Chapter 1: Prologue
"Crap, my head is on fire."
"Move your feet Wally, you're hurting me!"
"Is everyone alright?"
"Does anyone know what happened?"
"Shut up!" Robin finally hissed. He carefully scanned the room around them. "We're in some sort of holding cell; we need to figure a way out of here."
"Holding cell? How did this happen? We would have noticed someone kidnapping us." Miss Martian wondered aloud.
"That's not what matters now. What matters now is that we get out of here alive." Aqualad studied the room closely. "Robin, hacking and escape techniques are your area of expertise. Do you have any thoughts on our current situation?" He asked. The team looked to their youngest member.
"I'm trying now but this one's tricky. It's almost exactly like Bat- got it." The cell's doors slid open and the six youths darted to freedom. "I'm working on the alarms but there's no way of knowing if they haven't already been set off." Robin warned.
"Then we keep moving." Artemis reached behind her expectantly only to find that her bow and arrows were missing. "Crap, I'm unarmed!"
"We'll make due." Aqualad said in his usually calm tone. They continued moving through the dark, carful to remain in sight of each other.
"Uh guys? We may not be getting back home as simply as we thought." Wally said. They had finally reached a window.
"Oh my god." He heard one of the girls gasp. They could clearly see the shape of the Earth orbiting so far away from them. They were in space.
Robin had managed to pull up a basic floor plan and hesitantly lead them through the maze of hallways and corridors.
"From the looks of this, there's a flight hanger in the north. We get there, we jack a ship and we jet outta here." He said. The team agreed that that was the best plan any of them had yet to come up with.
They got as close to the hanger as possible when their captors finally decided to put and end to their plans.
"After you break into our hideout you decide to just bail on us? How messed up is that?" They heard a familiar voice ask.
"Flash!" Wally cried. "Oh thank god, this is just some stupid training exercise that Bats is making us do." He almost seemed to be jumping for joy.
Robin however, had picked up on the older man's apparent confusion.
"Flash, you were supposed to take them back to the holding cell, not carry on a conversation." Batman came up behind the man clothed all in red, the other founders close behind him.
"Batman! Why are you putting us in a prison?" Artemis demanded angrily.
"Guys? Something is seriously wrong." They noticed Robin slowly backing away. "I get the feeling we're not in Kansas anymore." The team began to back away from their would be mentors, the threat of captivity almost too distressing to bear.
"Hey now, no need to get defensive. If you'll remember, you're the ones the suddenly appeared here." Superman stepped forward trying to appear as nonthreatening as possible. They were just kids after all.
"Scatter and take defensive positions! They're not the League!" Robin shouted. Kid Flash grabbed Artemis and the two disappeared in a yellow and green blur. Miss Martian turned invisible and Superboy charged the man of steel.
"Get the others and get out of here!" He shouted. Robin and Aqualad both broke into a sprint, Superboy was indestructible, if any of them was able to handle himself, it was him.
To say Clark Kent was surprised would be an understatement. He'd been enjoying a nice meal with the other founders when the six children had appeared seemingly out of thin air. Before a fight could even be fought, the youths had suddenly fallen into an unconscious state which bewildered them all. Batman had insisted on putting them in a holding cell until further notice. None of them had expected them to escape so easily.
So when the one wearing the all too familiar S shield charged him and managed to tackle him to the ground, Clark could barely contain his shock. He quickly regained his head and managed to throw the teen off him.
"Get after the others! I'll stay with this one!" He shouted. Flash took off after the yellow speedster, Martian Manhunter and Green Lantern took after the green girl. Batman, Wonder Woman, and Hawk Girl chased after the last two.
Wally could feel the man dressed as his uncle gaining on him. He had to get Artemis to safety or at least find her bow. He knew she wasn't defenseless without it but she sure as heck was a lot better off with it.
"KF!" He heard Artemis yell at the top of her lungs. "Turn back, I saw my bow!" Wally didn't respond but turned around to show he'd heard. Artemis managed to direct him back to where he was sure they'd the started. Everything looked so much different with the lights on.
"There, there it is!" Wally snatched the bow off the wall and passed it behind him. "You can let me off, just slow down enough for me to tuck and roll. Set me up right in front him, Wally and I may be able to hit him."
"Got it! Get ready!" Artemis braced herself and as soon as she felt Wally slow, she slipped off his back and fell hard into position. She swung her bow up and released a flurry of arrows.
Flash had not expected the girl to jump, nor had he expected the sudden barrage of razor sharp arrows to come flying his way. He was able to dodge all but one which sliced deep into his left arm as it flew by. Still, he kept his footing as he passed the girl and continued his pursuit of the boy.
M'gann did not wish to fight her uncle J'onn, even if it really wasn't her uncle, she still had no desire to fight him. She stayed towards the shadows carful to conceal herself as she searched for a ship. They needed a way off the deathtrap satellite.
"There you are. Your camouflage requires work." She heard the man with her uncle's voice say. Miss Martian let down her invisibility and stared at the two men before her.
"Don't fight, we don't want to hurt you." The Green Lantern said.
M'gann touched her fingers to her temples and began a mental assault. The Green Lantern cringed under the force but the Martian did not.
'You are strong, no doubt. But you are raw and untrained.' He thought to her. M'gann tried to block him out of her mind but cracked under the sheer power of the older man's assault. She promptly lost consciousness.
"Robin, the others?" Aqualad shouted. He matched Hawk Girl blow for blow.
"I've lost Miss M and KF's down but the others seem fine!" Robin shouted back. He continued to dodge both Batman and Wonder Woman, jumping from rafter to rafter.
"He won't stay still!" Wonder Woman cried exasperatedly.
"Keep on him, he can't keep it up forever." Batman watched the boy skillfully dodge one of his batarangs with a gymnast's finesse. The boy seemed to know every move before Bruce made it, none of his gadgets were a surprise.
"Aqualad, Superboy's down!" Robin leaped past Wonder Woman and clean through Batman's legs. "We have to jet, now!" Suddenly, and arrow came flying only to be deflected by Wonder Woman's bracelets.
"I found a jet, let's get outta here!" Artemis took off past them. Robin and Aqualad followed. The three of them would have to regroup later. Maybe they could get Roy's help.
"I think that's quite enough." Unexpectedly, they were engulfed in green light and levitated off the ground.
"No way you're a legit Green Lantern." Artemis hissed.
"I assure you, I am in fact 'legit'." John said.
"This kid is fast, like ridiculously fast. It took me forever to get close enough to grab him." Barry Allen entered the main room of the Watchtower with the younger boy thrown over his shoulder.
"KF!" Robin shouted in alarm. J'onn soon appeared with Miss Martian and Superman with Superboy.
"You look worn out. He must have given you a run for your money." Hawk Girl commented.
"He just wouldn't go down."
"This is that last time we'll ask nicely. Identify yourselves and who you're working for Green Lantern commanded.
Robin and Aqualad glanced at each other before coming to a silent agreement.
"I am Aqualad, this is Robin and that is Artemis. You are holding Kid Flash, Miss Martian, and Superboy." He introduced.
"'Kid' Flash, whatda ya mean by that?" Flash asked.
"He is Flash's partner. They fight crime together." Aqualad explained.
"I don't have a partner kid. None of us do."
"You aren't the Flash. Our Flash would never attack his own nephew." Robin said. He carefully gauged the man's reaction.
"Nephew? I don't have a nephew." Flash said hesitantly.
"Oh he's just trying to get in your head." Green Lantern said.
"No I'm not, am I Barry?" There was silence in the room. The Boy Wonder instantly knew he'd been correct.
"How do you know my name?" Barry demanded crossly.
"You're my best friend's uncle. I've been to your house loads of times." Robin said. He studied the older man. "Kid Flash is your partner. You both work together in Central City."
"Perhaps it is magic. Maybe we should call Doctor Fate. He could tell us what is going on." Wonder Woman suggested.
"She could be right." J'onn agreed. "I will go call for him." He glanced at M'gann one last time before leaving. They would have a lot to discuss with the sorcerer when they saw him. There was simply no way the boy's story could be true. Right?
Chapter 2: Chapter 1
Wally let out a low groan as he stirred. "Rob?"
"KF! Are you alright?" Robin cried.
"Yeah. I'm a little tired but I'll be okay. Did you have to hit me so hard?" Wally replied while glaring at the older Flash.
"Lantern." Batman said sternly. In an instant he too was engulfed in the glowing green light.
"Whoa!" Wally cried as he was lifted off the ground. "I take it we lost the fight." He inferred by the teams captured state. None of them looked remotely happy.
Artemis huffed irately and began beating on the sides of the glowing sphere. "Let us go! You brought us here and you have no right to hold us! When I get outta here I'm going to-"
"Settle down everyone. John, put them on the ground please. They aren't going to be any nicer to us all cooped up in there. Maybe we can talk without attacking each other." Clark interjected. Something about keeping children held up in a prison didn't make him feel good.
"I don't think that's a good idea Clark. They're-"
"Children. They woke up in a strange world where nothing makes sense and they're frightened. Keeping them caged isn't going to help." Clark studied each of the children. Clearly something was amiss and their best bet was to try and get the kids home.
"I have to agree with Lantern on this one, if he lets them go and they bolt, we may not be able to round them up again. They may actually get a hold to one of the jets and then wreck havoc on Earth. At least we can keep the damage contained up here." Hawk Girl said.
"I don't think they're going to leave their teammates here unconscious." Clark gestured to Superboy and Miss Martian. "Let them down. We'll get these two the medical treatment they need and we'll get someone to help them."
A moment passed before Green Lantern finally lowered the teens to the ground. He released the power of the ring on them. Robin, Aqualad, Kid Flash, and Artemis landed soundly on the floor and turned to face the Justice League.
"Thank you for releasing us. We merely wish to return home without confrontation." Aqualad said gravely. Artemis's hand itched towards her bow. Her fight or flight reflex was kicking in. She was ready to fight to the death.
"Easy Artemis. Easy." Robin whispered. He could sense her distress. "With Supey and Miss M down, there's no way we can handle another fight."
"Ugh... My head hurts." Megan sat up slowly. She wiped her bleary eyes and looked around. "Guys?" She scooted away from Batman in fear.
"Chill Miss M, we're talking now." Kid Flash warned her.
'Talking?' She thought towards them.
'Great, we really needed our mental hook up. So what are we going to do?' Wally thought.
'We talk. I'm still running some test but my scans tell me that's the real Batman. Something's seriously off.' Robin informed them.
'And the others?' Aqualad wanted to know.
'Also legitimate. We could test Clark with the kryptonite I keep in my utility belt.'
'You keep kryptonite?'
'Batman makes me. I would never use it on Superboy though.'
'I do not recommend that plan.' Their heads all snapped to J'onn. He had arrived with Dr. Fate.
'Well crap. So much for a mental uplink giving us an advantage.' Kid Flash groaned.
'He is the master.' M'gann reminded them.
"What do you make of this, Dr. Fate?" Diana inquired. The man clothed in navy and gold considered the children in front of him
"They are not of this dimension. They are from elsewhere." The man finally said gravely.
"Not from this dimension? You have to be kidding me!" Flash exclaimed.
"I told you all we shouldn't have gone messing with Cadmus. Nothing good ever comes out of that place." Artemis wanted to pull her hair out. Now they were in a whole other dimension, one where their mentors were even worse than usual? She didn't think she could take it.
"This explains things, why they don't recognize us, why they started a fight. There's a good chance that we don't exist here." Robin tapped his lower lip thoughtfully. "If we're trapped here, this could be really bad. Who knows what chain of events this has set off in our own dimension."
"Hey, calm down. We'll work out how to get you back home. For now you'll just have to stay here with us." Clark supplied.
"Since when did he get so nice to us?" Artemis whispered.
"Super hearing and what do you mean by that?"
"Well…it's just…our Clark is kind of and ass." Robin supplied. He had been trying to contain his shock. "No offense meant of course."
Clark's brow furrowed. He couldn't imagine a world where he would have a reason to mistreat a child.
"I'm still confused. They know me and they know Superman; they know both of our secret identities-"
"I know all of your secret identities." Robin smirked.
"What I'm asking is, how?" Flash shot an annoyed look his way at being interrupted.
"I thought we already talked about this. In our world, we're your partners. We're each paired to a hero. That's why we know your identities. Well, all except for Batman's, only Robin knows his." Kid Flash explained. The teenagers nodded at his explanation.
"I don't believe that, none of us would ever have a sidekick." Flash said.
"Okay, first: don't call us sidekicks." Artemis growled. "Second: he is not lying."
"She is right, no word he has said has been untrue." J'onn supplied.
"That's impossible. I'm The Flash, I don't need a sidekick. I can handle myself." Flash said indignantly.
"Uncle Barry stop! God, you are so obnoxious here!" Kid Flash said. Robin squeezed his eyes shut. He knew what Kid Flash was really feeling. His uncle was his only confident. At a young age, Wally's parents had given him over to his aunt and his uncle. Now he had lost someone who he saw as his father.
"Barry." J'onn said. Obviously he had realized the same thing.
"We need to wake up Superboy. If we don't he'll wake up fighting." M'gann lightly pulled Wally away. She was right; Superboy would still think they were on the defensive.
"Superboy? So he's my side- excuse me, partner?" Clark actually looked hopeful.
"No. You and Conner don't exactly get along." Robin said cryptically.
"Don't get along? Why ever not?" Clark looked puzzled.
"It's complicated." Artemis crossed her arms and glared.
"And who do you belong to? You don't seem like a partnership kind of girl." Green Lantern raised and eyebrow at her.
"If you have to know, Green Arrow's my mentor." She huffed.
"Oliver? No, he'd never take an apprentice. I don't believe it." Shayera Hol threw her hands up. "This is absurd!"
"Not really, Ollie screwed up one kid and now he's working on a second." Artemis snapped.
"And the rest of you? Who do you all belong to?" Hawk Girl asked.
"I am Aqualad and I humbly serve my king who you would know as Aquaman." Kaldur responded in his normal monotonous voice.
"My uncle J'onn brought me to this team." M'gann smiled sweetly.
"And you?" The League looked to the youngest hero.
"Batman." Robin said with a wicked smirk. There was beat of silence.
"Now that, even I don't believe." Clark shook his head.
"There's no way he would take a child on as a partner." Green Lantern was close to laughing at the absurdity of the situation. Aquaman, he could believe. Maybe even Flash. The girl had said she was J'onn's niece so that made sense but he drew the line at Batman. The man was no good with kids.
Bruce Wayne stared the thirteen year old for a few minutes.
"You're my 'partner'?" he said skeptically.
"I was the first 'partner'." Dick challenged his mentor's glare.
"Just find a way to get them back home and out of the Watchtower. We need to get this wrapped up and soon." With that, the Dark Knight swept from the room without sparing his would-be sidekick a second glance.
"You could have woken me up." Conner was rubbing the back of his head. He had woken up a few minutes earlier, much to the joy of his team.
"Yeah, but if it hadn't been us standing over you, you would have killed someone." Kid Flash said without humor.
"You're right. Are we still on the satellite?" Superboy asked.
"Yeah, we aren't going anywhere anytime soon. They want to keep an eye on us while they try to figure out how to send us back to our dimension." Robin informed him. He couldn't get Bruce's dismissive glance out of his head. Bruce had never been uncivilized with him. Sometimes curt, maybe a little demanding but Dick had never been ignored. Bruce was his father.
Shayera sat in her corner, swinging her flail back and forth. She had been assigned first watch over the teenagers and she had to admit it was pretty boring. They all watched her with distinct apprehension.
"Can you believe this? They've assigned us a baby sitter. We're back to square one with these people." She heard the one named Artemis growl. Shayera couldn't help but laugh. Clearly she was the feisty one of the group.
"Please, I just want to get home where my uncle actually knows me, oh and where's he's not a complete jerk." Kid Flash snapped. "Maybe they'll put it together and we can get back to kicking but back home."
"I cannot help but agree with Wally. This has been extremely distressing. I want to go home." Miss Martian was sitting on the floor, her knees hugged tightly to her face. "I want to see my uncle J'onn, not a man I don't know." Shayera couldn't help but sigh at the sadness in her voice. She stood and opened the holding cell's doors.
"I'm changing the watch. John or Diana should be in a few moments." She said.
"We don't need a babysitter!" Artemis looked about ready to explode.
"Cry me a river sweetie, it's not like I want to spend my Saturday day night with a bunch of kids." Shayera replied over her shoulder. Once door slid close, she wearily rubbed her forehead. "This is going to be a nightmare."
Chapter 3: Chapter 2
"This has gotten ridiculous." Artemis threw her hands up. "Don't you guys get it? We're back to square one with these people! We're not heroes to them! We're just children that need to be controlled."
"Chill Artemis. We just need to remain calm and keep our heads on straight." Robin managed to keep his brave face while on the inside, he was feeling the exact same way.
"No! We're just as good! We've battled the Injustice League, we've tangoed with the worst of the worst. At least in our dimension we'd finally earned a modicum of respect. This? This is not okay! We're back in a holding cell and we just let them put us here. It's insane!"
"She's right." Wally agreed. "Look at Rob. He's more field experience than a lot of the people actually in The League and we're all still just sidekicks. We'll always be sidekicks." Wally said in a defeated tone.
"Stop it you guys." M'gann cried. "We are not sidekicks. We've earned our places just like anyone else. We're an elite team, emphasis on team. They might not respect us here but we know in our hearts that our mentors, that our families would never treat us this way."
"I don't care about that. All I know is that I'm sick of being caged like an animal." Superboy stood up and glared at the door.
"These are the people that trained us right? If anyone knows their weaknesses-"
"Anyone feel like a little offensive play?"
J'onn paused midsentence to listen. "The girl, my niece is blocking my thoughts. However, I can still feel how irate the children have become. They are not pleased with us for locking them away." He informed the League just as Shayera walked in.
"I don't care about what pleases them. I just want them gone." Batman growled.
"Don't you think you're being a little harsh?" Clark inquired. He had volleyed for the team to be set up in individual bedrooms in the watchtower. His idea had been ignored.
"We should call Aquaman and Green Arrow. This is their problem too." Diana said. "If it was my 'partner', I would want to know."
"And the extra backup couldn't hurt." Hawk Girl supplied. "There's no way we can handle them on our own again. Last time, they were scared and focused on finding a way out. Next time, they'll be solely focused on the fight." She said.
"The rage is building. If we do not act quickly, we may have another fight on our hands." J'onn interjected. Clark stood.
"I'm letting them out. This isn't fair to a bunch of kids." He said.
The sound of a door ripping off its hinges told him he had been too late.
"You didn't have to break the door." Robin admonished.
"I told you I don't like being caged." Superboy growled. He threw the now broken door down on the floor. "Let's take 'em down." The team shot forward weapons at the ready.
"M'gann?" Aqualad shouted.
'I've got it!' All their minds were linked. 'He won't get in this time.' She could feel J'onn poking at her shields, looking for an entry point. 'You won't get me this time.' She put her hands to her temples and focused on keeping the older man out of her mind.
'Artemis! I have a plan; we'll need one of your impact arrows.' Robin thought to her. 'Wally, put her on your back again. Artemis proved she could hit Flash, now let's hit him where it counts. We can find this dimension's Zatara and get out of here on our own terms.'
Artemis hopped on Wally's back and drew an arrow. 'Don't slow down until I tell you to.' She warned.
'Anything for you babe.'
Superman was ready to handle the kids again. He hoped he could talk them out of doing something so foolish but the prospect seemed unlikely.
Suddenly, the room was filled with a thick black smoke and he was being thrown backwards. They meant business this time. The attack was clearly coordinated. With his heightened vision, Clark could make out the bright red S-Shield decorating Superboy's chest. "Been waitin' a long time to do that." The boy said.
"I can tell." Clark threw Conner off of him. The last time, the boy had only wished to hold Clark back from going after the others. This time, he was in full fledged attack mode.
Hawk Girl struggled to dodge the stream of water that almost knocked her out of the air. Aqualad had burst the pipes and was trying his hardest to bring her down. He sent a stream of electricity through the water, effectively using the older woman's flail as a lightning rod. Shayera was screaming when she hit the ground. Her red hair covered her face.
"You're going to pay for that." Green Lantern growled. Aqualad managed to dodge the beams of green light coming his way. He'd seen John Stewart fight before; he just needed to remember his battle strategies.
'Okay, get ready to slow up. Remember the plan.' Artemis readied her bow for what she knew would be a sudden deceleration. She just hoped their strategy worked. 'NOW!'
Wally dug his heels into the metal floor, screeching to a sudden stop. Flash stumbled to do the same and Artemis fired her impact arrow right for his left knee.
Barry felt the pain in his knee before he spotted the arrow. He swore underneath his breath as a second arrow came flying at his right knee, immobilizing him.
'Good thing I'm a fast he healer.' He thought painfully.
"You know what would be awesome for you right now?" Kid Flash suddenly stood in front of him. "If you had a partner, say one dressed in yellow? You may not be in this situation right now uncle B." With those words, Kid Flash and Artemis disappeared.
Martian Manhunter had already begun setting up the zeta beam transport before the fight began. Green Arrow, Black Canary, and Supergirl all appeared in the transporter.
"-now what did J'onn say?" Ollie asked.
"Something about parallel uni- KAL!" Kara Zor-El launched herself at the boy who had her cousin pinned.
"There's a chick version of Supey here? You've got to be kidding me!" Kid Flash exclaimed. Kara pinned Conner to the ground. She lifted her fist to punch him, when and arrow slammed against her shoulder. Conner took her brief moment of distraction to flip her over.
"This was definitely not accounted for." Dick Grayson hissed. He hadn't expected any more Leagues to get involved. Green Arrow was taking aim and Wally and Black Canary was helping John disable Aqualad.
"If you really were my partner, you'd know to account for every situation and how to handle it before entering into a fight." Batman said. He threw another batarang at the teen.
"Sorry if my game's a little off. Transdimensional travel tends to do that me." Robin countered with spiraling back flip.
"It's obvious that I trained you, that's the only reason you've been able to last this long. However, I can't say I understand why I would take on an apprentice." Bruce's eyes raked over the young man. He wasn't stupid, he could recognize his own fighting style.
"You didn't take in an apprentice. You took in a son." Dick vaulted past him.
'Artemis! I need your help!' he thought.
'I'm a little bit busy helping Superboy!' she mentally shouted back.
'It is to help Superboy. We need to take out the blonde and Superman! For that, I'm going to need your help.'
Artemis gasped as she saw Robin's mental plan flash through her mind. It was brilliant. 'I read you loud in clear, boy wonder.' Robin reached into his utility belt and tossed her the item she'd seen in her vision. She removed two of her electrified arrows and readied the assault. She pulled back her bowstring and took aim.
M'gann hadn't even begun to fathom how hard it would be to fight her uncle when she decided to take him head on. The Martian had years of experience and he was the one who'd taught her everything she knew.
'I have to keep the others safe. I have to protect my friends.' She focused hard, trying to deflect all of the potentially incapacitating blows her uncle was throwing her way.
'You do not have to fight. We can settle this peacefully.' J'onn's gentle voice came in her mind.
'No, I don't believe we can. We refuse to be treated like prisoners. This has to end somewhere.' She responded. She could feel him prodding inside her head, he was all over.
'Why, you aren't my niece at all are you? You're a white mar-'
"GET OUT OF MY HEAD!" she screamed. In an instant, the battlefield exploded into chaos. Everyone was vaulted off their feet and thrown into walls, tables, and even chairs. The psychic backlash threw M'gann into the ground and her would-be-uncle spiraling into the nearest wall.
"Damn, Miss M…did you have to hit us too?" Robin struggled to get to his feet. He could see everyone in the room trying to do the same. This was the window they needed. Despite M'gann's battle, the mental uplink remained intact.
'This is exactly what we needed! We can bolt!' he mentally shouted. Superboy yanked up Miss Martian as soon as Kid Flash had Artemis and the pairs vanished. Robin and Aqualad were soon on Superboy's heels.
"Now exactly what was so urgent? I was in the middle of an adventure you know." Aquaman stepped out of transport only to be smashed to the ground by Kid Flash.
"Wally!" Artemis flew off of Kid Flash's back and onto the hard metal floor.
"What in the world? Who are you children?" Aquaman look to the two teens confusedly.
"Aquaman?" Kid Flash asked groggily. "Great, now we really have a party. When is this going to end?"
"It ends the moment we all decided to stop fighting and talk." Neither Kid Flash nor Artemis had noticed the man of steel approached them. "You aren't the only one with super speed." He smiled and held out his hand. "I promise that I won't let them put you in a cage if you promise me that you won't let your friend shoot me with her kryptonite arrow. Smart kid, your Robin friend." He winked at Artemis. She scowled. How had he known Robin had handed her off the Kryptonite.
"Fine. But any of you call us sidekicks one more time I swear I'll-"
"Deal. And believe me, you just proved that you're much better than sidekicks."
Chapter 4: Chapter 3
"A separate dimension? Really?" Black Canary looked unconvinced.
"Dr. Fate confirmed it, they are from another dimension." Diana assured her.
"And in this dimension, we need side-"
Clark shot Green Arrow a sharp look.
"Partners. We need partners." Ollie corrected himself. "And I'm on my second?"
"Yeah, Roy quit a couple of months ago."
"He kinda sorta maybe hates you." Artemis said simply. "You treated him like a baby and made him wear a stupid yellow hat. He finally threw his hands up and left. I replaced him."
"I'm awesome! I don't understand why anyone would quit on me." Ollie actually looked genuinely disappointed.
"Despite that, we have some bigger issues to discuss." Batman cut in.
"Yeah, about how everyone here is an ass." Wally muttered under his breath.
"Super hearing." Clark reminded him.
'Maybe we should take this Clark home and leave ours here. I don't think they'd mind.' Wally thought.
'I'd be cool with that. Maybe then he'd actually treat Supey like a person.' Robin agreed.
'He doesn't know I'm his clone. When he does, he'll be exactly the same way.' Conner crossed his arms and glared at the older Super.
"You're mentally communicating again, aren't you? Remarkable, why didn't we think of that?" Diana said. She was truly impressed.
'Is nothing sacred? Now they're trying to take our strategy.' Artemis mentally screamed.
'It's not like she's in our heads or anything and J'onn only pokes in every once and a while. It could be worse.'
'You should have let me shoot him.'
'Right now, Clark's the only one on our side. We need him.' Robin reminded her.
"Well I don't care how smart they are. They initiated an organized attack. They should be back where they came from." Kara huffed in frustration.
"I agree." Green Lantern nodded.
"You put me in a cage. I don't like being cages." Superboy growled.
"Hey, let's try to keep the peace, okay?" Superman held his hands up between the two groups. "No fighting."
"She started it."
"Spoken like a child." Green Lantern chided.
"That's it!" Artemis yanked her bow into a firing position.
"ENOUGH!" Superman cried. "Put the bow down! Stop making rude comments. Everybody needs to stop fighting!" he sighed exasperatedly. "How about this? Everybody will feel better after a good night's rest. We'll reconvene in the morning."
"Fine, you know they'll just try to escape during the night."
'Please make them stop.' M'gann pleaded. She could feel everybody's feelings, each and everyone like a stab to her mind.
"My niece is exhausted. This is taking its toll on her mind. Superman is right, they require rest. They will not try to escape tonight." J'onn said gravely.
M'gann was so tired that she almost didn't notice the fact that J'onn still referred to her as his niece.
'Why are you doing that?' she asked suspiciously.
'Because the others will not appreciate being deceived.' He sent a small smile her way. 'I have seen your memories. I am happy to think of you as my niece.'
"So you'll be sleeping here. It's not much but none of the watchtower rooms are very big. I hope you like it." Conner didn't know what to make of the different Superman. Why was he being so nice? "I'm not going to lock you in here so you don't have to be afraid-"
"I'm not afraid of you." Conner snapped. Clark was taken aback by the sudden burst of hostility.
"Sorry, I didn't mean it that way. I just, I got the feeling that I've done something wrong and I don't know what it is. Will you tell me?"
"You're the one who hates me. You hate me because I'm your clone. You're threatened by me." Conner looked as if he wanted to punch Clark right in the face.
"My clone? Who's cloned me?" Clark asked. He'd seen the resemblance between himself and the boy but had dismissed it as his own imagination.
"Cadmus. They made me and you hate me for it." Everything clicked. All the rage, it made sense. Superboy desperately needed a mentor and the other Superman had rejected him.
"I'm sorry. I know it wasn't me that did this to you but I'm sorry. You don't deserve it. No one does. It shouldn't matter at all. You're still a person." Clark placed a tentative hand on the boy's shoulder. "I don't want us to hate each other especially since there are only two other kryptonians left. We need to stick together."
"My cousin, Kara Zor-El. You'll know her as Supergirl."
"We don't have a Supergirl where I'm from. It's just me." Conner informed him.
"Interesting." Clark contemplated that. "You should get some rest. I have a feeling it's going to be a long day tomorrow."
"Kid Flash?" Robin had asked to bunk with his best friend. They're beds were across from each other.
"I'm sorry about Barry. I know this is killing you." He said softly.
"Nah, it's cool. We're gonna get back soon and I'll see him again. I'm sorry about your dad though." Wally tried to direct the conversation back onto Robin. He didn't want to talk about having an uncle who looked at him the exact way his father did. It was painful to even think about.
"I miss him." Dick responded almost silently. It was true. Bruce was his everything. The man had taken him in when no one else would. He could still remember the children's shelter he'd been force to stay in the month after his parents died. It had been hell.
"When we get back I never want to leave Central again. It'll just be me, uncle Barry and aunt Iris." Kid Flash muttered.
"Please let us get home."
'I want to go home.' "The children are miserable. They miss their families desperately. It is sad to listen to." J'onn commented. "I am afraid for them."
"What if we can't get them back? They could end up trapped here forever." Diana said. "Never seeing families ever again. What that has to their minds. They're desperate."
"People do things when they're desperate." Clark sighed.
'Just like my dad…'
'I can never go back there. Never. That place was awful.'
'He's lying, he'll never care for me. I'm his clone, I can't trust a word he says.'
'I'm not a child. I've had to fight for myself my whole lie, how dare they call me a child.'
'I wish he really was my uncle.'
'I wish I could see Atlantis again.'
J'onn closed his mind, almost overwhelmed by the grief. It hurt. "There is more. The children are much the same as us. Scarred by experience, marred by guilt at weakness over past battles. Not one is unscathed. They seek solace in their mentors and have found that they are alone in a strange place. It is miserable."
"Barry, you could have been nicer. He's harmless really." Clark tried.
"He and his girlfriend shot out my knees! That's far from harmless."
"He's your nephew. You're family."
"In his dimension, his uncle is all he has. He cares and deeply respects him." J'onn informed him. "You are not that man."
"Damn right I'm not. I don't need a kid's help." Flash crossed his arm indignantly.
"He managed to take you down. Super speed or not." Batman said darkly. Though he would never admit it, he was impressed.
"They're trained fighters. They're dangerous." Black Canary cut in.
"So they stay here. No big deal. We handle it. I don't think they'll try to be trouble." Clark insisted.
"That girl was going to shoot you with an arrow laced with kryptonite! She could have killed you!" Kara raved.
"It wouldn't have killed me. Besides, it shows they're resourceful. They were trained by us so it's no wonder that at least one of them carries it. I imagine it's Batman's kid that has the stuff."
"It would make since." Bruce conceded.
"See? I think they've proven that they don't have to stay here if they don't want to. Had it just been the founders here, I think they could have taken us. But as J'onn will vouch, they're all in their rooms letting us decide for them. It isn't right." Clark wanted to make them understand.
"I just don't think it's right to keep children locked up." Green Arrow sighed. "That's my opinion."
The Leaguers stared at each other and a dark silence filled the room. They were in a deadlock.
Chapter 5: Chapter 4
"Did you get any sleep last night?" Kid flash looked as if he hadn't slept in years. He yawned loudly.
"Tried to. It really wasn't dark enough for me in there." Robin replied. He shrugged lightly.
"Of course, the son of the Bat needs total cave darkness to get some shut eye. I kept waking up and hoping we were back home. Wish totally not granted." Kid Flash stretched his arms above his head and let out a another yawn. "We should go wake up the others."
"We're already awake." Artemis already had her quiver strapped tightly to her back and her bow in hand. M'gann, Kaldur, and Superboy also stood behind her.
"We're supposed to meet Clark for breakfast in the mess hall. Then we'll go into negotiations again." Robin stretched lithely and slowly led the team towards their destination.
"When did the League start accepting children?" a blonde with white stars decorating her blue outfit said sardonically.
"I don't know but batman must be severely lowering his standards." Another woman chided.
"I'll show them standards." Artemis's clenched her bow tightly.
"No. We will not start a fight if it is not necessary. Please calm yourself." Aqualad warned her.
"Let's just find Superman and get out of here. That's all I'm worried about." Kid Flash yawned again.
The team could feel the staring of the individual heroes.
"There you are. I was coming to wake you soon." They spotted Superman sitting in the far corner.
"Hello." Aqualad greeted courteously.
"Good morning. I hope you all slept well." Clark smiled brightly. "Kara was supposed to sit with us but well, she didn't want to be apart from her friends." He shrugged.
"It's cool. We don't like to be apart from each other for very long either." Robin empathized. He had been hoping to catch a glimpse of Bruce but no such luck.
"We haven't made any discoveries. Dr. Fate is still trying to figure everything out. Apparently, there are a lot of ways to go about dimensional travel that I wasn't aware of. Don't worry though, we will find the right way to get you back home soon enough." Clark said.
"No, from what you just said, we aren't getting out of here anytime soon. Ugh, I just want to get back home!" Wally wanted to slam his head against the table.
"Is there anywhere we can train? Batman will kill me if I don't keep up my regimes while I'm here. It could also get our minds off our current situation." Robin tapped his lower lip thoughtfully and started at Clark through his mask.
"And what about school? I have a report due on Monday. And cheerleading practice! The girls will be so angry with me for missing it! We have a big game coming up and I'm not going to be ready! What am I going to do?" M'gann gasped.
"Hey now. Calm down. We have an excellent library if you're that concerned about getting your paper done. We do have some training centers but they're mostly used by League personnel. I suppose you could use one of them though. I can't help you with cheerleading thought. That's one thing I know nothing about." Superman looked thoughtful. "Batman can block one off and you can use it to train. It shouldn't cause that much disruption. What would you like for breakfast?"
Artemis slapped her hand over Kid Flash's mouth before he could speak. He glared at her through his goggles.
"That's one question you don't want to ask unless you have a lot time to waste. He's hungry all the time." She said. The others just nodded their agreement.
"What! They blocked off the training room! You've got to be kidding me!"
"We've go company." Wally was sweating. He hated sparring with Robin. Super-speed or not, the Boy Wonder was almost always a formidable threat.
"Ignore them. They'll get tired and go away eventually." Aqualad said without looking up.
"They aren't leaving; they're waiting for one of us to come out so they can see who's in here." M'gann informed them. "Should we let them know it's us?"
"Only if you're in the mood to get yelled at and frankly, I'm not. Then again, could be nice to kick someone's butt. May help us blow off some of that steam that's been building up for the last 24 hours." Artemis leaned back against one of the metal walls and glanced at her nails.
"Have I mentioned how much I really hate this place?" Superboy growled as he tried to fend off another one of Aqualad's attacks. "I liked it better when it was Canary who trained us."
"In case you haven't noticed, she's in that group of people that you know, hates us. I don't think she's going to be eager to train us any time soon. She doesn't even want to look at us right now." Artemis snapped at him. She rubbed her temples and sqeezed her eyes shut stressedly. God, why was she suddenly so miserable? It wasn't like she really cared what Ollie thought about her. To think about all the times she'd complained about Roy and his bad attitude, she couldn't help but think he'd be one of the only ones agreeing with her. In many ways, he was just as hot headed as she was.
"C'mon guys. It could be worse. We could be back in that holding cell with absolutely nothing to do. Besides, just think about how our mentors must be missing us. Maybe this will finally teach them that the really do need us."
In Another Universe
"How many times do I have to tell you? I don't know where they are! They haven't come by here!" Roy Harper shouted at his ex-mentor. "All Robin said was that they were going to check out something that happened with Cadmus. He asked me if I wanted to go in and help. I said no. That's all I know and I haven't seen any of them since!"
"OK! Calm down Roy! We were just making sure that you're not covering for them with some kind of prank." Ollie tried to soothe him.
"Who would be stupid enough to pull a prank on the Justice League? And you actually think I'd be stupid enough to help them cover it up! I mean honestly! If Robin, Kid Flash, and the others are missing, something serious has happened. You aren't even looking for them!" To say Red Arrow was outraged would be an understatement. He was livid that League thought the mysterious disappearance of the Young Justice team was a prank, a silly joke.
"We are looking for them, Roy. Right now, we're just covering all the bases. I guess there's a part of Batman that hopes this really is all a prank and nothing terrible has happened to the kids. We're still trying to be optimistic." Green Arrow tried to explain.
"Then how about you go optimistically look for them. Or are you too lazy to get off your ass and do that too?"
"Roy, come on that's uncalled for-"
"Get lost Ollie. I mean it. I really don't want to see your face right now." Oliver Queen furrowed his brow. What happened? Where had the once semi-respectful 15 year old gone? Who was the angry young man who had replaced him? Ollie could barely stand it.
"If that's what you want." He said solemnly.
"They aren't with Roy. He doesn't know anything that we don't already know." Ollie had returned to Mt. Justice.
"You're sure? He wasn't hiding anything?" Wonder Woman questioned.
"No, I really don't think he knows anything. Roy's just as confused as we are." Ollie crossed his arms. I had been a full day since the team had vanished. They'd been sent in to investigate Cadmus again when suddenly, everything went dead silent. No fight, no nothing. They'd just disappeared into thin air.
"I believe him. Even if this was a prank, they never would have let it go this far. Kid Flash knows better." Flash said.
"So does my niece. Something is clearly amiss." J'onn had joined them.
"I say we go back to Cadmus and look around ourselves. We can try to piece together what happened and then go from there." Superman declared. Part of him was dreading the entire situation. Lois had been on him the try to forge a connection with his clone but he couldn't bring himself to do it. Now he was scared he might never get the chance.
"We need to have a little bit of faith. They've been trained by the best. They know how to take care of themselves. They aren't just any normal children." Black Canary reminded her worried colleagues. Inside, she was in turmoil. How could this have happened? They had been under her watch; she had allowed it to happen.
"Black Canary's right. We have to stay positive. I don't know about you but I'm going to keep telling myself that they're fine until something proves to me that they're not." Green Lantern shrugged. To be honest, he wasn't worried. He'd seen Robin and Kid Flash in action. They were like mini clones of their mentors and they could handle the action. He hadn't seen the others but he figured they had to be just as good in order to stay on the team.
"So we're agreed. Flash, you, Lantern, and J'onn head to the Cadmus laboratories to see if there's anything suspicious or anything that points to where the team might have vanished to." Superman instructed. "Batman will stay here and try to reestablish radio contact with the team. Right now, our top priority is making sure that they make it back here safely."
Red Arrow had decided to search on his own since discovering the team was missing. The League may decide to drag its feet but he sure wasn't going to. He was going to find his friends and make sure they got back home safely.
Sneaking into Cadmus had been the easy part. The place was still being rebuilt after the Team's last run in with them. There were many unoccupied labs for Roy to sneak into. He stuck to the shadows as he prowled around the building searching for clues.
"Damn." He swore under his breath. He'd found the room where a battle had clearly taken place. Artemis's arrows were deeply imbedded in the walls and in the floors. There were scorch mark from Aqualad's lightning and skid marks from Kid Flash's shoes. Also, there appeared to be a Superboy sized hole in the wall.
"Well no I know you were definitely here. Still doesn't explain where you are now though." Roy huffed.
He cautiously stepped through the wreckage, turning over concrete slabs to make sure no bodies were hidden. "No clues for me Rob? C'mon, I know you're better than this. I know you are." He whispered. Robin wouldn't just let his team disappear. He would have left a clue, a red herring or something.
There was nothing left.
Chapter 6: Chapter 5
Roy stepped through the rest of the warehouse with caution. He had tried radioing the League but all he could hear was static. If whoever it was had been strong enough to take down the team, he knew he stood no chance alone.
"There you are young hero, we have been waiting for you to arrive here." He heard a female voice say. Roy swung his bow around to face his opponent. "Calm yourself, young hero. I mean you no harm."
"Queen Bee, what the hell are you doing out of Bialya?" Roy demanded. The woman smiled wickedly at him.
"We have come to find you. We sent the others on their merry way of course. I assume that like them, you'll be putting up a fight?"
"We?" Roy echoed nervously. He began backing away from the woman.
"Yes of course. Together we stand and all that." Lex Luthor stepped out of the shadows surrounded by small group of others. "Did you expect anyone else?"
"Where are they Luthor? What have you done to the team? You know the Justice League will never let you get away with hurting them right?" Roy demanded.
"Be calm hero. They are safer now than they were before. You will soon join them. As for the League, there is little they can do to help you now. Just accept your fate." Queen Bee cooed.
"Like hell." Roy fired one of his exploding arrows and turned to run. He had to get back to the League and warn them.
"The apples don't fall far from the super-trees do they?" Klarion the Witch Boy laughed maniacally. He raised his arms above his head and chanted a few magic words. "Hope I don't splinch you on your way out!" he cried.
Roy suddenly found himself engulfed in a bright, blinding red light. He felt his skin tearing and ripping, the warm stickiness of blood dripping down from freshly opened wounds.
"Give our regards to the others, hero. You'll be with them soon." Queen Bee's voice was growing faint. Roy felt like he was being forced through a tube, bright colors flashing before his eyes. He could feel his ears popping as the world disintegrated around him.
"Do you mind sharing the space? We're hoping not to have an altercation." Superman asked. The League members were starting to get upset about having one of the training rooms locked up.
"Of course not. We don't mind. We just need a place to practice so we don't get out of shape. We can definitely share though." Robin looked to each of his team mates. They seemed to be in agreement.
"It is not burdensome at all." Aqualad assured the man in blue.
"Just tell them to play nice and so will we." Kid Flash nodded.
"Deal." Superman grinned. For kids, they were a heck of a lot more agreeable than most of the heroes and heroines in the League. "Come on in guys. We're open." He called.
Star Girl, Super Girl, Huntress, and Vigilante stepped into the room.
"Really, you closed the door for them? Need I remind you that one of them tried to kill you!" Kara wanted to choke her cousin.
"She wouldn't have killed me and yes, but seeing as we're so strapped for space, they've graciously decided to share the space with you all." Superman winked at the kids over his cousin's head.
M'gann couldn't help but giggle at him. She liked this Superman so much more.
"Now now, these ladies were jus' gettin' a little antsy." Vigilante held his hands up in surrender. "We don' mean no harm. If it helps, I was dragged here agains' my will."
"We're sharing? I don't want to have to tutor some kid on how to handle a fight." Star Girl scoffed.
"We don't need any tutoring." Artemis growled. She was growing agitated again.
"Easy Artemis." Aqualad attempted to calm her gently. "We should stop for a break any way. We have been going non-stop for an hour now." 'It may be easier to prevent bloodshed this way.' He thought to them.
'Just one arrow.'
'I say we let her.'
'Artemis, Superboy, we are not killing anyone.'
Vigilante studied the young ones carefully. He had heard Flash and Green Lantern talking about the team using a mental uplink. He wondered of that was why they had suddenly gotten so quiet. They were not in the least intimidated by the older heroes.
Artemis continued to ignore her team's leader's orders. "You know what. I don't need a break. Why don't you spar with me?" she nodded to Star Girl.
"Artemis!" Aqualad warned her.
"What? There's a lot I can learn from a master such as her. Please grace me with a showcase of your skills." Artemis stepped into the ring and stretched. "No staff, no bow. We fight hand to hand. Best woman wins." Artemis crossed her arms over her chest and smirked. "Scared?"
"Not even." Star Girl set her staff against the wall and stepped into the ring. "Time to teach you some manners little girl." She took her stance.
"Are you really about to do this?" Robin asked in an annoyed tone.
"Shut up. I'm not going to let you ruin this for me." Kid Flash looked pumped.
The two females circled each other, glaring daggers. Star Girl lunged forward, hoping to get the drop on then younger girl. Artemis couldn't help but smirk, so predictable. She easily dodged the woman's attack. Artemis grabbed the back of that dark blue outfit and yanked Star Girl forward into her fist.
"Artemis!" Aqualad shouted at the show of brutality.
"What, she's a big girl, she can handle it." Artemis released Star Girl and hopped back to the edge of the ring. "If that's what you're going to be teaching me, we may as well stop here. I don't want to look like an idiot in a fight." She taunted.
"Don't get cocky brat." Star Girl hissed while clutching her stomach. She hadn't expected the teen to be a good fighter.
"You droppin' out or are you gonna just stand there and stare?"
The room was suddenly bathed in red light as a siren began to blare.
"What the...?" Kid Flash began.
"Something' wrong." Vigilante drew his gun. "The sirens only go off if there's an intruder in the Watch Tower.
"I think you need to see this." J'onn had phased through the wall in front of them. "You might understand this better than we do."
"What is it? What has happened?" Aqualad prodded.
"It is not something I can explain easily. You will just have to come and see for yourselves." J'onn said. "Come now." The team looked apprehensive but resolved to follow the Martian. "We moved him to the medical ward immediately."
The door slid open to reveal a bloody mess of gauze and butterfly tape.
"Roy!" Wally cried.
"Oh my god what happened to him?" M'gann asked in horror. Roy looked like he'd been through a warzone.
"You know him? Good, we were hoping he wasn't an enemy." Superman was standing over Roy's bed. "I assume you all are his friends."
"Define friends." Artemis snarked.
"We don't have time for that! Roy's hurt, something really bad must have happened to him. Don't you even care?" Wally snapped at her.
"Of course I do. But shouting at me about it isn't going to help him get any better!" she fired back.
"Both of you, that is enough!" Aqualad shut the both of them up. "What we need to concern ourselves with is how Red Arrow came to be in this dimension and why he is in such a state when we are not."
"Something strange must have happened to him on the other side." Robin assumed. "Who knows, maybe he didn't acquire those wounds during transport, maybe in the fight before hand."
"The only way to tell that for sure is for your friend to wake up and I don't think that's going to be happening anytime soon." Superman sighed. "I've forgotten, is he one of the partners too?"
"Former partner. Roy used to be Speedy, Ollie's first partner. He's Red Arrow now." Robin informed him.
"I replaced him." Artemis added.
"I see. If I recall, you said Green Arrow 'screwed him up'?" Superman looked confused.
"Yeah, but no more than usual." She shrugged.
"Ollie treated Roy like a kid so he finally broke away from him. The two have had rocky relationship ever since. It hasn't been good." Robin told him.
"Okay then. That's good to know. I'll be sure to keep Arrow far away from him when he wakes up."
"That's a really good idea. Roy gets kind of crazy when he's around Ollie." Wally said without emotion. He moved to sit on Roy's bed. "I've never seen him look this bad before. He's been in a lot of fights but…never like this."
"Don't worry. It looks a lot worse than it is. There's no internal damage, everything's pretty much cosmetic. We'll have him fixed up soon."
"If you can fix him, why won't he wake up?" M'gann inquired confusedly.
"Whatever happened to his mind happened during transport. He'll have to wake up on his own. There is little I can do to help him." J'onn said.
"No! There has to be something you can do! We can't just let him stay like this!" Wally yelped.
"Easy now. We're going to figure this out, okay? We're going to do all we can to help your friend. If he's anything like you guys, he's tough. He'll make it through this." Superman assured them. Still, it did little to quell their fears.
"I don't understand; why didn't we get hurt like that?" M'gann questioned.
"Now that you say that, what happened before we came here at all?" Robin asked. The team looked confused.
"I remember we were going to check out Cadmus. There had been some strange activity that Batman wanted us to look into. We got there and then…then it's all blank." Robin looked thoughtful. "There's more to this than we thought. We really need to get home fast. I have a feeling that the Justice League needs us. Now."
"If they need us, then they are trying to find us. Having Dr. Fate on this side and Zatara on the other gives me hope that we will find our way home soon." Aqualad said.
"For Roy's sake, I sure hope so."
Chapter 7: Chapter 6
"They're not going to leave him, are they?" Hawk Girl whispered.
"Have you ever known us to leave one of our own?" Green Lantern replied. The Team had taken up vigil over Roy's bedside.
"M'gann, you're not getting anything from him? Anything at all?" Wally asked for the millionth time.
"No, it's like radio static. There's the buzz of brain activity but I can't hear anything of use." She said dejectedly.
"And we're absolutely sure he's not dead?" Artemis inquired.
"He's breathing on his own and he shows signs of movement. He can't be dead, just in a coma." Robin rolled his eyes at her even though he knew she couldn't see.
"This shouldn't have happened. We should have been there for him! Somebody should have been there! Where was the League? Why wasn't someone there to help him?" Kid Flash wanted to shake Roy awake and make sure everything was okay.
"We are here with him now. That is all that matters." Aqualad soothed. "I believe he would be comforted to know that we are with him in his time of need."
"He's right." Megan reached over to replace the damp towel covering Roy's forehead. She carefully patted down his red curls. "But I can't help but wonder if that will be enough."
"We've got a cart set up out here with food if any of you are hungry. How about a break?" Superman came in and asked after a while. M'gann snapped back awake. She didn't even remember falling asleep. Funny, she couldn't remember what she'd been dreaming about.
"That's nice of you." Robin said. He stood and stretched. "Let's give him a little breathing room. You know how Roy hates to be smothered."
"Yeah, you're right." Wally's shoulders were still shaking. What if Roy didn't wake up at all? What if they were trapped with no way of ever getting home and Roy died without his family around?
"You can't keep thinking that way Wally. Red Arrow is strong. He isn't going to die and we are going to get home. All of us." M'gann assured him. Superman felt as if he was intruding on a very intimate moment between friends. It wasn't right for him to see.
"I'll be waiting for you guys when you come out. Try not to take too long okay?" The teens nodded.
"I don't understand why this has gotten so far under your skin. They aren't even from this dimension. We don't know them." Black Canary told Green Arrow exasperatedly. "Their opinion really doesn't matter."
"I have to know why I'm a worse mentor than the freaking Batman! Why does his kid stick around while mine doesn't?" Ollie demanded.
"He said the you in the other world babied him. If he's anything like you, the kid probably didn't take it well." She told him.
"But I'm so much better with kids than that guy! This doesn't make any sense."
"Really, a bunch of kids appear out of thin air and this is what you say doesn't make sense? You're unbelievable." They entered the hospital bay and were immediately taken aback by the carnage.
"John said it wasn't as bad as it looks." Canary said hurriedly.
"Well it looks pretty freakin' bad to me." Ollie shoved his hands into his pockets as he looked down at the battered boy.
"He'll be fine." Dinah patted his red hair down. "He'll be just fine."
"Dinah..." Roy's head rolled into her touch and Black Canary yanked her hand back.
"He knows who I am." She whispered.
"If he's around me in that other world, he's most likely around you too. Maybe he recognized your voice." Ollie pulled out a chair and sat next to the boy's bed.
"My voice?" Dinah sat down as well. "I wonder how well I know him in his world..."
"You're close. Really close." Robin had watched the entire scene from the doorway. "In some ways he trusts you more than he trusts Ollie. You're the person he confides in."
"Confides in?" Canary couldn't picture herself being anyone's confident.
"I know you don't believe it but it's true. You're the first one he's responded to. I don't know about you but that means a heck of a lot to me." Robin shrugged. "Then again, could be nothing." He turned to leave.
"You're not lying are you?" She asked seriously.
"Never to you Dinah. Never to you."
In another dimension:
"Roy's gone. I tried calling him but his com-unit's giving off the same weird frequency as the others. Something isn't right." Green Arrow panicked when he entered the cave.
"You're kidding! Now he's gone too?" Hal was in shock.
"I think it have become clear that we are not dealing with a simple teenage prank anymore. Now that Red Arrow has also gone missing while searching Cadmus, we know that that is the common link." J'onn observed.
"We've already checked out Cadmus. There was no sign of them. Everything had been cleaned up." Superman disagreed.
"Still, I have to agree with J'onn. It's one heck of coincidence." Black Canary stepped up. "I know Roy. He probably went looking for the team and got himself kidnapped as well. We find the team, we find Roy."
"Roy's not the only one we need to be looking for." Batman had suddenly appeared. He tapped the touchscreen computer to reveal a host of pictures: all teenagers and children. "They've all gone missing within the last two days."
"All of them?" Superman's eyes widened.
"They get up, they leave and they vanish never to be seen again. No one kid is from the same city. They're being plucked from all over the world. San Francisco, Albany, Juneau, Shanghai, Tokyo, Rio...the list goes on. These are just the reported cases."
"And we're sure there's a connection in all of this? For all we know, these kids are just goofing off somewhere." Green Lantern said.
"All these kids? All at the same time? It's impossible. They all vanish at the exact same time the team did? No, this isn't natural Hal, this isn't natural at all." Diana scanned each picture carefully.
"Who would want to hurt all these children?"
"I don't know but we are definitely going to find out." Superman decided. "This case now takes top priority. We are going to bring these kids home."
'Come now young hero...lend me your dreams...give me their power...'
"No..." 'NO! Let me out! LET ME OUT!'
"Roy! He's in pain!" The plate M'gann had been holding shattered as it hit the ground. Her knees buckled and she fell to the floor.
"M'gann?" The team shouted.
"They're in his mind! He can't escape! He's trapped." She whispered.
"And you can't set him free?"
"I don't know...this is different. It's so dark, so...evil...Roy's been sucked into that darkness and he can't find his way out." She tried to explain.
"Then let's help him find his way out." Wally stood up sharply. "M'gann, do you think you can get in there and fight?" He asked.
"Not by myself."
"Well then it's a good thing-"
"-that we're here with you. Soon Mr. Crabby will be back with us too." Artemis chimed in.
"Hey, what's all the sudden excitement about?" Superman asked.
"We have to wake Roy up now. It's an emergency." Robing pushed.
"J'onn already tried. He said your friend can only wake up in his own time. We're supposed to let him rest for now."
"If we don't save him now he may not wake up at all. He needs help." M'gann shoved past him and the team followed her to the medical bay.
She almost ran headlong into Black Canary.
"Where's J'onn? He's convulsing! Something is seriously wrong with him!" She cried.
"We know." Robin informed her. M'gann was already at Roy's side. She placed her hands on both sides of his face and slowly pushed her way into his mind. "Ah..." She groaned.
"M'gann!" Superboy placed a hand over hers and did his best to support her. Kid Flash and the others each tried to control one of the red head's flailing limbs.
'Roy? Roy are you there? Please, don't be afraid...'
'Get out of my head! All of you! Get out of my head!' M'gann cringed at the force of Roy's mental exclamation.
'It's me, Miss Martian...I'm your friend. Please allow me to pull you out of this. We can do this together.' She attempted.
'No! Miss Martian and the others are gone! Everybody's gone! You will not fool me.'
M'gann fell against Superboy as Roy pushed with all his might to get her out of his mind.
"He doesn't trust me...he believes we're gone. I can't get through to him. Not on my own anyway." She told them. "He's trying to protect himself from whatever brought him here and in the process he's blocking me too."
"Then let us take a crack at him. Rob and I have known Roy forever. Maybe we could get through to him, let him know that we're all alright."
"It could work. Still, he's so upset. I don't think anything can bring him back."
"We have to try. We have to help. He would help us if we needed it." Wally insisted. He reached out his hand. "Take us in there. We can fight."
M'gann looked to his outstretched hand and slowly smiled. "Let's do this." She took both Kid Flash's and Robin's hands. "It'll be painful." She warned.
"No pain no gain." Wally responded. He and Robin closed their eyes. The feeling of being submerged into someone else's mind was like nothing either of them had ever experienced before. The darkness shrouded their minds.
'Is this normal?' Wally thought.
'No, no one's mind should look like this. I've never seen anything like this.' M'gann replied.
'Where's Roy? We have to find him.' Robin reminded them.
'He's hidden himself. I feel as if there's another consciousness living in this mind. Like someone else I tormenting him.' M'gann felt as if she was treading through stormy waters. They were moment from drowning. 'Someone else is here. Someone is keeping him trapped.'
'Then let's give Roy his mind back.' M'gann focused hard on the other consciousness, enveloping it with her own psychic energy. She pulled from both Robin and Kid Flash's mental strength to try and yank Roy out from under the other being's control.
'Miss Martian…' his voice was faint, lost in the waves of despair.
'We're here Roy, we're real. You're in another dimension with us. We're working on finding our way home but for now, we're here. Please believe us.' She pulled harder against the unfamiliar consciousness.
'They're taking the children…they're taking them…'
M'gann could feel him getting closer. She gave one final tug and it was like pulling a drain. Roy's mind snapped against hers forcing her to lose control of the link. She toppled out of his mind, pulling Kid Flash and Robin along with her.
"Ah!" the fell back onto the floor.
"Are you alright? Did you succeed?" Aqualad rushed to help them to their feet.
"They must have done something right. He's stop flailing." Artemis could finally let go of the teen's arms.
"We did it. We managed to pull him free but something's wrong. When I pulled Roy free, the other consciousness couldn't keep hold and had to release his mind. It's gone now-"
"Then why are you worried?"
"Roy said they were taking the children…"
"What? What children?" Superboy demanded.
"I don't know, that's just what he said. It was so dark. I can understand why Roy couldn't find his way out. They're taking the children."
"Maybe they meant us. Maybe it's the people who sent us here?" Robin suggested.
"But we don't know who sent us here! We can't remember anything! It's all a blank." Artemis insisted. Roy sighed loudly in his sleep, now content.
"Maybe he remembers. When he wakes up, we can ask him." Robin finally said.
"Yeah, but are we sure we want to hear the answer? I don't know about you but I've got a really bad feeling. This is only the beginning."
So guys, hope you're enjoying the story. Someone asked if I have a schedule for updating. I update mostly in the period of friday-saturday-sunday. Some stories that I keep in my journal (like the Yu-Gi-Oh GX one I'm writing right now, check it out) I tend to update almost everyday because they're easier to get typed up. This story, I type mostly on my smartphone. Anywho, random facts...so...anymore questions, just review or PM me. It's cool!-IFW
Chapter 8: Chapter 7
"When's he gonna wake up?" Wally asked for about the millionth time.
"I've cleared his mind. He has to wake up on his own." M'gann informed him. "He'll be fine."
"You guys still up? You know, my ma always told me that a watched kettle never boils. Standing over him like that isn't going to wake him up any faster." Clark told them.
"He's right. We should really head to bed too. Roy will probably be awake in the morning." Robin said. "God, I hate sleeping here."
"What? You miss Batman's cave?" Wally teased.
"Yeah, I think that's what I miss the most. I hate sleeping up here." Robin sighed.
"I miss my room at Uncle Barry's. This place is so..."
"Sterile? Spotlessly clean? Annoyingly hygienic?" Artemis supplied.
"Yeah. Those are good words for it. There's no individuality."
Unbeknownst to the team, Superman sat outside the medical ward and listened carefully to each quiet complaint.
"Even the cave sounds nice at this point. We have our own space there." M'gann's shoulders slumped. "I could use the kitchen any time I wanted."
"Aw...you have no idea how good cookies sound right now." Wally groaned.
Superman finally had to leave them. What if they couldn't get them home? Where would the children go? Who would take care of them? Barry had completely dismissed the children and he knew he couldn't count on Bruce to take them in. They certainly couldn't stay on the Watch Tower.
"I have been thinking much the same thing. I would like to see my niece grow up happy, even if it means that she must stay with me." J'onn said.
"Sadly, I don't think the others would be so willing." Superman rubbed the back of his head. "I'm afraid to even bring it up."
"Do not be afraid, you may be surprised."
"Living arrangements? They aren't staying here." Flash cried.
"It's something we need to take into consideration! What if we can't get them home? Where are they going to stay?" Superman reminded them heatedly.
"You talk like this country doesn't have a foster care system. The government can find them a home." Hawk Girl cut in. As far as she was concerned, they weren't her problem.
"You honestly want to try to put a group of teenage heroes into the system? They'll rebel and we'll have another fight on our hands." Green Lantern warned her. He'd seen the foster care system at work. Those kids would have lost their minds in a heartbeat.
"He's right. This is something we need to start thinking about. They're used to having mentors; they'll need others to guide them." Wonder Woman added. "What about Robin and Kid Flash? They're used to Batman and Flash. They should be around the two of you."
"I don't have time for a child."
"He's not a child anymore, Bruce. He's in the business now. I'd imagine he's pretty mature." John reminded him.
"And he can hold his own in a fight. You would make a good team."
Before Bruce respond, Barry cut in, "I don't understand why this falls on us. We didn't bring them here."
"Until we send them home, they're our responsibility. We're going to do what's right Barry."
"And what's right is putting everything on hold for a bunch of kids?"
" Yes, in case you didn't notice, we had another kid pop up here today." Superman reminded him. "We need to figure out how they're getting here."
"He's right about that. And from what Robin's told us, this one isn't a partner anymore. He's not going to want to stay up here like a kid." Black Canary chimed in. "We can't control them forever."
"Exactly. They can't stay cooped up. We're going to have to let them move around a bit. The longer we try to cage them, the more they're going to fight us." Superman rubbed his forehead. Childcare was definitely not his specialty.
"That still leaves us nowhere. You can't force League members to take in children. No one's going to willingly step up to that plate."
"I will." Aquaman said. "Aqualad is welcome to come back to Atlantis with me should we not find him a home."
"I will also help. Miss Martian is welcome to stay with me." J'onn said.
"And I'd be willing to take in Superboy." Superman finished.
"That leaves Robin, Kid Flash, Artemis, and our newest arrival. Anyone else willing?"
"Robin said Roy knew Oliver and me best. He and Artemis could stay with us." Black Canary finally conceded.
"Hold up now, are we sure we want a kid who hates me around the house?" Ollie stopped her.
"Who knows, it could be a bonding experience for both of you." Dinah touched his hand. "We can't just leave him here."
"Still Robin and Kid Flash. Bruce..."
"The other you trained him. He can handle it Bruce."
Batman grimaced. He couldn't imagine having a child running around the manor. He loved his privacy, his quiet.
"Fine. But he will behave." He growled.
"I'm sure he'll be on his best behavior. He's a good kid." Superman couldn't stop his smile. "Keep in mind, you'd have to be on your best behavior too." He said gently.
"Do not push it."
"So looks like it's just Kid Flash now. Barry?"
"Come on Barry, Bruce said yes. You're practically a teenager in man's body." Clark laughed. "You never know, you might actually end up liking him."
"I'm hungry. We should go get food." Wally whined.
"You already cleaned the cart Superman brought. How can you still be hungry?" Artemis demanded.
"I have a super-fast metabolism remember? And besides, I don't think Roy would want me to starve." Wally shrugged.
"I don't think Roy would want a lot of things right now. I think he'd want to be conscious." Robin glared at him.
"True, I think he would want that. C'mon Roy." Wally shook his shoulder again.
"God! Will you just leave the guy alone? This is probably the most peaceful sleep he's had in a while. Let him enjoy it." Artemis growled.
"She's right. I thought we were going to bed." M'gann yawned loudly.
"I can't spend another night sleeping here." Wally complained.
"It does not matter whether we like it or not. We must do what we have to do." Aqualad sighed. "We do not have a choice."
"Actually you do." Superman smiled at each of the kids.
"What do you mean by that?" Robin looked speculatively at the man of steel.
"Your friend is well enough to be moved. Oliver has a rather decent medical ward in his home. We were hoping to move you all to earth." Superman grinned.
"Earth. Like, our earth or this one." Kid Flash's eyes grew wide.
"This one. We haven't figured out how to send you home yet but we thing you would be so much more comfortable on earth. I hope I was right."
"Like a hotel or something? That'd be better than this place. At least we'd have somewhere with some personality." Artemis stood and stretched. "This is going to be fantastic."
"No, I didn't mean a hotel. You see, the Founders and I have been talking and we thought that maybe you would like it better if you could be with your original mentors…just this world's version of them." Superman explained.
"No way. He's already made it clear that he doesn't want me around. Why would I want to subject myself to anymore torment?" Kid Flash crossed his arms defiantly.
"You know, I'm with Wally on this one. You don't like us. Why would you all the sudden want to take us in. I doubt it's out of the kindness of your heart." Artemis stood next to him.
"We aren't letting you take Red Arrow. He's staying with us." Superboy stood up as well. The three teens formed a protective wall around the unconscious hero.
"Hey now, I'm not trying to force anything on you. we're just trying to make things more normal just in case…"
"Just in case of what? What Clark?" Robin stood as well.
"Just in case we can't get you back. That's a possibility guys. For all we know, cross dimensional travel only works in one direction. There's always a chance that you might have to stay here with us here forever." Superman looked to each face. "I don't want you all to be surprised."
Kid Flash's breath caught. In another dimension forever? Without his real family. "No. Barry won't let that happen. You may not care enough to try and save us but…our families won't leave us high and dry. They're searching for us. They're going to find us."
In Another Universe
"Ted? Have you found anything?" Superman asked. Ted Kord lifted his goggles to face the man of steel.
"Nothing more than when you asked me ten minutes ago, Superman." Blue Beetle had been called in to look over the situation. J'onn had traveled, stretching his mind as far and a wide as he could in an effort to locate the missing children.
"They are no longer on this plane." He said. "I cannot detect them anywhere." He informed the League.
"You mean…you mean they're dead?" Barry cried out despondently.
"No. I would be able to sense them if they were dead. They're bodies would still give off an energy for me to sense." J'onn said. "They seem to no longer exist in this dimension. I cannot sense them anywhere."
"What about the other kids and Roy." Ollie asked.
"Roy has vanished as well. As for the children…it is strange. I can feel a hum but I cannot pinpoint it. It is as I their minds are no longer their own." J'onn attempted to explain.
"That's just great. We've got some really freaky stuff going on." Ted said. "But don't worry. I can probably make a device powerful enough to rip a decent size whole in the space time continuum. Chances are that if they're in another dimension, we'll be able to lock onto them and pull them back to safety." Blue Beetle swung his wrench around. "It'll take time though. Time and a really large energy source."
"But you think you can get it done." Batman pushed.
"Oh, I can get it done."
"Good, get finished. Clark, leave him alone and let him work." Bruce snapped.
"Okay. Okay I'll let him work. How about we go check out that hum your felt J'onn?" Superman suggested.
"Yes, we should go."
"Lantern and I will see what we can do about a power source." Diana said.
"Then let's get moving. We've got a lot of work to do."
Chapter 9: Chapter 8
Clark had left the Team to their thoughts. He sensed that they wanted to be alone and decided to leave them at that.
"He's right you know." Robin broke the awkward silence that flooded the room.
"What? You think Superman's right?" Artemis asked incredulously.
"Well, yeah. I don't think we'll be here forever but we could be here for a while. Batman and the others, they won't leave us here forever but we can't waste our lives waiting to be rescued. I've got school. So do the rest of you. We need a sense of normalcy." Robin explained.
"Normalcy? That doesn't exist for us anymore Rob! In case you haven't noticed, we're in an alternate dimension! We should be trying to get home, not trying to make this place home!" Wally wanted to shake him.
"We'll drive ourselves crazy doing that. For once, I think we should leave things to the adults. We know our mentors are looking for us. We know we can trust them to find us. At the same time, we're going to have to try to maintain our own sanity." Robin said. "If we keep waiting this way, we'll always wake up disappointed."
"I fear…I fear that Robin is correct." Aqualad admitted. "We have stayed on this satellite long enough. We must choose a course of action."
"And you think separating in a world we know nothing about is a good idea? Have you lost your mind?" Artemis demanded.
"While I do not like the idea of us separating, I think it will be in our best interest for us to leave this place. We must grow accustomed to this world. There is a chance we could be here for the rest of our lives."
"He's right." M'gann said quietly.
"That being said, com silence will not be an option."
"We need to be a team." Robin agreed.
"A team? We're barely a team now! There are too many secrets!" Superboy cried and pointed to Robin. "We don't even know his name!"
"Or what you really look like." Artemis chimed in.
Robin rubbed the back of his neck nervously. Batman had said only to reveal his secret identity in a state of absolute emergency. Was being transported to an alternate dimension considered an emergency?
"Exactly. Too many secrets. In case you all haven't realized, the only people we can count on are standing in this room and we don't even trust each other." Superboy said. "If this is going to work, that's gotta change."
"No one's in here. We're alone and I think Supey's right, it's time to talk. No more secrets. We stand together." Kid Flash sat down. "Who's going first?" They couldn't look each other in the eye.
"Cheshire's my sister." Artemis blurted.
"Cheshire? The crazy assassin Cheshire? That one?" Wally stuttered out.
"Yeah, that one. I'm sorry I never told you but…I didn't know how to." Artemis clenched her fist.
The team was quiet for a few moments, letting the new information sink in. Finally, M'gann stood up and took Artemis's hand.
"It's okay." She said. "You've never done anything to hurt us. We trust you, Artemis."
"She's right you know. Batman told me about this a long time ago and I've never seen a reason to not trust you." Robin admitted.
"You knew? Why didn't you say anything?"
"Didn't feel the need to. You seemed honest to me." Robin shrugged. "He just wanted me to be on my guard."
Artemis nodded. She couldn't believe the weight that had been lifted off her shoulders. Could she tell them the second part of her secret too?
"And Sportsmaster is my father." She breathed.
"Oh Artemis…" M'gann sighed. "You poor girl."
"I came to the League because I didn't want to be like my sister. I didn't want to be a puppet for my father. I had to get away."
"I'm a white Martian." M'gann admitted breathlessly. "J'onn isn't my uncle."
"What?" Superboy couldn't believe she had lied to him.
"The people of Mars are rather open in their dislike of minority race. It's turned vicious at times." She whispered.
"And you thought we would be the same way…"
"I did and I'm sorry for lying to you." she cried.
"You did what you believed to be best. We cannot fault you for that." Aqualad agreed.
"My dad hates me. That's why I live with my uncle." Wally said.
"What! How could anyone hate you Wally, you're so wonderful." M'gann cooed.
"Sadly, you're one of the only people who feels that way, babe. He can't stand me."
"You must be so upset about this world's Flash. I'm so sorry." She continued.
"I would say I was made by Cadmus but you already know that." Superboy tried. "I don't really have any secrets."
"I do not have many either." Finally, all eyes fell on Robin.
"It's okay. It's your secret bro. If Batman told you not to tell us then you don't have t-"
"Grayson. My name is Richard Grayson." Robin blurted.
"Wait a second. Richard Grayson? I know a Richard Grayson." Artemis speculated.
"Yeah," Robin reached to his face and pulled off his checkered mask, "we go to school together."
"You…you were that kid. You were the one who took the picture." Artemis gasped. She'd known Robin's secret identity the whole time without even realizing it.
"You're eyes are such a pretty shade of blue." M'gann commented. "You should show them more often."
"I have a really familiar face around Gotham. People would know me right of the back." Robin explained.
"So everything's out in the open now?" Wally asked. "No more secrets?"
"No more secrets. We trust each other and we stand together. Remember, if we do end up separating, absolutely no com silence. M'gann, if you could possible keep us mentally linked-"
"It depends on the distance. Oh I don't want to do this!" M'gann almost sobbed. "What if something happens? What if we can't reach each other in time?"
"It's not as if we're alone. Superman-"
"He just feels obligated because we're children. If we want to get something done, we'll have to do it ourselves." Superboy cut in.
"He is right. And since we can finally leave this satellite, we can finally look into what is going on. This world has a Cadmus as well. We will find a way to fix things." Aqualad said.
"Then all we need to do is find a way to break in."
"We did it once."
"We can do it again"
"You will not touch anything. You will not make a sound. Do you understand?" Bruce Wayne had wanted nothing less than to leave the child behind on the satellite. Clark wouldn't hear of it. So now he was standing in the foyer of his million-dollar home with a thirteen year old boy. He could hear the glass shattering already.
"I know, Bruce. I won't bother you." Robin sighed.
"I'll have Alfred set up a room for you upstairs. We'll find you some reasonable clothes. Dinner is at six o'clock sharp. Do not be late." Bruce pulled down his cowl. "I mean it."
"I got it the first seven times." Dick snapped back. "What about patrol."
"I patrol alone."
"And if you get into trouble?"
"Good to know." Robin couldn't help but roll his eyes. Even his Batman wasn't so uptight.
"Master Bruce, I see you've returned. And it appears you've brought a young friend." Alfred was surprised to see the brightly colored young man standing next to Bruce.
"Hey Alfred. I guess you don't know me either." Dick waved nonchalantly.
"This is Robin-"
"Richard." Dick interrupted.
Bruce glared at him and continued. "…Richard. Due to recent events, he'll be staying with us for a short while. He's promised to behave."
"Or be strangled. Whichever works."
Alfred blinked rapidly. He could tell the boy's stay would be interesting.
"You know Artemis, you don't have to stay with him all the time." Black Canary said gently.
"I'm not leaving him alone with either of you." They'd moved Roy to Green Arrow's home in Star City.
"He's safe now. No one is going to hurt him." Black Canary attempted to reason.
"Exactly. I won't let anyone get near him." Artemis sat next to him, her bow strung in her lap. Black Canary thought it was possible she'd gotten even more hostile.
Artemis didn't understand why she was acting the way she was. She didn't even like Roy. He was always so mean to her. Nevertheless, the guy was helpless. And in reality, he was her only real ally in the house. They didn't have to like each other, but if this was going to work, they would have to work together.
"I'm not leaving him."
"So…this is my house. My wife's inside. How about you just you just stay in your space and I stay in mine?" Barry rubbed the back of his head.
"Why don't you just draw a line in the sand? That might be easier." Wally already wanted to go back to the Watch Tower. The others couldn't be having nearly as much trouble as he was.
"Whatever kid. Listen, I don't want to fight with you. You just have to stay here until someone figures out how to get you and your little friends back home. When that's done, we'll be out of each other's hair. That sound good?"
"You have no idea."
"Barry!" the two speedsters looked up to see Iris Allen coming down the porch steps. "I didn't think you would ever get back." She leaned up to kiss his cheek. "And who is this cutie?"
"This is Wally. I know it's sudden but he kind of has to stay with us right now. There's some weird stuff going on in the League and well, we all sort of had to take a kid. He's promised to be on his best behavior-"
"Oh stop it, Barry. You're perfectly welcome to stay as long as you need, Wally. You know it's weird, you look exactly like my brother, Rudy. Doesn't he Barry? Doesn't he look just like Rudy?" Iris brushed Wally's bangs down.
"Yeah, imagine that."
"Well how about you boys come on in. Dinner's just about ready. Do you like pasta Wally?"
"Then come on in and let's eat." She threw and arm around the boys shoulder and led him inside. Wally let out a quiet sigh of relief. At least some things never changed.
"And this is your room. I know it's not very big but hey, reporter's salary. What are you going to do?" Clark Kent was actually quite excited to have the teen staying with him. It was an adventure.
"You don't have to do this." Conner brooded. Clark frowned at the boy's lets than pleasant demeanor.
"I know you said that you and I don't get along in your world but I want us to at least be friends here, Conner. Do you think we can manage that?" he asked lightly.
"Because you'll make yourself miserable if you spend the whole time hating me, where's the fun in that? I know what to do, how about after I get back from work, the two of us go out to eat? I know there's a lot you want to say to your world's Superman but since he isn't here, you can practice on me." Clark suggested. "Does that sound okay to you?"
Conner was taken aback by the suggestion.
"I don't understand. You actually want to spend time with me?" he asked quietly.
"Well of course. That was the whole point of this arrangement. I told you, we Kryptonians have to stick together." Clark smiled broadly. "Better yet, I can take the day off. Why don't we just go now? We'll bypass the traffic this way. Come on." Conner couldn't help but follow.
"So we stay up here?" M'gann asked. She and J'onn were still in the Watch Tower.
"Yes, it is my job to deploy a manage League missions. You could help me if you like." J'onn replied.
"I would like that very much. Do you think-"
"You're friends are well. They are adjusting to their new surroundings." The older Martian shook his head. She was so worried.
"I know, I just want them to be okay. I realize I worry too much." M'gann agreed sadly.
"It is not a sin to care for the ones you love. You merely wish for them to be safe. It is understandable." J'onn said. "There is not much to do today. We have a very nice library. You mentioned homework earlier?"
"Oh yes! I have so much to do. Thank you uncle!" without thinking, M'gann kissed his cheek and headed off to the library, leaving a stunned J'onn behind
"So you have traveled to Atlantis before?"
"Yes of course, my king. I once resided there before moving to the surface to be with the Team. Still, I long for the sea." Kaldur answered honestly.
"Of course you do. This is your home. I do not see how you can be away for so long." Aquaman was not used to having children around but Kaldur seemed so mature. He could see that the boy made a fine leader for his team. "I hope to see the best of your abilities Kaldur'ahm. When reach my kingdom, I will see what you are truly made of."
"I will not disappoint you, king." Kaldur bowed his head.
"Good, you do not seem like the type." Aquaman agreed. "I know you will enjoy your stay and I hope we may have many adventures together, Aqualad."
Kaldur did not respond. Out of all the others, he believed himself to be the luckiest. He was not as close to his mentor as the others, more attached by duty than by love. His heart had not broken the way Wally's had nor had he felt the rejection Robin felt. His mentor wanted him around even in this new dimension. Yeah, he was definitely one of the lucky ones.
Chapter 10: Chapter 9
Roy Harper's head hurt like nothing he'd ever felt before. He couldn't help but wonder if Cheshire had roofied him during their last encounter.
"Roy? Are you really awake this time or are you just pulling my leg again?" That voice, he knew that voice.
"Thank god!" Artemis sighed in exhaustion. She was so tired. She hadn't slept in so long.
"What are you doing here?" Roy asked groggily. Where was he? He tried to look around the room.
"Don't sit up-oh you're just going to try anyway. You're hurt pretty bad but Green Arrow thinks-"
"You've got to be effin' kidding me! I'm at Ollie's? Damnit!" Roy shot up in the bed, wincing slightly as his ribs protested. Yeah, he recognized the decor. He was definitely in Ollie's makeshift medical ward.
"Calm down, there's a lot that needs to be explained-"
"Get out of my way. Where are the others? I nees to see Aqualad."
"He's in Atlantis right now. It's just you and I and you need to lie back down. You're injured badly and you're no help to me if you're half dead." Artemis forced him to lie back in bed. "Now listen to me. I don't like you and you don't like me. But right now? Right now we need each other. After we get out of this mess, you can go right back to hating me. Shut up and listen."
Roy glared at the blonde teen but nevertheless sat back. "Go on."
Artemis slowly recounteded everything that had happened while noting the surprise in the older boy's blue eyes.
"An alternate dimension? You all choose to separate in an alternate dimension? Have you lost your mind?" Roy demanded.
"No, I was outvoted. They're with the League though. Clark's on our side, he won't let anything happen-"
"You don't know that! Anything could happen! You're not in contact-"
"No com silence. I think everyone's asleep or distracted right now. I can try to get Robin. Oh and there's something else." Artemis sighed. "We agreed no secrets."
"No secrets, ha! This whole society is built on secrets. I've known Robin since I was fifteen and I still don't know his name." Roy snorted.
"Richard Grayson. He told me to tell you when you woke up." Artemis snarked. "No secrets. We stand together." She repeated.
Roy was in shock and a little disapointed. He'd waited the better part of four years to hear Robin's name and that was it?
"What about you? What secrets do you have?" He asked sarcastically. Sure he knew that she wasn't Ollie's niece but then again, anyone with eyes could see that.
"Cheshire's my sister and Sportsmaster's my dad. That juicy enough for you?" She shuffled uncomfortably. Roy quirked an eyebrow at the new information. He'd sensed a connection between the two girls but hadn't really thought on it.
"Really? You don't look alike." He commented.
"That's it. No 'I knew you were evil'? Nothing?"
"I really don't care, the fact that you and Jade-"
"How do you know my sister's name?" Artemis's eyes narrowed.
"No secrets right?"
"I've met your sister before." He said cryptically.
"I gathered. She isn't so loose with her name; you must know her pretty well."
"Not well, we just have a mutual agreement. She stops by my city-"
"Are you sleeping with my older sister?" Artemis wanted to choke him.
Roy just shrugged. "No strings attatched."
"You're crazy! She's a murderer, she'll kill you!"
"Nah, then we'd both lose out. I'm hungry, do they have food in this dimension?"
Artemis's eye twitched. God, why was he so infuriating? And Jade of all people? "And just when I thought things couldn't get any weirder."
"Are you sure you don't need anything, Master Richard." Alfred asked again.
"Really, I'm sure. And Alfred, I don't live here. You don't have to call me 'master'." Robin laughed. "I just needed to finish my paper."
"Well I'm sure we can find something entertaing-"
"Do you have a training room?" Robin asked quickly.
"Why yes. Master Bruce has a room he uses for training. Would you like me to take you there?"
"I know where it is. Two Bruce's think alike. The layout of this house is exactly the same as my Bruce's." Robin said before racing off to the training room. It was almost identical. Some of the gymnastics eqipment had been removed. 'Guess he doesn't have an acrobat to deal with.' Robin shrugged. There was still plenty for him to do.
He pulled off his shirt and went to work.
"They're the best hot dogs you've ever had right?" Clark laughed. They were sitting on a bench in the park.
"I haven't had many so I don't know." Conner replied blankly. Clark's smile faltered. It was if nothing he said could make the boy smile.
"Well believe me, anymore you have will now seem inferior. Is there anywhere else that you want to see? Metropolis is a big city." He said.
"No thank you, I am not really welcome in this city." Superboy had tries to distance himself from the man but he just wouldn't leave him alone.
"Okay this has got to-"
"Hey Smallville! I knew you weren't sick, I should report you to human resources.." Lois Lane joked. She had been looking for the reporter.
"Lois? What are you doing here?" He looked from her to Conner then back.
"Didn't you hear what I said? I was looking for you! Who's your friend, the two of you could be twins." Conner studied the woman closely.
"Who are you?" He asked.
"Oh, this is my friend Lois Lane. We work together." Clark explained.
"And you are?" Lois stuck out her hand.
"Conner Kent." Lois took note of the last name.
"Cool shirt. You a Superman fan?"
"You could say that." Lois nodded. Clearly the boy wasn't as friendly as his companion. "Well I'm gonna head on. Stay out of trouble Smallville. We'll talk later."
"Yeah Lois, I will."
She waved to the two of them before walking off.
"She seems nice." Conner said.
"Oh yeah. She's an amazing reporter." Clark replied.
"Huh." Conner contemplated the older man. Why was he so different than the one back home?
"What do you want from me?" He finally asked.
"I don't want anything, just to spend time with you. It's nice to have someone to talk to about everything who isn't a part of the League." Clark leaned back against the bench. "You're not much of a talker though. I understand."
"Thank you for trying. The other you never tries to talk to me."
"Well I don't think I can change that." Clark sighed. "But we can definitely try."
"Master Richard, I must insist you come down from there." Alfred worridly watched the teen jump from bar to bar.
"I told you Alfred, I used to be in the circus. I know what I'm doing." Robin laughed. "I'm not going to hurt myself."
Robin swung around and perched himself on top of one of the bars. "Really, I'm fine." Robin was about to hop down when something went whizzing past his head. "What the-" he turned to see where the projectile had come from. There was nothing behind him.
"It is one of Master Bruces. But he is not here." Alfred plucked the batarang from the wall.
"What? What do you mean it's his?" Robin asked once he was back on the ground.
"It is his exact design. I would know it anywhere. There is a note attached." Alfred unwound the small sheet of paper. "'Stay put, we're coming for you.' Well what does that mean?"
Robin froze. He couldn't believe it, Bruce was looking for him!
"It's my Bruce! I have to call the others!" Robin hurridly turned up his communicater. "Everyone get up!" He shouted.
"Hey man, what's up?"
"Wally? Artemis? Great, let's wait for the others."
"I'm online." Superboy's voice came through.
"Get to a computer. You need to be able to see this." Robin instructed. Okay. Robin tapped his wrist computer. "Everybody online?"
He was met with a chorus of yea's.
"What's so importent that we all have to be on webcam?" Artemis asked.
"Roy! You're awake!" Wally exclaimed.
"Yeah, I'm good. Richard? Really, I was expecting something more romani circus boy." Roy said.
"Yeah well, you get what you get." Robin shrugged. "Okay, brace yourselves. I got a message from Batman."
"Like, which Batman?"
"Our Batman." There was an audible gasp.
"Then we have to get to Gotham right now!" Wally cried. "I'll be there in a flash."
"No. He said specifically to stay put. They're coming for us." Rob stopped him.
"Now? Oh thank god, I don't think I could spend another minute with him." Artemis gestured to Roy.
"Shut up! Can't you see what's going on here?"
"We might be able to leave soon and we have absolutly nothing to report." Dick reminded them.
"What about Roy? What do you remember?" Wally asked.
"I remember going to Cadmus. There's nothing after that." Roy said. "Just a flash of light."
"No. You can't be blank too." Wally wailed. He pulled at his hair.
"It's just all really hazy."
"Hazy? Hazy's a lot better than blank." Robin said. "Hey Roy, close your eyes. There's something that I want to try."
"Just do it."
"Oh! I know what we're doing." M'gann said excitedly.
"Now Roy, I want you to go back to the last thing you remember, we'll build from there." Robin said.
"Sure, okay. I went to Cadmus to look for you guys. Ollie had been hounding me about where you were. I thought I'd check. I went inside and..."
"Okay, you're having trouble remembering. Let's break down your senses. Tell me, what did you hear?" Robin pushed.
"Rats and dripping water. The building was falling to pieces."
"So what did you smell?" M'gann added.
"Mildew. It smelled disgusting."
"So what did you see?" Robin asked carefully. Roy bit his cheek and thought.
"I saw a battlefield. I could see where you guys faught before being sent here." Roy finally said.
"Fight? We didn't fight anyone!" Wally said.
"Yeah, I can see Artemis's arrows in the walls. There are scorch marks on the floor."
"Okay, that's good. Keep thinking along those lines. Keep pulling." Robin continued.
"And then there's a woman."
"It'd better not be my sister." Artemis scowled.
"No. I would remember that. I don't know who she was. There were others."
"How many others?"
"I don't know."
"Okay, then go back to the woman. Tell us about her." M'gann said. "Perhaps we know of her."
"She was tall, with dark hair and tanned skin. Wait, I do know her. It's on the tip of my tongue."
"Dark hair? Talia al Ghul maybe?" Robin suggested.
"No, not Talia. She was older."
"Older...Queen Bee?" M'gann asked tentatlivly.
"That's it. That's who it was. The woman from Bialya."
"Wait? That's the woman that siced Psimon on us. She let him wipe our memories." Superboy observed.
"Well doesn't that sound familiar?" Aretmis tapped her lip. "But this seems too complex for her. What does she stand to gain by tossing all of us into a seperate dimension?"
"She wasn't alone. Luthor's with her. And Ra's." Roy said.
"Still, none of them have the power to send us here." Aqualad chimed in.
"But I know someone who can. Roy, did you see a creepy guy with greasy black hair and a cat?"
"Yeah. Yeah, he's the one that shot the light at me." Roy recalled.
"Klarion the Witch Boy, remember him?" Wally said. "He could hold his own against Dr. Fate. No doubt he could put us here."
"Who knows and who cares. We need to focus on getting back. We can ask them when we get home." Superboy said.
"What about the children?" M'gann suddenly asked.
"What children?" Roy asked.
"You said they were taking the children." She explained.
"I don't remember that. I think...I think I remember seeing children there but...it's too fuzzy. I'll have to think about it." Roy tried to pull at his memory but he was wiped out.
"You're tired. Go to bed Roy." Artemis put a hand on the boy's shoulder. "He's about to collapse. We're gonna log off now. Just ring us if anything else happens." She said.
"Of course." Robin watched as the others began to sign off.
"Master Richard? Has Master Bruce contacted you?" Alfred had reentered the training facility.
"Hm? No. Should he have?" Robin asked. He stood and turned off his wrist communicator.
"He has not checked in since he went on patrol. I wondered If he had checked with you." Alfred tried to maintain his nervousness. No need to scare the young man.
"What! Oh no." Robin rushed past him. "Where did he hide my costume?"
"Master Richard, I must advise against you going out there alone. This city's villians are-"
"I know. I've faught them before and I've got the scars to prove it. Have a triage unit set up when I get back. He might be injured." Robin pulled on his costume. "I'll be back soon. Who did Bruce say he was going after?"
Robin had faced the red headed femme fatale before. She could be downright vicious when she wanted to. Still, it took a lot for her to be able to get the drop on Batman.
He stepped carefully into one of her most imfamous greenhouse hideouuts. He knew the place well.
"-what do you think of my newest serum? Paralyzing isn't it, Batman?" Ivy cackled. "My children will enjoy finally being able to feast on your flesh." Robin reached into his utility belt. Hopefully Batman hadn't taken anything out of it. He quickly found what he was looking for.
Robin crept silently through the green house, his eyes landing on the red haired woman.
"Now or never Grayson, time to prove your worth." He launched two of the ice pellats at her. The woman turned just in time to catch a face full of frost.
"Agh!" She screamed. Robin catapulted himself over her, using her now frozen shoulders as a spring board.
He landed next to Bruce.
"Hey, you look like you could use a hand." He joked as he began to cut the man loose from the vines.
"I told you, I patrol alone." Batman snarled.
"Yeah, and that worked so well." Robin snorted. He couldn't help but roll his eyes at the older man. "You know, this isn't the first Tim I've been on patrol. I know what I'm doing." Robin reminded him. "My Batman trusts me."
"I'm not him." Bruce rubbed his wrist as soon as he'd been cut free. He had to hand it to the kid, he had skills.
"Yeah, you definitely aren't." Robin's hand clenched around the note Bruce had sent him. He held onto the hope that his father would find him soon.
Chapter 11: Chapter 10
"I told you not to follow me." Batman said, breaking the silence that had permeated the Batcave. He sat in front of his computer screen with Robin next to him, the boy working anxiously on tightening his bandage.
"And I chose not to listen to you. I thought we'd handled that already." Robin did not look up from his work. The damage done to his would-be mentor's arm had been severe. Still, ever since they had returned to the cave, the man had showed him nothing but disdain. The whole situation was beginning to work Robin's nerves.
"You should have followed my orders-"
"And where would you be if I had?" He finally snapped. Robin couldn't believe he was being reprimanded for saving a man's life.
"You need to learn discipline. You acted recklessly and you could have gotten yourself or both of us killed. What good would that have done?" Bruce wanted to rub his temples. He couldn't help but feel as if he were talking to a three year old. How could a boy he supposedly trained be so dense?
"I saved your life. A thank you would be nice." Dick tied the last bandage extra tight and silently prayed it would bruise. "I'll just head upstairs now. I'll be sure to refrain from misbehaving." The Boy Wonder stood and dusted himself off. "Goodnight Br-Batman." He may have looked like Bruce, may haven even sounded like him. Nevertheless, Dick knew that wasn't his father. He brushed past Alfred on his way out, nearly knocking the tea tray out of his hands.
"Gone to bed early, Master Richard? I hadn't thought you were the type." The older man asked gently. He had noticed the boy's sudden depression after his return to the manor.
"I don't live here, Alfred. You don't have to call me master." Was Dick's only response. Alfred could only stare at the boy's retreating form.
"I don't believe you're treating this very well, Master Bruce. He is just a child after all and must be treated delicately." He said.
"I'm doing what needs to be done. He'll stay here as long as needed and then he'll be on his way. He can go back to Clark if he's so unhappy." Bruce replied.
"And if he must stay?" Alfred posed the question Bruce had been dreading.
"That won't happen." Bruce replied curtly.
"You're so sure?" Alfred sat the tea tray down and began to prepare a cup. "There is always a chance that he may be trapped in this dimension."
"Yes. If it really is another version of me looking for this boy, then he'll get home soon. I wouldn't let him be held here." He explained.
"He, like you, is only a man. The forces of time and space are seemingly incomprehensible-"
"But someone managed to get them here. It's possible and that's all I need to know."
"So you saved his butt and he's still being distant?" Wally was sitting upstairs in the guest room of Barry and Iris's home. Since he's been back in Central City, he found himself being more reclusive than ever, seldom venturing out of the room. When Barry had first showed him the room, he'd shuddered. Back in his world, they'd converted the guest room to his bedroom. It was hauntingly empty with blank walls and a distinct lack of personality. He hated it. So far, his only solace had been the webcam system Robin had setup for them. It was the only real way they could talk.
"Yeah." Dick's voice coming through his com-link had effectively yanked him from his train of thought. "I don't know what I can do. I just want to home. I never knew how much I could miss Batman. I never knew this could happen." Dick admitted. Wally's fist clenched, yeah, he could definitely relate.
"You're telling me. I don't think I've ever been this quiet in my life. Normally my uncle's just as fun as I am but...it's like he's trying to pretend I'm not here. I feel like a little kid again." Wally tugged at his red hair. "If he doesn't like me, I wish he'd just come out and say it, not tiptoe around me."
"At least Iris is somewhat welcoming." Dick said sympathetically trying to see the positive side.
"It's not genuine. It's just in her nature to be nice to everyone. She doesn't see me as her brother's son, just some kid the League dumped on her. It's a courtesy."
"You don't know that, Wally."
"That's the sad part. I know Iris like the back of my hand. I've lived with her for years. I can tell when she really likes someone or when she's just being friendly." Wally leaned back away from the camera. Was his real aunt thinking about him? Or was she pretending he didn't exist either? Was she happy to finally be free of the burden of his presence? Was his uncle rejoicing as well?
'No, stop thinking like that.' he chastised himself.
"Wally? Are you still there? You zoned out on me again."
"Yeah Rob, I'm here." Wally replied. "Listen man, I'm really tired right now. I'm gonna head to bed." He really was exhausted.
"Okay. I'll let you sleep." Robin shrugged on his end. If Wally didn't want to talk, he wasn't going to push.
Wally laid back on his bed and squeezed his eyes shut. He tried to imagine himself back in his own bed in his own room with his own family. It was surprisingly easy to dream.
"Wally?" Iris was puzzled by her new tenant. He stayed in his room all hours of the night. She would leave his food out at night and then find it was gone in the morning.
Wally's eyes slowly opened. He'd been dozing lightly when he heard the woman at his door.
"Aun-Miss Iris? Is there something wrong?" he asked drowsily.
"No. I was just wondering if I could come in. You've been so distant since you've been here. You've barely said two words. Are you feeling okay?" she asked tentatively.
"Yeah, I'm fine. I just miss my family is all."
"Why don't you come outside and talk to me? I don't like the idea of you being sad in there all by yourself. You're a guest, not a prisoner. You shouldn't be treated like one." Iris opened the door. "And in this house, we eat dinner as a family. Come on down stairs."
Wally turned away from her and forced himself to smile. 'Smile Wally, nothing's wrong remember. Just pretend she's the real Iris. Just pretend.'
"Yeah! Sorry, I zoned out! I'm always doing that. That's probably why I keep forgetting to eat. I'm not hiding from you." he said cheerily. It sounded fake even to his own ears.
"I'm fine. Really. Let's go eat." Iris looked unconvinced but led him downstairs anyway.
"Hey Barry, look who finally decided to join us." She sat Wally down across from the older man.
"Oh yeah. That's nice." Barry looked everywhere in the room but at Wally. "Glad you came down kid." He said blandly.
"Okay, I don't know what's going on between the two of you but you need to work this out." Iris stood at the edge of the table. "Barry, you are going to fix this."
"I mean it. Right now. I'll step out and you can do what men do." She just wanted them to get along.
The room stayed silent for a long time after Iris left.
"I'm sorry I made your wife upset. If you want me to leave-"
"Please, that'd just make this even worse." Barry sighed.
"I don't know how, you'd certainly be happier wouldn't you? You hate me." Wally stared into his plate of food. He wasn't hungry anymore.
"I don't hate you. I just-"
"You just what?"
"I just hate this situation. You came out of nowhere, okay? Nowhere. I've never really had to deal with kids before and I've certainly never needed a sidekick."
"Partner. I'm your parter and in my world, it was your idea that we should team up. You did it to keep me out of trouble." Wally had thought his uncle was babying him at first but now...now he missed the comfort of knowing that the man cared.
"Well I'm not doing a very good job am I? Protecting you that is." Barry sighed deeply and rubbed his face. "Forgive me if I can't exactly handle a kid claiming to be my nephew suddenly appearing out of thin air. You kind of pissed me off when you shot out my knees kid."
"It was Robin's idea. Not mine."
"Of course, Batman's kid. Figures he would know how to neutralize us all. Taught by the best." Barry felt as if he'd aged ten or twenty years in a few short days. He was used to being carefree and suddenly having someone else who seemed to depend on him, it wasn't the best feeling. "I haven't handled this very well, have I?"
"Well it's your home isn't it?" Wally said sarcastically.
"From the sound of it, this is your home too. I haven't been very welcoming." In truth, Barry had already received a rather unpleasent message from Clark telling him to get his head out of his ass. Now Iris was basically telling him the same thing.
"I really don't mind. You stay in your space and I stay out of the way, right? I'm used to it." Wally stood up sharply. "I'm not hungry." He said.
"It's fine. I have to go talk to Robin anyway. See ya." Wally turned and raced up the stairs without looking back.
"Great Barry, you really handled that one." Barry put his head in his hands.
"You're right, it could have been better." Iris placed a gentle hand on his shoulder. "He's a kid, Barry. You'll just have to try harder. From what you've told me, it feels like he'll be here for a while. I'd hate for both of you to be so uncomfortable."
"A little too late for that don't you think? It might be best to send him-"
"No! We are invested in this now. We can't just give up. How do you think that'll make him feel?"
"Stop, you're making me feel guilty."
"Goood, that's what I wanted. Go fix it."
"You can do this Barry. Remember when we were talking about kids? Well this is great practice for those moody teenage years." Iris rubbed his hand lightly. "It'll all work for the better."
Barry silent prayed she was right.
"You should be back in bed."
"You know Artemis, you keep acting like that and I'll actually start to believe you care." Roy said snarkily. He had gotten bored in the medical ward. "Where'd they put my bow? If I'm forced to stay here, I'm going to stay in shape. Last thing I need is the Ollie from back home thinking I can't handle myself again."
"You're still injured stupid. Canary said-"
"Newsflash, that isn't Canary. At least, she isn't our Canary. Dinah would trust my judgment. She always has." Roy shrugged and continued searching through the hallways of Oliver Queen's mansion. It really was starting to creep him out how everything was so identical to the home he had grown up in.
"Okay, but I'm not helping you if you suddenly pass out." Artemis wanted to strangle him. 'He's your only ally remember? Right now, like it or not, he's your only friend.' Artemis scoffed at the word friend. Then again, he was apparently close to her sister. Maybe they could try to find a common ground.
"Stop it, you're giving me a headache. If you want to say something, just say it." Roy snapped. He didn't like being stared at. The girl had been boring holes into the back of his head for nearly five minutes. "Well?"
"There's nothing to say. I was just thinking about home."
"You're not a very good liar." Roy chided softly.
"Fine. I don't understand why Wally and Robin seem to care so much about you. You're rude, self-absorbed, and you have no respect for other. You're a jerk." It poured out of her mouth like vomit before she could do anything to stop it. Roy stayed quiet for a few moments and Artemis cringed at the thought of what he might say.
"Do you remember what I told you after your first mission withe team?" Roy asked as he watched her squirm.
"Something along the lines of 'if you hurt my frinds I'll make you pay.'?" Artemis remembered the warning but for the most part had not taken it seriously.
"Wally, Robin, and I were the first. We know this business better than anyone and we look after each other. We're like brothers. Don't get me wrong, I care for the others but, I those two mean the world to me. We take care of each other, always have." Roy explained. He didn't know why he had to justify himself to her he somehow knew it was necessary.
Roy remembered the first time he'd met Robin and Wally. He'd been a kid, they all had. It wasn't like he was going to lie about that.
"So you're like your own little family within the family." Artemis said decisively.
"Yeah. I guess you can put it that way. That's the reason I may have suggested to Barry to go check on Wally at home."
"You let him know that Wally's dad was hurting him."
"Not directly of course. Then Wally would have punched me in the face for meddling. Still, it had to be done. I couldn't just let him stay there." Roy shrugged. "Wow, this place really is identical. Ollie even keeps his weapons in the same place." Roy snagged his bow from the wall.
"You know I'm just going to ignore you right?" he searched the room for a quiver. "I'm going to go practice. Never know when a fight's gonna start. You don't want to get out of shape."
Artemis didn't know whether the smack the annoying bastard or to just go along with it. In the end, all she could do was sigh and pick up her bow.
Chapter 12: Chapter 11
In another dimension:
"Ted?" Wonder Woman had seen the man toiling away at his work. Since their failed attempt to send a batarang through to the other world, Blue Beetle had been looking nothing short of despondent. He'd failed.
"I'm working on it." Ted snapped. The man was beyond stressed. Everyone was breathing down his neck to get the machine finished. Didn't they understand that ripping a hole in the space time continuum too work?
'Of course they do. But look at what's at stake here.' He thought to himself. He'd seen the anger and sadness of Bruce's face and the complete devastation on Barry's. 'Gotta work harder. Gotta get them back here.'
"Don't strain yourself, Ted. If you're all tired out, we won't get anything done." Diana reminded him.
"Tell that to Bruce. They're counting on me to find the kids remember?" Ted rubbed his eyes wearily. It shouldn't have been that hard.
"At least try to rest yourself." Diana said gently. "Zatara is working as well. Do not stress."
Ted was about to respond when his computer made a whirring sound.
"Wha-oh my god! It's online! It made it through!" He cried excitedly.
"What? What's happened?" Superman had joined them.
"Diana, get the others. They have to see this!" Ted said. She looked confusedly to Superman but did as she was told.
"What's going on?" Flash zoomed to meet them, Batman and the others came racing towards them.
"The batarang! It didn't fail! Something must have reactivated it. It's transmitting again." Ted's fingers raced over the keys. "Now let's see if we can get that camera working right."
"You can get us a visual?" Flash asked.
"I'm gonna try." Ted did some maneuvering. Apparently, the journey hadn't caused nearly as much damage as he'd predicted. "And...there!" The screen blinked to life.
"Now let's pan the camera so we can get a full view..." He tapped the arrow keys on his laptop and watched as the camera turned. "When I sent it through, I locked it onto the transmitter in Robin's wrist consul. With any luck-well what do you know?"
"It's Robin! He's alive!" Superman rejoiced. The Boy Wonder was sitting on a bed reading a book. He looked rather content.
"Can you get his attention?" Batman inquired evenly. His heart was pounding harder than ever. They were so close.
"No. There's no audio. I can't flash him unless he looks this way." Ted chewed his lower lip. "I'll figure something out."
"At least we know he's all right. He looks healthy. No bruises." Hal commented. "I think it's safe to say the others are okay as well."
"We need to get to them. Ted, if you could send the batarang, do you think you could safely send a person?" Black Canary inquired.
"It would be difficult. We'd have some serious size constraints. A batarang is one thing but a person is completely different." Ted began. "It's smaller and less susceptible to damage. We'd need someone who could be equally as small. It's a virtual impossibility unless I can invent a shrink ray-"
"Or we could just ask a friend." J'onn advised.
"You want me to what?" Ray Palmer loved the sidekicks as much as the next Leaguer and sure, he'd been saddened to hear f their disappearance. Still, he didn't see what he could do about it. Apparently, the founders and Blue Beetle had figured it out for him.
"We need you to shrink down to a reasonable size and travel through a hole Blue Beetle made to another dimension." Hal explained bluntly.
"And it's safe?"
"Probably." Hal shrugged.
"What? That's not a definite answer! No, I won't do it."
Ray vehemently refused.
"Come own Ray. You're the only one who can do this. We need someone who can go through. You're our guy." Hal cajoled. "Think of the kids, how happy they'll be to see you. They need this."
"Really? Are you trying to guilt me into this? What if I die? Or get lost in that thing?"
"It's highly unlikely. We proved we could direct things. You won't get lost." Ted was prepping the machine. "I've prepared your suit for the journey." Ted handed him the fabric. "You need to go suit up. We have a limited power supply."
"This is insane."
"We've noticed." Batman said darkly.
"No one else can pull this off. We don't have the time to build another ray. You're the only one." Superman stared the man down.
"Fine, I'll go! You'd better be able to pull me back." Ray snapped.
"What do you mean 'uh'?"
"Well, in theory portal would only stay open for a few seconds on the other side. Either I'd have to re-stabilize it on our end, or find another way to hold it open. I haven't gotten that far yet. But with another set of eyes and an audio connection, we might be better suited to figure this out." Ted rubbed the back of his head.
"So I'm just supposed to trust that you're smart enough to figure all of this out?" Ray's eyebrow twitched.
"Well, you're pretty brilliant yourself so, two heads are better that one." Ted clapped him on the shoulder. "Now seriously, suit up. We've got to get going.
"Okay, you ready Ray?" ted stood behind the controls of his machine. Ray stood in the center of what appeared to be a giant metal spider. In the center, there rods connected to what appeared to be a ray gun. Ray pulled his goggles over his head and braced himself. "Don't worry, in theory, it shouldn't hurt." Ted shouted over the whirring of the device.
'Yeah, in theory.' Ray thought. He could see the white light growing at the tip of the ray.
"So, you're a bit harder to aim. I tried focusing on Robin's computer again but there's no telling where you might end up. You have a tracker so you should be able to find him!"
Ray gave him a thumbs up.
"You're good, step through." Ray took a deep breath and stepped into the light.
"He's gone." Diana said in awe.
"Ted, is he online?" superman asked hurriedly.
"Hold on, he's still going through the vortex. Wait just a few more seconds and…there!"
"Yeah, hold on. Let me clear up the static." Ted said. He cued up the video and adjusted the audio.
"Hello, anyone there?" Ray said frantically.
"Yeah! You're golden! Do you have the joystick I sent with you?"
"Pan the camera." The League waited with baited breath for the full 360 degree view.
"That's Metropolis! You sent him to Metropolis!" Superman demanded.
"What? No! That's not possible. I set the coordinates exactly the same as before." Ted pulled his hair.
"Blue Beetle tells the truth. I can no longer feel Atom. He is much like the children, vanished." J'onn chimed in.
"But that's the Daily Planet. I know where I work, J'onn." Argued Superman.
"Hey guys wait, I see something." Ray's voice came through.
"What? Pan the camera." Ted commanded.
"Holy cow! It's Superman!"
"Not you! Him!" Ray pointed the camera to the sky and sure enough, there was Superman.
"What the…" Ted typed on his laptop. "This is amazing! It's a parallel dimension! It must be virtually identical to ours." He said in awe.
"Identical. So what you're saying is, there's a version of all of us there?" Diana was in shock.
"Possibly. Theoretical physicists believe that there are a bunch of different dimensions, each with subtle to drastic differences between them. This could be a world without sidekicks." Ted attempted to explain. "Atom, try to flag Superman down!" he called.
"Working on it. I think he sees me. Wait a sec, he's not alone!"
"Who's with him?"
"It think it's Superboy!"
In the other dimension:
"So I've never taken you out on patrol before?" Superman asked in awe.
"I can't believe that, you're great! I need someone who can back me up and Kara's off doing her own thing..." Clark trailed off and landed on the rooftop of the Daily Planet. He waited a few moments for the young hero to appear next to him. They'd been working on Superboy's flight but so far, he could only sustain flight for a few seconds. It was still enough to make Superboy almost giddy...not that he would show it.
"Sorry, I'm having trouble keeping up." Superboy apologized once he landed.
"No, you did well. We'll work some more and before you know it, you'll be flying like a pro!" Clark laughed. Conner tried to supress his smile but couldn't.
"What's up kid? You look perplexed." Clark asked.
"I'm not sure how I'm supposed to feel." Conner admitted. It was a thought he'd been trying to get off his chest for a while.
"Feel? What's that mean?" Clark asked carefully. This was the first time Conner had even begun to open up with him.
"I feel guilty."
"Guilty? What is there to feel guilty about?" Clark pushed.
"My friends...they're miserable. They all want to get home so bad and I...I don't want to go back." Conner looked miserable. "I keep praying that no one is looking for us so I can stay here forever. It's nicer..."
"Okay. That's not something you should feel guilty about. You feel how you feel. I personally enjoy having you here with me. It's nice having a little back up. It's nice having someone to talk to who understands and if you want to stay with me, I won't protest. But you shouldn't feel as if you've done something wrong because you want to stay here. You're a fantastic kid." Clark smiled at him. "And the look on Luthor's face when we took him down? Priceless! He couldn't believe there were two of us."
Conner finally alowed himself to smile back. "I wish you could meet Wolf, and Sphere too. You'd like them."
"Maybe once we do get everything figured out, I can meet them. If you're still here during the weekend, I want to take you up to the Fortress." Clark offered.
Conner could barely contain his excitement.
"You really want to? The other Superman won't even talk to me." He said.
"Well, I'm not him. I think it's something you deserve to see." Clark stretched. "Let's go around one more time and call it a day, okay?" Conner nodded.
Superboy was ready to take the leap off the side of the building when he heard someone calling his name.
"Do you hear that?" he asked the Man of Steel.
"Someone is calling my name. My real name." Conner turned towards the sound. "I recognize the voice but I can't place it."
"Then let's check it out."
Atom had been calling for the young hero for a while. Maybe his hearing wasn't as good as Clark's was.
"Stop shouting and go get him yourself." Batman growled through his com.
"I'm sorry I can't leap tall buildings in a single bound. Oh wait, they're coming towards me now." Ray waved his arm.
"Atom? How do you know Superboy?" Superman landed in front of him, Superboy appearing a few seconds later. Ray blinked rapidly for a moment. The man looked exactly like Clark. If he didn't know better, he would have assumed he was talking to the real Superman.
"Tell him who we are!" Ted's voice hissed in his ear.
"Um, I don't know if you're aware of this but you're in a seperate dimension." Atom informed him. Superboy's eyes widened.
"You're from our world." He stated. It wasn't a question.
"Yes! So you do know. Okay, so I've got the League on a link up. Maybe if we can-"
"I should contact the team." Conner's shoulders had drooped. He looked so disapointed.
"They aren't here? I assumed you all would have stayed together." Conner bristled looking ready to defend himself when Superman pulled him back.
"Don't blame him, I suggested it. We didn't know how long they would be here and I thought it best for them to get used to this evnviroment." Clark explained. Atom's eyes flickered between the two of them.
'Uh oh, we may have a completely different problem. What if they don't want to leave?' He thought to himself.
Conner tried his hardest to hold in his sadness. He'd been on top of the world only a few moments ago and then...it was gone.
Clark noticed the sudden change in his demeanor. "Don't worry Conner, my offer still stands." He said quietly. "I won't go back on my word." Conner nodded solemly.
"Perhaps we could go to the Watch Tower? Blue Beetle can explain better than I." Atom suggested. Conner clenched his fist angrily. No way did he want to go back to that prison.
"Of course, I'll call J'onn." Clark shot another glance at the young clone. "Why don't you go ahead and call your team? I can handle this." Conner just nodded and turned to walk away.
"What's wrong? Black Canary wants to know." Atom asked.
"He was just starting to get used to this place." 'To me...' Clark kept that last part to himself. God, why did evrything have to be so complicated?
When Barry had called Wally downstairs, he had expected the worst. The boy had been avoiding him at all cost. They were stepping around each other like neither existed much to Iris's dismay.
"Why do we have to go to the Watch Tower again?" Wally asked quietly once Barry had finally pinned him down.
"Don't know. Clark called and said it was important. So we're going." Barry replied shortly. He had hoped that he and Wally would find their way to some wort of truce but so far they were trapped in an impasse.
"Do I need to suit up?"
"Only if you want to."
"Okay. I'm good."
"We're heading out now." Wally nodded and followed the man. When they were finally beamed onto the Watch Tower, Wally was so happy to see his friends. He'd missed the comfort.
"Guys!" He shouted joyfully.
"Wally, come here! You have to see this." Miss Martian beckoned to him with a grin.
Wally raced to be by her side.
"What? What's going on?" He asked.
Chapter 13: Chapter 12
Wally West could barely contain his glee. Sure, he couldn't hug his uncle but he could at least see his face.
"Uncle B! How are you doing this?" He asked. There, on the main screen of the Justice League's monitor womb was their world's entire Justice League. The team was met with smiles and relief. Ray's modified suit had been hooked up to the main consul and used to display the images.
"Wally! It's so good to see you! Your aunt and I have been worried out of our minds!" Barry's voice was slightly garbled but it was enough.
"Oh Uncle B, you gotta get us outta here! This place stinks!" Wally cried. Robin nodded in confirmation.
"We're working on it kid. Just give us a few more days and we should be able to snatch you back." Ted assured him.
"Um, is there another way to go through because I'm not exactly too keen to go through another portal anytime soon…" Roy stood back away from the screen.
"Roy! You made it through as well! We were so worried about you." Black Canary smiled genuinely at him and Roy had to hold back his desire to reach out and touch the screen. God he missed home.
"Roy's right. I'd rather not come out on the other side cut to ribbons." Robin agreed with him.
"Cut to ribbons? What happened? Tell us now." Superman commanded, the League members around him. So Robin recounted everything that had happened, including the information Roy had given them. The frown on Superman's face deepened as he listened.
"Perhaps that would explain the missing children." J'onn surmised.
"What? Missing children?" M'gann piped up. "That was in Roy's mind when he was in a coma. He said he can't remember what that meant though."
"And you cannot find a way to pull the memory?"
"When I extracted the other consciousness, it appears that bit of information vanished as well." She said apologetically. "I'm sorry I did not work better to preserve the memory."
"It's alright. You save Roy and that's what matters." Superman nodded to her. "Well now that that's out of the way, is everyone alright? Are they treating you okay?"
The team shot glances to the people standing in the room behind them.
"I cannot speak for everyone but the king here has been most hospitable." Aqualad bowed his head. "I am still quite anxious to return home."
"We are anxious to have you back." Aquaman agreed.
"J'onn has been nice." M'gann smiled. Artemis could only shrug.
"Same ole same ole." Roy said for her.
"I just want to get back." Robin had refused to address his less than hospitable living situation.
"I second that." Wally said.
Superman studied each of their faces for a sign of duress. When none was found, he glanced at his clone. "Ahem." He coughed. "Anything from you Superboy?" Black Canary fought the urge to smack him upside the head.
Superboy was quiet for a few moments, not quite sure how to address his particular situation. "I...I would like to stay here." He said quietly. There was a beat of silence before the room went into chaos.
"What! Why the heck would you want to stay here with them?" Wally swung around demanded angrily.
"You can't stay here! We're a team." M'gann rushed.
Through the webcam, Conner could see the havoc his words had caused in the other world. Black Canary had her finger in Superman's face and looked only seconds away from unleashing her canary cry.
Flash and Aquaman struggled to pull her back. Finally Green Lantern stood in front of the camera. He coughed awkwardly into his hand.
"Um. Well, that could have been handled better. So uh, Superboy? Any particular reason for feeling that way?" He asked kindly.
Conner only shrugged his shoulders and replied, "It's nice to be wanted." The uproar began again.
"We love you Conner! How could you think we don't want you?" M'gann threw her arms around his neck and pulled him tight into a hug. Throughout the entirety of the conversation, the alternate Justice League had kept to them. It really wasn't any of their business. But the moment Clark had seen the alternate version of himself almost completely dismiss his clone, anger had bubbled within him.
"If I may?" He placed a comforting hand on Conner's shoulder. M'gann looked up at him with tear streaked cheeks and gradually backed off. Clark took his place standing in front of the giant screen. "It was my suggestion that Superboy stay here with me for a while."
His admission was met with cries of outrage.
"He does not belong in your world." Batman reprimanded him.
"I'm well aware but he needs to be trained. I'm more than willing to work with him for the time being. He shows great potential." Clark fired back. He'd stood up to his world's Batman before. This one would be no different.
"Black Canary is doing an adequate job of training him for now." Batman glared at the man's sharp tone.
"With all due respect, don't you think Superman should be training Superboy?" Superman challenged. "If your Black Canary is anything like ours, she's an excellent fighter a highly qualified trainer for a human superhero. Conner isn't human."
"Superman will train him." Black Canary assured him through the screen. "I'll make sure of that."
"But it would be forced. That wouldn't be good for either of them-"
"Do I really need to point out that Superboy is more than capable of thinking for himself?" Roy snapped. "If he wants to stay, that's his choice. No one's forcing him."
M'gann hiccupped. "We just don't want to lose you." She cried.
"No one is losing anyone! C'mon Clark, think for a second! Your apartment is barely big enough to fit you let alone a growing teenage boy! And don't think you can commute all the way from the Fortress. He can't stay." Barry countered.
"I agree with Red Arrow. It's Conner's decision and it looks like he's picked here. We'll make it work." Clark shot Barry a glare before turning back to the screen.
"I have to say no." Black Canary snapped. "He has to learn to adapt to new situations, not run away from them. If Superman won't step up, as stated, I will." She said adamantly.
"No. Clark and Superboy are right." Robin said quietly. "As long as our Superman refuses to step up, Conner can't prosper. We need to put our own wants aside and look at what he needs. He needs a mentor." Black Canary's eyes softened.
"Let's not discuss this now. We have bigger things to deal with. We're working on getting you back home and finding the missing children. We also need to handle the Society of Light." Batman halted the conversation. "No one else has appeared in your dimension?"
"No, not that we would recognize." Robin answered earnestly.
"Keep on the lookout. If yours and the children's kidnappings are in fact related, it's possible they ended up on that dimension." Robin could only nod. He didn't want to talk to Batman, he wanted to talk to Bruce.
"Can you possibly tap into my wrist consul?" He asked tentatively.
"We tried that at first. Unless we hook Atom-"
"Never mind. It's alright." Robin wanted yank his hair out. So close!
"I think we've caused enough stress for the day. Don't you?" Clark took in each distraught face. "We'll look into your missing children for now and then reconvene tomorrow." Clark stepped towards the consul. "Agreed?"
Batman's mouth pressed into a hard line. He nodded curtly and stepped away from the screen. The team watched the monitor went dark.
M'gann sniffled softly and sighed. "I wish I could make us some cookies."
"Again with the cookies? Ugh! You have to know how bad I'm craving right now!" Wally exclaimed. He felt the weight of rejection being lifted off his shoulders. His uncle did miss him. He was wanted no matter what this worlds Flash wanna-be thought of him.
"Way to start World War Three, Supey. I thought Canary was gonna yank you through the screen." Robin laughed halfheartedly. Superboy frowned at his words.
"I didn't want any conflict. I thought they'd be happy." Superboy said.
"It's not his fault. I take full responsibility for their reaction and he can't help it if Black Canary is so passionate. I would imagine it's tough to lose such a great student." Clark sighed deeply. "I wish the League and I could stay with you longer up here but we really need to look for those kids. Hopefully we'll be back by tonight so we can take you guys back to your living quarters-"
"We can help." Robin cut him off.
"No. You will stay here until your mentors can retrieve you. Flash is correct in his saying the boy cannot remain in our dimension. We've already disrupted the balance enough." Batman growled.
"This is our fight as well." Aqualad reminded him. "The children are from our dimension and that makes them our problem."
"It doesn't work that way short stuff. We're the Justice League. We'll handle this." Flash assured them.
"Okay, I've had it! I'm officially done with this crap! You do not get to boss us around! You don't want to deal with us? Fine! We'll take Atom Man and go our own way! But we won't be belittled and treated like crap! I don't know about them but I've gotten enough of that my whole life and swore I would never take it from anyone else." Artemis snarled at him.
"I think Superboy said it best when we first made our made our team. Either get on board, or get out of the way." Robin took his place next to her. The Justice League attempted to stare down the young children but found they wouldn't waver. Finally, Superman sighed and put his hands up in surrender.
"Fine. Fine. Artemis is right. They know this business as well, we shouldn't be treating them like this. Think about it Batman, they have the experience. They've been fighting these guys. We'll need the input."
"I thought we already said we weren't leaving this up to you. We're doing this our way." Kid Flash snapped.
"And if we say different?" Hawk Girl challenged.
"We'd like to see you try." Artemis shot back. She and Roy snatched their bows into a firing position.
"No! No fighting!" Superman shouted. "That isn't going to get us anywhere! They're on board. If anyone doesn't like it, they'll just have to deal with it."
"Because you've done that so well in the past." Wally retorted.
"He's right. This whole 'ignoring our existence' thing is getting kid of old. When are you going to realize that in our world, our mentors trust us to get the job done? We've proven that we can keep up with you in a fight. So either you're just that stupid, or you're scared." Robin challenged.
Hawk Girl, Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman all scoffed at the boys words.
"What, you aren't afraid that a bunch of kids are going to show you up? Sure seems like it." Kid Flash added on. Barry wanted to shake the kid with all his might but refrained.
"I've tried being hospitable with you-"
"Treating me as if I don't exist isn't exactly what I would call hospitable."
"You know, I seem to be having that issue as well." Robin chimed in. "I should have let Ivy have you."
Batman's eyes narrowed at his words. "I would have gotten out of it. With our without your help."
"Would you? Looked pretty helpless to me, you know, being paralyzed and all." The thirteen year old fired back. "And you still haven't said thank-you."
Roy snorted. "Please, when have you ever known a superhero to say thanks to one of us? We could stop an alien invasion and we'd still get a reprimand for stepping out of line." He chided.
"But at least the team had been working to earn a decent amount of respect from the League. On their worst days, we still don't get treated like this." Robin reminded him.
"Okay, I'm no expert on the situation here but I think we should disband for a while. I don't think any of your mentors would be too happy with me if I were to let this continue. And the last thing I need is Batman and Flash on my ass. So why don't we go our separate ways for the night?" Atom had finally managed to disentangle himself from the mess of wires long enough to intervene.
You could cut the tension in the room with an ice pick, it was so thick. Ray could only wait for the moment when it came to blows.
"Atom is right. We just need to calm down, emotions are running high right now." Black Canary stepped in. She gestured for Roy and Artemis to put down their weapons. "You're going to pull your stitches if you stretch your bow like that. Let's go back to Ollie's. I can see how worn out you are."
"I don't need a babysitter." Roy glared.
"Good because I wasn't offering. Let's just get you and Artemis back. I suggest the rest of you get back as well." she gently removed Roy's bow from his hands. "Let's go."
Roy finally sighed and followed her lead. Artemis huffed irately and took off after them. Aqualad inclined his head and stood by Aquaman's side. M'gann by J'onn's.
"Fine. Come on and keep up." Batman barked at his would be sidekick. Robin bristled but said nothing and dutifully followed Bruce.
"Might as well. Iris will kill me if she thinks I just left you up here. C'mon." Barry waved his arm.
"Glad to know you care." Wally snarked sarcastically. He raced to the zeta beam transporter and saw the last bit of Robin's retreating form.
"This is my fault." Superboy said despondently after everyone else had left.
"No, you can't control the reactions of others. Like I said, my offer still stands." Superman assured him. "You deserve to be trained by a fellow Kryptonian and if that means it has to be me, then it'll be me."
"And I'm glad about that. I just don't want him to hate me even more."
"This isn't about him. He's not what matters. You matter." Superboy blinked rapidly. This was not something he'd experienced before. Was this what it was like to have a father? Was this why Robin was so attached to Batman and Wally to Flash? Was it this need to feel wanted?
"Thank you." He said. Superman put an arm around his shoulders and grinned.
"Your team is strong. You guys will get through this. I know it."
Chapter 14: Chapter 13
In another dimension:
"I really can't believe you pulled that crap! What do you want, Clark? To lose him?" Black Canary demanded. As soon as the screen had gone dark, she'd pounced on the man of steel.
"If that's where he wants to be I don't see why we should stop him." Superman countered. Why was everyone trying to make him the bad guy?
"So we just give him the green light. Let the whole team know that we're perfectly okay with them staying there. Letting them know we don't care? Have you lost your mind?" It was moments like this that she wished she had Diana's strength. Maybe what he needed was a sharp punch to the nose to set him straight.
"He isn't my son, Dinah. I didn't create him! I don't understand why everyone is making me the enemy! I haven't done anything wrong!" Superman attempted to defend himself.
"Wally isn't my son either!" Flash stepped in. "But guess what Clark, I got a phone call from Roy telling me that Wally was being hurt, I stepped in! I barely knew the kid, fresh into my marriage and nowhere ready for a child but guess what? I stepped up. And I don't regret a single second of it."
"I don't have time-"
"Bruce isn't running a billion dollar company? Barry isn't working a full time job, taking care of a wife? Orin isn't running his kingdom? I don't have a day job? And yet I'm here day in, day out playing den mom to your kid! No! That's not okay!"
"He's not my kid!"
"Blood ties don't matter Clark! Wally isn't my son but he's a part of me! Conner is a part of you whether you like it or not!" Barry looked about ready to throttle the man.
"The other Superman is right about one thing, the boy needs to be trained." Batman stepped in. "His power will get out of hand if left unchecked."
"Then let him train him. If he's so willing, let him do it!" Superman snapped.
"You're unbelievable! It's no wonder the kid feels so unwanted. You're being such an asshole!" Black canary fought back her urge to scream.
"I'm not being any different than usual."
"You love Robin, never treated him this way before. You've even let him stay at your apartment before." Barry didn't understand what was so different.
"I'll be training my replacement! Don't you people understand what he was created for? He was created to replace me!"
"Kaldur'ahm is the son of my enemy, of my greatest foe and yet I still care deeply for him. I cannot fault him for his father's sins just as you cannot fault Superboy for his creation. It is not as if he has made a distinct effort to take you position. He just wishes to be cared for and loved. Can you not find it in your heart to even try?" Aquaman asked lightly. "In reality, he is not asking you for much. Just family and compassion. It comes with practice."
"But first you have to be willing to practice and you sir, are going to practice. I will call Lois in on this if necessary." Black Canary growled threateningly. Superman looked around to see he had been surrounded by his fellow Leaguers. Even Blue Beetle looked rather peeved at him.
"You are going to fight for your son," Black Canary stuck her index finger in his face for the second time that day, "or I will make you regret it."
Clark gulped audibly and finally gave up under the pressure. "Fine! I'll try to do better."
"You'll do more than try. We've practically got a custody battle on our hands and you'd better hope you win." Batman said blandly.
Clark wanted to slap himself. How was he supposed to get the boy to like him after all of this?
In another dimension:
"Going out on your own again? I thought you would have learned from last time and what happened on the ship." Dick Grayson sat atop the one of the banisters in the foyer. He could hear Batman shuffling about, getting ready to go on patrol.
"And I told you, I patrol alone."
"Worked out really great before didn't it?" Dick hopped down to the floor. Bruce sighed audibly. God, it was like talking to a six year old with that kid.
"I am going out on patrol. You will stay here. You will not leave this house. If I have to lock you in your room, I will." Bruce growled.
"I'd like to see you try. You've taught me how to get out of about any trap. A locked door won't stop me." Dick stood tall, unbothered by the signature bat-glare. "Now, I'm going to get suited up and we can go out together."
"No! What part of no do you not understand!"
"Any of it! Why do you keep treating me like this?" Robin stomped his foot like a petulant child.
Batman was close to just locking the kid up and praying he never got loose.
"That's none of your concern. You need to go upstairs and settle down. I don't care what Clark said, I will ship you back to him if necessary." He assured the boy. Robin cried in out in outrage as he was grabbed and yanked up the stairs. Bruce threw him into his bedroom and pulled the door shut.
"You can't do this! You just can't! You'll regret it!" Robin shouted through the doorway.
"I'll regret no such thing. Alfred will stay here to make sure you remain inside. Goodnight Robin." Bruce replied brusquely. Alfred shot him a disappointed look.
"Are you sure this is the best way to go about handling the situation, Master Bruce?" The elder Englishman asked.
"At this point, I really don't care."
"He's not an animal or a pet. You can't just lock him up and assume the problem will go away. He requires attention. An apparently after being so close yet so far away from his version of you, I'd imagine he needs it even more. You could stand show a bit of compassion towards him." Alfred took his place in front of the door. He could only advise, not command and if Bruce really wanted to leave the boy locked up, then he would have to do his duty as a butler.
"I will consider it when I return. For now, just watch him, Alfred. Make sure he doesn't cause too much havoc."
"I assure you, that won't be the case."
"Good night then."
"I will see you when you return, Master Bruce."
"Master Richard? Are you awake?" Alfred tapped on the door a few hours later. Bruce had long since returned to the manor and was sitting down to eat dinner. "Dinner had been prepared if you're hungry." He tried again.
"I'm not hungry Alfred." Dick answered quietly.
"It has been quite some time since you ate. I don't think your mentor would be happy if we allowed you to starve. Please, I assure you everything is delicious. If you don't wish to come out, at least allow me to bring you something."
"No. Leave me alone."
"I DO NOT LIVE HERE!" Alfred balked slightly at the boy's tone.
"Oh my, this is much worse that I had originally anticipated." He said quietly to himself. He was going to have to convince Bruce to stop behaving like a child and at least try to interact with the boy.
When the butler arrived downstairs, Bruce was still eating his dinner and sipping a glass of wine.
"I'm going to assume that since you're alone, he refused." He observed.
"He claims he is not hungry."
"Well then perhaps we'll have to just lock the pantries at night. That will teach him to refuse an invitation."
"I must express my apprehension at that course of action, Master Bruce. I believe that will get us nowhere with him. He requires a gentler touch. Perhaps if you were to invite him dinner yourself instead of sending me? That might convey a better and more welcoming message. Of course, it is only a suggestion." Alfred merely shrugged his shoulders trying to appear distant to the situation. Bruce quirked and eyebrow, picking up on the man's apparent discomfort.
"Do you honestly believe that will work?" he asked.
"It is one of the few things we have not tried. I would feel much better if we could get the boy to eat something." Alfred affirmed. Bruce sighed deeply and considered his options. He could leave the boy alone to starve and risk Clark's wrath or he could attempt to reach out to the boy. Suddenly the wrath of the man of steel did not seem so bad.
Finally, Bruce stood from his seat and made his way to the stairs. He silently prayed the boy would not put up too much of a fight.
He stood outside of Richard's door for what seemed like hours, staring at the wood.
"Are you going to knock, Master Bruce?" Alfred asked quietly.
"I was getting to that."
"Then by all means." Alfred gestured to the door. "Go on." Bruce huffed lightly and knocked slightly on the door.
"Robin?" He called.
"Master Bruce! You cannot give up on child after one try. Again. And more gently this time." Alfred pushed.
Bruce shot the elder man a scathing look but nonetheless, knocked again.
"Use his name." Alfred cut him off.
"Richard," Bruce tried testily, "will you please come downstairs and eat?"
"Go to hell!"
"You go first you miserable little-"
"Master Bruce! I would like to remind you that he is the child in this situation." Alfred warned. Bruce pinched his brow distractedly and sighed.
"I will not play this game with you boy. Either you eat when dinner is served or you don't eat at all!"
"Then I'll happily starve!" Robin cried through the wooden doorway.
"Good then, one less mouth to feed." Bruce snapped back.
"Fine!" Alfred wanted to smack himself. He had never seen his ward act so immature. Was the other Bruce anything like this?
Bruce turned on his heel and marched away from the door. "Make sure he stays in there. I don't need any more trouble than I already have and Clark would just make things worse."
"It's over Alfred, the boy has made his decision. Let's let him stick with it."
A while later, Alfred could hear a subtle tremble coming from inside the room. "Master Richard? Is everything alright in there?"
"I'm fine. Just peachy." Came the boy's dejected reply.
"Do you mind if I open the door?"
"No, hold on a second." Alfred could hear the child shuffling around before the door was open. He was met with the face of a mask-less Dick Grayson. His nose and cheeks were a little red but it was clear enough: the boy had been crying.
"My dear boy…come downstairs. Let's get you some hot chocolate." Alfred stuck out a gloved hand.
"Bruce will be angry with you. He gave you strict instructions." Dick protested.
"What he doesn't know won't hurt him. Come along." Robin shook his head at the outstretched hand but followed any way. Alfred led him down the maze of staircases and into the kitchen. "Here, sit down. I'll just put some water on to boil."
"Thank you Alfred. I'm sorry I shouted at you earlier. I was upset." Dick apologized after he sat down at one of the small kitchen tables.
"It is quite okay. I remember Master Bruce when he was your age. It is not something I have not experienced before." He set a steaming mug of hot chocolate and a warm plate of food in front of the boy. "Do not lie to me and say you are not hungry. Eat." Dick stared at the plate for a long time and sighed.
"He's going to kill you."
"No he won't. If he wanted to, he would have done it by now. Right Master Bruce?" Bruce Wayne cursed his butler's ability to sense his presence. He stepped out of the shadows and into the boy's line of sight.
"I'll go back upstairs." Dick said hurriedly.
"No you will not. Sit down and eat." Alfred said authoritatively.
Bruce said nothing as he sat down across from the boy. Robin refused to meet his eyes. It was clear there was going to be a standoff. Alfred attempted to break the tension.
"Master Clark called. Apparently he is looking for a larger apartment. I was not aware he wanted Superboy to remain he permanently." He said.
"He's staying." Bruce said suddenly.
"Conner can do whatever he wants. It's not up to you." Bruce's fists clenched at Robin's tone.
"The universe has a rather delicate balance. We cannot upset it whether we like it or not. We have to deal with what is dealt to us." He said.
"It doesn't have to be that way."
"Haven't you ever heard the saying 'life isn't fair'? Not all of us have had quite a cushy childhood."
Robin felt the sadness welling up in him again. Who was this man that sat in front of him? It couldn't be Bruce. It just couldn't be.
"With all due respect, I know all about life being unfair." He replied quietly.
"Oh really?" Bruce shook his head. Why on earth had his other self taken in a child? Especially this child. Clearly the boy had no respect for boundaries, a rule breaker, and extremely disrespectful.
"Yes really. You aren't the only one who saw your parents die." Bruce flinched sharply at the words. Dick lurched to his feet and raced from the room. Bruce could hear the bedroom door slam loudly.
"My word…what have you gotten yourself into this time Master Bruce?" Alfred asked.
"He saw his parents die." Bruce echoed.
"Much like yourself. No wonder the other you felt such a strong attachment. You are much the same. I assume you know what you have to do now?"
"And what is that?"
"It is clear he does not want to speak to the hero. He wants to speak to the man. Go to him as Bruce Wayne, not as Batman."
For the second time that night, Bruce Wayne stood outside his would-be ward's door for what seemed like ages. This time, he did not have Alfred to egg him on. Finally, he knocked on the door.
"Rob-Richard." He called.
The door swung open. "What do you want?" Dick asked.
"I wanted to speak with you."
"I'll go back to the Watch Tower. It's obvious this isn't going to change and I'm sick of it." Robin said quickly. He had already gathered his things and cleaned the room.
"You don't have to leave." Bruce sighed. "I haven't been entirely fair."
"No, you haven't."
"I didn't realize-"
"You didn't ask." Bruce could feel his temper flaring at the boy's attitude again. He slowly attempted to quell it.
"I did not. I normally don't like to ask too many questions." Robin snorted at that.
"You're the world's greatest detective. Of course you ask questions."
"What do you want me to say? Do you want me to lie and say I suddenly forgive you or something? No! You've treated me like crap since the day I came here. At home, we're teammates. You watch my back and I watch yours. That's how it works. Here, you're just pushing me aside."
"I don't want you to get hurt."
"I've taken hits before. I've been stabbed, shot, and beaten within an inch of my life. Believe me, I can handle myself. Everyone on my team can."
"I believe you. You clearly seem to have earned my respect in the other world. I…I will try to be better."
Robin looked taken aback by his words. "That…that is all I can ask."
Chapter 15: Chapter 14
In another universe:
"Any news Master Bruce?" Alfred Pennyworth had waited patiently for his ward to return home. When Bruce stepped out of the bat-mobile, the butler already had a steaming cup of coffee waiting.
"I got to see him. He's unharmed." Bruce replied shortly.
"Oh wonderful. I know you were confident when you left. It won't be long before Master Richard is back home with us." Alfred replied jovially.
Bruce only nodded. Had the cave always been that quiet? No...he could always count on the Boy Wonder's vivacious laugher to bounce off the walls and ceiling.
"I miss him too. Things have not been the same since in his absence." Alfred set down his tray.
"He'll be back soon. I am worried about Superboy, though."
"Don't tell me he's having problems with that world's Superman as well. I like to think the boy's had enough." Alfred had heard of the young clone's plight.
"No. It's the opposite. He wants to stay in that world. Apparently that world's Clark is much more pleasant with him." Bruce explained.
"And this displeases you?"
"He can't stay. We have such a delicate balance to uphold. He just can't."
"You honestly expect someone, a child, to give up their one chance at happiness? Can you truly ask that of him?"
"I have no choice. There are greater things at work here. He simply cannot stay. There's nothing we can do about it. Though I do believe Black Canary has managed to scare Clark into stepping into his role as a father." Bruce pulled the cowl off of his head and sighed. "We can only hope for the best."
"I suppose you're right. I just fear for him as all. Not everyone can be as happy as Master Richard." Alfred stood next to his ward. "It appears you're getting a call, sir."
Bruce looked up to see that his removed com was in fact ringing.
"Going to be called away again already? You only just got back."
"Duty calls. It could be Ted with more information on the kids." Bruce answered the call immediately. "What's happened?"
"Come immediately. J'onn found something." Diana's voice rushed.
"What did he find?"
"One of the children."
"I know you had just gotten home but this was too important." Superman led Bruce down through Happy Harbor.
"Diana said one of the children had been found. She was in this dimension?"
"As far as J'onn can tell, she never left. But you'll have to see the damage for yourself."
Batman mouth pressed into a hard line. Damage? How had the girl been hurt.
"Kelly Raines." Hundreds of faces passed through Bruce's mind until he finally locked on the one he sought. Raines, Kelly: vibrant green eyes and long blonde hair. Age: ten.
"I remember her from the list. What damage was done?"
"It's not something I can explain. You'll have to see for yourself." Clark appeared visibly shaken by what had transpired. For a moment, Bruce was actually fearful of what he might see. "I'm beginning to think the team is better off in that other world. If they can avoid this fate…well maybe it's better for them."
They had reached the containment room and pushed open the door. Even though the room was dark, Bruce could clearly make out the shape of a woman in the corner.
"J'onn hasn't been able to get near her and we're starting to worry."
"Turn them on anyway. She'll have to get used to it." Bruce replied darkly.
"Okay. But I mean it Bruce, you won't like what you see."
As soon as Clark flipped the switch, the girl let out a bloodcurdling scream.
"Kelly! Kelly calm down! You're alright!" Clark tried to soothe her.
Her hair looked like straw and her once rosy cheeks, sufficiently hollowed. Her pupils were so far dilated that the ring of green was virtually nonexistent.
"This can't be the same girl." Bruce said.
"I assure you, it's her. J'onn picked her up just an hour ago. It's like she appeared out of nowhere."
"Have her parents been notified?"
"Yeah…but we've told them she's not ready to be seen."
"And J'onn can't make heads or tails of it?"
"He says she's been wiped clean. It's like her mind is blank. Not just of her attackers but of everything. It's just gone." Clark tried to coax her out of the corner. "And as soon as she got back, another kid was taken."
"So they don't let them go unless they have another child readily available. Anything else off besides her metal state?" Batman attempted to assess the girl's condition.
"Her entire body's been drained. Like they sucked the energy right out of her. I don't understand. And now she's some kind of zombie." Kelly pulled her knees in closer and shook.
"Bruce…if this is what's happening to all of those kids-"
"-then we've got a serious problem."
"J'onn s still working but does not believe he will find any more children tonight." Wonder Woman had never felt so worn.
"This is a disaster! First the team goes missing. Next thing we know, kids all over the planet are getting snatched and now, now they end up like this?" Flash was in shock. "We have to do something!"
"You act as if we aren't trying! What can we do? Until we get her to tell us what went on when she was taken, we've got nothing." Green Arrow spat.
"J'onn says her memory may never recover. Even if we can get her to stop being so afraid, we might never recover what's been lost." Hal said seriously. "We're on our own."
"Maybe not." Diana stood and walked towards the monitor consul. "Ted, do you think you can get us online with the team?"
"Yeah, I'll contact Atom." Ted went to work on his laptop.
"You think they can help us?"
"They've dealt first hand with these people in ways we haven't. They may know something we don't." Wonder Woman affirmed.
"We'll soon find out."
In another universe:
"Dude! He really let you go out on patrol with him? That's amazing! What changed?" Wally was upstairs in his bedroom talking to Robin via webcam.
"I don't know. The other night…we just exploded at each other. Finally got a lot of things sorted it. He decided to give me a chance. It was nice." Robin shrugged his shoulders. "Almost like home, you know?"
"Oh no, don't pull a Superboy on us dude. We can't have you deciding to stay here too; we'll be down two members." Wally groaned.
"No way. I'm not staying here for anything. All I'm saying is that it's nice to have some sense of normalcy. Still, it will be so much better when we get back home." Robin asserted.
"I wish I had your luck. Clear Batman has some semblance of sanity about him. Now if we could fix this world's Barry, we'd be golden."
"I can't help you with that. Things are still awkward here for me. You'll have to pull this one together yourself. You can make friends with almost anyone. I don't see why he should be so different."
"At least your Batman wanted to try. He still won't look at me unless Iris makes him. Nothing's going to change." Wally cried despondently. His brief interaction with his real uncle had made him feel so much better but the euphoria was beginning to dissipate.
"C'mon Wally, you can do this. Just stand up and tell him that he needs to get used to you being here. Having Iris on your side definitely won't hurt your cause either. Alfred certainly pushed the Bruce and me together. She can be your best ally." Robin tapped his lip on the other side of the screen. "I'm really tired Wally, I'm heading to bed. You should too. I know you haven't done any of your homework since we got here. Maybe you could start on some of that."
"No way. I'm not doing that. I'd rather go to bed myself."
"Then go to bed." Robin switched his camera of and Wally groaned. All alone in that big stupid house again.
"Wally? Wally sweetie? Are asleep again. I swear, that's all you do!" he heard Iris outside his door again. Wally held back his groan of frustration and buried his head in his pillow.
"I'm awake." He said, his voice muffled by his pillow.
"Oh! Good then. I'm coming in and so is Barry." This time Wally really did groan.
"I changed my mind, I'm asleep." He called.
"Too late." Iris pushed the door open and pulled Barry in behind her. "I thought I'd let boys be boys and have the two of you hash it out but apparently that's not going to work. So now I'm stepping in."
"She made me come up here." Barry sighed.
"I noticed." Wally sighed.
"Barry, you need to apologize to Wally for being so rude to him. I think it's time you both decided to be grown up about this whole thing." She chided them both. Alfred called me and said that Batman and his new young friend have managed to work out their differences. I don't see why the two of you continue to be so hardheaded. Why is this so hard? I mean, really?"
"Iris, you're blowing this way out of proportion. We don't seem to have any issue with this arrangement."
I don't want you to talk for Wally, I want him to speak for himself. Tell us how you really feel, hun." She touched his hair lightly. "I promise we won't be mad." Wally cringed at her voice. It was so much like his real aunt's.
"I just want to get back home where things are normal. I'm sorry that I've been so distant but that's just my way of dealing with things. It's not that fun being treated like you don't exist." Wally admitted carefully. It seemed the woman wouldn't leave him alone until she got the answers she wanted. Best to tell her now.
"You are wanted, Wally. By both of us. Why, I feel like you're family. And even though Barry won't admit it, I can feel he does too. He just needs time to warm up to new changes is all. But perhaps we can speed this one along. I know an excellent little coffee shop on the east side. I think the two of you should head over there and actually talk. Then, we may get somewhere. Agreed?" her smile was so warm that Wally couldn't possible say no. maybe she had some kind of superpower. Barry huffed exhaustedly and nodded.
"Might as well. C'mon Wally." He said.
Wally blinked a few times. He had never heard the older man call him by his first name.
"Yeah, I guess. Okay." He replied.
"Have fun and play nice. And I mean it, talk."
"Thanks au-miss Iris." Wally cringed at the hiccup. She wasn't really Iris, he had to keep reminding himself of that fact. 'Not real. Not real. None of it is real.'
"We gonna go or what?" Barry pulled him from his reverie.
"Yeah. Just had to remember something."
Chapter 16: Chapter 15
Kaldur waited anxiously in Atlantis for one of his team mates to call. He couldn't recall exactly when his communicator had lost contact but he had been restless ever sense. Orin had assured him that all was right with the world but...it certainly didn't feel right.
They should have stuck together, he decided. If they had, perhaps this worry wouldn't be gnawing at his stomach. He dreaded the thought that anything might happen to his friends and he not be there to prevent it.
'Or perhaps I am being selfish.' He thought sadly. He had to admit, it was difficult to feel lonely when you were constantly surrounded by a gang of loud teenagers all the time. But here in this world...he had never felt so alone. The king was kind enough. He had tested Kaldur's limits and listened to stories of the young hero's adventures. He seemed genuinely interested in Kaldur's life.
The Queen on the other hand...
In his own world, Kaldur loved queen Mere. She had always treated him with the kindness and respect that a mother would her own child. Kaldur had loved her all the more for that. He would have been more than glad to give his life for her.
This woman was not his queen. She had queen Mera's face. She even had her voice but her attitude had not left room for doubt in Kaldur's mind. She was not his queen. Whenever her eyes happened to fall upon him, they were cold, full of contempt. She would either address him in short choppy sentences or ignore him altogether.
At first, it had not bothered Kaldur. He knew he would eventually find his way home and he would be where he belonged. He would not have to deal with her cruelty anymore. But as the days grew into weeks, his doubts grew stronger and stronger. Would he ever make it home? Or would he be trapped in this hell forever. He relied on the sounds and messages of his friends for comfort. Now that comfort was gone.
"Kaldur'ahm? There you are! Come with me. We must train." Aquaman had found him.
"With all due respect, my King," Kaldur said kindly, "I was wondering if I could have some time to myself today."
"You would deny your king?" Mera's sharp voice reached his ears.
"No my Queen. I have grown quite tired during my stay here. I would just like a day with my thoughts." Kaldur replied calmly. He was trying to keep himself as calm as possible.
"I told you. Just like she was, ever willing to disobey her king. I told you they look too much alike. I wonder if you aid enemies of the crown as well." She hissed.
"I would never! To do so would go against everything I stand for." Kaldur fired back. He was not a traitor.
"Be calm Mera. As I have said before, it is a coincidence that he resembles her. He has proven himself loyal more than once." Orin reasoned.
"If you will recall, so had she. Tell me Orin, how many of our people look the way he does? How many of our people have his tattoos? If memory serves me right, she was the only one. Well, her and another but you know we did not call him friend."
"I do believe that is enough." Orin quietly warned her.
"Who are you talking about?" Kaldur inquired. He did not like being spoken about as if he wasn't in the room.
"It is clear that he isn't aware! Let us just leave it at that."
"What are you talking about?"
"Your mother, do you know her name."
"Sha'lain'a." Kaldur responded shortly. He did not like speaking about his mother.
"As I suspected. And you thought I was just being paranoid."
"That does not mean-"
"And your father?"
"Calvin Durham." But that was a lie. Kaldur did not look much like the man he called father and the only traits he shared with his mother were his hair and his eyes. Still, his parents had loved him like any normal parents would and he was not one to question.
"I sense doubt. You know he is not your father and yet you do not question it? Haven't you wondered? Haven't you ever wanted to know?" Mera asked.
Kaldur did not like what the woman was insinuating. He did not want to be with either of them anymore.
"I wish to return to the surface. I need to check in with my team and my communicator is malfunctioning." He said stiffly. Orin sighed and nodded.
"If that is what you wish, we can leave in the morning. For now, I understand that you are tired today and we will leave you alone." Mera looked ready to burst.
"You still refuse to see what is in front of your face?"
"It is not my place."
"He is the son of your enemy, Orin. You will still allow him here?"
"It does not seem to bother me as it does you." Now Kaldur was really confused. Son of an enemy? His father was no enemy of the king.
Aquaman finally conceded. He could tell that his wife was not going to let the situation die.
"Kaldur'ahm, would you like to take a walk with me? I have a feeling you want answers."
Kaldur glanced apprehensively at the man. He really wanted nothing more than to go home.
"Well this is awkward." Barry commented. Iris had suggested the coffee shop she visited every morning. It was a small place with and old homey feel. Barry hadn't visited it often but when he did, he was never disappointed. Sitting there with Wally though? Well it definitely wouldn't make his top ten lists of favorite moments. The boy was barely even talking. Sure, he could admit that maybe he hadn't been as fair to Wally as he possibly could but the boy would be gone in a matter of days. Iris would have badgered him for nothing.
But he had to agree with her. Wally looked rather…worse for wear. He'd gotten paler since his arrival and there were dark circles beginning to form around his eyes. It was strange because Wally almost always slept. He spent most of his time as far away from the family as possible. Barry could hear Wally muttering something under his breath that sounded oddly like 'not real' and he could say that the kid was nowhere near as obnoxious as when he had arrived. That alone made him nervous.
"Wally, are you alright? You look tired." He tried.
"Yeah, I'm fine." Wally replied in a hollow voice. He was so sleepy. It was weird. He felt as if he'd been asleep only moments ago. He could hear Barry talking but it was as if he wasn't really there.
'Not real.' His mind told him. Not real. Barry was fake, he knew that. He'd known that from the very beginning. But now…he couldn't tell what was real and what was not. The whole world around him seemed to be melting and bleeding together. None of the shapes made sense anymore. Wally blinked rapidly, trying to clear his field of vision. He couldn't see straight anymore. The colors, they wouldn't stop bleeding…wasn't he with Barry only moments ago?
He squeezed his eyes shut and shook his head. What was wrong with him!
"Wally?" he heard a voice cry out in alarm.
'Not real.' His brain automatically replied. 'None of it is real. Best to run and hide.' Wally couldn't shake the dangerous thoughts from his head. It was like someone was pulling him away from the world.
"Wally!" Barry had been shaking him for the better part of ten minutes. The boy had squeezed his eyes shut and closed off his ears! It was madness! People were staring to take notice of the distressed teen and Barry was considering calling in the League. He just didn't know what to do! He just didn't know what to do!
"Sir? Is your son alright? He's looking a little pale. You might want to take him to the hospital." Their waitress had returned and she looked worried. "Want me to call someone?" she cast a concerned glance in Wally's direction.
"No, really he's fine. At least, he was fine this morning. Wally? Wally? Come on kid, you're starting to scare people. Can you hear me Wally?" Barry could hear the panic rising in his own voice and fought to control it. He couldn't lose it now, not when the kid was already compromised. He fought the urge to snap his fingers in Wally's face. What if something really bad had happened? What was he supposed to do? He wasn't Bruce or Clark. He didn't know how to handle kids.
Suddenly, his cellphone started to ring. Barry quickly took it out and checked the caller ID. 'B'
"Aw crap." He hissed and answered the demanding ring. Now Bruce was on his back too?
"You're really taking a phone call right now? Have you seen your kid? I'm telling you, he needs a hospital!" The waitress commanded angrily.
"It's his mom. She wants to know what's going on." Barry snapped back. "What's up?"
"We've got an issue. Report to the Watch Tower immediately. This could be a life or death situation." Batman's voice growled into his ear.
"Can't! Something's wrong with Wally. I've got to stay here unless you're going to send someone. Really, if Clark can handle it, I have to stay with him." Batman was silent for a few moments before responding.
"What do you mean wrong?"
"I don't know! It's like he just checked out or something! He was kind of talking and then all of the second, he just checked out on me! We were talking, Iris saw him! He was fine this morning." But that was a lie. Wally hadn't been looking well for quite some time. Those dark circles hadn't appeared overnight. Barry just hadn't cared enough to really pay attention.
"You need to get him up here for and examination immediately. This could be a lot worse than you think." The line went out.
Barry's heart momentarily sunk at the look on Wally's face. The boy's eyes had opened back up but any of their former light had evaporated.
"Come on Wally! We're gonna head home okay." His eyes flicked to the waitress. "We're gonna go see Uncle Clark and Uncle John." He moved to hoist Wally out of his seat.
"Who are they?" the boy asked slowly.
"Conner and Megan's parents. Your cousins." Barry replied. He had to get the kid out of there.
"Who?" Wally's word slowly started to slur together.
"Good lord! It's like he's having a stroke or something! I'm calling 9-1-1" the woman cried. She helped Barry pull Wally from his seat and carry him out of the restaurant and to the car. "He needs a hospital." She said.
"We have a private physician. I'm taking him there now. Thank you for your help." Barry dreaded the fact that he would have to drive. There were just too many witnesses. He couldn't risk being seen. In the back seat, he could see Wally's head lolling back and forth. Best to get moving. He pulled out of the parking lot and back towards town. He had to find the zeta beam transport.
"Wally's been hurt? What's that even mean?" Batman was beginning to regret even telling Robin what had happened at all, let alone bringing the kid along. He hadn't shut up since.
"I don't know what's happened. Flash is on his way. You'll see him soon." He said shortly.
"That's not enough. This could be really bad! Was he fighting with Flash, did Barry hurt him-"
"What? You know the two of them haven't been getting along. And besides, you were prepared to starve me. Who knows what was going on in the Allen house hold?" Dick insisted.
"I wouldn't have let you starve and Flash would never put his hands on a child. Not violently anyway." Batman pressed.
"If Alfred wasn't there, my stomach would probably be eating itself. And maybe you don't know Barry as well as you think." Robin challenged.
"Do you honestly believe that?" Batman asked slowly.
"Don't you?" Bruce didn't respond but merely shook his head. That most definitely wasn't what he wanted to hear.
"Wally's going to be alright isn't he?" M'gann asked not even realizing she had cut Robin off. The boy shot her a look of annoyance.
"I don't know, I don't know. If it's as bad as the girl…"
"Then it could be permanent." She finished. "This is so bad."
"Don't worry M'gann. Wally will be fine. He's goofy but he's tough." Artemis and Roy had arrived. "Where's Kaldur?"
"We couldn't get in touch with Orin. As soon as we know something, you'll know as well." Clark assured them. "We won't keep any secrets."
Artemis nodded. "And Wally's on his way?"
"Yeah, Flash is having trouble getting him to move. He says Wally isn't responding the way he normally would. He isn't talking."
"Now I'm really scared. Wally hasn't shut up since he could talk." Roy snorted.
"Well if he's anything like this chick, he might not ever talk again." Robin said. He was trying to hide his inner panic.
"How bad is it?"
"See for yourself." they had finally reached the monitor womb.
"Uncle J'onn!" M'gann cried jovially. She waved frantically to her uncle.
"Hello M'gann. It's good to see you again." her uncle responded.
"Hey Roy." Oliver said. Roy glared at him.
Ollie sighed deeply. Even a separate dimension couldn't get Roy to forgive him.
Batman pushed him out of the way of the screen and stepped up. A photo of a young girl appeared.
"This is Kelly Raines, age ten. She disappeared shortly after you all did. She just resurfaced a few hours ago."
"She's so pretty." M'gann said quietly.
"And this is her now." Another screen popped up with a video feed of Kelly's containment room.
"Oh my god!" M'gann cried.
"And this is what you think's happened to Wally?" Roy inquired.
"We don't have enough information yet. When that world's Flash arrives, we'll be able to see if it really is what we believe."
"No! This can't happen!"
"And if it is? Do you believe it could happen to the rest of us as well?" Roy asked.
"What are you getting at Roy?" Ollie asked.
"When that thing was in my head, I couldn't function. M'gann had to yank me out of my own head." He said.
"There's nothing there for me to grab. She's gone." J'onn responded.
"But I could feel Roy clearly. He was faint but I could tell he was definitely there." M'gann said.
"Maybe it works in stages?" Robin suggested.
"We still need Wally to deny or confirm anything." Artemis reminded them.
"Well get ready, the zeta beam just recognized two arrivals." Superman said. They could hear Wally's quiet babbling voice from the distance. Robin felt his heart drop at the sound. He knew they'd lost him.
Slowly, the team readied themselves for the worst.
Chapter 17: Chapter 16
Kaldur'ahm was not having the best of days. He had not had contact with any of his team mates for quite some time and now...now he could really use someone to lean on.
'No secrets right?' He hoped and prayed that their previous pact still held strong. After his discussion with the other world's Orin, he'd been feeling more drained than ever.
Black Manta. His king's greatest foe. He was the son of a monster.
The Orin in his world had always treated him with compassion. Kaldur had gratefully served as his partner out of a reverence for his king. Still, there were moments when he felt as if Orin was holding him at a distance.
Well, now he certainly understood why. Perhaps Orin was waiting for him to turn out like his father.
What was that saying? Keep your friends close and your enemies closer? What about the sons of your enemies? What were you supposed to do about them?
Kaldur knew in his head that he didn't have it in himself to do wrong. Yes, there were times when he went against orders, when he disobeyed. But those instances were only for the good of others. Kaldur only had the best intentions at heart. He never wanted to hurt anyone.
King Orin was perplexed by the young man that he has once hoped to call a friend. To say Kaldur'ahm was devastated by the news he had received was an understatement. He was the son of a villain. His parents were traitors. He could barely hold in his anguish.
Why had his king not told him? Why had he deceived him so?
"Kaldur'ahm, I must apologize. I had figured you were not aware of your familial ties. I'm sorry." Orin said quietly. "We should head to the surface soon. I imagine you will want to see your friends." Kaldur nodded solemnly. He did not have time to weep. He was still a leader and he could not-he would not- fail his team.
The team obediently followed his king to the zeta beam transport.
"Queen Mera?" Kaldur asked quietly.
"She will not be joining us. I believed it would make you uncomfortable. Was I wrong to assume?" Kaldur did not respond. He just rubbed his temples lightly. He could feel a migraine developing.
"Kaldur!" M'gann cried. "We're so happy to see you! Wally's gotten so bad that we thought you wouldn't get to see him."
Kaldur's eyebrows flew up in alarm. "What's happened to Wally?"
M'gann's lip quivered. "There's something in his head. It's like his mind is trying to eat itself alive. He can only barely recognise Robin now. We think it's because he's known him the longest." M'gann had changed out of her uniform and into civilian clothes. Her red hair was pulled back in a tight ponytail and her bangs pinned back. It was clear who had been working as Wally's nurse maid. She led the older teen to the hospital ward.
Kaldur was surprised to see that Wally had been physically restrained. There were deep scratch marks covering the exposed flesh of his arms. Robin was changing his bandages. Wally's head lolled back and forth and he kept babbling about things being real and not real.
"Kaldur! You're finally here." Robin greeted. "He's gotten worse." M'gann said sadly. She brushed the hair out of his eyes.
"M'gann has informed me of the situation. There is nothing more that can be done for him?" Aqualad asked edgily.
"No. And the Batman from our world says more kids are turning up this way. It's getting worse, much worse. At first it was just one girl. Now they're turning up in dozens. And every time a new kid pops up, another one goes missing. It's a vicious cycle."
Aqualad forlornly shook his head.
"This cannot be happening. Are we sure that Wally is the only one suffering?"
"They're running test now, comparing everyone's brain waves to Wally's. Your memory will also have to be tested. Wally can't seem to remember much. We're lucky M'gann was able to get to Roy when she did. She might have just saved his sanity." Robin sighed deeply.
Kaldur contemplated the younger boy's words. Yes, luck had been on their side that day. It had been sheer luck that had spared Roy's sanity. Apparently Wally would not have the same luck. "We will find a solution to save Wally and the others. All that matters now is that we do not give up on him. It is only when we give up that we lose him. There are several villains who have the mental abilities to do this. Did you tell the League about Psimon?"
"Yeah. They're looking into him and a few others. They still aren't sure though. Zatarra's going over spell books to see if there's anything Klarion might have done to cause this. So far, nothing. I can't lose Wally, Kal. He's like my brother. He's one of the few people that I look at like family. I can't lose any more family members. I just can't." Robin squeezed his eyes shut in agony. At that moment, Robin looked a heck of a lot older than his 13 years. Aqualad knew he had failed his team.
He rubbed his temples again, that migraine persisted.
"You okay?" Robin asked warily. He noted the sweat decorating the other teen's brow. Kaldur had clearly been through an ordeal of his own down in Atlantis.
"Yes. Just a mild headache."
"Headache? You need to get checked out Kal, we can't take any chances. We don't need a second member strapped to a gurney. If there's anything you want to talk about..." Robin stood and led him to one of the examination tables. "I'll go get M'gann. She'll check to make sure everything's the way it should be." Kaldur glanced around the room. He had not noticed the Martian girl's absence. The young acrobat stood up and stretched his limbs. He waved goodbye and left him with Wally.
Kaldur was not happy to be left alone with the babbling teen. Seeing the redhead in that state served only to remind him of his failure. It was just another reminder of his failure to be good. Was his father's DNA that powerful? Was he destined to be as wicked as his father?
Wally had somewhat quieted in Robin's absence. He set his unfocused eyes on Kaldur's face and shook his head back and forth.
"They're...using us..." He suddenly said groggily. Kaldur's eyebrows shot up.
"Kid Flash?" Kaldur asked quietly. He approached the boy's bed slowly.
"They've figured it out and they're going to use us..." Wally's head lolled back to the side. He'd lost his single moment of clarity. The moment he'd snatched a piece of his mind back, they'd stolen it away. Deep inside, he hoped it would be enough for his friends to understand. They'd save him and the others. They wouldn't fail him.
Kaldur didn't quite understand what Wally meant but he knew it wasn't the aimless drivel he'd been spewing for the last hour. That was real. That meant something. Wally was trying to communicate with him.
"Robin!" He cried. "Wally said something coherent!"
"What?" He could hear more than just Robin coming his way. Red Arrow, Artemis, and Robin came rushing through the door. Superman lingered in th doorway with Conner next to him. Somewhere in the back of Kaldur's mind, he wondered if the two of them had separated. They looked even closer than before.
"What did he say? Is he alright?" He wasn't sure which one in the group had said it.
"He said something about being used. That someone was using him and the other children." Roy's brow furrowed at that.
"Funny...I remember something like that." Roy said darkly. He watched Wally's face warily.
"You didn't mention something like that before." Artemis said.
"I only just remembered. The thought just came back to me." Roy said. Kaldur tried to remember how Roy had looked when they'd first brought him in. He'd been distracted by all of the blood and open wounds that cover Roy's body that he had barely noticed the dark circles under his eyes or his hollow cheeks. Sure, he was doing much better but Kaldur was struggling to remove the previous images from his mind.
"Kal? You haven't looked quite right since you got here. Maybe you should sit down again." Robin said.
"I am fine. I am just not having the best of days." Kaldur admitted.
"No secrets, Kal." Artemis reminded him. Kaldur nodded and looked from face to face.
"I...I don't know how to explain."
"Just start from the beginning. We're here. We'll listen." Artemis said gently as she sat down next to him.
"If you say so."
"So we have another team member that's the child of a bad guy. Wow. Who would've guessed?" Roy said sarcastically.
"I can't believe this." Robin said. "And Mera just threw it all on you? That's not like her at all."
"That was not my queen. She is merely another illusion of this world." Kaldur spat.
"Not everything here is an illusion." Conner countered snappily.
"Conner." Superman said sternly. "Be nice." Conner sulked quietly before nodding.
"Right. Sorry." He said curtly.
"You are still deciding to stay in this world, Superboy?" Aqualad inquired.
"Yeah. Better than home anyway. I'm staying here whether you all like it or not." Superboy snapped back.
"We're not stopping you. There's no point now. With this pandemic, it might be safer for all of us to stay here." Robin said honestly.
"What, and end up like Wally? Is that how you want this to end? We have to go home!" Artemis jumped up.
"Rob's right. Those kids back home are dropping like dominoes. So far, we've only lost one. I get the feeling that this is really for the best. Until we get this sorted that is." Roy sighed deeply. It was something he hated to admit.
Superman appraised each youth slowly. "You're not going to be able to do anything for Wally tonight. It's best that we all get some rest and take this up tomorrow. Do you all want to stay top side or head back to your living quarters?"
"I think I pissed Batman off. Probably best to stay up here." Robin replied.
"It's up to you Artemis. I really don't care." Roy said.
"We'll stay here. In case something new develops." She said.
"I would also like to stay. My experience in Atlantis was...less than favorable." Kaldur added.
"So I heard. I'll talk to Orin about that." Superman promised.
"Are you staying here?" Robin asked the man.
"No. We've still got kids to find."
"I'll go with you." Superboy suggested.
"You should stay back with your friends, Conner. We need at least one Kryptonian here and Kara's on Earth. You never know when one of these guys might need you. Besides, if I find something, I'll tell J'onn to send you down." Clark clapped him on the shoulder.
Conner just nodded his head, slightly disappointed.
"Bye Conner. I'll be back soon." Superman waved and left the room.
After a few moments of silence, Kaldur asked, "Where is Miss Martian?"
"She's with J'onn. They're searching for the kids using their powers." Robin answered. "Picked up nothing yet."
Kaldur wanted to groan and pound his head against a wall. It was like every turn they took led them to a dead end. There was no resolution in sight.
'Failure. You're a failure.' His mind told him. Kaldur rubbed his forehead. His migraine was intensifying.
Chapter 18: Chapter 17
M'gann had learned the value of hard work early in her life. She had to work hard to make friends and even harder to keep them. She was a white Martian. Nobody liked white Martians.
When she came to earth, she had expected the same less than friendly reception. Her new friends however, they had surprised her. They had accepted her without question and gladly welcomed her into their team dynamic. She had a family away from her family. A home away from her home.
Well now her home was being threatened.
She had never thought she would miss the sound of Wally's laughter. It was loud and obnoxious but it filled the room with an undeniable happiness. God, she missed his laughter. Now she was bent over his bed changing his sheets. He was quiet, the babbling and screaming had long sense stopped. If she didn't know better, she would have assumed him dead.
"Stop thinking that way, M'gann." She hissed to herself. She couldn't give up. She was one of the only ones left holding onto hope. If she gave in…then they would fall apart.
She couldn't let her family fall apart.
M'gann stiffened her upper lip and changed Wally's sheets. She would do this for him. She wanted to hear his laugher again.
"We've gotten nowhere." M'gann pulled her pony-tail out and let her hair fall loose. She was exhausted. She'd spent hours going through Wally's mind, trying to retrieve something buts she'd come up empty. She felt like such a failure. She'd failed her friend. On top of that, she knew Kaldur was hiding how much pain he was really in. she only seconds away from forcing an aspirin down the stubborn Atlantean's throat. "I've tried everything I tried on Roy but it just isn't working. This is so different."
"How is it different, M'gann?" Kaldur asked.
"With Roy, I had his help. He was already fighting back to take control of his own mind. While he was in fact losing, I still had his support. Wally isn't fighting. He's given up. If I don't have his help, I can't save him. His mind has entirely turned against me." M'gann explained. She rubbed her forehead and fell back into her chair.
"Wait a second...you said fighting back." Roy said began. "Fighting back...M'gann, that actually makes some sense. That thing that was in my head, I was pulling against it. The entire time, I wanted to get away from it. Wally isn't pulling against it...why? What's different? We find what's different and we find our solution."
"Wow Roy, you actually made a legitimate point." Artemis jeered. "Where do we go from that?"
"Well, let's look at the differences between Roy and Wally when they contracted...well whatever this is. That's where we find an answer." Dinah had entered the room. "Can't hurt to have a few more ears to listen can it?" She smiled at Roy. "Bounce some theories off of us."
Flash, Green Lantern, and Hawk Girl stood behind her. "So let's start with Roy since you know, he's conscious and all."
"Before you were teleported here, before anything happened, how were you?" M'gann questioned.
"What? What do you mean?" Roy was confused.
"I believe she's referring to your mental state." Kaldur said through gritted teeth. His head was still pounding.
"Are you sure you don't want any aspirin for that headache, Kal? You look like it's getting worse." Robin asked.
"I will be fine. I promise. It is just a little pain. I can manage." Kaldur insisted. He did not enjoy indulging in surface-world medications. They always had negative side effects on him.
"I am fine, M'gann." M'gann pursed her lips but nodded all the same. Now was not the time to question their leader. They needed to stand together.
"Anyway, back to your friend's mental state." Hawk Girl redirected the conversation.
"I...I was angry. No, I was pissed off. Ollie showed up at my apartment I the middle of the night thinking you guys were hiding out at my place or something. The League thought you guys were pulling a prank. They weren't looking. You were missing and they weren't going to be bother so yeah, I was really really pissed. I just remember being really mad." Roy shrugged. "That doesn't mean anything."
"You were angry. You were angry when I went inside your mind as well. Now what was Wally?"
"He was depressed. I tried cheering him up but he was going downhill fast." Robin piped up.
"He wasn't that depressed. A little sullen but nothing else. He was fine." Flash countered.
"That's not true! I talked to Wally! He was really upset and sad. I know my best friend, that wasn't him." Robin snapped at the older man.
"Okay, so hold your horses. Roy was angry and detached. He was able to fight back. Wally was depressed and hiding in his own head. He isn't able to fight back." Dinah weighed. "That makes sense to me."
"So it's all got to do with your mental state? That what decides whether M'gann can pull you out or not? No, that's too simple." Artemis disagreed.
"Maybe that's just what it is. Maybe it really is that simple." M'gann offered. "Black Canary is correct. It makes sense. In Wally's battered mental state-"
"Battered? Really, he went from depressed to being battered? Are you implying I battered him down?" Flash cut across her.
"Fine. Depressed mental stated then. In that state, Wally was much less willing to put up a fight. He was desperately looking for a way out of his torment. He found solace in whatever this thing is before it went bad."
"Maybe that's why he was sleeping so much. People who are experinceing depression tend to sleep more." Robin surmised.
"Sleeping? You never mentioned that."
"I just remembered. Every time Wally and I would talk, he would suddenly get tired and drift off to sleep. It was so annoying."
"It allowed easy access to Wally's mind. We're most open when we're dreaming. We have little to no control except in lucid dreams! It entered Wally's mind through his dreams! That means, it was already trying to work its way into Roy's head before he got here." M'gann clapped he hand jovially. "And Roy doesn't sleep."
"So it had less power over him. He could fight back."
"Wait. You know what that means right? If this thing is attacking on the other side, maybe those kids aren't here after all. That's why Superman can't find them. We're the only kids here." Robin said.
"But that doesn't make sense. Why send just us here?" Artemis argued.
"Dreams?" Batman's voice sounded skeptical.
"Yes. It makes sense. We've looked at both Wally and Roy's situations. It's the only theory that makes sense. Whatever this is, it's supposed to break us down. Once the child begins to lose resilience, they begin to sleep more. It's a coping mechanism. People feel like they have the most control when they're dreaming." M'gann explained. "That's when this thing, this spell takes hold. Wally was feeling depressed and underappreciated. He felt lonely and began sleeping more. Most likely, this thing's been feeding him images of his desires in order to persuade him to sleep more. That way, it could gain more power."
"And Roy is different. He's stubborn as a mule and typically doesn't care about anyone else's opinions. He's used to spending his nights patrolling and therefore, can survive on little sleep. He doesn't sleep as much, he doesn't dream as much. Much harder target to bring down." Robin said. "Batman-"
"I believe you. Given what this world's Flash has told us about Kid Flash's more personal history, I can understand why would come to that conclusion. I would as well. Good work." Batman admitted.
"You mean his father's abuse." Roy supplied.
"Yes, that was what I was alluding to."
"So the word 'battered' does fit." Artemis shot a glare at Barry.
"Okay! I get it! You all think this is my fault. You blame me! I'm sorry, I didn't know this was going to happen. I didn't mean for any of this to happen. You can't keep blaming me! Besides, this isn't about me anymore! It's about him!" Barry cried in his defense. Yes, he felt awful. He just didn't want a bunch of kids making him feel even worse.
"What did you do to my nephew! I swear, if you hurt him-" The other world's Flash growled.
"You're just like my world's Superman. You think that by ignoring the existence of your 'problem', it'll just go away. We're people, Flash. We don't just disappear when you want us to." Superboy growled. The others nodded their affirmation. Before Barry could argue, Batman cut him off.
"We don't have time for that. We have more pressing matters." Batman pushed him aside. "It has come to our attention that we have a very small window of opportunity to free these kids."
"What do you mean by that?"
"Kelly Raines is dead."
"What? Oh god. This cannot be happening. Wally's going to die." M'gann began to babble.
"Miss M, shut up. Wally isn't going to die; he's going to be just fine. We're going to save him." Robin protested. No, this wasn't happening. He wasn't going to lose any more people he considered family. No one else. "We have to save him." He knew that Batman couldn't see the pleading look behind his domino mask but he knew the man could feel it.
"We're doing our best, Robin."
"We have to do more. We have to work harder! If Wally dies-" Robin felt as if the wind had been knocked out of him. Wally could die…for a split second, he saw his parents plunging to their deaths. How was the memory still so fresh in his mind?
"He isn't going to die. We aren't going to let that happen. We'll figure this out." Black Canary placed a comforting hand on his shoulder. "We've already called our world's Superman back. None of those kids are here."
"So we've gathered."
"Then that begs the question, why were they," she gestured to the team, "sent here?"
"Most likely to divert our attention away from the missing children. We'd be so focused on trying to find our kids that we'd overlook the others." Green Lantern supplied.
"And we'd have to pay for it." Superboy added.
"I'm pretty sure you're the only one not paying for it, Conner. No offense." Artemis said jokingly.
Conner bristled at her words. "It's not my fault okay! I get it, I shouldn't want to stay but I do! The rest of you are miserable and I should feel guilty because I'm not. Well, guess what? I don't feel guilty anymore. I deserve to feel happy and if he isn't going to give a damn about me, I have a right to find someone who will! So yes, I take offense!"
Both world's fell silent.
"Oh my god. I knew this was going to happen! Clark, I am going to kill you!" Black Canary's voice came from the other world. She wasn't in the camera's line of view.
"Dinah, I didn't-"
"That's just it! You didn't do shit! You fuckin' asshole!" They could hear the sound of an off screen scuffle and Batman's wearied sigh.
"As you can see, things are a bit stressful here. I'm going to terminate the connection and try to…deal with this. Goodnight. I'll talk to you tomorrow."
"Batman wait-" the screen went dark.
"No. This isn't happening. This isn't happening. I refuse to believe this is happening." Robin gasped for air and sat down on the floor. He put his head in between knees. When was the last time he'd had a panic attack? When he was eleven maybe? No, this wasn't happening.
"Robin. Robin! Richard!" Roy was shouting behind him, his arms wrapping around his torso. "C'mon kid. Stay away from the 'battered' mental state, remember? Makes you a target." Roy hoisted him into the air. "And believe me, I will have you strapped down in need be."
"He's going to die, Roy. He's going to die and there's nothing we can do to stop it. There's nothing we can do to save him. We've lost." Robin gasped.
"No, no we haven't. Not by a long shot."
Chapter 19: Chapter 18
Robin had always been one of the toughest members of the team. Even though he was the youngest, he had the most experience in the crime fighting world. He'd seen a heck of a lot in his few short years as Robin but nothing could have prepared him what he was facing.
During the disastrous training exercise with the team, Robin had done his best to keep a level head. Batman had trained him to be prepared for any scenario, even his own death. Robin had been secretly preparing for that devastating moment. On then nights when Bruce came home, beaten, shot, or stabbed, Robin had felt as if his heart had been ripped right out of his chest. There was always the chance of losing a second father. During that horrid day, his emotions had been tampered with. He hadn't felt the full force of the older man's death.
Sure, they had been experiencing the apocalypse. He'd known in his head that there was no way a bunch of teenagers could defeat an entire battalion of aliens. Still, that didn't mean they had to stop fighting back. He would lead them into the fight until the very end. If he gave in, broke down, he would have failed everyone he cared about. He would have failed his team. He would have failed Bruce's memory. He would have failed his parents.
He couldn't fail.
Nevertheless, it hadn't been real. There had never really been a chance of failure at all. The aliens? The deaths? It was all part of some sad, sick, twisted nightmare that he hoped to forget as soon as possible. When M'gann had taken control of the exercise, it had been an absolute disaster. He'd led his best friend to his death and the guilt he felt…it had never quite gone away. This? This nightmare was real. His best friend really was dying this time and there was nothing he could do about it. There was no enemy he could hit or kick or hack. Wally was being attacked by something Dick couldn't face. At times, Dick wondered if he'd once again led his friend to an untimely demise.
It was tearing the younger boy apart. He hadn't felt so helpless sense...
Dick squeezed his eyes shut. No, he couldn't think about his parents. That would only serve to make things worse. Then he'd be completely useless.
"Rob. Hey, come back. Come back to us. We really can't afford to have you go down too. Come on, it's me, you, and him. The original three. I we go down, who's gonna help these rookies? They're so green, it's ridiculous." Roy shook his shoulder lightly. Clearly, humor wasn't going to get Robin to come out of his slump. Time to come up with another tactic. Comfort maybe? "Wally's gonna be okay. We're gonna save him."
Roy could tell that Robin was quickly falling apart at the seams. He's taken off his mask and his clear blue eyes shone with unshed tears. The kid was miserable. This wasn't the Robin he was used to seeing. Where was the laughter, the mischief? When he, Wally, and Robin were children, everywhere they went was filled with their mirth. It was never dull. It was never boring. They'd vowed to always take care of each other. "Robin." Roy brushed the bangs out of the younger boy's eyes. "You know I'm here right? You can talk to me. Don't keep this inside. We made a pact, remember?" He poked his best friend in the chest. "That's how they'll get you. We have to stay strong for our friend."
"You don't understand, Roy. You don't-" Robin's throat clenched. Why did he suddenly feel so weak? He'd never been the teammate to break down before. Never him. He was the one who was supposed to help others when they lost their heads. He'd kept Artemis in the games when she needed the motivation.
"Okay, come here. I know what you need." Roy pulled Robin to his feet and led him to the medical bay. Robin fought him most of the way but eventually stopped pulling away. Black Canary was helping M'gann stick a feeding tube down Wally's throat. Robin cringed at the sight. "Where's Atom? We need him."
"I think he's gone to bed. What do you need him for?" Black Canary asked as she pulled off her rubber gloves. M'gann didn't spare either of them a second glance. Roy had to admit, M'gann looked like she'd been through a war. Obviously, she was feeling much the same as Robin.
"Wake him up. We need to see Batman. It's rather urgent." Roy replied.
"He seems awfully busy right now-"
"Believe me, he'll make an exception for this." Roy cut her off. He'd seen how close the bird and the bat where. If Robin wasn't willing to lean on him, then Roy would just have to call out the big guns.
Black Canary looked at Robin's face and immediately acquiesced. She couldn't picture Batman being the caring type but if that was what the boy needed, she'd get him. "Give me a second. I'll go wake Atom up. We'll try to get in contact with him." She said.
"Roy, I'll be fine really-"
"Shut up Robin. You're gonna sit down and you're gonna talk to Batman. Your Batman. Clearly, the one in this world isn't going to be any help to you. I thought that since you said things were getting better between you, you would be able to talk to him but I was wrong. Now, it's time for you to talk to someone who you can really yourself with." Roy pulled him towards the monitor room where a yawning Captain Atom and Black Canary were already waiting.
"Ted might be asleep so I don't know if this will work. No promises." Ray said sleepily. He did not like being yanked out of bed so late. It was bad enough that he spent most of his time strapped to a computer. It stunk.
"Please try. I know you'd rather be asleep but we wouldn't be here if it wasn't important." Roy said.
"Alright. I understand." Ray shrugged and began to go to work.
Roy turned to Robin. "I mean it, you need to talk to someone. You don't have to be the strong one all the time." Roy ruffled his hair. "You're human."
The screen flickered to life and the sleepy face of Blue Beetle appeared.
"What's up guys? Anything new happen?" He asked.
"We need to see Batman. Hurry Ted."
"Batman? Hold on. I'll go get him. I'm pretty sure that he's still here." Ted ducked out of the frame.
"Roy really-" Robin tried to deter his older friend.
"I meant it when I told you to shut up, Robin."
They waited in silence for a few moments for the man to return.
It only took a few seconds before Batman joined Blue Beetle on the screen.
"What's going on? What's happened?" The Dark Knight demanded.
"You," Roy pointed to the screen, "need to talk to him. He's really messed up right now and I doubt he'll talk to anyone else. I'll head out and so will Canary. Clear the room on your end and you two can have a chat. Come on Dinah." Roy mock saluted and lead the leather clad female from the room.
The room filled with an ominous silence one they were left alone. Atom was dozing in the corner and it was clear he wouldn't remember anything said.
Finally, Batman broke the silence.
"Where is your mask?" He asked evenly.
"The team agreed no secrets. We needed to be able to trust one another, that included my name." Robin replied shakily.
"Bruce please...please." Dick tried to keep the pleading tone out of his voice. He didn't want to hear the anger and disappointment in Bruce's voice. That would only serve to make things worse. It was nights like these when he would often find himself curling up in Bruce's bed instead of his own. He didn't want to be alone.
"Robin, I really-"
"Do I look like Robin right now? No! I don't want to talk to the cowl Bruce!" Robin cried. "I want-I want-" Robin heaved loudly.
Bruce was silent for a few moments. There weren't many moments when he saw his ward lose control of his fragile hold on his emotions. Dick had always been brave beyond his years. Now Bruce was getting a glimpse at the child he really was. Finally, he pulled his cowl down to reveal his wearied face.
"I'm here, Dick. I'm here." He said quietly. "Tell me what's wrong."
"Where is Robin?" Kaldur ask tensely when Roy reentered the room.
"Talking to Batman. He needed it." Roy responded. "And I get the feeling you need someone too. You look like hell Kal."
"I have told you before, my friend. I am alright." Kaldur said defensively. He didn't need one more person telling how much of a failure he was.
"I know what you've said and I know it's a load of BS." Roy said.
"You are wrong."
"I am? So let me get this straight. You just found out your father is a super villian, Mera, the woman you look at like a second mother, treated you like crap, and there's a possibility that Wally might die. Did I get everything? All of that and you're 'fine'. Kaldur, I know you." Roy crossed his arms. "Stop lying to yourself."
"I assure you I am not. I feel fine, just a little drained. Surely you of all people can identify with that."
"I can. We're all feeling just a tad bit drained. Some more than others." He shot a glance at M'gann. She was done looking after Wally and had settled down in a seat. She was talking to Artemis in soft tones. "I've noticed, she's kind of the glue that holds you guys together. Now she's kind of losing it too. I'm wondering if it's the stress or if it's this virus, spell...whatever it is. I wonder if it's breaking us down."
"Your theory is not that far-fetched."
"Then why are you letting it beat you? We don't have time to waste on you feeling sorry for yourself, Kal. Especially now."
"I am not trying to be sorry for myself. I am...I do not know what I am. I do not know who I am." Kaldur voice was filled with agony.
"Who you are? Kal, you're an amazing friend, a great fighter, a dedicated solider, and a fantastic person. You're the one person who's not afraid to tell me, or anyone for that matter, to shut up and listen. You're a leader. This team needs your head in the game, man. Right now, the only person who isn't somewhat off their rocker is Artemis. Wally's down, M'gann's over worked, Conner's having daddy issues, Robin's losing it, and you already know how crazy I am." Roy shook Kaldur's shoulders. "C'mon man. C'mon! You've got to get it together. If you fall apart, this team falls apart and we lose Wally. Do you want that to happen?"
"To imply that-"
"Yes or no question, Kal."
"…No. I do not want that. I do not want us to give up so easily. It is just…"
"Black Manta's your dad. So what. That doesn't change who you are Kaldur. Just because he's such a bad guy doesn't mean you are. You haven't changed." Roy tapped him on the forhead. "And let M'gann give you some meds. Don't be in pain when you don't have to be."
Kaldur nodded silently and then turned away. He had never known his usually hotheaded friend to show such wisdom.
"Rob might be in there a while so don't wait up. Go get some rest, Kaldur."
"They believe the kids are decoys? That's unexpected." Superman had not been away for long but clearly much had transpired in his absence.
"We need to speak to them. If those children are not in our dimension, our first priority returns to putting thinsg back in balance. That means transporting the team home." Batman said.
"The monitor room is being used currently." Black Canary said off handedly.
"It shouldn't be. Who's in there?" Batman demanded.
"Wally's sick. Very sick. They think there's a possibilty he might die soon and Robin...he isn't taking it well."
"You let a teenager commendere the monitor-"
"There just kids, Bruce. His best friend is practically on his death bed and he doesn't know what to do. He's talking to you in there. Well, the other you, that is."
"You cannot always give into the whims of a child-"
"I didn't. Roy suggested it and I agreed. It's done. You'll just have to deal with it!" Black Canary snapped.
"Dinah-" Superman began.
"Save it Clark. Save it. I'm going to go check on Robin really quickly and then I'm heading to bed myself. I suggest you do the same. Things are going to be hectic in the morning." Black Canary swept her hair over her shoulder and sauntered off towards her room.
"She's right. I'm heading to bed, Bruce. There's nothing we can do about it now." Clark yawned. "I'm gonna go say goodnight to the team. See you Bruce."
Bruce Wayne was not happy that Robin had taken it upon himself to take the monitor room. Still, he could not fight his own curiosity. Slowly, almost hesitantly, he pressed his ear to the door.
Chapter 20: Chapter 19
"Bruce I can't do this. What if he dies? He's my best friend. I can't lose anyone else. I can't! Please, you have to help me!" Robin heaved a breath and looked away from the camera.
He couldn't let Bruce see him cry. That would just be too much. Bruce would never let him go out on team missions again if he thought Dick was weak.
"I'm doing my best to help you on this end. Really, truly I am. You have to believe that. Right now? Your friend needs you to be strong. He can't lose you right now. You have to be strong, for both of you. Wally can't fight so you're going to have to do it for him." Bruce advised. "We'll get all of you back soon."
"But there's nothing to fight! This is a sickness! It's not like I can go in Wally's head and save him! M'gann tried, she failed. I don't have any powers, Bruce!" Robin shouted angrily.
"This isn't about powers, Robin. This is about you fighting to save a friend. If you can't go inside, then do what you can outside his mind. Fight the best way you know how. Fight to keep Wally alive. If he dies, you know you fought as hard as you possibly could. You can't give up. You can't stop fighting." Bruce said quietly.
"I...want to come home, Bruce. I miss you Bruce. I miss my life at home. I want to just forget this ever happened. I just want this all to end. I want it all to be a stupid dream! I want to just wake up and have you and Alfred with me again." Robin bit his lip and did his best to hold in his tears.
"If I could give you that, I would. Believe me, I want nothing more than to have you back safe with me. I would but I can't." Bruce sighed deeply. "I want you home too. I shouldn't have let you go this long feeling so alone. We should have talked sooner."
Robin bowed his head and closed his eyes. This was his Bruce. This wasn't some imposter. Maybe he couldn't be home just yet but hearing the older man's voice. That was good enough for now.
Artemis Crock had dealt with a lot in her few short years. She'd watched her family fall apart under the weight of its sins. Her father was gone. Her sister was gone (and apparently sleeping around with Roy) and her mother, her mother was damaged beyond repair. She'd done her best to devote her life to doing good and to cleanse herself of the evil that always seemed to follow her around. She was covered in the blood of those her father and sister had killed.
It was like a curse.
And now her curse had claimed another victim.
She and Wally had always had problems. They bickered and fought but when it came down to it, they made one hell of a team. She cared for him, just as she cared for everyone else on her team.
Wally had to live. What would they do without him? How long would it be until her curse took the life of another team member?
"Artemis?" A voice called quietly to her. The blonde teen swung around to see Black Canary watching her. God, she hadn't even heard the woman approach. All her time on that stupid satellite was killing her senses. She needed to train. Heck, she needed to stay out of her own head. She'd end up letting her own demons swallow her if she wasn't careful. Her hands itched for her bow.
"I notice you haven't said much. Just wanted to make sure you were doing alright.
Apparently, we all really need to watch each other." Dinah shrugged.
"I'm fine. Really. If Roy even gets a whiff that I'm losing it, he'll go superhero on me too. It's only a matter of time. He's making his rounds."
"Would that be so bad? Roy is just looking out for all of you. I'm told he's the oldest. Maybe he's just playing the part of a good big brother." Dinah asked. "I'm going to assume that you two aren't close."
"We're not. Roy hates me. He always has. He's Robin and Kid's big bro, not mine."
"Hate's a strong word. You weren't fighting when we were at Ollie's. As a matter of fact, you seemed like a team. You protected him. Now he's protecting you."
"He was the only one there and I needed someone on my side." Artemis said grudgingly. She didn't like talking about Roy. "Besides, we have to be able to work together. Whether we like it or not, we are a team. It's all about putting the personal stuff aside." Artemis shot her a wry smile. "What can I say?"
"He cares about you. I can tell. You two trained together every day on your own. No one told you to and you didn't have to work together. And you didn't have to take care of him Artemis, you know Ollie and I would have never hurt him. No, you did it because you cared." the older woman observed.
"You're looking way too deep into this. There's nothing to see. Roy and I will never get along. We work together when we have to. Nothing more, nothing less." Artemis's shoulders slumped lightly.
"You didn't think you'd ever end up working together either and yet here we are." Black Canary sat down. "Maybe it's time you two talked to each other."
"Okay, I get why Robin needed to talk. He was going stir crazy in his own head and his best friend might be dying. It makes sense. Roy and I, we had our little pow wow. We're still not friends. We're not enemies either. It's not going to change. Listen, I should probably go see what M'gann is up to." Artemis quickly jumped out of her seat.
"Alright. I won't pester you anymore about it but…just know, there's more to being a team than just getting along. If you let your problems just sit there unsolved, they'll come back to haunt you." Dinah stood up as well.
"Yeah, thanks. I'll be sure to remember that." Artemis chided sardonically. Dinah just smiled and shook her head.
"You're hardheaded just like he is. You have a lot more in common than you think." She replied softly.
Artemis squeezed her eyes shut and took a deep breath. "Shouldn't you be counseling Superboy or something? He's the one with the real issues here." Dinah nodded and patted the younger girl's shoulder gently before bidding her goodnight. Just like that, Artemis was left alone to her thoughts.
M'gann held her fingers gently to Wally's temples and tried to focus herself. She could do it. She knew she could. Wally needed her to be able to. All of those kids were dying and soon, if she didn't save him, he would be dead too. She's tried so many times before but she knew that somehow this time would be different. Wally needed this time to be different.
"C'mon..." She said quietly to herself. She did her best to slowly and gently push into his mind. She didn't want to do any more damage than what had already been done. Suddenly, she felt something give. The shield blocking her from Wally's mind snapped, just for a second, and she found herself submerged in his mind.
Cold darkness was all she felt. It seeped through every pour of her skin and tugged her deeper into Wally's mind. It was like she was falling into a vortex. The blackness wrapped around her and refused to let her go. She was trying her hardest to get out of the mass of darkness. She had to get to wall, she had to save him.
But she was drowning. The darkness swarmed her body, filled her eye sockets, her ears, and her nostrils. She couldn't get away.
And then she felt it.
"Klarion!" She suddenly exclaimed. Everyone turned towards her shriek and watched as her body suddenly began to seize. M'gann began to shake and foam formed around her lips.
"She's having a seizure!" Artemis cried.
Roy caught her before she hit the floor and did his best to hold down her flailing limbs.
She writhed and shook against him, smacking him in the arm and face. Roy knew he'd have a nasty bruise.
"M'gann!" Conner was behind him in a second. "What do we do?" He cried in anguish.
"Hold her down, make sure she doesn't hit her head." Black Canary instructed easily. She brushed M'gann's hair out of her eyes to check for dilation.
"That's not going to be easy, she does have heightened strength after all." Roy bit out as one of M'gann's hands slapped him in the face.
"Perhaps Superboy and I should take over." Kaldur suggested gently.
"Yeah, that'll work." M'gann's body had slowed to tremors. Her eyes slipped closed but her body still shook.
"Klarion. She said something about Klarion. He's a part of the light isn't he?" Artemis questioned.
"Yes, but this is not his strength." Kaldur nodded speculatively. "Klarion is a sorcerer. He would not attack us this way."
"He's right. This is more up Psimon's alley." Superboy commented.
"But Psimon works for Queen Bee. Roy encountered the two of them together along with the other members. This situation is more grievous than we had originally thought. We should contact the League immediately."
"Robin's got Batman up in the monitor room. We can talk to him now." Roy informed them.
"I'll wait with M'gann." Superboy told them.
"And I'll go wake the others." Black Canary nodded towards them. "You all need to get home, fast."
"Batman?" Roy quirked an eyebrow at the man standing outside the monitor room.
"The room's in use. I'm attempting to be patient."
"Un huh. That's what you're doing." Roy rolled his eyes. He knew an eavesdropper when he saw one. "We need to get inside." He knocked gently.
"Robin?" Artemis called next to him.
The door slid open with a 'swoosh' and robin stood before them, mask less. His blue eyes were bloodshot and his cheeks were red. It was easy to see he'd been crying.
"Robin, we hate to interrupt you but-"
"It's okay. We were done anyway. Has something happened?" the younger boy asked groggily.
"M'gann just had a seizure. She found a way into Wally's head and something pushed back. She said something about Klarion."
"Klarion? Roy mentioned him." Robin remembered.
"Yeah. We need to radio the League and tell them to be on the lookout. If they can capture Klarion-"
"Klarion can't be captured. He's chaos personified." Robin reminded them. "He'll just open a portal and escape."
"Not if his familiar is taken. The cat, his weakness is the cat." Artemis suddenly remembered. "Remember the last time we fought him? Wally, Dr. Fate, defeated Klarion by attacking the cat. If we capture the cat instead, we can also capture Klarion."
"I do not know if it will work but it is the best we have right now." Kaldur nodded.
"At least it's a plan. It's the first one we've had." Roy agreed.
"Something happened?" they all turned to see a drowsy Superman coming their way. "Where's Conner."
"He's with M'gann. She's hurt." Artemis said quickly. Why was everyone dawdling? They had a plan!
Clark frowned. "Hurt? What happened to her? Is she going to be okay?"
"We don't know. Right now, we're trying to get in contact with our League. We think we have a lead on something." Roy said hurriedly.
"Then by all means." Clark gestured to the monitor room. "Lead the way."
"Klarion's cat is his familiar. It's what keeps him tied to this world, what keeps him solid. If you get ahold of the cat, you can keep Klarion in one place. Then you can actually question him." Robin explained.
"And how do you propose we actually find the sorcerer?"
"Easy, follow the chaos."
Chapter 21: Chapter 20
In Another Dimension:
"'Catch the cat,' he said! 'It'll be easy,' he said! 'Just follow the chaos,' he said! Hey! Did the little bird actually give us a 'how' on any of these things?" Flash demanded as he dodged another spell. They'd located Klarion. That'd been the easy part. The kid had left a pretty easy to follow trail. Not surprisingly, he hadn't been so keen on handing over his familiar.
"Robin gave us the key to finding Klarion. We found him. Now we catch the cat and we take both of them in. So stop being a baby and catch it!" Black Canary shouted as she dodged another one of Klarion's spells. She opened her mouth and let loose a scream sending Klarion back into a tree. He stood carefully and glared at the older woman, quickly dusting himself off.
"Fools! You should know better than to go looking for chaos! Haven't you learned anything by now? I got rid of your little brats and I'll get rid of you too!" The boy shrieked.
"Lantern, move!" Canary shouted. Hal ducked under another blast and made a grab for the cat.
"I don't think so, Hero. You want my kitty? Then take him!" Klarion cast another spell, this one on Teekl. A red light engulfed the feline morphing it into something new. The cat grew to the size of a tiger and roared.
"Well crap!" Hal hit the ground with about 700 pounds of enchanted cat sitting on his chest. "Okay, I'm with Flash, we could have used just a little bit more of a heads up." He gasped for breath. "Canary, I could use a little help!" Teekl's teeth snapped in front of his face only to be met with the green energy of his power ring.
"Go get Lantern, I've got the brat." Black Canary yelled to Flash. He disappeared in a red haze.
"Oh ha! You think you can best me. I'm not just a sorcerer; I'm a force of nature!" Klarion's eyes glowed red.
"It's time for your reign of terror to end, Witch Boy." A yellow ball of light snapped around Teekl, severing his connection to Klarion. They boy yowled in pain as his familiar was snatched from him. "His magic is gone. He's powerless. Take him." Zatara commanded.
"C'mon freak boy, you've got some explain to do." Canary snatched Klarion up by his collar. "We're going for a little walk."
"Tell us what your plan is Klarion. What is the Society of Light up to?" Canary growled at him through Zatara's magical field.
"You mean you honestly haven't figured it out? Ha! You heroes really are as dumb as they say. You should actually be thanking us. We're really the ones saving people." Klarion crossed his arms and smirked. "Now let's try and figure out our motivation. Think! Why in the world would we want a bunch of snot nosed brats? What could they give us that you can't?"
"Stop talking in riddles, Witch Boy. You're powerless without your familiar; you have no choice but to cooperate." Zatara commanded. A shock rattled the magical container but Klarion didn't even flinch.
"Maybe I should just spit it out. Would that make you happy?" Klarion cooed mockingly before bursting into another fit of maniacal laughter.
"Great Hera…he truly is mad." Wonder Woman whispered. She and several other Leaguers looked horrified at the monster that stood before them. Trapped but still in control.
"You're just now picking up on that? The guy's a total basket case. You should have been there when we fought him. That'd show you true madness." Barry commented. "We're never going to get anything of use out of him."
"Oh honestly. Think heroes. Why would we want children? What makes a child special? What gives a child their power that no adult could possibly possess?"
"A power..." Hal began to mutter. That sounded familiar.
"That doesn't make any sense! Why can't you just be straight with us? You have nowhere to go, Klarion. Nowhere. There are no more cards for you to have no choice but to tell us what's going on." Superman reminded him. "You're trapped."
"I'm not the only one who's trapped now am I? Tell me, how are the kiddies doing?"
Klarion grinned like a shark. Flash bristled angrily at his words but before he could speak Black Canary said,
"We know what you're doing. Trying to distract us isn't going to work. You can't bait us. Now, tell us the truth, Klarion."
He pouted slightly. "You are no fun. No spirit."
"Spirit?" Hal echoed. Suddenly, the pieces clicked in his mind.
"What Lantern? Something stand out to you?"
"Shhh, I can see the wheels turning in his pathetic, little head. Let him work it out really quickly." Klarion waved his hand dismissively at them.
"That's what it is. I think I understand but, it doesn't make any sense. It's never been proven to even work." Hal muttered.
"What doesn't make sense? Tell us." Superman prodded. He hated when Hal got secretive.
"The thing that makes children different is their innocence. The spirit of innocence. Some people believe it can be used as an energy source but it's never been proven. Study of it is forbidden because the children always die."
Flash scoffed. "You're joking right. Innocence? As a power source? How does that even work?"
"Indeed. Seems so fragile doesn't it. So easily tainted." Klarion gestured loosely. "But immensely powerful when left untouched."
"And what use would a freak like you have with something so pure?" Black Canary snapped at him. All of this over an imaginary power source?
"This is madness! He expects us to believe that all of this has been to steal the innocence of children? No way. I don't believe it." Flash snapped.
"It's really not that far-fetched. This wouldn't be the first time I've heard something like this." Hal's foot tapped thoughtfully. "A child's innocence feeds directly into their life force. By taking it, you've taken their lives. You knowingly murdered all of those children." He accused.
"Collateral damage." Klarion waved him off. "If you want to make an omelet, you've got to break a few eggs. You should be happy that they all got to see the light before they died." Klarion shrugged.
"You knowingly murdered dozens of children for what? A rumored power source? You don't even know if it works!" Superman shouted at him.
"Oh but I do! One kid can power a city for months. It's limitless! It's powerful! It's everything we dreamed it would be an more. I'm only sorry that we couldn't use your brats in our work!"
"And why is that?" Ted asked sounding genuinely interested. He was a scientist after all. it was his job to ask questions. Canary shot him a glare. Now was not the time for his inquisitive nature.
"They've seen too of them. Even the clone. No childhood left. No purity." Klarion shook his head. "To messy. Tainted. We need them pure."
"Didn't bother me when my mother said it; doesn't bother me when you say it. Sorry doll. You know you won't be able to keep me forever. They'll come and find me and they'll kill all of you."
"You can't keep doing this, Klarion. What's the point of finding a new energy source and preserving the planet if you kill all the children. There will be no one left to inhabit it!" Superman griped at him. "It makes no sense!"
"The fact that you can't see what's going to happen is a testament to your stupidity. There's a method to the madness and when we're done, a bunch of dead brats will be the least of your worries. Just wait until you see what's coming."
In another dimension:
"So they've got Klarion. What do we do next?" Artemis slapped her fist against her palm. It was time to rally the troops. With M'gann down, it was her job to keep everyone from getting hopeless again.
"There's nothing we can do, Artemis. Not here. We're useless as long as we're in this dimension." Robin was sitting on the edge of Wally's bed. He'd yet to put his mask back on.
"There's always something we can do."
"As much as we appreciate the show of enthusiasm, there really is nothing we can do. Until we get home, we're stuck. We can't really help." Roy was fiddling with one of his arrows on the floor next to M'gann's bed.
"We must be patient. The Blue Beetle of this world is working on a way to send us home. He says it should be ready in a few days. We know that. For now, we wait." Kaldur instructed. His headache had long since gone away.
"For now we wait."
Chapter 22: Chapter 21
"It's a bomb." Roy looked up in surprise. He had not even noticed that M'gann had woken up. They were practically alone. Everyone had either abandoned the medical bay or fallen asleep. Roy hadn't planned on hearing M'gann's voice for quite some time. She looked down at him with fear in her deep brown eyes.
"What?" He asked stupidly. He had heard her of course but he was so sleep deprived that the words hadn't really registered.
"A bomb. A bomb that will take out over two thirds of the world's population. I saw it in Klarion's mind." She replied softly. Roy briefly wondered what M'gann had seen. He had never seen her look so startled before.
"They're going to blow up over half the world. That's their plan. M'gann, are you sure?" Roy asked slowly. He was very close to rousing Kaldur from his sleep and demanding immediate action.
"I saw every horrible detail. The children are a power source. They needed more energy for a bomb that size. They suck them dry and then throw their bodies away like trash. That's why they're dying." M'gann whispered. She wrapped her arms around herself and shivered. "It's only going to get worse. I can feel it."
"Okay. Stay there, I'm going to go get someone." Roy said gently. He hopped to his feet and stepped away from her bed. Was this it? Had they finally figured it out? Why in the world would someone want to destroy part of the world?
"Less people. Easier to rule. They're going to divide up the world and start their own League of Nations. It'll be hell on earth." M'gann explained. Clearly she had read his mind.
"This can't be happening." Roy rubbed his face anxiously. "You wouldn't happen to know how much time we have would you?"
"Not much. They're moving fast. They want to retrieve Klarion and then they'll move forward." She said in a rush.
"Well shit." Roy ran a tired hand through his hair and groaned. It was like things were only going from bad to worse.
"Roy?" Robin's wearied voice met his ears. "What are you doing awake?" They boy had fallen asleep on the edge of Wally's bed.
"We need to wake everyone. This is about to get ugly. Really ugly." Roy said.
"I'll stay here with M'gann." Robin scampered off the bed and to M'gann's bedside. Roy left them.
"A bomb?" Superman's dumbfounded voice came through the monitor screen. "And you're sure about that?"
"M'gann doesn't seem like the type to lie." Black Canary replied dryly with a roll of her eyes.
"I wasn't implying that she-"
"She's telling the truth. We have Klarion detained." Batman strolled purposefully into the frame.
"How'd you get anything out of him? We were with him for hours before we got any information." Flash said incredulously.
Batman shot him a look that told him all he needed to know.
"What matters now is how we stop it." Superman chimed in. "I'm sure the kids want an actual home to return to."
"That'd be nice." Roy snarked.
"I might be able to help on that avenue." A familiar voice called.
"Blue Beetle." Robin rattled off. It was so strange how much he looked like the Ted from their home. Did everyone have a counterpart here?
"Wow, you weren't kidding about the whole super-kids thing. For a second I though Flash was just pulling my leg. Looks like it wasn't a joke after all." Ted smiled at them.
"No, not quite a joke." Black Canary said.
"I've been going over the designs the other me sent. Wow, that's an odd thing to say. The other me." Ted pursed his lips. "Anyway, I've given it a really hard look and I think I've figured it out." He was rolling some sort of mechanism behind him.
"You mean...you can send us home?" Artemis gasped. "Like, right now?"
"Most likely? What the heck is that supposed to mean? I don't know what you're thinking but I'm not getting torn to bits again-" Roy began.
"Easy kid. Don't worry. Every project has its variables. I've done my absolute best with this one." Ted promised him. "It will connect with the machine in your dimension and open up on both ends. Hopefully, you should be able to walk through safely."
"Should be." Roy scoffed.
"As of right now, it is all we have. We will use your machine." Kaldur said softly. "I think I speak for almost all of us when I say we are anxious to return home." Conner hung his head.
"We will cross that bridge when we get to it." Clark said softly so only he could hear. Conner gave a subtle nod.
"And what do you want us to do? Just forget this ever happened?" John demanded.
"At this point," Superman paused to take a breath, his eyes flickering to Batman, "we'll take all the help we can get. If this is as serious as M'gann thinks it is-"
"You want us to come through too?" Shayera asked. "That's absurd!"
"Is it?" Diana cut across her. "This is a serious threat. Not just to their dimension but to ours as well. They've already demonstrated a capacity for cross-dimensional travel. We all could be at risk."
"She's right." Batman sighed. "I had hoped it wouldn't come to this."
"I think we were all hoping that. Who knows what damage this could do to the space-time continuum?" Robin muttered contemplatively.
"No more damage than what's already been done." Batman assured him. "We'll do it. We'll neutralize this threat and then everything will return to normal. Everything." He shot a pointed glare at Superboy.
"No promises." The boy snapped back.
"No offenses, but we really don't have time for this. They could come for Klarion at any moment. I say you should go ahead and fire up that machine. Get ready to come home guys." Flash said.
"Home…" Roy barked out a laugh. "It doesn't even seem real, does it?"
"No. We've been here so long. I was beginning to think we'd never get home." Artemis sighed softly. "I guess it'll all be like a dream."
"A sick messed up dream. I could have lived without it." Roy shrugged his shoulders." They sat in the medical bay, staring out one of the windows and out into the cosmos. A dream. A horrible horrible dream.
"Part of me doesn't one to leave." Artemis whispered.
"What do you mean? What could possibly be here for you?" Roy asked of her.
"Anonymity. No one knows me here. My family…my father. None of it is real here. I could finally escape his curse. As long as I'm in that world, I'll always be his daughter. I'll always be the child of a killer. His blood is all over me. I can't escape it. This could be my clean slate."
"Artemis…you didn't kill those people. You never wanted anyone to get hurt. You don't have to crucify yourself for his evils. It wasn't your fault." Roy placed a hand on her shoulder. "We're going to go home and we're going to beat the bad guy. That's the person you are. You're a hero."
"He's right you know."
"Canary." Artemis rushed to dry her eyes. When had she started crying?
"Your hands may not be clean, Artemis, but none of ours really are. It comes with the territory. However, you are good. You are strong and kind. You would never raise your bow just to hurt someone. You use it to protect and defend. That's who you are. Don't think of yourself as Sportsmaster's daughter. You're so much more than that." Dinah bent down to her eye level. "You're going to fight and you're going to win. It's who you are."
"It's who we all are. Those kids need us to fight for them. Wally needs us to fight for him. He'd put his life in your hands in a second because he trusts you. We all trust you." Roy added on.
"You don't." Artemis turned away from him. "You hate me."
Roy sighed. "I don't hate you, Artemis. I hated the fact that Arrow had replaced me so easily. I wanted him to miss me. I wanted him to want me. It wasn't fair for me to blame you and I'm sorry for that. If you tell anyone I said that, I will deny it." Artemis smacked him on the arm.
"You'll never change, will you?" She gave him a watery smile.
"Do you really want me to?" Roy smirked. "Now wipe your face. Tears don't look good on you."
"That's exactly what every girl wants to hear. Tell me, do you talk to my sister that way?" Artemis nimbly dodged his punch.
"I think I liked you better when we hated each other. You weren't this sassy."
"You must be excited to get home."
Robin looked up from where he sat. He'd been telling Wally the good news. "I suppose I am. You must be happy to get rid of me." He said sharply. "I'm used to the sentiment."
Bruce pulled his cowl back. "I heard what you said the other day. To the other me." Robin's eyes snapped to him.
"You eavesdropped on me. Why would you do that?" he demanded. The man had no right. What went on between him and his mentor was their business. Who did this pretender think he was?
"I wanted to understand you. I wanted to finally see where you were coming from. It wasn't a very nice place. I feel responsible for that." Bruce finally admitted.
"Look, I don't need you to feel sorry for me or my situation. I just need to get home." Robin slid his mask back onto his face. "I'm fine now. I'm not a little kid and you don't need to coddle me. I know what I need to do."
"Robin. There's a war coming. There's no place for sad little boys on the battlefield. Believe me, I know. I've learned that much." Robin stood. They'd be coming to move Wally soon. He'd best start suiting up. It would feel so much better once he was fighting alongside his own Batman. Things would be normal again. He'd heal.
But could he forget? It was his worst nightmare to have Bruce turn him away and for a few crucial moments, he'd felt it. Alone, unloved. Parents dead. He suddenly felt a presence behind him. "Go away."
"No. I don't think the other me would be happy if I left you in this state." Bruce said quietly. "I know what you're thinking. You can't blame him for my sins against you. I'm not him. I don't have the heart he does because it takes a heart to take in a child. Especially one as young as you. We're both damaged, both hurt. I wish I could have seen that sooner, I think that would have helped me. I think you could have helped me come out of a very dark place."
"So now you're trying to make amends?" Robin barked a laugh. "You don't have to pretend for me. I've had enough pretenders in my life. I don't need any more and I certainly don't need you."
"You're right. You don't need me. I think I needed you." Robin took a step back and gulped. "I don't even know the other me. I would have just assumed we were identical but we're not. He's not nearly as haunted as I am. That much I can see." Bruce sighed deeply. "I suppose he has you to thank for that. I hear that children have healing qualities."
"I didn't heal Bruce. He healed me." Robin snapped indignantly.
"That sometimes goes both ways. You aren't the average kid, Richard. I'm glad he has you. I'm glad that at least one version of me has the chance to be happy." Robin bit his lip. He could seet J'onn helping M'gann out of bed. Kaldur carfully avoiding Orin. Barry seemed to be watching Wally's bed with longing. Robin wondered if he too was trying to make amends. Conner was nowhere to be seen.
"I want Bruce to be happy." He finally said. "That's all I've ever wanted."
"You've succeded. I can see the difference you've made. I can see the difference that all of you have made."
Robin glanced his way. He was telling the truth. Robin had known Batman long enough to spot a lie.
"You don't have to apologize any of us. We're tough." Robin squared his shoulder and stepped away from the man with his mentor's face feeling suddenly lighter. "I need to get dressed." He called behind him. "I'll see you out there."
"This isn't fair. They aren't going to let me stay." Conner punched a hole in the wall. "It's not fair!"
"Calm down. You're going to be fine. We're going to work something out for you, Conner. I won't let you rot. I promise." Clark assured him. They sat together right outside the monitor room. There was no need for a costume change.
"You can't help me. They won't let you help me." Conner snapped.
"No one's going to stop me, little brother." Clark patted him on the shoulder. "You'll be flying in no time."
"Little brother?" Conner asked quietly.
"Well yeah. We share DNA and you're younger than me. So you're my little brother and I'm going to protect you. No matter what."
Conner couldn't help the grin that pulled at his lips.