End of Summer
 
Choices Chapters
1: Prologue

2: Robin & Huntress

3: The JSA

4: The JLA

5: Starfire, Robin & Batman

6: New Members of the Family

7: At The Manor

8: The Stake-Out

9: New Friendships

10: The Titans

11: Facing The Past

12: Shattered

13: Confrontations

14: Flying

15: Conversations

16: Hitting the Streets

17: On the Trail

18: Face To Face

Choices

Chapter One: Prologue

by Marilee Stephens

God, he was tired… It had been a long day, long week, long year…

Now, the sky was lightening… In a while, it would be dawn. But nothing was looking up. Hadn't been for a while. Since the quake, it seemed that every seedy scumbag in the 'Haven was going to make the most of the opportunity. Sure… It hadn't been hit as hard as Gotham. But then, there were more people out there, working to protect Gotham. Here there was just him, and there had been enough secondary damage that crooks found it much easier to break into newly abandoned buildings and loot. And the police weren't helping… The few good ones were even more dispirited than they had been before and the bad ones even seemed to be making the most of the situation themselves.

He stood alone, on top of a warehouse roof, looking out over various buildings and streets, just being able to glimpse the port at the ocean's edge… It was time to call it a night. Even if he didn't want to, he knew that he had to get some rest, or else he wouldn't be any good in the long run.

But lord, he felt so alone… Times like this, when he didn't seem to be making even the smallest headway into this town's troubles, he would think back to other times… Times when he knew that a tall, dark-clad man would be there to back him up, or a brightly-colored group of friends would be around him, helping him carry the load of whatever troubles were facing them.Yep, Dick Grayson decided… There were times when being Robin, side-kick to the fearsome Batman, or Nightwing, leader of the Teen Titans, seemed so much easier… But those times were past, long past. And he had a job here to accomplish in Blüdhaven, one that he had accepted and would fulfill. Still, occasionally there were times that he knew it would be nice to have someone to share these burdens with…

"Oh, well…", he mused…, "This is getting me no where. Better head home and check with Barbara on how things are in Gotham…". Casting a line out, he swung off the edge of the building, heading in the direction of the building where he kept his apartment. One he himself owned, bought to keep its tenants from being evicted due to quake damage. But just as he was passing another darkened warehouse, boarded-up and abandoned like so many others, a weirdly flash of light shone through the broken skylight, accompanied by an eerie, low-level "scree" of white noise.His curiosity aroused, he decided to check this out before some other disaster struck. Shifting his body to change the direction of his swing's arc slightly, he let loose the rope and gracefully somersaulted down onto the roof, landing as lightly as a cat. Peering down through the skylight, the sight below him surprised him, as it was so unlike was he was used to seeing in the 'Haven.

"Well, guys… Did good, huh… Did real good, right?". A man, young and slight in stature, dressed in shabby clothes, was eagerly prancing around a rather extraordinary machine… Nightwing had seen apparatus like it before, but not here, not in the 'Haven… No, on Tamaran, on Azarath, even in various other cities on Earth, this type of machinery would not seem out of place. But here…In Blüdhaven…the grotesque yet strangely compelling lines of whatever was below him was in total incongruence to the building around it. It stood about 10 feet tall, and was an almost ovalish-rectangle. Around the edges were various control dials and displays. A few feet in front and to the left was a console, from which ran cables to the base of the main piece of equipment. In the center… Well, Dick couldn't really see what was in the center of the rectangle, as that was from where the light and sound were emerging.

"Yeah… ya did good… I guess. Depends on what this thing does." Another man, older and heavier-set in build, wandered around the machine. Not touching anything, and definitely veering clear of the light.

A third man was not quite so timid. More dapperly dressed than the others, he seemed to exude a more confident manner. He walked closer to the main portion of the machinery, and extended a hand towards the center of the light. As far as Nightwing could see though, nothing happened.

The first man started talking again. "I tell you… The guy I got it off from says it's some sort of teleporter! We set it to the co-or… co-ord…"

"Co-ordinates", came from the smarter dressed man.

"Yeah, that's it, the 'co-ordinates', and we'll be able to go anywhere we want! Into a bank vault and out… a jewelry store… anywhere… And no one will be the wiser! Taking what we want will be a cinch!"

"I don't know… How do we know that this thing will actually work?", queried the older, thick-set man. "I don't want to end up at the bottom of the ocean or nothing…"

The more confident man mused to himself. "We'll have to find some way to test it…"

"Yeah… Test it… We can do that.", the younger man, obviously eager to impress the other two, leapt on the choice. "It'll be easy… Just need to send something to a spot where we can check to make sure it shows up…"

Having heard enough, Dick knew that he would have to put a stop to this before these three hurt themselves, or anyone else.

"I know… Why don't I send all of you to the closest jail cell, and then I'll come and check to make sure you showed up," he threw at them as he descended through the skylight. Landing, he quickly adopted a defensive pose, ready for whatever any of them threw at him.

"Damn!" the older man yelled, clumsily running for the closest door. "I don't want to get involved with any of these costumed nut-jobs!" he managed to blurt out before Dick's line coiled around one foot, pulling him down to the floor.

The younger man was shakily standing beside the other one when Nightwing's immediate focus turned back to them, and automatic weapon somehow appeared from inside one of the pockets of his coat. He gripped it with clearly unsteady hands, but managed to aim the barrel right on Nightwing's face.

Standing in front of the console of the glowing machine, holding his hands up in front of him in a gesture of surrender, Nightwing quietly cautioned, "All right… you've got me… see, hands empty… So why don't you lower that before one of us gets hurt…"

As the younger man slowly started to lower the gun, Mr. Nice-suit hissed into his ear, "Don't be a fool! He's only setting you up!" Just as the younger man turned to confront his "partner", Dick made his move, leaping behind the console. The young man, startled by the movement, started to fire wildly in the direction of both Nightwing and the machine. Sparks erupted from the consoles and several of the dials on the border of the machine, as the light shifted into a wildly kaleidoscopic shifting of colors, and the sound increased to an ear-piercing shriek…Regaining his feet in front of the portal, but trying to keep his attention on the two men in front of him, Dick heard the man he had taken to be in charge wildly berating the other. "You jackass! You freaking idiot! Look at what you've done!" Straining to hear over the increasing noise level, Nightwing didn't notice the other man that he had taken down earlier was regaining his feet. But the increased light and noise coming from behind him did capture some of his attention. With the continuing build-up, he was sure that something was about to blow… Trying to raise his voice to warn the others that they would have to get out, he never saw the other man rush him… He only felt the quick blow to his mid-section, and then he was flying backwards. Backwards…into the light… into the noise… into the portal…

In what seemed to be a very close, but also very faraway place, he heard an explosion. But all he felt was himself falling.

And cold…

And a sensation as if he were being pulled in all sorts of directions at once…

And then he felt nothing…

Continue to Chapter 2!
 
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