It hurt. It hurt in and out and it wouldn’t stop. She gasped and fell to the ground, her legs finally giving out on her.
The snow was cold, but she didn’t feel it. There was nothing left. There was nothing left to fight for. They were all gone and there was nothing that she could do.
Her hand slowly uncurled. She stared at the torn and burned photo, the last reminder of her friends.
A sob ripped through her mouth, breaking the silence around her. She could feel the tears rolling down her cheeks; she made no move to wipe them away. That wasn’t something she needed to do. She needed to feel. She needed to be.
She needed her friends.
It was cold. There was nothing she could do. It…it was asleep for the moment, and that was the best thing that she could hope for. It gave her a chance to prepare. Rest. Her eyes fought for the chance to close. Not yet, she thought. She couldn’t give in yet.
She coughed. Hard. Her eye barely focused on the blood on her hand. She was tired, broken, wounded, bloody, injured, sick, and…and probably dying.
She jerked up, pain ripping through her broken body. “What,” she croaked, “What are you doing here?”
A masked figure shuffled over towards her from the other side of the cave. “I lived,” came its mechanical reply. The person made to remove the mask.
The figure stopped. “I’m sure you wished you had one.”
She let out a whimper as she slowly laid herself back down.
"I could help you, you know," came a new voice.
She scowled. “And what, have me end up like her?” She tilted her head toward the stiff, mechanical figure. “I’d rather die.”
“Which you probably will,” he said, a slight smile in his voice.
She sighed. “I know. But it’s better than being that.”
The figure that was being discussed came forward and took The Girl’s leg into her lap, surveying the damage. “It was bad before,” it said stiffly, “but after this, you’ll probably never be able to walk on it again. The muscles are way to torn.” It stared down at her leg, a giant metal shard imbedded in the calf.
She studied the figure. There was a mask plastered onto its face. It was dressed in one of Slade’s old apprentice suits. Most of its body was mechanical having been destroyed. There were wires sticking out of her skull and there was a bit of stubble on the top of its head, showing where its hair had once been.
She sighed. “Terra, just take it out.”
Terra nodded. “This will hurt.” She gestured to the leg. The Girl nodded.
The man stepped forward. “Don’t forget this.” He put the old rag into her hands. I’d never want your sick, twisted love, she thought to him.
The rag went into her mouth and she bit down onto it.
Without warning, Terra’s robotic hand grasped the piece of debris and yanked it out.
The Girl bit down and screamed.
“Here.” A bowl of water appeared before her lips. She glared up at Slade, drinking what had been offered.
“Any luck?” She asked, her good eye searching the ‘room’ for Terra. Thankfully, the robotic girl was gone.
“Not much I’m afraid.” He chuckled. “Everyone’s still dead.”
“Who would have thought that I’d end up spending the rest of my days with you?”
The man grinned. “Who would have thought that you would agree to be my apprentice?”
“I’m not your apprentice, Deathstroke,” she hissed.
“If thinking that makes it any easier, then by all means, keep telling yourself that.”
She sighed. Her eye looked towards the cave entrance. “It’s snowing again.” Her voice, as always, came out cold, empty, and croaky.
“You miss them.”
“Yes.” Her arm hurt, phantom pains. She rubbed the stub anyway.
“I could make you a new arm.” His gaze rested on her stub. Her half arm.
“No.” She wouldn’t ever trust Slade that much, enough to let him rebuild her body, make her like Terra.
It was quiet. Then, “I’d like to get some sleep.”
“I’ll go see if I can find Terra, see if anything new has turned up.” Slade pulled the mask over his face, then left.
She rolled over, her body lying across the snow. She shivered.
She closed her eyes, letting the tears fall. She wrapped her arms around herself, trying to keep herself warm.
She missed them, all of them. Robin, Gar, Cyborg…Kory…
They were all dead and gone though. They’d left her alone.
She wished for death. Death would release her from this half life. The pain would be gone and she’d finally be able to see them again.
But she couldn’t allow herself to go until she’d fixed things.
“Breakfast?” He asked it almost childishly.
“Thanks.” She accepted the plate of…whatever it was, from him.
“You doing any better?”
She nodded. There was silence. It was so funny she almost laughed. Here she was, working side by side by once-enemies: Terra, Slade, and Mammoth.
Robin must be rolling in his grave.
It hurt. There was an emptiness. Kory. If she ever managed to fix things she’d go shopping, she’d try on all the pink fuzzy clothes that Kory had wanted. She’d let them do each other’s hair. She’d let them do each other’s nails.
She’d hold Kory in her arms and never let go.
She slowly limped through the snow, her ears painfully aware of each crunch the snow made. She wanted to go to the Tower. It was to far though. She’d never make it. She had enough common sense not to risk it.
Her ears twitched. She froze, waiting for whatever was there to reveal itself.
Its body wriggled itself free of the snow and lunged itself towards her. Her hand somehow found its way to her sword and the thing was dead before either knew it.
It was small, and, she hoped, edible, because the little that she’d had to eat wasn’t holding her, and the last meal she’d had was two weeks ago. It was becoming too hard to think.
She stared at the worm like creature. Then she ate it.
“Welcome back.” Slade said, a mocking tone in his voice. She glared at him. “I’m just trying to be polite. You could have some manners.”
She said nothing.
“I guess I’ll leave you to your depression then.”
“I miss them.”
She looked over to Mammoth. “I…I miss my friends too.”
Mammoth was really like a little boy, wanting to hold the hand of someone stronger and wiser. Jinx and Gizmo had been the perfect pair to bring out the beast in him. With her, he was just a lost little boy.
One would think she was getting attached.
“I think that’s enough for today.” Slade said, lowering her sword. She followed in suite. He sat down. “Tired?”
She glared at him.
“Hungry?” He out on old candy bar to her, probably a stale one. Even if it was, it was pretty much gourmet. “I found it earlier today.”
She stared at him. Why? Why was he doing this for her? The training she could understand. Him helping her injuries she could understand. But there were times when she seemed almost like a friend, like a father.
He’d lost all of his children. Pushed them too far and in the end, whether or not they still stood by his side, they died. He’d found Robin, who, she believed, reminded him of one of his children. Then Terra came, and he tried yet again. He’d lost another child.
And now there was her.
She accepted candy.
The sky was still dark. Then again, it was always dark. A blackish-red. Hellish.
Her skin had grown to be almost white. I look like a ghost, she thought.
She needed to get to the Tower. If she could get there and find her books…if she could find the right book.
“I want to go to the Tower.” She said.
Slade looked over to her. “You’ll get killed.”
She sighed, “That’s the problem.”
“That’s how…Jinx got killed.” Mammoth grew quiet, thinking bout the suicide mission that The Girl and Jinx had gone on. The Girl had lost her arm and Jinx had been killed.
There had been other attempts as well.
She was quiet. Terra stood up. “I’ll go.” Everyone stared at her. She never volunteered for anything. Then again, she was little more than a machine now. Her mechanical voice gained no emotion. “I…I’m willing to risk it.”
She stared at Terra. And she knew. This is no was for her to live, she thought. Terra didn’t care about dying. She was living even less of a life then she was. And if her death allowed the rest of them a chance to fix things…
The Girl allowed a small smile to slide onto her face. “We’ll leave at ‘daybreak’.”
The two women set off, with barely a day’s provisions. But, chances were that both would die, and there was no point in allowing food to go to waste.
She turned to Terra. “It’s going to be hard getting past all the demons.”
Terra nodded, wires bobbing on the top of her head. “I know.” She paused. “I…I’d prefer it to be me if one of us has to go.”
They made it to the edge of the ‘lake’ without any interference. With the nonstop flow of snow, the lake had frozen, and many of the areas were thin.
Terra turned to her with a weak smile. “Do you think you can manage?”
The Girl Stood still a moment. “I’m not sure. I can try though. It’s better than risking the lake. Or whatever’s under it.” She limped behind the robotic girl and looped her arms through the other girl’s, clasping her hands together over Terra’s chest, making sure that she had a firm grip.
She closed her eyes, trying to summon the strength that she needed. She had grown weak, both physically and emotionally. Her body…didn’t take well to her using her powers.
She slowly felt her feet lift the ground and she silently thanked every deity that she could remember that Terra didn’t weigh anything near what Cyborg had.
The two of them slowly began levitating across the lake, many times coming dangerously close to the surface.
The Girl could feel her nose bleeding, her head getting light. “I…don’t…I don’t know if…I can make it,” she gasped.
“You have to,” came the mechanical reply, but for once, she could hear the emotions hidden beneath the voice. “If you crash us, we’ll get eaten.”
They were close. But she knew she wouldn’t make it. Better remember those lessons Slade gave you, she told herself.
She slowly managed to bring the two of them higher into the air. Then she pushed the two of them forward and let them fall.
They made it to the shore. They landed hard, and she cried out as her leg was crushed beneath her.
She slowly sat up, wincing in pain. Terra leaned over to examine the injury. “It’s broken.”
The Girl cursed under her breath.
Terra’s eyes darted around.
The Girl’s good eye darted around.
The Girl screamed, her body falling to the cold ground. Terra lunged forward, grabbing the mutant worm, squeezing it, trying to get it to let go of The Girl’s leg. Another worm came out from its place under the snow, slithering towards the two.
Terra managed to pull the worm away from The Girl, it teeth pulling a giant chunk of meat off her legs.
The Girl screamed in pain, then pushed Terra down as another worm lunged at them. “This is not going to work.”
Terra nodded. “Agreed.” She leaned forward and scooped The Girl up into her arms and began to run.
They made it into the Tower. It was the first time in years that either of them head been there.
Both women were bruised and bloodied. Terra was in desperate need of repairs, though there was nothing unusual about that. She always needed repairs after ‘Tower attempts’.
“It’s dark.” The Girl almost laughed at herself. She’d dreamed of this moment and ‘it’s dark’ was the only thing that she could say? Hah!
The two women began walking. Terra practically had to carry her companion though. The Girl’s injuries were so bad that she could barely stand.
They made it upstairs with miner interference.
Both sighed as they passed through the living room. The TV hadn’t been touched in years. It was just sitting there, collecting dust.
The room was unnaturally quiet.
The Girl choked back a sigh. “Let’s go.” Terra reluctantly went.
The Girl stopped them outside one of the bedrooms. “I…I just want to see it. Please?”
They went in.
The room hadn’t been touched, like the rest of the Tower.
The windows were broken and the room smelled old and moldy.
“Kory…” she whimpered.
The two continued on.
“Here’s my room.” The Girl opened the door. Like the other room, this one too smelled old and moldy. It was unnaturally dark.
The Girl hobbled over to the bookshelf. She turned to Terra, who held a flashlight. “Help me find something that could be useful. Terra sat herself down beside her companion and the two began to read. Every now and then Terra would stand, grab another armful of books from the shelf, and place them back on the floor for the two of them to search through.
They ended up with a few protection and attack spells. The Girl tore them from the book.
The two left without another word.
Terra kept her flashlight trained in front of them.
Both women momentarily stiffened. Terra quickly lifted The Girl into her arms and ducked inside the nearest room.
They slowly looked around, seeing where they were.
Robin’s trophy room.
Both Terra and The Girl looked around, memories flooding through them. They could hear the hissing from outside the door. Thankfully the worms hadn’t figured out that they could knock the door down.
The Girl’s good eye looked to where Terra was standing.
“Why would Robin keep a clock in here?” The Girl could hear the humor through the mechanical voice.
“It’s…” shock ran through her. “Kory got it…it…it took her to the future.” Terra stared at The Girl. “And the past.”
Mammoth’s eyes widened in surprise. “You’re back! Both of you!” He ran forward and scooped each woman under each arm. “What’s that?” He gestured to the clock.
The Girl’s eyes sparkled. “Our salvation.”
“Who’s gonna go?” Mammoth questioned.
“Her, of course.” Slade gestured toward The Girl.
She stared at the ex-villain. “Why me? Don’t you want to go?” Why would Slade give up an opportunity like this?
The old man sighed. “I’m old now. And I probably won’t live much longer.”
“The same goes for me.” She said.
He glared at her a moment. “You have the best chance of getting the Titans to help. They wouldn’t ever trust me.”
“I’m not a teenager any more.”
Slade sighed. “I found a spell. It won’t work on me. You have the ability for it to work on you.”
She eyed him suspiciously. “What is it?”
“A glamour of sorts.” A pause. “We enchant an item, and as long as that item is worn, and recharged every so often, it will change it’s wearer into another form.”
“I won’t be me?”
“There can’t be two of you.”
She sighed. “What will we use?”
Slade held out a ring. “It…It belonged to my wife.”
She stared at him. “I…can’t take that.”
“You can and you will. Give it to your Kory. Don’t let it be wasted on this
world.” He paused. “It will also convince the ‘me’ of the past to help you.”
The Girl stood there, the ring on her palm.
“Now,” Slade began, “picture in your mind what you’d like to look like. You know that you can’t change yourself too much.” She nodded. “Now put the ring on.”
She felt a tingle, then…she felt normal again. She looked at herself.
She was a few inches shorter (for she’d grown over the years). She was still missing part of her arm and her right eye was still useless, lying beneath the bandage on her face. Her hair was black and went down to her waist. It would need to be cut to the middle of her back, she decided. Her eye (for one couldn’t see the other) was green. Her skin had remained white.
“You need a name.” Mammoth piped in.
“Yes,” Terra agreed. “You can’t use your old name.”
“I think Rose would be pretty.” Slade said.
She glared at him. “I’m not using your daughter’s name!”
She sighed. “Angela.” A pause. “It was…my mother’s original name.”
“Your superhero name?” Mammoth asked.
“That’s an easy one,” Terra said. “Ghost. It matches her skin perfectly.”
The Girl nodded. “Ghost it is.” She reached for the clock.
“Before you leave,” Slade interrupted, “I’ve…got a few things to give you.” She looked at him questioningly. Her grabbed something from the floor. An arm. “I got this from a demon.” It was large and long. “I can put it on you.”
The Girl agreed and held out her arm. Slade sewed it on. The Girl could feel the nerves connecting to her.
Slade smiled. “It will take a few days before it properly works. Next,” He slowly took his eye patch off. “I’d like for you to wear it. You can’t go around in those shabby bandages.” And The Girl, who refused to have anything that reminded her of Slade, took the eye patch. He sighed. “And last…I have a way for Terra to go with you. I know you won’t like it, but I can…download her into a chip…put it into your head.”
The Girl…Angela…turned to look at Terra, who clearly expected her to refuse, for Angela would never let Slade ‘fix’ her body in any mechanical way.
But Terra was Angela’s friend. Angela…loved Terra. They were…sisers.
And it was done.
She could hear Terra’s voice again, her real one, full of all emotions, and in that moment she knew that she’d made the right choice. ‘Yeah. See you on the other side…Tara Markov.’
There was a smile in her voice. ‘You too, Raven.’
Coming Soon: Part Two