else got to him.”
The officer scowled but before he could say anything more the boy wonder interrupted him. “Aren’t there two other chips just like this? Shouldn’t we be focusing on protecting them?” If it was strange that Robin knew so much about the computer chips no one seemed to notice.
“Fine. I’d just started preparing a team to split up and head to the other two sites. They should be heading out any second now and I want you to-“
Suddenly he was interrupted as an officer burst into the room. “Another chip has been stolen.”
The commissioner’s face turned purple with rage. “Alright, all forces to protecting the last chip. NOW! Move, move, move!”
Titans and officers alike flew from the area, each heading out with one destination in mind. The group acted as extra security, watching over the target. But nothing happened that night. As morning broke a man brought the commissioner the already scrutinized security feed from the other building. The man and Titans watched as once more a green blur flew across the screen. This time appearing again as the camera continued its steady course roving the room. They stared in mute horror as any doubts were diminished and the suspicions proven true.
The green blur, a hawk as it turns out, landed next to the wall, holding the chip between its stomach and the wall as it morphed into a large bird-eating spider, multiple legs holding onto chip as he scurried up the wall and completely out of sight of the camera. There was a momentary silence before Raven spoke. “I think I know how to find Beast Boy.”
Beast shivered slightly as he entered Slade’s lair, barely keeping a whimper silent. He didn’t want to be here. With a nearly silent sigh he clenched his prizes against his chest and opened his senses to find Slade. The man was just as the green boy expected him to be, in the monitor room sitting with two bowls, one full of vegetables and one empty. The boy winced slightly, he knew what this was. It was part of Master Slade’s training in strategy.
Each night after training the man would meet Beast in this room, two bowls in hand, and test him. For hours Slade would pose different scenarios and quiz him on what he would do in each. If he answered correctly a piece of food would be added to the empty bowl. If he answered incorrectly no food would be given. If he was really far off food was taken away. The first few night he went to bed with nearly nothing. Each day he got better but the questions got harder as well. He had yet to go to bed on a full stomach, but that was far from new.
He’d hoped that succeeding in his job so early would entitle him to a free meal, but apparently his hopes were in vain. Slade held out one hand expectantly and Beast placed the two chips in his grasp, the child’s heart soaring as two tomatoes were added to the empty bowl.
“Good.” Slade said, turning the chips over in his hands. “That was done… quickly. Why?”
Beast licked his lips nervously, his tongue catching on his fang. “I-I knew that the Titans wouldn’t think a second heist would happen so quickly. T-they would be more focused on getting information from the first. Especially if they thought I was behind it.”
The masked villain nodded and carrot joined the tomatoes. “What if there had been three targets? Would you use the same approach?”
The shape shifter had to think a moment before slowly shaking his head. “No matter how quickly I stole the first two, they would go to protect the third immediately. I wouldn’t have time to steal it before they got there.”
Another carrot. “What would you do?”
“S-steal the first one, then wait awhile before going after the other two. The Titans would have to split up, and I could go for the weaker two and steal that one first and go to the next as soon as possible because they might not be expecting two attempts so soon.”
Slade’s hand hovered over the bowls, but didn’t move. That meant that Beast was on to something, but the answer wasn’t yet complete. The boy cast his mind in all directions, searching for the missing piece. “A-and they might… they might call for backup! Drawing the other Titans away from the other target.”
Half a head of lettuce moved. “What Titan group would you go for first?”
“T-that depends on their groups.”
The man leaned forward, eyeing the boy. “Who would you most want to avoid?”
“Raven.” He replied with little hesitation. “She could sense me as I came in and destroy any attempt at stealth.”
Some cucumber slices. “Next.”
“Cyborg. His sensors may pick up the signal of my collar.” He answered, feeling a stab of relief that the two Titans he wished to attack the least were the two that logic dictated he avoided. He truly didn’t wish to fight any of the Titans, but a painful coiling of his stomach arose at the thought of battling those two. Slade nodded and placed some more food in the second bowl, pleasantly surprised that the boy was faring so much better than with purely hypothetical scenarios.
“And of the last two?”
“Robin. He would be the most likely to lay traps or have intricate plans. He’s the… sneakiest.”
Slade nodded, pleased, and added another carrot. “You have a good sense of avoiding conflict. And is it always good to avoid fights?”
Beast, his mind still trapped in the mentality of a thief and the mindset of a prey-creature, nodded without hesitation. It seemed that answer was very wrong for Slade snarled angrily at him before grabbing a full handful of the boy’s dinner and throwing it into the other bowl. “No. We don’t always run from fights. Why?” He growled out angrily. Beast shrank back for a moment, his mind rushing dangerously.
“I-it’s a sign of weakness?” He offered as his predator instincts rose. Slade growled angrily but moved toward neither bowl. Not the right answer. Beast tried again. “It lets us know our opponent’s strength?” Still nothing. “We can’t defeat them unless we fight them?”
Finally the man nodded his approval, though he didn’t add the food he had taken away. Instead the man growled and thrust the bowl at the shape shifter, nodding at the cage in the corner. “Go. You will be at full strength tonight. The third target is still waiting.”
Beast took his food and made his way to his cage as the man left. Within seconds the meal was all but gone, Beast’s hunger just shy of being sated. He leaned back in his cramped quarters, relishing in the rare rest. He wanted to clear his mind, truly relax with no distracting thoughts, but images of the Titans continuously confronted his mind. He thought of Stafire with her continuous smiles and kind patience. He always went to her first when anything confused him. Not that she was really much help, usually she was just as confused as he was. However, it did always make him feel better to know he wasn’t the only one. His mind turned to Robin, with the command and leadership of a Master, but gentle care to help him. He had the control of a Master, but never used it against Beast, only for him.
He remembered Raven, who so often appeared emotionless and stoic but would always be the first to watch over her friends for injuries, healing them no matter her exhaustion. She tried to maintain a blank, emotionless mask to the point that one could only catch glimpses of her moods, when she was caught by surprise and accidently allowed a spark of rage or sorrow or joy to speak though. In the time he was with the Titans Beast found himself obsessing over the smiles he had only rarely seen. Most of the Titans were generous with their grins, and Beast Boy relished the expressions like a starving child relished a good meal. He loved Raven’s content not-smiles just as much but he wished, longed, that he may someday make her control slip and create a true smile across her face, give her reason to express a full grin. He was sure it would be beautiful. That would probably never happen though. Not anymore.
Cyborg always smiled at him, a great smile full of joy. He would never see it again. There would be no more exchanging of admittedly lame jokes, no more pizza and no more of the video games he was finally getting good at. Never again would he argue about meat and tofu or plan pranks that he never would have had the fear to pull alone. No more of his best friend. The green boy whimpered and curled upon himself more, fully expecting to sink into the folds of unconsciousness when footsteps once again neared his cage and he could smell the agonizing scent of food.
Beast closed his eyes tightly as he managed to rise to attention within his cage, knowing the torture that was to come. Though, he supposed it’s purpose probably wasn’t truly torment or punishment, but simply a job too important for a Master and was therefore cast off to the slave. Each night he was to bring his previous master his meals, a task made more torturous by the scent of food constantly accosting his starved senses. Beast wasn’t entirely sure why his old Master was still held prisoner, he supposed Master Slade simply didn’t trust him, but he wouldn’t question it. Beasts never questioned their Masters.
Sure enough Slade dropped the plate on the top of his cage. “You know where to go.”
With that as his only command Beast drug himself out of his confinement and made his way down to the cell where his old Master sat. The man scowled as Beast entered, rising from his seat to accept the meal. The man didn’t dare attempt escape, not when he himself knew the strength of the changeling’s training. He silently accepted the food, eyeing Beast closely as the green boy crouched against the wall to wait as the man finished his meal. The child tried hard not to watch as the man devoured his meal. Beast had gotten more food than usual, but it wasn’t nearly enough to truly sate his hunger. Suddenly the man spoke, his voice nary more than a breath, so slight that even Beast’s sensitive ears could barely pick it up, and there was no way it would register on the mic.
“I can help you escape.” Beast gave no reply other than a gentle twitching of his ear, not even his expression changing even as his heart rate increased. Escape? He could leave Slade? He could find the Titans? Would they forgive him for going back to stealing? Would they understand what the collar did to him? “I made a failsafe in the collar this time. I can get it off without it activating. I knew he wouldn’t let me go. If you get me out, you can kiss that collar goodbye.”
No collar! He could be truly free. Once more the only reply was a flicking of the ear, but Beast’s eyes rose, meeting the man’s as he cleared up the now-empty dishes. Their gazes locked, an intensity unmatched passed between the two, but still the boy said nothing. Beast left, his Master would be calling for him soon.
Beast slowly shifted in his crouched position at the entrance of the silent warehouse. The Titans were here. He knew it. He could smell them, hear their breathing. They knew he was here too, he knew it. They were just waiting for him to continue, to fall into the trap they both knew was sent. Beast wanted nothing more than to go the other way, to run. Every instinct he possessed spoke against climbing into the den of these predators and enemies, placing himself into the perfect position to be attacked and not even attempting to avoid a fight. However, the weight of the collar on his neck reminded him that would never happen. He had to follow through his Master’s hated plan.
Padding forward on the silent paws of a housecat he made his way to his target. Just because the Titans surely knew he’d arrived didn’t mean they knew where he was. He longed to turn into a spider, where he could move a full speed without worrying about sound, but knew that it would hamper his senses and he needed his sensitive feline ears. Such hearing came in useful when he heard the tiniest, almost silent rustle of something moving. Abandoning all pretenses he lunged forward and shifted, sprinting the last few meters as a cheetah and narrowly avoiding a black-cloaked cage as it crashed to the ground.
He leaped upon the pedestal and shifted human, palming the chip as he turned to face his foes. The Titans stood waiting in the hallway he had come down, watching him with a large array of emotions. From pity to sorrow to desperation to pleading.
“BB…” Cyborg implored, a look of intense pain in his human eye. Beast whimpered and scooted back, slipping his target into his pocket. “C’mon, we can help you. We got you out of this before didn’t we?”
Beast whimpered once more and slid off the pedestal, he wanted so badly to take him up on that offer but he knew he couldn’t. The situation was too different. They didn’t have the remote this time. His Master did. And they couldn’t even fight him for control, he wasn’t even there. The Titans couldn’t help this time, no matter how much he wanted them too. The boy’s sensitive ears perked as they picked up the minute voice of Slade issuing from his collar.
Beast closed his eyes, mouthing the word ‘sorry’ to the Titans- to his friends- before he turned into a triceratops and charged. The Titans scattered, giving way beneath his attack, but Beast wasted no time in shifting forms and turning, coming face to face with Cyborg’s retreating back. He clung to the metal back as a spider monkey, eyeing the machinery and remembering one of Cyborg’s countless talks from one of those days back when he was confined to the room. The control panel for the robotic teen was situated at his back, the metal man had gone into it in detail during one of their talks. If Beast could remember correctly and hit the right spot then- He shifted into a bobcat form raring back one clawed paw as his remaining three grounded him to the flailing teen.
Beast hissed in disappointment as his initial attack didn’t so much as dent the durable metal. His fur sparked and singed as a starbolt flew by, missing his ears by centimeters. That’s right. He couldn’t forget that the other Titans were here. Cyborg grunted as the green bolt shot past him and Beast heard Starfire gasp in shock. He wouldn’t have to worry about any more attacks from her. Not while he was still clinging to Cyborg at least. Another strike of a powerful paw and slight scratched littered the metal, a lightning fast third strike opened the gouges even more. Beast gasped and shifted into the smaller form of a gecko as he heard the swish of Robin’s cape nearing, the green boy’s amphibian toes keeping him adhering to the slick metal. Cyborg grunted as the attack meant for the green boy landed squarely against his back.
Robin jumped back and apologized, giving Beast enough time to turn feline once more and add another swipe before going back to his smaller form as Robin advanced again. This dangerous dance continued, the Titans’ attacks helping Beast rather than hindering him until finally the gouges were deep enough that a final swipe cut through wires and mainframe. Suddenly Cyborg’s stumbling legs froze and the canon at his wrist fell back into an arm once more. Beast breathed a sigh of relief as he jumped away, Cyborg’s frustrated and panicked calls following the shape shifter as he darted to the shadows to plan his next attack. Cyborg was not injured, but he was out of the fight and that was all that Beast could ask for.
He didn’t have long to dwell upon that however, for it was only seconds before he heard the familiar call of ‘Azarath Metrion Zinthos,’ and had to jump to avoid a black-clothed chair careening towards his hiding place. Unfortunately his jump exposed him to his enemies. Raven eyes at him as her power flared, her eyes shining bright white. “It doesn’t have to be like this.” She called, but Beast could only shake his head in despair and cast her an apologetic glance before lunging once more. She took in a deep breath to prepare her mantra, unknowingly breathing in the green fly that darted to her face. However, she quickly noticed as the fly grew, becoming large, squishy, and slimy until a banana slug sat between her teeth. The empath let out a strangled ‘hrk!’ as she gasped over the disgusting creature, but it was too late. The mucus surrounding the slug became foamy and thick, nearly suffocating. The girl began clawing at her face, but she could not dispel the thick foam and could only glare as a green boy seemed to fall from her mouth to crouch in front of her.
Beast mouthed ‘sorry’ to her once more, but in his heart joy overcame any repentance. Cyborg was out of the fight with only some minor repairs needed and no physical pain, Raven was out with no true harm at all. If he could keep the damage of Robin and Starfire down to a minimum, then-
His thoughts were cut off as he was forced to avoid a bolt of emerald energy. Two pairs of green eyes met as Starfire watched the green boy, saying nothing but her expression full of pained pleading. Her feet were grounded, for how could one feel unbridled joy as they battled a former friend. She felt weak, her strength gone for how could you feel boundless confidence as they fought an ally who wished to remain true. Beast, as though sensing the hesitation could only fist his hands and lunge.
Serpentine muscles coiled over orange-tanned skin, Beast’s mind whirling as he tried to think of a way to defeat the remaining two titans without truly harming them. Keeping Starfire from using her arms was working for now, but it wouldn’t do anything other than contain her. He could do this as painlessly as the others. With a sorrowful heart he shed his anaconda form for another snake, this one with far reaching fangs. With a bark-like huff a lime tiger snake sunk fangs into the girl’s arm, careful even in the heat of battle to only allow enough of his paralyzing venom to get her out of the fight, not enough to do any lasting harm. At least, it would have been enough to get her out of the fight had Starfire been an earthling. As it was he barely shot enough into her bloodstream to slow the hardy alien down a bit, maybe make a few muscles stiff. Certainly not enough to get her out of the fight, as Beast discovered the instant he jumped to attack Robin, only for a bolt of green to follow him.
Beast whirled around in surprise; nearly missing the sight of the bo staff hurtled towards his head as a result. With a growl he jumped back, retreating to assess the situation. If Robin were alone he was sure he could eventually beat him, after all he’d gotten close during the sparring and he wasn’t even changing forms then. However, he was reluctant to use any more venom, it was always hard to control himself soon after the first bite, and he knew he could no more face multiple Titans now than he had been able to in the first night so long ago.
Yet as he shook his head the large metal collar grated against his neck and he knew that he had no choice. With a roar he turned into a lion and lunged to attack. His mighty call turned into a surprise yelp as, with a flick of Robin’s wrist, a red crossed band in the shape of an X shot towards the feline, sticking to his fur and rendering him partially immobile. As the adhesive material touched the floor Beast found himself stuck to the ground as well. The green boy immediately got the best position he could and shifted into a larger creature, intending on breaking the viscous bindings. His heart began to race and panic set in as the adhesive red X refused to give, keeping him trapped even as he fought it.
Robin and Starfire neared the emerald boy cautiously as he struggled, watching with concern as terror and panic set in. The forms were shifting nearly faster than the human eye could track. Finally, exhausted and terrified at being trapped- really, really trapped- he stopped, watching the Titans with wide and terrified eyes. Suddenly an almost indiscernible voice sounded from his collar. “Unacceptable.”
Beast’s back arched as he cried out in pain, electricity crackling through his body and frying the sticky material, making it crackle and fall off his skin. The boy gasped in the aftermath of the collar’s pain for a moment before rising to his feet and with a final glance at the Titans he disappeared. Starfire made a move as if to follow, as did Robin, but before either was able to move a muffled grunting from Raven alerted them to the plight of their friends and they turned from Beast. They hated leaving him to his fate, but knowing Slade, this wouldn’t be the last they saw of him.