Disclaimer: I do not own DC. 'Tis the season... that I hate: winter. Snow can kiss my ass. Money-grubbing holidays can kiss my ass. It all sucks. Humbug.
Err, yeah. Sorry about that. Enjoy the chapter.
Chapter 32: Everything Must Go
Some young people dreamed of jet-setting around the globe, going to all sorts of foreign locations and soaking everything in. Max thought he was one of them... at least until he and Selina made it to Saint-Tropez in France.
It was fun at first, until he realized that he'd just gotten through spending an eternity around water while they'd been in Italy. The novelty of the beautiful seaside area lasted all of four hours before he got bored. And then, attending the high society party Selina had him accompany her to did nothing to fix this.
As the evening progressed, he felt every bit the foolish American, despite the fact that all he did was stand by Selina's back and legs as rigid as he could muster. He didn't try to speak, even when people conversed with Selina in English.
Dressed in the nicest piece of clothing he'd ever worn, a slate-grey suit that felt better than most of his own casual clothes, he felt so out of place. Even with Selina's coaching on etiquette, nothing helped. He was out of his element. It was all over his face and in his body language.
Even if he did have enough money to be rich, he came about it without ever really interacting with the society. Selina could hold his hand through these parties all she wanted, he didn't belong there and he probably never would. When Selina noticed his temperament and he told her something along these lines, her response was unexpected.
Selina raised an eyebrow after hearing out her charge's concerns, "You think I belong here?"
Max was taken aback by her response, "Well… yeah. Look at you," He said.
Selina thought that was sweet. But he was utterly missing the point, "Maxie, I'm more of a gutter rat than you are," Comparing their underprivileged backgrounds, hers was worse than his, "Even now, after all of the men who've been chatting me up, do you really think these stuffed shirts are thinking anything about me beyond what it'd be like to take this dress off of me?"
"So, what's your point?" Max asked, annoyed.
Selina patiently ignored his attitude, "The point is, it's not like I'm asking you survey the caviar to get them to like you. I fit in just enough not to offend them. They won't remember my name after tonight," She decided to try and give an example, "When I want to know the value of… say, that thing over there. What did I do?"
Max had been watching closely, given that there wasn't much else to occupy his attention, "You bat your eyes, said you thought that thing was pretty, and let that guy stare at your tits while he ran his mouth," He knew Selina had been a little more subtle than that, seeing as how she had a real knowledge for art, but he had summarized the overall presentation she'd offered.
"Uh-huh. You've got it."
"But I don't have those-," Max replied, gesturing to Selina's chest, "-To distract people from me being a pleb."
Selina chuckled at Max's less than subtle attempt to reference her breasts, "We all can't be born with natural advantages to the lifestyle. That's why you're here with me – to watch and learn until you can find your own hook."
Honestly, Max felt he'd never quite be up to snuff at the finer aspects of thievery, "I don't even specialize in heists," While he was okay at them, smash and grabs against criminals who couldn't and wouldn't go to police were more his thing, "I think I'm going to focus more on stealing practical stuff. You know, equipment, and tech. Stuff I can find the actual market value for before I steal it and fence it."
Just as long as he knew how dangerous it was before he let it out of his hands. He wasn't making the same mistake he did with the S.T.A.R. Labs job again if he could help it. After he'd passed the package up to Deathstroke, that trouble nearly trickled back down onto his head from above from Lex Luthor.
Max left Selina's side to find something to snack on. The hors d'oeuvres that had been brought their way had not been to his liking. For stuff that was so expensive, most of it was gross. As he searched the tables with food for something he recognized well enough to eat, he heard a bit of a stir nearby, catching his attention.
He almost choked on the meager morsel he'd been able to stomach when he saw Lex Luthor in attendance, closely shadowed by Mercy Graves.
The last he'd heard, Luthor had been in hiding for the events of the broadband towers that doubled as Kryptonite emitters. A quick Google search on his phone revealed that instead of the blame being placed on Luthor, high-ranking LexCorp engineers took the fall, leaving the man himself free and clear.
Max made his way back to Selina, conspicuously slinking to try and avoid being seen... which did the exact opposite. Not only did everyone else at the party take note of him, a mortified Selina saw him coming a mile away, "What are you doing?" She whispered to him, fighting the urge to snatch him up by the ear.
"Lex fucking Luthor is here!" Max hissed back, arms gesturing wildly in the direction where the man was speaking with others.
Selina leaned over to get a look, "Huh," She hummed to herself, "Indeed he is. And?"
Max opened his mouth to rebut, when he realized that he didn't have an actual reason to be put off, "Uh..."
Yes, Lex had tried to bathe the United States in Kryptonite radiation, risking the lives of millions in exchange for making the country a Superman-free zone. Yes, Lex was an awful, dangerous man with a mean streak a mile long. But what did any of that matter to Max?
Null had fought to get rid of the tower in Metropolis, but that had been Null... not Max. Lex didn't know who Max was. Hell, Lex probably didn't even know who Null was, and that put Max at ease. Anonymity had always been his greatest ally, and that was getting harder and harder to maintain as time went on.
Oh, well. No one in France knew who Null was, and he didn't plan on suiting up anyway.
Lex Luthor was a man with a lot of enemies, not just in the hero community. Yes, there were few adversaries one should concern themselves with more than the most powerful being on Earth in Superman, but there was no shortage of intelligent, deadly individuals with a bone to pick.
Mercy Graves had to be an attentive woman. Even at a party filled with soft-handed snobbish suck-ups in a foreign country. It was always the ones you didn't see coming who did the most damage.
…Not that she could have missed the very out-of-place young man slinking across the room like a five-year-old that had picked someone's pocket. Something about him looked familiar, but she forewent those thoughts when she saw him with someone much more familiar.
"Selina Kyle is here," Mercy said to Luthor, once she found the chance to slip it in between his conversations.
Blue eyes followed her gaze and it stopped on the only face in the room he was tangentially familiar with, "So she is," He knew of her through her attending high-society functions with Bruce Wayne in the past, but cared little of her existence. Still, he appreciated the heads-up that someone from the U.S. was there, "Good to know."
"I can't tell who she's with though," Mercy mused aloud.
"Does it matter?" Lex replied, grabbing a flute of champagne to down.
Maybe not. Definitely not to Lex. But there was something pricking at the back of Mercy's mind. She squared it away, eventually considering it a niggling little thing, not worth wasting time on when she had a job to do.
(The Next Day)
France, thus far, had bored Max to tears. Fortunately, he realized that he had contingencies.
One of them was capable of flying across the world to keep him company, just as easily as he could walk to the nearest corner store in his neighborhood for a bag of chips.
"I'm so glad you invited me to hang out," Kara beamed at Max as they walked through town.
Max waved off her thanks, "Trust me, you're doing me a favor," He said honestly.
It didn't hurt that Kara also looked outstanding in a bathing suit, which breathed a few more hours of life into Max hanging around near the beach... but even that didn't last. Eventually they set out about town to chat and find something to occupy their time.
"Is Selina mad that I'm here?" Kara asked as the two dodged foot traffic through tight streets.
Max scoffed, "Kara, Selina doesn't know that you're here. She probably doesn't know that I'm here. During the day, she's probably zonked out on white wine and painkillers at the beach or at a massage parlor."
Kara winced at Max's frank description, "That's dangerous."
"Yeah. Yeah, it is," Max agreed absently before putting on a show of cheerfulness, "So, anyway, France! Omelette du fromage!"
"Wow," Kara deadpanned with a wry smirk, "Not only did you just say 'cheese omelet' totally out of context, you said it wrong," It was almost impressive to butcher a language that badly.
"Give me a break. I barely speak English, let alone French," Max said, now slightly embarrassed, "...I hate this place, by the way."
Kara let out a laugh. What kind of hyperbole was that? "You've only been here for a day. How do you know that you hate it?"
"Saint-Tropez is boring as fuck," Max said, leaving no room to be convinced otherwise, "Boring for me, not Selina. She's into all of the art, and the beaches, and nightlife. On the flip side, if I wanted to stare at pictures and statues I'd have gone to summer school, I got bored with the beach two hours into being here, and I can't get into a goddamn club."
A day was long enough to have seen everything he was going to get to see. The only reason he was sticking it out and tolerating it was because Selina was still recovering from being shot back in Italy. If she were 100% healthy, he would have whined until she took them elsewhere - somewhere more suited for his tastes.
Kara frowned at the thought of Max not enjoying his vacation. He'd seemed so excited about it before he'd left. Suddenly, the thought hit her. Why did they have to stay somewhere they didn't want to be, "Hey, I've got an idea. Wanna go somewhere cool?"
Max raised an eyebrow at her, wondering how she was going to manage taking them anywhere, before he realized who he was dealing with, "If you can guarantee that I'll get back the moment Selina starts throwing a fit, sure," Kara smiled and took his hand, eyes to the sky, "Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah," Max got her attention as quickly as he could before she could do something rash, "Do you really want to take off in the middle of town?"
Kara looked around, realizing that there were plenty of townspeople nearby. While they otherwise didn't pay two obvious tourists any mind, seeing one take off into the air would create some interest, "Err... yeah. Let's find an alley or something."
"Shut up. You know what I meant."
The two took a flight that lasted less than thirty minutes. It was slow enough that he was able to get a good look at the French countryside. Seeing as how Max didn't dare pull out his phone to get a decent idea of where they were, lest he drop it and lose it, he didn't know where they were or which direction they were traveling in.
Really, he should have known better, especially when he found them hovering above a massive cityscape.
"Are we in Paris?" Max wondered. He immediately felt dumb for even asking.
Supergirl smiled from behind him, where she was hoisting him up, "Yeah. I was thinking we could do something here. Bet you've never seen the Eiffel Tower, have you?"
Max seemed intrigued as he looked around for the iconic landmark, "No, I haven't," He admitted.
Happy that she was able to show him something he hadn't experienced before, Supergirl gestured Max in the direction of the site, "Well, now you have!"
Max looked around as far as he could in the direction Kara had turned him to, only to find nothing, "...No, I still haven't."
It was fortunate that he didn't have a view of her face, otherwise his heart might have sunk at the sight of the joy leaving it, "What? But we're-," True enough, there was just a massive empty space where it was supposed to be, along with military cordoning the entire area off, "W-Where's the Eiffel Tower? We're in the right place."
All of her plans had gone out the window. It had all been laid out in her mind. She was going to show Max around the city, find all kinds of civ things to do to keep them occupied until night. Then they would view the Eiffel Tower properly from the top, looking out at Paris, all lit up.
From there? Well...
"...Uh..." She was brought out of her musings by Max's thoughtful noise, "So... now what?"
Now? Now she went after who or whatever was responsible for this? Not only because it had ruined her day, but because it otherwise was the right thing to do, and she was there. Supergirl set Max down and immediately went to work questioning others on what had happened.
Not knowing French, all Max could do was stand off to the side and watch. Of course, again not knowing French, he couldn't even get the gist of what she was getting from others who were aware of what had happened. But with the wonderful/despicable invention that was the internet, he could see if anyone else had any idea of what was going on.
It didn't take him long to find news articles with video attached of giant spider-like robots beaming up, for lack of a better term, buildings, monuments, and landmarks. Cities all over the world were being affected. The first story was only two hours old.
Wow. That meant this was still happening.
Supergirl showed up, back in front of Max, having conducted enough interviews to get a picture of events, "I talked to witnesses, and they say-."
"-Giant robots stealing landmarks," Max finished knowingly before she could, "It's not just happening here. It's… everywhere, actually."
Supergirl bit her lip, looking at the crater in the ground where the Eiffel Tower had been removed, "I have to go help."
Max held his hands up disarmingly, "Hey, I get it. Go do your superhero deal," He would never begrudge her or anyone else for cutting out on him to do something that was actually important. Supergirl smiled and nodded before suddenly taking off... leaving Max stuck in Paris, "Hey, wait! Could I at least get a ride back to… never mind," He trailed off as she got farther and farther away.
He turned around and started to walk, looking for a place to change into his Null suit and summon his Gravboard. He got two steps into it when Supergirl landed in front of him, startling him.
"What is it?" She asked, having heard him while flying away.
Max pointed his thumb lamely to where he figured south was, "Uh… I was gonna ask for a ride back to Saint-Tropez, but don't worry about it now. You've got shit to do."
Supergirl frowned momentarily, before her eyes lit up, the embers of an idea sparking behind them, "Hey, why don't you come and help?"
Max gave the Kryptonian girl an odd look, "Me? Help you?" He didn't want it to sound insulting, it was just that they had been over this before, "What am I going to do that you can't? Besides, you know how I feel about doing this kind of stuff," As in stuff that would produce no net gain for his taking part in it.
"You said Saint-Tropez was boring," Supergirl argued in return.
It was. It was crushingly boring. And being Null was exciting. But that didn't mean Max wanted to stick his neck out for no profit. These robots were just stealing cultural landmarks – things he had no interest in, due to their lack of monetary value. For example, what was someone going to do with the Eiffel Tower? Sell it? To who? Keep it and look at it? Where? Good luck stashing any one of those things somewhere no one else could find them.
Supergirl clasped her hands in front of herself, pleading for assistance, "Please? The League is going to be stretched thin dealing with this."
Max hissed hatefully at her persuasive expression, "Okay! Okay! Just stop giving me the doe eyes," Supergirl pumped her fist, even as Max dictated stipulations to her, "But I want a favor for this one. Like, a get-out-of-jail-free card or something. I don't know what you guys have."
"I'll see what I can do about that," Supergirl readily agreed, "I thought you didn't steal anymore though."
"I don't remember ever saying that," Max quickly said, looking away from her with a haughty sniff, "Just give me a minute to go suit up."
(United States of America – San Francisco, California)
Kid Devil had seen his share of wild things in his life. He himself was one of those wild things, with his red skin, yellow eyes, white hair, horns, and tail. Since joining the Teen Titans however, the spectacular sights only seemed to top themselves.
"What the hell is happening?" He couldn't help but ask as he, Robin, Cyborg, and Wonder Girl approached the scene of the latest crisis on a hovercraft.
Wonder Girl smirked at Kid Devil's reaction, "Well, if you ask me, it looks like some giant robot-spider transporting Alcatraz Island like something out of Star Trek," She said, matter-of-factly as they flew over the water of the San Francisco Bay, "...Huh. And there's a spatial portal opening up. Nice."
"No, not nice. Not nice at all," Kid Devil insisted. He couldn't tear his eyes away from the sight of a giant metal spider squatting over a barrier that covered one of the most famous prisons in American history, "Why is no one else freaking out right now?"
"I keep forgetting that you're pretty new at this, Kid Devil," Cyborg remarked, paying close attention to what his scanners were telling him, "He might have a point about that portal though."
A voice emanated from the spider-bot, sounding like someone projecting through it, "Pre-emptive bid for acquisition registered from Takron IV. Acquire with all due haste. Resistance detected."
"Damn right it is," Robin said, prepared to leap into action once they were close enough.
"Pacifier on the way to defend Acqusitioner."
The last sentence from the robot caught everyone's attention, "What's a-?" Wonder Girl started to ask before seeing a presence emerge from the portal, "...Forget I asked."
A massive, gold-colored robot that could stand in the bay and still have all of its legs and the rest of its huge body fully visible came through. Its arms consisted of two massive cannons, charging red and set to fire.
"I hate it when I'm right," Cyborg grumbled to himself in the face of the new threat, "Scans say this thing is big trouble."
"Well, let's start solving it," Wonder Girl said, jumping off of the platform, set on attacking. She flew in, set on punching the Pacifier robot, but it struck first, lifting its massive cannon arm and knocking her out of the sky.
"Crap!" Robin shouted, taking note of Wonder Girl's trajectory. The way she was falling, she'd pass underneath a news helicopter, "I've got her!" He grappled onto the landing gear and swung himself out, catching her before she could hit the water, "Easy, Cass. I've got you."
"I'm fine," Wonder Girl said, holding her head, "Just a bit out of it. Give me a sec," As they dangled there, the robot opened up chest compartments, firing missiles their way, "Uh... actually, I don't think we have that long!"
Robin braced himself for whatever explosion he could expect from the projectiles, only for them to stop in midair. A branch of electricity hit them all before they fell impotently into the water.
"You! Fucking! Owe! Me!" A smug voice yelled over the sound of the helicopter propeller.
"No," Robin said in disbelief, momentarily confusing Wonder Girl, "No. Bring them back. Bring the missiles back. I'd rather get blown up."
Wonder Girl looked around only to see Null floating into her field of vision a few feet away from them on his Gravboard, "Null? What are you doing here?"
Null looked over at the two of them, and then to the robot that opposed them, "I was press-ganged into this," He said with a displeased sigh.
"By who?" Wonder Girl asked.
Her answer came in the form of a red and blue blur that tore through the torso of the Pacifier robot. A massive explosion destroyed it, sending the remains crashing down in flames into the bay.
Supergirl flew around the bay, getting a look at just what had been troubling the Titans, 'There are robots just like this snatching up landmarks all over the world?' She thought to herself.
What was being taken seemed random. But the robot seemed like servants, carrying out the bidding of something commanding the lot of them. But who, or what?
Null's voice tore through the air for her to hear, loud and clear, stopping her musing cold, "Kara, what the fuck!?" Her head turned over to where he stood with the other Teen Titans present. He was far from pleased, "When I said I'd help, I didn't think you'd drag me to the Teen Titans' backyard!" He seemed to be just short of going nose-to-nose with Robin.
Supergirl cupped her hands to her mouth and shouted back, "You said San Francisco was the only place where you knew an active attack was still happening!" She pointed to the spider-bot still stealing Alcatraz, "I'm gonna go deal with this now!"
As the girl sped toward the robot, it seemed to know the fate that awaited it, "Alert! Alert! Approaching being registers as-!"
Similar to the Pacifier, the Acquisitioner robot was obliterated by Supergirl's sheer might, as she punched right through it.
"I did NOT need to be here for this!" Null exclaimed. The Acquisitioner robot didn't explode like the other, however. Instead, the energy that it had been using to beam Alcatraz away started going out of control, "Uh... what's that thing doing now?"
Cyborg was busy perusing through the scanner on his arm, trying to figure it all out, "It's lumpy with anti-particles – Negative tau leptons, anti-Higgs bosons, and more."
Null stared at him before slowly turning to Kid Devil for some kind of explanation. He, unfortunately, had none, "...Don't look at me. I have no idea what he said."
Cyborg growled and summed up what they needed to know, "If it blows, it could slice the planet in half!"
"Uh-oh," Supergirl said to herself before grabbing onto the robot and flying straight up, meaning to carry it away from the planet before it could explode.
Null and the Teen Titans watched as she left their sight, and kept staring until a large explosion of purple energy erupted outside of Earth's atmosphere.
A much smaller robot went unseen, watching over the entire affair, reporting back to its overlord on the goings-on, "Adding to previous report: not only destroyed Pacifier! We now have an Acquisitioner breach! Please advise!"
Cloaked in the dark of space inside of his ship, an alien businessman sat, carrying on several deals at once with eager buyers when the call from planet Earth came in, "Ops, this had better be important. I'm in the middle of a nine-way deal between the rulers of-," He stopped when the flow of information started flying his way, "Slow down, Ops, I can barely - WHAT? A Pacifier and an Acquisitioner? Both lost within minutes of one another?"
Without wasting another moment, he brought up feeds of what was going on from the point of view of his robots. It was there he saw the destruction of the constructs and the person behind it.
The alien watched in amazement, "Both were destroyed by a single humanoid? But that's... that's..." Slowly, a predatory grin broke out across his face, "...Hold all transactions, Ops. I'm going planetside."
(United States of America – San Francisco, California)
While Cyborg was busy doing actual work measuring the strange energies surrounding the area to determine how the landmarks had been taken and where they were, the rest were idling for the moment.
Null looked around at the chaos left in the wake of the space robots, "I'm guessing the Justice League and the other big-timers are dealing with this everywhere else, right?"
"Pretty much," Cyborg said, sparing Null enough attention to give him that much info, "Flash is running from a bunch of the spider-bots in Siberia, Wonder Woman is handling things in Washington, D.C... there's even some in Gotham City."
"I can only imagine how that's going," Null muttered. With the immediate threat handled, he now found himself in the awkward position of being surrounded by four of the Teen Titans.
He had met most of them, with the exception of one, and that was who he chose to acquaint himself with. It was easiest to try and talk to someone who didn't already have a well-formed opinion of him.
"So, you're a new Titan?" Null asked of Kid Devil, making sure that Robin was well within his line of sight, just in case something kicked off between them.
Kid Devil, still a bit overwhelmed by what he'd been involved with that day, introduced himself a bit sheepishly, "Yeah. Just joined not too long ago. Uh, nice to meet you?"
Robin shook his head, glaring at the thief among them, "Kid Devil, that's Null," Kid Devil just looked at him blankly, not knowing what his point was, "...He's a criminal."
"You are?" Kid Devil asked Null, who simply shrugged in response.
Null had no problem admitting such, "I have a salty past," As well as a salty present and future, but Kid Devil didn't need to know that. The less people who wanted to smack him around just because, the better, "Robin's just mad that I got amnesty, so he can't kick my ass without finding something new to go after."
"I can be patient," Robin replied. Null would slip up eventually. Sooner, rather than later, more than likely, "What are you even doing here? Why did Supergirl bring you?" Last he checked, Null was out of the country entirely.
Null gestured to the sky as though he were appealing to a higher power. Perhaps a Kryptonian one, "That's what I'm saying! She didn't need me. She could have finished up here and caught back up with me in France whenever she was done."
Hearing that the two of them had been together piqued Wonder Girl's interest, "Were you on another date?"
"Another date?" Robin repeated questioningly, only to sigh when he realized he'd heard correctly, "I really need to have a talk with her..."
Wonder Girl shot that idea down, "Won't work, trust me. Besides, he did come to help, so maybe Supergirl's onto something more than we think," Her sly smirk quickly died when she saw Null pull a glowing, golden lariat from one of his satchels, "Hey! When did you take that?" She asked, feeling around at her waist where it was supposed to have been.
"Before I stopped the missiles," Null said, inspecting the item he'd managed to nab from the superheroine, "Is this a Lasso of Truth like Wonder Woman's? Where do you get these?"
Wonder Girl quickly snatched an end of the lasso back from Null, who cheekily kept his grip on the other end, "From gods. And it's not a Lasso of Truth. It's a Lasso of Lightning," Annoyed, she activated it to demonstrate and to give him a little jolt him for stealing, only for him to absorb the electricity, "Really? Nothing?"
Null let go of the lasso, feeling the hair standing up on the back of his neck, "Whew. I mean, I got a pretty sweet buzz off of it, if that's what you're asking."
Wonder Girl frowned, re-affixing the weapon to her hip, "I wasn't, but that's good to know, I guess."
It was at this point that Supergirl returned, swooping in amongst her friends, "I'm back. What'd I miss?"
Wonder Girl wasted no time grabbing ahold of her and flying off a short distance away to talk, "You were on another date with Null?"
Supergirl nodded, "Yeah, I was. Or at least I would have been if the Eiffel Tower hadn't gotten swiped," They still needed to find what happened to those things, by the way. A lot of cultural landmarks had been beamed away, like Alcatraz almost was, "Why?"
"Nothing. Just asking," Wonder Girl said, having her own thoughts on the matter, "Time to figure out what the next move is," She then flew back to the others.
Hands on her hips, Supergirl watched her go, feeling like her choice of romantic partner was being judged. Then again, he had just tried to take the Lasso of Lightning from under Wonder Girl's nose. Supergirl had known about that, but the exploding robot seemed more important at the time. She would have made Null give it back if he hadn't by the time they left.
As Supergirl slowly floated back to the others, Cyborg's sensors started going wild, "Guys, there's a-!"
Before he could properly warn everyone, a massive pink portal, larger than several city blocks suddenly opened in the bay. The force of energy expelled by its formation was powerful enough to knock the Teen Titans' hovercraft from the sky, and send Supergirl flying into the rocks of Alcatraz Island.
What had been transported wasn't another robot. Instead, it was a living being large enough to tower over the Golden Gate Bridge. A yellow-skinned man with black markings on his face, he wore unique multi-colored armor that covered his whole body, and a headset around his sizable cranium that he spoke into, even as news helicopters and military aircraft flew around the area in a tizzy.
"Yes, Ops, I'm here!" He sounded excited, getting a good look around at his current surroundings, eyes like those of a fly's, smiling at what he saw, "Continue negotiations with the Majesti! Don't settle until Trajokk begins swearing! Oh, and open the bidding on those Q-crystals, hmm?"
Null pulled himself out of the bay, shaking the water off of himself, and stared up at the massive being, "Holy shit!"
Even though the robots they'd fought had been larger than most buildings he had seen, massive robots hadn't necessarily correlated to an even more massive living individual behind them. And yet, there he stood, hovering just above the water, courtesy of the largest pair of propelled boots he'd ever lay eyes on.
Whatever the alien was, he walked around like he owned the place, as in the entire planet.
Next to Null, the rest of the Titans also pulled himself out of the drink. Cyborg was apparently waterproof enough to keep from being affected, "Ugh. The electromagnetic spectrum is flying off of that guy. Transmissions from galaxies all over. Thousands of them. I don't know what kind of tech he's got to manage it."
"I don't really care about his wireless plan, Cyborg," Wonder Girl said, pushing wet blonde hair out of her face.
"Well, you should," Cyborg replied, "Since if I can crack it, I might be able to figure out what he's doing with all of the landmarks he took."
No one asked Null, but what they were saying, and hearing the alien's booming voice got him thinking, "Sounds like he's gonna sell them."
Kid Devil was the only one that dignified him with a response, "How do you know?"
"Because I'm a thief, and he sounds like a fence," Null explained, "How can we understand him, anyway?" He had limited experience with aliens, but doubted that most of them spoke fluent English.
"There's a universal translator in his headset," Cyborg pointed out.
By now, Supergirl had picked herself up and flew up near the head of the alien, "Excuse me. Can you not-?" She was completely ignored as he kept going over his transactions, "Hey!" She shot heat vision at the receiver to get his attention and got in his face, "That's enough! What makes you think you can just come here and take whatever you-?"
"-Well, look at that," The alien interrupted, enraptured by the sight of Supergirl as small robots scrambled to repair the damage to the headset, "One of the gaudily-plumed wildlife – the one that destroyed the Pacifier. No doubt a Kryptonian," There was a shine of greed in his eyes, "So very rare. So very valuable. I wonder..."
Supergirl got a bit of distance as he put his hands out, producing a translucent orb with red blips all over it.
"Planet scan. Filter for dominant humanoids. Filter for metapowers," The alien directed, as he narrowed his search down, "TWO Kryptonians? Or... oh, my stars! Three!?" Supergirl flew out of the way as the alien's arms swung outward in triumph, "Ha-ha! Ops, are you there? You were right! So right! This world teems with wonders! Native, alien, and all OURS! We'll start with this one."
"Nothing here is yours!" Supergirl said, meaning to show the alien that she was serious, but as she moved back in, she found herself trapped in a pink portal similar to the one that had brought the alien to them, "What in the-?"
Just like that, she was gone.
Closer to the ground, Null and the Teen Titans were in disbelief.
Robin said it first, "S-Supergirl's gone?"
Null's mouth hung wide open in surprise and horror, "Cyborg, what the hell just happened to her?"
"Teleportation!" Cyborg said, "Her mass was converted into a digital datastream, just like that!"
Just because someone told him how, didn't mean it made sense, "He can do that? How can he do that?" Null asked, noting that something similar was happening to the others, "Crap, it's happening to you too!"
And him as well, only he couldn't see it until he was caught and transported away.
The grin on the alien's face was a mile wide, "Ops, cease all other planetary activities. Full acquisition on these costumed Terrans. Open a new bidding category – metapowered exotica!" He demanded of his help back aboard the ship, "I must have them all!"
(Some Time Later)
When Null was a little boy, he collected trading cards. Mostly from sports, some from collectable games. Any little bit of money he could get his hands on, he would spend on them. When he had enough gathered for an extra pack, he couldn't wait for trips to the store.
As far as pastimes went, collecting cards was far more affordable than some other things a kid could get into, and it was cheap way for his parents to entice him to behave or perform better in school. Just dangle a pack of cards or two in front of him, and he'd do whatever needed to be done.
He still had them all in binders that he kept in his bedroom in the townhouse. Sometimes when he was bored, he'd pull them out and look at them. Countless faces, preserved in plastic protective sleeves, all pictures frozen in time and/or action.
At the moment, for the first time ever, it occurred to Null to wonder just what it would be like to be one of those trading cards, or maybe a collective figure trapped in the packaging, trapped – staring out at the world in front of them.
-Because that was what he felt like.
Trapped in a screen, staring out at the interior of a spaceship, Null couldn't move a muscle. But he could see everything in front of him. He could see walls of screens that looked like the see-through pages of a binder containing cards, only instead of cards, they contained people.
Heroes and villains in costume. Metahumans and base-level humans alike. Six to a panel, six panels in a column, four columns to each side of a square. There were many Null didn't recognize, but a great number that he did, either from the news on TV or from web articles.
He'd watched them all fill in, never seeming to end. As far as he knew, more were coming still. All of them were stuck, frozen in place like him. He could see all of this, and yet he couldn't see who was around him. By the rules of everything else he was looking at, there were five other people in the same panel as him.
Null could hardly move his mouth enough to speak, but was still able to manage, "Hey... is anyone around me? Hello?"
The first voice he heard belonged to Cyborg, "Right here, Null."
"I'm here," Wonder Girl said immediately after.
Kid Devil was the next to speak up, "I can hear you."
"Unfortunately, I'm right here with you too," Robin grumbled.
It seemed like the Titans that had been around when he'd been captured were stuck together in the same panel, "Kara?" Null asked for the only person he hadn't heard from yet, "You here?"
"Yeah," Supergirl said, sounding dejected over their current circumstances, "Sorry, guys. I don't think I can bust us out. I can't move or get any of my powers to work."
Null had noted the same thing, as had all of the others. If any of them could, they would have a long time ago, "Cool. we can't move, and we can't use our powers. What the hell is this?"
If Supergirl couldn't just flex and break the thing, what chance did any of the rest of them have to do anything? Still, they weren't collectibles and didn't plan on being auctioned off to the highest bidder one-by-one.
Robin was the first to start making suggestions, "So no one here has anything?" He got four consecutive responses in the negative, but noticed one person hadn't said anything, "Null?"
Null had kept his mouth shut because while his attempts to use his powers had undeniably failed, it wasn't as though he had access to nothing, "I can feel the energy running through this thing."
That gave some of them a measure of hope, "Can you absorb it like you did with the lasso earlier?" Wonder Girl asked.
"I'm trying. I can't get my powers to kick in," Null said, sounding frustrated. He needed to find some way to make use of what he had available to him, for everyone's good, "Ugh. It's like, they're there, but they're shut off. I don't get it."
Fortunately, he had one person undoubtedly in his corner, "You can do it. Just take your time," Kara reassured him.
Null closed his eyes and tried to pinpoint just what it was he was feeling out. If Cyborg had access to his instruments, he could have just asked him. But if that were the case, Supergirl could have just gotten them all out herself. The other heroes as well.
With all the heroes and villains captured, there had to be someone that could get loose. Then again, Null didn't like the idea of leaving his fate in someone else's hands, even if they were more qualified for the job than he was. That meant he had to find some kind of answer.
"Hold on a minute," Null realized after a short while of pondering the issue, "I can't use my powers, but I can feel the current of whatever's keeping us here. The power is running through us. That's what's holding us in place."
"So... what does that mean?" Kid Devil asked.
"What that means is, we're all conduits," Cyborg explained, feeling more optimistic once he caught on to where the thief among them was going, "Null can't generate electricity right now, but whatever's keeping us here is doing it for him."
Null continued from where he'd left off, "I don't have to absorb it because it's already passing through me. I just have to redirect it as it moves through."
Kid Devil envisioned electricity flying all over in wild, uncontrollable bursts, "Wait-wait-wait, what's going to happen to us when you do that?"
"I have no idea," Null said, wishing he could shrug his shoulders in that moment, "I don't think I can regulate it. I think I can just redirect it. Whatever happens when I do that..."
Which meant there was a chance that anything could happen, to him or to the rest of them. And without access to their superhuman powers, none of them would be able to endure it. The group fell silent.
Robin, the only one who never had any powers to protect him gave his opinion, "...I think you should go for it," He said, "I don't know about the rest of you, but I'd rather be electrocuted than sold."
That was a sentiment everyone could agree to, spurring Null into action.
At first, nothing happened. But slowly, the panel entrapping all of them began to glow brighter and brighter before bursting, sending sparks flying all over. Null, the Titans, and Supergirl fell out together in a heap, crashing down together on a metal scaffold.
Supergirl was ecstatic, "Null, you did it!"
"Yeah, I did," Null replied, underneath the full body weight of everyone else, "Now get off of me already."
At first glance, things were as good as they could have been, all circumstances taken into account. Six of them was a good number to act with, and four of the six were used to working together in a team. But being freed hadn't solved the issue of their powers. None of them had access to their abilities.
"...Should have stayed in Saint-Tropez..." Null muttered to himself as everyone got up from the floor.
"I don't think it would have mattered," Supergirl said, "That alien was seeking out metahumans."
Robin shook his head in the negative, "I'm not so sure. He only said something about the costumed ones. He wants color, uniqueness. And I don't see anyone here who's not in their gear," He said, looking around at the countless others who were all trapped. He knew many of them, "Can we get them out? Null, you think you can pull a repeat performance?"
Null moved over to another panel and put his hand on it, trying to get a feel for the power running through it, "...No. The only reason it worked the first time is because I was in it. I can't do anything from the outside if I can't make the power surge."
He shut his eyes and tried to feel. He could feel transmissions in the air, but couldn't do anything about it. Their powers were still there, but there was something turning them off.
"Packaging Unit Tau Tau 7 reports," Two insectoid robots appeared from the air, hovering around the six escapees, "Acquisitions located. Priority repackaging initiated."
With that, they moved in to attack. Null slipped behind the Titans as they sprang into action.
Cyborg, easily the most durable of the bunch at the moment, moved forward. Even without his optics, he knew what he was looking at, "The anti-gravity unit in the thorax is the weak point! It's the only part not armored!"
Wonder Girl was the first to truly pounce, leaping in and smashing her fist into the glowing red area of an insect's body. Her fist and arm went right into it, as though it were goo, "Nice, Cy!" She said, over the terrible screech of the damaged robot.
While none of them had their powers, Robin still had all of his tools. He and Kid Devil destroyed their own Packaging robot, courtesy of Robin's retractable bo staff.
"I don't think those things were meant for fighting," Supergirl said, having observed everything, "It would make sense, right? I don't think the Auctioneer would keep robots around that could risk damaging his merchandise."
"'Auctioneer'?" Null asked, in regards to the name.
"Well, we need to call the guy who caught us something," Supergirl replied, "I mean, I'm technically an alien, so calling him 'alien' isn't really specific."
"Shouldn't we find a way out of here now?" Kid Devil asked, while looking around at all of the captured heroes and villains, "We can't do anything about them right now, and this place is giving me the creeps."
(Meanwhile – London, England)
The 'Auctioneer's' business on Earth was interrupted in the middle of his appraisal process by the sudden transmission from his partner onboard his ship, "What do you want, Ops?" He'd just found a quaint little clock tower that could serve as an ornamental timepiece if he could re-calibrate it to the time measurements of whatever species purchased it from him.
"Six escapees have left the packaging area! Loose on the ship! Ops is concerned!"
The Auctioneer sighed at the alarm in his 'partner's voice, "Ops. Ops, calm yourself," He said, ignoring the military jets buzzing around, taking shots at him when they had the chance, "They are no threat without access to their special abilities. Recapture them, but without all of this fuss."
"Understood, boss! Ops will continue to monitor escapees!"
It was then that the Auctioneer thought of a new way to make a profit off of the situation, "Ops, keep the vidfeed going, and reach out to certain parties. We can sell the rights for a bundle if their escape attempt is entertaining enough. If nothing else, it should make for good advertisement when we get them captured again."
(With Null – Onboard the Auctioneer's Ship)
Robin and Null led the way, being the best prepared for worming their way through a hostile stronghold without being seen. Still, they had no idea where they were going. Even when they left the chamber containing the heroes and villains, what good did it do when they hadn't the first idea where to start. It didn't help that the place seemed to be the size of a city.
"It just doesn't make sense..." Robin eventually muttered as they continued to move along.
Null noticed, "What doesn't?" Despite his problems with Robin, he knew he was smart. Smart enough that when he had a thought, it was best to hear him out.
"How your powers are gone. Vic's especially," Robin said, reaching out and putting a hand on Cyborg's shoulder, "Your powers aren't powers. You don't get your abilities from some metagene or alien physiology. It's built into you."
Null picked up on where Robin was coming from quickly, "The way we get our powers aren't the same. I'm a metahuman, Cyborg's a cyborg, Supergirl is an alien, and... I don't know how you two got your powers," He said about Wonder Girl and Kid Devil.
"Uh... it's kind of a long story."
Null let Kid Devil's cop-out excuse slide in favor of getting his own point across, "-And even if it was a thing, how could it be done for everyone? We were here first, and I never lost consciousness. I didn't see them do anything. We just appeared in our cells and that was that. Robin still had his weapons," Robin nodded in agreement.
"What are you two saying?" Wonder Girl asked, hands on her hips.
"What we're saying is," Null held up a hand and closed his fist, electricity crackled in it, "I have my fucking powers. And you all do too."
It had to have been something funny. Why else could have have still been able to sense electricity in the air if his powers didn't work at all? His ability to sense was a part of his powers, but one that he didn't really control, as much as he focused it.
When he'd broken them out, it hadn't been because of some loophole in the system that he'd discovered. It had been because he'd never lost his powers in the first place. He only thought he had.
All at once, everyone else tried to test their own powers, only to find that they did indeed work. Wonder Girl and Supergirl could fly.
"Why didn't they work before?"
Robin crossed his arms over his chest, "Because no one actually tried them until Null tried his."
"But..." Supergirl wanted to dispute him, but started thinking harder about it, "No. Yes. I beamed into the cell with the thought in my head that my powers didn't work, like I'd already tried and failed... but I don't remember trying."
"Brain activity is electric impulses," Cyborg said, "If that prison really worked the way Null figured it did, it probably put the thought into our head that we couldn't break free – couldn't move." A psychological prison instead of a physical one, "...We need to go back and get everyone out."
Null scoffed, "Good luck finding the way back. We've been running for twenty minutes."
Knowing she had her powers back, Super Girl activated her x-ray vision to search, "There's a terminal not too far from here. Follow me," Supergirl flew off, followed by the other until she stopped at a glowing orange screen. It looked like an interface meant for the robots that served the Auctioneer.
Cyborg smirked when he was able to turn his index finger into a hacking device to break into the terminal.
While they waited, Null tested his capabilities, "As someone who never fought aliens before, I am so glad to have my powers for this."
"You fought Power Boy," Supergirl said with a cheeky grin, "He counts as an alien."
Null remembered as clear as day how poorly that encounter went for him, "I count that more as aggressively retreating away than actually fighting," He glared at her half-heartedly when she started to giggle, "So... you wanna try Paris again when this is all over?"
Supergirl was surprised by Null's willingness to stay around her, even after all of the trouble that came with it, "D-Do you want to?"
Nearby, Robin scowled at what he was hearing from the two hormonal teenagers. Wonder Girl nudged him to get his attention, "Come on, Robin. Let them have this," She said, "When was the last time Null even caused you any real trouble?"
It had been a while since Null had actually done anything that would result in the authorities breathing down his neck... that Robin knew of, "Supergirl can handle it, I guess," He doubted that Supergirl would abide by it if Null really did something criminal again, "...I thought you were against them getting together too?"
"It wasn't like the guy I tried to push Kara towards was any better," Wonder Girl grumbled, feeling guilty over the boy she'd previously tried to set Supergirl up with, "Power Boy was a total creep. I really lost any kind of counsel on the matter after that one. We should just leave it up to her."
She really just wanted Supergirl to be happy. Supergirl deserved it, and she had the right to make her own decisions. Even if it was a questionable one, it had yet to backfire. And the two of them seemed to be taking things slowly.
"Ha-ha, I'm in!" Cyborg exclaimed victoriously, "I've got schematics, security placements, the works!"
Robin couldn't help but smile, sharing in his friend's enthusiasm. Things seemed to be looking up, "That's great. Can you tell where we are?"
Cyborg's human eye went wide as he analyzed the data he'd managed to find. None of it was in a language he could understand, but some things didn't need words. Pictures were enough, "Uh... how familiar are any of you with the solar system?"
"...Why?" Kid Devil asked uncertainly.
Cyborg used his arm as a projector to show their current location, "Because we're somewhere within Saturn's orbit."
The entire time they'd been free, none of them had seen a window. They knew the Auctioneer possessed the technology for teleportation, but they assumed he still had to be somewhere on or near Earth to attack it the way he had been. Not more than a billion miles away.
Everyone was caught off-guard, but Null and Kid Devil took it the hardest. Everyone else had at least some kind of extraterrestrial experience, other than them.
"This is too much, man," Kid Devil said, bemoaning his predicament, "Whatever happened to easing the new guy into this stuff? I didn't expect to get chucked into space as my first Teen Titans thing."
Null could relate with him, more than he could with any other hero he'd met up to that point, "I never expected to do anything dangerous in space, period," He said, understanding Kid Devil's sentiment. But still, they were there, thus they needed to get on with it. Whatever 'it' would wind up being, "How are we gonna get home, guys?"
"The Auctioneer's still on Earth," Robin said, punching into his palm, "We've got to find some way to stop him from here, because there is no easy way back."
That served Null's purposes just fine. Given the size of the alien interloper who was farming their planet for objects to sell, he wasn't eager to fight him anyway.
"Let's rip his ship to shreds," Wonder Girl offered as a suggestion, "That should get his attention, right?"
Cyborg was quick to throw that plan aside, "And kill most of us who can't survive in space. Besides, even if we did go with that, in a ship this size, we could destroy stuff for a week straight and not do much damage."
In addition to that, onboard the ship were the tiny repair robots that fixed whatever damage they came across. Null and the Titans could wreck an entire section and move along to another one, only for the little robots to swoop in and put everything back together.
Eventually, Null spoke up, finding the solution more obvious than many of the others, "This guy steals and sells shit, doesn't he? Let's just find the most valuable thing he has on the ship."
Kara floated over inquisitively, "And then what do you suggest we do with it?"
"Take it and trade it for all of us heading home," Null continued, espousing the merits of leverage, "Trust me. As someone who specializes in greed, holding some intergalactic businessman's valuables hostage will get his attention," What happened from that point, he couldn't say, but it would at least get the ball rolling.
Robin, of all people, seemed to be mulling over the merits of a plan of action presented by Null, "...He does seem to be all about the commodity..." He said to himself, sounding more onboard with the idea by the second, "Cyborg?"
Way ahead of him, Cyborg had already been checking over the downloaded information he'd obtained to point them in the right direction, "I can't read this language, so I can't tell what he's got in storage, or where, but I can tell where the largest concentration of security is. That's all I can do though. I can't shut anything down."
"We'll make it work," Supergirl said, cracking her knuckles in anticipation, "Alright. Let's go check the merchandise!"
The ship's interior was built like a branching tree, with corridors that came together into a single hall, which came together with others, and so on. Null and the Titans followed them inward until eventually they came across the heaviest concentration of firepower they had faced up to that point. Robots three times the size of any of them, well-armed to boot.
There wasn't a lot of time for Null and the Titans to act. They had been loose on the ship for long enough that they figured the strong arm of the security force would come down on them regardless if they didn't get on with it.
That meant enough with moving about carefully. With the knowledge that their powers were still present, the group went loud and hard at the nearest opportunity.
Fortunately, they were able to get the drop on the opposition, and none of them had any qualms with putting down the combat robots as forcefully as needed.
Null's electric abilities proved very effective against the mechanized foe, and there was very much a need for him to put them to use.
Despite his aversion to head-on combat, Null couldn't afford to hang back when the outcome of the fighting would have decided whether or not he ever went home again. Even if it meant fighting alongside... Robin... of all people, he had to take part to ensure victory on their behalf.
In the middle of the fracas, the two enemies locked eyes and nodded to each other in something resembling respect before continuing to take on the deadly robots. They could wait until they were on Earth again to get back at each other's throats.
As a whole, the Titans worked like a well-oiled machine, while Supergirl was a solo force of nature who didn't necessarily need to work in coordination with anyone to wreck the opposition. Still, she tended to stay nearer to Null, finding it enjoyable to actually fight side-by-side with him for once, even if he was far from pleased with it.
Null covered his head as a metal slab flew past him and into the face of an enemy robot behind him, destroying its upper body, "Holy shit!" He exclaimed, before glaring at the source of the attack, "Damn it, Kara, chill!"
Supergirl hovered in the air, hands on her hips, "Are you saying you had that one?" She dodged an explosive blast before returning fire with her heat vision.
"No!" Null said before zapping another large robot that lumbered its way within his range, "I'm just jumpy. Fighting isn't my first choice, let alone fighting aliens."
"You're doing well though!" Supergirl encouraged, swinging a crushing punch that imploded another robot's chest, "See? I knew you'd be a good hero!"
Null growled under his breath and reversed the polarity of one robot, magnetically pulling several in its direction, "This doesn't count! This is so I don't get sold like some collectible action figure!"
Cyborg took the opportunity presented to him to charge a blast from his sonic cannon that he used to finish the battle with a bang. The group stood around, appraising the fiery wrecks left behind of most of the robots
"Not bad, guys," Cyborg said, looking over the Titans and Supergirl, "You too, Null."
Null gave a tired thumbs up and glared at a smiling Supergirl. He pointed at his eyes and then at hers, "Not a hero," He mouthed silently.
Robin brushed fluids and metal particles off of his gloves, "That went about as well as it could have. How close are we, Cyborg?" Cyborg pointed to a set of heavy doors, sealed off not too far away, "What do you say we knock?"
Supergirl took that as her cue to fly into the doors and plow them down with a loud, metallic 'bang', signaling their entry into a vast room with a series of scaffolds and one elevated pathway.
Null impotently held up his index finger as everyone else entered, "...Uh, I probably could have just opened that."
"No time!" Supergirl replied cheekily, eyeing a large orange blob set in the middle of a green column of light, "I don't know what this thing is, but it looks important, so..."
"Alert! Alert! Incursion in operations center! Incursion in-," Supergirl smashed through the green field and yanked the orange blob free, all the while, it continued to panic, "Awp! Ops, disconnecting from main feeds! Delivery disruption imminent!"
Cyborg walked through the chamber, looking around at all of the connections that seemed to start there in that room, "It looks like some kind of command center. Not navigational though," He said, before pointing at Supergirl's new acquisition, "What's the hell is that?"
"I dunno," Supergirl admitted, arms wrapped around the thing in her possession, "It looked like it was in charge, or something, so I figured I'd grab it before it activated anymore defenses."
"Um... please let Ops go now?" The creature in Supergirl's arms asked nervously.
The call from Wonder Girl brought Supergirl and Cyborg's attention closer to the entrance, where Null stood, eyes glazed over.
"Null?" Wonder Girl asked, getting no response as the boy continued to stare off into space, "Null!" She repeated with more force. He was able to snap Null out of it with a decent shake
Null came to, noticing the concerned and confused looks from everyone around him, "Whoa. Sorry, I just, when I walked in... this place is teeming with electronic transmissions. Millions of them. Maybe more. I don't know. I couldn't count them."
His normal method of sensing conflicted with the transmissions in the room almost immediately upon entering, overwhelming his other senses. He could see countless little lines in the room, and when he tried to focus on one, he could hear speech in languages he couldn't comprehend. It had been quite the experience. He was getting stronger, this he knew, but this wasn't something he'd anticipated.
"You can see electronic transmissions?" Kid Devil asked, seemingly almost as amazed as Null was.
When they were that obvious and blatant? Yes. More subtle ones, Null wasn't sure. He would have to figure it out later, "I guess I can."
Robin had wandered away to discover what he could about the room. Notably, the green column Supergirl had yanked Ops from, "This column, some kind of fiber-optic relay?" A smile slowly came to his face, "This is the heart of the Auctioneer's operation."
Supergirl looked at the column, and then to Null, remembering what he'd just told her, "So this place is just a comm-center. A big, complicated one, but still-."
"-Still, this is what we need," Wonder Girl finished for her, "I think this is good leverage to get that giant sucker on Earth to come back here. Cyborg, can you do anything with this?"
"Let's see," Cyborg said before turning to Null, "Do you think you can tap back into those transmissions? I want to see something."
"Yeah," Null said with uncertainty. He focused on the feeling he felt when it had first happened and saw everything, just like before, "So now what?" Cyborg placed a wire in his hand, the other end of which was connected to his body, "Seriously? You want me to zap you?"
"Technically, since you're holding that, you already are," Cyborg said with a smirk, before he started to register just what Null was processing through his body, "Goddamn, you weren't kidding."
Robin's foot tapped on the floor as he waited for a result, one way or the other, "Can you handle it?"
"Yeah, yeah," Cyborg said, "Just give me a minute to sort out everything I've got here."
A booming voice from above them got everyone's attention, "Actually... I'd prefer you leave it alone," The Auctioneer said, having suddenly appeared from seemingly nowhere. More teleportation, it seemed, "As it is, you've made more of a mess than I've thought imaginable."
All six of the young heroes looked up at the towering individual, "At least we got him back here," Kid Devil commented, "Now what?"
"Cyborg?" Wonder Girl said nervously, staring up at their towering captor.
"Working on it…" Cyborg replied, a tense grit to his teeth as his operating system continued to familiarize itself with that of the Auctioneer's, "Got it!"
Security alarms started to sound, prompting the Auctioneer to narrow his eyes at the Earth-dwellers he had up to that point seen as potential assets, "What have you done?"
"Let loose a swarm of pissed off superheroes and supervillains on your ship," Cyborg said, "Now, this is the part where we work out some terms. So, how about this? You let us go, or we bring this whole ship down on your head?"
What seemed like a checkmate moment fell flat when the Auctioneer outright refused, "I have other ships. Bid rejected."
So, even if they defeated him, he could just take himself to one of his other ships to regroup, and they would be stuck in Saturn's orbit with a ship they had no clue how to use until he found a way to bring them back to heel.
"Yeah?" Null ventured as another sudden bluff, "Well, what if Supergirl puts the squeeze on your friend here? I bet he isn't nearly as tough as you are."
"Ops is a living, thinking being," The Auctioneer said, fixing a look of intent on Supergirl, who still hadn't let go of the creature that had been manning the entire operation, "I have scanned much about the Kryptonians who live on your planet. I know you're bluffing."
Null winced under his hood. Even if the Auctioneer made a move against them, Supergirl wouldn't do anything permanently damaging to whatever Ops was. So they had no bargaining chips left, "What all are you tapped into?" He asked Cyborg, "We're in the ship's comm. system. If you look hard enough, we should have his whole database."
"And do what with it?"
"You have the whole ship at your fingertips," Null said, "If we can't make him scared, I'm sure someone he sells to can. Find his database and send it out."
Kid Devil's eyes widened in understanding, "Hey, yeah. A guy like this has probably screwed someone over somewhere," Someone who'd love the chance to get at him. Probably countless someones.
The Auctioneer realized this as well, having overheard it all, "Do you know what you're saying, Earthling?"
Null stepped forward, recognizing that he was the one being spoken to, "As someone who steals from scary people and sells to other people who are probably just as scary, yes."
"I came to your planet, chasing a spaceship due to land here, one hiding potentially-enormous value, and instead I find wonders and..." The Auctioneer said, gazing down at Null intently, "I cheat no one. Mind you, that does not mean there are no unsatisfied customers who come to regret the bargains they make. And my business data is quite valuable, yes."
"None of that is my problem. You took me from my planet, and you're going to sell me. This is just business," Leveraging whatever he had at his disposal to ensure his continued survival, "I value freedom more than anything else. What do you value?"
That question hung in the air between them, as everyone waited for negotiations to break down. Yet, they never did.
Somehow, from the way the Auctioneer looked at Null, the others felt that to a degree, they understood each other, "Bid accepted," The Auctioneer waved his hand, showing purple projections of everyone and everything taken from Earth during his time there. It all began vanishing from sight, "All is being restored as it was. The beings and objects taken are returned."
He gestured to the others, showing Null that the Titans and Supergirl were indeed being teleported away. Cameras on Earth showed everything that had been taken returning to its original place.
"Great," Null said, feeling a lot more exposed once he was left alone with the towering Auctioneer, "...You know, if I don't show up soon, Cyborg will send all of that stuff out."
The Auctioneer smirked down at Null, "I will leave your planet unmolested for a time. But, Earthling, we will do business again, I think."
Null didn't like the sound of that in the slightest, but before he could think of anything to say, the Auctioneer snapped his fingers, sending the thief away in a pink field of energy.
(Some Time Later – Paris, France)
In the end, Kara got what she wanted, time with Max at the Eiffel Tower. Unfortunately, the mood she'd wanted earlier that day had flown out of the window by the time night had fallen. At least it was a chance to relax. That, and Paris looked properly lit up from the view they had.
They were also alone. No one really wanted to be by any of the landmarks that had been taken that day, even if they had been returned and the robots that had originally secured them were nowhere to be found. Still, the privacy was appreciated.
"You did a good thing today," Kara idly commented, while she and Max leaned on the railing, looking out over the city, "You helped a lot of people. Did some good for the world."
Max rolled his eyes. He was certain that Earth could have done without some of humanity's monuments to itself, "Kara, I'm only gonna say it one more time, okay? That was self-preservation. It just so happened that my best interests meant helping the 'good guys'."
"It's the last time I'll bring it up," Kara said, deflecting conflict, "You know my thoughts on everything already," He did. And she knew his own, which was why she didn't push any further, "I don't need to say anything else, because it's already in your head. One day, you're going to want to know what it feels like to do something heroic."
Max was skeptical, to say the least, after the day he'd had, "I helped with all of this alien crap, and I didn't even get any credit," True enough, Kara and the Titans got all of the recognition. He didn't even get to swipe any sweet alien tech to repurpose.
"That doesn't mean I want-," Max's continued protests were stopped when he turned to Kara and she met him with a kiss. Unlike the first time, it wasn't quick. There was no mistaking it for anything else on Max's front. Kara took her time with the experience.
Eventually, the two separated just enough for Kara to speak, "If no one else says 'thank you', I'll say it for them," She said before giving Max another short smooch, "Thank you."
Max was momentarily taken aback. He could count the number of times he'd received gratitude from anyone for anything on one hand and have fingers left over. Granted, he usually did things that were illegal, and thus thanking him for them would be crazy, but still...
When someone like Kara was one of the only people who had ever showed that they appreciated anything you did, it was hard to ignore how it made you feel.
The sound of Max's phone going off brought him back to earth. The first thing that came to his attention, other than the fact that caller ID showed it was Selina was calling, was that he had over twenty missed calls and texts respectively from her. He was in trouble and he knew it, "...Uh, hello?"
Her tone sounded dangerous. Even Kara winced. Max immediately went into damage control mode, "Selina, I-."
"Where the HELL-?"
"A lot of things have happened today that-."
"-Have you BEEN!?"
Max paused for long enough to think of a response that wouldn't get him yelled at further, "I was around Saturn, I think. Pissing off an alien. Long story."
"..." If nothing else, he did stop the yelling, as Selina had no idea how to even chide him past that point, "...I'm not even... just get back here. Now."
Max hung up and sighed, granting Kara an apologetic smile, "I still owe you a date that doesn't get messed up by bad guys or cut off by someone else."
"That will probably never happen," Kara said knowingly. Even so, she liked the sound of it, "But still, I'll take you up on that. Now let's get you back before you lose your head."
And that's the chapter, ladies and gents.
Null goes to space and fights against the resources of an alien businessman who may or may not find a reason to screw with him in the future. Oh, joy.
Anyway, I hope that was fun to read. I'm not super-hot on it, but we'll continue moving forward from here.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a bad shoulder to nurse before I do further damage to it wrestling this weekend. Pretty sure it's a pinched nerve, but even if it isn't, I can't stop/won't stop until that bastard is literally hanging by a thread of muscle.
Don't be like your old friend, Kenchi, kids. Be smarter than that. Go to the doctor... unless, just like your old friend Kenchi, you don't feel like paying for it.
Until the next time, folks.