|The Last Son, Book Three: Changes
Author: The Writer with No Name PM
AU S3. Xover with Superman and Justice League. Mutants are public knowledge. Superman is no longer myth. With this change the Man of Steel and his new team strive to make a difference in the world..but they and the X-Men have their work cut out for them.Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure - Chapters: 43 - Words: 996,558 - Reviews: 1,040 - Favs: 331 - Follows: 185 - Updated: 05-17-11 - Published: 01-13-08 - Status: Complete - id: 4009890
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Disclaimer: X-Men: Evolution and all Marvel characters are property of Marvel Comics. Superman, the Justice League, and all DC characters are property of DC Comics. I am not making any money from this story; I wrote it solely for my own amusement. Enjoy!
CHAPTER ONE: NEW BEGINNINGS
New York City, New York, September 7, 2008
The bustling metropolis of New York City was abuzz with activity, as always, as its citizens hurried through the city streets, hardly taking the time to enjoy the crisp freshness of the morning air, or the morning sun's light…
…most of them, anyway.
At a table outside a small coffee shop, a young man of 21, tall and lean, with short black hair, slicked back and parted in the front, clad in brown dress slacks and a white button-up long-sleeved shirt under a blue sweater-vest, sat reading a newspaper, enjoying the beautiful morning as he sipped his orange juice, his sky-blue eyes speedily skimming through the news-articles from behind his glasses. After reading the business section in record time, and taking a few minutes to get a chuckle out of the comics, he glanced to the front page.
"…in the months since its inception, the super-human team known as the Justice League has certainly made an impression." the author had written. "Consisting of some of the most powerful super-humans ever seen – including the previously-thought-to-be-mythical Superman – the League has, so far, stayed true to its initial promise to be a force for good around the world. Unlike the Avengers, the U.S. government's super-powered task-force, the League acts as an independent, international squad, seeking to, as the planet Krypton's Last Son so eloquently put it, 'provide an example.' Well, between averting both natural and man-made disasters, stopping both domestic and international crime cold, and helping to resolve mutant and super-human-related crises, they certainly have set quite the example!"
His brow furrowed in worry as he continued to read silently. "However, public opinion on the League remains painfully split, especially given the League's friendly relations with the Xavier-Institute-based mutant team, known as the X-Men. With mutants now public knowledge, an increasingly vocal anti-mutant, 'human supremacist' faction has emerged in the population, spearheaded by the group known only as the 'Friends of Humanity' in condemning the League and its actions, despite the fact that a growing majority of people now look upon mutants with understanding. Even with growing public support, the League – with its powerful members operating independent of any government – is regarded with open suspicion by many figures within the military and the government…most notably U.S. Senator Robert Kelly, who has long argued passionately for stricter regulations for mutants and super-humans living on U.S. soil. Still, regardless of opinion, most people will agree on one thing about the League and the X-Men: they still have their work cut out for them."
'Isn't that the truth.' the young man thought to himself. Finishing his reading, he returned his gaze to the morning sun, enjoying the day for a few moments more before he had to head to work; it was a shame that most other people didn't take the time to do the same…
Suddenly, his cell-phone started to ring, and he promptly answered it. "Hello?"
"Kent, I'm going to need you to cover the arrival of the Genoshan Ambassador at the UN Building; I have the rest of my reporters out on assignment, elsewhere, and I need you there, especially if Superman and the rest of the Justice League decide to make a fly-by."
Clark Kent chuckled. "I'd be happy to, Mr. Jameson…but I kinda doubt that the League will show up, unless there's an emergency; I don't think they'd want to detract from the importance of the Ambassador's arrival."
On the other end, J. Jonah Jameson chuckled. "Sure, Kent; like you're the League's best friend." he said. "Regardless, I need you down there; the Ambassador is set to arrive, this afternoon. Don't be late!"
"I won't, sir." Clark promised. "I'll have the article ready before the day is out."
"This is important, Kent." Jonah insisted. "The UN giving representation to Genosha is the biggest thing since…well, since mutants, Superman and the League went public! We have to be the first to get the facts; can I count on you?"
Clark smiled. "Mr. Jameson, I never lie." he answered. "You'll have the article before 5:00."
"Good man." Jonah said. "I'll see you in a half-hour."
Suddenly, another beeping-tone sounded, causing Clark's eyes to go wide. "Uh…Mr. Jameson? I…I might be a little late; something came up."
"Again??" Jonah groaned. "Good grief, Kent, that's the third time, this week! I'd better be impressed with that article, mister..!"
"You will be, sir." Clark promised. "I'll be in as soon as I can."
"Just see that you are, Kent." Jonah warned, before he ended the call. With the call finished, Clark quickly looked around, ensuring that no-one was watching…before discreetly placing a high-tech earpiece into his ear, as he finished his juice, picked up his newspaper and knapsack, and walked away.
"Kent. We have a situation."
"So I gathered, Bruce." Clark answered softly, as his hearing started to pick up what his teammate had likely called to notify him about. "That fire in Brazil sounds bad, and I'm hearing a mayday from an oil tanker in the Pacific."
"That's not all, Kent; our test-run of the Tower's Beacon-system cracked two suspicious transmissions; there's an IRA arms-deal going down in Northern Ireland, and the Garcia cartel is moving a cocaine shipment through Miami. Arthur and John are en route to the tanker via the Javelin-2, and Wally should be able to kick up a big enough breeze to keep that fire contained until Diana can help those workers re-direct the river through that part of the rainforest."
Clark nodded, as he headed into a nearby darkened alley…deactivating his image-inducer once he was out of sight, revealing his powerful frame. "Shayera, Krypto and I should be able to take care of things in Northern Ireland…" Clark replied.
"…leaving Ramon Garcia for myself and J'onn." Batman finished. "I'll meet J'onn there in the Javelin-1. Miami PD will have the transmission shortly."
"Understood, Black Knight. Boy Scout out." Clark answered, ending the transmission…before he shed his work clothes, revealing his red-and-blue uniform underneath…
…and as the people of New York hurried along with their business, they suddenly came to a stop as a red-and-blue streak shot across the sky seconds later, shaking the air as it flew.
It was time to get to work.
XXXXXXXXXavier Institute, Westchester, New York
The autumn air was crisp and cool as the afternoon sun shone over the Xavier Institute, newly rebuilt from the attack a few months previous, with building supplies still dotting the beautiful landscape of the front and back yards. Within the Institute, everything was quiet, as the students had gathered in the living room, watching the news, waiting for the special report to begin.
Scott "Cyclops" Summers, the 18-year-old leader of the X-Men, was sitting on the couch, in his usual blue jeans and brown sweater, his ruby-quartz shades over his eyes. Sitting next to him was his much-beloved girlfriend Jean Grey – who had recently given herself the codename "Phoenix" – also 18, in her usual light rose long-sleeved shirt and blue jeans, her emerald eyes closed contentedly as she leaned on Scott's shoulder, her ruby hair lightly brushed over her shoulder. "Hey, Kurt," Scott called out, "is Amanda and her family watching the news, too?"
Standing a few feet behind them, clad in light brown slacks and a white t-shirt was 17-year-old Kurt "Nightcrawler" Wagner, with his image-inducer switched off, in his true form, complete with blue fur, gold eyes, and tridactyl hands and feet, looked up from the phone, where he'd been talking to his girlfriend, Amanda. "Ja, zhey're vatching it, now." the German-born youth replied. He gulped. "'Mandy said zat her parents are still a bit nervous about her dating a mutant."
Jean smiled. "Don't worry, Kurt; the second they meet you, they'll love you!"
Kurt smiled. "Zhanks, Jean."
Sitting on the floor near the TV was 17-year-old Kitty "Shadowcat" Pryde, in her usual blue capris, white t-shirt and light pink sweater, her chestnut hair in its usual ponytail, her baby-blue eyes sparkling happily as she leaned back into the embrace of her boyfriend 18-year-old Lance "Avalanche" Alvers, in his usual black t-shirt, brown vest, and blue jeans. Lance smiled to himself, absently running a hand through his brown hair as he savoured having Kitty this close to him. Kitty's smile was interrupted by a worried frown. "Guys, I hope Clark doesn't miss this! I mean, he and the League pretty much saved Genosha! They all should get to see this!"
Chuckling, Lance answered, "Don't worry about Big Blue, Pretty Kitty; I mean, with those eyes and ears of his, he can see the whole thing from space!"
Kitty smiled. "True!" she agreed.
In the corner of the room, 17-year-old Rogue, in her usual short black skirt, black tank-top and semi-transparent green blouse, sat at the poker table across from her sort-of-boyfriend, 18-year-old, red-and-black-eyed Remy "Gambit" LeBeau, clad in his usual black t-shirt, black jeans, and brown trenchcoat.
Rogue's green eyes danced with merriment, brushing a strand of white-streaked auburn hair out of her eyes…before showing her cards. "Full House, Cajun."
Remy chuckled. "As always, chere, y' be more den a match fo' Remy."
In her seat next to the couch, 18-year-old Alison "Power Girl" Blaire sat with her guitar in her lap, clad in her pink tank-top and blue jeans, her long, strawberry-blonde hair tied in a ponytail. The young part-Kryptonian mutant's sapphire eyes narrowed in deep thought, as she absently strummed her guitar…before smiling to herself, and jotting a few music notes down on her incomplete sheet music, adding the next few notes to her latest song.
Just then, Evan "Spyke" Daniels, a 17-year-old African-American youth with cru-cut-short bleached hair and dark eyes, walked into the living room, clad in his usual light-brown khaki pants and white sleeveless t-shirt. "Is the news on, yet, guys?" he asked.
Jean smiled. "No, Evan; you didn't miss anything."
Sitting in the chair to the left of Scott and Jean was 17-year-old Wanda "Scarlet Witch" Maximoff, the newest addition to both the Institute and the X-Men team. Wanda was clad in her usual black leather pants and dark red vest, her favourite Egyptian ankh-pendant around her throat. Her blue eyes were lightly narrowed as she read her latest book on Wicca, pausing to brush a strand of her mid-length, red-tipped raven hair out of her eyes; some time after she'd formally joined the Institute, she'd decided to let her hair grow out, a bit.
Scattered about the room were the rest of the Institute's students, the New Mutants. Bobby "Iceman" Drake, in his blue t-shirt and jeans, and Jubilation "Jubilee," Lee, clad in her usual light mauve t-shirt, violet slacks, and light-yellow sweater, had both just walked in from the kitchen after getting a couple of sodas. Sensing that the drinks weren't quite cold enough, the 15-year-old sandy-blond-haired youth quickly assumed his frozen-form, and exhaled over both sodas, chilling them, before returning to normal, earning a giggle from the 15-year-old pyrotechnic.
Sitting on the edge of the stairs, in her blue jeans and dark-rose short-sleeved blouse, was 17-year-old Tabitha "Boom-Boom" Smith, her CD player on her lap as she listened to her favourite tunes…seconds before she got up, walking over to where one of their instructors, the blue-furred, ape-like Dr. Hank "Beast" McCoy, in his usual black sweater and brown slacks, was playing chest with the silver-coloured Mark, A.K.A. "Android," who was currently clad in a white t-shirt and blue jeans. "How's it going, Hank?" the blonde pyrokinetic inquired.
Hank sighed. "Not quite so well." he answered, as he moved a rook to take Mark's queen. "Now, believe that should be..!"
Mark smiled…before moving a knight to take the queen. "Checkmate." Mark said, in his soft, electronic voice.
Hank sighed. "That's five out of five games; far from my usual proficiency."
"Please note, Dr. McCoy, that it has taken me a progressively longer series of moves to achieve checkmate. You are improving."
Hank chuckled. "True, but I'm still no match for your brute-force."
Tabitha blinked. "Come again?"
"To solve new problems, computers utilize a process known as brute-force." Mark explained. "If a computer system does not inherently 'know' a given solution, it is programmed to try every possible solution until it finds the best outcome, given the parameters. Given current Earth-based computing technology, as problems become more complex, with more possible solutions, brute-force becomes increasingly more time-consuming, but eventual success is a mathematical certainty."
Hank chuckled. "Of course, with Mark's billions of nano-computers, calculating possible chess-moves is a cake-walk!"
Tabitha smiled. "Yeah, I guess so!"
By then, Ray "Berzerker" Crisp and Roberto "Sunspot" DeCosta, both 15 and clad in shorts and sleeveless t-shirts, walked into the Institute, having finished their basketball game. Seconds later, they were followed by numerous copies of 12-year-old, brown-haired, hazel-eyed Jamie "Multiple" Madrox, in his usual grey t-shirt and brown slacks, with one copy holding a frizbee. As Jamie's copies all recombined back into one Jamie, a reddish-brown-furred wolf walked in after him…before it quickly shifted into 15-year-old Rahne "Wolfsbane" Sinclair, in her usual brown khaki pants and green tank-top, her light-red hair tied in two short pigtails. Seconds later, they were followed by 15-year-old Sam "Cannonball" Guthrie, in his usual black t-shirt, blue jeans, and blue vest; the three of them had been playing catch, a few minutes previous, since the weather had been nice.
Outside the Institute, Ororo "Storm" Munroe knelt by her garden as she finished planting her flower-bulbs for next spring, clad in her simple gardening trousers and a white t-shirt, her long, cloud-white hair – a sharp contrast to her chocolate skin – tied back by a bandana. A few feet to her right was 15-year-old Amara "Magma" Aquila, helping her by pulling the few remaining weeds. Amara's long, dark chestnut hair, matching her tawny complexion, was tied back in a ponytail, keeping it out of her brown eyes as she dug out the few stubborn weeds with a trowel, her gardening trousers and green t-shirt growing thicker with dust as she helped her instructor.
In the living room, standing to the side, a few feet away from the students, Logan, or "Wolverine," leaned casually against a nearby wall, calmly sipping a beer. The Canadian-born mutant was in his usual faded jeans and white t-shirt, watching the TV with his usual semi-indifference. "Hey, Chuck." he called out. "It should be on in a few."
Smiling to himself, Professor Charles Xavier, the Headmaster of the Institute, in his usual blacks slacks, black long-sleeved shirt and brown sweater, rolled his wheelchair into the living room. "This will certainly be a momentous occasion," the bald telepath mused, "wouldn't you agree, Raven?"
Walking into the living room after Charles, one of the Institute's newest instructors – the other being elsewhere on 'business' – the former S.H.I.E.L.D. informant Raven "Mystique" Darkholme nodded in slightly-disbelieving agreement. The azure-skinned, red-haired, amber-eyed metamorph was clad in black slacks and a black tank-top, accentuating her lean frame. "One year ago, if anyone had told me that mutants would have their own nation, let alone that said country would be represented in the UN, I would have called them insane." Raven said.
Charles chuckled. "Yes, we've certainly come a fair way, these past few months."
"But not too far." Logan said. "Just take a look at those 'F.O.H.' bastards."
Scott sighed, nodding glumly. "Yeah." he agreed; it was a harsh fact that, despite their best efforts, along with those of the League, mutants were still viewed with hatred by some people.
'But not all people.' Jean telepathically interjected through their link. 'A lot of people have started accepting our presence, Slim – just as many as those who hate us.' She smiled. 'Between us and the League, with any luck, we can change even more people's minds.'
Scott smiled at that; over the past few months since the Justice League's inception, the X-Men had worked with them on numerous mutant-related crises. 'It's nice to know we're good for something.' he mentally quipped, earning a chuckle from Jean. Aloud, he added, "I hear we're expecting a few new students."
Jean nodded. "Yeah; I think they're coming later today." she answered. "Right, Professor?"
Charles nodded. "Yes, Jean; our new students will be arriving, later this afternoon." he said. "With any luck, Clark will have finished his daily patrols with the League and can join us in greeting them."
Lance grinned. "Yeah, they're probably gonna want to meet the 'Man of Tomorrow'."
Evan chuckled. "Gotta admit, that JJ guy coined a cool nickname for CK."
"Speaking of which, I was just saying that I hope Clark doesn't miss this." Kitty said, still a bit worried.
"Don't worry, Kitty." Ororo said, as she and Amara walked in, having caught the tail-end of the conversation. "I'm sure that Clark won't miss anything."
"Yeah!" Jamie agreed. "Clark and the League are probably just out catching a falling airplane, or something!"
Bobby chuckled. "Probably, squirt." he said.
Looking up from her book, Wanda smiled, and said, "Hey, Blondie, any news from the Boy Scout?"
Smiling back, Alison shook her head. "Sorry, guys; Clarkie's been incommunicado, all day."
Sam whistled. "They must be busy."
"Aye." Rahne agreed, in her Scottish lilt. "'Tis no small task, to monitor an entire planet for trouble."
"Isn't their new headquarters up-and-running, yet?" Jubilee asked.
"I'm not sure." Scott answered. "Last time I asked, they were just putting the finishing touches on it; it might be…"
Amara looked confused. "Could they not have simply used Clark's Fortress?" the Nova Roman girl inquired.
Alison shook her head. "No, 'Mara; the League wanted their HQ to be in neutral territory, to reflect their intention to help the entire world, and the Fortress is technically on Atlantis' turf." she explained. "They also didn't want to rely too much on Kryptonian technology, especially given what Clark said about Krypton's ancient law of non-interference." She smiled. "Clark and the League are trying to provide an example."
Suddenly, Alison's cell-phone started to ring, and she promptly answered it. "Hello?"
At the sound of her boyfriend's voice, Alison instantly smiled. "Clarkie! Hi, baby!" she exclaimed. "How are you?"
Remy chuckled. "Merde, dat homme got good ears." he quipped.
"Oh, I'm fine, taushi." Clark answered Alison. "Mr. Jameson just has me covering the arrival of the new Genoshan ambassador here at the UN Building; I'm on my way there, now."
Alison nodded; shortly after things had started to settle into something resembling a routine, Clark had approached the owner of the Daily Bugle newspaper, J. Jonah Jameson, asking to work part-time as a reporter with the paper, so that he could continue working in the field he had come to love, as well as gaining valuable experience for the dissertation he would likely have to write, this year. "That's great, tausha." Alison replied. "And what about your…other job?"
Clark chuckled. "So far today, the League and I have had to extinguish a forest-fire in Brazil, break up an arms-deal in Northern Ireland, rescue an oil-tanker in distress in the Pacific, and intercept a drug shipment coming through Miami, as well as that potential nuclear meltdown in Iran, a few days ago."
Alison laughed. "Sounds like you guys were busy!" she exclaimed.
"So, what have Clark and the League been up to?" Jamie inquired.
Alison smiled. "Oh…just a normal day."
Tabitha arched an eyebrow. "You do realize that Big Blue's concept of a 'normal day' could make most people run screaming from the room, right?"
At that, Clark chuckled on the phone. "Oh, and in case Tabitha asks, 'normal' isn't something I'd use to describe my day!"
Alison giggled. "No kidding!"
"Anyway, taushi, how's your new song coming?"
Alison smiled. "It's going fine, tausha; I was just putting the finishing touches on it." she replied. Her smile grew. "It may not be quite as big a hit as 'True Blue,' but I think it'll sound great!"
Wanda snorted. "Hey, it's gotta be a step up from Tolansky's 'midnight serenades'."
That earned a laugh from several of the New Mutants; over the past few weeks, one of their former enemies, Todd "Toad" Tolansky, had taken it upon himself to sneak onto the Institute grounds and sing love-songs to his 'Snookums'. "Oh, whatever, Wanda!" Jubilee laughed. "You know you loved it!"
Wanda simply lowered her gaze further into her book…hiding the very faint rosy tint that was creeping across her face. "Maybe – maybe – it was a sweet thought," she admitted, "but nobody likes being woken up in the middle of the night…especially not after one of Logan's Danger Room sessions."
Evan chuckled. "Can't argue with you there, Hex-Girl."
On the phone, Clark laughed. "Wanda's complaining about Todd's singing, again?"
"Yep." Alison agreed. "Hopefully, my new song won't be that bad."
Clark chuckled. "Taushi, any song from your voice sounds great."
Alison laughed. "Flatterer!"
"Query: when will the Genoshan ambassador be arriving?" Mark asked.
"He should be arriving at the airport fairly soon, Mark." Bobby answered.
"So, after you cover the Ambassador's arrival, do you have any plans?" Alison asked.
"Well, I'll still have to do one more patrol to do with Wally and J'onn." Clark answered. "And, after that, we had a little surprise for you guys."
Alison smiled. "Well, just don't forget that we're still expecting some new students today, baby; the Professor said that he'd like all of us to be there!"
"Oh, I haven't forgotten, taushi; I'll be there, don't worry!"
By then, the special news report had started, showing the image of an anchorwoman standing outside the UN Building, where a large crowd had gathered. "This is Leanne Mitchell with Channel Six News, reporting live from the UN Building in New York, where the new UN Ambassador to the newly-formed nation of Genosha is scheduled to arrive within the hour!"
"Hey, it's starting!" Roberto exclaimed.
"Ever since its discovery – and rescue by Superman and the Justice League – the previously all-mutant nation of Genosha has undergone a rapid face-lift." Leanne continued. "Several weeks after the Sentinel Incident, the country officially opened its borders to non-mutants as well as mutants. Several weeks after that, the country held its first free elections, before petitioning for recognition by the UN…and now, their Ambassador is set to arrive from the airport within the hour!"
Smiling, Alison said, "I guess you need to get to work, baby; I'd better let you go."
"Okay, Ali; I'll talk to you, soon." Clark answered. "Hey, maybe after we meet the new students, we could…" but he paused, his voice growing distant. "Uh-oh."
Alison knew that phrase all too well. "What's wrong?" she asked, concerned.
"No time to explain, taushi." Clark answered. "We've got trouble. I'll call back as soon as I can."
"Okay." Alison replied. "Just be careful, okay, Clarkie?"
"I will, Ali. Love you."
"Love you, too." Alison answered softly, before the call ended.
As Alison switched off her cell-phone, Rahne looked concerned. "What's wrong?" she inquired.
"Clark must have heard something." Alison replied.
"Uh, boy." Ray groaned. "So, what's the problem?"
"He didn't say." Alison replied…before her half-Kryptonian hearing started picking up what Clark must have heard; a transmission on an Ultra-High Frequency channel, detailing…
Alison's eyes went wide. "Oh, no…"
"What?" Kitty asked. "What's the matter, Ali?"
Her expression worried, Alison quickly told the others what she had picked up. When she had finished, the others looked similarly horrified. Scott's eyes narrowed behind his shades, as he instantly went into 'Fearless-Leader-mode'. "Alison, you're the fastest; you suit up and head to the city, and try and contact Clark and the others. X-Men, suit up and head to the Blackbird. Let's move!" Almost instantly, the X-Men headed out of the living room, to suit up and help their friends.
XXXXXXXXNew York City, New York
The afternoon sun was shining over New York City as the limousine carrying the Genoshan Ambassador drove through the city, heading for the United Nations Headquarters, flanked by four escort vehicles. Inside the limo, the Ambassador – Gregory Michaels, a 28-year-old Caucasian mutant with the ability to alter the pigment of his skin – sat, reviewing the numerous important documents that he would need, before nervously smoothing out the wrinkles in his navy business suit.
It had been a bit difficult, petitioning the UN for representation in the General Assembly, but finally, all of their hard work had paid off. With any luck, this would help mutant/human relations around the world…
Suddenly, an explosion rocked the road ahead of them, nearly sending Greg tumbling from his seat, his entire skin turning white with surprise as the limo and the escort-cars screeched to a stop, before he heard the sounds of gunshots…
"Out of the car, mutie!!!"
At that shout, the door was pulled open, and Greg was dragged roughly out of the vehicle by black-clad men armed with automatic and semi-automatic weapons – although one was carrying a grenade-launcher, which had clearly been the explosion he'd heard…
…but all of them were wearing black armbands with the letters 'F.O.H.' written on them in white.
Greg's eyes widened; these were the Friends of Humanity, the notorious anti-mutant, human-supremacist group. Looking around, Greg suppressed a gulp as he saw that the security detail – who'd only been armed with light weapons – had been rounded up by two dozen of the soldiers.
As his comrades dragged Greg out of the car, the lead soldier simply sneered at him…before slamming the butt of his rifle across Greg's face, sending him sprawling, dazed. After hitting the pavement, Greg could vaguely feel them pick him up, and load him into a vehicle…and then…oblivion.
"Mr. Ambassador, sir! Are you alright?"
When Greg came to, he was sitting on the cold concrete floor of an old warehouse, along with the dozen guards that had been assigned to him, their wrists bound, with numerous armed guards around them, all wearing 'F.O.H.' armbands. "Ugh…yes, I'm okay." Greg answered. "Where are we?"
"Not sure, sir." one security guard answered.
Greg's eyes narrowed worriedly. "And it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out why, does it?" he asked rhetorically.
"Not bad, mutie."
Turning, Greg spotted the lead soldier, flanked by two more. "Take him." he said to his comrades; promptly, the two armed thugs walked over, roughly picking Greg up and dragging him to another part of the warehouse…where a web-camera had been set up.
"So," Greg inquired, "any particular reason why you guys haven't killed me, given your 'policies' on mutants?"
He was answered with a rifle-butt to his side. "Today, mutie, we're going to send a message to your filthy kind, as well as any that side with you." the leader snapped.
As Greg was tossed in front of the web-cam, the leader nodded to the soldier operating it, telling him to start broadcasting; Greg suppressed another gulp – he knew this was going to be bad.
He was right.
"People of planet Earth," the leader said into the camera, "we are the Friends of Humanity. Our mission is to protect the human race – the decent, hard-working men and women that have made our people great – from the unnatural filth that currently infests our planet. We will not rest until every freak – mutant, alien, or otherwise – is purged from our world."
His eyes narrowed. "However, despite our efforts against the mutant menace, there are those more complacent, less willing to take a stand against this threat; bleeding-heart liberals who have not only allowed these muties to gain a foothold on our planet, but have actually given recognition to this 'freak-state'!"
"Well, we intend to correct that little mistake."
The leader turned, and aimed his revolver at Greg, whose eyes went wide. "Take a good look, muties of the world," he snarled, "because this is exactly what we plan to do to the rest of you! This is what we think of your 'freak-nation'! Your 'Ambassador' dies today; without question, without compromise!"
Turning back to the camera, the leader continued, "As for the fate of the traitors who tried to protect the mutie, that depends on the bleeding-heart species-traitors; in exchange for the safe return of these men, the U.S. government is to release an equal number of our brave fighters – who were rounded up by either the U.S.-backed 'Avengers' or by the 'League' of that God-damned alien – among them Dr. Bolivar Trask, the genius who developed our mighty defenders of humanity, the Sentinels. We will wait one hour; if the traitors do not comply by then…they will have condemned their lackeys to death."
The leader glared into the camera. "Any attempt to circumvent us will mean the immediate execution of every traitor we captured; their lives mean nothing to us – if you side with the enemy, as far as we're concerned, you're the same as they are!" His eyes narrowed hatefully. "Do you hear that, alien?! If you and your 'Justice League' try anything, every single one of them will be executed!"
With that, he turned to Greg, drawing his revolver and taking aim. "For humanity!!" he declared; as his finger tightened on the trigger, Greg closed his eyes…
…as he faintly heard a sonic-boom in the distance…
XXXXXXXXA few minutes earlier...
The skies over New York City's main sea-port were completely silent, the tranquility broken only by the intermittent cawing of seagulls…
Suddenly, a red-and-blue blur streaked across the sky, shaking the air as it passed by, causing the gulls to squawk in utter surprise, as the blur soared into New York City, heading for the old warehouse district…before it slowed to cruising speed…
…revealing a tall, powerfully built young man of 21, clad in a blue bodysuit, accentuating his muscular arms and legs, as well as his chiselled torso, with tight red shorts, red boots, a yellow belt, and a long, red cape, with the crest of a stylized 'S' – the crest of the Kryptonian House of El – emblazoned in red upon the chest of the suit, within a red-outlined yellow diamond. His sky-blue eyes were narrowed in determination, and his short, black hair was slick against his head, with only a few spiky tufts arcing down across his forehead, blown to the side as he soared across the city, his ultra-sensitive hearing tracking the live web-cast going out over the air-waves, now…
"Boy-Scout calling Javelin-1." Superman said into his earpiece, linked to his belt-buckle communicator. "I've got a fix on our perps; they're broadcasting from a warehouse on the west side."
"We see them." came Batman's voice over the air-waves. "The Javelin's sensors show about two-dozen heat-signatures, with about another dozen under guard."
"The hostages." Superman agreed, his eyes flashing electric-blue as he used his X-Ray vision, looking far ahead to see through the warehouse walls. "I see them. Anything we need to be careful of?"
"I've got about ten more in a nearby warehouse." Batman replied. "I'm also getting intermittent electromagnetic signals scattered around the holding area; they've littered explosives around the warehouse. They appear to have the same arming frequency…"
"Meaning that one trigger could detonate them all."
"Or disarm them." Batman added. "This type of signal looks like a remote-detonation rig; those few in the nearby warehouse could be a safeguard, in case something goes wrong. We could access it from the Javelin, but without the right code, we could just as easily set them off."
Superman smiled wryly. "So, I guess you and J'onn will be having a little chat with those guys."
"Wonder Woman and Flash are en route, Boy-Scout; if you three and the Pooch attack quickly enough, they'll be too disoriented to call for backup…"
"…giving you more time to shut off those bombs." Superman finished. "We're on it, Black Knight."
"Superman," came the calm voice of J'onn J'onzz, the Martian Manhunter, "I've just gotten a telepathic fix on our perpetrators: they have an escape route planned, with several vehicles waiting near the docks, along with several guards." J'onn paused. "They also plan to detonate the bombs even if their demands are met…with the other hostages inside."
Superman's eyes narrowed. "You copy that, Green Lantern?"
"Loud and clear, Blue-Boy. Hawkgirl, Aquaman and I will block off their escape route."
"Understood." Superman answered. "Okay, people, lives are at stake! Let's hit them hard and fast!" As he ended the transmission, he slowed his flight…allowing Krypto the Superdog – a sleek, white-furred dog with slightly floppy ears and a fairly bushy tail, with a high-tech collar around his throat, a red, nano-fiber cape extending back from the collar – to catch up with him, flying alongside his master. "You ready, boy?"
"Arf!" Krypto barked happily, always eager to help.
"Good to hear!" Superman said, smiling. His eyes narrowed as his eyes got a fix on the lead F.O.H. soldier…just about to shoot the Ambassador…
"Follow me, boy!" Superman instructed, as he accelerated to top speed, moving at Mach Five, soaring towards the warehouse, leaving a sonic boom in his wake…
The lead soldier's finger had just tightened on the trigger…the gun roaring as the bullet left the barrel, streaking towards the Ambassador…
Instantly, Superman burst through the warehouse's roof, darting in front of the Ambassador just before the bullet hit him, causing the bullet to bounce harmlessly off his chest.
As the lead soldier's eyes went wide in surprise, Superman's eyes narrowed, before he fired an invisible eye-ray, superheating the revolver, causing the soldier to howl in pain, dropping the weapon.
Snarling in anger, the two soldiers flanking the leader started to draw their weapons…but their aim was wrecked as Krypto flew in after his master, tackling into one soldier and sending him sprawling, before growling in feral fury as he pounced on the other, biting his arm, forcing him to drop his weapon.
Hearing the commotion, a half-dozen light-armed F.O.H. soldiers emerged from further into the warehouse. Before they could open fire and endanger the Ambassador, Superman put himself between them and the Ambassador, before he deeply inhaled…and unleashed a blast of his gale-force breath, sending all six of them sprawling. Seconds later, another dozen emerged, following their comrades, armed to the teeth, ready to open fire…
Just then, another blur smashed through the roof of the warehouse, before stopping to hover above the assembled soldiers, revealing itself as a fairly tall, elegant-yet-athletically-built young woman, with long ebony hair, and bright blue eyes, clad in an armoured garment that looked like a hybrid of plate armour and a one-piece swimsuit, the upper half coloured bright red, with a golden-metal 'W' crest across her ample chest, with the lower half a dark blue, dotted with white stars, a golden metal strip encircling her waist, joining the two halves. A single-star-design, golden tiara encircled her forehead, with silver metal armlets around her wrists, and simple sandals upon her feet, with a shining golden lasso clipped to her waist.
Her eyes narrowing, Wonder Woman drew her lasso, gave it a quick spin, and threw it, snagging one soldier, before spinning him around and tossing him into the others, sending six of them sprawling. The remaining six took aim at her, and opened fire; with precision timing, Wonder Woman blocked each and every shot with her armlets…
…and then, their guns were suddenly gone, as a crimson streak darted in, zipping among them at inconceivable speed, snatching their weapons away before they could even blink, before coming to a stop…revealing a young man of around 20, of a lean, athletic frame, clad in a full red bodysuit, with a red cowl hiding the upper part of his face, with twin lightning-bolts on the sides of the cowl, and a lightning-bolt crest upon the suit's chest.
The Flash grinned. "Sorry I'm late." he quipped. "There was a fire over in British Columbia, a minute ago; couple firefighters needed evacuating!"
Superman chuckled. "Better late than never."
Touching down, Wonder Woman saw the remaining six starting to recover from the shock of being disarmed. "Our friends here do not seem to have gotten the message."
Superman's eyes narrowed. "Well, then," he said, "let's explain it to them." With that, as the soldiers charged, he inhaled, and released a burst of absolute-zero-degree air from his lungs, aiming not at the soldiers, but at the floor just ahead of them, freezing it solid.
As the soldiers blindly rushed at them, they blundered onto the ice, starting to slip and slide wildly, going from a paramilitary force to a bunch of goofballs in trouble.
With their foes momentarily disabled, the three heroes and canine companion moved in to finish the job. As Superman closed on one soldier, the soldier took a swing at him…and howled in agony as his fist smacked harmlessly against Superman's invulnerable frame, before falling to the ground, moaning in agony. Spotting another F.O.H. goon coming at him, Superman merely flicked him in the chest with his finger…which was more than enough to send him flying, utterly dazed.
Taking advantage of Superman's attack, Flash darted towards the ice at high speed…and stopped running the instant his feet hit the ice, letting his momentum carry him through, as he zipped towards one soldier, before slamming him with a punch…sending him sprawling into the path of the goon that Superman had sent flying, causing them to crash into each other. Reaching the other side, Flash turned and darted back onto the ice, sliding straight for the two soldiers as they were trying to get up, his momentum turning him into a bowling-ball as he tackled into them, knocking them out as he slid to the other side, not a hair out of place.
As one soldier came at her, Wonder Woman blocked his initial swing, countering with a punch of her own, sending him flying into another, knocking them both down. As they started to get up, Wonder Woman drew her lasso and threw it, snagging them both, before pulling on the shining rope, yanking the two racist goons off of their feet and whirling them around, before giving her lasso the tiniest flick, causing it to release them, sending them flying to the side, landing hard, out cold, as the lasso-end floated lazily back into Wonder Woman's hand. Turning, she spotted one more soldier coming at her…but the soldier suddenly stopped dead in his tracks, howling in pain, before staggering away…revealing Krypto, holding the bitten-off seat of the soldier's pants in his mouth.
With the F.O.H. forces dispatched, Superman quickly moved to check on the Ambassador, helping him to his feet, easily snapping the plastic cord on his wrists. "Are you alright, Mr. Ambassador?"
"Ugh…yes, yes I'm fine." the Ambassador replied.
Flash whistled. "Well, you Genoshans really know how to throw a party!"
The Ambassador chuckled…before his eyes went wide. "My security detail is still being held nearby..!"
"We'll rescue them, Mr. Ambassador." Wonder Woman assured him. "You needn't worry…"
"You God-damn freaks…"
Turning, they all saw the lead soldier stagger to his feet next to the wrecked web-camera, holding his hand, burned from his gun. "We told you to stay away!!" he roared, before taking out a hand-held detonator trigger. "Well, now you'll see just how serious we are!!!"
And with that, before anyone could stop him, he thumbed down the trigger…
XXXXXXXXA few minutes earlier ...
"I don't like this, man…"
In an abandoned warehouse a few blocks away from where the majority of their squad was holding the mutie ambassador, the ten F.O.H. soldiers on stand-by could do little but wait. "What's to understand, Frank?" the soldier in charge grumbled. "We're just supposed to wait here in case something goes wrong, simple as that."
"Hey, I get that, chief." another soldier said. "It's just that…Sarge specifically told those 'Justice League' freaks to stay away…and with that alien's hearing, that sorta thing's practically an engraved invitation…"
"He's right, man; I just got out of prison, after that 'Bat-thing' threw me in!" another agreed. "And now we're practically telling those League-freaks where we are..!"
The first soldier smirked. "…and if they come, we blow 'em all to hell. Isn't that why you guys joined? Do you want to be pushed around by those freaks?" he said. "If we're lucky, we'll take most of 'em down with us; if not, we'll still be sending a message to all freaks – take down the big ones, and the fight goes out of the rest…"
Suddenly, the lights all went out, blanketing the entire warehouse in darkness.
"What the..?!" one soldier shouted.
"Everyone, cool it!" the lead soldier snapped. "It's just a power-surge; this warehouse is just old, that's all…"
But he was cut off as an overhead light fell from the ceiling, crashing onto the head of one soldier, knocking him out.
"Holy..!!" Frank cried.
The leader scowled. "It was just an accident, Frank…"
"No way was that an accident!!" Frank cried. "It's Him!!"
The leader sneered. "Who? The alien?"
"No…the Bat!!" Frank cried. "That lamp was aimed right at us, chief!! The Bat's here, and he's toyin' with us!!!"
At that, every other soldier went silent. The leader snarled; he had to squash this now. "Alright, that's enough!" he snapped. "If there's anything here, we'll take care of it...!"
His bold words turned into a scream of horror as an unseen line pulled tight around his feet, yanking him off the floor and pulling him up towards the shadowed rafters, out of sight. Instantly, the remaining eight soldiers turned their weapons up towards the ceiling, ready for an attack from above.
For several agonizingly long seconds, there was silence…and then, a shadow dropped towards them at terrible speed, landing hard at their feet.
It was their leader.
As the eight now-terrified soldiers pondered this dark omen, it was only out of the corner of their eyes that they saw the demonic shadow drop, landing without so much as a sound…but as they saw him, they all froze.
He was tall, all muscle, like some terrible hybrid of man and bat. His main body was grey, with a black bat-crest upon his chest, and a yellow belt – full of all sorts of nasty gadgets – around his waist. His hands were black, ending in terrible claws, and his boots were black, with a pair of black wings folded around him like a cloak. His head was the most terrifying of all: completely black, with spiky bat-like ears at the top, with the only trace of humanity being the human mouth and chin, jutting out like an afterthought…and his eyes…his eyes were a narrow, lidless, soulless pair of dead white orbs, glaring at them with nothing but a hunger for vengeance.
None of the soldiers dared to make a move against this demon…for there was no doubt in their minds that he was exactly that; he had come from hell…
…and he was going to take them back with him..!!
Seeing the F.O.H. soldiers freeze up at the sight of him, Batman narrowed his eyes, serving to terrify them even further…before he threw a razor-sharp Batarang with deadly accuracy; the bat-shaped boomerang whirled through the air, striking three soldiers in a perfect arc, causing them to drop their weapons, before whirling back to his hand. Sparing not even a second, Batman closed on the nearest soldier, slamming him with a punch to his solar plexus, doubling him over, before following with a knee to his face, dropping him like a sack of potatoes.
Batman then rolled towards another soldier, automatically rising into a fighting stance; to the soldier, frightened and hindered by the darkness, it would have appeared that he had just vanished and reappeared right in front of him. Before the soldier could react, Batman slammed the side of his abdomen with a hammer-fist strike, followed by a low-sweep kick, shattering his knee. The soldier howled in agony, but Batman silenced him with an elbow-strike to the face, followed by a back-fist to his temple, knocking him out.
As the soldier fell, Batman turned, his honed senses having picked up the desperate cry of a third soldier rushing at him, nearly overcome with fright, swinging his rifle-butt at him. Batman easily leaned away from the strike, before blocking the follow-up strike and driving his fist into the man's armpit, striking a nerve cluster and rendering the arm useless. As the soldier dropped his weapon, Batman grabbed him by the collar and, exactly as he'd planned, threw him towards a nearby wall.
As the soldier stumbled towards the wall, a muscular, green-skinned, semi-transparent arm phased itself through the wall to grab the soldier by the collar and yank him into the wall, knocking him out…seconds before a very tall, powerfully built, green-skinned, red-eyed humanoid being clad in blue shorts, blue boots, blue cross-belts and a blue cape walked through the wall, before becoming fully solid.
The Martian Manhunter's red eyes narrowed as another soldier ran at him, not moving an inch, as he simply altered the density of his body, becoming harder than the hardest stone; the soldier's punch connected solidly on his face…before he howled in agony, staggering back. Snarling, the soldier drew his revolver, taking aim; the Manhunter simply gestured at his foe, his eyes glowing bright white…as the revolver's barrel jammed. Before the soldier could recover from the shock, the Manhunter telekinetically grabbed him and pulled forward, where he slammed him with a punch, sending him flying.
Seeing two more soldiers closing on Batman, the Manhunter's eyes glowed white as he extended his hands towards them, clenched his fists, and quickly crossed them; the two thugs were suddenly levitated off their feet…before they slammed into each other, knocking each other out. Turning towards his teammate, Batman fixed him with a mildly annoyed glare, before turning to the last soldier, closing on him; the soldier blindly swung at him, but Batman blocked his punch, whirling his arm into a lock and smashing his elbow, before jabbing his thumb into a nerve cluster to the right of his throat, instantly knocking him out. With the immediate threats neutralized, Batman turned to the one dispatched thug that was regaining consciousness; it was time for a little chat.
As Frank staggered to his feet, his eyes widened in horror as he saw the Batman stalking towards him…and then, the Batman started to change; his hands turned into deadly, dripping claws, his eyes starting to glow a malevolent red, his mouth growing terrible fangs…
'He is a demon!!!' Frank mentally wailed…not even noticing the white glow of the Manhunter's eyes.
In seconds, the Bat-monster had closed on him, grabbing him by the collar and lifting him off of his feet with unholy strength. "Please, please, please don't hurt me!!!" Frank bawled.
The Batman's demonic eyes narrowed. "You weren't planning on sparing any of your prisoners!" he snarled, in a ground-glass-on-sandpaper voice, growling like a wind from hell. "Why should I spare YOU?!!"
Frank's eyes widened in horror; the Batman knew!! "I'll do whatever you want!!" Frank cried.
"Your friends set up bombs around this area, set to go off with one command!" the Bat-monster roared. "The disarming code has to be sent on a specific frequency; WHAT IS IT?!!"
Frank gulped. "I…I can't…"
"THEN WHAT USE ARE YOU TO ME?!!"
"It's 456 MHz!!" Frank wailed. "It's just a standard disarming command; any standard transmitter can send it! Send the command on that frequency, and the bombs will go dead! I SWEAR!!!"
Snarling, the Bat-monster simply slammed Frank against the ground, knocking him into sweet oblivion…but that was fine with him; anything to get away from the Batman.
His interrogation complete, Batman turned to the Manhunter. "You altered his perceptions."
"We needed him to be forthcoming." J'onn replied. "Since he was already terrified of you, I simply amplified his fears."
Batman's expression remained in its neutral semi-glare. "I could have handled those two."
J'onn chuckled. "I know." he said. His expression turned grave. "I will return to the Javelin, and broadcast the disarming signal."
Batman nodded. "I'll meet up with Superman, Wonder Woman, and Flash; follow us as soon as you can." With that, the two of them hurried off.
As he phased himself back through the walls, heading for the Javelin, J'onn's thoughts remained grave; he only hoped Aquaman, Green Lantern, and Hawkgirl were faring as well…
As the six F.O.H. soldiers stood guard around their three minivans at the docks, the mood was a tense one. "Hey, guys?" one called out, glancing towards the water. "I think I saw something, down there…"
Another soldier just sneered. "Again?" he mocked. "Jeez, man, that's the second or third time, just now! Thought you said you hadn't hit up before we started this operation!"
"I didn't, man! Something's down there!!"
A third soldier just shrugged. "That's what Mr. Creed gets for lettin' junkies join up." he muttered.
"Alright, can it, all of ya!" a fourth barked. "We've got to be on our toes for when the others give the order to pull out, 'cause as soon as they do, we're gonna light this place up..!"
Suddenly, the dock under their feet started to give way, collapsing into the water and taking one of their vehicles with it. Most of the six managed to scramble clear, but two were dunked into the sea.
"Dammit!" one soldier cursed. "Should've known better than to rendezvous here…"
The remaining four waited for their two comrades to surface…but they never did. "Hey, guys?" one called out. "You okay?
Only silence answered that call…seconds before the two soldiers were tossed right out of the water, sent sailing through the air by an unknown force, to land hard, right in front of them. The impact of landing knocked one out, but the other managed to retain consciousness. "I told you something was down there..!"
At that, something leapt out of the water, landing in a graceful crouch upon the docks, before standing up…revealing itself to be a tall, well-built young man, with green eyes, mid-length sandy-blond hair, and a thin goatee beard, clad in green pants and an orange vest.
Seeing the semi-incredulous expressions of the F.O.H. thugs, Aquaman smirked. "Sorry; pool's closed."
Snarling, the soldiers started to draw their weapons as one charged at Aquaman, who blocked his punch, before grabbing him and tossing him into three others, knocking him out and sending the other three sprawling. As the three goons started to get up, they were suddenly levitated into the air by a bright green energy-field, before they were slammed into the second van, knocking them out, as a tall, athletically built African-American man, with dark eyes glowing green, a bald head, and a thin beard framing his mouth, clad in a black bodysuit with shoulders trimmed in green, and the crest of a green lantern upon the chest, suspended in the air by the same green energy-field, emanating from the green ring upon his finger, floated into view.
With those three goons dispatched, Green Lantern turned his attention to the vehicle, before focusing, generating an energy-beam from his power-ring, which cleanly bisected the van, rendering it useless. Turning, he saw the first two goons, the ones Aquaman had dunked, recover and make a beeline for the third van, darting in and gunning the engine. Firing a beam from his ring, Green Lantern managed to blow out one of the van's tires as the van rounded a turn…but it wasn't enough to stop it. "Hawkgirl! Intercept!" Lantern called out.
As the last two soldiers drove off, they breathed a sigh of relief…which turned into a gasp of horror as they saw a winged silhouette diving out of the sky towards them, which revealed itself to be a fairly tall young woman of elegant-yet-athletic frame, with fairly long, red hair under a hawk-like helmet, and fierce green eyes, clad in a yellow tank-top, tight green pants, and military-style black boots, brandishing a large, silver-metal mace, crackling with energy…with a pair of large, graceful, white-grey-feathered birds' wings extending from her shoulder-blades.
As she dove at the van, Hawkgirl's eyes narrowed, before she flared her wings, slowing her descent, readying her mace…and with a fearsome war-cry, she smashed the Nth Metal weapon into the vehicle's hood, utterly demolishing the engine, bringing the van to a screeching halt. Touching down with avian grace, Hawkgirl readied herself as the last two thugs poured out of the van, drawing their weapons; flapping her wings, Hawkgirl flew over the two thugs, landing behind them, and unleashing a sweeping strike with her wings, slamming them into the van, knocking them out.
With the last two soldiers dispatched, Hawkgirl let out a relieved sigh, as she twisted the handle of her mace, partially retracting it, causing its crackling energy to dissipate. Seeing her two teammates walk over, Hawkgirl smiled. "All clear."
Green Lantern smiled. "Nice work, everyone."
Aquaman chuckled. "Well, seeing as how we haven't blown up, I'm guessing Bats and J'onn were successful."
Hawkgirl nodded. "We'd better rendezvous with Superman and the others; they might need backup."
"Agreed." Green Lantern said. "Let's move." With that, the three of them hurried off, to rejoin their comrades.
The lead soldier's eyes practically glowed with hate as he thumbed down the detonator-trigger…
…and nothing happened.
Superman couldn't help but chuckle as he saw the utterly comical expression on the soldier's face, as he thumbed down the trigger again, and again, but still with no result. "You didn't really think we'd be dumb enough to come in here without a plan, did you?"
At that, the lead thug's expression twisted in hateful rage, before he rushed at Superman…who caught his fist effortlessly, giving his wrist the tiniest flick, sending the soldier toppling heels-over-head, to land flat on his back, out cold.
"Well, that takes care of that." Flash said.
"Not quite." Wonder Woman corrected. "We still have to rescue the Ambassador's security detail."
"Agreed." Superman said. "Mr. Ambassador, you'll have to come with us, but stay back; we'll handle this." With that, he, Wonder Woman, Flash, and Krypto all hurried further into the warehouse, followed by the Ambassador.
Within seconds, they had reached the holding area for the security detail; as they entered, the six soldiers keeping the detail under guard all brought their weapons to bear on them…seconds before the shadowy figure of Batman crashed through a window, landing on his feet and letting a Batarang fly, knocking the weapons out of two soldiers' hands. Before the soldiers could react, the Martian Manhunter phased through a wall, telekinetically yanking the guns away from the other four. Seconds later, another window shattered as Hawkgirl dove through it, landing on her feet, as Green Lantern levitated himself and Aquaman through the window, touching down next to Hawkgirl. The soldiers were surrounded.
"Give yourselves up." Superman ordered. "Your explosives have been neutralized, and your getaway has been cut off; you've got nowhere to go." At that revelation, the soldiers momentarily glowered at them…before their shoulders slumped in resignation.
With the crisis averted, Superman let himself exhale in relief…until his ultra-sensitive hearing picked up something. "Behind us!!"
At once, the entire Justice League turned, to see one lone F.O.H. soldier – a kid, no older than 16 – holding a knife to the Ambassador's throat, while aiming a mortar-launcher at the rest of them. "Die, freaks!!" the kid shouted, tears of pure hate and rage in his eyes. "DIE!!!" And with that, he fired.
The instant the kid's finger pulled the trigger, the League all moved at once: Green Lantern raised an energy-barrier to protect both the security detail and the surrendered soldiers from the blast, while simultaneously covering his teammates; the Manhunter tried to telekinetically pull the knife away from the kid, as Flash raced towards him to get the Ambassador clear of him; Hawkgirl and Aquaman, shielded by Green Lantern, raced towards the kid, to tackle him once the Ambassador was clear, while Wonder Woman let her lasso fly to immobilize him; and Batman let a Batarang fly at the grenade, to knock it away, as Superman tried to get a fix on it with his eye-rays…but it was going to be close..!
Suddenly, Superman heard another sonic boom echo from outside the warehouse…and smiled to himself, before his eyes got a fix on the grenade, as he took the shot, his eye-rays striking the grenade just milliseconds after Batman's weapon had knocked it far enough to the side.
The grenade detonated as the eye-ray sliced through its detonator, sending a shockwave barrelling towards the League, which impacted harmlessly against Green Lantern's shield. As the shockwave swept towards the kid and the Ambassador, the youth's eyes widened, as he realized his mistake…
…seconds before a golden-energy barrier solidly encased him and his hostage, both protecting the two of them and immobilizing the Ambassador's assailant.
As the shockwave dissipated, the barrier kept the kid from escaping or trying to hurt the Ambassador long enough for the Manhunter to telekinetically disarm him and Flash to get the Ambassador clear of him. With the hostage safe, Hawkgirl and Aquaman quickly seized the youth, who was still too startled to resist; the kid's eyes momentarily clouded with rage…before he gave up.
Wonder Woman breathed a relieved sigh. "Thank Hera that no-one was hurt."
Superman nodded, smiling up at the shattered window. "We should thank someone else, too." he added. "Right, Power Girl?"
At that statement, Power Girl floated in through one of the shattered windows, in her uniform: a silvery bodysuit, with built-in not-too-high-heeled boots, with a thin strip missing from the suit's midsection, partially exposing her perfectly trim midriff, and the stylized 'P'-shaped crest of the House of Lir upon the suit's chest. Her shoulders were left bare, with a collar of the same silvery material around her throat, as a mid-length silver cape extended back from the collar. Upon her hands were long-sleeved silver gloves, with quartz stones embedded in the backs of the gloves.
Power Girl smiled a bit sheepishly. "At first, I wasn't sure if you guys were going to need any help," she admitted, "but then I just saw that guy threaten the Ambassador, and…"
Superman chuckled. "You don't need to explain, Power Girl." he replied. "We certainly appreciate the assist."
Green Lantern nodded. "Looked a bit hairy, for a second there; thought I might have to toss up another barrier to keep those two from getting hurt. Not bad."
By then, the Ambassador's security detail had picked up the weapons that the soldiers had dropped, and were keeping them trained on the F.O.H. thugs, in case they tried anything. "Thank you; all of you." the Ambassador said. "I can safely say that Genosha will be grateful for your actions…"
"Don't thank us just yet." Batman interjected, checking the radio built into his cowl. "The Tower's just intercepted another transmission; it sounds like the ones we've captured were supposed to have called in after executing the Ambassador…so another bunch is coming in hot."
Superman's eyes narrowed, as his hearing picked them up. "I can hear them; they're coming in from the west side."
"Great." Aquaman muttered. "And after our little rescue, they're gonna know something's up."
"Can we e-vac the Ambassador and his detail with the Javelin?" Superman asked.
"Not effectively." Batman answered. "The Javelin's a few meters away, and we've got thirty incoming, all heavily armed; they could do a lot of damage to the nearby area by trying to stop us."
Wonder Woman frowned. "Then we must fight."
Flash whistled. "Won't that be fun." he said.
Power Girl smiled knowingly. "I don't suppose you guys would mind a little backup?"
At that, Superman smiled at her…before he took out his belt-communicator. "Boy Scout calling Slim Shady; you guys there?"
"Slim Shady here, Big Blue; we're about a minute away from you," came Cyclops' reply over the radio, "but it sounds like you guys have things under control…"
"Don't exchange your tickets just yet, Cyke; there's an encore coming up." Superman said.
"They're coming at us through the west side of this sector; if we intercept them a few blocks from here, in the alleys, they won't be able to use their weapons as effectively." Batman stated.
Superman nodded. "You guys get that, Slim?"
"Loud and clear, Boy Scout; we'll set the Blackbird to auto-land and meet you there! Cyclops out!"
After ending the transmission, Superman clipped his communicator back on his belt. "Mr. Ambassador, our ship, the Javelin, is just a few blocks east of here – if we're not back within ten minutes, you and your detail should head to it and get on board. You'll be safe, there." At that, the Ambassador and his detail nodded, before they hurried off. With the Ambassador and his detail safely out of the way, the Justice League, as well as Power Girl and Krypto, hurried off, to intercept the F.O.H. thugs.
A few blocks away from the warehouse where the execution of the Genoshan Ambassador was to take place, several black vans pulled up silently, as thirty heavily armed men, all clad in black sneak-suits, silently emerged, before heading towards the warehouse, stealthily making their way through the back-alleys, not making a sound. The team handling the execution was now several minutes late for reporting in; under any other circumstances, that might not have raised any red flags…but when they were facing enemies that could move in faster than the speed of sound, a lot could happen in those few minutes…
"Anything we can help you guys with?"
The squad had just emerged into a more wide-open area when that voice startled them…seconds before Superman touched down in front of them, immediately flanked by Power Girl and the Superdog. "We've already taken care of your pals, a few blocks down." Superman continued. "The Ambassador is safe; sorry, but you guys have wasted your time."
At that, the rest of the Justice League promptly surrounded them: Wonder Woman and Hawkgirl touched down to their left; Batman silently dropped behind them while the Martian Manhunter passed through a wall next to them; and Flash zipped in to their right, stopping next to Green Lantern, as he levitated himself and Aquaman down from the rooftop.
"You guys should surrender, now." Flash quipped.
"Indeed." Wonder Woman added, her eyes narrowing. "Unlike you thugs, we prefer not to waste time."
The soldiers slowly backed up, remaining calm…before drawing their weapons, ready for a fight.
Power Girl sighed. "They never listen."
"Nope." Superman agreed. "Good thing we brought backup."
As one soldier took aim at the Kryptonian, a bright red beam of sheer force lanced in from above, blasting his automatic clear out of his hands. The soldiers all looked upwards…and found the X-Men, in their black uniforms – with the exception of Phoenix, who wore a green bodysuit, with gold-coloured gloves and shin-high boots, a golden sash around her waist, and the crest of a golden firebird upon her chest, as well as Scarlet Witch, who also wore a uniform of her own design: a dark blue bodysuit, with red boots equipped with shin-guards, red fingerless gloves, and red shoulder-pads, all under her scarlet trenchcoat – all staring down at them.
Cyclops smiled wryly, his hand near his visor, ready for a fast shot. "You guys sure you don't want to surrender?"
The soldiers quickly recovered from the surprise, bringing their automatics to bear on the X-Men and opening fire…only to have their bullets impact harmlessly against a barrier of psychic fire. Cyclops countered with another optic-blast, which was supplemented by a burst of gale-force breath from Superman; the combined attacks sent half the attack-force sprawling, giving Phoenix the opening she needed to levitate herself and the X-Men down from the rooftops.
As the X-Men touched down, the soldiers quickly recovered, not willing to go down without a fight. As two soldiers charged at her, Shadowcat simply grabbed them by their arms and phased them into the ground up to their necks, phasing herself out as Avalanche sent them flying into the air with a precisely-aimed tremor, where Green Lantern caught them with a force-field and slammed them into the ground, knocking them out.
Scarlet Witch remained calm as three soldiers closed on her, before she smiled slyly, snapping her fingers; instantly, a blue-black hex-field engulfed their weapons…before their ammo-clips suddenly fell out, as their weapons spontaneously backfired. The three thugs shouted and cursed in pain…not noticing the winged warrior that had landed behind them. Hawkgirl's fearsome war-cries filled the ears of the three as she sent one flying with a swing of her mace, before driving the handle of the weapon into the abdomen of the second, doubling him over as she kneed him in the face. As the third tried to back away, Hawkgirl simply slammed him with her wings, sending him sprawling and knocking him out.
Forming a bone-staff, Spyke held six soldiers at bay, slamming one in the temple, before striking the knee of a second, ducking under the slice of one that had drawn a knife, parrying it and knocking the blade away. "Yo, Speed-Demon! Think fast!" Spyke called out, tossing his spike-staff towards Flash.
Flash laughed. "My specialty!" he quipped, catching the weapon, before running at high speed towards Spyke's opponents; with a precisely-timed leap, Spyke flipped directly over Flash, landing behind him as he ran, letting the speedster clothesline his foes with the staff, sending three of them sailing into the air…
Emerging from a cloud of brimstone in mid-air, Nightcrawler booted one airborne thug, knocking him out, before 'porting away in another sulphurous cloud, striking a second with an aerial haymaker and 'porting away to grab the third and toss him into a nearby dumpster, before landing perfectly on his feet. "Zat's how ve took out zhe trash in zhe Munich Circus!" Nightcrawler declared, grinning.
As one thug swung at her, Rogue blocked the punch and twisted the goon's arm, before driving her fist into his shoulder, dislocating it, following with a knee-kick to his solar plexus, knocking him out. As the goon fell, another grabbed her from behind; managing to get her gloves off, Rogue reached for the thug, trying to drain him, but his suit didn't leave any skin exposed…
Looking ahead of her, Rogue managed to lean to the side…just enough so that the thug that Aquaman had just tossed crashed into her assailant, sending them both sprawling. "Need any help, Stripes?" Aquaman quipped.
Rogue half-frowned. "A little boost would be nahce." she replied. Nodding, Aquaman simply raised his hand, and high-fived her bare hand, allowing her to momentarily duplicate his powers. Smiling to herself from the boost in strength, Rogue saw her assailant recovering and charging at her, before she sent him flying with one punch. "Not bad, Yer Royal Hahness!"
Aquaman grinned. "Not too shabby, yourself."
Blocking the punch that his opponent had thrown, Batman twisted the soldier's wrist, before striking a nerve cluster in the thug's abdomen; the soldier's torso instantly went numb as he sagged towards the ground…where his face met the Dark Knight's knee, seconds before Batman's elbow drove itself into his back, knocking him out. Batman momentarily paused…before his fist snapped back, slamming into the face of the thug that had been trying to sneak up on him.
Turning, Batman readied a Batarang to take out the third thug that was closing on him…but a golden lasso snagged the soldier's weapon, yanking it out of his hands as Wonder Woman flew at him, sending him flying with a haymaker. As Wonder Woman paused, she gave him a knowing smile, to which Batman answered with an arched eyebrow…before he let his Batarang fly, disarming the soldier that had gotten behind her. In the nano-second before the Batarang returned to his hand, Batman formulated his next move; catching the Batarang, he instantly let it fly again…where it whirred past the soldier.
The thug smirked. "You missed."
Batman's eyes narrowed. "I don't miss." he growled.
"Neither do Gambit."
At that, the Batarang whirled from behind the soldier, burying itself at his feet…except now it possessed a faint glow. Seconds later, the Batarang exploded in a fairly impressive blast, knocking the soldier off his feet…and into striking distance of Gambit, who'd been waiting behind him; automatically, Gambit slammed the thug with his bo-staff, knocking him out. Retracting his staff, Gambit looked to Batman, who simply gave an imperceptible nod.
Raising a TK-barrier, Phoenix easily repelled the barrage of bullets that one thug fired at her, before sending a psychic fire-pulse at him, superheating his automatic and forcing him to drop it…seconds before the Martian Manhunter, his expression strained, rose up out of the ground behind him. Phoenix felt a twinge of guilt, as she remembered their Martian comrade's aversion to fire, but it was pushed aside as J'onn gestured to the thug, his eyes glowing white; the soldier suddenly began to scream, clutching his head, before the Manhunter simply gestured, sending him flying with a TK-pulse.
'Jean, to your left!' a voice cried from her subconscious; instantly, Phoenix turned to the two goons that had been closing on her, gesturing and causing their weapons to jam. The Manhunter followed up her attack by levitating the two into the air and slamming them into the ground, knocking them out.
Jean smiled. 'Thanks, J'onn.'
The Manhunter smiled back. 'My pleasure.'
Jean then turned her smile inwards, towards her subconscious namesake. 'You, too, Phoenix.'
Her alter lightly chuckled. 'Any time, Jeannie.'
As he sent three goons flying with a blast of gale-breath, Superman turned towards two more as they fired at him, their bullets bouncing harmlessly off his chest. Nodding to Power Girl, they both darted towards the soldiers at super-speed, easily sending them flying with a single punch each. As three more came at them, Superman's eyes narrowed. "Cyclops! Triple-team!" Superman shouted; Cyclops instantly understood, firing his optic-blasts as Superman and Power Girl fired their eye-rays with pin-point accuracy, blasting their weapons out of their hands. With the soldiers disarmed, Superman simply looked to Cyclops, who nodded; as Cyclops opened his visor a little wider, Superman unleashed a wide-field, lower-powered heat-ray – both beams combined to send the goons flying, to land hard, slightly singed.
As the last two soldiers backed up, Superman smiled knowingly. "Krypto?"
A feral growl came from behind the soldiers, who slowly turned…to see Krypto behind them, baring his fangs, growling menacingly.
Power Girl chuckled. "I'd surrender, if I were you!"
The soldiers made the smart choice; they threw down their arms.
Once all the soldiers were incapacitated, Flash let out a relieved sigh. "Please tell me that's the last of 'em."
Superman nodded. "I'm not hearing any more transmissions on UHF."
"Good." Avalanche muttered.
"We'd better round these guys up." Green Lantern said.
"I've sent a silent police-alarm to the NYPD; they'll be here in a few minutes." Batman stated.
"Then we'd best get our 'friends' here ready for their trip." Superman said. With that, the League and the X-Men began to round up the F.O.H. thugs, before the police arrived.
Between the League and the X-Men, it hadn't taken very long to deposit the mostly semi-conscious F.O.H. goons outside the warehouse. Shortly after they had rounded them all up, the police arrived; since most of the thugs were out cold, handing them over to the authorities had been simple, although a few – like the kid that had threatened the Ambassador – had protested quite loudly. Once the thugs were all in custody and the Ambassador and his detail safely on their way to the UN, the Justice League and the X-Men promptly withdrew, before any news crews could arrive.
With the crisis ended, both teams regrouped near the south-side dock, where the Blackbird's auto-landing system had set the stealth jet down…next to the dark aqua-coloured, sleek, high-tech aircraft, with a single pair of wings equipped with hover-jet-like fans, making it capable of – among other things – hovering in mid-air, a feat that not even the Blackbird was capable of.
As they all walked onto the dock, Spyke couldn't help but whistle as he saw the Javelin. "Nice ride." he said. "When did you guys get that?"
"A couple weeks back." Aquaman said. "It's been on the drawing board for a while; Bats came up with the idea."
Turning to Cyclops, Superman smiled. "Thanks for the assist, guys."
Cyclops smiled back. "Just doing our part."
Next to him, Phoenix nodded. "What are friends for?" Her expression turned guilty as she looked to J'onn. "Sorry about earlier, though."
"It's quite alright, Jean." J'onn answered. "I was not seriously affected."
Flash grinned. "Yeah, you guys sure helped…though we should've known at least one of you would show up." he quipped. "After all this time, Ali still follows Smallville around."
Power Girl half-frowned, before she stuck her tongue out at Flash. "Get bent, West." she sassed back.
Walking next to Rogue, Gambit turned a worried expression towards her. "Y' okay, chere?"
"Ah'm fahne, Cajun." Rogue answered. "Thirsty as hell, but fahne."
Aquaman chuckled sheepishly. 'Yeah, I'd been out of water for a while. My bad."
Wonder Woman frowned worriedly to herself. "But the sheer hatred of those villains…merciful Hera…"
"Ja." Nightcrawler agreed sadly.
"Especially that kid." Hawkgirl added.
Superman expression turned grim as he recalled that kid – that 16-year-old kid – being led away…
As the police escorted the last few F.O.H. thugs away, Superman saw that the last one was none other than the youth who'd threatened the Ambassador. As his gaze intersected Superman's, the youth's eyes narrowed. 'This isn't going to stop us, alien freak!!" he shouted. "We're not going to stop until every single MONSTER like you is DEAD!! No matter how many of us you freaks manage to take down, MORE will rise up!!"
His eyes welled with baleful tears as he finished his tirade. "You cut one of us down, and two more will..!!"
"Alright, that's enough!!" the officer in charge, an older policeman and veteran of the force, barked, silencing the kid. "Boys, get this punk out of here." With that, two policemen led the kid, still glaring balefully at Superman, into the police van…
"God…" Shadowcat murmured. "He could have gone to our school…"
Green Lantern shook his head. "Hitler Youth, all over again."
"It's the same old story." Aquaman said grimly. "Kid falls in with a bad crowd; crowd finds a scapegoat for all his problems; feeds the kid a 24-hour diet of propaganda, and presto: they've got themselves a brand-new convert."
Phoenix nodded sadly. "You'd think that, as a people, we'd know better, by now…"
Batman's eyes narrowed. "Did anyone notice the difference between the first group we took out and the ones we fought just then?"
Scarlet Witch arched an eyebrow. "Difference?"
"Yeah, now that you mention it." Flash said. "That first batch was made up of your regular, run-of-the-mill, racist-crap-spouting F.O.H. goons."
Green Lantern nodded. "But those other guys were professionals; quiet, cool-headed…Marine-quality."
"Exactly." Batman said. "And ever since Trask was captured, the F.O.H. have been severely short of funding…"
"…so they wouldn't have been able to afford that kind of backup." Superman finished.
Power Girl's eyes widened. "Could the F.O.H. have found a new backer?"
"Great." Spyke muttered.
"We're going to have to be careful." Cyclops said.
Superman nodded. "For now, we should do a sweep of New York."
"Agreed." Hawkgirl concurred. "The F.O.H. may still be in the area."
"We should be able to monitor the city from the Watchtower." J'onn stated. "If they send another transmission, we should be able to catch it."
Nightcrawler smiled. "So, your HQ is up-and-running?"
Superman chuckled. "You'll see." he said.
"So, who's on patrol?" Flash inquired.
Superman sighed. "I'd volunteer, but I need to cover the Ambassador's arrival at the UN; I miss that story, and it's my butt in the barrel…"
Power Girl smiled. "Krypto and I could cover for you." she offered. "We should be able to handle it." At that, Krypto barked in agreement.
Superman smiled. "Thanks, taushi."
"We should head back to the Institute." Cyclops said. "The Professor wanted us all to be there to greet our new students."
Avalanche chuckled. "Think you and your pals can make it, Big Blue?"
Superman smiled knowingly. "We'll manage." he replied. With that, the X-Men headed into the Blackbird, while the Justice League returned to the Javelin, minus Superman, Power Girl, and Krypto. As both vehicles took to the air, flying off in different directions, Superman and Power Girl spared each other one loving glance, before the two of them and their canine companion took to the air, flying further into New York City.
XXXXXXXXDaily Bugle, New York City
The main office of the Daily Bugle newspaper was abuzz with activity, as it always was, but after the reports of the attempt on the Genoshan Ambassador's life – and subsequent rescue by the Justice League and the X-Men – the hustle in the room was doubled.
"Dammit, where the hell is Kent?!" J. Jonah Jameson barked, his thin moustache twitching as he strode out of his office. "He should have been back here an hour ago! PARKER!!"
Sighing, 17-year-old Peter Parker looked up from his work-space. "Yes, Mr. Jameson?"
"Have you heard back from Kent? The Ambassador arrived at the UN an hour ago, so where the hell is he?!"
Peter shrugged. "Sorry, sir, but I haven't heard from him." he replied. "He's probably just putting his article together…"
Jonah scowled. "If we don't get that article soon, Parker, the Channel Six News will get the drop on us with their exclusive! If Kent doesn't get here with that article in ten seconds..!"
"Mr. Jameson!" came a slightly nervous shout as Clark Kent, in his usual work clothes, hurried into the main office. "I've got the article, sir!" Clark exclaimed. "I've got it right here – whoop!!"
Clark's exclamation was cut off as he tripped over a garbage can, falling flat on his face. As Clark picked himself up, Peter chuckled at his friend's goof-up…as well as the fact that it was staged.
Jonah frowned. "It's about time, Kent." he said. "Like I said, it had better be good..!"
"It is, sir." Clark babbled, taking several sheets of paper out of his knapsack. "I managed to get a statement from the Ambassador, plus I stuck around for the outcome of the UN Assembly; that's what took me so long, sir."
Jonah simply frowned as he took the article, before briefly reading it over…and slowly nodding. "Kent, between your tardiness and articles like this, I don't know whether to fire you or promote you."
Clark grinned sheepishly. "Just letting me keep my job is enough for me, sir."
"Good." Jonah said. "Just be on time, next time…and, for Pete's sake, watch where you're going; you're going to hurt yourself." With that, he turned and headed further into the office. "Okay, people, let's get a move on! We've got an article to run!"
Walking towards his pal, Peter grinned. "Tough day?"
Clark chuckled. "You could say that."
Peter chuckled, lowering his voice. "Yeah, that's usually the case, in our line of work." he said. "So, how's that little clubhouse you guys were building?"
Clark smiled. "It's just about done."
Peter nodded. "You know, MJ's been wondering if you and Ali wanted to double-date with her and I."
Clark frowned worriedly. "Pete, you didn't tell her about me, did you..?"
"Nah; I told you before, Clark – I wouldn't tell a soul…no matter how much she tries to drag it out of me."
"Good." Clark replied, his expression lightening. "I'll mention it to her; Ali will probably have to go incognito – if Alison Blaire was ever seen with a dork like Clark Kent, people might start asking questions."
Peter chuckled. "Yeah, plus the fact that MJ's Alison's biggest fan; if you two do decide to tag along with us, you might want to bring ear-plugs, big guy."
Clark lightly laughed. "Good to know, Pete." he replied. "Well, we'd better get back to work, before Mr. Jameson's good mood wears off." With that, the two of them headed to their respective desks. As Clark got started on his daily paperwork, his thoughts couldn't help but drift to Alison; he hoped she was okay with doing her patrol…
XXXXXXXXNew York City
It was mid-afternoon by the time Power Girl and Krypto finished their sweep of the city. After doing one last once-over of the west side, Power Girl stopped in mid-air, before switching on her communicator, and radioed in. "Nightingale calling Eye in the Sky; everything looks clear, down here. Do you guys see anything, up there?"
"Speed-Demon here, Ali." came Flash's voice over the radio. "We're not getting anything from up here, either. You and the Pooch can head on back."
"Copy that, Speed-Demon. Krypto and I are heading home. Nightingale out." Power Girl said, before ending the transmission. Turning to Krypto, Power Girl smiled. "Let's go home, okay, boy? The others are probably waiting for us." At that, Krypto barked in agreement, before the two of them flew off, heading towards the Institute.
As she flew, Power Girl allowed her thoughts to drift; the past few months had really been hectic – between rebuilding the Institute, dealing with the fact that their existence was no longer a secret and helping to resolve mutant-related crises, their lives had been turned upside-down. Still, she supposed that it could have been worse; thanks to their efforts and those of the Justice League, people were actually starting to look upon mutants with understanding…though they were still a ways off from being completely accepted.
Thoughts of her Clarkie's new team brought a smile to Power Girl's face. After they had formed their team, the League had been doing exactly what it had promised to do: try to make the world better for everyone, boldly flying in the face of a world still suspicious of super-humans. In spite of the odds against them, they had persevered.
Alison couldn't have been more proud of Clark. Not for the first time, she was glad to have agreed to fewer CD recordings and concerts in her new contract; it was worth it to help Superman and the League, from time to time. Still, once school started, tomorrow, she and the others wouldn't be able to help as much…
Power Girl sighed to herself as she thought of what going back to Bayville High would mean; that had been an issue of worry for most of her friends. It was still unknown whether or not they would be allowed to return to school, let alone what their reception would be; Professor Xavier had been conferring with the Bayville School Board over the past few weeks, arguing their case…but the decision had yet to be made.
Even so, many of the younger students were afraid to go back to school, not that Alison could blame them; ever since she'd returned to her music career, though her fans were still supportive of her, she'd lately been receiving a growing amount of hate-mail…specifically, mutant-related hate-mail. Although having detractors was practically part of the music business, this sudden upsurge had thrown her, at first. It was entirely possible that, if they went back to school, their reception would be a hundred times worse.
Suddenly, her hearing caught a faint sound, stirring Power Girl out of her thoughts; it was very faint…but it was unmistakable.
It was the sound of someone crying.
Her eyes narrowed worriedly, Power Girl motioned for Krypto to follow her, before flying down towards the sound. Following the sniffling to the roof of a skyscraper, Power Girl touched down, looking around…and found no-one there. "Hello?" Power Girl called out, as Krypto landed next to her. "Is anyone here?"
There was no answer.
"Weird." Power Girl said to herself. "I was sure I'd heard…" but she stopped as Krypto let out a soft growl; he wasn't convinced, yet. Putting his nose to the concrete, he began to walk around the rooftop, sniffing as he went. After about a minute, Krypto perked up, as if he'd gotten a scent, before walking towards a nearby corner…and started to softly growl. Power Girl's eyes narrowed warily…before they flashed electric-blue, her vision instantly turning to numerous hues of blue, silver and black, as she now saw the X-Ray end of the light-spectrum.
There, huddled fearfully as Krypto cornered her, was a young girl of about 15, somehow rendered invisible. "It's okay." Power Girl said softly. "We're not going to hurt you."
Slowly, the girl became visible, and Power Girl deactivated her X-Ray vision…and her eyes widened as she saw the shape the girl was in: she was a fair bit shorter than she was, and terribly thin, her pale skin smudged with dirt, her long, dark hair tangled and knotted, her dark eyes red from crying. She wore a ratty light-blue long-sleeved sweater…which looked more like a dingy grey colour from dirt, as well as a mid-length, tattered blue skirt, with worn-out sneakers on her feet.
"I'm…I'm sorry…" the girl whimpered, her eyes tearing up. "I…I didn't mean to hide…I just…" she sniffled, "…I just didn't think that…that someone like you would…would want to talk to a little nothing like me!!"
At that, the girl burst into tears, utterly heartbroken sobs racking her too-thin frame.
Alison felt horrible. "Oh, sweetie, don't cry!" she exclaimed, taking the girl's hands in her own. "I'm so sorry I didn't see you; you were just…"
"…invisible. I know." the girl whimpered. She sniffled miserably. "I know I'm a mutant…and so does my foster mom…" She sniffed again. "That's…that's why she kicked me out…a month ago…"
Alison's eyes widened in horror. "Oh my God…" she murmured.
The girl sniffled again. "I…I tried to hide it, I really did…" she whimpered. "I managed to keep my foster mom from finding out…but…but a month ago…I just got scared, and…and she saw me vanish…" Her eyes started to tear up, again. "She…she said that she wasn't going to put up with any freak, so…so out I went!"
Power Girl was nearly close to tears, herself, as Krypto let out a soft whine. "What…what's your name?" she asked softly.
The girl looked surprised, as if she'd never expected to be asked that. "T-Tina." she whimpered. "Tina Wilkinson."
Power Girl smiled weakly. "It's nice to meet you, Tina." she answered. "I'm…"
"I…I know who you are, Alison." Tina whimpered. "I…when I was still at my foster mom's, I watched your videos and concerts whenever I could." She managed to lightly smile. "Even though my foster mom hated it when I did, I still watched you."
Power Girl's smile grew. "I'm glad you did." she replied. Chuckling, she gestured to Krypto. "And this nosy fellow is Krypto."
Tina's eyes widened. "Is…is he..?"
"…Superman's dog?" Power Girl asked. "Yep."
Tina managed a weak smile. "H-Hi, Krypto." she stammered, holding out her hand. Krypto simply sniffed her hand, before circling her, giving her a once-over with his nose, stopping to rest in front of her hand…before he started to lick her fingers.
Power Girl chuckled. "As you can tell, he's a good judge of character." Her expression turned worried. "But Tina, what were you doing up here?"
Tina flinched. "I…I was…"
"It's okay, Tina; you can tell me."
Tina looked ready to cry again. "I'm…I'm all alone, Alison." she whimpered. "I…I never had any friends, and I don't have anywhere to go…so…" she sniffled again, "…so I just snuck up here…so that I could just jump off and get it over with…"
Alison was horrified. "Tina…"
"Nobody's going to miss me." Tina whimpered, her eyes starting to water. "Nobody's going to care if I just..!"
"I care, Tina." Power Girl said firmly.
"Why?!" Tina wailed miserably. "You're Alison Blaire! You're the Number One singer in the country! You're a superhero! You're friends with Superman!! Why would someone like you ever care about a little nothing like me..!"
"Don't say that." Alison said firmly, her own eyes starting to water. Moving closer to Tina, she hugged the crying girl. "Don't you ever say that about yourself, ever again." she repeated. "There is nothing wrong with you, Tina; your invisibility is a gift, and if your foster mother can't see that…then it's her loss. She's the one with the problem, not you." She hugged Tina a bit tighter. "Don't ever think that about yourself. Ever."
At the sudden wave of concern from someone she idolized, Tina simply broke down into heartbroken wails, and Power Girl simply let the poor, mistreated girl cry into her shoulder. After Tina's wails had subsided, Power Girl released her from her hug. "You said that you didn't have anywhere to go." Alison said. "Why don't you come back to the Xavier Institute with me?"
Tina froze. "R-Really?" she stammered.
Power Girl nodded. "The Institute is a safe haven for mutants, Tina; it's where we learn to better control our powers." She smiled. "If you don't want to join, at least stay and rest your head for a day; you likely need it." Smiling, Power Girl turned around. "Hop on."
Tina smiled weakly, before she hopped onto Power Girl's back piggyback-style; once her passenger was secure, Power Girl took to the sky, flying towards the Institute at a safe speed, followed by Krypto. As she flew, Power Girl concentrated hard, sending up the telepathic equivalent of a flare.
In seconds, her mental beacon was answered. 'What is it, Alison?'
'Professor, you'd better tell Hank to have a cot in the infirmary ready.' Power Girl replied. 'We're going to need it.' With that, she began to tell the Professor about her new friend as she flew.
In the lower levels of the Institute, just outside the infirmary, Scott and Jean, back in their street-clothes, waited outside, worried expressions on their faces; after Alison had brought in that girl – Tina – Hank had taken one look at the poor girl and rushed her to the infirmary. Scott couldn't blame him; she was in hard shape.
Currently, the Professor and Alison were in the infirmary with Hank as he did a full examination on Tina. After a few minutes, Alison, in her regular clothes, having changed after getting Tina to the infirmary, walked out. "How is she?" Scott asked.
Alison looked stricken. "Hank will know in a few minutes." she answered.
"God," Jean murmured, "foster parent or not, how could anyone do that?"
Scott frowned sadly. "The foster-child system is royally messed-up, Jean." he murmured, recalling his years in an orphanage before being found by the Professor. "Trust me on that one."
A minute later, the Professor and Hank emerged from the infirmary. "Is she okay?" Alison asked.
"As much as she can be." Hank said grimly. "My examination showed that Tina is severely malnourished, which is all-too-often the case with homeless people."
Jean looked stricken. "Will she be alright?"
"Physically, she should recover quickly." Professor Xavier said, his expression grim. "Psychologically, however…that is a different story."
Scott had a bad feeling about that. "What do you mean?"
"Based on what she told us, and on my examination," Hank said sadly, "Tina has been the victim of abuse, both physical and verbal. Her bruises may heal swiftly, but her psyche is very fragile..."
Alison felt her heart clench at that. The very second that Tina had opened up to her, Alison had seen a younger, post-Aunt-Embeth version of herself…except Tina's plight was far worse, and she'd had no-one to talk to…
"What can we do?" Alison asked.
"For the moment, all we can do is give Tina a shower, some fresh clothes, and a hot meal." Professor Xavier said. "Given her state, it would be best not to pressure her; however, if she does choose to remain at the Institute, Alison, I believe that it will be up to you to help her adjust."
Hank nodded. "She trusts you, Alison." he agreed. "Your helping her should encourage her to open up, so that we may further help her deal with her trauma."
Alison nodded. "I'd be glad to."
The Professor smiled at that. "We'll just let Tina get a shower, and then get her a decent meal; in the meantime, why don't you go greet our new students? They should be here, by now."
"We will, Professor." Scott replied. With that, the three of them headed to the elevator, taking it up to the main floor.
"So, how many new students are we expecting, again?" Alison inquired.
"Five." Jean answered. "Two of them are Warren and Alex."
Scott smiled at that. "Mr. and Mrs. Masters figured that, after what happened with the Sentinels, it would be good for Alex to learn to better control his powers."
Jean smiled, as well. "And where better for him to learn than the school that his big brother attends?"
Alison chuckled. "And Warren, he's that 'Angel' guy we helped last Christmas, right?"
"Right." Scott confirmed. "We're also expecting Sam's little sister, as well as your friend, Lila."
Alison smiled at that; after being outed as a mutant, she'd expected her friend Lila to ditch her…but Lila had confided that she, too, was a mutant: a teleporter. "And the fifth?"
"His name is Ron Williams." Jean said. "He's our age, and he used to go to school in New Jersey; he was a champion swimmer, before his X-Gene kicked in. His mutation is a bit more…obvious than most; his schoolmates were a bit less than understanding."
Alison frowned sadly at that. "Poor guy."
By then, the elevator had reached the main floor, and the three of them walked out. Coming into the main hall, they saw that the rest of the X-Men, the New Mutants, and Logan, Ororo and Mystique were there, along with the five new arrivals. The first one Scott saw was Alex, a 17-year-old young man, a few inches shorter than him, and of athletic frame, with mid-length blond hair, green eyes, and a tanned complexion, clad in blue jeans and a Hawaiian t-shirt. Alex's powers were similar to Scott's: he could fire high-powered force-pulses from his hands.
Warren Worthington III was also easy to identify: the 21-year-old Worthington heir was tall, and well-built, with short, light blond hair, and dark green eyes, clad in brown slacks and a fine grey sweater…specially tailored to accommodate the large pair of white-feathered, angelic-looking wings growing from his shoulder-blades.
Looking around, Scott then spotted Sam's younger sister, Paige Guthrie, standing next to her older brother, looking a bit nervous. The younger Guthrie was of average height for a 12-year-old, with long, reddish-blond hair, bright blue eyes, and light skin, clad in a white t-shirt, and a light pink skirt. From what the Professor had told them after picking up her X-Gene's activation on Cerebro, Paige had the unique ability to shed the outermost layer of her skin to expose an underlying epidermal layer of varying density, up to being as hard as diamond.
Turning, Scott easily recognized Ron Williams; as he'd implied, Ron was fairly hard to miss. Ron, 18, was tall, and well-built, clad in blue jeans and a white t-shirt…but what set him apart was the fact that he was covered in green scales from head to toe, with gill-slits on both sides of his neck, bright, yellow-green eyes, and short, red hair. Ironically, Ron's mutation only gave him an edge in his old sport: with his gills, he was completely amphibious, and his speed, strength, and senses were all considerably higher than a normal human's, only solidifying his advantage in the water. Ron's scales were also incredibly durable, comparable in strength to Kevlar, and capable of stopping bullets.
Spotting his brother, Alex smiled. "Hey, Scott!" he called out, running over.
Scott grinned. "So, you finally decided to sign up, Alex?" he quipped, giving his baby brother a quick hug. "Took you long enough!"
Alex laughed. "Hey, after seeing you guys on TV, Mom and Dad realized that maybe I ought to learn how to control these blasts!" he joked. "I just hope I don't miss any waves, in the meantime!"
Spotting Scott and Jean, Warren smiled, and walked over to them. "Nice to see you guys again." he greeted.
"You, too, Warren." Jean replied. "We're glad you decided to join!"
Warren's smile became a bit forced. "Actually, the decision wasn't completely mine." he admitted. "My parents were never particularly…happy about my 'frequent-flyer status,' and when mutants went public, my mother practically had a panic-attack every time she saw me flying. Eventually, my father decided to pass the buck to Professor Xavier, despite the fact that I've been helping to run Worthington Enterprises for the past few years quite effectively."
Alex winced. "Ouch. Sorry to hear that, dude."
Warren shrugged, before he chuckled. "My father actually offered the Professor quite a tidy sum to 'take me off their hands,' but the Professor said that the choice was mine." He smiled. "Naturally, I accepted, provided that my father allowed me to retain a position as an executive consultant."
Alison chuckled. "And your dad agreed?"
"What could he do? He couldn't fire me; not and risk a corporate scandal, anyway."
Standing next to her brother, Paige suppressed a nervous gulp. "Sam, Ah…Ah don't know about this…"
Sam chuckled, placing a comforting hand on his sibling's shoulder. "You'll be fahne, Paige; don't worry." he assured her.
Paige looked stricken. "But…but what if Ah don't fit in?"
Sam smiled as Mark walked over, causing his sister's eyes to widen in amazement. "Hey, Mark." Sam replied. "This is my little sister, Paige; Paige, this is Mark."
Mark smiled pleasantly. "Greetings, Paige Guthrie."
Paige was momentarily speechless. "You're…you're a machine??"
"I am a nano-construct consisting of numerous microscopic repair-class nanobots of Kryptonian design; my initial designation was Brainiac Emulator unit Mark V." Mark answered. "Following my landing on Earth's moon, and after encountering Kal-El and the X-Men, I disregarded my initial directives, and repurposed myself as a student of the Institute, giving myself the designation you now know."
Sam grinned. "Paige, not only have we got twenty-plus mutants living under one roof, we've got a robot trying to become human, a man from another galaxy, plus another alien as an instructor! You'll fit right in, around here!"
At that, Paige lightly smiled, before looking puzzled. "But…who's this 'Kal-El'??"
Sam chuckled. "You'll see, Paige. You'll see."
Noticing that Ron had been keeping back from the others, Kurt walked over to him, smiling pleasantly. "It's Ron, right?"
Turning to him, Ron arched an eyebrow. "Yeah."
"Kurt Wagner." Kurt greeted, extending his hand. Ron looked at his hand for a second…before half-smiling, and shaking it. "So, vat do you zhink of zhe Institute, so far?"
Ron looked around. "Well, since nobody's run screaming at the sight of me, I'd say it's a step up from my last school."
Kurt chuckled. "Ja, I guess after living vith a couple of blue guys, nozhing shocks us, anymore!"
Ron chuckled. "Hey, don't get me wrong; my powers are cool and all." he said. "I swim better than I ever did, and these scales are like my own personal flak-jacket, but…"
"…it sucks zat everyone judges you by zhe first glance." Kurt finished. "You don't need to explain it to me, mein freund."
Ron smiled. "Yeah, that pretty much sucks out loud."
Kurt nodded. "Vell, you don't need to vorry about zhat vith us."
Ron's smile grew. "Good to hear."
Alison smiled as she spotted her friend; Lila Cheney, 17, was around her height, and of slender frame, with long, ebony hair, fair skin, and dark eyes, clad in a light green tank-top and black pants. "Lila!" Alison called back, moving to greet her friend.
"Hey, girl!" Lila exclaimed, giving her a quick hug. "Oh, it's great to see you!"
"LILA CHENEY?!" came Jubilee's exclamation, as the younger girl zipped over. "O-Oh my gosh, I can't believe you're here!! It's so great to meet you!!"
Lila managed a slightly embarrassed smile. "Thanks!" she replied, before glancing to Alison. "I guess this was the kinda reception you got, right?"
Alison chuckled. "Yeah, pretty much."
By the time that everyone had introduced themselves, Hank and the Professor had returned from the lower levels. "Welcome, everyone." Professor Xavier greeted the new students, smiling warmly. "I am Charles Xavier, the Headmaster of the Institute, and I would like to say, on behalf of both myself and my students that we are very glad to have you all here."
Lance chuckled. "Any word back from Big Blue, yet, Professor?" he inquired.
Kitty giggled. "Yeah; I'm sure our new friends will want to meet him!"
The Professor smiled. "He should be arriving shortly, Kitty. In the meantime, why don't you all help our new students get settled in?" With that, the X-Men and the New Mutants all led their new friends to the upper levels, where they would be staying.
As they walked, Ron chuckled. "So, is this 'Big Blue' guy who I think he is?"
Tabitha smiled. "Yeah, pretty much."
Paige looked nervous at that. "S-Superman is coming here?"
"Yeah, and wait 'till you guys meet him!" Jamie exclaimed. "He's so awesome! He can catch a bullet in his hand! He can blast meteors clear out of the sky! He and the League are the coolest!"
Wanda chuckled. "As you can see, we've more or less got a one-man 'Justice League Fan Club,' around here." she teased.
Alex chuckled. "Yeah, we kinda figured."
Smiling, Lila turned to Alison. "For the record, Ali, when Super-Hottie gets here, if I start gushing, please smack me in the back of the head."
Alison lightly smiled, though the thought of her friend gushing over her man was a little unsettling. "I'll keep that in mind."
Jubilee giggled. "Don't gush too much, Lila; Ali might get jealous!" she teased.
Lila laughed. "Why? Ali's got this wonderful 'Kal' guy, last I checked!" she exclaimed…before she paused. "Speaking of which, where is he? I thought you said that he comes here, too."
Alison paused. "Yeah, he does."
Kitty chuckled. "Ali, you didn't tell her?"
Lila blinked. "Tell me what?"
Alison just smiled sheepishly.
Lila froze in understanding. "No." she murmured, a smile growing on her face. "Ali…you are not serious!!"
Alison chuckled. "Afraid so."
"You're JOKING!" Lila all but squealed. "Superman is Kal?! God, Ali, why didn't you TELL me?!"
Alison laughed. "Would you have believed me?"
Lila chuckled. "Point taken." she conceded. "But damn, girl! You hit the jackpot!"
Alison finally allowed herself to smile dreamily. "Tell me about it."
Within a few minutes, they had reached the wing of the Institute where the bunks were, expanded since the attack, to accommodate the new arrivals. Upon reaching it, Scott quickly informed them of the bunking arrangement that the Professor had worked out: Remy and Warren would be sharing a room; Alex would share a room with his brother; Paige would bunk with Jubilee; Kurt and Ron would share a room; Lila and Alison would be sharing a room; Evan and Bobby would be sharing a room; Tabitha and Amara would share; to Rogue's mild chagrin, she and Kitty were still roommates; Sam, Ray, and Roberto would share a larger room; Rahne and Wanda would be roommates; and Jean and Kal each had their own rooms, due to the fact that, since she'd reconciled with Phoenix, Jean's telekinetic abilities had increased substantially, causing her to levitate things in her sleep, making it mildly hazardous to a potential roommate until she could completely adjust to her increase in power. As for Kal's room, due to his duties with the League, he was technically 'on-the-job' 24 hours a day; if he got a call from his teammates in the middle of the night, he had to be ready to go at a moment's notice…causing anyone in the same room as him to be woken up by the ensuing sonic boom of his departure.
The bunking arrangement had never really been an issue of protest to anyone in the Institute; if anything, Alison was glad that her tausha had his own room…especially since their relationship had 'matured.'
Shortly after returning to the Institute from Clark's Fortress, a few months previous, she and Clark, as well as Scott and Jean, had told the Professor about their respective decisions; thankfully, their mentor had been understanding about the two young couples – as long as they were safe, and didn't let it affect their duties to the team, he was happy for them…although he did require them to have a little 'chat' with Logan about 'the facts of life.'
Alison shuddered at that memory.
Before long, the new arrivals had settled in, and the entire group had headed back downstairs. "So, roomie," Lila said, smiling at Alison, "when do I get to meet your Man of Steel?"
Alison chuckled. "Soon, Lil; soon." she answered. Her expression turned serious. "But you can't tell anyone about the two of us, okay?" she asked.
Lila nodded. "Don't worry, Ali; you get pestered by the media enough. I won't blab." she promised. Giggling, she added, "God, Paris will totally hate you!"
Alison rolled her eyes. "Like I'll lose sleep over that."
'Alison,' came the Professor's powerful mental voice, 'Tina is out of her shower, and she's getting a snack in the kitchen. Would you please check on her?'
'Sure, Professor.' Alison thought back. Smiling sheepishly at her friend, Alison said, "Lil, I'll just be right back, okay?" Lila simply nodded, and Alison headed to the kitchen, to check on Tina.
Walking into the kitchen, Alison couldn't help but smile as she saw Tina; after getting a shower, the younger girl looked considerably better. Tina had exchanged her ragged clothes for a light pink t-shirt and a pair of blue jeans, and was happily sipping a cup of soup that Hank had likely prepared for her. Sitting on the floor next to her was Krypto, who panted happily as Tina scratched his ears every so often.
Seeing Alison walk in, Tina weakly smiled. "H-Hi, Alison." she murmured.
"Hey." Alison greeted gently. "Feel any better?"
Tina nodded enthusiastically. "It's been ages since I've had a shower," she said, "and this soup is so good!" Her eyes started to water a bit. "Th-Thank you…"
Alison smiled. "Oh, sweetie, it's the least we could do." she answered. "So, what do you think of the Institute?"
Tina looked around. "It's…it's so nice, here, and everybody was so nice to me; I-I thought that big blue guy…"
"O-Oh, right, Hank." Tina corrected herself. "I thought he was so scary, but he was so nice…"
Alison chuckled. "Yeah, Hank's just a big teddy-bear under that lab-coat of his." she agreed. "Would you like to stay?"
Tina froze. "I…I don't know…" she murmured. "I…I barely have any control over my powers…t-that's why I got kicked out…"
"Tina, that's exactly why we're all at the Institute." Alison said. "We came here to learn to better control our abilities; we can help you…"
"But what if I mess up?!" Tina wailed. "I-I can't compete with any of you!! W-What if I'm not good enough..?!"
At that, Alison placed a reassuring hand over Tina's. "Tina, let me tell you about someone I knew growing up." she said. "He had all kinds of amazing powers…but no clue how to control them; he goofed up with them left and right."
Tina blinked. "Really?"
Alison nodded. "Despite everything, though, he didn't give up, and he slowly started to control them better…after lots of practice, and just as many mistakes." She looked Tina in the eye. "We've all had goof-ups with our powers, Tina…and we learned, just like you can."
Tina gulped. "But what if I can't?!"
"You can, Tina." Alison assured her. "Just as long as you don't give up, we won't give up on you."
Tina still looked nervous. "I…I don't know…"
Alison lightly smiled. "Okay, Tina. You don't have to decide, just yet." she said. "In the meantime, do you want to meet some of the others?"
Tina gulped. "Um…okay." she murmured. Smiling, Alison stood up, and led her new friend out of the kitchen, as Krypto followed them.
Stepping into the main hall, where everyone had gathered again, Alison said, "Everyone, I'd like you to meet my friend, Tina; Tina, everyone."
Tina had promptly hidden behind Alison at being introduced, but she managed to peek out from behind her enough to shyly wave. "H-Hi…"
Kitty smiled, and walked over to Tina. "Hi, Tina!" she greeted. "I'm Kitty; it's nice to meet you!"
Tina lightly smiled. "N-Nice to meet you, too…"
Taking Kitty's cue, the other students echoed similar greetings to their unexpected guest. Once the others had finished, Alison smiled. "See, Tina?" she said. "You'd fit right in, around here!"
'Everyone, would you please join us outside?' came the Professor's mental voice. 'Our guests will be here, shortly.'
The psychic instruction caused the new students to jump. "Whoa!" Alex exclaimed.
Warren looked fairly surprised. "I'd heard he could do that…"
"Yeah, that takes some getting used to." Lance said. With that, the entire Institute student body headed out into the front yard…just in time to see Superman and the Javelin-1 touch down.
Remy chuckled. "Remy got t' 'and it t' de homme: 'e know 'ow t' make an entrance."
As Flash and the Martian Manhunter disembarked from the Javelin, Superman smiled at his friends, along with the new arrivals. "Hey, guys." he greeted.
"Hey, Kal." Scott replied.
J'onn smiled pleasantly. "I trust that the new students have made themselves at home?"
Evan grinned. "Yeah, we managed to find a spot for 'em." he quipped.
Noting the amazed expressions on the faces of the new students – even Alex and Warren, who'd met Superman before – Flash shook his head. "Sheesh! You'd think these guys had never seen a high-tech stealth-jet, before!"
Ron recovered first, smiling wryly. "No offence, Speedy, but seeing the result of a stealth bomber's drunken fling with a stunt-jet isn't exactly part of anyone's usual daily activity."
Flash laughed at that. "Oh, yeah. They'll fit right in!"
Staring at Superman, Lila softly squealed, "Oh my God, he is off-the-charts! Ali, you lucky, lucky girl!"
Alison suppressed a light blush. "Lila, you do know that he probably heard you." she said, as she noticed the slightly amused expression on her tausha's face, which became a loving smile as his gaze intersected hers.
Superman smiled at the newcomers. "Welcome to the Institute." he said kindly. "It's good to meet all of you."
"So, big guy," Alex said, "what's the occasion?"
"Over the past few months, between our missions around the world, we've been building our own headquarters." Superman answered. "As of today, we'd finished construction on it, and, since we've all worked together on a few occasions, the League and I wanted to invite all of you to be there when we bring it online!"
Jean smiled. "We'd love to!" she exclaimed. "Professor?"
Professor Xavier smiled, as well. "We'd be honoured to join all of you for this occasion, Superman." he agreed. "I trust that there are no objections?"
No-one objected, not even Tina, who'd promptly hidden herself behind Alison.
Superman smiled at that. "Well, then, if you'd all like to hop aboard the Javelin, we'll get underway!" he said. With that, the X-Men and New Mutants, along with the Professor, Ororo, Logan, Hank, Mystique, and Krypto, walked onto the Javelin, followed by Superman, J'onn, and Flash. As Superman and his two teammates sat down in the cockpit, strapping into their seats, the Javelin's hatch sealed shut, before the jet hovered into the air, and took off into the sky.
As the Javelin flew, Warren spoke up. "So, any idea on where this 'headquarters' is located?"
The X-Men smiled knowingly. "You'll see." Scott said.
Paige blinked. "Sam?" she asked. "Do you know?"
Sam chuckled. "Superman mentioned where he and the League were building their HQ a while back, Paige." he admitted. "We almost didn't believe him, at first!"
Tabitha laughed. "Yeah! I mean, who'd think to have their home base there??"
Wanda nodded, smiling. "Only they could be nutty enough to do something like that." she added. Laughing, she finished, "And only Boy Scout could think of it in the first place!"
From the cockpit, Superman laughed. "Yeah, 'sis', I guess it is a bit nuts!"
Ron arched an eyebrow. "Okay, I'll bite. Where is it?"
"Yeah, bro! Spill!" Alex said.
Scott chuckled. "It's kinda something you need to see to believe, Alex."
"Hang on." J'onn said. "We're altering course." At that, the trajectory of the Javelin promptly changed…heading straight up.
Lila looked stricken. "Uh…okay, I'm pretty sure that this is not normal!" she exclaimed.
"Relax, Lil." Alison assured her friend. "Like we told you: their HQ is somewhere…different." Then, noting Tina's frightened expression, she flashed her a reassuring smile. "We should be there, soon."
After a few minutes, the Javelin started to shake. Rogue scowled. "Gawd, who's drahvin' up there?!" she muttered.
Flash grinned. "Relax, Stripes; that's just us clearing Earth's gravity-well."
"Earth's gravity-well??" Alex exclaimed. "But…but that means..!"
Suddenly, the turbulence stopped, as the blue of the sky outside grew darker…before becoming black, dotted with stars…with the blue Earth far below them.
Paige's eyes went wide. "Oh…oh mah Gawd…we're…we're in outer space…"
Sam chuckled. "Told ya you wouldn't believe it."
"So, where is it?" Kitty asked.
"Ja, Big Blue; ve vant to see vat all zhe fuss vas about!"
Chuckling, Superman said, "We're already here, guys!" At that, everyone unbuckled from their seats, suspended in zero gravity, before looking out through the Javelin's windshield…and saw it.
There, dead ahead of them, was a massive, white-metal, cylindrical space-station, slowly rotating on its central axis, which was sufficient to generate its own gravity, with two 'wings' on its sides: docking ports. The station was mostly dark, likely due to the fact that it had only recently been completed. The top and bottom sections of the station were flat, dotted with numerous high-tech-looking sensors, no doubt for intercepting emergency transmissions across the globe.
Superman smiled. "Everyone," he said, "welcome to our headquarters: the Justice League Watchtower."
Everyone was momentarily struck speechless at the sight. "Whoa…" Evan murmured.
Logan snorted. "Not bad, Flyboy." he said. "Not sure how you managed to put it together under Fury's nose, but not bad."
Flash chuckled. "Wasn't easy!"
"The fact that the Watchtower has, until now, operated solely on minimum power, has helped to conceal it." J'onn added.
Superman nodded. "Hopefully, when we bring it online, there won't be too much of a fuss."
Noticing Paige's expression, Jamie smiled. "See?" he said. "Told you they were the coolest!"
Within minutes, the Javelin had docked with the Watchtower, and everyone had disembarked, emerging into the darkened hallways of the Tower, lit only by emergency lights. Superman, Flash, and J'onn led them through the hallways, and into a much larger room, where the other five members of the League were waiting, with numerous computer consoles, only a few of which were online, as well as a large, glass window overlooking the entire planet. Seeing the others enter, Wonder Woman smiled in greeting. "It's good to see all of you." she said. "I trust that your passage was safe?"
The Professor smiled, nodding. "Very much so." he answered. "And we must say that your 'Watchtower' is quite impressive."
Aquaman chuckled. "Provided we've gotten all the bugs out, this place could be pretty home-like."
"Where exactly are we?" Jean asked.
"The Monitor Womb." Shayera replied. "It's the 'nerve center' of the Watchtower; all the Tower's systems are routed through here, as well as sensor input and communications."
Green Lantern nodded. "If need be, one person can monitor everything from this room and relay information to the others on the planet."
"Impressive." Ororo said.
Mystique had to nod in agreement, before her expression turned mildly concerned. "You said that no-one has noticed this place before due to it being in low-power mode." she observed. "Once you power it up, that could very well change…and I'm having trouble seeing Nick Fury being supportive of it."
Kurt lightly smiled. "Just give zhe General a chance, Mutter." he said. "After everything zat's happened, he couldn't zhink zat zhe League means any harm!"
Mystique's expression lightened. "I hope not, Kurt. I hope not."
The entire time, Batman had kept back from the conversation, working at one of the computer terminals. Walking over to his teammate, Superman asked, "Everything okay?"
Batman nodded. "Just putting the final programming into Beacon; once it's done, we'll run one last full diagnostic."
Alison blinked. "'Beacon'?"
"The Watchtower's operating system." Superman explained. "Once the Tower's up-and-running, Beacon will alert us any time it detects an emergency. It also regulates all the Tower's systems, as well as any system connected to the Tower, including the Javelins."
"Javelins??" Warren said. "As in, more than one?"
"Yep." Flash said. "We've got six of 'em."
Superman nodded. "And once Beacon's online, it can remote-fly any of them to any location we need." he added. Chuckling, he finished, "We owe its design to Batman, here."
"I based it on the Bat-Wave system I use in Gotham." Batman replied simply, as he finished entering commands into the computer. "We're ready."
Superman nodded, before moving to an adjacent terminal, as J'onn, Green Lantern, Flash, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Hawkgirl all did the same. "Initiating full system diagnostic." Superman said. "Life-support is in the green."
"Main power is green." Aquaman said. "Central core is stable."
"Artificial gravity is stable." Green Lantern reported. "Tower rotation steady."
"Outbound communications are green." Wonder Woman reported. "Inbound sensors are online at 100 percent."
"Beacon diagnostic running…done." Batman said. "Beacon-system status: online, 100 percent."
"Watchtower defences online." J'onn reported. "Tower alert systems fully operational."
"Emergency response systems are green." Hawkgirl stated. "Manoeuvring thrusters online. Emergency escape pods online."
"Javelins One through Six fully operational." Flash reported. "Standing by for Beacon installation; they're ready when we are!"
"Overall Tower status: green." Superman confirmed. "Sounds like we're good to go." He looked over his shoulder at the others, lightly smiling. "Wish us luck!"
Scott grinned. "Good luck!"
"Everyone: input your pass-codes." Batman instructed. Promptly, each member of the League input their own numerical code; the instant they had, an electronic port extended out from a slot next to each of their terminals, each with a red light glowing next to them. "Dock your keys." came the next order. Each of the eight them took out a small metal cylinder, removing a plastic cap from one end, revealing an electronic chip. They each them locked their keys into the ports, chip-end first, turning the red light yellow. "On my count." Batman instructed. "Three…two…one…"
As one, they all turned their keys, and then pushed the ports upwards, locking them into a new position, turning the yellow lights green.
At once, the Watchtower hummed to life as the eight of them removed their keys. The Monitor Womb was illuminated by bright white lights, revealing the silver metal floors, as the rest of the terminals flared to life, with computer readouts beginning to pop up on the large window – in reality, a fiber-optic screen – showing things as Tower status, sensor readings, Javelin synchronization, and others. Outside, numerous lights began to glow along the Watchtower, as the massive station powered up for the very first time.
"Wow…" Tina softly murmured.
Remy whistled. "Quite de 'angout y' got 'ere."
"Quite impressive." Hank agreed. "What kind of facilities do you have, here?"
"The Watchtower holds two dozen sleeping quarters, each capable of housing four, if need be." J'onn answered. "It also possesses a state-of-the-art laboratory and workshop, as well as a Training Centre on par with your Danger Room, in addition to a kitchen and mess hall."
The Professor nodded. "Impressive, indeed…"
Checking his terminal, Batman said, "Beacon is fully online; time to synch our communicators." At that, each member of the League took out their communicator, and plugged it into a port on their terminal; in seconds, the Tower's Beacon-system had linked with their communicators, readying them to receive any alerts that the Beacon picked up.
With their communicators synched, they each reclaimed them, confirming that the Watchtower's Beacon was sending and receiving data from their comm.-units. Alison smiled. 'Sounds like you guys are officially ready to go."
Superman smiled. "Yeah, pretty much." he agreed. "So, now that the Tower's up-and-running, would you all like to get the official tour..?"
Suddenly, the main screen blared an alert, showing a flashing pattern. "Beacon's picked up an incoming transmission." Batman said. "Someone's trying to contact us."
Superman's expression turned grave. "Source?"
Logan frowned. "Sounds like Old Iron-Pants has caught on, already."
Superman sighed. "Put it through."
As Batman put the signal through, Superman, expecting the eye-patched visage of General Fury, was surprised to see the red-white-and-blue-cowl-clad face of Captain America. "This is Captain America calling unidentified satellite. Please respond."
Superman lightly smiled. "Superman, here, Cap."
At that, the leader of the Avengers softly chuckled. "Good to hear you, son. Well, we had a feeling that it was you and your new team up there building that thing, but we still had to be sure."
"Sorry if we worried you." Superman replied. "To be honest, we were expecting you to be the General, demanding what we were doing in 'his sky'."
Cap laughed. "Sorry to disappoint you!" he replied. His expression then turned serious. "We heard about the League and the X-Men's little excursion, today."
"Yeah; we saved the Ambassador and nabbed the bad guys." Flash said. "What's the problem?"
Cap sighed. "As far as the Avengers are concerned, there IS no problem." he said. "But as far as the Senate is concerned…"
Wonder Woman's eyes narrowed. "It's that Senator Kelly, isn't it?" she muttered.
"I'm afraid so, Your Highness." Cap said. "As soon as the scuttlebutt went out about the incident, the Senator was practically up in arms."
Green Lantern frowned. "Again?"
"We saved the hostages!" Aquaman protested. "What's his damage?!"
"Apparently, his rationale is that you could have endangered the hostages and the ensuing area, given that the F.O.H. operatives possessed explosives." Cap answered, smiling wearily. "Granted, the Avengers were prepped to go in within the hour, but you beat us to it."
Superman sighed. "And what's the General's opinion?"
"At the moment, the General is briefing the President on the incident and its…resolution." Cap replied. "He never mentioned his own opinion…but the fact that he left orders to contact all of you says a few things. I thought I'd try to contact you up there, first."
Superman put his hand to his forehead. "I assume that the General requested that we try and smooth things out with the Senate?"
"Again." Flash muttered flatly.
"Correct." Cap confirmed.
Superman sighed again. "We'll do what we can, Cap."
"Good to hear, son." Cap replied, lightly smiling. "For the record, we would like you and your team to leave these situations to the Avengers." Grinning, he added, "Off the record, and as unofficially as the Avengers can say it…great work, out there."
Superman smiled. "Thanks, Cap." he said. "Watchtower out." With that, he ended the transmission.
As the transmission ended, Alison smiled sadly. "So much for that tour."
Superman lightly smiled. "Yeah."
Green Lantern sighed. "So, who's going?"
"I'll go." Superman said.
"As will I." Wonder Woman added.
"Looks like our visit got cut short." Kitty said.
Superman smiled apologetically. "Sorry about that, guys."
"No problem, Big Blue." Ray said.
Alison nodded. "We understand."
"Flash and I will take you all back in the Javelin." J'onn said.
"Thank you." the Professor said. "We enjoyed our visit."
Ororo smiled. "Short though it was."
Superman smiled. "Hopefully, the next time you guys can visit, we'll have more time to show you around."
Jean chuckled. "We're looking forward to it."
"I'll see you later, guys." Superman said. Smiling at Alison, he added, "'Bye, taushi."
Alison smiled back. "'Bye, tausha." she cooed. With that, she put her right index and middle fingers to her lips, placing a kiss on them, smiling as Superman mirrored the gesture, before they both extended their hands, interlacing their fingers…before letting go, as Alison followed the others back to the Javelin…but not before Alison saw the expression on Lila's face: a sly, knowing smile, coupled with an arched eyebrow. She knew what that look meant.
We HAVE to talk.
Within minutes, they had returned to the now-lit vehicle-bay, and boarded the Javelin, followed by Flash and J'onn; once they were all buckled in, the Javelin gracefully glided out of the Watchtower's vehicle-bay, flying down towards the blue planet below.
XXXXXXXXU.S. Congress, Washington, D.C
"My fellow Senators, could you please explain why nothing has been done?!"
The outraged voice of Senator Robert Kelly echoed through the Congress Building, his rhetorical declaration not even ruffling his short white hair, or wrinkling the grey business suit and tie that covered his lean frame. His green eyes flashed angrily behind his glasses as he declared, "We have had several months to deal with this 'Justice League,' yet why has nothing been done?!"
"Senator Kelly, please calm down." came the calm voice of Senator Isaac Martin, Robert's long-time political rival. Isaac, like Robert, was in his fifties, tall, and well-built, with short, greying hair, a trim grey beard, and blue eyes, in a black business suit. Isaac's ability to logically refute any argument thrown his way had long irritated Robert…and Isaac was using that ability now. "There has never been any need to consider the Justice League a threat…"
"You're joking!" Robert exclaimed. "Senator, they are reckless! Their actions today put the hostages and an entire city block at risk!"
"But none of the hostages were injured, Senator." another Senator countered. "You're acting as if they were responsible for the incident in the first place..!"
"They were lucky, today!" Robert retorted. "But what happens when their luck runs out? What happens when their cavalier attitude puts this country at risk?! And that's just today! In the past, they have acted contrary to the best interests of this country..!"
"How exactly have we done that, Senator?"
That calm yet commanding voice startled Robert out of his rhetoric, as Superman and Wonder Woman walked into the Congress Building. Robert quickly recovered, his eyes narrowing. "So, you still have the nerve to interrupt a closed session of Congress." he snapped. "But then again, with all that power of yours, you wouldn't care about the authority of the U.S. government, would you?"
Superman didn't rise to the bait. "Actually, Senator, we're here at the request of General Fury."
Wonder Woman nodded. "We were told that you had some more concerns about the League's activities recently, and we agreed to address them."
Robert scowled; he should have known that Fury would be involved in this. Before he could reply, Isaac interrupted. "Well, that's certainly kind of you both to come, especially on such short notice." Isaac said. "Hopefully, we can get these things straightened out as quickly as we did, last time."
Superman lightly smiled. "Hopefully, Senator."
Robert's eyes narrowed. "Our concerns," he snapped, "were regarding your activities today. Just what did you think you were doing?"
Robert didn't give them a chance to respond. "Your 'League' deliberately endangered those hostages, along with an entire city block!"
Superman didn't even blink. "If you're referring to the explosives that the Friends of Humanity had placed around their position, Senator, we were perfectly aware of them."
Robert laughed. "And you still went in?!" he accused. "Did you even consider what could have happened if even one of them had gotten the chance to..?!"
"…it would have made no difference, Senator." Superman replied. "They were planning to detonate the explosives even if their demands were met."
"You're sure of that?!" Robert sneered. "You were so certain that was the case that you deliberately ignored any and all protocols set down for hostage situations?!"
Wonder Woman frowned. "Senator, unless I'm mistaken, your Constitution strictly prohibits any deals with terrorists." she said. "And you're apparently forgetting that your 'protocols' would have meant the death of a United Nations diplomat." She smiled archly. "A diplomat who, coincidentally, was a mutant, as I'm sure you're aware."
The Amazon's suggestion caused Robert to flush angrily. Senator Martin quickly took that opportunity to speak up. "You were certain that they would have detonated the explosives, anyway?"
"Absolutely, sir." Superman replied. "One of our teammates, the Martian Manhunter, intercepted the thoughts of one of the F.O.H., and discovered their true plans."
"And you were sure that his conclusion was valid?" another Senator inquired.
"If he said that they were going to detonate the explosives anyway, then they were." Wonder Woman said firmly.
Superman nodded. "Senators, the situation we handled today was not one we took lightly; if it had been just one of us, it very likely would have ended badly." he said. "By operating as a team, we were able to coordinate a rescue effort and avert a potential tragedy."
That statement caused the assembled Senate to murmur thoughtfully. Scowling, Robert spoke up. "My friends, I'm afraid that this whole discussion has gone wide of the point; the real issue here is that these…'people' have taken it upon themselves to handle situations best left to the Avengers; to people operating under military supervision, rather than a bunch of hot-dogging..!"
"Senator, that isn't fair!" another Senator protested. "What about the numerous disasters that the League has prevented, these past few months? Their efforts have saved hundreds of lives..!"
"But at what cost?" Robert countered. "What about the Iranian nuclear incident, a few days ago? They acted in direct opposition to the interests of this country?"
Superman's eyes narrowed. "Senator, how exactly is averting a disastrous nuclear meltdown 'acting contrary to U.S. interests'?"
"How?" Robert sneered. "Let's look at that reactor you saved, shall we? Did you know that it was capable of producing weapons-grade plutonium?" His eyes narrowed. "Any sensible human could make the connection."
Superman frowned at the shot, but remained calm.
"Iran has long been suspected of being an ally of any insurgents in the Middle East," Robert continued, feeling that he was on a roll, "but the 'Justice League' willingly rendered aid to a known enemy, bordering on treason..!"
"Senator, your issues are with Iran's government," Superman countered, "but it was Iran's people that were in immediate danger from the meltdown; the area closest to the reactor was populated solely by civilians."
Robert snorted. "Terrorists-in-the-making, you mean."
Superman ignored him. "Yes, Senators, we did avert a reactor core-breach in Iran; if the reactor had been allowed to melt down, thousands of innocent people could have been fatally exposed, and the resulting fallout would have turned half of Iran into an environmental wasteland."
Robert's expression turned into a scowl. "I believe that's what's called divine retribution!"
Isaac's calm voice was filled with reproach at that statement. "Robert, I hope you don't mean that." he said. "Please, continue."
"Thank you." Superman replied. "Green Lantern, Wonder Woman and I had initially responded to the reactor's emergency alert; the reactor's safety systems had failed, and the control rods couldn't be inserted. Green Lantern and Wonder Woman cleared the immediate area of civilians and reactor personnel, before coating the reactor in graphite, while I entered the reactor core and inserted the control rods manually." His expression turned grave. "Initially, we had thought that the failure was due to a simple malfunction. We were wrong."
Wonder Woman nodded. "We discovered that a group of armed men – presumably some of your insurgents – had been attempting to steal plutonium from the reactor; it was their bungling that caused the failure." she said. "Once the reactor-breach was contained, we apprehended them."
Robert took that opportunity to pounce. "And then you returned the plutonium to Iran's government, the very people who were likely paying those thugs to take it..!"
"The plutonium was Iranian property, Senator." Superman said. "We had no right to confiscate it. Whether we liked it or not, we had to return it."
"Superman is right, Robert." Senator Martin said, stopping Robert's tirade before it started. "Without just cause, not even UN personnel could confiscate that plutonium. The Justice League made the right call."
Superman nodded. "While we were returning the plutonium, we dropped by the office of Iran's President, to inform him of what had happened." he said. "We notified him that rebels had been stealing plutonium from the reactor, which caused the failure." Superman looked Robert in the eye, causing Robert to freeze. "In response to your earlier statement, Senator…I like to think I'm pretty good at spotting liars; when we informed the President about the theft, he was honestly surprised to hear it."
"We also took the opportunity to inform him that, while the theft did cause the failure, the reactor also had numerous design flaws in its cooling and emergency systems; even if those thieves had not attempted to steal any plutonium, the failure would very likely have happened, sooner or later. We simply pointed out that perhaps he had more important things to worry about than he had thought, gently suggested that he do the obvious thing, and left it at that."
Superman nodded. "Whether or not he had been supporting the insurgents or simply turning a blind eye to them, I think that this incident may have shown him that might not be such a good idea."
Robert simply laughed. "And we're supposed to believe that?!" he shouted. "You expect us to believe that Iran is just going to do an about-face simply because..!"
As Robert had been talking, Superman's face took on a faraway expression, as he seemed to be listening to something…before he smiled. "Senator," he interrupted, "why don't you see for yourself? If you would be so kind as to check CNN..?"
Robert scowled as Isaac switched on the large TV screen in the back of the chamber…showing a special news report already in-progress…
"…our sources have informed us of a surprising press release issued by the Iranian government, today, in response to the near-meltdown of Iran's No. 5 Reactor – a crisis that was averted by the efforts of the Justice League." the anchorwoman said. "The Iranian President's response was surprising, to say the least!"
The TV then showed Iran's President, his soft voice speaking fluent Arabic, followed by the corresponding English translation. "People of Iran, my brothers and sisters, I come to you today with a heavy heart. I have allowed my zeal to give our country the gift of nuclear power to endanger all of us, and for that, I must humbly beg forgiveness, from both Almighty Allah and from all of you. Further investigation of Reactor No. 5 reveals that this near-tragedy was the work of traitors to Islam, men who have perverted the words of the Prophet, peace be upon him. For the fact that our country was spared from such a disaster, I am grateful. Make no mistake, my brothers and sisters: I believe that our country deserves nuclear power for peaceful use, but not at the cost of our people's prosperity. For the immediate future, I am suspending all nuclear research; the funds that had been set aside for the nuclear program will be channelled into education and health care, which will benefit our people far more than a nuclear program. I thank Allah that we were spared from making such a terrible mistake. That is all. Allah's blessing upon you all."
The screen then switched back to the anchorwoman. "In a later press release, the President invited inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency to assist in the safe dismantling and storage of all nuclear-related materials and facilities." she continued. "Whether or not his apparent about-face will help translate into a lasting peace in the Middle East remains to be seen, but this certainly seems to be a step in the right direction! We can only hope that, with the example that the Justice League has provided for the world, peace in this region becomes a reality! This is Leanne Mitchell, signing off!"
Superman lightly smiled as the TV was switched off. "I think that this country has a real opportunity to gain a new ally in the Middle East." he said. "But that's something that the League can't do for you."
Wonder Woman nodded. "Make no mistake; it will be difficult," she agreed, "but peace benefits everyone, including your country."
Robert was seething at that revelation, but Senator Martin softly chuckled. "Any chance you could do something like that with North Korea?" he joked, earning a few appreciative laughs from the other Senators.
Superman chuckled. "Give us time, Senator. Give us time." he replied, earning a few more pleasant chuckles.
Isaac nodded. "Well, Superman, Wonder Woman, thank you for stopping by; we're only sorry that we had to waste your time with this."
Wonder Woman smiled. "Think nothing of it, Senators."
"We're glad that we could put your concerns to rest." Superman added.
Isaac glanced to Robert. "Senator Kelly, I trust that you have no objections?"
Scowling, Robert stood up. "My fellow Senators, my position is what it has always been: allowing these 'super-humans' – and an alien – to operate without any means of control is sheer stupidity." he snapped. "Mark my words, this will come back to bite us, sooner or later!"
And with that, he simply gathered his things, and stormed out of the Senate.
After the Senate had adjourned, Superman and Wonder Woman had simply bid the Senate goodbye, and walked out of the Congress chamber, heading for the exit, to return to the Javelin, the setting sun turning the sky ahead of them red.
Alone, Wonder Woman could finally express her irritation. "That man!!" she snapped. "Merciful Hera, Kal, if a creature like that can become elected to your government, I weep for this country's future!"
Superman smiled grimly. "Yeah, he's something, alright." he agreed.
Calming, Wonder Woman managed a smile. "After that, patrol should be welcome."
Chuckling, Superman nodded. "True," he agreed, before looking to the darkened corner of the hallway they were about to emerge from, "provided that the good General doesn't have much to say."
A soft chuckle came from the corner, as Brigadier General Nick Fury, in his usual black pants and black jacket, complete with the eagle-insignia of S.H.I.E.L.D., stepped into view, followed by a young woman of about 20, tall and athletic, with long, blond hair tied in a bun under her blue beret, and cold green eyes, clad in blue pants, army boots, a navy-blue sweater and a dark blue army-style vest.
"I almost forgot how sharp those ears of yours were, kid." the General said, his one good eye flashing with cold mirth. He gestured to his comrade. "Allow me to introduce Lt. Carol Danvers, my new second-in-command." At that, Lt. Danvers simply nodded curtly.
Superman returned the gesture, before looking Fury in the eye. "General, you knew why we handled the crisis, today." he said.
Wonder Woman nodded. "We are becoming weary of appeasing your Senate every time we do something those cowards disapprove of."
Fury chuckled. "With all due respect, Princess, tell me you didn't enjoy shutting that smarmy prick up." he answered. "If you had accepted my offer to join the Avengers, this wouldn't be an issue."
Superman's eyes narrowed. "As I said before, General," he said firmly, "the Avengers do good work, but we wouldn't be as effective if we had to wait for the green light."
"The green light is given for a reason, Superman." Lt. Danvers said coldly. "If the Avengers are told to hold off on an operation, it means that the higher-ups have just cause for them not to proceed. Your League's hot-dogging could have gotten those men killed."
Superman was momentarily surprised, but quickly recovered. "Lieutenant, they would have been executed even if the F.O.H.'s demands had been met. We never go into a situation without a plan for everyone walking out alive."
Her eyes narrowing angrily, Lt. Danvers was about to retort, but a wave from Fury stopped her. "Like I told you, kid, you guys make people jumpy, especially now that you've got that little clubhouse upstairs."
"Space is neutral territory, General." Wonder Woman said. "We had decided to establish a base there to establish our neutrality."
"Mighty decent of you." Fury said. "Pity that some might not see it that way."
"You still don't trust us." Superman said flatly. Smiling wryly, he added, "But, then again, you don't trust anyone completely."
Fury chuckled. "Now you're getting it."
Superman lightly smiled. "Like I said before, General, all we ask is that you give us a chance."
Fury arched an eyebrow. "I didn't order your 'Watchtower' shot down, now, did I?"
"No, I suppose not." Superman answered.
"There you go."
Superman softly chuckled. "Well, we'll be leaving, General." he said. "Have a pleasant evening."
Fury snorted. "In this business, kid?" he said. Superman just chuckled, as he and Wonder Woman headed to the Javelin.
As he watched the high-tech vessel take off, Fury turned his eye to Lt. Danvers. "A little rough, don't you think?"
Carol's eyes narrowed. "General, they're not seeing the big picture. They don't see how their operating independently undermines everything that S.H.I.E.L.D. is working for." she replied. "By allowing them to operate on their own, S.H.I.E.L.D. is basically saying to every mutant and super-human that we're pushovers!"
Fury's eye narrowed. "If anyone tries anything, they won't think that for long."
Carol's frown persisted. "Furthermore, General, I read the report on that little outpost that the Kryptonian…that Superman possesses. We are at war, General. Do you realize what we could do with that kind of weapons technology alone?"
Fury had to nod in agreement; that level of tech was damn tempting…
"Regardless of the League's neutrality, we know that Superman is a U.S. citizen," Carol continued, "which means that he has a duty to help this country win this war..!"
"I'm not saying I disagree with you, Lieutenant." Fury replied. "But we also know the kid's opinion on lending us his tech – namely, that he won't. Care to suggest how we make him?" At that, Carol simply frowned. "For now, at least, the kid and his team aren't a problem, and with any luck, it'll stay that way."
"And if it doesn't?"
Fury's expression hardened. "Then we'll have to be ready." he replied, his gaze turned to the setting sun.
And for now, that was enough.
As the sun set over the Xavier Institute, the red of the sky fading to black, Alison was looking out her window at the horizon, deep in thought. The new students had fully settled in, and they had all enjoyed a pleasant dinner, with everyone now winding down for the day…and trying to ignore the fact that school started, tomorrow.
They were still unsure whether or not they would be allowed back.
Alison sighed sadly to herself, as she recalled another sad fact: Tina was still unsure whether or not she would stay at the Institute. Alison did understand that the choice was hers…but she had hoped that she could help the younger girl…
"Penny for your thoughts?"
Hearing her tausha's voice, Alison couldn't help but smile as Superman hovered in front of her, descending from the sky. "Hey." she greeted. "How did it go?"
Superman sighed. "Same as always."
Alison winced. "Ouch."
"Yeah." Superman agreed. "The Senate did understand at the end…though Senator Kelly will still likely try to make trouble."
Alison nodded…and lightly smiled. "I missed you, today." she cooed.
Superman returned her smile. "Not half as much as I missed you, Alia."
Alison smiled at the use of her Kryptonian name. Alia Ka-Lir: "Blessing upon Lir." It was a name she absolutely loved…though not half as much as the man who had given it to her. Slowly, Alison leaned closer to her Clarkie, her eyes closed in anticipation, as Superman leaned down into the window to meet her…
Suddenly, they both froze at the sound of footsteps behind Alison. Alison turned…and smiled warmly. "Hi, Tina."
Tina instantly froze as she saw the two of them. "I-I'm s-so sorry…"
Alison's smile grew. "Hey, don't worry about it." she assured her. "Tausha and I have been interrupted plenty of times." Casting a playful eye at her beloved, she added, "And it's usually his fault!" Smiling, she continued, "Tina, this is Kal-El, my boyfriend, as I'm sure you've guessed; tausha, this is Tina Wilkinson."
Superman smiled. "Hey, I thought I saw a new face at the Watchtower!" he greeted kindly. "It's nice to meet you, Tina. Are you a new student here?"
Tina gulped. "I…I haven't decided, yet, Superman…"
Superman nodded. "Okay, Tina. No need to rush."
Alison chuckled. "Tina," she said, "do you remember that guy I told you about? The guy who always used to goof up with his powers?"
Superman chuckled, instantly knowing who she meant. "Pleased to meet you, Tina."
Tina's eyes went wide. "It was you??" she exclaimed.
Superman laughed. "Tina, when I was younger, they would have had to invent a category to describe the kind of goof-ups I had with my powers!"
"But…but you're Superman!!"
"I wasn't always Superman, Tina." Superman answered. "Before, I was just a kid who had no clue about the powers that I seemed to have. Some of my 'learning experiences' were not pretty, let me tell you."
Tina lightly giggled. "R-Really?"
Superman nodded. "When I was six and I first got my gale-breath, I accidentally sneezed off the south wall of my Pa's barn." he said. "Another time, I sneezed a truck all the way to Gardendale. A few years later, I nearly fried an entire corn-field with my eye-rays; fortunately, my folks liked popcorn." He groaned. "And, dear Lord, don't even get me started on my first few times flying…"
Alison couldn't help but chuckle. "Think 'George of the Jungle,' but with no vines."
At that, Tina couldn't help but laugh. "I'm…I'm sorry," she managed to giggle out, "but…but that's so funny..!"
Superman lightly chuckled. "Tina, if I can learn to control my powers, so can you." he assured her. "It's your decision."
Tina was silent for a moment…before she lightly smiled. "I'd…I think I'd like to join." Her expression turned worried. "C-Could I..?"
Alison smiled warmly. "Of course you can, Tina." she replied. "I'm sure the Professor will be thrilled to hear it." At that, Tina smiled happily, before she hurried off, to tell the Professor of her decision.
Alison's smile grew as she turned back to Superman. "Nice to know that you're good for something." she teased.
Superman chuckled. "Hey, I try!" he quipped.
Alison's smile became flirtatious. "Now, where were we..?" she purred. Smiling, Superman leaned towards her, as their lips met in a tender kiss.
The beeping of Superman's belt-communicator sounded just as they had finished their kiss. Superman sighed as he checked it. "And some things never change."
Alison managed a laugh. "See you tonight?"
Superman grinned, nodding. "I'll be there."
Superman laughed. "I never lie." he answered. And with that, he took off into the sky, to rejoin the rest of the League, a sonic boom echoing in his wake. Alison simply smiled to herself, before leaving her room, and heading downstairs.
It was looking to be the start of an interesting year.
Hi, everyone! Happy New Year! I'm back with Book Three! I hope you enjoy it!
Oh, and kudos to ZK Chromedragozoid for suggesting the OC of Ron Williams! Thanks a lot!
With the school year starting up again, our heroes must face the fact that their peers know their secret, now.
As if high school wasn't tough enough.
Will the X-Men find acceptance at Bayville High?
And is a darker plot underfoot?
Find out, in "School Daze," coming to your computer soon…