Agitation does not make for a healthy or friendly working environment. A fact Superman notices most keenly as he sits at the table and watches his friends and fellow heroes cycle through various expressions of irritation.
John is pacing, back and forth, back and forth, a green blur at the back of the room. J'onn sits beside Superman, his fingers interlocked and pressed to his mouth as though they are the only thing preventing him from a sharp-tongued comment. Diana is rapping her fingers on the table, the click-click-click of her manicured fingernails an irritating cadence, but no less so than Wally's constantly tapping foot. He's vibrating with repressed energy.
“We are never going to find this man,” Aquaman says from his chair opposite Superman, arms folded across his barrel chest and a permanent frown etched into his features. He is, to put it bluntly, glowering at the lot of them.
No doubt he wants to do nothing more than dive beneath the ocean and never resurface again. The intricacies of the issues above world are far more than he's ever had to face in Atlantis. He has expressed, more than once, his regret in choosing to take part in the League.
“Of course not,” Diana says with thick disgust in her tone. “We don't even know who he, if indeed the villain is a he, is.”
And therein lay the problem, Superman sighs. They do not know who is meticulously setting bombs, only that whoever it is, must have a large network of minions to be able to inflict the explosive devices across country. The team of heroes has been running itself ragged trying to catch all of the bombs before they explode.
Their only saving grace is that the perpetrator is content, for now, to inform them of his actions in advance. He seems to take great amusement in watching them scramble to protect innocent lives.
He, or as Diana suggests 'she', has made no ransom demands. Seems to want nothing more than to humiliate and gain amusement from the Justice League. He seems eager to watch the world burn and they are all at a loss as to how to stop him entirely, much less capture him.
“We need help,” Superman says, a fact tehy've all been reluctant to admit.
They are the Justice League, the strongest and fastest and most skilled of all those residing on Earth. They should not need assistance.
But they do. Desperately.
John scoffs. “From who?”
“You don't really think Bats is going to agree, do you?” Flash adds. Because of course he knows exactly whom Superman means.
J'onn inclines his head, finally lowering his arms. “Batman has asked us for assistance. It seems likely he would be willing to provide us his knowledge in return.”
Superman pulls out the communicator Batman had given him and sets it down on the table, putting it in full view. “He gave that to me for precisely this reason.” And well, the last time they chatted, Batman had been almost pleasant.
Diana rubs her forehead. Aquaman's scowl deepens. Flash throws his hands into the air.
“I think you have a point, Superman,” Green Arrow says, the first time he's spoken this entire evening. He's taken to leaning against the wall nearest the door, listening without interacting.
He does that a lot, sits back and observes, as though he's still trying to figure out if he really wants to remain in the Justice League. Superman hopes he does. Green Arrow's humanity helps remind them who they are all protecting. Which can be hard to remember when surrounded by the superpowers of all the others.
“Call him,” Green Arrow continues with a gesture toward the phone. “The worst he'll do is say no, and something tells me he won't.”
Behind them all, the main console chimes.
In an instant, all of them are on their feet, crowding around the basic computer station. Wait another few months and their permanent, larger base will be complete. There will be storage rooms and private quarters and a massive monitor room with eyes in the sky. But for now, they have this linked connection of computers and an infinite datastream.
J'onn slides into the rolled chair and brings up the relevant program, similar to what the internet would recognize as electronic mail, but far more precise.
They have a new message, from the supervillain who has yet to name himself. It is appropriately labeled “Guess who?” There's even a smiley face attached.
Superman's eyes narrow. Around him, the hackles rise on his fellow superheroes.
“Where is it this time?” Diana growls, her hands forming fists. “Who does this criminal intend to frighten?”
J'onn opens the message and the well-crafted letter appears on screen. The first time it appeared, Superman had expected the pasted-together letters of a Hollywood type mystery movie. Not this almost polite, well-worded, intelligent message.
Whoever their villain is, he's well-educated. If Superman hadn't known this wasn't Luthor's style, he would have immediately suspected his arch-nemesis. But destroying the world for fun is not Lex Luthor's idea of world domination. He prefers to take it over in underhanded methods, almost legitimately.
“That bastard,” Flash growls, and then he's gone in a blur of red and gold.
It takes Superman another second of reading to discover the intended target: Keystone City.
“I'll assist,” Green Lantern says before he, too, is gone.
Superman rubs his forehead. “J'onn?”
“I'm attempting to trace the ISP address,” he says, fingers flying over the keyboard. “But as I've previously stated, I'm no expert.”
Someone nudges Superman's arm. He looks to his left to see Green Arrow offering him the communicator.
“Call him,” he says. “You can't ask for a better time.”
He takes the communicator. Arrow is right, and with the clock ticking on their villain's newest challenge, Superman cannot afford a delay. He all but holds his breath as he activates the communicator, with no need to dial as it is a direct line to the Dark Knight.
It's not quite sundown. He hopes that Batman is available. Reports claim that he is rarely active during the daytime. Crime in Gotham seems to contain itself to night.
There's a click and then Batman's familiar, growled voice comes through the tiny speaker. “This had better not be for a chat, Clark.”
“Charming,” Diana mutters, spinning away on a heel.
Superman offers them all an apologetic smile. Batman's really not so bad. You just have to get used to him.
“It's not,” Superman replies, fiddling with the small communicator. “I'm actually calling you from our headquarters. We have a case we could really use your help on.”
There's a long moment of silence. Long enough that Superman almost thinks that Batman has dropped the call, but that can't be it.
“The serial bomber,” Batman finally says and of course he would know exactly what Superman means.
While the Justice League has been successful, so far, in stopping all of the incendiary devices, they are all waiting on pins and needles for the one instance where they are too late. Their almost frantic behavior has been a point of speculation for the news outlets. Not to mention their taunting opponent likes to send the occasional copy of his messages to the local media.
Nothing like a good panic to make for a fine point.
“Yes,” Superman replies. “We have no leads. No clues. And he's escalating.”
“She,” Batman corrects with a tone that brooks no argument. “The perpetrator is almost certainly a woman.”
Superman almost asks how Batman knows but that might indicate disbelief or distrust, so he shies away from that. “And that's why we need your expertise,” he says instead.
“I'll be there in an hour.”
The communicator clicks. Not much of one for goodbyes, Batman is.
Superman tucks the communicator away and is treated to matching looks of disbelief from the remaining members of the Justice League. “What?”
“That was almost pleasant,” Diana comments.
“You didn't have to argue with him,” Aquaman adds. “Even I know how rare a result that is and I am not often in the surface world.”
Superman shrugs. “We're friends.” And it is true, for a certain definition of the word. Batman no longer growls him out of Gotham when he shows up, and they've managed to have several civil conversations over the past few weeks.
Once he stopped trying too hard, it became easy.
But Superman might as well have declared that the moon is made out of cheese for all the gaping disbelief they give him. Even Aquaman, who should be above such things.
“We, ahem, are grateful for the Batman's willingness to assist,” J'onn says into the ringing silence. “Thank you, Superman, for contacting him.”
Superman smiles. “Whatever it takes to find out the perpetrator behind these deeds.”
And maybe, he thinks as he and J'onn wait for Batman to arrive and the others retreat to assist Wally, there's hope for Batman joining the Justice League after all.