Conner’s pain flares up bright in her mind, as his shoulder and back scrapes along the ground. M’gann flinches from it, feels like her own skin is getting floor tile and rock ground into it before she can properly tune out the sensations, enough to dodge to the side. A half second later, Conner goes flying past her, digging a furrow in the ground before rolling shoulder over shoulder as the drag starts to slow him down.
‘Superboy!’ She has the presence of mind to use his other name, but not to keep her mental shout from blaring loud. It makes Artemis, off to her side, flinch from the volume and it almost costs M’gann the time and concentration to pull the archer out of the way of a second attack. Artemis’ shot goes wide as she gets yanked out of the path of a chunk of building, missing the mark by feet.
Her target, a massive grey collection of wires and metal parts, still crouches in reflex. The silver along its body flows in an organic, liquid way that almost throws M’gann’s memory back to a place outside of the fight. Not quite the same as on Mars, but still uncomfortably similar. M’gann can’t help but notice that it seems to move a LOT faster then the team; perhaps not as fast as Kid Flash, but disconcertingly close. It certainly has the muscle to throw Superboy across the main hall-
And clear into a wall, as a loud smash and an angry grunt tells her. She can still feel that hurt trying to seep into her back and shoulder, but Conner’s anger drowns it out, along with a rush of GETBACKUP as he pushes himself out of the new pile of rocks and shattered building.
Artemis’ missed shot doesn’t hit Aqualad by mistake, at least. (And she can hear the other girl’s mind relax for a moment, before going back into a tight, prickly ball that still makes M’gann hesitate to touch for too long.) The arrow skims far over his head as he rushes the android, weapons drawn and siphoning water from his pack, giving the grey metallic skin that coats his target a blue reflection as he brings them swishing down. She can feel his steadiness and determination to make those hits count for something, even with how tough the thing’s skin is.
“Toalf skcor dna elbbur!” Further back, away from the fighting, Zatanna’s words carry more force then her thoughts, loud and almost blunt where her mind is quiet and sharply focused. The spell makes the air ripple as the roof and walls of the shopping center stop crumbling. M’gann can just see the other girl’s eyes narrowed into slits as she keeps her focus on the chunks of building, keeping them suspended in the air and away from the people running towards the exit. A yellow and red blur zips back and forth, helping get the slower civilians out of the way while Wally’s thoughts rush past M’gann is a blur of gogogo. Working together, they both clear the area and leave plenty of space for the fight to play out; and give Robin the space he needs to move and throw clearly. The android tries to smash Aqualad into the floor and gets a back full of blades for its trouble. She feels, rather then hears a chuckle in her mind for a moment when the attacks all hit. The lights in the little red objects flicker for a moment…And then the robot gives itself a shake that M’gann is sure would break most normal bones, and the blades embedded in the skin go sliding off to clatter on the floor as that laugh in her head cuts out. The explosions could just as easily be flash bangs from the way it stays rooted in place.
It does stagger when a white blur launches through the air and buries teeth in the back of the robot’s neck with a snarl that M’gann can hear ring in her ears from clear across the hall. Wolf is harder to shake off then the batarangs, but even he gets wrenched loose; half thrown and half leaping away, and sliding along the floor without tearing a gouge in it the same way Conner did, legs splayed out and nails screeching on the tile. He still slips and almost falls over, and while Wolf’s mind doesn’t have the same nuance that the others do, she gets the impression from his growled thoughts that he doesn’t like fighting in here; it isn’t natural, compared to running and hunting outdoors.
From all she’s gathered, it isn’t a normal earth thing to fight robots in shopping malls. Go on dates there perhaps, or go shopping (and a small part of her cringes as Kaldur is thrown through a glass window with ‘Shoes!’ painted in bright cheerful letters above, and makes a mess of the footwear stacked on display cases inside; it seems like an appropriate Megan-thing to do) but not fight.
“M’gann!” She snaps to attention as Artemis shouts. “Aqualad needs cover fire, and I need YOU to put me down!” Her teammate’s voice is as harsh as her thoughts, almost barbed and raspy…But also focused on what needs to be done. M’gann gives a shaky nod and drops her to the ground. Artemis is already drawing an arrow as her feet hit the floor, her motions fast and fluid. No hesitation as she trains the arrow on the android, and then fires. It splits into three projectiles, two of which bounce off the thing’s skin, and the other misses completely. Artemis only watches them hit for a fraction of a second before she goes for another arrow, unfazed. A pounding of feet behind M’gann and Superboy charges past, not feeling any leftover pain trying to disrupt his thoughts or his speed.
Compared to them…Compared to all of them, she feels rough, and out of phase. Even her mind doesn’t feel right, as commands to move objects and people, or processing the orders Kaldur is giving across the link all come too slow and executed clumsily. Her hands feel heavy as she makes the gestures, and the nerves all through her aren’t firing right…Her whole body doesn’t feel right.
This all should have felt right; a normal day for Megan Morse with just worrying about school. Perhaps possibly fretting over cheerleading if her heart needed a little extra jitter to make her fingers and toes tingle.
She was supposed to be just Megan. Normal Megan, off duty civilian Megan. It had been so easy to settle into that role just a week ago. Simple to just leave any worries M’gann might have behind, and with just one tiny channel open in her mind; a quiet, shallow stream at the edge of her thoughts where she could just hear and speak to Conner if she had to. Just enough of M’gann there to feel comfortable and have that welcoming whisper in her mind, but not drowning out the fact that she was on Earth.
It was in morning period, as the teacher at the front droned on over a lecture, that she was hit with the extent of how nothing felt like it was supposed to; her mask hadn’t settled right. Her entire skin felt wrong, and started to crawl once that realization hit.
Her hands shook as they tried to hold her pencil steady, suddenly feeling like five fingers were too many to keep track of. The muscles in her back all wanted to spasm and release at once, out of the confining shape she’d molded them into. The lecture rushed past her ears in a low pitched collection of syllables and mutters, and it was all she could do to stay as Megan, and stay in her seat. The pencil dug into her hand as her fingers (five she insisted, and kept the number and shape locked in her mind) wrapped around it. She was just aware of Conner sitting off to her right, and hoped that super hearing didn’t extend to picking up how every muscle in her arms and back felt like it was trying to twitch out of control-
In the corner of her eye, she thought that she could just see him turning to look at her, confused. Her chair went back with a screech as she suddenly stood up, and bolted for the door.
“Going to throw up!” She blurted out the first excuse she could think of as she ran for the hallway and an empty room. In a way that wasn’t even a lie; her stomach was squirming along with the rest of her, and a nervous, nauseating dry feeling was settling in her mouth.
The fact that she remembered Megan Wheeler using a similar excuse in episode four was mostly a coincidence.
No one stopped her, and she raced for the bathroom while whispering over and over to herself that no, her legs were going to stay the same shape, and she wasn’t going to get there any faster if they WERE different.
Her last steps were more of a stagger then a run, and she had to prop herself up on the sink with shaky arms to stare in the mirror.
Megan was looking back at her; Caucasian, not chalky white, with amber eyes instead of red. Her hair dangled over her face, disheveled, but it was still there. She forced herself to breathe in deep, riding out the spasms and lurches in her body, until she could finally settle.
“M’gann?” Came Conner’s voice, right as she heard a knock on the bathroom door and a nervous “Megan?” from Wendy on the other side.
“I’m fine,” she tried to sound as confident of that as possible, both in her voice and her thoughts. “Just…Just ate something that didn’t like me.”
‘Didn’t agree with you’ the correction came a second too late, but neither Conner or Wendy commented on it. After a moment she could hear Wendy stammer out a cautious “Alright,” and Conner slowly drift away from her thoughts. Leaving her with staring at the mirror again, and hearing her breath rasp in lungs that still felt more fluid then solid.
She thought it would have been easy enough to ignore what had happened in Qurac, at least in school. Her muscles though…They remembered what came naturally to her, and after that brief lurch of being back in her old body, wanted to go back to what felt the most familiar.
‘NO.’ That thought was private, limited to just her mind. The same way the whisper that hissed out between her teeth was meant only for her ears. Both had the effect of shoving any left over tenseness as far out of her thoughts and away from her skin as possible. She wasn’t going back to that shape, especially not when and where she was supposed to be normal Megan.
Not where Conner was as well-
Megan pushed herself back upright, telling her body to stay locked into what it was supposed to be. And it would stay that way, even if she had to keep a mental replay of every episode of Hello, Megan! going through all of class.
It's surprising how M’gann can still hear the soft patter and clink of glass being tossed aside or broken underfoot off to her left. Especially over Superboy tackling the robot with a loud crash of charging superhero meeting metal, and throwing them both into the other wall of the mall entrance hall.
She’s reminded of her first real mission and fight on Earth, at Happy Harbor. She finds herself hoping there won’t be as much damage this time, but when Superboy bulls the android into a pillar and makes the entire upper walkway groan as the support shatters, M’gann isn’t so certain.
M'gann turns to see Aqualad already standing up and brushing himself off, shedding any grains of display glass still on him. A quick mental brush, and she can’t feel anything worse then bruises from him. And despite just making a mess out of the display case, he doesn’t let any agitation cling to him; anything that is there settles out, ripples getting absorbed into a larger, calmer body of his thoughts.
She pulls away as he runs back into the thick of the fight, trading places with Superboy when the android throws itself forward, out of the rubble. Conner gets chucked off again, but doesn’t get thrown along and into the ground; he hits the floor controlled, feet first and goes sliding back, keeping most of his balance. The momentum still works against him, pushing him too far and too fast out of range. Wolf doesn’t close either, staying close to Conner; she can hear the vague suggestion of pack dominating his mind, and the determination of keeping at least one thing constant and natural…Which still leaves the robot without someone to close with it.
That’s probably when Aqualad should engage. But instead he rushes past. In another second M’gann realizes where his focus really is; the fountain in the middle of the mall plaza, which has more then enough water to fuel his attacks.
They can do this, she reminds herself. Even if this is some “next gen” (as Wally put it) robot, once Kaldur gets more fuel, they’ll have the edge-
The android holds a hand, palm out and fingers spread to show a hole carved into the hand, and it’s only NOW that M’gann remembers what sort of technology is built into the thing. A projectile, long and javelin like, whistles out of its hand. Her own hands move too slowly, her fingers not listening and the motions clumsy, while the weapon passes through her telekinesis with a low thrum. It doesn’t pass through Aqualad though, burying itself in his side before he can reach the water, spearing him to the ground.
As it turned out, she only needed to go from episode one to episode seven of the series before Megan had enough confidence that her hands would stay the right shape, and could feel her back starting to settle. Not relax, but her shoulder blades and torso weren’t bunching up any longer. Conner was silent the entire time, other then a cautious ”You okay?” or two. And each time she gave a slight nod, which seemed to keep him satisfied.
She tried not to move around much, and not test her limits until the bell finally rang. When Megan finally stood up her legs and arms felt awkward; heavy and clumsy, more like lead weights then proper, light and slender limbs-
‘They’re fine.’ She assured herself. ‘They’re shaped how they need to be, and they’re better this way.’
That didn’t get them to move how they should have, though. Not when she left homeroom, and not when she reported to field for practice. She couldn’t remember Megan Wheeler ever being unable to do a basic handstand; falling over a lot, yes, but never being slow about any of it.
“You sure you’re okay?” Wendy could sound a lot like Conner when she wanted to. She could also pull off that same, slightly concerned, mostly doubtful expression, although Wendy didn’t scowl nearly as much when she did it.
“Y-yeah.” That didn’t do much to convince her friend, though, and Megan fumbled for something that hopefully would. “Just...” With a sudden burst of relief, her thoughts latched onto something.
“Oh, just worried about finals! You know how it is, this late in November; have to juggle so much and try not to drop any of it!” That at least earned her a cautious smile.
“Yeah, well…Make sure you don’t drop yourself on your head. You could stop early, if you want; it’s not like we’re going to be practicing in the next few weeks anyway.” While a small part of Megan wanted to object and say she could work with the team, the rest of her nodded, and sent her moving for the showers.
Conner was waiting for her when she came back out. In the back of her head, she could faintly remember him watching from the bleachers, which gave her a much needed smile…Although what he said next almost wilted it.
“You don’t seem alright. What’s wrong?” When she hesitated, he pressed further. “Is this about what happened in Qurac?”
‘Please don’t ask that-‘ She just caught herself from broadcasting that thought, and felt her mind and her throat go still. She didn’t want to answer that correctly, but she didn’t want to tell him no, either; she was already lying enough.
“Just a little tired.” M’gann answered instead. She also let her thoughts slip into a different order, trading one name out for another once the conversation drifted away from school. “I wouldn’t mind heading back for some rest; that should make me feel better!” And to prove it, she worked a little pep into her voice, and held her eye contact with him. “Maybe study a little-“
His lips twisted down into a frown at that. “You know all that stuff already. Better then I do.” The doubt was back in his voice. “I’ve seen you read anything about Earth you can find.”
M’gann wanted to find someway to argue that, until she felt him resting a hand on her shoulder.
“M’gann,” Even after all of the missions, she could still feel caution lingering his thoughts as he tried to make contact. “You know that I’ll help if I can, right?” She could feel that worry in his thoughts…Worry for her, and that sensation made a sick feeling settle in her chest, the same way it made her feet light and want to lift off the ground-
‘Floating isn’t normal here.’ The thought, ugly and jagged in contrast to Conner’s steadiness, cracked across her mind. Having that want to let his thoughts lift her up only made it worse.
“Can we head back now?” M’gann found herself asking as she pulled away. “Like I said, I’m just feeling tired is all.” That last, at least, didn’t feel like a lie, as fatigue suddenly dug into her chest, and tried to pull her down.
“Regnorts enots, regnorts enots, regnorts enots,” Zatanna is repeating, her focus on the wall that now has more dents and holes in it then support. Her voice echoes, and that groan from the upper levels lessens a bit as plaster and dust stops raining down on them; if nothing else, they don’t have to worry about the building dropping on their heads. Not when there’s already Kaldur to worry about.
He’s not getting up. When M’gann touches Aqualad’s mind, she can feel the cut and metal in his side…Radiating heat through him as well, with the metal a point of white hot agony that makes it impossible for him to move or even THINK-
She pulls back, before the heat can sear her as well. Robin is shouting something across everyone’s minds while her thoughts spin from the heat, and then she sees him and Kid Flash both exchanging a look. They both rush the android, Robin to distract and Wally to help Aqualad. Artemis moves into a better line of firing as well, until another one of those javelins forces her back and into cover behind an escalator. The concrete sides fracture as the javelin buries into it, and M’gann can hear an angry growl of a thought as Artemis gropes for an arrow that her tumble forced her to let go of.
M’gann pushes herself forward as well. The fight has moved well away from her, and with Kaldur down while Superboy and Wolf are yards away, M’gann realizes that she needs to help as well.
Her feet leave the ground easily enough, but she wavers in the air as she tries to move forward. Her skin feels…Tight. Stretched too thin over her frame, too fragile for what’s about to happen. And a part of her mind urges her to change that.
‘No, I can’t…’ She presses back against those thoughts and impulses that scream for her to change back, into something that can fight better.
‘They’ll hate me-‘ M’gann remembers the image of them recoiling from her. It makes her sick in a way that the churning in her stomach and bile rising up in her throat from her body straining at the seams can’t hope to match.
She can feel her heart pounding, wanting to split in two from the way it hammers and strains against her chest. Her breath comes out ragged, loud and echoing in her ears as she tries to steady herself and stay in control.
Only that’s a lie, because she isn’t in control; not when she can still feel her skin trying to go tight and peel away into something more sleek and skeletal…Not when she stumbles mid-flight as her stomach gives another lurch, and she sees Robin mistime a leap and get caught in one of those metal coated hands. He’s already going for another blade, but the machine reacts before he can, and sends him hurtling into Wally in a speed she knows can’t be good for his body. They crumble to the ground, close to Kaldur as the team suddenly drops from eight to five.