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What If: Necropolis

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Ray made another adjustment to the Atom suit's wiring, and a shot hit the deck between the criminal pair.

Mick jumped. "Watch it!" he snarled.

Leonard merely glanced down to examine the burn mark, and watched with mild curiosity as it vanished from his sight.

"Sorry!" Ray said quickly. "Sorry." He sighed. "What's the point of us even giving this a second thought? Rip has already seen the future. He knows exactly what's in store for each of us. Might as well have stayed dead, 'cause the world doesn't need any of us." He glanced at Sara. "You're just a lost assassin." He transferred his gaze to the two thieves. "You're just a pair of good-for-nothing criminals."

Mick glanced at him. "I can live with that," he said, and returned his attention to his own weapon.

Leonard had to agree with Mick. The professor had been right, after all; people didn't typically consider you a legend until after you were dead. Making a mark on history held a certain appeal, and half the time his life had depended as much on his reputation as on his actual skills anyway.... But choosing between the two? His survival and that of his crew came first, every time.

"Well, I can't," Ray replied. "Can't live with somebody putting a cap on my destiny. Spent my whole life working to be something greater... by becoming something smaller. Then some guy comes along and tells me that being the Atom is as insignificant as an actual atom."

Leonard resisted the urge to snort. As insignificant as the building blocks of the universe? He knew the scientist was referring to the size, but honestly....

"That's not what he said," Sara pointed out. "Rip said that in his future we're nobodies, but this mission is about changing the future. I mean, if we have the power to change the world, don't you think we have the power to change our own fate?"

Leonard hated to admit it, but the assassin had a point. And though the mission could change their futures, it was about changing Rip's past. If they could change that, then maybe they could fix their own. "For better or for worse," he replied.

"That's a very good point," Ray said.

—WHAT IF: NECROPOLIS—

"—might have died peacefully, in his sleep," Kendra was saying as the group returned to the main deck.

Leonard hesitated. Aldus?

Miss "I can't read minds" Gideon chimed a confirmation in the comm in his ear; Professor Boardman had died less than a minute ago, while the crew had been busy discussing their own fates.

"Don't torture yourself with recriminations," Rip said. "One of the great lessons of time travel is that many things cannot be changed. Time wants to happen." He glanced away from the two demigods and transferred his gaze to the rest of the crew as they approached. "Chronos, even Vandal, won't be the only enemy we face. Very often it will be time itself."

"Whether it wants to happen or not," Ray announced, "we're gonna change time, erase Savage's future, and earn our rightful place in history."

"Dr. Palmer is correct," Martin agreed. "We may not be legends in your time, Captain, but we are going to decide our own fates."

"I don't give a damn about being a legend," Carter added, "as long as we end Savage once and for all."

"I can get down with that," Jefferson said.

"And our malcontents?" Martin asked. He turned around to look at the criminal pair.

Mick shrugged. "I like killing people."

"We're in," Leonard said. "For now."

Rip smiled.

"So how do we find this guy?" Sara asked.

"Professor Boardman had a theory about that," Rip said. "I've already had Gideon plot a course."

"A course to where?" Jefferson asked.

"Here," Rip replied. He walked over to the main console and tapped a screen to display a map above it. "The Necropolis of Zawiyet. Not yet discovered in your era, and even in their time," he nodded at Carter and Kendra, "I believe the place rarely saw living visitors. At least not on the surface where we need to be."

"Living visitors?" Ray echoed. "What exactly is a necropolis?"

Rip and Carter both opened their mouths to answer, but Leonard beat them to it. "A graveyard," he replied. He paced over to the display to examine the desert region more closely. "An entire city of the dead, so to speak."

"Close enough," Rip said. "There is an artifact located in the heart of the necropolis that may help us in the fight against Savage."

"We're grave-robbing, now?" Sara asked.

"Why not?" Carter grumbled. "We got a couple of criminals on board, they should feel right at home."

"Seriously, Carter?" Kendra whispered. "You can't even last five minutes without antagonizing the team that you just agreed to work with?"

"You know, I always wanted to visit Kutath—" Leonard drawled.

"Which won't be published for another four years," Rip muttered.

Leonard ignored him. "—but I ain't no grave-robber," he finished.

"Of course, how could I forget?" Carter scoffed. "Why would you want to rob the dead? I mean, it's not like you can hurt them; so much more satisfying to go after the living, right?"

"Knock it off!" Kendra repeated.

"Something you want to say to us, chicken wing?" Mick growled. He stepped right up to the demigod and glared.

Carter glared right back. He snapped his wings out wide, crowding most of the team off of the bridge and forcing Leonard to jump back before the thief could receive a mouthful of feathers and a broken jaw.

But Mick refused to back down.

"Seems your friend might be smart enough not to cause trouble that he can't get himself out of," Carter replied. He smirked at Leonard before returning his glare to the arsonist. "You, I'm not so sure about."

"Oh, for the love of..." Kendra muttered. "Carter, enough!'

"Right," Martin said. "Because of course the criminal is the one who started this. God forbid that we hold anyone else responsible for the fallout."

"Oh, good lord," Rip muttered. "I'm sure we would all like to finish this with a minimum of, erm, obstructions, so if you could all please strap in so we can be on our way?"

—WHAT IF: NECROPOLIS—

Traveling through physical space, as it turned out, took a little longer than traveling through time. The trip lasted at least half an hour, during which time Mick continued to glare at Carter, Carter glared at Leonard, and Leonard pretended that he didn't notice either one.

"Ah, finally!" Rip called out. He set the Waverider down outside of the edge of the canyon.

"Why'd you park so far away?" Sara asked. "Didn't you say this artifact was in the heart of the necropolis?"

"Unfortunately the canyon walls provide a natural dampening effect," Rip explained. "No technology above certain, er, primitive standards will be able to function." He smirked. "Incidentally, that is how the artifact came to be there; a time pirate had landed his ship within the necropolis a few millennia ago and was unable to fly it back out again."

"Slings and arrows, is it?" Leonard asked.

"Maces and staves work just fine," Carter said. "I guess you won't be grave-robbing, after all. Too bad."

"Uh, you do realize that means that Firestorm and I are out, too, right?" Ray asked.

"The firearms of this era will suffice," Rip said. "They're purely mechanical. It's the computerized weapons, such as the cold and heat guns, that won't work. But Dr. Palmer is correct, and I'll need some of you to remain behind in case of unwanted visitors. For this mission I would like Ms. Lance, Mr. Snart, Mr. Rory, and...." He sighed. "Mr. Hall, thanks to your earlier display I would very much prefer for you to remain behind with the others. It is only because your memories of your former lives are stronger than are Ms. Saunders' that I ask you to join us, but I must insist that you refrain from threatening your teammates here on out."

Carter glanced at the two criminals and then turned to face Rip. "No need. I think they got the message."

"Fine," Rip groaned. "If all of you would come with me?"

Leonard hesitated to turn his back on Carter, but Mick and Sara fell into step behind the thief and the four followed the captain down the corridor.

Leonard's back twitched the whole way.

"My personal armory," Rip announced. The door slid open, and Leonard went straight for a display case on the other side of the room. "Here you'll find a variety of weapons organized according to period and region and of course you've already been in here and know exactly what to look for."

"Did you expect anything less?" Leonard drawled.

"Yes," Rip admitted, "but hell if I know why." He shook his head. "These weapons," he said, pointing out a variety of guns, "are suitable for close-quarters fighting, though I'm sure some of you already knew that as well. They pack a hell of a punch for their size, but at the cost that they lack the precision needed to use them over a distance. This one, however...." He retrieved a rifle and scope that looked more futuristic than the rest of the offerings. "Mr. Snart, Ms. Lance, your records show both of you to be exceptional marksman, but Ms. Lance is the superior in hand-to-hand combat. That being the case, I would prefer that Mr. Snart take this one."

"You got no arguments there," Sara replied. She walked to another display case and caressed the recurve bow resting inside. "But I think I'll borrow this one, just in case."

Rip nodded. "Mr. Snart, I had this rifle custom-made for just the sort of situation we face now; it can hold and fire more rounds than anything native to the era, and is designed specifically for sniping, but it is low-tech enough to function within dampening fields such as the canyon produces."

The captain held out the rifle, then snatched it back when Leonard reached out to touch it.

"I trust..." Rip said, "that I need not remind you of the consequences of losing this gun in this era?"

"I would never risk losing something so valuable," Leonard breathed.

"No, I suppose you wouldn't." Rip nodded and handed him the gun. "You'll find the ammunition you need down below. Mr. Hall?"

"I don't need anything but my mace," Carter replied.

Rip shrugged. "I expect you would know that better than anyone."

Once they had the supplies they needed, they rejoined the team on the bridge.

"I feel like Rambo," Mick said. The arsonist had chosen to fill his pockets with as many bullets as he could carry without losing his pants, and he had three pistols sticking out of his waistband identical to the one in his hand. "Almost worth leaving the heat gun behind."

"Rambo dual-wielded machine guns," Leonard pointed out. "You don't look a thing like him." He had opted for mobility over power; his own pistol, brought from their home era, rested in a brand-new holster on his hip with several clips in easy reach. Ammunition for the rifle filled his other pocket.

The rifle itself he cradled in his arms.

Sara quirked an eyebrow at the way he carried the gun. "You gonna shoot with that thing or sing it a lullaby?" she asked.

"Don't encourage him," Mick told her in a stage whisper. "You ought to see how he is with his loot."

Sara's other eyebrow lifted to join the first. "Oh, please tell me you have pictures!"

Mick only grinned.

"True art is made to be admired," Leonard replied without the slightest bit of shame.

"Who are we fighting, anyway?" Sara asked. "You said this place doesn't get many 'living' visitors; is it full of zombies or something?"

Martin made a choking sound.

"No one, if we are very lucky," Rip replied. "But there is a warlord who has made his home in the area and he will not take too kindly if he catches us lurking about. Now...." He returned to the central console and pulled up a 3-dimensional map of the necropolis. "Mr. Hall, if you could join me?"

Carter stepped forward to examine the map. "If we want to get to the heart of the necropolis, we'll need to go through here," he said. He traced a winding route that hugged the edge of the canyon. "It's not the most direct route but it will give us the most protection from ambush. You, me, and the arsonist will have to stay near to the ground in case we do end up in a fight."

"The arsonist has a name," Mick grumbled.

"I rather assumed that would be the case," Rip said. "I think if Ms. Lance and Mr. Snart were to climb up here—" he pointed at the solid wall to the right of the indicated route, "they would have ample opportunity to scout ahead for enemies, and still be in easy reach if they needed to join the fray at closer range."

"Sounds good to me," Sara replied.

Carter nodded. "Sara, yes. But I think we'd be better off with the thief over here." He poked a finger onto the other side, where the wall was broken in places.

Leonard's eyes widened.

"That way we got someone scouting both sides," Carter said. "And he'll be in a better position to put that rifle to good use if he needs it. Problem is, at that height he'd be on his own if anything goes wrong." He turned to smirk at Leonard. "Think you can handle that?"

"How, uh.... how high up is that?" Leonard asked.

Carter's smirk vanished.

"The walls are approximately seventy-five feet high at their lowest point on that side of the canyon," Gideon replied.

Leonard tried to swallow in a mouth that had gone dry.

"Seventy-five?" Mick echoed. "I don't think that's a good idea."

"It—it's fine," Leonard made himself say. He poked two fingers at the display and zoomed in to reveal that the "wall" was nothing more than a series of pillars and narrow ledges joined together by natural bridges. "Look, that path runs parallel to the one you and Rip would be taking," he continued before he lost his nerve. "I'll be able to keep a close eye on your group and stay in contact with Sara from there. And it looks like I can climb down at any point if I need to."

"If you're sure...." Mick said.

"I said it's fine!"

Rip looked back and forth between the two criminals. "Uh, right," he said. "Now that that's settled, what say we get moving?"