by Hitman 44077
Hell’s Kitchen, New York:
Within his apartment, Victor Stone awoke from his slumber thanks to the alarm clock he’d set the night before. In a way, he was a little reluctant to fully wake up, since he’d only returned from San Francisco the day before after spending a week in the company of one Dr. Sarah Charles. Man, oh, man, I wish I could get some more sleep, Vic thought, wiping sleep from his right eye carefully. But I agreed to talk to Gar and have breakfast with him.
Indeed, after he’d arrived home yesterday evening, he found several messages on his answering machine from Garfield Logan, his best friend and fellow New Titans teammate, the Changeling. He hadn’t finished listening to the first message playing back when his phone rang. He’d taken the call and knew something was on his young friend’s mind.
I swear, next time Sarah better be the one comin’ to visit. Even built the way I am, I’m not immune to jet lag, Vic thought as he stood up. He walked over to his closet and dressed himself. It wasn’t as if he were still ashamed of how he looked now, but the clothes made him feel more like the man he was before the accident.
I’m jus’ glad things are goin’ well between Sarah and me. I feel normal with the Titans, but to be with a woman who looks at me and doesn’t care about my appearance, what we share means a great deal to me. She and Sarah Simms really helped me sort myself out a great deal, and I feel damn good, Vic thought.
For a second, Vic debated whether or not to place a baseball cap on his head. He was comfortable with himself, but he wasn’t sure if he wanted to draw attention to himself. You know what? he thought, as if he realized what was necessary for him to do. I’ve come to terms with myself. It don’t matter what I look like. If someone has a problem, they can say it to me, face to face. Vic smiled, knowing that this was a step he needed to make, and he was proud he’d found the courage to eliminate hiding his face with the hats he’d worn over the years.
Now that he was ready, Vic walked to his apartment door and, once he’d locked it, left the apartment complex. The restaurant that he was meeting Gar at, Sullivans, was only a few blocks away, and within minutes he’d arrived. Sure enough, he spotted his green-skinned friend waiting near the restaurant’s entrance. “Hey, metal-head!” the joking youth shouted. “You have fun out in ‘Frisco?”
“Yeah I did, green-genes,” Vic said, a shy smile appearing on his face. “I haven’t felt like this in a long time. The jetlag’s killin’ me, though.”
“I know all about jetlag, Vic,” Gar said with a smile. “Let me tell you, in my all-too-short acting career on Space Trek 2022, I was flying from Hollywood to malls and elsewhere for public appearances. In fact, before we go inside for breakfast, I got a story to tell you.”
“Oh, yeah?” Vic asked, intrigued.
“I was out doing some motorama conventions, and I was traveling from city to city, billed as my old character Tork from Space Trek, and this one guy kept following me. From Chicago to Midway City, this guy was there, asking me all sorts of Tork questions. Finally, in Detroit, I was so fed up that I walked up to the guy and said, in the most serious tone, ‘Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.’ And then I changed into a tiger and growled at him. He just stared at me, all shaken, and then he just walks away.”
“I don’t think I heard that one before,” Vic said, as he started to laugh. “You ever see him again?”
“Nah, but he did leave a trail. I’m sure if I wanted to bore myself to death, I could’ve located him,” Gar said with a smirk.
“Hey, I came for breakfast, not to lose my appetite. Let’s go inside,” Vic said, trying to put the humorous image he’d pictured from his friend’s story to rest.
“I hear ya!” Gar agreed. Once inside, the two had no trouble getting a table. But after their orders had been taken, Gar began to show just how concerned he’d been feeling.
“You left ’bout sixteen messages on my answering machine, Gar. What’s goin’ on?” Vic asked.
“A lot, Vic,” Gar confessed, unsure of how to start. “You know I finished my schooling earlier in June, but I… this is gonna sound stupid.”
“Go ahead. I ain’t gonna laugh,” Vic said, reassuring his friend.
“I’m an adult now, and I haven’t the slightest idea what to do. I’ve acted as a teenager, I’ve fought crime, but it’s like I don’t know what direction my life’s going to take, or what direction it should take. I feel lost, Vic,” Gar said, placing his hand on his head and closing his eyes.
“Is Dayton gettin’ on your back ’bout things?” Vic asked, referring to Gar’s stepdad.
Gar opened his eyes and replied to his friend. “No, for a change. But I know I can’t just sit back and do nothing. I do have a trust fund, but that’s not gonna be something I can rely upon.”
“There’s college,” Vic suggested. “Rather than just bein’ taught by one tutor, you could meet a whole bunch of people. Maybe even learn something in the process.”
“You know, that’s something to consider,” Gar said as he felt better about the prospect. “But several colleges have already started their semesters. I’d probably have to wait for winter to line myself up for the new semester, but I think I can live with that.”
“Any word on Jillian?” Vic asked as he remembered the events that had led to Gar’s breakup with the young lady.
“Aside from the fact that she’s apparently going to an out-of-state school? No, and that’s another thing bothering me. Her dad’s been ticked at me for, like, ever, and after the incident with Gemini and the Fearsome Five, we haven’t spoken, much less seen each other. (*) You know, I really loved her, Vic,” Gar admitted sadly.
[(*) Editor’s note: See The New Titans: Many Fearsome Returns.]
“Yeah, I know, pal,” Vic said as he remembered the losses his friend had been dealt over the years. He also remembered when he himself had lost the love of Marcy Reynolds, who couldn’t accept the changes to Vic that turned him into Cyborg. (*) “Believe me, I do.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “A Day in the Lives,” The New Teen Titans #8 (June, 1981).]
“What I really want is to track down that piece of trash Crimelord. That jerk wants me dead, and he was the one in charge of screwing things up for Jillian and me. But the weirdest thing is we haven’t heard anything from him in almost four months. I’m a little worried this guy’s going to strike when we least expect it,” Gar said, angered and worried at the same time.
“I think we’ve done enough to keep prepared. If this dude strikes, and if it definitely is a he, we’ll be ready. The Titans have only grown stronger over the years. It’s gonna take more than that to stop us,” Vic said firmly. The conversation would have continued, but the two New Titans were served their breakfast. Both ate and were grateful that their friendship had endured as long as it had.
Manhattan in the early afternoon:
Kole Weathers found herself flying through the skies of the large metropolis below her, enjoying the soft breeze that softly pressed against her body and face. She’d known happiness for most of the time she’d entered into her new life with the Titans. It was a far cry from the life she’d experienced before, first with her father and then later with the Titan of myth, Thia.
It feels so good to fly, so good to simply live! the young woman thought, feeling the warmth of the sun as she continued. I’ve been blessed to know the Titans, and to know Joseph. His is such a tender soul, someone I care about so much. As she continued to fly, she found herself closer to the home Joseph Wilson — the New Titan known as Jericho — shared with his mother, Adeline Wilson. Knowing this, she slowed her flying speed and lowered herself to the street, right next to the door of the Wilsons. Kole, who lived there as well, pulled a key from her uniform and entered the home.
“Joe? Are you still here?” Kole asked in a soft voice, not wanting to cause a disturbance for Joe or Addie. There was no answer, so Kole decided to check for herself. She walked up the stairs leading to the second level of the home, and once she’d stopped in front of the closed door where Joe Wilson spent some of his time painting, knocked on his door softly.
“Joe? It’s me, Kole,” she said, still in a soft voice. “Are you here?” She waited for a few seconds when Joe finally made his way to the door and answered it. Joe smiled, but Kole knew something was bothering her boyfriend. “Joseph, are you OK?” Kole asked, concerned.
He motioned her to enter the room, and she entered. Kole closed the door behind her and looked at the man she loved. “Joe, you don’t seem yourself. Is anything wrong?” she asked him.
Joseph Wilson looked at the woman whom he’d shared much of his recent life with. His actions and behavior said more about the man than words ever could. He closed his eyes briefly as Kole walked up to him.
“I’ve known you long enough to tell when something’s on your mind, Joseph. What’s bothering you?” Kole asked with compassion.
Joseph opened his eyes and slowly began using his sign language to reveal to Kole what his mother had told him only the night before. “My father has been pardoned,” he motioned.
Kole was familiar with the estrangement Joe shared with the elder Slade Wilson. Indeed, as Deathstroke the Terminator, he’d been one of the New Teen Titans’ deadliest foes, undertaking the contract of his other son and Joe’s older brother Grant, who as the Ravager had himself sought to kill the Titans. She was also familiar with the events that led to Joseph losing the ability to speak. (*) “Your father’s been pardoned? How?” Kole asked, wanting to help Joe deal with this matter.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Judas Contract,” Tales of the Teen Titans #42-44 (May-July, 1984), Tales of the Teen Titans Annual #3 (1984).]
Joseph paused briefly and continued. “My mother told me. He helped save the life of the President, and his actions have granted him a pardon,” he motioned with his hands. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: Deathstroke’s actions with Task Force X occurred in DC Universe: Invasion, Book 3: The Return, and his Presidential pardon was revealed in DC Universe: Invasion Homecomings.]
“I can’t believe it,” Kole said. “Your father — you haven’t seen him in a long time, have you?”
Joseph’s face was still numb. “No,” he motioned. “I didn’t expect to ever see him again.”
“Joe, you told me about him — you told me about so much that happened with your family. Are you going to see him?” Kole asked.
Joseph turned around, walking a few steps away, and bent his head down for about a minute. Finally, he turned around. He looked at her and signed, “I don’t know.”
Kole walked back to Joe. She held him in her arms for a minute, understanding the jumbled feelings he was going through. She looked him in the eyes and spoke. “Joseph, I know you. You never let the negatives destroy your life. Your paintings, your guitar playing… you are still the kind, decent man I’ve known and loved for the past two years. I know, despite what’s happened, you do love him. I don’t want you to have the type of estrangement I had with my father.”
She then kissed Joe passionately, sharing what she felt for him. Once the kiss ended, Kole continued. “Do what you know is right, Joe. I’ll be at your side no matter what,” she said, pledging her strength.
Joe shook his head in agreement and held Kole in his arms again. She leaned her head against his chest and closed her eyes. Joe held the back of her head softly in comfort. But he still had a conflicting thought, something he dared not share with Kole.
What of my friends? he thought, referring to his teammates in the New Titans. Do I reveal this knowledge to them after all that has happened? Perhaps once I see my father myself, maybe then I’ll know what to do.