“We cannot change our past. We can not change the fact that people act in a certain way. We can not change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude.”-Charles R. Swindoll
“You have to know the past to understand the present.” -Dr. Carl Sagan
Last Edit: Feb 17, 2011 17:12:56 GMT -5 by arcalian
Belarus, four years, two months and three weeks ago...
Terra felt alive.
No remorse, no regrets, just reveling in every moment.
Back in Markovia, she had never imagined life could be so full. So rich.
She was happy.
She had marveled at first at how easily she had given in to Geomancer's advances; now, she was glad she had. The possibilities of her newly awakened sexuality made her spirits dance and her pulse race.
She liked being a bad girl. It was fun. It was liberating. It was exciting.
So when, after they had hit a couple banks and a pawn shop, Geomancer suggested further sexual escapades to her beyond what they had already tried, she was more than willing; she was eager.
“Smolder's taken quite a liking to you,” Geomancer said.
“I thought he was with Harpi,” she answered.
“He is, but that's not a hard and fast rule. He'd like to help.....further your education.”
She blinked thoughtfully, the grinned. “Bring him on!”
Geomancer smiled approvingly. “That's what I thought you'd say.”
He opened the door and Smolder was waiting for her. He stepped inside.
But Geomancer did not leave.
Terra was puzzled for a moment, but only a moment.
Smolder was grinning, but Geomancer's face was carefully neutral. A poker face. “Can you handle it?” he asked.
“I'm willing to try,” she said. “If I say stop.....”
“Then we'll stop,” Smolder agreed, readily enough. He had already seen enough of her in the field to know not to piss her off. But he didn't really think that would be a problem, either.
Breakfast with the Doom Patrol was perhaps the most surreal thing Tara had ever experienced. How did Negative Man eat, anyway? She decided not to look too closely. She didn't want to know.
Gar was in his element, of course. Laughing with Cliff, nudging his dad in the shoulder, chattering away.
Tara kept making uneasy eye contact with Rita, who smiled reassuringly. In truth, Rita had eased Tara's nerves the night before. It was the Chief who made her uneasy. Sitting up there at the head of the table in his wheelchair. The man had spooked her ever since the Black Sun crisis. Sure, he had helped then, but he creeped her out, in a way even her old villain gang never had.
Rita was smiling at her now, but her eyes still held a question. A question, Tara knew, that last night she had not fully answered. But she had never known that kind of love. Even platonic love was a strange thing to her; only Brion had ever really cared about her. Her father had been fond of her, but only when she was young and tomboyish. As she grew his interest had faded.
So real, romantic love? Gar had given her his, and she was very grateful. And she had given back what she could. But was it real love? She simply didn't know. It wasn't that she was against the idea, she just wasn't sure she knew what it was.
Besides Rita, Cliff, the Robotman, was the one she got along with best. He was funny in his own way. She recognized that, like with Gar, it was part of the surface, a defense mechanism. Underneath was a creature not unlike herself.
Not unlike herself....she looked at Gar again, who smiled at her. Yes, perhaps that was the answer.
Finally, she let go a breath she hadn't realized she had been holding, and dug in to her breakfast properly.
Belarus, four years, two months and one week ago....
A quiet day. Not a day off, exactly, but a day when they weren't robbing banks. Now she was on a dry, muddy plain with Geomancer. Of all the others, only Carom was around, playing lookout at superspeed. Not that Geomancer cared about collateral damage, but he did care about witnesses bringing unwanted attention down on their heads.
Today was furthering her education, but not sexually or in terms of criminal tactics; today was about refining her powers.
Terra sat on a small mound of mud she had previously built up with her powers, hands out to the sides, looking for all the world like a meditating Buddha. And indeed, her eyes were unfocused. She did not contemplate serenity, however. Instead she was focused on her own inner strength.
Sometimes at night she still felt the burn of Doctor Jace's genetic laser in her bones. Psychosomatic, of course. But she still remembered. When she focused on her powers the feeling was renewed. But she didn't really mind any more. It helped motivate her, especially when she was angry.
But right this moment she wasn't angry; she was concentrating more intensely than she had before in her life.
“Yes...that's it....” Geomancer was smiling, but distantly. He was concentrating, too. “Precision, precise control. That's what you lack. You were already creative; you just needed to concentrate on the detail work.”
“And what, you want me to 'let go of my anger' or something equally stupid?” Tara said. But she said it distantly, and her anger was only the vaguest of surges.
“Of course not. We're not sanctimonious boy scouts here, like the competition. Though even they are like us underneath, and refuse to admit it. No, you anger is a useful weapon. But only if you control it, and not the reverse.”
“Actually that sounds pretty sappy too,” she sneered. But she kept at her work; making pebbles form and reform into fantastic patterns, creative statues made from mud that shifted moment by moment. She twisted her left wrist, and the pebbles above her left hand became sharp spikes that flew outwards. She clenched her right hand into a fist, and the ornate muddy sculpture transformed into a ball of simmering lava.
That last was the most difficult part; it was more Brion's specialty than her own. She could do it, but it too more effort than she liked. In theory, she could stop a volcano from erupting....or start it. But she wasn't anxious to put it to the test. Fortunately Geomancer wasn't interested in holding a city for ransom under a threat like that. Draw too much hostile attention. Especially superpowered attention. Terra didn't have much taste for it either. She didn't want to be an unholy terror making the world tremble. Unlike Geomancer, however, she wasn't in it for the money. She had been born to wealth, and since becoming a villain, she had learned that money was easy enough to take. She was in it for the fun. For the thrill. The sex was part of that, but not all; she loved sex on it's own account, the rest of the lifestyle was a thrill all it's own.
But she put such thoughts aside. Maintaining and focusing the powers, that was the goal.
“Yes,” Geomancer mused. “Good. Very good. Now stand, and take my hands.”
Without looking at him, Terra stood up and moved to him, and they intertwined their hands. In a way it wasn't sexual at all. In another way, it was.
They synchronized their powers and created a blizzard of rock around them, pelting the ground. They didn't cause any kind of earthquake, but they could have. Oh yes, they could have.
“Last night I asked you if you loved Gar,” Rita said.
“Under awkward circumstances,” Tara agreed.
“You said you loved him as much as you could, and you didn't know if you could ever feel real love. And I know why you say that. But you know what?” Rita smiled.
“What?” Tara frowned, genuinely puzzled.
“I think you do love him. You already know it. You just haven't got used to the idea yet.”
“The feeling,” Tara admitted, “Is new to me.”
Rita smiled and reached out a hand. “You'll get used to it in time. Speaking of time, you don't have to go home just yet. Perhaps we can go shopping?”
Tara brightened. “Really?”
“Of course, why not? There are several fine--”
“Perhaps later,” Niles said, rolling in out on his wheelchair. “I just uncovered some information that Princess Markov might find....interesting.”
Tara flinched. She'd heard that most bastards of nobility didn't feel the way she did about their heritage. But she guessed most of them weren't hated by their foster mother and largely ignored by their biological father the way she had been. Or had no real mother to speak of, either. Not that she was crying victim; that was one thing she'd never done. But, normal or not, she didn't like being reminded of home. She was still unsettled by that visit to the Markovian restaurant, for all that she had been welcomed there. “What is it?” she snapped, irritably. Rita put a comforting hand on her shoulder. She was cheered by the support; no one was happy with Caulder's manipulations, it seemed.
Caulder smiled thinly. “Please follow me back inside.”
Grinding her teeth, Tara followed him.
Last Edit: Feb 17, 2011 17:34:27 GMT -5 by arcalian
Of all Geomancer's crew, Carom was the one Terra knew least well. He was quiet, shy, and laconic. A lazy Frenchman.
“Hey kiddo,” he said as she plopped down next to him.
“We're gonna have to move again soon; Russia. The bossman wanted me to let you know.”
“Thanks.” He smiled thinly at her. If she didn't know better, she'd say he was too much of a slacker for their line of work. But she had seen him out there every time with the rest of them, wreaking his fair share of havoc. Well, not see exactly, usually he was just a purple and yellow blur. But she knew he had the skill.
“I've been wondering,” she said. “Is that bodypaint or....”
“My physique was transformed by the chemical accident that gave me my powers,” he said blandly.
“Accident, huh? That musta sucked. I chose to get my powers. What did you do to whoever was at fault?”
“The chemist? Oh, I killed him,” Carom said. He said it as though he were discussing what to have for breakfast, or the weather.
Terra drew back from him a little. She'd never killed anyone herself. She'd stood by and let the others kill—Harpi especially seemed to enjoy murdering people—but never done the deed directly. She'd let people die and not tried to save them, of course. But so far, at least, she'd never dealt a final blow. Nor did she really want to.
None of the others judged her for that; each of them in their own way understood that killing was a big deal. All of them saw killing as a significant choice. But Carom apparently didn't. She'd not considered that possibility. Maybe this was the difference between a killer and a murderer, between hot blooded and cold blooded.
Until this moment, she'd considered sleeping with Carom too. Now, she wasn't so sure.
Without another word, she turned and left him there.
Geomancer was at large. He had escaped prison some time ago, during a conflict between Green Lantern and Black Hand. Wonder Woman had also been involved. He had been laying low since....until now. He had been seen two weeks ago in Kaliningrad. Russia's little chunk of Baltic sea coastline, wedged between Lithuania and Poland.
“How did you know...” she turned to stare at Caulder.
He was not smiling now. “After I gave you medical assistance during the Black Sun crisis, I researched you quite thoroughly. Some of the information was blocked, but I still have contacts that can divulge information.”
Tara shuddered; that was almost exactly the same thing Deathstroke had said when he had tried to recruit her.
“In any case....I thought you'd find that information interesting. Useful, even.”
Tara tried to glare at him, but she was too busy dealing with the sinking feeling in her gut. She should have known that running into Smolder wasn't a coincidence. “I need to....sit down...”
“Of course.” Caulder could be gracious when he chose to be.
She sat in an black leather chair, staring blankly at the screen. Why now? Why does he have to show up again now? I left that life behind me. Even the Suicide Squad was an improvement over that.
Gar chose that moment to bust in. “What are you playing at, Caulder?”
“Calm yourself, Garfield,” Caulder said mildly.
“Oh, shut up! I talked to mom! I know you're trying to play Tara. Now what is this?!?”
“He's dug up....some info on my past,” Tara said bleakly.
“So? He can't hold that over you!”
“That is not my intention, Garfield. I seek to help her.” Caulder raised an eyebrow.
“Don't feed me that bull, Niles! Your help always comes with strings attached!”
“I'll thank you not to use that tone with me, young man.” Caulder scowled.
“I'll use whatever tone I want! And you damned well better get used to it! Now what is this?”
Tara mutely pointed at the screen.
Gar read the information there. “Okay so, this guy is active in Russia. So what? Tell the Russians, then! Or if the Chief is so hot to handle it, send the Doom Patrol!”
“You do not suggest helping her yourself?” Caulder asked mildly. There was still anger in his eyes, but it was well contained.
“I...” for the firs time, Gar faltered. “I'd like to. But the Titans just called us to come back. There's an experimental rocket launch, and they want us on hand.”
“Really?” Caulder spoke in a tone that suggested he already knew. Which of course, he probably did. “Surely they can attend the matter without the two of you. Tara can stay here....and we will help her.”
“You're still trying to recruit her,” Gar seethed. “I don't believe it!”
Tara heard them, but distantly. She was angry, but the anger was cold. Focused. Gar was right, the Chief was manipulating her. But the Chief was also right, in that this was something that needed to be dealt with. So.....
“No,” she said, breaking up their intensifying argument. “Gar, go back to New York and help the Titans. I will deal with this myself. Alone.”
“What?!” Gar and Caulder chorused, suddenly on the same side, though for very different reasons.
“What's the big deal,” Tara kept her voice light, but her tone was brittle all the same. “Nightwing, Kid Flash, and Troia are away from the Tower on personal business all the time. This is no different.”
“Nightwing goes to help Batman,” Gar said wearily. “Kid Flash goes to help Flash. Troia goes to help Wonder Woman.”
“And each member has their own side projects too,” including you. “Solo missions are nothing new.”
“Yes, but you don't have to face this alone, young lady.” Caulder cut in, trying to talk her down in his own way. “I've no doubt you are formidable, but better safe than sorry. Even if you do not want our help, take Garfield with you, at least.”
“I hate to admit it, but Niles is right,” Gar admitted. “About this, if nothing else. Let me help you, doll.”
“Honey, I appreciate it. And if this spaceship thing turns out to be no biggie, Kid Flash can run you right back over here. But I won't let Caulder control me, and I won't let the Titans go more short-handed then they need to.”
“Except this isn't really about any of that, is it?” Caulder said, eying her anew. “This is about closing the door on your past.”
Tara closed her eyes and nodded. “It's my mess. Time to fix it. Time to close the door on who I used to be, once and for all.”
“But--” Gar began.
She kissed him to shut him up. “Trust me, baby. Let me do this.”
“I do trust you. Trust me, now. Let me help you.”
“You already have, green-cheese. More than you'll ever know.” She hugged him close, smiling softly. “Your mom was right. I know that now. I owe her for that. But let me do this.”
Gar made a frustrated noise, eyes pleading, holding her hands. “Bebe, please.....”
“I can do this, love. Please, let me do it.”
He buried his face in her shoulder and groaned. She held him close, but glared at Caulder. But that worthy held his tongue; the situation was not amusing anymore, and had not worked out to his advantage as he had hoped.
Before they left for Russia, she did one more thing.
She slipped out of her costume and, as Tara Markov, prowled the streets.
Geomancer and Smolder had awakened her sexually; she wanted more. But after that little discussion with Carom, she knew he would not be the one. Someone else. Some harmless sheep civilian she could seduce. Not, she suspected, that most men would require much pressure.
This one time, it was Smolder and Harpi that understood her better than Geomancer. Carom didn't particularly seem to care. More and more, she got the impression he didn't care about much of anything.
She was wearing one of her favorite slinky little black numbers. Harpi had helped her pick it out in one of her own rare civilian identity moments. That had been a fun day, shopping for provocative clothes and nightgowns. She was rather fond of nightgowns.
The club held perhaps thirty people, dancing to some pounding techno number. They lacked a proper dance floor or sound system, but nobody seemed to mind. For this occasion, Tara didn't either.
She picked him out fairly early; a shy, quiet young man. Looked lonely and sad. Probably didn't get much, if any. Brown hair, grey eyes like a storm gathering. A frustration she recognized, and understood. Yes.....much better than Carom. Than Smolder or Geomancer either, come to that. Maybe that was the sort of boy toy she needed; sweeter and nicer than her.
He was startled when she started dancing with him, but a smile slowly spread across his face.
She put her arms over his shoulders and moved in close, grinding against him. He started, then reciprocated, sliding his hands going around the small of her back, then when she continued to grind against him, slid them down to her butt.
“Yes indeed,” she breathed in his ear. “Tonight's your lucky night, honey.”
His eyes widened and brightened. “Really?” Then he became suspicious. “Who put you up to this, was it Yuras?”
“Oh you poor boy, you've been burned one too many times, haven't you?” she had real sympathy for him. “I don't even know who Yuras is. I was just out looking for some fun, and didn't want a macho idiot. You won the lottery hon. Take advantage of it.” She ran one hand down his face.
He eyed her for a long moment, thinking. Probably wondering how nasty she was. “I walk here, don't have a car. Hotel isn't that close....”
“We'll find a nice secluded place, then.”
Still eying her disbelievingly, he let her out the door.
The first two alleys were too foul; the third was nicer, almost a lane. Cheap housing on either side, grass and even some wild flowers growing in it. No trash or waste or bums.
She led him down it, smiling a toothy grin Smolder would have recognized as his own.
“Up against the wall?” he asked uncertainly.
“Kinky,” she said, “But no. On the grass. Softer.”