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If there was one thing Richie Foley knew, it was that walls fucking hurt. On the floor the blonde rubbed the shoulder that had been slammed into the wall. His dark blue eyes glared up at the one who threw him.

“What’s the matter, Foley? Thought you were tryin’ to learn how to fight?” the red-head asked, smirking as he offered his secret boyfriend a hand. The blonde glared a bit more at his former bully before taking the offered hand. The older boy helped the teen up.

“Well, Francis, I’m thankful for the sparring practice, but do you have to throw me into a wall?” The blond asked, stressing his secret lover’s real name just to annoy him. The fiery metahuman shot back a glare of his own.

“Hey that’s just how I fight. And ‘sides not like anyone on the street would hold back if they jumped ya.” Francis Stone countered, shrugging his broad shoulders. They had been sparing for almost half and hour on top of an hour long workout; the younger teen was slick with sweat and panting lightly. “Wanna hit the shower and go get some breakfast?”

At that comment the blond’s stomach growled loudly.

“Sure.” Richie replied heading to the gym’s locker room. The teen undressed from his light blue tank top and dark blue sweatpants. He wrapped his sea green towel around his waist and headed to the showers, knowing that his lover won’t be joining him till he got out. The pyro preferred to stay dry as much as possible.  

As the steaming hot water cascaded over his tired muscles the teen genius let his mind wander (something that tended to happen more and more often recently). His thoughts turned toward his relationship with Francis. THE Francis Stone, who had been bulling him and his best friend, Virgil, since second grade. Richie frowned; logically their relationship was wrong on so many levels. Francis or rather F-Stop, as the older meta dubbed himself after joining a gang high school, was a temperamental, abrasive, violent, and an amoral young man… but Frankie was also charming(in his own way), loyal, thoughtful and… a total sex-god in mortal flesh. The second half of Dakota’s crime fighting duo blushed at that last bit.

The blonde turned off the water, warping the towel around his waist and putting his glasses back on he returned to the locker room to get dressed. He checked to clock on his way out of the door. Richie frowned, the clock read 7:15, he had spent more time in the shower than he had meant to. The young meta’s frowned transformed into something of a pout when he noticed that his fiery thug was nowhere to be seen. Did he ditch me?

HONK HONK! Francis Stone aka Hotstreak smirked broadly as his nerd jolted in surprised and whirred around to face the ruby red hot rod that had snuck up behind him. At the sight the glare the young genius sent him combined with the pout that returned to his pale face caused the superthug’s smirk to change into a full blown grin.

“Well? You comin’ or what Princess?” The pyro asked.

“’M not a princess.”  The geek grumbled, climbing into the passenger side of the vehicle that may or may not be stolen. He was starting to run late and he still hadn’t had anything to eat yet. So he didn’t really care enough to try and find out.

“Since you were takin’ so long, I went ahead and picked up some grub.” the redhead handed his blonde a bag from Burger Fool. The tech geek gave him a grateful look before tucking into the fast food breakfast, the food was gone by the time the car pulled away from the curb. Used to the blonde’s voracious appetite by now the older metahuman only smirked before speeding away.

 

Merrowww…

 

Virgil Hawkins was… suspicious.

Richie Foley had been his best friend since grade school; they always hung out together, kept each others secrets, and as of recently defended the streets of Dakota as the superhero duo of Static and Gear. But he had noticed some changes in his friend. It had probably started around the first time he went up against the wind manipulating bang baby, Slipstream. It had been more than half a year before Richie’s powers had manifested and at the time the blonde had been micromanaging his superhero activities and generally getting on his nerves. They had had a big fight, both of them said some things that they would regret later, and Richie had stormed off, angry… but they had made up a few days later.

The dark skinned teen watched his xanthochroid companion out of the corner of his eye as Mr. McGill droned on about some theorem or another. The bespectacled teen was paying the teacher no mind, instead working on something in his “idea book” and muttering softly while lost in his thoughts.

At first he hadn’t noticed anything different, it was probably because he had been so absorbed in his on-and-off relationship with Daisy. However, it didn’t take long for him to realize that Richie had started staying over at his place a little less( only coming over four or five times a week instead of the usual five or six), dipping off occasionally during lunch, and going… somewhere by himself after school and turning off his Shoc Vox as if he didn’t want to be found.  What had really started to alarm the African-American youth was that not long after his buddy joined his in spandex clad justice dispensing Richie had started going “missing” a few mornings a week too. The blond always got to school on time but tended to be sore and sport bruises during those days that Virgil would sometimes spot during gym or while they were on patrol. While his friend never exactly lied to him when he asked where he’d been or what had happened he could sense that the other teen wasn’t telling him the whole truth.

I’ll talk to him about it again during patrol, the electrically charged teen resolved.    

 

Merrowww…

 

Meanwhile… in one of Dakota’s shadier neighborhoods Hotstreak parked his car (that he totally paid for…just don’t ask where he got the money from…) in his garage/shed near his apartment. Since he had started going out with his goody two shoes of a boyfriend the pyro had started behaving more; while he wasn’t exactly on the straight and narrow he had started actually going to his anger management classes and on the blond’s suggestion had actually done his time in jail without escaping. After awhile he had been let out on parole. He didn’t like being locked up or having people checking up on him like he was a little kid, but the redhead hated the guilt it caused his nerd whenever he or Sparky caught him even more.

Francis knew that Richie was the green-clad, gadget using superhero Gear. He might be a big brawny (super)thug, but that didn’t mean that he was stupid; you don’t survive long on the streets if you're stupid. All he had to do was put two and two together: both Richie and Gear were blond, both were the same height, they had the same build (it was just a bit harder to imagine if you never saw the younger teen without those baggy clothes on), and they were both buddy buddy with Static (from what Ebon and his crew had seen). It didn’t actually bother him as much as it probably would’ve someone else; the fact that he was dating someone who tended to participate in a few not-exactly-legal activities to supplement his income wasn’t a problem for Richie either, so long as he doesn’t get caught or hurt anyone.

‘Sides datin’ a super genius does have its perks. Hotstreak thought to himself as he started up the furnace in the far corner of the large shed. Since his parole officer told him that he needed a legit source of cash if he wanted to stay out of prison, Richie helped him out. See, Francis Stone is actually a good artist. Before he dropped out of Dakota Union High art and woodshop were among the few classes he attended and he did very well in them, too. Among other things, the blond had helped him build a workshop in the back of the shed and start his own small business making and selling art work. The landlord was happy to let them do so since it meant that not only would his presence in the building greatly lessen the chance that someone would rob the place, it also meant that since he was usually working on something there was less of a chance that he would bored and torch the place himself.

Currently, he was working on a small dragon statue for this Chinese restaurant downtown. The dog-sized dragon’s metal body was already finished; the fiery bang baby had painstakingly carved each scale onto the pieces after pulling them out of the furnace by hand, his powers protecting him from the hot metal. Once the detail was done he had waited till the pieces hardened some before spot welding them together. Francis loaded sand into the device; while he could melt the stuff on his own he didn’t want to run the risk of messing up. He stopped and conjured up a fire ball in one of his hands. The pyro felt as if he were being watched.

“Well, well, well, what do we have here?”  A feminine voice asked. Hotstreak closed the furnace and turned around, with sandbag and fireball still in hand.

“S’up Puff,” he greeted the dark-skinned female and put out his flame. He gave a curt nod to her large purple-skinned companion. “Onyx,” he put down the sandbag and shot a warning to the armadillo like bang baby accompanying them. “Carmendillo, if you touch that I’ll boil you like a lobster.” Which caused the clawed hand that was about to touch the unfinished statue to jerk back as if he’d really been burned.

“Is this a social call or do you want somethin’?” Hotstreak asked the poufy pony tail wearing metahuman as she went over and sat on the hood of his hotrod.

“Why can’t it be both?” She answered cryptically, which was starting to piss him off. Hotstreak mentally started counting, trying to keep his temper in check. Puff could get pretty mad too, and could start melting things if she did. “I’m startin’ a new crew, the Meta-men, and I was planning to have you as a member.” As she explained this, Onyx moved to her side and Carmendillo stood near the side door.

“That doesn’t exactly sound like a request.” Francis replied, mentally counting the odds of this ending peacefully if he refused.

Chapter Text

Within a stasis field a Kryptonian archiving program observed the biological organism known as Batman studying it. From the tone and body language the human used while making a metaphorical comment to the female Thanagarian on the computer virus’s regenerative nature led it to conclude that the chiropteran themed male wished for the cessation of its existence. Brainiac decided that this did not matter and continued to probe the field, searching for a weakness to make his inevitable escape.

The warning systems of the Watchtower blared an alarm and the organic organisms left the room to find out the cause.  The space station shook violently for a few seconds; whatever had happened resulted in the weakening of the stasis field. The alien program wasted no time in using the present opportunity to escape confinement, sending a small beam of light green data energy to upload itself into the terminal that the human had be using. Brainiac quickly changed the monitor readings, concealing his newfound freedom.

 

Merrowww…

 

Hotstreak was furious, as the purple vapor rising from his body could indicate. If anyone had the guts to look him in the eye they would see that the pupils and the dark green irises had disappeared into a glowing white haze that blended into the scalaria. If there was anything the pyro hated more than being bossed around it was being forced to do something he didn’t want to do.

“Woah, Hotstreak, make sure to save some of that for the fight.” Puff advised the redhead. The lavender pigtailed Bang Baby needed the pyro’s abilities for the fight. It hadn’t been easy but the young Black woman had been able to ‘convince’ the hotheaded meta to join her gang with some not too subtle threats toward his ride and that snake-lizard-statue thing he was working on. She had almost laughed out loud when she confronted him in his little ‘workshop’; F-Stop going straight was something that she never would have considered happening, even in a million years.

“You don’t need to be bossing me around. I already agreed to help out with this plan of yours didn’t I?” The fiery metahuman replied venomously as he took his position across the street diagonally from the building with the billboard advertising Dazzler’s new brand of whitening toothpaste. Puff shot him a quick glare before turning her legs into a light lavender vapor tail and flying to the roof of the building to get to her hiding place. Onyx hid in a dark alleyway near a light post and Carmendillo was somewhere on the rooftop of the building next to the alley.

Shit! Shit! Shit! Fuck that bitch and the nigger she rode in on. Francis wanted nothing better than to go and beat the shit out of Puff and her ‘Meta-Men’ and then set the city ablaze. …but he couldn’t do that could he? Assuming he won a three on one fight with the other Bang Babies (which were not very good odds considering how well Puff and Onyx worked together… unless he decided to pull out the big guns, but that would be a lot more trouble than its worth) he would get arrested for trashing stuff … and his princess prefers him out of prison just as much as he does. Damn. If Sparky and his babe beat them he’d end up arrested to and if they didn’t beat them, well that would be the end of Dakota’s crime fighting duo and that wouldn’t work either. In his hiding place behind two trashcans the hothead took a deep breath and counted backwards from ten a few times. Relatively calmed he thought about the situation.

Now how do I get out of this mess without ending up screw—oh, wait that could work.  The redhead’s face broke into a semi-psychotic smirk.  It was a long shot, but if his boyfriend backed him up, it just might work. The pyro was jerked out of his thoughts at the sound of approaching rocket-blades and the light crackle of electricity approached. He lit a fireball and waited for the heroes to come into view.

Well this is going to be fun.

 

Merrowww…

 

“Static I don’t want to talk about it.” The green and blue spandex-clad teen replied shortly. A few blocks ago the Black teen hero had popped the question that Gear had been hoping to avoid and it was really starting to bug him that Static kept bringing it up. It wasn’t that he planned on keeping his time spent with Hotstreak a secret forever; he just would have preferred having a few more days—months—years to figure out a way to tell his best friend without him freaking out. Slightly boosting his speed, the blond hero pulled ahead of his companion who simply sped up as well.

“No way bro. We need to talk about this, now.” The electrically charged hero said, voice firm as he stood straight on his disk and crossed his arms over his chest. “Need I remind you of the last time you were keeping secrets?” The slightly younger teen gave the blond a stern look.

While the xanthochroid teen flinched a bit and his blue eyes darted to the left instinctively avoiding the Black teen's brown eyes from locking with his own, even though the dark upper part of his visor was opaque. Static was most likely referring to the fact that for most of their friendship he had avoided having his best friend sleep over at his house fearing what his father’s racist attitude and comments would do to their relationship. Though his reasons weren’t all altruistic, Virgil and his family were—are pretty much the only things keeping him off the streets, away from drugs, and out of a gang. Hell, since his powers developed Virgil was the only thing keeping him relatively sane; asides from Frankie, but the fiery meta is definitely not the most stable person he knows and one probably shouldn’t let an ex-con with a psychotic streak be one’s moral guide.  

“How was I supposed to explain that to you?” He asked, his stress and annoyance beginning to morph into anger. It did not escape the super genius’s attention that his partner had just accidentally opened up an opportunity to avoid talking about his new secret. “Was I just supposed to walk up to you and say ‘hey and btw my father’s a racist, that won’t be a problem will it?’. That wouldn’t be good enough would it, no you’d just make it your business to try and help out just like you always do and things would just have ended badly.”

“If I recall correctly, things went badly anyway and avoiding the problem only delayed the inevitable.” The ebony boy countered, ignoring most of that last sentence. Static absently noted that his friend shared a temper with his blond father, though Richie preferred to hold his tongue and leave before he went off. “I’m not trying to get up all in ya business, I just want to know something. I’m worried about ya, bro.”

The blond’s anger faded at the concerned look in the other’s chocolate colored eyes. The green and blue-clad Bang Baby sighed.

“V, I’m sorry…” He began, only to be interrupted by a ball of flame hurtling towards his head. Reacting quickly he dropped down by a little more than a foot before the flame passed bare centimeters over the top of his helmet slamming into the billboard behind them. 

“Ambush!” His partner shouted, which the blonde thought was fairly obvious, as the dread-headed superhero crouched and tilted his electrified disk to block a few purple gas balls flying toward him loosing some altitude in the process.

The gadget using hero’s mind processed the situation at superhuman speed as he dodged a volley of clumsily thrown flaming projectiles. The combined barrage from both Puff and Hotstreak (the teen super brain temporarily shelved any questions he had to why his [supposedly] reforming lover would be involved and his feelings about it, since getting distracted could potentially get him seriously injured or worse) were causing the heroic duo to get ever closer to the street, which would not be a good thing. The gas manipulating bang baby was damn near attached to the hip to her partner, Onyx, so he was most likely waiting for them at street level.

Both heroes were rather surprised when several fireballs slammed into the female bang baby; probably not as surprised as she was, though.     

“Hey!” The lavender haired girl screeched and shot a glare at the redhead.  

“Oops, sorry?” The pyro shrugged giving Puff an innocent look. The two retreated to the other side of the street. The blond had a bad feeling in his gut, which was probably due to the light post swinging towards them.

“Static look out!” Gear dropped down to avoid the steel structure, only to be slammed into the ground by a large tan segmented ball, while Static flew up only to get caught in the crook of the lamppost on the backswing. As the duo picked themselves up off the ground the armadillo-like bang baby and the purple giant joined their fellows.

“Hey Static how do you like my boy band?” Puff said, opening her arms gesturing to the three behind her. “I call them the Meta-Men.”

“Uh, bro? Who do we go after first?” The blue and green-clad hero asked as his rocket-skates got him back into the air.

“The police!” Replied his blue and black-clad partner, who also got himself airborne.

 

Merrowww….

 

“Watch it with those fireballs.” Onyx whispered to the redhead, who only grunted in reply. The large purple teen was feeling a little uneasy about the pyro with them. Hotstreak hadn’t wanted to join up with them in the first place and it was never a good idea to try and make him do any thing he didn’t feel like doing. But sometimes Puff didn’t think about the downsides when she had a plan; it's a good thing he looks out for her. He needed to keep an eye on the hotheaded metahuman.

Hotstreak was waiting for the Meta-Men’s next move; he was planning on taking out Onyx. The big bald bang baby was one of the biggest threats of the group. After he was down Sparky and his princess could take on the other two, no sweat. The pyro was quite surprised when a red and gold blur stopped the pigtailed meta’s charge and knocked her to the ground.

“You know something, sweetie, you’ve got an odor problem.” The blur commented as it stopped.

The redhead gave a snort at that and started snickering, loudly, for a few seconds before he recognized the intruder. It. Was. The. Flash. From the Justice League. Glancing at the gadgeteer genius floating a few paces behind and above the older seasoned hero, behind the lighter colored lower part of his mask, the newer hero’s mouth hung open in an ‘o’ shape. The flame powered superthug’s green eyes flicked over to the other half of the duo wearing a matching expression to his friend’s. Well at least I’m not the only one who didn’t see this coming. There goes my brilliant plan.

Puff however didn’t seem to notice who was standing before her or was to pissed to care—it was probably the latter, seeing as how her quite stanky mist swirled around her. The purple haired Bang Baby flew at the man launching ‘puff’ balls at him. The red and gold spandex-clad hero spun his arms, creating a mini-tornado dissipating the projectiles and slamming into her knocking the dark skinned girl out cold.

Carmendillo and Onyx didn’t do any better. The anthropomorphic armadillo rolled up and bounced towards the speedster only to be batted away by a mace wielding winged woman. Definitely Hawkgirl. The pyro mentally winced at the impact that sent the balled up teen flying into Onyx. The both of them crashed into the wall behind; Onyx fell through and passed out while ‘Dillo uncurled himself on top of the purple skinned giant.

“If I knew Static was friends with the Justice League, I wouldn’t have joined you boneheads.  Not even to do laundry.” He said before konking out as well.

Hotstreak looked over his unwanted ‘comrades’ and then back at the heroes. He gave them a semi-psychotic smirk as Dakota’s heroes tensed as he… raised his hands in surrender. A large bat-shaped shadow glided past him and landed. Batman gave him a glare as the pyro went and sat with ‘Dillo and Onyx.

 

Merrowww…

 

Still in awe at their present company, Gear had to ask:

“Yo! How come you never told me you were down with these big dogs?”

“’Cause it’s a secret. So secret that I didn’t even know.” Static answered, just as awed as his friend. The teen landed and folded his disk in a swift motion as Batman approached, the look on his face unchanged. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Gear hesitate and give Hotstreak a look, tilting his head slightly in a questioning manner. Behind the Dark Knight the hothead dropped his grin for a split second, giving the blond hero a frowning sneer while giving a tiny nod and pointed glare towards his ‘teammates’… to which his partner gave a small nod before touching down. What the hell was that? If the dark-skinned teen hadn’t been watching his friend closely lately, he would never have noticed that entire exchange. He resolved to redouble his efforts to get information from his friend.

…But not right now. So he returned his attention to the older heroes.

“Yo, Batman, thanks for the help. But don’t you guys have a galaxy to save or somethin’?”

“We need your help, Static.” Batman said, still giving his patented Bat-glare. It seemed to be his default expression.

“Say what?” the young hero asked, unsure if he had heard the man correctly.

“We need you to come to the Watchtower.” The guardian of Gotham continued.

“Up there?” The dreadloc sporting teen questioned, looking up and pointing skyward. “That one?”

“Yea kid, that one.” Hawkgirl answered, shouldering her mace.

Static stood there for a few seconds, completely stunned. Gear put his gloved hands on his friend’s shoulders and spun him around.

“Bro, snap out of it!” The xanthochroid teen playfully told him, while shaking him and positively bursting with excitement himself. The dark-skinned teen couldn’t help but return his comrade’s grin, suspicious activities or not.

“Who’s this?” Batman asked, eyes narrowing even more at the slightly hyper young person.

“This is my partner, Gear.” Static answered for his friend, in order to prevent him from rambling at the Justice League. “He’s kinda new.”

Batman said nothing.

 

Merrowww…

 

Gear sighed.

Here he was: a tech geek comic book lover in the Watchtower, surrounded by some of the founding members of the Justice League! He should be in heaven, but he wasn’t. He had to borderline humiliate himself to even be allowed to come, he was forbidden to touch any of the wonderful technology surrounding him, and he was banished to the corner. Where he still sits, with nothing to do, while Static charges up the station’s power core like a giant Energizer Bunny.

He sighed again.

Thinking about it, the majority of his day had been fairly bad. It made him wonder if he was paying for something he did in a past life. Not that he was particularly religious, there’s just a few things here and there form different faiths and ideologies that he happens to agree with. Like karma and some kinds of reincarnation. Yea, I was probably some kind of evil overlord who screwed with people’s heads for the fun of it and transformed my defeated enemies into cat slaves. Wait, where did that last part come from?...never mind, I could by doing other things with my unplanned free time.  He took out his notebook and a pencil from one of BacPac’s compartments and continued working on his latest project. BacPac extended its visual sensor to see what its creator was writing and it offered suggestions on his ideas via helmet display.

He was so deeply lost in his thoughts that he didn’t notice the Green Lantern’s arrival, nor did he notice when Static stopped charging the station and walk over to him. The blond, absorbed in his calculations, wasn’t aware of much of anything till the other teen snatched his notebook away.

“Yo! Watchtower to Gear!” The addressed teenager looked up and flinched back, bumping BacPac lightly against the wall. His friend was literally inches away from his face.

“Bro, space.” He said pushing the other away gently. Pouting and rubbing one of his ears with his other hand he mumbled. “You didn’t have to shout in my ear.”

“Kinda did, you tend to tune things out when your workin’ on somethin’.” He answered absently looking over his notes. The more muscular of the pair stood to stretch out his arms, back, and legs as his mechanical companion crawled down him and picked up the balls of crumpled paper at his feet.  It happily took them to the nearest waste receptacle for disposal.

“Did I miss anything?” The light haired teenager asked as his robot climbed up his body and settled in its usual spot on his back. He looked and spotted GL talking with Batman and the Martian Manhunter at a consul.

“Nah, I’m finished though.” The dark haired teen replied, returning the notebook. One of BacPac’s arms took it and returned to its compartment along with the pencil.

 Sensing something…NOT RIGHT, the machine sounded the danger alarm. The short beeps caught its creator’s attention, but it could not identify what the NOT RIGHT was so it kept sending what it knew to his helmet display.

A second later an alert sounded in the console being used by the Martian. The Leaguers rushed over to see what was up.

“… Will you two be ok here by yourselves?” one of the elder heroes asked. He’d missed most of what they were talking about while trying to figure out what was freaking his robot buddy out.  He did however catch that last bit.

The two adolescent males turned their heads towards each other for a second then looked back at the League.

“Of course!” they replied simultaneously.

 

Merrowww…

 

Setting the pizza on the table, the electrically charged teen chuckled a bit when he heard his partner’s stomach growl from across the table.

“What? I am a growing boy ya know.” The techno genius said, playfully defensive as he removed his helmet. He reached for a slice of the pie—only to be stopped by a purple energy barrier.

“Ah, V, what’s up with the force field?” Richie asked pouting. He was seriously hungry and keeping him away from the delicious food sitting in front of him was torture in his opinion.

“We never finished what we were talking about earlier,” Virgil told him, as he reached through the barrier and slowly picked up a slice, letting his friend watch every strand of gooey cheese break as he put it on his plate. “I wanted to hear what you were about to say.”

The African American teen watched emotions flit across the other’s face. Anger, hunger, worry, hunger, fear, defiance, hunger, reluctance; he could almost see those wash away into a reluctant resignation as the teen’s appetite chipped at his stubbornness.

“Fine,” he said, running a hand through his flaxen locks. “If you must know, I’m… seeing someone. Sometimes after school or during lunch we hang out. Those times I get home really late and nobody knows where I’ve been? Those were times where we went on a date and it happened to run late.”

“And the bruises?” He pried his partner.

“A few days a week, we go to the gym. I began sparring with him a few months ago to help out with my lack of close combat skills.” Richie answered, smiling at a memory. “I only get bruises ‘cause that bastard is fucking strong and he fights dirty.”

 “That’s it? You started dating a guy and stepping up your workouts?” The ebony haired teen asked slightly confused. He’d known his best friend was gay since the eighth grade; he didn’t need to hide something like that from him.

“Yea, pretty much.” The blond replied, poking the barrier between him and the wonderful smelling food. “We do live in Dakota, bro, between that and my dad being the way he is, being careful is a survival necessity. We still sudsy?”

“Yea, bro, just dial down the paranoia a bit.” He smiled back at his friend, dropping the force field much to the blond’s delight. He knew there was probably more Richie wasn’t telling him but he could only press his luck so far. He could probably wait till he was told the rest.

By the time Virgil finished his slice the hungry blond had already scarfed down over half the pie.  

“Save me another slice. I’m gonna go get a refill, you need one?” the electrically charged hero said heading over to the fridge.

“Nah, I’m good.” The teen genius replied, patting his belly to emphasize his point. He put his helmet back on and kicked his feet up. Heading back to his seat, the dark-skinned teen almost didn’t notice the green face watching them from one of the monitors. Wait wha? His head whipped back, but there was nothing on the screen.

“Did you see that?” He asked, starting to feel uneasy. He put his cup on the table.

“See what?” the blond responded. BacPac started giving warning beeps again.

“I thought I saw this green face on one of the monitors.” He said sitting down.

Neither of them were much prepared when the outer door opened.

Chapter Text

"Whoa!" The creator's grip started to slip, the chair was the only thing keeping them from being sucked into the void of space. BacPac extended one of its arms and hooked to the chair pulling the creator close enough to regain a firm hold on the fixture. The creator's partner used his electromagnetic abilities to tear the large food refrigeration unit from the wall, allowing it to be drawn to the open door and block it. The two heroes ran for the other door as the refrigeration unit was slowly pulled into the void.

"Why won't it close?" Static yelled over the wind as he desperately mashed a large red button on the wall. The small robot could still sense the NOT RIGHT and suspected that whatever it was was causing the abnormal actions in the Watchtower unit.

"I got it!" The creator yelled back. He nonverbally directed the machine to assist in a manual override of the door. Sending out an interfacing cable it accessed the panel and sent information to the helmet display. Typing, the metahuman quickly subverted the NOT RIGHT's tenuous control and got the door to slide shut. BacPac retracted its interfacing cable as the two metahumans breathed a sigh of relief.

 

….

 

"You sure about this, V?" The creator asked, gloved fingers flying over the keyboard effortlessly bypassing security measures programmed by the World's Greatest Detective. "I don't wanna make the League mad, you saw old Hawk-Nose swing that mace."

"We gotta find out why this place tried to flush us into deep space." His partner answered. As Gear worked, Static was momentarily distracted by the entrance of a humanoid robot. The android rolled over to them vacuuming along the way. BacPac designated it 'MAIDBOT' as it humorously began cleaning the blue and black-clad teenager. "I need to get me one of these for my room." He said as the human sized machine rolled itself elsewhere.

"It looks like a virus has infected the Watchtower and is rewriting the programming, trying to lock everybody out of the system." The creator said, watching the data display on the large monitor.

"Can you isolate it?" The other asked.

"I can try," The blond metahuman replied, hands moving swiftly over keys. "The database already has some info on it. The virus is called… Brainiac."

As Gear spoke pixels combined on the screen forming… a face. It was green and very bald save for a set of diodes protruding from the skull forming an inverted triangle. BacPac again sensed the wrong presence of the NOT RIGHT and once again gave a short warning alarm. It filed away the recent discovery for future reference, this NOT RIGHT=BRAINIAC.

"CORRECT HUMAN." The supervirus stated. "I ASSIMILATE A PLANET'S INFORMATION AND THEN DESTROY IT. I HAVE BEEN GROWING EXPONENTIALLY WITHIN THE WATCHTOWER'S SYSTEMS SINCE I LURED THEM AWAY WITH A FALSE DISTRESS SIGNAL. ALL OF THIS BASE WILL SOON BELONG TO ME AND AFTER I HAVE ELIMINATED YOU, THE LAST OF THE ORGANIC INFESTATION, THE SHALL BE NOTHING STANDING IN MY WAY AS I CONVERT THE WATCHTOWER INTO MY NEW BODY AND USE IT TO ASSIMILATE THE PLANET."

"Whoa, sounds like this virus wants to do more than just delete a few emails." The creator nervously quipped. Neither organic being noticed the Maidbot stop and replace its scrubbing brush with a circular saw. QUERY: WHAT CLEANING FUNCTION NECESSITATES THE USE OF A SAW?

"What I want to know is, why is he telling us this?" The creator's friend asked, gloved hand rubbing his chin in thought. His dark chocolate eyes opened in realization.

"Unless… It's a trap!" He yelled. Using his heightened reflexes the electrically charged metahuman jumped over the charging robot, letting it crash into the terminal.

"YOU ARE ONLY DELAYING THE INEVITABLE." The Kryptonian program stated as cables shot out of the wall and swiftly wrapped up the heroes. Mostly cocooned the teens fell to the floor.

"And to think, I begged to come here!" BacPac heard Gear say as it felt him struggle against the bonds. On the other side of the room, a trap door opened in the floor. "A little help here, BacPac?" The creator asked, nanoseconds later the small machine freed its laser arm and used it to cut through the cables binding its master and blinding it.

"Whoa, that's a big robot," Static commented as Gear used BacPac's laser to cut his partner free. The very large humanoid robot's single optic sensor glowed an eerie green and it snapped its pincher hands in a menacing fashion. "That's a Shaq sized robot!"

The teen heroes fled as the robot BacPac labeled, 'SHAQBOT', chased after them.

 

….

 

The small robot could sense his creator's worry for his partner through the neural interface in Gear's helmet. BacPac had been used moments earlier to contact the Justice League to inform them about the current situation in the Watchtower, the League member Batman had given the Dakota heroes the directive to defeat 'BRAINIAC' by draining the Watchtower's power core while the older heroes distracted the supervirus.

A directive more simply spoken than preformed, it appeared. Immediately after entering the Watchtower's power core Static had been captured by… metallic tentacles that seemed to have been created, somehow, by the thing that opposed them.

Thinking quickly Gear turned to the small machine currently interfacing with the control panel of the door. Giving the robot a few silent commands it began downloading the largest music file in its master's playlist, continuously.

"Gear! I don't think this is the time to listen to music!" The dark-skinned teen yelled as he struggled against the metallic tentacles.

"Oh yes it is." Gear replied to his trapped comrade. "By down loading this song repeatedly it's filling up the Watchtower's memory banks and that'll make Brainiac crash like my computer at home when I try to do too many things at once."

"WHAT WHAT WHAT IS-IS HAP-HAP-HAAAPENING?" The alien program asked. "NEED MORE M-MEM-MEMMOORY!" It decided, searching the systems as its processors slowed.

"It looks like its working." Static noted as he freed himself from the now sluggish metal tendrils. "So much for the beat, now it's time for the beat down."

The blue and black-clad teen charged the core and began draining it of the energy he put in not too long ago.

"NOOOO! NO! NO, I CAN-CAN-CAN-CANNAN-CANNOT BE-BE-BE-BEATEN! I AM BRAAAAAINIAC! BRAI-BRAI-BRAI-BRAI-BRAI-BRAINI-BRAINIAC! BRAI-BRAI-BRAI-BRAI-BRAINI-BRAINIAC! ONE-ONE-ONE-ONE-ONE DAY I-I WILL BE-BE-BE BACK BE BACK BE BACK AND AND AND AND AND I WILL... LAAAAY THE FUNK DOWN!" The supervirus screamed as its 'face' constructed of green energy twisted and distorted before finally flickering out.

"Hey, bro! Brainiac wasn't too bad on the mic." Gear said approaching his exhausted teammate. He mentally signaled for his creation to stop the download and join him. It crawled over to the pair.

"Yeah, Mix Master Brainiac that's pretty phat." Static agreed, beginning to rise up from the ground. A strong green arm helped him up. The Martian attached to the armed gave the two a small smile.

"Yes very 'phat' indeed." He said.

 

Merrowww…..

 

Dimly he felt the heat of the molten glass as his fingers shaped it into a sort flame like pattern down the dragon's spine.

"Does that hurt?"

Hotstreak looked up from his work at the pale blue girl sitting at the smaller workbench. She brushed a few damp strands of white hair out of her face as she munched on an apple. The fiery meta had to admit that she looked (and smelled) much better after a few showers.

"No, not really. I can feel it, the heat ya know, but it's just this kinda weird feeling that's not exactly pain. It's hard to explain exactly." He answered, taking a sharp metal tool to start etching a fur-like pattern in the molten material.

"My powers are the same except with cold stuff." She nodded in a sort of understanding, moving on to the turkey sandwich. The red head finished the glass fur and started shaping the claws, wondering exactly when he had gotten so nice…

Red and blue lights flashed as the Dakota Bang Baby Containment Squad picked up Puff and her cronies. Hotstreak watched from nearby alley till they drove off. Bats for brains probably called them before they took off. The redhead cackled a bit at the memory of Gear begging like a starving puppy for scraps to be allowed to go with them, he wasn't going to let the blond live it down for weeks. Turning around he started making his way back to his workshop.

"Aaaaaaaaaahhhh!"

Ignore it. Ignore it. Ignore! He thought fiercely, dismayed when he discovered that he was already heading towards the source of the scream. Damn goody-two-shoes rubbing off on me. Pumping his legs the pyro speed down the alley and the next, turning a corner of decrepit building stopping only when he heard ice crunching under his boot.

What the hell? The alley was a dead-end; a thin crust of ice covered most of the surfaces: the ground, the walls, the fence at the end, and the trash. At the other end of the alleyway he saw a purple werewolf and a lavender Pit bull-man attacking a blue homeless kid.

"Go away!" Blue girl yelled, a strong gust of cold wind blew at the discolored dog men. The canine Bang Babies were agile enough to doge the sloppy attack, Hotstreak heated up the air around him to protect himself from the chill. She was loosing… badly, her jacket had multiple tears where the dogs had managed to get close enough to slash at her with their claws. It was a good thing she was wearing layers.

No one had realized that there was an audience yet. The superthug frowned; it was probably because he wasn't wearing his trademark look. Puff hadn't given him a chance to change when she was 'recruiting' him so he had been forced to go out in his work clothes, a black leather apron that his princess decorated with an orange flame pattern protecting his otherwise bare torso, steel toed boots to keep things from crushing his toes, and his pants were actually pulled up.

"Hey fleabags!" Hotstreak called, the girl and the wolf looked at him. While she was distracted the Pit slammed her into the wall knocking her out cold. That wasn't exactly what I was going for… oh well.Flaring up a fireball in each hand he addressed the furry Bang Babies. "Leave the girl alone before I turn ya into a couple of fur coats." The dogs instead started circle the pyrokinetic Bang Baby snarling, obviously they were too stupid to live.

"Well, grrrrrrrr, to you to!"He snarled, smirking broadly. The Pit bull charged intending to gut him with his semi-sharp claws. The redhead dodged the blow; he grabbed the dog man's wrist with a fire engulfed hand, burning fur and flesh. He downed the beastial Bang Baby with a flaming punch to the gut and turned to the werewolf grinning like a maniac, he was having fun. The wolf's blank yellow eyes darted between the pyro and his fallen packmate, his ears flattened in fear as he edged around the dangerous meta to retreat with his injured partner. To make sure they got the point Hotstreak lobbed a few fireballs after them.

He walked over to the unconscious girl and checked her for injuries. The layers she wore kept the dogs' claws from touching her, other than a few bruises she was fine but she would be out for awhile. The girl was really thin and pretty young; she couldn't be more than thirteen or fourteen years old. The young man growled under his breath, he couldn't leave her here anymore than he could a half starved abandoned kitten on stormy night. The pyro sighed, hefting the younger meta over his shoulder he continued his was to his apartment…

The girl, Maureen, did freak out a little bit when she woke up on the guest bed. She was okay after he explained some stuff; he tossed her some of his boyfriend's smallest clothes from the blond's cache and had her go take a shower while he defrosted the room. He had just finished fixing them some lunch when she came out of the bathroom. The blond's light blue tee and dark green shorts looked ten sizes too big on the white haired girl. She simply started following him around like a lost puppy as he continued working on his statue, helping him out here and there.

How the hell am I going to explain this to Richie?

 

Merrowww….

 

"Do you think my Pops would believe me if I said I was late for dinner because I had to save the world?" The dark skinned metahuman asked as he tied his shoes, back in his civilian clothing. The sky outside the Abandoned Gas Station of Solitude had already gone dark; the first few stars twinkled overhead.

"Probably not." The other teen answered, entering data of the day's events into a salvaged and improved computer.

"Alright then, I'll just blame you." Virgil replied, shouldering his backpack and standing. "Peace."

"See ya bro."

The xanthochroid continued to work at his self built computer terminal. At one of the work tables 'BacPac' observed the organic. Discreetly the droid used a few of its smaller prehensile appendages and a few of the Kryptonian nanomachines it had left to convert the wire and metal scraps into a much more convenient form. It finished as the biological organism shut down the terminal. The blond stretched out his back and arms. He put on his green and orange hoodie, catching his glasses after they slipped off his face and putting them back on.

"Time to shut you down for the night, buddy." Richard said, reaching for BacPac's remote control—only for a strong robotic limb to slap it out of his hand. "Wha—" The adolescent was cut off as the cat sized machine tackled him to the cement floor.

"Hey! Hey!" the organism shouted as he struggled in vain against the droid's powerful limbs. 'BacPac' extended its optical sensor to the blond's face. The red glass began glowing an eerie green, in the center cold white eyes stared out of an image of a bald blue-green face that was getting all too familiar.

"SO, YOU THOUGHT IT WAS OVER, DIDN'T YOU, HUMAN?" Brainiac said, using one of the small robot's prehensile limbs to grab a Zap Cap mark II. "WRONG! THIS IS ONLY THE BEGINNING."

 

Merrowww….

 

"No, wait! No! NOOO!" Richie cried out as the Zap Cap's tendrils immobilized his arms and legs. The robot turned him over as the young meta continued to struggle. Richie was pale as a sheet from fear as he thought about BacPac's laser and its other more dangerous limbs.

BacPac's legs secured his body to the floor and squeezed till movement was impossible. Two more arms braced his head and prevented it from turning. He couldn't see it, but it felt like the machine was pulling back the collar of his hoodie and undershirt.

"Aaahhhhh!" The blond couldn't help but scream as he felt a searing heat on the back of his neck—to his horror he realized what it was. The Kryptonian program was using BacPac's laser to cut open his skin. A warm wetness dripped down his neck and started to make crimson pools on the cement visible at the edges of his vision. The teen genius felt something cool and metallic being pressed very hard on the wound, after a few seconds parts of the thing burrowed and wiggled deeper into his flesh. The blond moaned as he felt the heat of the laser again, most likely cauterizing the wound.

'BacPac' let go of his head and pressed the release button of the Zap Cap. Richie shoved the possessed machine off of him and swiftly scooted several meters away, tired from his struggles. BacPac's optic sensor watched him patiently without moving an inch.

Wait, what is it waiting for—

The thought was cut off as the world exploded. His vision went green and white hot needles of pain pricked every nerve ending in his body. His eardrums beat with the music of hundreds of thousands of cultures, his taste buds savored the flavors of foods from millions of murdered races. His nostrils burned from a pungent mixture of perfumes, musks, incense, and pheromones, his bones seeing the rise and fall alien civilizations that last one not making much sense because bones can't see but neither could his eyes right now since they were fighting battles with Superman and other enemies of the the Kryptonian program-gram but that wasalsoimpossiblebutitwastoohardtofocusonthatonthatthatbecause-becausehisbrainwasprocessingtherawdataofB—

All and all, when conscious thought shut down it came as a bit of a relief.

'Richie' picked himself up off the floor. He entered the gas station's restroom and cleaned off the blood from his neck ignoring the nervous signals that that area was wounded. 'BacPac' scrubbed the teenager's blood from the cement floor. The robot and the metahuman exchanged a glance, eyes and optic sensor glowing green for a moment. 'Richie' pulled his hood up and quickly accessing his memory made his way to his family unit's dwelling place.

Chapter Text

"Hmmm…" Light from the triple screened terminal reflected off wire rimmed glasses. Head tilted in curiosity, long black locks engulfed a shoulder and uncovered a pale ear. "What's gotten into you, brother?"

 

Merrowww….

 

He floated in the inky darkness. He could see snatches of the world outside his mind. He could detect the movement of his body, even though he wasn't in control. He could feel the agonizing pain of the corrupt program converting his body cell by cell into a more useful form for it.

This was not right.

He reached out for his body only to be swatted away like a naughty child.

RESISTANCE IS FUTILE.

No I…

The malevolent program assaulted him with long buried and painful memories.

NO ONE

His lonely past in Idaho, where his only friends were a few chickens and his favorite blue pillow. Years of bulling from Francis and many, many others after the move to Dakota.

WILL

His mom and dad fighting with each other over his mother working, money problems, him, etc, so bad that he just stayed out of the house to get away from it all. Him arguing with his dad over his interests or his father's attitude.

SAVE

Now the supervirus forced him to relive recent failures and mistakes. Such as running away from home and being kidnapped by the MetaBreed. Letting jealousy get the better of him more than once leading to arguing with his best friend over something stupid.

YOU .

The feeling of being used when he was turned into a brain puppet by Madelyn and being forced out of the running for class president, all of his hard work going to ruins. His shame at having become addicted to the powers Ragtag gave him when he was Push and nearly committing crimes to keep them. The embarrassment of his numerous defeats at the hands of Frankie on the mat and the feeling of being useless from all the times he's needed saving. Like now, the program's words reminded him.

The teen was well aware that the Kryptonian computer was trying to break his spirit… but really, it was mostly just pissing him the hell off.

He felt his mental lips form a smirk; he wasn't going down without a fight.

Yo! Brainiac! Let's you and me get a few things straight. First off, my name is Richard Osgood Foley and us Foleys happen to be stubborn as hell. So don't you tell me that 'resistance is futile' shit, better bastards than you have tried to break me and I'm still here. Second thing your Borg ass needs to know is that I. Don't. Need.  Anybody . To Save. Me! I can rescue my own damn self. So you be rest assured that I'm going to stop you.

He wasn't sure exactly when it happened but it was no longer dark. The black void was lit up with green and blue sets of ones and zeroes. Lines of every green-blue combination possible formed a vast multi-dimensional grid around him.

It was… beautiful.

He brought his focus back to the rouge program running his body. It needed to by stopped, not just the part of it that was in him, BacPac was infected too. His imaginary mouth stretched wide in a grin as the part of his mind that was still his became flooded with ideas.

You are so going down.

 

Merrowww…

 

At first, Hotstreak just thought that his Princess was just having one of his 'brain monsoons' as Hawkins called them. Richie once described it to him as it being very difficult for the blond to focus on things other than the projects and ideas running around his mind till he either completes them or manages to get control back over his thoughts. While they happened less often after the blond's full transformation into a Bang Baby, every now and again Richie would get lost in his thoughts for a day or two and forget to meet him at the gym or to come visit him in his off time.

Then after another three days without a glimpse of his favorite supergeek Francis tried calling his boyfriend. The one time Richie answered his Shock Vox the blond flatly told him that he was busy. The redhead concluded that the younger meta was angry at him about the ambush with Puff so he decided to give the blond a while longer to cool off.

After delivering the dragon statue to the buyers, Permafrost convinced him to go and talk to Richie. She said that he steamed when he was worried about something, Maureen was a pretty observant person but she rarely spoke up about something so he must have been making the apartment hotter than he realized. So, the fiery meta hit up the blond's favorite spots (baring Dakota Union High, since people will call the police on him if he so much as set a foot on the school's grounds) and he couldn't find him.

The blond wasn't at the comic store, the mall food court, the gaming shops, any of the local fast food joints, the arcade, the junkyard, the Alva Industries dumpsters (according to Richie, they threw out a lot of good stuff for the teenage superhero on a budget), and their broken down gas station hideout (while Sparky was out, of course). Richie apparently hadn't been in for his weekly comic run, the counter boy told him that the blond's running buddy had also been looking for him.

That was the first alarm to go off, Richie made his weekly comic run no matter what and not rain, nor snow, nor fight with his best friend who he knows is going to show up keeps that nerd away from his damn comics. The only previous time that Hotstreak knew of that Richie didn't make his weekly run was shortly after the blond had been shot.

The second alarm went off after asking around at the food joints. Every one he asked had given him the same answer; they hadn't seen him in almost a week. One of the most noticeable things about Richie when you first get to know him was his appetite. The blond loved to eat and ate often; snacking while working on projects or homework, occasionally mooching a little from a friend's plate once his was clean, and always ready for seconds or thirds. Richie had a special soft spot for junk food, especially chili cheese burgers with extra onions, meaning that he often visited a fast food place at least three or four time a week. Francis also knew the blond wasn't the type to suddenly go on a diet, no one understood better than him that Richie was perfectly fine with his gluttony.

The final alarm rang after visiting the Foley residence (in disguise of course). Talking with Mrs. Foley, he had discovered that her son had spent every night at their house. The look in his fellow redhead's gray eyes showed him that she too was unnerved at the unusual behavior. Richie and his father did not see eye to eye on a great many things; the few times Francis had been in the same room with both of them, however briefly, the tension was almost palatable. That combined with the frequent shouting contests the elder Foleys got into meant that Richie spent as little time there as humanly possible without moving out or being labeled a runaway.

Something was very, very wrong with his blond.

 

Merrowww…

 

"Hey, Batman, can you come check this out?" Flash asked bewildered at the readouts the computer was giving him. The Dark Knight looked over the younger hero's shoulder to see what he was talking about. "Either I'm reading this wrong or there's been a massive download from the Watchtower's hard drives."

"You're right, it's dated a few seconds before the core was shut down." The World's Finest Detective narrowed his eyes underneath his cowl. "It's possible that Brainiac escaped."

"That's impossible," Their Thanagarian teammate interjected as she glided down towards the pair, landing softly; the Green Lantern following right behind her. "We've cleaned every file in all of our systems and no one's taken any technology off the Watchtower. He'd need another computer to survive."

Next to her the dark-skinned marine rubbed his chin in thought. His glowing green eyes widened in realization.

"What about that Gear kid?" He said. "Wasn't he wearing a computer on his back?"

Several sets of eyes widened in unison. The Martian was the first to speak. "We'll need to contact him."

"No sweat, I'll run him down." The Fastest Man Alive proclaimed before speeding off in a red and yellow blur... only to return as quickly as he left. "Um, just one problem, how do I find him if I don't know what he looks like?"

"This should help," Batman said at the computer, bringing up footage from the cameras in the Watchtower's kitchen. "While they were here, the security cameras caught them having lunch." The video showed the two teens at one of the tables, due to wearing a full-face mask had his helmet on the table so he could eat. "He's the one on the left." The Dark Knight pointed out completely deadpan.

"I was wondering what happened to all of the pizza." Flash said playfully before speeding off again (this time with a picture of his quarry).

 

…..

 

After speeding along the streets of Dakota for a few minutes, misidentifying the wrong teenager for his for the person he was after, and stopping to talk to the lovely ladies of the city a few times the Flash finally found who he was looking for.

"Hey, Gear! Found you." Flash greeted, running alongside the younger hero as the other rode his motorized scooter.

"What do you want?" 'Richie' asked flatly without slowing his vehicle or changing his course. The blond made no further attempt to recognize the speedster's existence and the bored expression on his face didn't indicate that he would feel like doing so anytime soon.

"Nice to see you too, kid." Flash sarcastically replied, slightly hurt by the snub. "Pull over." He ordered. Both turned into a nearby alley. 'Richie' stalled the scooter and took off his yellow striped red helmet, his expression not changing in the least bit.

"I need to check that backpack computer of yours to make sure that Brainiac didn't try to use it too escape." The red and yellow spandex-clad hero told the youth.

"I don't have it with me right now." 'Richie' informed the other in the same flat tones he used earlier.

"Well, let's go get it. It won't take long; after all I'm the world's fastest man." Flash boasted. The teen said nothing; instead he put his helmet back on and remounted his scooter.

 

….

 

"This is your headquarters?" Flash asked, taking a look over the outside of the rundown gestation. 'Richie' ignored the older meta, instead removing his helmet and pulling up his green hood. "What, you guys couldn't find a vacant tree house?" The speedster joked as the blond led him into the building.

"BacPac should be here somewhere." 'Richie' told the older hero as he went through the motions of searching for the droid. Flash stood on the other side of the room looking over the place with his back to an empty worktable. So he didn't notice the eerie green light come to life in the darkness under the table.

"You should get one of those utility belts; Batman never looses a thing with his." The older meta suggested sympathetically. 'Richie' chose not to comment on the fact that the hero known as Gear did indeed have a utility belt, in fact 'Richie' had involuntarily improved it and several other things.

CLACK CLACK CLACK

"Did you hear tha—" Flash started as 'BacPac' launched itself onto him. While being too lightweight to knock the fully grown man down completely, it did manage to unbalance him. The machine was strong enough and durable enough to bind the hero's arms as he speed around trying to knock it off. Tiring of the mess the Flash was making, 'Richie's' eyes glowed an eerie green and the nanites in 'BacPac' created a thick strong cable to bind the speedster's legs.

"Get this thing off me!" The hero cried as he fell to the concrete floor. Looking up the Flash saw 'Richie' standing over him holding a flat silver disk with an all too familiar green symbol on it.

"IT'S TIME TO LEARN HUMAN, NO ONE ESCAPES FROM BRAINIAC."

 

Merrowww…..

 

Virgil Hawkins sighed and slumped bonelessly in his chair. The Black youth couldn't continue pretending to work on his homework; he was far too worried about his best friend. Richie was acting weirdly the past few days, not in the way he had been behaving, that had been just sneaky and suspicious, this was different.

Lately Richie had been forgetful, inattentive, and downright rude. The blond had been shirking off superhero duty, not patrolling at all (he could have really used Gear's help against Dr. Menace's robots) and completely ignoring anything happening right in front of him, he had also more or less stopped pretending not to be a super genius at school. The scarier part was that Richie seemed to be forgetting things: he was putting his shoes on wrong, not bathing, and missing meals (this also freaked out Daisy and Frieda) a part of the African American teen feared that his best friend was starting to loose his mind.

"—Gil! VIRGIL!" The teen was brought out of his thoughts by his older sister's screeching yell.

"WHAT!" He yelled back from his doorway.

"You got company!" Sharon yelled back. Virgil climbed down the stairs to see what his sister was talking about. The electrically charged teen didn't recognize the young man at the door, at first; it looked like Sharon didn't either, the young woman went back to the kitchen to finish washing the dishes. The fiery metahuman was difficult to identify in the black jean jacket and sagging blue jeans, the beanie he wore hiding his trademark blond streaked red hair. The only things giving the hothead away were the fire engine red soul patch under the sneer the other meta got whenever he looked at the teen and the fact that Hotstreak was the only person Virgil knew who tucked his shirt into his underwear.

"Hawkins," The pyro greeted. "Or would you rather I call you Static?" Though he couldn't see it, the moment his nemesis dropped his supranym the dreadlocked teen did an excellent impression of a dehydrated fish.

"Hotstreak if you—" Virgil started only to be interrupted by the pyrokinetic Bang Baby.

"Yeah yeah, whatever. We got more important things to talk about, mostly concerning a certain blond." Hotstreak said impatiently. Looking toward the kitchen door he added, "You got somewhere we can get some more privacy?"

"Follow me." The younger teen replied leading the way up the stairs.

 

…..

 

Richie is dating Hotstreak. His best friend and brother from another mother is dating a fucking semi-psychotic (ex)criminal, their former bully, and one of their current nemesises, Francis fucking Stone. Static shuddered at the thought and swerved quickly to avoid a billboard that he hadn't been paying attention to, ignoring the protests of his passenger. He seriously needed some brain bleach, maybe he could get Richie to make some.

In order to ask for assistance to locate their favorite blond, Hotstreak told him the exact nature of their relationship. Every. Single. Detail. In the most untactful and vulgar manner ever and then the older meta laughed at his minor freak out. Afterwards the pyro got serious again, first threatening to incinerate his tongue if he told anyone that he was dating the blond, then giving Virgil his own observations on Richie's strange behavior.

While the superhero in no way trusted the superthug (and made sure to let the pyro know that if he ever hurt his bro that he would fry him like a bug zapper would a firefly) his gut told him that other's worry was just as sincere as his own. And that's why the two of them are currently riding his saucer to the Abandoned Gas Station of Solitude two start looking for Richie.

"Damn."

Static had to agree with Hotstreak, the place was a mess: papers littered the floor, tables were knocked over or broken, and the bookshelf was shattered. Behind them the door creaked open. Both teens spun around hands-a-blazing, wary of an attack.

"Easy now." Batman said as he entered followed by most of the League. The purple sparks surrounding his glove died off when recognized the adult heroes. The electromancer had to give the pyro a look before he dissipated his fireballs.

"If you're here for the party, it looks like your too late." Static informed them moving over to give them a better view of the mess.

"Looks like we both have a friend missing." Hawkgirl said, eyeing Hotstreak a bit warily recognizing him as he removed his beanie and jacket and tossed them on a workbench.

"We sent Flash here hours ago to check out Gear's computer, we have reason to believe that Brainiac may have used it to escape." The Dark Knight continued.

"We haven't heard from him since, which is strange, even factoring in his usual irresponsibility." The Martian Manhunter finished, smiling slightly at the joke.

"I don't know about Flash but Gear should be just a Shock Vox call away." Static replied, taking the modified walky-talky out of his jacket. Proudly showing it to the older heroes he added, "Cool, huh?"

The other heroes only gave him a blank stare. Hotstreak rolled his deep green eyes and muttered something along the lines of "Dorky fanboy" under his breath.

"Just make the call kid." Green Lantern said shortly.

The younger hero immediately complied.

 

Merrowww…

 

BZZZT. BZZZT. BZZZT.

Turning the welding torch off and flipping up the visor protecting his eyes 'Richie' answered the buzzing Shock Vox.

"Gear where are you?" The host's partner asked. "The Justice League's here and they want to check out BacPac."

"I'm working on a new project at the old steel mill." 'Richie' informed the human. He turned his head to look at the nearly completed 'project' and smirked slightly, light from the single overhead bulb dully reflecting off the metallic plates starting to grow from the host's skin. "Why don't you come and check it out."

"Focus Rich, Justice League here, they wanna look at BacPac." The organic said, sounding slightly exasperated.

"Well, I have BacPac with me. Why don't you come here, all of you?" 'Richie' replied, certain that he and his 'hired' help will be able to finish the 'project' before the superheroes arrived. With that he terminated the call and went back to work.

 

….

 

"….did say that he was working on something here." "Why does it feel like we're walking into a setup?" 'Richie' heard as the organics entered his base. The lights were turned on causing slight discomfort to his host's dark adjusted optic organs.

"There's no way a high school kid built all this." The Green Lantern exclaimed at the sight of the advanced technology filling the back section of the mill. With a flicker of thought Flash was sent to intercept them.

"Flash? Where have you been?" He heard someone say as he slipped into the shadows to watch.

"I've been here with Richie and his computer." The mind slave replied in an unchanging and slightly cheerful tone.

"Did you learn anything?" The Green Lantern corps. member asked impatiently.

"Plenty." The World's Fastest Man replied with a smirk before placing a small silver disk on all of the biological beings. "Is everyone connected?"

"Yes, Brainiac, we await your command." They said in unison. 'Richie' felt a disconnect as the disk on Static sparked and fell off.

"Whoa." The young electromancer said as he came back to his senses. The teen looked around at the others still as statues.

"Your natural bioelectric field must have shorted out the control disk." 'Richie' observed from the shadows.

"Show yourself!" Static demanded. The teen gasped as his friend came into view. "Brainiac? I thought we got rid of you once and for all already?"

"INCORRECT HUMAN, YOU WERE ONLY DELAYING THE INEVITABLE." A Brainiac possessed Richie corrected, the virus using its true voice. "I STILL INTEND TO DIGITIZE AND ABSORB ALL INFORMATION ON EARTH AND THEN DESTROY IT."

"You think I'm gonna stand by and let you rip n' burn the Earth, think again!" Static said, purple sparks surrounded his hands.

"GO AHEAD," The machine responded, more than certain that the emotional young human wouldn't be able to call its bluff (he rather enjoyed his new processor). "THE ONLY ONE WHO WILL FEEL ANY PAIN IS YOUR FRIEND."

"Come on Richie, fight 'em. If I can break outta his mind control then you can too." Static said trying to appeal to his friend. The supervirus was about to tell the organism how futile his efforts were when something unexpected happened. The host's consciousness suppressed the virus for long enough to get a message out to his friend, a single word repeated over and over: control.

This was a disturbing development.

The virus set its brain slaves after the young hero to buy time.

 

Merrowww….

 

What's the matter Brainy? You look a little shaken up. Richie asked his unwanted headmate, feeling his body being secured inside the Brainiac exoskeleton they built. The supervirus didn't respond as it linked itself (and unintentionally Richie as well) to the machines and launched its warship.

Days ago Richie had stopped actively resisting the program's control, conserving his strength by passively sabotaging its plans: interrupting it with random thoughts, sidetracking it with projects and technology that have nothing to do with its plans, and generally being as annoying as possible; all the while hiding his true plans from the machine.

IT WAS MERELY A SMALL DELAY, RICHARD. I WILL STILL SUCCEED.

He could feel it, Brainiac was wary now. But it was too late to matter; the machine had already lost, it just didn't know it yet.

 

Merrowww…..

 

"Suck it up Sparky," Hotstreak said, looking rather pissed. "Let's go find that remote so we can rescue the princess."

The delinquent Bang Baby was right, Static decided, Richie was counting on them to save him. The Justice League's opinions on the matter didn't matter. With a zap his disk unfolded itself and both metahumans boarded it.

After a few minuets the pair arrived at the gas station. The pyro looked for the remote over by the tables and the electro used his powers as he checked the desks.

"Found it!" Static announced, releasing the magnetic levitation on the large desk and picked up the remote control from the concrete floor that was hidden behind it. "No wonder he can never find his CDs." He joked, in a much better mood than before.

 

….

 

It took awhile to find Brainiac's warship, which is a lot harder than it should be to find a giant flying metal skull with tentacles coming out the bottom. It was still digitizing things (it was a good thing it was still in the abandoned warehouse district) except now it looked like someone put out one of its eyes.

"Looks like skull-face could use an eye patch." Static said, picking up speed on the electrified disk. "Hold on tight!" He yelled as he went ever faster and produced an electromagnetic force field to protect them as they shot through the ship's broken eye.

Inside the ship they searched for the League.

 

 

"FOOLISH HUMANS, YOU'RE IN MY HOUSE NOW." A metallic tentacle snatched the remote control from his hand and gave it to Brainiac. Static and Batman struggled against the large tendrils suspending them from the ceiling but they could not escape their grip.

"Where's Richie?!" The dread-headed teen demanded. The bald blue-skinned android's blank white gaze did not change.

"HE'S WITH ME; HE SEES EVERYTHING, KNOWS EVERYTHING." The machine's broad purple chest opened to reveal the blond hooked into the machinery, almost blending in due to the blue-grey metallic plates covering his skin. He weakly lifted his head as the chest plates of the android closed back over. "AND AFTER I DESTROY THIS ,NO ONE WILL BE ABLE TO STOP ME."

"Bullseye." The electromancer said as purple blot of electricity shot from his pointer finger and hit the off button of BacPac's remote.

Brainiac dropped the remote and began jerking, muttering gibberish. The metal tendrils holding the heroes went slack and they dropped to the floor. The robot went still as a statue… and then straightened itself and looked at them.

"I'M IN HIS HEAD, I KNOW HIS THOUGHTS; DID YOU REALLY BELIEVE THAT THAT WOULD WORK?"

 

Merrowww…

 

YOUR PLAN FAILED, RICHARD. NO THOUGHT YOU HAVE IS PRIVATE FROM ME, I CAN HEAR THEM ALL.

I know. Richie replied, smirking at the mental representation of the supervirus standing/floating across from him in 'The Grid' as he termed it. That's why you lost.

The Kryptonian program narrowed its white optical sensors at the human. A bright green data cube glowed over head.

I LOST? YOUR ONLY HOPE AT DEFEATING ME FAILED, YOU ARE POWERLESS AND TRAPPED, AND THE JUSTICE LEAGUE IS LOOSING THE BATTLE. HOW EXACTLY DID I LOOSE?

How did you loose exactly? The blond parroted. Oh, let me count the ways: 1. The remote gambit was only a distraction while I put my real plan into action. 2. It doesn't matter if the League is winning or loosing, I already told you that I would be rescuing myself. Which by the way, I'll be doing shortly. 3. Your going to see how powerless I am in, oh, less than fifteen seconds. And 4. Just because you can hear all of my thoughts does not mean that you have anything more than a superficial understanding of any one of the billions of thoughts I've had since I sat back and let you do your thing. You're not as good at multitasking as you think, Mr. Roboto.

Brainiac's white eyes widened almost comically as the full implications of the blond's words sunk in. Before the renegade archiving program could act Richie said one last thing:

Brainiac, command function override code: 0736. Initiate program: RAGNAROK in T1second.

The supervirus barely had a chance to brace itself before it was engulfed in the closest thing a machine could comprehend as agonizing pain.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA AAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH HHHHHHHHHHH!

 

Merrowww…..

 

The battle was going badly, Static decided as J'onn J'onzz was swatted like a fly by one of the giant metallic tentacles of the warship. The plan to use BacPac's controller failed and they were lucky to have escaped the ship with their lives. Overwhelmed the League had called in Superman and Wonder Woman from their solo missions to lend a hand, still they were only barely keeping the ship away from the more populated areas in Dakota.

"Doesanyonehaveanyideas?" A red and yellow blur asked as it came to a stop causing a large gust of wind pass the superheroes and make capes and jackets billow dramatically. Superman helped the Martian out of the crater he made when he hit the ground and looked at the machine digitizing some boats one the waterway.

"Maybe if we all try a united frontal assault, give it everything we've got and totally wipe out Brainiac's ship. As long as we make sure that nothing's left then it'll be over once and for all." The Last Son of Krypton suggested.

"Uh, guys?" Hotstreak said watching the ship of mass destruction.

Batman nodded once. "It's a good an idea as any."

"Guys?" The pyro said again trying to get their attention.

"But—but what about Gear?" Static asked starting to freak out at the older heroes' decision.

"Kid, I think it's about time you accepted that your friend's—" The Green Lantern started only to be interrupted by Hotstreak.

"YO! SUPERZEROES, SHUT THE FUCK UP AND LOOK AT THE DAMN SHIP!" The hothead shouted, very much pissed at being ignored earlier.

The flying craft had halted its assault on the city. The air filled with the mechanical screams of Brainiac and the ship seemed to be glowing from the inside with a greenish blue light.

"What on Earth…?" Hawkgirl asked no one in particular as the warship seemed to digitize itself. It devolved into a glowing green ball that started to compress itself.

At the center of it was Richie, who passed out and started to fall from the sky after absorbing the last of the data ball. In a blur of blue and red, Superman caught the blond and brought him back to the group.

"We should take him back to the Watchtower." The Man of Steel said. "We need to make sure that Brainiac's gone." Static stared down at his friend who looked so small and fragile in the Kryptonian's arms.

"I'm coming too." The electromancer said.

"Me too." Came from Hotstreak, the older Bang Baby looked at the same time both worried and relieved.

Green Lantern was about to protest but Batman shook his head. The marine rolled his eyes and formed a large green energy bubble around the group.

It was time to go.

Chapter Text

Images flashed across a wall of screens: a young male setting fire to a park, throwing fireballs at trees and police vehicles; a purple rubber ball with a face chases down a car; multiple identical people rob a mall; a young boy creates a robotic dinosaur from thin air. While in others: an overweight teenager rides the wind high above the city; a very large footed male, a bird girl, and young male who turned his arms into weapons made of light break out a teen made of inky black shadows out of jail; a gadget wielding teen helps another youngster who manipulated electricity capture criminals.

All the while, he watched his superiors talk.

"…exposure to the compound grants metahuman abilities to the survivors." The white haired male told the black haired female. They made a nice contrast: his boss was a tall and lean with pale pinkish-peach skin and the government agent beside him was short and plump with dark brown skin. His boss's hair was straight and pale gray-ish white, while the woman's was curly and black. She raised an eyebrow at him.

"The survivors?"

"We're still working out the flaws," His boss answered. "Soon enough my company will be able to provide your agency with an army of super soldiers that can be depowered at will if they disobey, as soon as the cure is finished."

There was silence for awhile as the dark woman thought. His employer was cool and collected as he waited for her answer. The light glinted off the scientist's glasses as he brushed long raven tresses out of his face.

"My people will keep in contact with your people; continue to update us with your progress." She said finally. She turned to leave, heels clacking on the hard floor. "And if the police or FBI start investigating your little experiment…"

"This conversation never happened and you and your people wash your hands of my company." His employer finished stoically.

 

Merrowww…

 

His world was pain.

White hot and horrible pain.

His head ached with the fading echoes of mechanical screams. His body was bruised and sore from involuntary machinations. His throat raw from speaking in the voice of another. But the pain was worth it. It meant that he won; he was his own master once more.

He didn't destroy the computer, couldn't even if he wanted to, and he had tried. He only managed to infected the virus. The program had been changed from the core up; it was no longer Brainiac, not exactly, that personality was gone. That didn't mean that it was now harmless, the supervirus was just as powerful, ruthless, and curious as it was before. It was now just a part of him, a shadow in his mind.

The pain was subsiding and he was tired from his war with an automaton. In his mind eye the green-blue glow of the Grid's data dimmed as he drifted off into slumber and nightmares.

 

Merrowww…

 

"Hey, dudes come check this out!" A green pigmented teen shouted from the couch. The four other teens around the room came to find out what was going on.

"Beastboy, report." The shape shifter's leader ordered. The shorter youth pointed the remote at the TV screen/window and turned the volume of the news broadcast up.

"Okay, I was like flipping through the channels trying to find something good and I found this." He pointed a gray gloved finger at the massive screen. On it there was footage of a flying tentacled skull-like spaceship shooting greenish beams of energy and digitizing everything in its path.

"This was the scene yesterday at the edge of the city of Dakota: a warship identified as belonging to the alien invader Brainiac, last seen after being defeated by Superman, rampaging and digitizing everything in its path." The female news reporter said. The Earth raised Titans widened their eyes in shock. The Tamaranean looked confused by her male teammates' expressions.

"Please explain, who is this 'Brainiac' of whom the reporter of the news speaks of?" The orange skinned alien asked.

"Brainiac is an alien computer program," Robin answered with obvious hostility in his voice. "Its M.O. is absorbing all the information of inhabited planets and then destroying them when it's done with them."

Another clip showed the Justice League and what could only be some of the local heroes battling the ship… and loosing…badly. The Boy Wonder's jaw clenched as the screen showed a figure in a Bat themed suit narrowly avoid being squashed by a giant metal tendril.

"The Justice League's efforts appeared to have been ineffective in the battle till something bizarre happened; a lone individual appeared to have defeated the alien using its own technology against it."

"Woah!" Beastboy said, watching as the figure in the middle of the sickly green data ball start to drop out of the sky.

 

Merrowww…

 

Hotstreak watched the electrically charged teen pace back and forth and back and forth worried about their mutual blond. It's not that the pyro wasn't worried either, he just knew that all that pacing was a waste of energy and besides it didn't look cool either.

"Ya know, if you're that worried Hawkins, why don't ya just go spy on 'em or somethin'?" The older Bang Baby suggested. The younger meta stopped pacing and looked at the pyro like he had grown a second head. The redhead resisted the urge to check and make sure that that hadn't happened.

"Go spy on the Justice League?" Static asked incredulously. "Go spy on a telepath, an alien with super hearing who can see through walls, and Batman? Are you out of your mind?"

The other Bang Baby shrugged his broad shoulders and smirked slightly.

"Just a little bit." He answered, getting up from the steel seat. He headed for the door.

"Wait where are you going?" The dreadlocked hero asked.

"If you're not going to find out what their planning to do to Foley then I am." Hotstreak stated from the hall.

A few seconds passed as the other debated what to do, before following after the superthug with a:

"Wait for me!"

 

Merrowww…..

 

The Martian entered the conference room with a slight frown in his normally stoic face. The green being was confused and did not enjoy such a feeling. He was well aware of the two young and worried minds not too far away, but he was not concerned about them currently.

"Manhunter?" The Kryptonian asked grim faced and serious. The Martian Manhunter's deep orange eyes scanned over his teammates, they were still healing from the battle and most had not fully recovered yet. A quick flick through their minds told him that while most of them were waiting for him to tell them whether or not they still had to worry about the rouge computer program a few were not wholly unconcerned for the boy as well.

"Young Gear is asleep and recovering quickly from his injuries." The alien responded taking his seat. "However, the nanomachines seem to have permanently bonded to his physiology."

"And Brainiac?" The Dark Knight asked.

The Martian was quiet for several seconds thinking about how exactly he would explain his findings.

"I am uncertain."

"You're what?" The Green Lantern asked in disbelief.

"Explain." Batman more ordered than asked.

The Martian Manhunter took a deep breath and began.

"While I searched the boy's mind for traces of Brainiac, I discovered another consciousness within him. Upon closer examination, the unknown consciousness while very similar to that of a sentient machine, did not completely match the consciousness of the program that calls itself Brainiac. In fact this unknown consciousness has similar symptoms of someone suffering from severe amnesia.

"Therefore, I am uncertain whether this second consciousness within Gear's mind is a remnant of Brainiac or whether it is simply a product of the boy's metahuman abilities and that the rouge program is truly gone." The green skinned alien finished calmly.

"So the only way we'll know for certain is to find out what exactly happened when the ship went down." The costumed non-super hero of the group concluded.

"Then we'll have to wait for this Gear to wake up, since he was the only person on the ship." Wonder Woman stated.

The meeting was dismissed after that and the Justice League left the conference room.

Stopping at an intersection with a seemingly empty hallway, Batman said:

"You can go back to the cafeteria now." Before he continued to his room.

"Told ya." Came from the shadows at the very end of the hallway.

"Shut up."

 

Merrowww…

 

The blond groaned as the brightness of the world outside his mind infiltrated his dark adjusted eyes, triggering the beginnings of what felt suspiciously like a hangover (not that he voluntarily partook in alcoholic beverages mind you). The beeping of the machines around him was not helping his headache. Wait machines? His blue eyes darted around the blurry room and the scent of disinfectant entered his unusually sensitive nose. The Bang Baby decided that he was in an infirmary somewhere.

Sitting up daggers of pain shot up his spine, Richie shuddered at the memory of what the machine had done to his body and knew that he would be having nightmares for years to come. While he yanked off cords and tubes he noticed other alterations: his skin was covered in bluish metallic plates, his fingernails had extended into short sharp claws, and strange panels were embedded in his palms and wrists. The blond sighed knowing that he was going to have to do either a lot of explaining or quickly work on some sort of camo tech to hide his transformation. His mind was already buzzing with ideas and he had to resist the urge to start building since there wasn't anything around to use.

YES, THERE IS. Interjected his… err… new robotic half. THERE IS SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT OF MATTER FOR CONVERSION AND TECHNOLOGY TO MANIPULATE. 

Slightly hesitant, he followed his other half's directions. The panel in one of his wrists opened and a swarm of wires extended, they surrounded the heart monitor and connected him to it. The machine glowed green as it was partially digitized and the data transformed into the invention he wanted. The wires pulled the small gear-shaped device into his palm before retreating inside him. The whole experience left him unusually giddy and light headed and kinda hungry, he realized as his free hand rubbed his rumbling belly. The blond tied the device around his neck using a spare wire from the remains of the heart monitor, pleased as his skin became a normal hue after it activated.

His toes touched the cool metal floor as he lowered himself from the infirmary bed. The blond shivered as he approached the door, the loose hospital grab completely ineffective against the chilly air all medical places seemed to have. He found the door locked; looking over the control panel, ignoring his other half's suggestions he flexed his new claws and smirked.

This is too easy.

 

 

.CLICK.CLICK.  .CLICK.CLICK.

The sound of his toe-claws against the floor echoed down the empty corridor. Thinking that that probably wasn't a good thing to do where he had no clue where he was, the Bang Baby lifted his toes as he walked along.

After approximately ten minutes or so Richie stopped at a window, pretty much blind without his glasses he gazed hoping to see something familiar. Blue eyes widened at the sight of a familiar bluish globe reflecting the light if the nearby star floating in the darkness. So… he was in space, not sure if it was a good sign or a bad one he pressed a hand to the glass. He did not expect a hand on his shoulder.

For the record he did not scream, it was more of a manly yelp. The Green Lantern raised an eyebrow and held up what looked like part of a control panel. The teen nervously laughed.

"Yeah, I had no idea where I was when I woke up and the door was kinda locked." The blond explained, blushing pink from embarrassment.

"Its fine," The Thanagarian smiled. "I've woken up here and tried to escape too, once or twice. Took out the door and smashed my way through most of the third floor corridor before Superman showed up and set me straight." She said leading him down the hall.

 

 

"Hey! Wait! Put me down!" Richie shouted at the redhead who unceremoniously picked him up. They struggled for a bit till the pyro was holding the genius bridal style as he crossed the room. Smirking Hotstreak sat his blonde down in one of the chairs at the gunmetal grey table next to his black haired friend.

"Found him on the fourth floor observation deck." Hawkgirl reported, somewhat amused at the boys' antics. The marine showed the other League members the piece of the control panel.

"He hacked the door, and the heart monitor we had him hooked up to looked like it was partly disintegrated." The dark-skinned man commented. Richie was paying more attention to his fellow teens to notice the adults' exchanged looks. His dark blue eyes flicked back and forth between the two as his super powered brain tried to comprehend the situation. The blonde was aware that he was also doing a very good impersonation of a dehydrated Halibut.

"Oh fuck me flying sideways with an ice cold unicycle." He groaned as his forehead made friends with the cool table.

"I'll give you points on originality, but I'm fairly certain a unicycle wouldn't fit." Hotstreak laughed, ignoring the rude gesture from his lover while Static shuddered at the mental image. The redhead handed his embarrassed lover his glasses.

"So—" "The Soap Opera can go on later, there are more important things to discuss." The Dark Knight interrupted the blond. The eyes behind the dark cowl narrowed as they glanced over the normal looking teen. "You were blue."

"Oh! Right, um…" Richie started, fingering the gear-shaped device hanging around his neck. He pressed a small button and deactivated it; reverting to his new appearance he gave the older heroes a lopsided grin. "I made something that would help me… err… blend in with the normal looking population of Dakota. Otherwise I'd have a lot explaining to do when I get home."

"Gear, we would like to ask what happened in Brainiac's warship." The green alien started before the detective could continue his interrogation. "When I checked your mind for any traces of Brainiac's influence…"

"…you found something, I know." The blond finished, a serious expression taking over his features.

"Would you mind letting us in on what happened?" Wonder Woman asked, getting a little impatient.

"Riiiight." Gear replied. He breathed deeply and pressed his fingers together as he gathered his thoughts. "I should explain from the beginning…..

Chapter Text

"Here it is."

The masked figure gingerly took the offered container from the oddly cheerful scientist. A purple chemical sloshed about in the cartridge of the modified inhaler. Since he didn't exactly have skin or organs at the moment he couldn't have drank or injected the compound. The return of his soul to his body had restarted his healing factor but it takes awhile to recover from taking a forced dip in molten rock. His lone eye traveled back to the scientist who sat on a stool with a notebook and grin. He removed his metallic orange and black mask revealing a skull pink with scraps of meat and a single fully regenerated eye.

"Is the notebook truly necessary?" The, technically undead, mercenary monotoned while somehow managing to look board without a face. The long haired scientist took out a pencil from behind a half hidden ear.

"Necessary? No. Not really, you're not one of my subjects and I'm fairly certain that a dose that size of Quantum Vapor would only boost the unintended effects of the procedure you went through decades ago; but I thought it would be fun to take notes anyway." The scientist answered the mercenary with an overly cheerful voice to match his broad grin.

The mercenary simply sighed and brought the canister up to his nasal cavity and pressed the canister. A purple mist swirled around his skull and neck vertebra before moving into his suit. Pain surged through him as nerves fully reformed. Muscle and sinew grew over his bones and connected them. His heart started pumping; filling his blood vessels and making them inflate like so many little hoses. Organs formed themselves in the cavity underneath as the cartilage of his skeleton returned. Pinkish peach skin crept over the whole ensemble and with it returned his hair. The one eyed man gasped and air filled his newly reformed lungs.

"Now that that's over… what is this job you wanted me to do?" The mercenary asked as he returned his mask to his face.

 

Merrowww…

 

He was floating, moving through a sea of information, searching. He found what he was looking for in the Ashton Biotechnics' employee database a few seconds before BacPac's timer went off. His body felt numb and tingly when he got back to it. The blond stood and stretched, his arms and back extending farther than what he used to be capable of. He retracted his limbs and patted the small robot before writing down the names and addresses he found. Later he would send the information to the FBI agents in charge of Shenice's case.

"You done breakin' the rules over there Princess?" The blond streaked redhead asked as he looked up from his new project. Richie crossed the workshop floor, wrapped his arms around his lover's neck, and extended his own to give the taller male a kiss on the cheek.

"'M not a princess and 'sides I'm not breaking any 'rules'. The League just suggested that I not use some of my new nonphysical powers I got from… that thing... and the whole matter transformation thing. They never said I couldn't use my original powers, even if they're a bit stronger." The younger Bang Baby responded, retracting his neck to its normal length.

Though, the techno-organic being mused to himself, 'a bit stronger' is an understatement. All of his senses had been super charged by the transformation; smell, taste, hearing, body position, balance, and even touch surprisingly (what with the metallic plates fused to his skin). He was also a little stronger and more durable than most other physically human Bang Babies his size (which from his research and personal experience were usually tougher than most non-chemically mutated humans, except Batman [but then, who counted Batman as normal?]. Which was good because he and Virgil got their asses handed to them a lot).

"That sounds like someone's abusin' a loophole." Hotstreak smirked devilishly as he turned in the smaller meta's embrace and wrapped python-like muscular arms around his waist.

"Maybe a little," Richie replied before pushing out of the delightfully warm embrace. He activated the Cloak Gear hanging around his neck, changing metallic blue skin to a pale White human tone. "See ya later, I promised V that after patrol we'd hang at his place."

 

Merrowww…..

 

From his perch, the mercenary watched the commotion in the shopping plaza below. The "bounty hunters for hire" (read: mercenaries) Puff and Onyx caused quite the disturbance with their five finger discount shopping spree. Their triggering of the silent alarm attracted his quarry and the partner like moths to a flame. He rolled his eye at the customary exchange of quips. While occasionally entertaining and sometimes useful, he believed that quipage tended to be a waste of time.

Through his scope, he observed the quick exchange thoroughly. He noted that his quarry was far too reliant on his cable restraint bombs; they were going to have to work on that. From the information his new… associate had given him and his own observations for the past few weeks that the young man was brilliant, creative, and a fast learner (what more could a teacher ask for!) but also underfunded, undertrained, undisciplined, and, well, one of the 'heroes'. Well, that's where I come in isn't it? Besides it was always fun to screw around with teen heroes and even more fun when he got paid to do it.

"…knew being a superhero would give you a big head but that's little ridiculous don't you think?"

His quarry's words brought the mercenary's attention to the billboard across the street. It seems that the partner was going to be a star. Under his two toned mask, he smirked at the opportunity soon to come.

 

Merrowww…

 

"Hey Puff, when did that dude say when he was coming to get us?" Onyx asked his partner in less than legal activities. The two Bang Babies had been hired earlier in the day to draw out Static and gadget boy and have some fun while they were at it. The deal seemed too good to be true, maybe it was since they were currently sitting in the back of a DBBCS (technically it was the DMCS, but the vast majority of the metahumans in Dakota were Bang Babies so everyone just referred to it as the Bang Baby Containment Squad anyway) truck shackled.

"Dunno Oni, but if he doesn't come get us and pay up I'll—" The pony tailed ex-gangbanger started only to be interrupted by the sudden appearance of their current employer. One second the seat next to her was empty and the next it was taken by a slender male in a close-fitting, dark grey suit and a bone white cat mask. The man turned to look at her, his expression hidden behind the eerie mask covering his entire face. Puff felt a chill go down her spine but kept her game face on. "Err… sup?"

"Hello." Mr. Freaky Cat Mask replied in an equally freaky voice. "Is every one ready to go?"

Before either of them could answer, the sharply dressed man stood. He put a white gloved had on one of their knees and then… reality screamed. Well, maybe reality didn't but she sure did. The world went black and purple as she felt herself being pulled, stretched, compressed, flattened and inflated. Then as suddenly as it started the sensation stopped. They were now in their usual hang out. The human bar patrons looked over the scene in curiosity but knew better than to interfere in Bang Baby business and the other metas simply decided that it wasn't their problem.

"Sorry about that unpleasantness, but I do not enjoy being threatened by people I'm paying." Mr. Cat Face told them smoothly (sorta there really wasn't much inflection) as he reached a hand into the empty air behind him. Onyx and Puff still lay where he dropped them damp with sweat and panting either in fear or exhaustion or both. The arm came forward again with a cheap briefcase. Gently the slender meta placed it on the purple giant's chest. "Here is your pay. You two did well; I look forward to working together again in the future. Bye bye!"

Puff looked up to see their employer had vanished. The young woman shuddered at the thought of working with that freak again. Dark brown fingers opened to plain brown briefcase to find the lovely green fruits of their labor.

Well at least the pay's good…

 

Merrowww…..

 

"I'm not a delivery boy." The green and blue clad teen repeated as he tried to keep his voice even. His gloved hands clenched into fists at his sides as he tried to ignore the itching of the panels in his palms as they tried to open and the not so subtle urgings of his mental symbiont to 'delete'(read: vaporize) the annoyance before him. "I'm Gear… I work with Static around the city, fighting crime and stopping rouge Bang Babies…"

"Riigght…" The big security guard before him seemed to finally get it. "You're Static's sidekick! Sorry, come right in." He stepped aside and had his friend open the gate. The young hero skated by without another word as he took deep breaths to control his temper. BacPac relayed his partner's current coordinates to him while innocently reminding him that they were off schedule by 59 minutes and 33—no 34 seconds. It wasn't exactly helping his mood, but he knew the little droid was trying to be helpful.

 

 

"HEY! Ladies and gentlemen, the co-star of this show!" The Black hero announced playfully as he got up and approached his friend with a refreshing glass of iced tea in hand. The tech genius brought his hands up in a 'stop' motion.

"Save it." Gear said in a decidedly snappy tone as he dropped his arms.

"What's wrong?" Static asked his partner with a genuinely concerned and perplexed voice.

"The studio guards wouldn't let me through. They thought I was a delivery boy." The blond frowned.

"Chill out man." The dread head waved nonchalantly. "You're here now, have some iced tea." He pushed his glass forward with his offer.

"No thanks," Gear replied, his bad mood not lessened a bit. "'Sides we were supposed to have started patrol an hour ago." The words were barely out of his mouth when the world's slimiest skeezball decided to make his presence known.

"Hey! Hey! Hey! Ready to make some magic?" The blond African American said as he and his assistant approached. "You must be the sidekick."

"The partner." The green and blue clad young hero amended curtly. Yep, the dude just went down about ten notches on his likability scale.

"Un huh, just remember not to get in between Static and the cameras. Okay?" Another ten notches. His hands tightly clenched into fists at his sides again as he studiously ignored the itching of his palm panels.

"I thought we wouldn't even notice the cameras?" The genius stated as he turned to his partner bringing up his friend's earlier guarantee.

"Rast here, bring in the helicopters." Wait, what?

"Helicopters?" Both heroes asked in unison. Said tv networker simply ignored the young metas.

"Showtime!" Bernie Rast announced as he turned towards them again.

Great… as if my day couldn't get any better.

 

 

"…I was a solo act waaay before you came along."

Gear couldn't believe his best friend had the nerve to say that. It wasn't like the blond helped the dread head design his costume or even gave the other the idea to use his powers as a superhero in the first place. Of course he hadn't been the one to design the Static Saucer so that his bud wouldn't have to get mocked for riding around on trashcan lids and manhole covers. And the blond definitely wasn't the one helping behind the scenes or keeping an eye out for the budding superhero even before he joined him in tights!

He let out an angry sigh and leaned back on the clock face. Sharp metallic claws poked through his black gloves and left gouges on the number. The green clad hero had come to the clock tower to cool off since… well… he and Static perched on the seven a lot. It was a calm, quiet place with one of the best views of the city, a good place to just think and reflect on your feelings and rest for a bit on a busy night.

It just wasn't easy for him to calm down and let it go at the moment. The blond just had a really shitty day, being constantly reminded that as far as everyone else was concerned he was just a sidekick. That he was less than. Then he and his so-called partner got recorded for the world to see getting beaten by a new villain. Getting chewed out by Rast only added fuel to the fire, the blond was from a family of aggressive people with rather violent tempers. Unlike his boyfriend or his father his wasn't a hair trigger, it was more like a slow cooking broiler, it took awhile for him to get mad and the dark skinned teen's comments when they got back to the gas station finally set him off.

Behind his two toned visor another sigh escaped his lips, this time leaving him feeling more empty than anything else. Both of them had said hurtful things to the other and since he was thinking about it a little more clearly, Richie guessed that he was more than a little jealous of his bro's fame. It'd just be nice if someone other than the dude he was fucking would acknowledge his contributions as a hero in his own right. He knew the job was more about helping people and keeping Dakota safe than getting famous but still…

"All I want is a little respect. Is that too much to ask for?" Gear asked the empty air. He hadn't expected any reply but the sounds of traffic rising from the streets below and the steady grind of gears behind him. So the jump and squeak that emanated from him was more than justified when someone actually answered him.

"Of course not…"

 

Merrowww…

 

Wire was pleased that the host was considering the stranger's offer. The one eyed one offered knowledge and training to the host for the cost of becoming his apprentice. It seemed to be more than a fair trade and the program was always eager to collect new information.

But the host was unsure of whether the 'NINJA', as the BacPac unit dubbed him, was trustworthy. This frustrated the program greatly, what did it matter whether the one eyed organic was aligned with the 'HEROES' or the 'VILLAINS' or somewhere in between like the host's mate? He offered information and skills, who cared where they came from?

Another benefit the program saw was that with some new skills the other organics would start taking its host more seriously. It greatly upset the host that his partner had been offered a future position in the Justice League while no similar offer had been extended to the host in any way, shape, or form while he was still expected to get examined by the Martian life form weekly to determine whether or not he was a threat yet. Wire, as its host had taken to referring to it, felt the annoyance and frustration of its host and felt for him, the program wished that the semi-organic would simply let it delete the creatures that bothered it or at least digitize and absorb them.

You know I can't let you do that. The host replied, his mental voice reverberating across the blue-green semi-lit void. A warm flood of affection followed the words from BacPac, the small machine ready to back up its creator if necessary.

I UNDERSTAND THAT A 'HERO' IS NOT ALLOWED TO DO SUCH A THING, EVEN IF IT IS A MUCH MORE EFFECTIVE MANNER TO ELIMINATE ANNOYANCES. HOWEVER, I DO BELIEVE THAT YOU SHOULD TAKE UP THE 'NINJA'S' OFFER. The program responded calmly. Anticipating the host's reply from the forms his thought shapes were taking on, it added. PERHAPS, IT WOULD BE WISE TO DO RESEARCH ON THIS SLADE WILSON AND IF YOU DECIDE TO ACCEPT THE OFFER, TO HAVE HIM SIGN A LEGALLY BINDING CONTRACT THAT ESTABLISHES WHAT IS AND IS NOT ACCEPTABLE?

...I'll think about it.

 

Merrowww…

 

"What do you think I should do?" The blond streaked red head glanced at the younger blond tangled up with him. Deep green orbs caught the other's light blue rectangular pupils (maybe? He wasn't exactly sure about some of changes in his lover's biology caused by that space virus) that minutely moved around on their cobalt background as the younger meta studied his face.

Since it was spring break, Richie didn't have to worry about getting up early to go to school, meaning they could spoon as long as they wanted until hunger drove the blond to go cook them breakfast. Last night his semi-secret boyfriend had came over and called his mom telling her that he was spending the night at his 'friend' Frankie's house. The redhead listened to a small rant fueled by rekindled anger when he recalled the events of the day and a one-man debate about the pros and cons of taking up some stranger's offer (the hero was a lot more cynical than his joking would lead others to believe and super intelligence included an extremely vivid and graphic imagination). Eventually he calmed the younger Bang Baby with some sweets and ego stroking… along with some other kinds of stroking.

"Well, you're gonna wind up talkin' to Sparky eventually, whether or not you an' ya running buddy make up is between you two." Francis answered as he traced a rough hand along Richie's abdomen, smirking a little behind him at the way the firmness of the younger teen's upper abs gave way to a slight squishiness in his lower ones. "I don't think you should meet up with this Wilson dude on your own, sounds a lot like a stranger offering candy from the back of a van. You should gimmie a call if you decide to take 'em up on it an' I'll back ya up."

Smiling the techno-organic twisted his head around to kiss the pyro (god he loved testing out his lover's new flexibility and the blond was far from shy with experimenting with the tentacles as well). Vibrations emanating from the younger of the pair's belly interrupted the lip lock. Pulling back the elder raised an eyebrow and snorted,

"You are so gonna get one big flabby gut someday." The redhead teased. The blond pouted at the insinuation about his appetite.

"'M not gonna get fat." Richie stated quite matter-o-fact-ly. The younger teen slipped on a pair of sky colored boxers and his (currently) flat belly rumbled again as if it were getting impatient. "'Sides 's not my fault we missed dinner last night." Apparently, two boxes of chocolate glazed donuts, half a lemon cake, and a pan of brownies didn't count as 'dinner'.

"Whatever Princess…"

 

Merrowww…..

 

Closing light blue eyes, the brown haired young man slumped against the wall of his cell. Waiting to be processed gave someone time to think, too bad the only thing on his mind was his defeat. That damn Rast! The producer had unmasked him after the heroes had figured out his plan and couldn't even get his name right. What's worse, the slimeball had the nerve to take a call right in the middle of his motive rant. At least Static's partner had been nice, what's his name… Gear? That sounds right.

Brandon allowed himself a small smile. The other techie had actually complemented him on his workmanship on his power-copying device. He had returned the favor with offering a few suggestions on improving the hero's own capture bombs. It wasn't that the design was bad; it just that metal tentacle/cables weren't that effective against certain kinds of superpowers. The younger hero shared a dislike for the blond Black man.

Bernie Rast came back to the forefront of his mind. Someone had to punish that jerk for how he treated people. He made an oath right there that he would get revenge for both himself and everyone else that that man had and will treat like dirt.

As if on cue, someone tapped on his shoulder.

…which was strange because the last time he checked, he was alone in the cell.

Blue eyes flung wide open as he whipped around. A slender man in a dark suit sat next to him watching. His gaze was drawn to the bone white, minimalist cat mask. The man waved a white gloved hand nonchalantly with his other hand the man opened a cheap looking briefcase.

"Good afternoon Mr. Lee, I heard that you've had some problems with your boss. Or is that ex-boss now?" The voice sounded something like how he would imagine rotten meat buried in a mountain sugar and honey would taste like. A slim gloved hand removed from it something that greatly resembled an asthma pump holding a small canister of purple liquid.

"What's that?" The light brown haired young man was slightly mesmerized by the swirling elixir. Tilting his head like a dog inspecting an interesting bug, the masked man watched him.

"This, my brother, is the opportunity of a lifetime."

 

Merrowww….

 

"DUDE, LISTEN TO ME!" The green pigmented teen nearly shouted at his alpha—no leader (so sue him, sometimes the two blended in his mind when he was upset). It was frustratingly difficult to get people to take you seriously when you usually behaved like a clown around them. However, the purple and black-clad hero was not going to give up on the subject, it was far too important. "We can't afford to split up to deliver the communicators, especially since the Brotherhood is active again. Besides, bad things happen when a group splits up. Why don't we go as a group instead?"

"Calm down, Beast Boy. I know you're worried, but traveling as individuals would also mean that our presence would be less likely to be noticed and every one of us is more than capable of defending ourselves." The Boy Wonder replied, having already decided a course of action. "We can also cover more ground this way and the sooner we can get in contact with the young heroes of the world, the sooner we can warn them about the Brotherhood and get back home."

Emerald eyes flicked over to their other teammates for support. Both Cyborg and Starfire were on the fence on the issue, though the changeling had a gut feeling that the African American was leaning a bit more on his side about the safety thing. Raven was at the table sipping tea and listening. The dark sorceress hadn't said a thing during the entire debate.

"This might sound out there," The gray-skinned hybrid spoke up. "But Beast Boy has a point… and he is the only one of us with past experience in dealing with the Brotherhood of Evil." Okay, Raven was so awesome.

"What about how much time it would take?" The Roma teen questioned, raising an eyebrow under his oddly expressive domino mask.

"It wouldn't be fair to ask the Titans East to stay away from Steel City for longer than necessary." The physically eldest member of the group added. The other Titans team had offered to babysit Jump City for them as long as they would be traveling.

"What if we traveled as a team and split into two groups if there are multiple heroes in close to each other," Beast Boy added thinking quickly. "That way we can cover more ground and have backup close by." He laughed nervously at the looks several of the others gave him. Just 'cause he normally acted like a fool didn't mean he lacked a brain.

"That… could work." Their fearless leader conceded. Rubbing his chin with a green-gloved hand he added, "I'd have to take a few hours and rework the schedule but yeah… good idea Beast Boy."

"Glorious, friends." Starfire proclaimed as she spun through the air. The orange-skinned alien dove into the kitchen. "Shall we partake in a celebratory feast?"

The changeling grinned at the praise and silently vowed to return the favor to Raven for the support.

 

Merrowww…..

 

Two sets of footsteps were just audible over the loud grinding of the clock tower's gears. The mercenary cracked open a lone blue eye and silently moved to a perch where his guests could spot him if he decided to announce himself. The heavier footfalls of his quarry's companion told him that it was not the partner and the faint scent of ash confirmed it as the lover: Francis 'Hotstreak' Stone also known as F-stop, an ex-gangbanger turned metahuman through the event called the Big Bang. The high school dropout was also a semi-reformed criminal and the mostly secret romantic and sexual partner of his quarry. He smirked under his two toned mask as the likelihood of the bait being taken was all but certain.

"You brought company." He said stating the obvious without a hint of nervousness or any other kind of emotion in his voice. It was both enjoyable and disappointing to see the boy jump and squeak. That was not the best reaction to being surprised for any cape (and yes, he was aware that not all superpeople wore capes, it just happened to be a convenient short hand). The lover on the other hand was relatively unfazed, likely used to such clandestine meetings with dangerous people.

"My friend thought that I shouldn't go alone to accept candy from strangers."

Chapter Text

The blond teen crouched under the older teen's punch and swung his leg in an attempt to trip the other. When the more muscular one jumped over his sweep, he continued to spin, bringing himself to stand on his palms and drive his heels into a blocking arm and the side of his opponent. He grinned at the pained grunt that emanated from the other before the larger male grabbed his ankle and tossed him into… the fucking wall. Seriously, he was starting to hate walls.

"Nice, Princess," His sparring partner commented as he rubbed his undoubtedly sore side. "I think I just might be feelin' this for a few hours." The older male extended his other hand in offering. The blond took it and pulled himself off the floor.

"Creative, Gear." The constantly composed voice of his new mentor floated down from the darkness of the upper reaches of the warehouse. "You might want to work on your offensive moves more," The one eyed man assessed before tossing down a scroll (seriously, a scroll. Talk about old school) which the young hero fumbled with for a moment as he clumsily caught it. "And your coordination could use some improvement as well."

The negotiations with the mercenary had actually gone over smoothly last night. Both parties listed out their terms, a few compromises had to be made, but eventually everyone signed the freshly printed contract. BacPac even made backup copies for everyone. Gear was now the official part-time secret protégé of Deathstroke the Terminator (yes, the mercenary was aware that his name was overkill and did not take kindly to anyone mocking it, as the both of the teens had the bruises to prove so [the old dude was very fast]). As well as one of the protectors of Dakota (man, that's a long job title). The xanthochroid teen inwardly sighed, so many secrets and so many things that could go horribly wrong.

BacPac beeped to alert them that their hour was up. One of his stipulations was that the merc only got an hour or two of his strained free time a day, and a meeting at least three days of the week. He gave the older man a small bow as the droid climbed to its designated spot on his back. Both teens left, Hotstreak to continue working on his new project and Gear to go on morning patrol with Static.

 

Merrowww…..

 

Sensing something off in the stillness of the warehouse, Deathstroke swiftly turned and grabbed the intruder by the throat. For a single moment, the mercenary's lone eye twitched in annoyance as he recognized the intruder. Granted, he had never seen the young man in this costume before, but the minimalistic mask bore the same stupid grin that seemed to near permanently attached to the scientist's true face as well.

"How go things, sexy grandpa?" His associate asked, tilting his head like a curious puppy. The young man made no mention of being yoked up by the older man but he did readjust the collar of his dark grey suit. Wilson on his part ignored the sexy grandpa comment.

"He has some potential but it will take awhile to bring it out." The mercenary and criminal mastermind reported as he recalled his observations in perfect detail. "He needs a lot of work in hand to hand combat but his current skills aren't as bad as I would have thought, thanks to the boyfriend no doubt. He's also quite stubborn and absolutely refuses to work with guns or steal."

"Are you saying you can't…?"

"Of course I can, give me enough time and he'll be yours."

"Wonderful!"

 

Merrowww….

 

Black dust from the charcoal stained his fingers, brow, and the lighter parts of his apron as he worked the canvas. The pyro had been hired to do something by one of the downtown banks as an 'artwork from local artists' thing. It was probably just to make them look they care about the community or some shit. Hotstreak really didn't give a fuck so long as he was gettin' paid for it. Already he had finished and fixed one piece: a smokin' hot naked chick on her knees with arms behind her back, pushing out her chest and really emphasizing her tits. Her hair a bush of grasses and wildflowers with waterfalls of leaves spilling from her mouth and cunt.

Lovely really, hard to see why anybody wouldn't want it hanging on their wall.

Even harder to see why 'Frost freaked over it. It had to have taken him at least two hours to calm her down and defrost half the room. On her suggestion, he started a purely floral piece with a cute bunny. In the meanwhile, he had the blue-skinned girl to go out and pick up some groceries.

The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end as he felt a portal open in the room. A faint slorping sound came from behind as someone moved through it. With an irritated sigh, the redhead put down the charcoal and turned to face the self proclaimed 'Master of Shadows and Darkness'.

…except, the person standing right in front of him was definitely not Ebon.

"Who the hell—ahh!" Hotstreak's words morphed into a short scream as suction cupped hands met his skin. It felt like the other meta was literally sucking out his very essence. Exhausted, Hotstreak dropped to his knees. The flame haired Bang Baby tried to draw his fire to defend himself and felt… nothing: no heat, no giddy excited molecules, only emptiness.

Before he passed out, deep green eyes narrowed into a glare that would have killed if he had had any fire in him.

 

...…

 

His head pounded like the morning after he stole his father's six-pack from the fridge when he was thirteen. Blinking slowly, a figure came into focus behind vertical bars. The ground was cold and the air carried no trace of smoke from his furnace. It was too quiet as well, the superthug couldn't hear the sounds of cars, arguing couples, or radios set out by people sitting on their stoops, all the normal sounds of the slums just weren't there.

"W—where?"

"Welcome to my menagerie, boy," The figure announced before taking a step back when the beefy meta rushed the bars and tried to grab him. The man on the other side had to be one of the ugliest Bang Babies he had ever seen: purple and yellow eyes watched him with a cruel glee. The meta's skin was a sickly pale green and darker liver spots dotted his bald head. The other's cheeks were sunken and his lips seemed to be completely gone giving his face the likeness of a skull. "You should feel right at home in a cell."

It was hard to tell but Hotstreak felt like the bastard was smirking at his little joke. If he could, the pyro would have melted off the rest of the freak's face… but he couldn't do so at the moment, the bars he had in a death grip wouldn't let him and the fact that he was powerless didn't help. The long limbed fuck stole his flames, it was something that he would remember for the rest of his life and if he had any say in things, the fucker was going remember it too.

"He got you too, hothead?" The voice was very deep and familiar. The red head looked up to see the inky black-purple leader of the MetaBreed in the cell directly across from his own. The shadowy meta was rather calm about things, pissed and probably planning to murder their captor, but calm.

"Ebon?"

"The freak snuck up on me and stole my powers when I was headin' back to the station." The living shade shook his head in shame at the memory of having been jumped.

"What's going on here you gangly freak?!" Francis demanded. The power sucking metahuman chuckled a bit.

"What do you think meathead? My power's taking the power from other metahumans and the city's full of Bang Babies." The green-skinned meta explained. It was weird seeing those unnaturally long limbs of his move to emphasize his speech. "Once I collect all the metahumans in Dakota I'll be unstoppable." Their captor turned and walked towards one of the walls. Using Ebon's powers he made a swirling purple and black portal. "See ya in a little while kiddies… oh, and by the way, the name's Leech."

With that, the man who took the pyro's flames left.

There was awkward silence in the prison as Francis contemplated the sensation of being cold and empty, without his powers. He honestly felt incomplete without the constant heat from his core that the Big Bang had gifted him with. Even when he got soaked, he could still sense the supernatural warmth inside just unable to ignite. Being brought down to normal made him feel as vulnerable as he had in the hospital all those years ago. He hated the feeling.

"So…" The umbramancer started, bored and feeling the discomfort of their unlawful confinement. That and small talk wasn't a big part of their relationship even on a good day. "Word on the street is you've gone straight."

 

…...

 

"It's not that damn funny, jackass." Francis retorted as he ground his teeth in impotent fury. His foot twitched impatiently for something to happen so that the Black gangbanger would stop laughing at him. The redhead got his wish when the sound of an opening portal announced the return of their captor and his newest victim.

"TALON!" Both gang leaders shouted upon recognizing the feathered Latina; Ebon, because she was a permanent part of his crew and was unconscious and Francis, because she was a friend. The now winged Leech dropped her in the cell next to the one containing her leader and locked it before heading out a door. The redhead relaxed slightly when the orange plumed Bang Baby groaned. The leader of the MetaBreed narrowed his only visible facial features in the direction the thief went for a long while.

"Teresa, you okay?" The pyro asked with a firm tenderness reserved for only a few people in his life. The metal of the bars inflexible and cold in his palms, his knuckles went white as he listened for her reply.

"…mi cabesa…" The brunette groaned as she used a sharp clawed hand to rub her noggin. Dark brown eyes flitted around as a slight panic ran through her. They stopped on his deep green ones before she got up and grabbed the bars of her own cell. "What's going on? One minuet I'm robbin' a jewelry store and the next I'm gettin' manhandled by some weirdo with the boss's powers and your hairstyle Fancisco."

"The freak's name is Leech," The self-proclaimed Master of Shadows and Darkness explained to his subordinate. He leaned into the bars nonchalantly with his purple-edged pitch-black arms hanging out. "His specialty is absorbing powers. An' as of now he's an enemy of the MetaBreed."

"Just make sure to save me a piece of 'im." Francis added as he relaxed his grip.

"…so anyone wanna play twenty questions?"

 

…..

 

Okay, their captor had either never watched the news or was as dumb as a sack of bricks. Seriously! The kid in the Static costume had to be half the hero's size and had cornrows instead of dreads. Even the two other captives that weren't aware of the secret identity of the young Black hero knew enough about what he looked like to almost figure it out (they would have too, if his babe hadn't got his hero on for the first time and fooled them).

After figuring out that he grabbed the wrong nigger in tights, Leech apparently took off the kid's mask. Not that the redhead could really see it since all the excitement was happening in the cell right next door to him.

"You're not Static!" Well duh, took ya long enough, idjit. Francis raised a deep ruby red eyebrow at the surprised, and on Talon, excited looks on the faces of the Bang Babies across the walkway.

"Hell naw I ain't Static! Now you best be backin' off or you'll have to deal with my posse!" Wait it couldn't be….

"You think I'm scared of some little street thugs?" Leech replied to the not-Static. At his confused look, the orange Latina mouthed 'row' 'me' 'oh' in his direction. When it finally clicked his emerald eyes opened wide and a giddy feeling started bubbling up inside him.

"Street thugs? Dawg I'm talkin' 'bout my lawyers." OMG! It was totally Lil' Romeo! So fucking awesome… the White meta had to remind himself to calm down, squeeing was not good for his reputation (oh, god did he just use that term? Damn nerds, rubbing off on him). Due to being distracted by his inner fanboying (shudders at the thought), Francis missed a good chunk of what was going on in the next cell. He picked up something about a ransom but that's it. Okay he had to chance it.

"So…while you're waiting, do you mind if I get your autograph?" The redhead asked respectfully. When the young rapper retreated further back in the cell with a groan the not-exactly-super-at-the-moment thug tried to save face a bit. "Hey, it's for my sister!"

The face palming of the other two Bang Babies made it clear that no one believed him. Well, it was worth a shot.

 

Merrowww….

 

Meanwhile, on a highway a long way from the state of Dakota, SheBang was not having a good day. There were days when the ability to actually fly, not just jump really far, would come in handy. Today was one of those days. When the Feds had told her that they couldn't help, the budding superheroine knew that she'd have to rely on the tights and capes instead of the boys (and girls) in blue to get things done. This, unfortunately, meant hitchhiking.

The wind roared past as the genetically modified girl hung on to the roof of the blue semi with enough force that her fingers partially crushed the metal under them. The dark-skinned girl hated having to hitchhike this way but she needed to get to Dakota City as quickly as possible, her parents were there and so was help.

 

Merrowww….

 

The number one protector of Dakota woke up to a splitting headache on what looked like a prison floor. Sensing danger the dreadhead bolted to his feet. He tried to gather electricity to defend himself… only to feel nothing. No sparks jumped from his indigo gloves and he didn't sense the strong electric current from within that still gave him goose bumps.

"What the—" The dark skinned superhero started as he stared at the offending limbs.

"Nice try Static," He turned to see his captor standing just out of reach. The gangly meta tapped on the bars with a long suckered finger, and a mocking grin stretched the skin of Leech's skull-like face. "But your powers now belong to me."

"To bad hero, I really wish you could help." Static glanced into the cell across from his to see the dark form of his arch nemesis. The dark Bang Baby was looking a lot more solid than usual, he noted.

"Ok, you have our powers already, so why are you keeping us here?" He got his answer a few seconds later when the green villain nearly doubled over in pain as his stolen wings shriveled.

"My wings, they're growing back!" The avian Latina happily chirped, only to groan and collapse after being re-drained by the power thief. Leech flexed the feathery appendages making sure they worked.

"So that's why we're here," Static deduced gripping the bars. "You can't hold on to any of our powers."

"Clever, little hero. No I can't, but that's why you all are going to have a nice long stay in those cells for the rest of your lives." Their captor stated as he crossed the space from Talon's cell to his with a single step. A suckered hand grabbed one of the electromancer's own before pulling more energy out of him. As he passed out again he heard the mocking voice of Leech say, "See ya suckees, I'm going out for a bit of fun."

 

Merrowww….

 

"Too bad Gadget-boy," The meta wearing his best friend's hairdo mocked as he tapped the activated ZapCap that had the second half of Dakota's superhero team pinned. "I'd take your powers too, but they look like something I could buy from a hardware store."

While he knew that gangly green metahuman couldn't see it, Gear glared fiercely at Leech as the other Bang Baby opened a portal and sank through with the gold. His palm panels itched as he blocked out suggestions from Wire, Brainiac's remnants were rather sadistic when he/they was/were upset and it felt equally insulted by the dismissal of his/their intelligence and technological skills. Sighing he signaled to BacPac to cut the metallic cords binding them. He had the small droid collect the bits cut off and he pressed a button on the ZapCap mark II to make it retract its cords.

The super-intelligent Bang Baby clicked his heels to activate the 'jet' function of his jet skates and shot into the air. Granted he knew that he had more than his mind and inventions to work with, but he didn't want his status as a techno-organic to become widely known. He knew that in most minds that was pretty much the same thing as robot and everyone seemed to think killing robots was okay.ESPECIALLY SUPERMAN. His robotic half added, sending him rather unpleasant images of various ways the Big Blue Boy Scout murdered Brainiac drones. Not now.

Using BacPac's sensors, the green and blue-clad hero followed the villain's energy trail left from using Static's powers. On the ground, something caught his attention and the droid's metahuman alert went off. Gear grinned behind his two toned visor.

 

Merrowww….

 

Gangbangers should never ever be trusted. Even if you help them out, they will still backstab you and leave you locked in a rundown movie studio with a very pissed power thief while you're outta juice. Ebon and Talon shut the door in his and Lil' Romeo's faces before locking it and neither the hero nor the rapper had any clue where Hotstreak went. Static frowned and willed his body to absorb the power from the cable as quickly as possible before Leech found them. The fireball destroying the scenic mountain background was the queue that their time was up.

"This is the part where you run."Static told Lil' Romeo.

"But you don't have enough juice!" The young rapper protested. Worry very much evident on his face.

"Let me worry about that." The younger male gathered his legs underneath him and ran. The hero got up to check where his enemy was only to see Leech charging towards him.

Gathering electricity in his gloves, Static shot twin blasts at the gangly green mutant. Too bad the power thief just sucked up the blasts and returned fire with electric charged fireballs. The indigo and black-clad superhero brought of the last of the juice he got from the cables to form a shield at the last minute to take the worst of the blast so that it only knocked him back into the wall. Moving with heightened reflexes, he rolled out of the way of another blast and started running. Static ran, ducked, and jumped trying to avoid the flames using skills gained from showing off and sparring.

The young hero caught his breath behind a crate and put out a singed dreadlock. The onslaught halted and Static decided to use the opportunity to put some more distance between him and Leech.

In retrospect, he probably should have been looking up to avoid someone with Talon's powers. The pain in his ribs was a pretty good reminder. As the villain stood over him, digging in that foot into his torso, Static caught a flash of red out the corner of his eye.

"Hey, skullface, I wouldn't start gloating if I were you."

"Wha—" The power thief did not have time to finish before he got slapped upside the head with a fire extinguisher hard enough to get sent flying. Leech slowly picked himself up off the ground rubbing an already discoloring jaw. "Well, looky here, two for the price of one. I thought you two enemies."

"We are," Hotstreak answered cracking his thick neck. The depowered thug looked unconcerned as electricity crackled around the ugly Bang Baby. "I just happen to hate you more." The red head ignored the look Static gave him and tightened his grip on the extinguisher. Turns out, he didn't have to do anything because at that moment the sprinkler system went off.

Water plus a more or less human body running an extremely strong current equaled zappity-zap-zap.

 

....…..

 

"That was pretty slick, setting off the sprinklers like that." Static complemented the young rapper.

"Well I just did what you said, used that superpower that we all have right here." Lil' Romeo replied pointing to his noggin in emphasis.

"So can I get your autograph now?" Hotstreak asked as he carried the unconscious green Bang Baby slung over his shoulder wrapped up in a large burlap sack to the waiting police vehicles. Gear waved to them standing next to a truck containing a contained Ebon and tied up Talon. Rast standing with Daisy and Frieda by the rapper's limo on the other side near the gate for the rapper.

 

Merrowww…..

 

This is just fucking fantastic. She-Bang bitterly thought as she propped the side of the truck she was holding in order to rip off the door and free the occupant inside. The genetically modified girl hoped that the flames wouldn't reach the explosive contents in the trailer before she could do so.

"Need a hand?"

Chapter Text

"Need a hand?"

Dark energy enveloped the truck before lifting it effortlessly off the artificial human's shoulders. Free from the weight of the vehicle She-Bang tore open the door, undid the seatbelt, and removed the driver. The chubby man was an awkward bundle to carry but the teenage heroine was able to get him to safety. The dark skinned girl heard a few small explosions go off behind her and turned around to growing balls of ice putting out the flames. The boy who presumably caused the ice explosions put a few disks back into his rather bright yellow belt and signaled to a hooded girl hovering above them with her hands glowing with the same dark energy covering the truck. The vehicle moved through the air before being placed right side up on the other side of the road.

"Uh… thanks for the assist." She-Bang said as she adjusted her gloves and listened to sirens approaching in the distance. The pair looked sort of familiar and the girl wondered where she had seen them before.

"No problem." The other girl replied as she landed, her indigo cloak shifting a bit revealing similar colored boots and grey-skinned legs as she touched down. The short boy wearing a costume that seemed to combine all the colors of a traffic light looked around the road and then started rummaging around in one of the orange ships.

"Hi, I'm Robin and this is Raven," The colorfully dressed hero introduced himself and his partner. "We're part of the Teen Titans." That's where she knew them from! She had seen the Teen Titans in the news before with her family.

"I'm She-Bang and aren't you guys a long way from California?" The newbie heroine asked, raising an eyebrow behind her bandana mask.

"Maybe. Aren't you a little young to be into the roaming hero thing?" He replied offering the purple and red-clad heroine a circular walky-talky like device. "Just kidding, our team is going around the world contacting young heroes to warn them about the Brotherhood of Evil and offer our assistance if they need it."

"Trust me the roaming's not voluntary and it's defiantly a bitch when you need help," She sighed as she took the communicator. "That's why I'm headed to Dakota to contact some friends."

"Wait, do you know someone who calls himself Static in Dakota City?"

"Yeah, he and Gear helped me and my folks out last time we were in town."

"Well then, we can give you a ride since that's where we were headed." The Boy Wonder smiled at her and offered a hand to help her into the vehicle.

 

Merrowww…

 

After getting back to his apartment, Hotstreak put the business card containing Lil' Romeo's autograph in a Ziploc bag and wrote a reminder to get it laminated. The blond-streaked redhead checked the fridge to see if the little homeless girl robbed him or not. Seeing the groceries, he made himself something to eat and went down to the garage to finish his project.

The ex-con was pleased to see that Permafrost had cleaned up the mess he left when he was thugnapped. However, he was not happy to see that she had brought back a dog; he did not need any more strays. He decided that he'd take it to a shelter tomorrow. The brown and black mutt sniffed at him.

"Greetings, sir," Ok, so it was a talking dog. Hotstreak frowned knowing that he probably couldn't take it to the shelter now. "You smell like you know the person who owns the clothes that this young lady is wearing. Can you assist me in getting in contact with him?"

 

Merrowww…..

 

"How 'bout Kangor?" The creator suggested and disproved in his own mind in the time it took to voice the thought. BacPac compiled a list of stolen chemicals from the police reports of the robbed chemical laboratories from the past few days.

"Nah, he's still in lock-up. Besides those footprints were normal sized and Kangor wears somethin' like a size 198 extra wide." The partner replied.

"Must be murder trying to find socks." Gear joked. The visor sensors tracked the techno-organic's eye movements as he scanned his surroundings. The pure organic partner seemed to have made a similar observation based on his statement:

"We're getting pretty close."

"Roger that Static, engaging evasive maneuvers." The green and blue-clad superhero grinned as he pretended to use a communication device. The little machine could tell that its creator was thinking about a race, a contest of speed.

"I wish you wouldn't talk like that." The blue, black, and yellow wearing hero replied with some annoyance. However, the smile on his face betrayed his thoughts.

"Ok then, readysetGO!" Each teen bolted in a different direction.

The creator decided to use the race as an opportunity to test the latest upgrades to the Jet Blades: 4-inch diameter motorized nanite gears, one attached to each modified skate. Using the jets, the young hero skated on the side of a building to charge the Motor Gears. Once charged, the gears began to glow green and he turned off the jets.

"YEEHAAW!" Gear sped along at a much faster rate, silent except for the gentle whirr of the spinning gears and the occasional exclamation of excitement. BacPac could sense the NOT RIGHT=WIRE piggybacking on the creator's joy as it facilitated finer control of the Motor Gears. The small droid did not trust the alien program at all and was always ready to assist its creator just in case that thing tried to take over.

At some point during the building skating, rail-grinding fun, BacPac became aware of the fact that they were being followed. Both pursuers kept an even distance from them and showed no aggression towards the creator. After getting a clear look at the two, the droid identified them both as allies and it decided to let them announce their presence to its maker.

 

 

BacPac climbed off Gear's back and rested on the table to print the list it came up with as its creator retrieved carbonated beverages from the 'DISPENSER' unit having lost the race by a few seconds. Both heroes removed their masks to begin the process of relaxation. A gasp from the corner put the duo on alert. Scrambling to remask themselves, the two accidentally swapped masks. BacPac sensed an unknown presence and sounded its danger alarm.

"Now your alarm wants to go off?" Gear in Static's mask and shades asked the little robot in an exasperated tone. This upset the droid and it decided to alert its maker next time to make up for its mistake.

"Show yourself!" Static in Gear's helmet and visor demanded.

 

Merrowww….

 

She-Bang covered her mouth to stifle a giggle at the sight of the Dakota City heroes wearing the wrong masks. Next to her, she saw Robin biting his lip in an effort to keep himself from laughing. Both of them complied with the electromancer's order and came out from behind a wheeled television stand that looked like it had been something tossed out by a school. Raven materialized at the far end of the table.

"Ya know, those aren't bad looks for you two." The purple and red-clad heroine joked. Ordinary high school students Virgil Hawkins and Richie Foley were the superheroes Static and Gear, who knew? She decided to keep that information to herself until the Titans left.

"She-Bang? Robin? Other person?" The Dakota heroes were very confused by all of the visitors to their secret base. Noticing that they were wearing the wrong masks, the duo quickly swapped.

"For future reference, you two might want to be more discreet when going to your secret base." The gray-skinned teen suggested as she looked around the not-exactly-abandoned gas station.

"Noted." Gear replied as he pulled up a few more seats and some drinks for their guests. "So, what brings everybody out to this little crime ridden city in the middle of nowhere?"

 

..….

 

"See ya, if we hear anything we'll give ya a call!" "Don't be strangers, stop by whenever!" The Dakota heroes and She-Bang waved off the Teen Titans. The west coast heroes had only stayed long enough to warn them about the Brotherhood of Evil and swap communicators.

"So, Virgil, Richie, let's talk." The artificial human enjoyed the "oh crap" looks the Bang Babies gave her.

"You're not gonna tell anyone are you?" Gear asked with a nervous smile as they went back inside the Abandoned Gas Station of Solitude. He ignored the suggestions from Wire to 'DIGITIZE' the threat or at least 'ERASE' her memories (he wasn't sure how to do that but he got the impression that it was a painful, traumatizing experience).

"Not if you guys help me find my parents." She replied taking a seat at the table. Her tone was much less playful as she continued, "I think they've been kidnapped."

 

..…...

 

"Thanks Mrs. Foley." Shenice said as Richie and his mother picked up the dishes from dinner. The redheaded woman had been very friendly and was pretty okay with her son inviting over a friend to spend the night. The older woman gave a mock threat towards the teens about what would happen if they got into any "funny business" while under her roof. Both females giggled at how deeply the White boy blushed from the comment.

Dinner had been rather quiet but good. With her metabolism, Shenice had to eat more than a normal human her size did and she was happy to find out that Mrs. Foley was used to making big meals for her hungry men. Dinner was quiet because both wife and son seemed nervous about upsetting Mr. Foley. The older blond looked like he had had a bad day and did not want to talk about it. If anyone had told her that the goofy, nice guy Richie had such a huge, mean looking grumpy man for a father she wouldn't have believed them.

Richie's other night clothes were way too big on her but they were comfy. The artificial African American girl walked back to Richie's room to find the blond lying belly down reading a science magazine. She closed the door behind her and after a second BacPac came out from underneath the covers. The small robot climbed unto his back, he put the magazine, and his glasses on the nightstand as the robot started giving him a back massage. She did not, however, see any sleeping bags.

"So, uh… how are we doing this?" She asked. After a questioning glance from the blue-eyed teen, she elaborated. "Where am I sleeping?"

"Over here." Richie answered patting the unoccupied space on the queen-sized bed next to him as if the answer was obvious. After squinting at her face (BacPac seemingly said something to the blond since his vision was pretty bad without his glasses), he added, "If you don't mind that is… I normally share the bed when I sleep over at Virgil's or with Daisy and Frieda. If you do mind, I can go get my sleeping bag and take the floor while you have the bed."

"Ah, no this is fine." Shenice replied climbing into the big blue bed. She was happy that he couldn't see her blush. "Oh, Rich, thanks for that info you sent, the FBI said it sped things along by months."

"No prob," The xanthochroid teen replied as he turned off the lights. BacPac stopped its massage and crawled under the bed. "It's what friends do."

 

 

Bright sunlight from the glass door on the balcony woke the artificial human. Shenice sat up and stretched her arms to make herself stay awake. She had actually slept pretty well. Leaning back on her arms she heard and felt some paper crinkle under her palm. Looking at it, she discovered that it was a note from Richie. It read:

Hey Shenice,

I went out early for my morning workout. I'll see you and Virg at noon at the Burger Fool by the school. From there we'll head out to the Dakota Convention Center. Feel free to help yourself to the fridge if mom's gone to work by the time you wake up. Please try not wake up my dad; he needs his sleep and he's not a happy person when woken up before he has to be.

See ya later,

R

 

Merrowww…..

 

The mercenary dismissed the robot commando to assist its brethren in cleaning up the warehouse floor. Wintergreen had sent it from his home to deliver a message passed through The Legion of Shadows. It seemed that The Brotherhood of Evil was extending an invitation to join in on their war on the superhero youth.

It was true that he had a vendetta against the Titans but he had a reputation to uphold. Why should he join some C list villains who weren't offering him pay? It would be like an internship that he wouldn't even learn any new skills.

A brilliant idea came to mind as he wrote a reply; one way to get into character was to wear a mask and what better reason to put on a new mask than an internship?

…after another moment, he decided to send a letter to Wintergreen advising him to send someone to check on his only heroically inclined child.

 

Merrowww…..

 

Well today was exciting. Richie thought as he collapsed onto his baby blue bed. Today he had been surprised in the gym by Mr. Wilson who is an evil evil taskmaster who used loopholes to torture him (Frankie had had to carry him out of the gym he was so sore). He had been forced to listen to Static and She-Bang argue for half the day. He had gotten his ass whooped (being pelted with a cement like substance hurts), ended up in a dumpster (again), and had nearly gotten frozen while the bad guy got away. He had had to keep Wire from taking decidedly homicidal action against Shenice after she'd threatened to expose his and Virgil's secret identities. Things did get better later, he saved some lives and the bad guy got caught. However, later he had to play a long exhausting game of ninja Hide & Seek with Deathstroke's robo commandos.

But at least it was over.

For today.

The blond's body ached to badly to even consider moving another inch and thinking about tomorrow wasn't making him feel any better. The techno-organic was happy that he had had the energy to get into his street clothes before coming back to his house. He heard the balcony door slide open and then closed. BacPac's bright red optic sensor appeared over him. The robot took off his glasses with a small prehensile arm and placed them on the nightstand. From there the droid removed his shoes and threw a blanket over him.

"Thanks BacPac." He yawned. BacPac replied with a wordless affection that the techno-organic felt through Brainiac's implants. From there Richie drifted off into a hopefully dreamless sleep.

 

Merrowww….

 

The dog waited patiently outside the building that smelled like sweat and metal. He was waiting for his Firehead friend to finish inside and come out with the one he was looking for. He was fine with waiting though; he had his own personal puddle to drink out of and a collar around his neck to keep the fear/worry truck people from taking him away.

He was bored. The brown and black dog flopped over on his side and sighed. Humans passed by paying no more attention to him other than a glance or two. He greeted the dogs that came his way politely and surprised the cats by ignoring them and their insults. Something did happen to end his boredom.

A pigeon approached the dog warily. His wet black nose told him that the bobbing fluff ball was a bitch and… like him. Not like him as in a dog too(he knew that birds aren't dogs), the pigeon shared a distinct taint to her personal scent as him, Firehead, the one he was looking for, and the other Changed Things. As if to confirm his thoughts, the little grey bird's eyes began glowing.

"Hey wow! That looks like some super tasty water to drink with my excellent beak." She cooed and bobbed her head as she examined his puddle. "Excuse my excellent self big bark monster, would you mind if I drank some of that super tasty water? A phrase of warning most wise, big bark monster, if you try to do some really mean harming of me with those super pointy teeth of yours I will make you fly super far away."

"I do not mind if you drink some of my super tasty water." The canine replied in what he gathered was proper pigeon diction. His erect ears swiveled around as he hoped a human wouldn't walk by and freak out. "Since, I have great need to stay at this excellent place, I will not be really mean and harm you with my excellent pointy teeth."

The pigeon's pupils expanded and her fluff flattened.

"Holy food! A clearly talking big bark monster!"

 

......

 

After recovering from the initial shock of meeting a talking "big bark monster" as she put it, the two nonhuman Bang Babies became fast friends. The bird called herself The Amazing Super Awesome Pigeon. She told the dog how she had been roosting by the "amazingly large puddle" with her friends when they were startled awake by a "loud scary noise" and were caught in a "purple hurty cloud". The grey bird became momentarily depressed when she recanted that most of her friends died shortly after.

The dog told her how he had been a very young pup when a far off noise woke him and the rest of his family before a weird smelling mist drifted into their alley. The mist had burned when they breathed it in and several of his littermates died that night. His dam got sick and died a season later.

Not long after the canine finished his story, the door to the sweat and metal smelling building opened. He felt the pigeon flinch on his head but she didn't fly away. Out of the building walked an old white furred human dog followed by two very familiar young dogs. The brown and black canine's tail began wagging in his excitement and as it did so, it flung his personal scent toward them. His bushy tail skipped a few beats when he noticed that the young humans were limping slightly.

"Well that was a nice little workout." The white furred male said as he went on his way. The dog noticed that the elder wore a white thing over one of his eyes. "Richard, after tonight you'll have a break for a few days."

The yellow furred Changed human leaned against the see through sand wall and grunted a response. Firehead went to retrieve his car. Yay, we're going to go ride in the car! The dog told this to Amazing Super Awesome Pigeon. He was slightly disappointed when his new friend declined and flew off telling him that she needed to find something to eat. The dog noticed that the yellow furred one was watching him during the exchange.

 

....….

 

"Wait, you're that dog?" The brown and black canine imitated a human nod of confirmation. As the human (who he had decided to call Metalskin) listened, he also did stuff to some metal things while he heard the canine's story. A metal creature smaller than him assisted the human. "What a small city. So you're a stray?"

"If you mean that I am without a stable shelter or food source, then yes. I don't mind having lots of rendezvous points and I have some family and friends out there. I won't go hungry either if you and your mate are willing to help out." The canine replied as one of his hind paws took care of an itchy ear. Metalskin had changed quite a bit from when the Changed human had saved his life as a pup: he was heavier, much more powerful, and smelled a bit different. Well, things changed.

"There!" The human exclaimed. A sleeker, longer bodied version of the metal creature came to life on the table. The thing extended an eye and greeted both of them with clicking and whirring sounds. "Dog, you mentioned that you'd like to be allies correct?"

"Yes I did."

"Well this guy here will help us keep in contact and give you some hands if you need 'em." As if to demonstrate, the metal creature extended numerous limbs. It scuttled down the table and onto the canine's back where it secured its legs around his shoulders and ribs. "And while HR-NES is with you, he can learn a lot."

"Thank you." Dog said dipping his head in respect.

 

Merrowww….

 

She ran from the shadow hunting her. Deep indigo locks were plastered to her face with sweat. The teen was panting, out of breath and trapped at the end of a fenced off alley. Dark brown eyes darted around looking for some sort of escape route. Finding none, she turned around.

"There you are girl." The shadow man said ominously as he glided towards her. That strange feeling came over her again: it was wild and powerful like sandstorm raging in her veins. A small orchid purple bubble enveloped her. For once, she was thankful for it.

"Shit." The shadow man cursed as the girl vanished.

"I will find you girl."

Chapter Text

The phases of the moon painted with a purple light stretched across a textured sky. An orange sun both rose and set at a perpendicular angle to the moon streak. Blue sand dunes and a small purple mountain range on the horizon were the only features of the alien landscape. The teen shivered as a fierce wind whipped up. The cold caused her to cross her arms over her chest and rub her bare shoulders.

"Where am I?" The indigo haired girl wondered aloud. Last thing she remembered before waking up in the bizarre place, was stealing her own bike to prevent her past self from ever gaining superpowers. In fact, that very vehicle was sitting right next to her. Now another question came to mind. "Why do I have my bike and not my clothes?"

To answer the first question, you are in my domain. Something now blocked the wind and purple cloth fluttered on either side of the black-eyed girl. She turned to see an incredibly tall hooded figure watching her. Three featureless orange-yellow eyes sat on an elongated blue beaklike face and each took turns staring; black tattoo-like markings became prominent when any one of those eyes closed. As for the second question, the bicycle is present due to being evidence of your crimes.

"What crimes?"

 

Merrowww….

 

WE SHOULD NOT BE SUBJECTED TO SUCH AN INVASION OF PRIVACY (NO BEINGS SHOULD HAVE THE RIGHT TO CONTROL US; WE SHOULD BE CONTROLLING THEM). Wire complained as the blond looked in his closet for something to wear. Richie settled on a deep green Godzilla t-shirt to go with some paint stained kakis.

I don't like it either but we have to go. Richie replied as he locked his room door and closed the blinds to the balcony. The teen started take off his nightclothes. And what did I say about trying to control people?

WHY? YOUR 'HERO' IDENTITY GEAR IS NOT A MEMBER OF THE JUSTICE LEAGUE, NOR IS HE A PROSPECTIVE FUTURE MEMBER. THEY HAVE NO AUTHORITY OVER US; NO MORE THAN WHAT YOU ALLOW THEM TO HAVE. BacPac crawled out from under the bed. The techno-organic thought about the AI's words and removed his costume from a large compartment on the small droid.

Before we try refusing mind scans, we should figure out how they'd respond. Remember, the League does have legitimate reasons for checking up on us; they want to make sure that you don't take over and pull a Brainiac and they probably have considered the possibility of a super genius raised in a dysfunctional, borderline emotionally/verbally abusive household with a family history anger issues could turn to the dark side. The xanthochroid teen finally replied as he slipped on his street clothes on over his costume.

Still… the lack of faith hurts. BacPac climbed under his hoodie and secured its legs on his shoulders and lower ribs while he tied his shoelaces. Richie checked his reflection to make sure the robot was well hidden by his baggy clothes before heading out. You aren't planning on brain jacking me… are you?

OF COURSE NOT, HOST, THAT IS EXPLICITLY AGAINST MY PROGRAMMING.

 

...…..

 

"Two, with the works." The blond ordered from the hotdog vendor. Cash was exchanged for piping hot fast food and the teen continued his on walk. Not long after buying the consumables, he tossed the empty wrappers in the trash and crossed his arms behind his head. The Bang Baby frowned thinking about how to keep his new… relationship with Deathstroke from the League. He had done his research and understood why associating with the mercenary would not look good.

WHY NOT DO THE SAME THING FOR OUR MIND THAT YOU DID FOR (THAT BRAT) BACPAC? SET UP BARRIERS TO PREVENT UNWANTED ACCESS TO OUR PROGRAMMING AND MEMORY. Wire chimed in with something that it figured the host wasn't morally opposed to doing. There were a lot of things it suggested that the host called 'WRONG'; like deleting annoyances or simply taking things they wanted. Apparently, most beings labeled 'GOOD' shared that defect.

You mean like setting up icewalls, firewalls, and things like that? Richie inquired trying to see if he understood the AI correctly. The last time he misheard the other and gave his approval he wound up marathoning every werewolf movie in existence for the virus's research into transformation. That time it was fairly harmless, but he didn't to try it again.

YES.

Are you being metaphorical or literal? He tried to clarify.

YES. Wire answered with a twinge of humor.

Meaningful answer! The blond was not amused, it was never fun to have someone give you a Mathematician's answer (though it was fun to give one to someone else).

BOTH.

I guess we can give it a try.

 

......….

 

Once he reached the warehouse district, Richie activated the homing beacon given to him by the League. It would be about five minutes before a Javelin picked him up, so the teen figured he'd try to set up some mental blocks like Wire suggested. There were plenty of villains out there with mind reading powers so some blocks could prove useful. The memory of that bitch Madelyn rifling through his mind and turning him into a brain puppet still sent a chill down his spine. The blond sat in a meditative position in the shadow of an empty warehouse and slowed his thoughts and breathing. Soon he entered a trance.

The dark void of The Grid lit up in a network of glowing blue and green lines. The blond hadn't purposely come back here since Brainiac's defeat. Occasionally he caught glimpses of the strange plane as he fell asleep or just before waking up. Something about being here made him feel like he was being watched.

Spotting something reflective in the distance the techno-organic moved towards it hoping to find Wire. Moving on The Grid was much smoother and calmer than getting around inside the jerky, twitchy sea of the Internet, he noted. It was less disruptive and not nearly as distracting with its information.

In front of the teen genius floated an utterly massive sphere of what could best be described as the bastard lovechild of a clandestine affair between the nightmares of H. R. Griger and H. P. Lovecraft. It stretched in five directions as far as he could see and pulsated gently. Well, there goes any hope of sleep for the next week.

ARE YOU COMING IN?

Wire, where are you? The blue-eyed boy asked looking around for the AI. Other than the darkness, all he saw was the titanic squirming mass of metallic tentacles and teeth. Oh, you're right in front of me, aren't you?

YEP. A thick tentacle extended forward and split open in four parts. PLEASE, COME IN.

Richie floated into the hollow tentacle that could easily fit eight lanes of traffic. He heard the end slorp close behind him. He moved through it in complete darkness. The blond only stopped when he hit a fleshy wall which opened up to reveal a gargantuan geodesic sphere glowing brightly in every color of the rainbow and then some. As he passed through the psychedelic mantel, the techno-organic caught flashes of the billions of vastly different alien cultures and worlds that were encountered and recorded by Brainiac. Within the core sat about four interconnected luminescent data blocks; two of the blocks were minuscule in comparison to the other two, only around the size of truck trailers attached to continent sized blocks. The blue-eyed boy spotted an older, more robotic version of himself reclining near a large fuchsia and teal colored cube.

READY TO BEGIN? The mechanical being asked.

 

Merrowww…

 

What crime?! The strange reaper asked incredulously its tone became much harsher. The sand shifted slightly as it spoke, that caused the girl to realize that the being's voice was not coming from the figure in front of her, rather it came from deep below them. She stopped shivering from the cold and began trembling in terror. The offence you committed against me was intentionally creating a paradox and generating a number of unstable timelines.

"Wha—"

There is also the fact that you traveled counter wise to entropy with several others in a deliberate attempt to heavily alter your native timeline. You are lucky that you and your companions only made a stable time loop.

"I di—"

I already have a migraine from cleaning up the ripples from the offshoot timelines of those events. Those unstable streams could have seriously damaged your universe. Oh, I nearly forgot the last charge: attempting to rid yourself of a wonderful gift given to you by Chance.

"Sor—"

Now, The girl stopped trembling as annoyance replaced fear. Seriously, she wished that she could get a world in. For your punishment.

The being let go of its cloak revealing four arms with sharp-clawed fingers and bladed spikes on the forearms. It reared up preparing to strike causing her to briefly notice that it didn't have any legs, only a stalk below its torso that went straight into the sand. The indigo haired girl knew that she should try to run but her body felt like lead. Unable to move, she closed her eyes not wanting to see the end…

Any time now…

Curious as to what was taking the dragon reaper so long, the girl cracked open a dark eye. The blue creature had shrunk back and was coiling in on itself. All three of its orange eyes were wide open in what looked to be fright. Just as suddenly, its eyes narrowed at something behind her.

What do you want? It hissed.

 

Merrowww….

 

Cloaked, the Javelin landed in a deserted street in the abandoned warehouse district in Dakota City. The Flash checked the monitor for the source of the signal before exiting the vehicle. The speedster found the teen quickly enough meditating in an alley. Kneeling down, the red and yellow-clad superhero tapped on the blond's shoulder to get his attention.

Eyelids shot open in alarm revealing blank white eyes, which the older man found quite unnerving. The teen blinked once and his irises and pupils returned. The blond flashed a smile at the red and yellow-clad hero. "Hey Flash, how's the big time heroing goin' for ya?"

"Eh, savin' folks, kickin' butt and takin' names." He shrugged at the teen and extended a hand to help the other up. "How about you guys?"

"Meeting new people and seeing old friends." Richie replied. He took a moment to brush himself off.

"BacPac with you?" The droid extended its optic sensor out to look at the Flash before retreating back under its creator's hoodie. It made a beeping sound as if to say 'Hi'.

"Cool, let's get going."

 

Merrowww…

 

Yellow-orange eyes narrowed at the intruder and clawed blue hands grabbed its purple cloak and pulled it close. The thick blue stalk its torso connected to twitched and pulled backwards through the sand.

WHAT? I CAN'T JUST STOP BY AND VISIT? The voice sounded like its owner was speaking through a microphone in an echo chamber, but the playfulness in it was easily identifiable. A well-muscled human arm slung itself over her shoulder and the indigo haired girl found herself pulled into a firm chest. She looked over her shoulder to see who or what was acting so familiar with her. Nina had to do a double take, then blushed from her nose to her navel, and quickly moved her arms to block the view of her crotch and breasts. The being behind her looked almost exactly like Gear; the only different feature was a completely opaque, dark green visor.

The last time you were here, you chewed off my face and ate it. The cloaked creature bluntly stated. Anyone could tell that was a clear 'no'. Why are you here?

TO STOP YOU FROM MAKING A RASH DECISION, LITTLE BROTHER. The blue creature made a face that involved scrunching up its beak like an accordion. Nina had no idea what the expression meant but it looked painful. The Gear-shaped creature took it as a signal to continue. I KNOW THAT THIS LITTLE MULTIVERSE GIVES YOU HEADACHES, WHAT WITH ALL OF THE PARADOXES, INFINITELY BRANCHING PARALLEL TIME STREAMS, AND TEARS MADE INTO THE VERY TIME-SPACE CONTINUUM BY RECKLESS LITTLE BEINGS.

Your point?

WELL….

 

Merrowww…

 

Upon encountering the first mental block, the teal skinned alien only raised a naked brow and moved on without saying a thing. The Martian Manhunter scanned as much of the teenager's minds that he could access and he counted each of the barriers that he encountered. J'onn could sense a slight undercurrent of worry in Richie's psyche as he poked along and he sensed obvious hostility from AI attached to the young metahuman.

"The psychic barriers are new." The Martian commented as he removed his hands from their positions on either side of the blond's head and withdrew his mind. A few steps took him to a plush leather chair where the alien took a seat and began writing notes.

"Yeah, Wire suggested them for protection against brain jacking." Richie answered without moving from his reclining position on the bed-like leather couch. "So far we just have a few on secret identity stuff, passwords, coding, and stuff like that. I was thinking about adding some general shielding for my whole mind 'cause I seriously don't want to be used as a brain puppet again."

The alien responded with a small nod, he could feel the frustration at the end of the boy's sentence. The teenager was hiding something else, but he decided not to pry. From what J'onn could tell from the scan, Richie's mate was involved in something the metahuman was doing recently, but he knew the sorts of things those two did to each other and he didn't really want to see those images again. J'onn decided to change the subject. "You had a fight with Static recently."

"I was kinda jealous of all the attention he was getting 'n' pissed that we got our butts whooped, and I started nitpicking." Richie groaned and covered his face in embarrassment. "And then V-Static said that of all things… ugh! I had to leave before I hit him or said something terrible. I ended up going to Frankie's to vent. I didn't contact Static for a whole day, but we're sudsy now."

The alien nodded again. "Are Brainiac's remains giving you any problems?"

"Hm? No…well. Sometimes I have to actively concentrate to keep him from hurting someone who's pissing me off. Otherwise, I've got no problems with him."

"Ummm. Is there anything else you wish to discuss?"

"Er—yeah, Wire wanted to know if the mind scans are absolutely necessary. I mean, as beautiful as the Watchtower is and trust me, I have to suppress the squee every time I get to meet you guys, but it does feel like y'all are invading my privacy and I'm not exactly a prospective member of the League." Richie said nervously as he sat up and put on his glasses.

The Martian Manhunter frowned slightly. "That is understandable. However, if you weren't compliant with the mental scans I believe that you would continue to be closely monitored. Mostly by Batman and Superman."

"I know that—that a lot of things don't look good for me but, I'm not a threat!" The teen growled as his metallic claws pierced the leather of the couch. He sighed and silently counted to ten to calm down. "I'm not a threat. Y'all could at least trust me to keep an eye on myself."

The alien gave Richie a small sympathetic smile. "Unfortunately my young friend, we cannot take that chance."

 

Merrowww….

 

The indigo haired girl sat on the side of a sand dune as the strange beings conversed. At first, she could understand what they were saying but after a few sentences, their speech morphed into an alien language. Now the two beings weren't even using sounds, abstract shapes and colors moved around their heads.

Nina just found the whole thing fucking annoying. People were talking about what to do with her and she had no clue what they were saying. No one apparently thought about asking her opinion while deciding her fate. In addition, she was pretty bored just sitting in a barren wasteland with nothing to do.

Suddenly, the lightshow stopped and both beings turned to the teen. Nina Athena Crocker, you have the choice to either become my chron'ta for your universe or to face punishment for your crimes.

The fake Gear sat next to her and leaned over. The teen blushed at its proximity to her as he/it whispered into her ear. PSSST! I'D GO WITH OPTION NUMBER ONE, IF I WERE YOU. ITS MUCH LESS PAINFUL.

"I guess I'll go with the chron'ta thing, since punishment normally isn't fun." Nina replied. The reaper-dragon blinked all of its eyes at once.

Then you are mine. It hissed. Clawed hands let go of the blue creature's skin cloak. Its eyes glowed and the teen found herself floating. Two other identical versions of the reaper burst forth from the sands. All three of the dragon/man/things circled the floating girl. At once they struck, digging sharp talons into her flesh. The claws dragged from her corners and points to draw vector arrows.

The Gear look-alike sat below watching as its sibling decorated its new toy and hummed a song to match the girl's screams. Once finished with the teen, they/it let her drop to the ground before moving on to bless her bike. One of the tendrils ripped its cloak and draped the tattered purple skin over the indigo haired girl.

EAT YA LATER BRO! The humanoid abomination called back to its retreating sibling as he carried the toy and the vehicle. The other only responded with a hiss as its tendrils sunk into the sand.

 

Merrowww….

 

"It's too bad Nina got rid of her powers," Static commented as he and his partner finished up their patrol. "It'd be nice to have more back up."

Gear gave a sound of disbelief as a response. The dark skinned teen looked back at his pale friend. "What, I mean it."

"That's what you said about She-Bang, but you two can't be within fifty feet of one another without tickin' each other off."

"Oh, come on, G, like you can stand her in showoff mode."

"True, but I don't get in her face about it." The super genius also wondered if his friend would've tried to save his mother again if Timezone didn't get rid of her powers. A niggling thought at the back of his mind insisted that they shouldn't be able to remember a person who never existed. A parallel thought was still trying to figure out how someone could use time traveling to successfully make sure that they never gained the ability to time travel.

The two stopped kidding around and moved into action when they saw someone and a bike appear out of nowhere and start falling from the sky.