Robin groaned as a fog lifted from his brain and his mind came back to him piece by piece. He remembered what had happened to him in chunks. The Watchtower. The League. The security bots going berserk, and the taser he hadn't seen coming until it was too late. He shook his head to clear any lingering grogginess. It was action time now.
He opened his eyes, taking in his situation. He was inside a security pod, the JL's own rather claustrophobic answer to housing supervillains and escape artists. Wrist shackles bound his hands above his head, and a bulletproof glass hatch stood as a barrier between him and the outside.
It was too difficult to look in the security pods adjacent to his, but he could see into the ones in front of him. His eyes widened as he saw his longtime friend and honorary cousin Megan West, daughter of ex-heroes Wally and Artemis West, in the pod directly in front of his, red hair falling in front of her face, unconscious. Robin cursed his luck, knowing that having a civilian involved always made things more complicated.
But, internal griping at the circumstances aside, it was time to get to work. Step one, break out, which was easier done than said in the Boy Wonder's case.
Robin let out a breath, concentrating. "Emit rof a nosirp kaerb."
The spell worked like a charm, as his wrist bindings came undone and the hatch slid open. Robin hopped out of his pod, landing in a crouch and rubbing his sore wrists through his gloves.
"Thank you, Mom," Robin gratefully mumbled to himself, standing to his feet.
Robin's suit was an adaptation of his predecessor Tim Drake's, with an inverted color scheme that replaced red with black and vice versa, as well as a severe lack of cape. His black domino mask had an extension in the middle that protruded down over his nose, lending the appearance of the beak of a bird. His utility belt was large and bulky, black except for the gold, circular centerpiece.
The first pod he ran to was Megan's, driven by the terror of an imaginary Artemis West being royally pissed about her daughter being endangered by the very life she and her husband had left behind. He could still remember the last time Megan had snuck her way into the hero scene, tailing him on one of his early outings as Robin. And he'd thought the bat-glare was terrifying.
Megan was still unconscious in her security pod. Hoping for a miracle, Robin pressed the release button. He was rewarded with a negative sounding buzz, and nothing else. Robin tried again, and this time a computerized male voice droned, "Access denied."
"Ugh, see Dad?" Robin muttered to himself, trying to tap in the override code, and being met with failure every time. "This is why I need access to the JL's systems. Ugh! Where's Maria when you need her?"
Not getting anywhere with his pathetic attempts at hacking, he tried tapping on the glass of the pod to wake Megan up.
"Hello? Megan? Wake up!" Robin yelled.
"Wha?" the West girl moaned, eyes blinking awake. "I…where am I? What… Robin? What happened?"
"Short version, the Watchtower isn't ours right now," Robin explained. "Can you vibrate your way out?"
Megan looked at him incredulously. "Are you kidding? Dad won't let me run to school, you think he taught me how to vibrate through objects?"
Robin sighed in frustration "Alright, we'll try something a little different."
Robin drew a birdarang and shoved it into the security pod's control console. He felt his hearbeat pick up a little like it always did whenever he was about to try a spell. He kept telling himself it was going to be fine, that he'd done this a million times practicing in the Batcave.
But this wasn't the Batcave. If he screwed this up, it wouldn't be the Batwing that got scraped. It would be Megan.
Not the time for self-doubt. Robin focused on the birdarang. "Erif nrub, nordluac lebbub!"
The birdarang exploded, sending Robin flying back. He'd definitely overdone it. His head hit the ground hard and his uniform was smoking, but that was the smallest of worries on his mind as he frantically sat up to see the fate of Megan.
The pod had been blasted out in front of her, but miraculously she had remained unharmed, though wrist shackles still held her in place. Robin's grin stretch across his entire face and his relief was palpable as he hauled himself to his feet.
"So, we're going to pretend you planned to do that?" she asked, noting how he'd knocked himself onto his butt.
"I can just leave you here," Robin reminded her, scowling, even though he knew he wouldn't. One short spell later, Megan was free.
"Thanks," she said. "Isn't using magic…cheating?"
"Only in Batman's book," Robin said, turning to the other pods. "Help with these. I'll take these two, you take—"
Megan rushed forward to the first security pod and furiously began tapping at the keypad at speeds that could not be tracked by the human eye. A few seconds later, there was an affirmative beep, and the pod opened up, allowing its occupant to fall out.
Connor Hawke, son of Oliver Queen, the original Green Arrow. Born in a Tibetan monastery, discovered by Red Arrow, raised by the Harpers since age ten. Trained in martial arts and archery under the eyes of his mentor, the same man who'd found him. He could have chosen any name in the world, but when Connor had taken up the bow, he'd called himself Green Arrow. The irony was not lost on anyone as Red and Green Arrow teamed up once again, this time roles reversed.
He was a year older than Robin, though nowhere near as experienced. Not to mention that Robin had the sneaking suspicion that archery was not the new GA's strongest point. He and Robin both had been invited by their mentors for a tour of the Watchtower, as they began the process of joining their mentors in the Justice League. Megan had begged her parents and Uncle Richard six ways to Sunday to tag along.
By the time Robin looked up from Green Arrow, the remaining three pods had already been opened, their occupants face first on the floor.
"I tried every possible combination," Megan said with a smirk.
Robin recognized one of the liberated as Lian Harper, Red Arrow's own daughter, dressed in civies. She had her father's hair color and a few of his other features, but beyond that Robin felt that she was the spitting image of her mother, right down to the mane of hair that had to be tied back to prevent it from being absolutely unmanageable. Last Robin was aware of, she wasn't in the superhero business. Or a part of the tour, for that matter. Where'd she come from? He filed the question away for later.
The other was Superboy, full-fledged League member Robin had met more than once before, as apparently he and Batman had a history that dated back to Batman's days as the original Robin. Supposedly, he was twenty-four years old, but he didn't look a day over sixteen.
The final person liberated, Robin didn't recognize at all. A girl, who looked to be about his age, with long, dark hair and fair skin that looked drained of color, leaving her with a pale, helpless appearance. She wore ripped black jeans that hugged her legs and a dark red blouse, and heeled leather boots.
For reasons he couldn't explain, he felt drawn to her, and before the Boy Wonder knew what he was doing he was kneeling at her side.
Her eyes fluttered open, meeting the whites of his mask. She gave a soft sigh as she stirred, and Robin felt his body move faster than his brain as he brushed a strand of hair out of her face.
"Are you alright?" he asked.
She gave a slight nod, sitting up. "Y-yes. I…where am I?"
"Welcome to the Watchtower," Megan offered.
"The…what?" the girl asked.
"The Watchtower?" Robin tried again, but the confused look on the girl's face remained. "Headquarters for the Justice League?"
The girl shook her head. "The who?"
Robin blinked because, This girl doesn't know who the Justice League is. Questions and bat-paranoia went off like crazy, but Robin couldn't seem to focus on them, even when he tried. Something, he wasn't sure what, clouded his mind every time Robin tried to pursue a train of thought other than still transfixed on the girl. To him, the biggest mystery about her isn't why she doesn't seem to know about the single biggest media subject of the last twenty something years.
"What's your name?" was the only thing he could think to ask her, and for some strange reason, that was all he wanted to know.
"I'm… my name…" the girl mumbled, obviously in deep thought. She locked eyes with Robin again, and he felt a sudden, slight ache in his temples, as if something was being pulled from his brain. "My name is Helena."
"Well, if you don't mind me asking," Megan piped in. "How'd you get onto the Watchtower when you don't even know who the League is?"
"I…I don't know," Helena admitted, holding her head. "I remember void…then chaos…a breath…nothing else."
"We'll figure out where you're from," Robin promised. As he did, he felt his mind begin to sharpen, refocus. He felt in control again. Turning to Megan and a slowly awakening Superboy and Green Arrow, he said, "But right now, we need to figure out the situation on the Watchtower."
"You mean, besides that whoever's in charge now wanted us locked up?" Megan asked, sounding more than a little miffed.
Superboy rubbed his neck as he pressed two fingers into his ear. "Superboy to Justice League, does anyone read?"
Everyone in the room looked to Superboy, with the exception of the girl Helena, who looked in between Superboy and Robin, as if unsure who was in charge. After a few seconds, Superboy gave a frustrated huff and removed his fingers from his ear.
"We're on our own," he confirmed.
"Oh my aching…" Lian Harper muttered, slowly pulling herself up off the ground. She looked around, realizing she was surrounded by superheroes. "Whoops. So much for not getting caught."
Megan raised an eyebrow, but said nothing as the eldest among the children stood up. Superboy cast her a scrutinizing glare. It wasn't that he didn't trust Lian, after all, he'd babysat her multiple times over the years, but he knew how much the girl loved to get herself into trouble. Sneaking onto the Watchtower for example. Before anyone could question Lian, someone else took the conversation in a different direction.
"So what's our next move?" Green Arrow asked.
"You could start by climbing back into the security pods," a new voice offered.
All heads turned to see a figure clad in black and grey combat armor with goldenrod accents and a mask that was half solid black, half goldenrod. Megan's eyes widened, Robin and Superboy clenched their fists, and Green Arrow had an arrow notched and ready to fire.
"Deathstroke," Superboy growled.
"They just don't make inescapable cells like they used to," Deathstroke said absentmindedly. He drew a handgun, giving it a quick spin before pointing it at the collection of superheroes and civilians. "Once more, back into the pods."
"Pretty big talk for someone outnumbered four to one," Lian spoke up, counting herself, Robin, Green Arrow, and Superboy as combatants against a lone Deathstroke.
Deathsrtoke only chuckled. "You're absolutely right."
The sound of footsteps from out of the hallway reached everyones ears, and one by one in perfectly synced rhythm marched in several security bots, six foot tall humanoid drones of STAR labs design with built in weapons systems, bought in bulk by the Justice League to defend the Watchtower. They assembled themselves in a neat, military formation behind Deathstroke.
Every single one of them raised an arm, and as one their hands converted into submachine guns.
"Feel free to recount," Deathstroke told Lian. She narrowed her eyes, crouching slightly as she assumed a fighting stance. "Standard offer of easy way or hard way heroes. Choose wisely."
Superboy looked over his shoulders, meeting eyes with Robin, then Green Arrow. The two sidekicks also looked at one another, all of them silently asking each other what their next move should be. All three of them moved at the same time.
Superboy leapt forward into the mob of security bots, provoking all of them to train their weapons on him and open fire. Green Arrow let his arrow fly, not aimed at anything in particular, but pointed in the general direction of the mob of robots. Robin, threw a smoke bomb at the ground, bathing all of them in a protective screen of black smoke.
Deathstroke fired his firearm into the smoke until an arrow flew out of it and shot it out of his hand.
Helena coughed, eyes streaming with tears as the smoke bomb permeated her senses. She couldn't see a thing, and all she could hear was the sound of gunfire. Suddenly, an arm wrapped tightly around her waist, and she was hoisted high into the air, out of the smoke.
As she blinked smoke out of her eyes, Helena looked and saw Robin holding onto her with one arm, the other holding a baton that had a cable sticking out the top.
"Hang on!" Robin yelled as the cable hoisted them skyward. She obeyed, clinging to the Boy Wonder for dear life.
Superboy crashed into the drones fists first, and in an instant he was swinging, ignoring the dull impacts off bullets bouncing off his skin as he sent one robot after the other flying in every direction. His fist went straight through the chest of one and took the head off a second in one punch. The drones posed no threat to the Kryptonian, but they left him extremely distracted.
Deathstroke approached from an angle Superboy never saw coming, and the hero remained oblivious until the plastic explosive was slapped onto his chest, already beeping.
The explosion sent Superboy onto his back, and several bullets were following him down, peppering him and keeping him pinned down.
While the drones kept Superboy busy, Deathstroke was moving through the fray, sights set on Green Arrow as the youth shoved an arrow by hand into a robot's eye socket.
Deathstroke drew his sword and swung, taking Green Arrow's legs out from underneath him and sending him to the ground. The hero's eyes widened and he desperately rolled to avoid Deathstroke's downward stab. The mercenary's blade sank into the floor and stuck, forcing him to attack Green Arrow with a kick instead. It proved just as effective, putting Green Arrow on his back.
Yanking the sword free, Deathstroke turned to finish the job, but before he could, there was a blur, a rush of wind, and a punch Deathstroke didn't see coming cracked across his mask. Megan West skidded to a super speed halt, the soles of her sneakers wearing down as she did. She dashed forward again, and once again before Deathstroke had time to react he felt a fist strike him across the face, followed by another from a different direction, and another.
Growing frustrated, Deathstroke threw out his arm, and like a charm Megan ran right into it, clotheslining herself and falling before sliding across the floor, finally squeaking to a halt next to Green Arrow. She groaned, then coughed, her throat bruised by the impact with the mercenary's gauntlet.
Deathstroke gave his sword a few practice swings as he approached the two prone youths, but was distracted when a birdarang struck the back of his head. Whirling around, he found himself face to face with Robin, who had both of his batons drawn and ready.
Deathstroke leveled his sword in Robin's direction, light glinting off the razor edge, but Robin only clenched his jaw and tightened his grip on his weapons.
The two combatants charged each other, and at that moment Robin completely forgot about the robots and his friends, and everything narrowed down to this one fight.
Deathstroke swung his sword two-handed, too strong to block. Robin ducked under the swing and jumped up to deliver his first attack with his batons. Deathstroke was able to bring his sword up to block just in time, parrying the blow. Robin landed, and swung again with similar results.
Deathstroke responded by hilt slamming Robin in the face and then kicking him in the chest, knocking him back into a wall. Robin let out a groan as he hit the wall and then the floor, but had to recover fast as Deathstroke rushed forward, sword raised.
Robin rolled out of the way as the blade cleaved through the air he had moments earlier occupied, and sprang out and away to get some space.
Robin landed from his leap a few feet away from Deathstroke, far enough to spin around and fire off one of his batons' grapnel line straight at the mercenary. Deathstroke swatted the hook at the end aside, and Robin yanked it backward before cracking it out again like a whip, forcing Deathstroke back.
Robin reeled in the first cable, but used his other baton to fire out a second, keeping Deathstroke off balance. Deathstroke dodged the weighted end of the cable, but it flew past him and sank into the wall behind him.
Reeling the cable in, Robin was pulled forward at high speeds, and took the opportunity to deliver a flying kick that landed squarely in Deathstrokes chest.
Both of Robin's cables retracted, converting his weapons back into simple batons. He continued his attack, swinging from every direction. Deathstroke, for his part, blocked or parried Robin's every move, though he was unable to take up the offensive for more than a single swing at a time.
Robin attack relented for a moment, and Deathstroke swung. Robin's attempted block sent one of his two batons spinning, and the surprise of being partially disarmed gave Deathstroke the needed opportunity to crack Robin across the face with a good, old-fashioned fist.
Robin was knocked backward, but managed to carry his momentum into a backward handspring. He landed a few meters back, glaring at the mercenary. Not taking his eyes off his opponent, Robin fired his remaining baton's grapnel off to the side, scoring a hit on his other baton and reeling it back in. Once again in possession of both his weapons, Robin clicked them together and then abruptly pulled them apart. The two batons were now joined in the middle by a cable.
Deathstroke gave an amused chuckle at the Boy Wonder's many tricks, but Robin only narrowed his eyes in focus.
Deathstroke swung at the Boy Wonder, who dodged and cracked him in the face with a swing of the newly converted nunchucks. Robin then proceeded to wrap the cable of his weapon around the hilt of his opponent's weapon before yanking, trying to disarm Deathstroke.
But the mercenary had a stronger grip than expected, and he managed to hold onto his sword. What's more, Deathstroke was even able to turn Robin's move against him, swing the protégé around and into a wall.
The punch came so quickly that Robin didn't have time to react, and he hit the ground hard, his batons rolling away. He reached out for them, but Deathstroke's heavy boot clamped down hard on his wrist, stopping him. Deathstroke's other foot planted itself firmly on Robin's chest and pressed down, crushing some of the air out of his lungs.
Robin's free hand grabbed at Deathstroke's ankle, trying to pull the villain off of him, but to no avail. Robin groaned and strained, but remained firmly pinned down. Deathstroke angled his sword, lightly pressing the tip of it into Robin's neck as he leaned in close.
"Oh, poor little bird," Deathstroke said with feigned pity. "Leaving the nest so soon, it's no wonder you fell."
From his position pinned under Deathstroke's boot, Robin defiantly glared up at the supervillain, continuing to struggle even in the face of defeat.
Off to the side, Green Arrow pulled himself up onto his feet and loaded another arrow. After quickly glancing to make sure Megan was okay, the archer set his sights on Deathstroke and let the arrow fly.
Deathstroke barely even turned as he sliced the arrow out of the air, as well as the next two that Green Arrow shot off as he charged forward. As soon as Green Arrow got close enough, he swung with his bow, a move Deathstroke easily parried with his own sword. What came next was a quick decisive blow by Deathstroke as the villain hilt slammed Arrow in the face, and then finished the job by using his other hand to toss a flash grenade into Green Arrow's face.
The tactic left Green Arrow blinded, deafened, and in pain. Deathstroke threw out a set out bolas, which wrapped around Green Arrow and brought him down once again.
"Good job," Deathstroke complimented him. "At this rate, I might actually have to move from one spot next time."
Deathstroke turned back to pressing his sword into Robin's neck. "Now. Where were we?"
Meanwhile, Superboy raised his arms to shield himself from the hail of bullets, which were still coming down like rain from the multitude of drones. Eventually, Superboy figured, he'd be able to smash the last of these bots and finally get a breather.
But he never got the chance to try, because out of the shadows leapt Lian, who soared through the air before landing feet first into a security bot, knocking it down. The bots stopped firing on Superboy, their sights now trained on the newcomer.
Lian wasted no time in grabbing a human shield in the form of the closest security drone, and held it up as bullets riddled it. The second she saw an opening, she was moving, weaving around her shield and grabbing a robot's shooting arm to redirect it at the others. Two more went down before Lain moved on, ducking under the robots' fire and letting them continue to shoot each other instead of her.
Just when it looked like they finally had her pegged, she somersaulted over a robots' shoulders and grabbed it to use as a shield again, but this time she put some added mayhem into it by throwing her victim back into the crowd of enemies.
Lian was all movement as the bullets came her way. She dodged, tricked, and even kicked the robots around her down and out of commission one by one until finally she performed a triple backflip to avoid a hail of gunfire and threw a single shuriken that got caught in a robot's arm and jammed its gun.
No sooner had this happened than a hand clamped around the robot's head and squeezed, popping it like a bubble. Superboy slapped aside another lingering drone, and he and Lian's gazes met.
"Thanks," he offered.
Lian nodded in response, then turned as something else caught her attention. Superboy followed her gaze, and sure enough there were more drones marching in. The two fighters exchanged a glance, and then both charged into the fray.
Robin, still pinned by Deathstroke, gave one last escape effort as his free hand went to his utility belt, drawing a birdarang. Deathstroke responded by drawing a pistol and shooting the birdarang out of Robin's hand.
"Leave him alone!" a girl's voice yelled.
Robin turned, half expecting Megan even though the voice didn't match up at all. Instead, he saw the mystery girl, Helena, standing defiantly glaring at Deathstroke the Terminator. Robin's eyes widened and his heart rate shot through the ceiling.
"Get out of here!" Robin yelled at her. He was going down, he accepted that, but no way did he want this girl going down with him.
"Best listen to the hero, girl," Deathstroke added, slowly pressing the sword harder against Robin's neck. "He knows what he's talking about."
Helena remained unmoved by either of their words. Instead, she clenched and unclenched her fists, her brow twitched, and her lips pulled tight. Then, the ground around her began to glow with a red circle, and ancient symbols lit up on the ground around her. Her hands began to glow bright red as well.
"I said," she repeated. "Leave. Him. Alone!"
Helena thrust her hands forward, her whole body now glowing in a brilliant red aura that snapped and flared like fire. Deathstroke found himself covered in the same aura, and before he knew what was happening, he was flung off of Robin like a ragdoll in a windstorm, thrown across the room before finally crashing to a halt amidst a pile of drones that Superboy and Lian had been fighting.
Superboy finished off his last opponent with a decapitating punch, Lian dispatched hers by grabbing its weapon arm and shoving it into its own chest. A super speed blur shot past the two, knocking down the remaining drones before it skidded to a halt, revealing Meagan West.
The three all looked at Deathstroke, who was still recovering from being tossed like a pebble. He looked at the three heroes all in close proximity to him, and at Robin and Green Arrow who wouldn't be far behind, and decided it was time to cut his losses for now.
"Sorry, only so much of me to go around," he apologized, pulling a micro grenade from his belt and throwing it as he backflipped away from his opponents.
Superboy's eyes widened. "Down!" he ordered, and then threw himself at the grenade.
As both Megan and Lian dove out of the way, he enveloped it in a bear hug as it detonated, sending him flying backward. When they all looked up, Deathstroke was gone.
"He got away," Superboy growled.
"Still stuck on the Watchtower! And he knows not to mess with us anymore!" Megan exclaimed triumphantly. She turned back to her friend she'd seen battling him. "Way to go Rob! Whatcha hit with, the bat-bazooka?"
Robin remained on the floor, dumbstruck, eyes never leaving Helena. "It…wasn't me."
Megan looked at him, confused for a minute. "Wait, what? Then who… her?"
Helena looked at Robin self-consciously as he stared at her in a mixture of awe and terror. "Magic. She knows magic."
"She what?" Lian asked, hand on her hip as she gave the girl an incredulous look over.
"Can you all…stop staring?" Helena asked. "It's creeping me out."
"How did you do that?" Green Arrow asked, still ensnared.
"To be honest? Not really sure, I just kind of got angry and…did," Helena said. "So…we won though, right?"
Robin looked around. The entire area was riddled with bullet holes, arrows were embedded in seemingly random parts of the wall, trails of burnt rubber criss-crossed all over the floor, and the ground was littered with security robot corpses. Green Arrow was still tied up, Megan had a bruise already forming on her throat.
"We'll call it a start," Robin said, getting up. "I etah gnieb demranu."
Robin held out his hand, and his batons flew back into his waiting palm. He disconnected the cable joining them and slid them back into their holster on his utility belt. After that, he drew a birdarang and immediately got to work cutting Green Arrow free.
"That's it?" Lian asked him, a little annoyed. "This girl shows up out of nowhere, claims not to know who the Justice League is, then throws Deathstroke around using magic, and we're just going to drop it?"
All eyes turned to Helena, with varying levels of suspicion. Robin was beginning to ask question too, in his head. Who is this girl? Where'd she come from? How'd she get here? Why haven't I…haven't I…I haven't…When she… where'd I…
Robin felt the slightest pressure in his skull as his mind clouded once again, and suspicion left his mind. Instead, he returned to freeing Green Arrow. But he needed to get the others to back off of Helena as well.
As he worked, Robin said, "We'll sort that out later, and how you got onto the Watchtower too." Lian's eyes twitched for a moment as Robin reminded everyone that she wasn't supposed to be here either.
"But right now," Robin continued, "we've got the League MIA, our own security trying to kill us, and Deathstroke loose on the Watchtower. So for now, let's focus on the problem at hand, and save the mysteries for later."
Robin finished cutting Green Arrow free, and turned to the only League member in the room. "Superboy?"
All heads turned to Superboy, a League member and therefore, technically in charge. Even Helena looked to him now.
"Robin, you and Green Arrow need to get to the computer core, figure out what's happened to the Watchtower and the League," Superboy said. "I'm going after Deathstroke. The rest of you, stay here, stay out of—"
"Oh you have got to be kidding me," Lian interrupted. "I mean seriously, do you honestly expect me to just sit around here and wait for you three to sort this mess out? You might was well have left me in the pod and woken me when this was over."
"Yeah, what gives?" Megan added. "I can break the sound barrier on a slow day, and you guys need everyone you can get."
"You're not trained to—" Green Arrow began, but Lian cut him off.
"I've got more training than you do Robin Hood," Lian told him flatly. "And I can handle myself. Or did you miss the part where Deathstroke took you down while I took out the killer robots?"
"You are both civilians," Superboy said sternly. "This is Justice League business."
"Civilians?" Megan said incredulously. "I know more about the League than some of the current members do! Not to mention like, everyone's secret ID, even Batman's. Superboy, you babysat me until I was eight!"
"Look," Lian said, folding her arms. "I'm going to make this real simple for you Mini-Supes. I'm going to help, and there's nothing you can do to stop it. Get on board, or get out of the way."
"Hey, if she's gets to go, there's no way I'm staying here," Megan said fervently. "Hero work's in my blood, no way I'm just sitting here."
"Both of you—" Superboy began.
"Enough," Robin spoke up. "Arguing is just wasting time. If they want to tag along, let them."
"I want to come too," Helena spoke up. "I can help."
The instant she said it, Robin felt a surge of protectiveness. He caught one solid eyeful of this girl, and for some reason, no matter how hard he tried all he could think was that he needed to keep her safe, as if a fog had descended over his brain and was suffocating any other thought. Robin didn't hesitate for a second. "Absolutely not. This is way beyond dangerous, and magic or no magic you are not coming with us."
"I can take care of myself," she protested, and no sooner had the words left her lips than Robin's mind did a complete one-eighty.
"Okay," Robin relented without so much as an argument. "Just…stay close."
Some of the others were noticeable off put by Robin, usually determined and outright stubborn, being swayed so easily in the space of a few sentences. Superboy and Green Arrow both looked like they wanted to say something, but Lian beat them too it.
"Wow, pretty face is all it takes huh?" Lian jibbed. Megan smirked at the jab, and Robin gave a glare at her through his mask. Just like that, the odd behavior was dismissed as Robin being won over by a pretty girl.
"Fine," Superboy relented. "Lian, Arrow, with me. The rest with Robin. Radios are down. If something happens, yell."
"Yell?" Helena asked, not knowing how that would do any good.
"Ahem," Megan coughed, jerking her thumb in Superboy's direction. "Super-hearing."
"Alright…best of luck," Robin offered to Superboy.
"You too," the senior hero offered in reply.
Superboy, Green Arrow, and Lian all left out the door that the security bots had entered, and the one that Deathstroke had presumably exited through. Robin watched them go until the doors shut behind them, and then turned to address Megan and Helena.
"C'mon," was all he said as he strode for the door at the opposite end of the room.
Megan and Helena exchanged a glance as Robin walked past them, but after silently agreeing that he seemed to know where he was going, they rushed to catch up. Understandably, Megan caught up first.
"So, Gi- Robin. What's the plan?" Megan asked.
"Not that we don't mind being kept completely in the dark," Helena added, sarcasm light and playful but still obvious.
"Security's definitely been hacked," Robin explained as they reached the door. "That means whoever's taken control of the Watchtower now has access to heat and motion sensors, security footage, and the bots. Taking the elevator would just throw up a sign that says 'Please kill me'."
After a couple of failed attempts to get the door to open mechanically, Robin got frustrated and stepped back before saying, "Nepo emases."
The door opened, and Robin sported a triumphant smile as he walked through it and into the adjoining hallway, continuing his explanation. "We're on the detention level. Computer core is two levels up. Ironically, no one ever though to put stairs in this place, but…"
They reached the end of the hallway, where Robin opened up a door to reveal a space the size of a janitor's closet that contained nothing but a ladder that went straight up through an opening in the ceiling.
"…there are emergency service ducts," he said victoriously, and immediately began to climb up.
"How do you…know all this," Helena asked, going up after him.
"I was paying attention during the tour," Robin explained. "Unlike some people…"
"Hey! Offense taken!" Megan shot as she climbed up the ladder.
Robin reached the top of the ladder one level later, hopped out, and then hauled Helena up after him. Megan climbed up right after her, and together all three exited the service duct, and entered a huge, expansive room filled with crates and glass cases. Many of the crates were marked with stamps like "Dangerous", "Top Secret", or "Do Not Open". The contents of the glass cases, illuminated by built in lights, looked more like souvenirs to Robin. Arrows, masks, old costumes, a bullet casing, a green bug-looking device were just some of the things he could see.
"Whoa," Megan breathed. "This is so…cool! Chesire's mask! Batman's first utility belt! Ra's al Ghul's sword! The power coupling for Lex Luthor's armor! Robot head! Cobra's hood!"
With each momento's name spoken, Megan darted across the room to a new case, zipping left and right again and again as she gawked in complete and utter fangirl mode. Helena watched, resisting the urge to facepalm out of the off chance that it was just her memory failing her and this room was indeed cool enough to warrant Megan's reaction. Robin, who knew better, did facepalm.
Megan continued zipping around, until she very suddenly stopped in front of a case that left her speechless. Standing erect, being worn by a faceless mannequin was her father's original Kid Flash costume, unused now since her dad had been fifteen, no older than her.
Megan's enormous fangirl grin was replaced with a smaller, wistful smile as she placed a hand on the glass that separated her from the costume. She looked into the eye holes of the mask, as if it still housed a person. Or perhaps, she was imagining herself in it, a feeling Robin was very familiar with.
He was already at the door to exit the storage room, but as he caught sight of Megan and the costume, he was instantly transported to the evening of his tenth birthday, when his father had shown him the Batcave and the little bird had found his father's first Robin uniform. He could still recall the immense feeling of unexplainable excitement as he'd looked into the whites of the mask and thought, that's what I want to be.
But Megan's parents had both left the hero gig, years before Megan had ever been born, citing the dangers, the complications, and the desire to settle down, slow down, and live the kind of normal lifestyle they had fought to protect for others.
Though the subject had never really been broached, neither West parent had trained their only daughter, and they both strongly discouraged her using her powers, as well as making sure she stayed as far away from the superhero lifestyle as possible, a lifestyle that had already claimed the life of Megan's namesake, Miss Martian. Convincing them to let her go on the tour had been a superhuman feat in itself.
Megan wanted to be a hero. It was written all over the way she talked, walked, how she decorated her room (Robin hadn't thought they made that many superhero posters.), who she made friends with, how she spent her free time… But both she and Robin knew the odds of her parents letting that happen were slim at best.
Robin returned his attention to the door, and just for the novelty of the concept, tried to get it to open by using the door controls, a tactic which so far today had not yielded results.
This time however, Robin was met with a satisfying swish as the doors parted…to reveal a hallway filled with a passing patrol of security robots. Robin's eyes went wide.
"Cover, now!" he ordered, pulling out a baton and firing its grapnel line skyward. The cable connected with the ceiling and yanked the Boy Wonder into the air, bullets trailing after him as the robots marched into the room.
Megan sprinted away from her exposed position behind the glass case, snagged Helena as she ran, and deposited both of them behind the sturdiest looking crate in the room. Moments later, Robin landed beside them. Bullets pinged off of their chosen barrier of protection and whizzed all about the room, but for now they were safe.
Well, as safe as they could be with a squad of killer robots totting machine guns trying to kill them.
Robin peeked out from behind the corner of the crate to try and assess the situation, but was quickly forced back as a bullet ricocheted inches from his face.
"We're pinned down," Robin cursed, fists tightening.
"Do we yell now?" Helena asked.
Meanwhile, still on the detention level, Superboy, Green Arrow, and Lian were in hot pursuit of Deathstroke, having been able to pin down his location with the aid of a little super-hearing. The only problem was, Deathstroke was extremely fast, and he didn't seem to be tiring. On top of that, he had the nasty habit of dropping surprises as he ran. More micro grenades, spiked shrapnel that he scattered on the floor, a freaking fire bomb…
And now there was the slight issue of running into another patrol of robots. So maybe it was more like three problems. Or ten. Or- whatever.
Superboy barreled straight through the patrol, smashing most out of the way, arrows took out a few more, and Lian kicked the remaining two into each other. They all kept moving, the robots barely having slowed them down.
Deathstroke reached the elevator, the doors opening to meet him and then snapping shut behind him. Superboy reached the doors first, immediately ripping them open. The elevator was already moving, but as the heroes looked up the shaft, they saw nothing.
"The zeta tubes are several floors above the detention level," Green Arrow mused. "Why would he go down? And how did security let him access the elevator?"
"Watchtower not ours, remember?" Lian said.
"The reactor is the only thing below the detention level," Superboy said, looking down the shaft. "If Deathstroke destabilizes it, the whole Watchtower could blow."
Not waiting another instant, Superboy leapt down after the elevator.
"Lovely," Lian muttered, flipping down after him.
Green Arrow notched a zipline arrow and fired it up the shaft, letting the other end drop down into the lower levels. He snapped the line through the built in synch in his bow, and seconds later he was rappelling down the shaft after Lian and Superboy.
By the time Arrow reached the elevator, Superboy had already smashed a hole through the top of it and Lian had no doubt followed him down. The sound of gunfire and steel hitting steel might have been a hint as well.
Green Arrow jumped through the hole and sprinted out of the elevator into the reactor level to find Superboy and Lian engaged in a fight against Deathstroke with the Watchtower's enormous fusion reactor as a backdrop. It wasn't overtly clear who was winning.
Deathstroke dodged Superboy's wide swinging punch and sliced with his sword in retaliation. The blade cut through Superboy's shirt, but beyond that it did little beyond knock Superboy off balance. Lian came in with a flying kick, which Deathstroke deflected with the flat of his blade.
As the three battled left and right, Green Arrow loaded his weapon and took aim. But just when he thought he had a target, Deathstroke would suddenly sidestep or Lian would vault into the way time and again, forcing the archer to adjust.
Giving up on the distance game, Green Arrow slid the arrow back into his quiver and ran forward to do things up close and personal.
Superboy was judo-thrown over Deathstrokes shoulder and Lian rushed up, shuriken in hand. She threw two, both of which Deathstroke swatted out of the air before charging the girl. Lian went on the defensive, nimbly avoiding Deathstroke's lunges and stabs but all the while being forced back, closer and closer to the reactor's control panel.
Green Arrow rushed forward threw his bow around Deathstroke's neck, abruptly yanking him away from Lian. Ever the opportunist, Lian took the chance to kick Deathstroke across the face.
Deathstroke reached over, grabbed a hold of Green Arrow, and threw the youth into Lian, sending them both to the ground. Superboy lunged forward with a yell, and Deathstroke narrowly managed to jump out of the way.
Ducking under another punch, Deathstroke slid around and behind Superboy, exposing the hero's back. Faster than Superboy could react, Deathstroke slapped an explosive onto Superboy's back and rolled away.
The explosive detonated, sending Superboy flying into a just recovering Lian and Green Arrow. As the three pulled themselves off of each other, a single metal orb rolled in front of them, and started to release a thick cloud of gas.
Immediately, Superboy and Green Arrow started coughing. Only Lian had recognized the threat quickly enough to hold her breath and leap out of the gas cloud's range. Unfortunately, she also leap straight into the range of Deathstroke's fist.
With a single uppercut, Deathstroke, forced Lian to draw in a gasp as she flew back into the gas. She coughed as the concoction filled her lungs, and the world began to go hazy. Her eyelids fluttered as she struggled to stay conscious, but all she succeed in doing was staying awake long enough for Deathstroke to have to kick her in the face.
Back in the storage room, the robots were closing in, the bullets kept coming, and Robin, Megan, and Helena were no less pinned down.
"We need to move, or we're dead!" Megan yelled over the staccato of gunfire.
Robin growled in frustration. "No escape unless we can clear a path through those things. Can you…?"
Megan shook her head. "Wouldn't make it fifteen feet with that many guns pointed at me."
"What if they weren't pointed at you?" Helena spoke up.
Robin and Megan exchanged a glance before looking at Helena.
"Could you do that?" Robin asked.
"Maybe, for a second," Helena said, sounding unsure. "It's just a quick telekinesis spell, with multiple targets. I don't remember much but…I think I can do this."
"You think?" Megan said.
"You'd be the one running Megan, it's your choice," Robin said. A bullet pinged off the floor and flew past their faces, causing them all to jump. "But we don't exactly have another plan."
Megan put on a pouting look, which Robin found ridiculous given the scenario. "Easy for you to say. Hail of gunfire, remember?"
"Megan," Robin said, "you need to trust her. It's the only shot we have."
"Trust her? I don't even know her! She doesn't even know her!" Megan yelled. Helena bit her lip, Robin tried to peek out and was once again forced back behind cover. The robots were moving in closer, maneuvering around the crate to get a clear firing angle. When that happened, it would be over.
Megan looked from Helena to Robin to the bullets and back around to Helena in a cycle, before she sighed in defeat. Being a hero comes with risks, she reminded herself.
"What kind of window am I looking at?" Megan asked Helena.
Helena closed her eyes, as if thinking. "One, maybe two seconds before they can get their aim back?"
Megan steeled herself, crouching like a sprinter on the line. "Tell me when."
She was putting on a brave face, but she was terrified. With her speed, Megan knew that in purely theoretical terms, a second was all the time she would need to clear a path through the killer robots. But that was only if the amnesiac magic girl could give her that second.
She felt a hand on her shoulder, and she glanced up to see Robin, offering a smile and single nod of confidence. The smile was small and the nod was brief, but having spent her many early years around Bats, she knew that look as one of both encouragement and respect, a look that meant, You can do this, I know you can.
Robin looked to Helena. "Do it."
Helena nodded, nervousness slowly leaving her expression as she closed her eyes in concentration. She sat, legs crossed, hands on her thighs, breathing slowly, deeply. Megan stared straight ahead, just as focused as Helena, leaving Robin to watch both of them in worry.
These two were civilians. Sure, one could outrun passenger jets and the other apparently knew magic, but Megan had zero training. They weren't experienced heroes, just two people with gifts being thrust into a situation where they were forced to use those gifts.
Robin, so used to do something about his problems, for the first time could do nothing but watch, and pray this worked.
Helena's eyes opened, glowing in a brilliant red. Around her, a circle of runes and other ancient symbols appeared on the ground. She very slowly raised her hands off of her thighs. Then, abruptly, she lashed her arms out, shouting, "Go!"
Megan took off as fast as she could, barreling out of their cover. Robin looked out as well to see the results.
Every security robot's weapon arm was pointed at the ceiling, leaving them helpless as the superfast blur rushed up to meet them. They were already leveling their weapons, but by then it was too late. The blur that was Megan swept right through their formation, leaving robots scattered across the floor in her wake.
"Move!" Robin ordered.
Helena was already out of her trance, and sprang up at Robin's command. Robin grabbed hold of Helena's wrist, and together they both sprinted out of the room after Megan as robots already began to pick themselves up off the ground. Robin threw a birdarang in covering fire, which embedded itself in a robots head. Helena lashed out with a method of her own, glowing red symbols circling her hand as she waved it.
In response to her magic, a robot's weapon arm jerked out and pointed itself at its allies before going off. Both of them made it out of the door, and Robin wasted no time in pressing the "shut" button on the door's control panel before stabbing a birdarang into it.
All three teens were breathing heavy, but they were alive. Slowly, a smile broke out across Megan's face as she rode the thrill of success off of her adrenaline high. And then, she started laughing. Laughing, because it felt good to be alive.
Helena, also winded from her sprint, smiled as well, leaving an incredulous Robin the only one not taking part in the miniature celebration.
"C'mon," he said as he finally caught his breath. The two girls looked at him, slightly perplexed as he power walked down the hallway. When he realized they weren't following him, he stopped, looking over his shoulder. "We're still one level below the computer core."
"Oh, right," Megan said, snapping her fist as she recalled. "Watchtower. Forgot for sec there."
Surprisingly, the trio made the trip in relative secrecy, following Robin's lead to avoid the remaining security measures and additional patrol of robots. Finally, they managed to reach the next level up, dodge another patrol, and with a sense of finality they reached the computer core room.
Robin tried the manual control, but when they failed, he skipped ahead to his next option.
"Nepo emases!" Robin chanted, and the doors swooshed open.
What the trio saw inside warranted the momentary pause of confusion. The room was littered with bullet ridden corpses of security robots, and there were still several left standing. A group of them stood with their backs to the door, firing at the second group of bots, who had taken up defensive positions around the computer core.
The robots on the offensive were winning. One of the defenders was gunned down, followed by another, leaving only a single robot defending the core against a full squad. It too, was gunned down after taking out only one of its enemies.
Two security turrets sprouted from the ceiling and open fired at the invading robots, mowing them down before they were both blown to bits.
"Why is the Watchtower fighting itself?" Megan asked.
"Question later, scrap now," was Robin's curt response.
The three charged forward, taking the robots completely by surprise. Robin leapt forward, batons swinging, taking out a robot with each deft stroke. Megan raced around, knocking aside everything in her path. Helena stood slightly further back as her mystic symbols circled her hands once more. Her eyes glowed red, and severed robot limbs were flung at those who were still standing. The room was cleared in seconds, with Robin decapitating the last of them with a baton strike.
"Scanning," a jittery, intelligent voice announced over the room's intercom. "Recognized, Robin, B01. Recognized, Megan West, A04. Unrecognized party. Relaying scenario analysis. Analysis complete, Unrecognized designated, non-hostile."
"Was it talking about me?" Helena asked. "More importantly, what is talking right now? The… Watchtower?"
"I am Subroutine 2SM19, oversight program of all Watchtower security systems. How may I be of assistance?"
"Well for starters, how about you have your bots stop shooting at us!" Megan yelled at the ceiling, slightly off put about talking to a disembodied voice. Especially one that was so…cordial.
"Request invalid. Status indicators show all security drones as offline. Those that you have encountered are no longer under Watchtower system control," the voice explained.
"Whose control are they under then?" Robin asked, eye slits narrowing up at the ceiling.
"At precisely fourteen hundred hours, there was a two point two five nanosecond blackout in lower level Watchtower security before data feeds came back online," the ceiling began. "The blackout was the result of a hostile computer program of unknown origin which patched data feeds and overrode security protocols. The infiltration tactic was discovered, and proper data feeds were restored one point two five minutes later."
"However, during this time, Zeta tube protocols were overwritten, allowing one Deathstroke access into the Watchtower. Before the League could be warned, the same hostile program which overwrote data feeds seized control of Watchtower systems, including remote control of the security drones. I remained control only of the security systems in this room, while all other Watchtower systems fell into the hands of the enemy."
"How do we get the rest of the Watchtower back under your control?" Robin asked.
"Request invalid. I was never in control of the entirety of the Watchtower. The task was divided among several subroutines, to ensure that if one area was corrupted, the others would not be. These subroutines were…destroyed when the enemy program invaded."
Maybe Robin was imagining things, but he thought he heard a twinge of emotion in the ceiling's report. Grief?
"Can you take full control though?" Megan asked. "If you needed to?"
"No," the ceiling responded curtly.
"What?" Megan pined. "What kind of super computer can't…"
"I am not a supercomputer, or an artificial intelligence," the ceiling corrected. "I am a subroutine. My processing power is inadequate to combat the invading program. However, there is an alternative."
Before Robin or Megan could ask what the alternative was, the computer core glowed brilliant blue, its every light and button and crevice glowing. Several wires that spawned off of it whirred with renewed life, and holo-monitors popped up left and right.
"Hey Sub," Megan asked the ceiling, taking a cautious step back. "What exactly are you doing?"
"Guys-" Helena spoke up.
Robin and Megan turned to see what Helena was trying to point out to them. Off to the right of the computer core, a glass case was slowly rising up out of the floor. Inside of it was a boy, who looked to be in his late teens, dressed in a white button up short-sleeve, simple black tie, black slacks, and black converse shoes.
His eyes where metal orbs of shining silver.
"You guys see that too, right?" Megan asked.
The glass case containing the boy opened up, and suddenly his eyes blipped with an icy blue light that turned his solid silver eyes into a glowing blue. He stepped out of the case.
The boy turned to the trio, and in the same voice the ceiling had possessed, spoke. "Greetings. I am STAR Labs Unit AC-S001136. You may call me, Help."
Two jaws went slack. Robin on the other hand, didn't seem to miss a beat. "Those were your subroutines running Watchtower systems."
"Correct," Help affirmed. "I installed them to increase efficiency after I was stationed here, following the disbanding of my previous team."
"Previous team?" Megan asked. "Robin, clue me in, what's going on here? And why are you not fazed by the talking robot boy?"
"Help is an old project from STAR Labs, a self-aware computer in a mobile body," Robin explained, turning to address his companions. "Batman discovered him in Gotham City, after the program that had created him literally went up in smoke. He served on a covert ops team for the Justice League before it eventually disbanded. After that, Batman had him moved here."
"Again, you know this…how?" Megan asked.
"Well, after Batman found him and before he joined the ops teams, Help stayed at my place for a while," Robin said.
"Indeed. I believe you enjoyed referring to me as Alfred 2.0," Help added.
Robin smirked at the nickname his eight year old self had given the android. "Bottom line, Help's easily the best android I know, and he's been with the League for years. If anyone can take the systems back, its him."
"Perhaps," Help said cautiously. "But it will take time. Whatever sort of program infiltrated the Watchtower, it has taken up firm roots in the system, with the exclusion of the core, which has now fallen under my control."
"How soon can you have communications up and running?" Megan asked. "We need to figure out what happened to the League."
"I believe I possess the answer to that question," Help said. A new holo-monitor appeared in front of them as Help continued. "Though I do not have control, I have access to security camera footage."
The holo-monitor displayed a feed of the Observation deck, the main floor of the Watchtower that overlooked the expanse of space and housed most of the zeta tubes. Clearly, whoever was pulling the strings of the security drones had been busy.
Several security pods were scattered around the observation deck, wires connected to many of them, all of which were linked into the back of a security drone. Several more drones were wandering the area, many of them carrying in other security pods.
Robin focused on one of the pods, trying to identify the occupant. When he did, he cringed. Megan focused a little harder on the display, and her eyes widened. Not recognizing anyone in the picture, but noticing her companions becoming noticeably distraught, Helena asked, "Guys? What's wrong?"
Robin uttered one word, and though it didn't clear anything up for Helena, the tone in Robin's voice clued her in that something was horribly wrong.
"Not just him," Megan said. "Red Arrow, Green Lantern, Flash, Rocket, Red Tornado…they've got like half the League in pods!"
"What are they doing to them?" Helena wondered aloud.
"The League is not our only concern," Help said, bringing up a second security feed, this one of the detention level.
The girls gave muted gasps and Robin clenched his fists as they saw security drones loading the unconscious forms of Superboy, Green Arrow, and Lian all back into security pods. Deathstroke was nowhere to be seen.
"They were taken alive…why?" Helena asked.
"Probably the same reason they've got the League in pods upstairs," Megan suggested. "This is bad. Way bad. If Deathstroke's done with them, he's probably looking for us. And he'll find us, take us out, and lock us in pods with everyone else. Game over, thanks for playing!"
"Calm. Down," Robin ordered. Not consoled. Ordered.
"Stop it!" Megan screeched. "Just stop it, with the Bat-glare and the Bat-calm and the Bat-whatever! You are used to this stuff! I am in, way over my head right now. So forgive me if I don't immediately get traught on your say so."
"…Traught?" Helena asked.
"Not the point!" Megan snapped. "We are trapped in a headquarters in space with killer robots and an armed mercenary, half the League is down, the other half probably doesn't even know what's wrong!"
Robin grabbed Megan's arm, which had a much more calming effect on the girl. "Megan. I need you to trust me, okay. We're going to get out of this. We're going to smash the robots, free the League, and take Deathstroke down. It's But I need you locked down if we're going to do it, okay?"
Megan still felt like the entire ocean was rushing up in a singular wave to smack them all in the face, but she forced herself to at least suppress the feelings of panic.
"I assume, Robin, that you have a plan for accomplishing these goals?" Help asked.
Robin turned to the android. "Actually Help, I just might. But I'm going to need you to give me a hand."
He turned to Helena and Megan. "You two are part of the plan too. It can work but…it's going to require a lot of risk."
"I'm in," Helena said solemnly.
Megan exhaled slowly, trying to center herself. "Yeah...okay. So what's the plan?"
"There is a squad of security mechs approaching to detain us," Help announced before Robin could explain. "Deathstroke is not far behind them."
Robin switched into action mode, batons drawn. He looked to Helena and Megan, who were both looking to him expectantly. He glared straight ahead at the door the robots would soon be coming through.
"I'll tell you guys if we survive this," he said.
On the observation deck, a single mech stood in the center of the semi-circle containing the Justice League, wires linking it to the pods. The elevator doors opened, and out of them marched a squad of security bots, carrying in with them a total of six security pods.
The mech hooked up to the many wires examined the newest specimens. Robin, Green Arrow, and Superboy, as well as the daughter of Red Arrow, the West girl, and the civilian anomaly were all back in their pods where they belonged.
Deathstroke accompanied the robots, a victorious spring in his step. He addressed the robot at the center of the mass of wires.
"Full sweep of the Watchtower was completed by the drones. We've rounded them all up," Deathstroke reported.
"And yet," the robot replied in a deep, baritone voice originally intended to say "stand down" to intruders, "there are several members of the Justice League that remain unaccounted for. When the download is complete, and the originals have been terminated, we will need to pursue."
"I was paid to infiltrate the Watchtower," Deathstroke said. "Job done. You want more, that's a re-hire fee. That includes the secrecy bonus for me not knowing who you are."
"You will be compensated for your actions," the robot assured. "For now, I suggest you dispatch the drones which carried in the pods. They are not under my remote control."
Deathstroke whirled around at the news, sword in one hand and pistol in the other. The drones all drew their machine guns and open fired, targeting the wires that joined the commanding drone to the security pods.
The wires were all severed as bullets tore through them, but the drones did not live long enough to attack Deathstroke or his supposed employer as they were all cut down by a series of quick, precise sword swipes.
"Could've given a guy a little extra warning," Deathstroke muttered, re-sheathing his sword.
"Ecitsuj eugael, siht si ruoy ekaw pu llac!" a young voice yelled from inside a security pod.
Deathstroke spun on his heels again as every member of the Justice League, as well as their sidekicks, and the civilians all woke up inside of their pods. Deathstroke drew his pistol out and unloaded on the nearest pod, Megan's, but to no avail, as the glass absorbed the shots.
Flash vibrated out of his pod, while Green Lantern's ring glowed to life and a few moments later a chainsaw cut him free.
Robin, in his pod, called out his next spell. "Emit rof a nosirp kaerb!"
Every security pod in the room opened up, freeing those who hadn't immediately been able to escape. Robin hopped out of his pod. Batman was already waiting for him, giving his protégé a look.
"I know, I know, practice lock picking," Robin said, suppressing the burning desire to groan. "I was in a hurry."
A scarlet blur, accompanied by a multi-colored one, zoomed about the room, mopping up drones left and right. Skidding to a halt, Megan and Flash both surveyed their handiwork in the form of a trail of disabled robots.
"Not bad squirt," the Flash, aka Bart Allen, complimented, ruffling Megan's hair so fast it went frizzy. "You're parents are going to kill me for letting you do this though."
"Tell me about," Megan muttered, before they both took off once again.
Green and Red Arrow were almost back to back, firing arrows in unison. Every shot was another drone down, until a burst of machine gun fire forced them both to duck behind cover in the form of vacated pods.
"I'll draw their fire!" Red Arrow yelled, sprinting out from behind his cover and racing to the next pod.
While the drones focused on Red Arrow, Green Arrow was free to step out of cover and fire off an explosive arrow. It detonated precisely on target just as Red Arrow dove behind cover, and the robots that had been trying to pin them down were scrap. Another robot approached from behind the two, a threat they didn't hear coming until it was too late.
Both archers whirled around, drawing arrows back, but it proved unnecessary as a lean figure dropped down from the rafters onto the robot, knocking it to the ground. Lian's eyes met her fathers, and she rolled her eyes as an infuriated look spread over his face.
"Yeah, yeah, grounded. Two weeks," Lian droned. "Can we finish this first?"
Batman and Robin moved in perfect synchronization, Robin using his batons' cables like whips to yank enemy weapons in different directions or pull them in close, and Batman sporting his trademark black escrima sticks.
"Don't let yourself go tunnel visioned," Batman warned as they fought. "You need to see every detail of your environment."
"I've got it, I've got it," was Robin's annoyed response.
Deathstroke took a few cautious steps away from the fray as he saw the League members and sidekicks working in tandem to take down the room's entire population of security bots, when he felt someone tap his shoulder.
When Deathstroke turned around, he was met with the sight of a particularly angry looking Superboy.
"Hi," the Kryptonian greeted, and drew back a fist.
Deathstroke was sent flying back at the impact, feeling all kinds of pain when he finally crashed against the wall. A cold metal hand grabbed him and hauled him onto his feet, and Deathstroke turned to see a security drone.
"We must leave the premises," the drone said. "Or else face capture."
"Leaving's fine," Deathstroke said, running for the zeta tubes with the drone in tow. With everyone but Superboy too preoccupied to notice them, they were able to make their escape through the first tube they reached.
Within seconds, the room was cleared, and peace settled in, as well as a stunned silence as the Leaguers, sidekicks, and civilians all took in the fact that it was really over. Breaking the silence, Help's voice announced over the intercom, "System control re-established. Well done, Justice League."
"Wow," Helena said to Robin. "When you say risky, you mean risky."
"Robin," Batman said, his eyes narrowing as he took in the civilian on the Watchtower, "who is this?"
"And what is my daughter doing on the Watchtower?" Red Arrow added, glaring at Lian as he asked. The Harper girl crossed her arms and rolled her eyes. This wasn't the first time she'd been caught with her hand in the cookie jar.
Robin, Megan, Helena, and Green Arrow all exchanged looks, suddenly very aware of the fact that they were all standing together in front of the Justice League, who looked like they wanted answers. Lian was standing just off to the side of them, and offered a shrug to Robin as if to say, Don't look at me, I've got my own explaining to do.
"This… may take a second to explain," Robin began.
In the end, it took several seconds. As well as a good amount minutes, plus an extra hour thrown in there for kicks. In that time, the entire Justice League had been recalled to the Watchtower, Megan's parents came to strangle their daughter in a dual bear hug, many questions were asked, some of which were answered.
Apparently, Lian had slipped in through the zeta tube shortly after Red and Green Arrow, utilizing override codes acquired from the Harper residence to set herself up with her won designation. Sure enough, Help confirmed that A05 had arrived on the Watchtower shortly after Green Arrow, Robin, and Megan had. Partially for kicks, partially out of jealousy towards her "little brother".
Help filled in the League on what had happened, and how it was Robin who had devised the plot of allowing themselves to be captured and use security drones hacked by Help to take them up to the observation deck without resistance and give them the element of surprise.
Which left the question of Helena. Martian Manhunter confirmed that she was suffering from memory loss, but he was unable to retrieve a vast majority of the gaps in her mind. According to the Martian, this was more than simple amnesia. The girl's memories had been stolen, leaving only bits and pieces for the telepathic session to recover, most of which had been magical know-how. However, from what he was able to salvage, Manhunter was able to conclude that Helena had been kidnapped, and that she was not a spy.
This didn't relieve Red Arrow's suspicions. He harbored no feelings against the girl per say, but he remained adamant that they had no way of knowing whether or not she was a subconsciously driven infiltrator, as he had been.
Robin was Helena's strongest defender, saying that if she'd been meant to bring down the League, she'd completely missed her chance, and citing that without her, he and Megan both would have likely ended up dead. Even when Batman expressed concern, Robin remained vehemently opposed to suspicion directed at her.
Eventually, Manhunter's vote of confidence and Robin's own stubborn defense, as well as supportive input from Megan and a brief logical argument from Help were enough to convince the League that Helena was not a threat.
Deathstroke however, had made a clean getaway, his teleportation destination erased from records. And the League was still unclear exactly what had been done to them while they'd been sealed in pods. However, for the time being, the day was won.
After a quick conference with Help, Batman looked about ready to end the impromptu meeting.
"Tracking down Deathstroke is going to be the League's number one priority," Batman said. "There are still questions he can answer. But for now, I want to take this chance to congratulate the real heroes of the day."
The Caped Crusader turned to address the collection of sidekicks and civilians, who together had managed to save the Watchtower, and the Justice League. "Today, the five of you did good work. For some, the work you've been trained to do. For others…" Batman looked to Lian, Megan, and Helena, "work you might want to consider."
"Twenty-five years ago," Batman recalled to the sidekicks, "Aquaman, Superboy, Kid Flash and myself came together as a team. We had no League support, we were up against unfavorable odds, and we were in over our heads. But together, we prevailed, and what was forged on that day would grow to become one of the most vital assets the League has ever had at its disposal. A team, covert in nature, which would travel deep into uncharted territory, penetrate enemy lines, and take our adversaries by surprise. Many of today's members of the Justice League were once a part of this team."
"Batman," Superboy asked, "Are you suggesting what I think you're suggesting?"
"He is," Red Arrow said, a hint of annoyance in his voice.
"You've all proved yourselves," Batman said. "So it's no question of competence or preparedness. There are several locations which would make a suitable base of operations. So here's the offer. If this team were to reform, would any of you be interested in joining?"
The five teens' eyes all widened in surprise.
"Wait, Batman…you're serious?" Robin asked. "Our own team? Missions, a headquarters?"
"It's the work you've been trained for," Batman said. "And the subtle approach can be favorable to a direct one. The Team would be an invaluable asset."
"Then I'm in," Robin said resolutely.
Green Arrow faced his mentor, looking uncertain. Red Arrow raised an eyebrow. "Okay, I'll bite, what's eating you?"
"I'm not sure if I'm ready for—" Green Arrow began, but his mentor interrupted him.
"I took the training arrows out of your quiver a long time ago kid," Red Arrow said, placing a hand on his shoulder. "You're ready."
"Then I'm in," Green Arrow said, turning to face Batman.
"If I'm reading this situation right," Helena said. "You're offering me the chance to be a superhero, like you guys? Because if that's it, then I am so in."
"Me too," Megan added. "Been too long since the world's seen Kid Flash—"
"Absolutely not," Artemis interupted. She did not look very happy. Stressed? Yes. Relieved her daughter was okay? Yes. Angry that she'd been in danger to begin with? Oh yes. Okay with her daughter becoming Kid Flash? Not a chance.
"No," Wally stressed. "Megan, you're fourteen years old. You have a million other things to worry about, it's dangerous beyond anything you can imagine, and our answer is no."
"Fine," Megan huffed, crossing her arms. "I won't put on the red and yellow on the daily. But if they need me, I'm going to help, whether you like it or not."
"We will finish this discussion later," Artemis said, narrowing her eyes at her daughter. Megan's resolve turned to an expression of mild fear.
"If I may interrupt," Help put in cordially. "The Watchtower is more than capable of running itself via automated systems, and I am not necessarily required to be present on station to fend off any cyber-attacks…"
"We'd be glad to have you Help," Green Arrow said, reading the androids words. "Couldn't have pulled this off without you."
"Lian?" Robin asked.
"What, you want me in your little band of superfriends? You do remember the part about me breaking and entering to get here, right?" Lian scoffed. Robin just offered a smile, and after a moment, Lian returned it. "Yeah, alright. Not like I had anything else to fill my weekends. One question. Do I have to wear tights?"
Robin smirked. "Only if that's your thing. You are gonna need a name though. Part of the gig."
"I'll work on it," Lian told him. "Speaking of names though, what do we call ourselves? The Justice Buddies? Junior League Heroes?"
"Perhaps," Help suggested, "New Justice?"
Lian shrugged. "Works for me."
Support of the name was unanimous amongst the other members as well, and on that day, New Justice was formed.
By the end of the week, they'd been introduced to their headquarters, underwater off the east coast of North America. Deep below sea level, there was a derelict wreckage of a vessel, forgotten by the rest of the world as the site in the ocean where the previous Watchtower had crashed into the waves along with the Reach mothership, which it had been rammed into by the original Batman twenty years ago, bringing an end to the invasion.
When the crash had first happened, search and salvage efforts had immediately been conducted by the original Aquaman, Superman, Green Lanterns Hal Jordan and John Stuart, and Martian Manhunter. While they had been unable to find Bruce Wayne's body, their efforts and temporary base camp set up in one of the miraculously pressurized cabins sparked an opportunistic idea.
Over the course of several months, the League had renovated the Watchtower/Reach ruins into a functioning underwater base, complete with zeta tubes, communication networks, holo-projectors, and an anamorphous vehicle hangar.
It had been the new headquarters of the League's covert Team until it had finally disbanded after the Paralax incident elevated most of the Team members to League status, and killed or retired those who didn't. Now, it was being called into service once again.
New Justice stood in their headquarters' mission room, formerly the Watchtower's observation deck, along with Batman, who was finishing explaining their arrangements. With him Aquaman, Red Arrow, and Superboy.
"Due to the close proximity to Atlantis," Batman said, "Aquaman has agreed to be your live-in supervisor. He was one of the founding members of the original Team. He knows the job. Superboy's in charge of training. Red Arrow will deploy you on missions."
"Real missions," Red Arrow put in. "This isn't just busy work we'll be handing you."
Robin, Green Arrow, Lian, Helena, and Help all exchanged a collective smile. When the week had began, Robin had thought it was just going to be another ordinary day in the life of Batman's protege. A tour of the Watchtower, hanging out with fellow sidekick Green Arrow, getting watch Megan enjoy the sights. Simple, almot boring. Not once when the day had began did it occur to Robin, Green Arrow, or any of them that today wasn't just any day, it was the day. They'd started this week as a couple of sidekicks and civilians. They were ending it as heroes.
"Talk about seizing the day," Robin commented.
002: Congratulations on reading the premiere episode of NEW JUSTICE, a next gen-fic I have officially poured now seven days of work into. Honestly? Worth every second of it, just out of how much I enjoy reading it. Maybe it's because I'm the one who wrote it, but this played out like an episode of YJ in my head.
So, some things I just want to talk about, just because. What? No, I'm not purposely trying to hide something that's underneath this author's note. DON'T LOOK, PAY ATTENTION!
So, in my head canon, Wally and Artemis STAY retired, something I haven't really seen too much of on the net. I know, I know, we all wante him to be Flash. But hey, that's what Bart's for, 'specially since he can't go back to where he belongs. Does that time even exist anymore? Who knows. Welcome to the present Bart. We still have fruit.
Also in my head canon, Miss M is dead. Sorry. It's just...to me...I couldn't really see how a Martian could have a hybrid baby with someone who is already a hybrid Kryptonian/human. Genetically, it just doesn't make sense. I mean, look a liger. Is it a hybrid? Yes. Can it have kids? No. And frankly, I was not going to give her a kid with L'gann. Just, no. For M'gann, it was Supermartian or bust. But in all honesty, I don't feel all that bad about giving M'gann the axe. Sue me.
As a third element of my head-canon that you (hopefully) picked up on, Bruce Wayne is gone-
Reader23417: You didn't say dead!
002: -and Dick Grayson has become Batman with a new, partially magic using Robin.
Reader23417: So what about Damian?
002: Quiet you! So, yeah. Green Arrow...as a sidekick to Red Arrow. I love irony. Perhaps I'll do an origin story later showing where some of these less familiar faces came from. (i.e Green Arrow and Help. We all know where Lian came from, Robin and Megan [I mean seriously, we basically just witnessed Megan's origin, if she even has one. She's STILL not a superhero!] are fairly obvious, and Helena...)
Helena! Oh man, how could I forget about her, the most dangerous story element to me as a writer. I'll be honest, I'm worried Helena will end up a MAry-Sue. I mean, I'm pulling out all the stops and tricks I can think of to prevent it, but I still worry. Maybe it's just me being paranoid because she's a girl who knows magic...
Shoot, I'm starting to rant. Good.
Hopefull you as a literate public were able to decipher the parentage of our new Robin. (Hint: MAGIC!) (2nd Hint: Annataz)
If you still haven't, you don't have to worry about trying to phrase the question of his parents nonchalantly. Be as Chalant as you like.
Seriously though, if you haven't guessed, don't ask.
Time for shout-outs!
A huge thanks goes out to Greg Weisman for some of the best writing this side of th DCU, and to everyone else who helped make Young Justice the greatest animated adaptation of the DCU ever. Of all time.
An enormous middle-finger to our "good friends" at Cartoon Network for thinking it was a good idea to cancel Young Justice and replace it wth Teen Titans Go! Seriously? Get your [explicitive deleted]!
Muchos kudos to my BatmanPrincess43 beta-ing this episode. The mistakes you caught and the suggestions you made were MUCH appreciated, and I'm glad to be working with you!
Before I go, four things.
Serious Question: I really am worried about Helena. What did you guys (gals?) think? Annoying? Random? Why-is-Robin-already-fumbling-over-himself-for-her? Seriously, I want to know.
Stupid Question: What trick Arrow do you wish Green Arrow would have used that he didn't?
Obvious Trivia Question: Who quoted Superboy's line from "Fireworks"?
Headdesk Trivia Question: What is (new) Robin's real name?
Well, would you look at that. There was something written after the AN...
"Well, that could have gone better," Deathstroke muttered to himself.
"We were unable to eliminate the Justice League," the security drone agreed. "However, one of the objectives was the extracting genetic samples and assimilating the Justice League's knowledge. In this, the operation was a success. There remains only one task."
"You paid me for the Watchtower job, and that job is done," Deathstroke said. "Send me a wire if you want me involved in anything else."
"I did not say I required your assistance," the robot said, raising its weapon arm.
Deathstroke heard the weapon lock and load too late. By the time the mercenary could turn to face the robot, it fired. But instead of bullets, an electrically charged net shot out, ensnaring Deathstroke. The mercenary writhed as electricity wracked his body for a few seconds, then went limp as the charge wore off. He was unconscious. The robot slowly reached down, and removed Deathstroke's mask to place a small metal disk on the mercenary's forehead.
The disk extended out two tiny arms which slapped on two additional disks onto Deathstroke's forehead, forming a V formation of three disks. The robot stood up, its job done.