"We really need to get this door fixed."
In the range of plausible possibilities of who Sam expected to come through that door a woman who got distracted by building rust was not one of them.
Not that she wasn't relieved. An unannounced visitor in space was never a good thing. Honestly she was just glad that it wasn't the Guys in White or someone equally dangerous. A person coming to meet them on good terms had to be the best outcome any of them could have hoped for.
She should be elated. This was good.
Mumbling under her breath the intruder let the door go and fully walked in. There was no fanfare, she did not saunter, she did not have that purposeful march many of the Justice League walked with. Her long blonde hair hanged freely around her. Her expression was pure sunshine; baby blue eyes and bright red lipstick that did nothing but encourage her smile. All in all, she was lovely and above that non-threatening.
Sam couldn't help but tense as the woman drew nearer. Black Canary is a metahuman. Black Canary is one of the world's top martial artists. Black Canary was many things, but safe was not one of them. No matter what that sundress implied.
Normally at this time she would warn Danny and Tucker, but there was very much an impenetrable barrier between them. They couldn't talk through hand signals and yelling defeated the purpose. She just had to believe that they saw what she did.
"Of all the jails in all the space stations in all the universe, she walks into mine." Tucker did not so much as say as he purred. "Hello, I'm Tucker Foley."
Forcefully she held up an expression of annoyance with the smallest hint of disgust. The same expression that she would have if she had seen Tucker flirt back in high school.
When Tucker had started dating Valerie he stopped flirting. When they had begun running he didn't so much as pay another woman a passing glance. None of them wanted to bring more attention to themselves then necessary.
She didn't know what he was trying to prove by chuckling up Black Canary. Rather, she knew exactly what he was doing but was thrown by the whiplash of it all.
It was a strange thing not taking the indirect approach.
Voice laced with sarcasm, Black Canary's smile did not falter, "Don't you think you're a little too young for me?"
Tucker huffed and Sam could hear the pout in his voice, "That's cold, and here I was trying to get to know you better."
"Why would you want to know me better?" Black Canary inquired of him.
"Because that is what you are trying to do to us." Tucker responded, "You are Black Canary, aren't you? The League's personal therapist?"
She looked up just in time to catch Canary's expression change from open innocence to... still open but much smugger.
"I'm not surprised that didn't work." Canary said crossing her arms, "You three wouldn't be tricked by my appearance, would you? You have too much experience to fall for something like that."
Danny, never one to hide his disdain stiffly answered, "Yes, we do."
Sam winched at the roughness in Danny's voice. He did not take well to people trying to manipulate him in anyway. Hell, he didn't even like surprise parties.
Canary picked up on his scorn and instantly corrected her tone, "It's not like that, Danny. We are just trying to help you."
"By seeing how easily we can be manipulated?" Danny asked the coarseness of his voice not letting up.
"Yes." Was Canary's flat response.
Space, she realized in that moment that no one spoke and chills ran up her spine, made everything so much colder.
There was no padding or soft tones to ease Black Canary's words. Just cold hard fact followed by the silence of space.
"Yes?" Tucker stammered out the disbelief clear in his voice, "Listen lady, I've had many people tell me that they lied to me for my own good. Not once has that thought process ended well for anyone involved."
Canary's arms lowered slightly and there was the briefest of hesitation in her voice, "You already know that the people who we are up against will not, to put it incredibly mildly, play nicely. We believe knowing your limits will help us plan better for what might happen next."
Fidgeting in the confines of her straight jacket Sam spoke, "What are you not telling us?" What Lois Lane told them about the G.I.W couldn't have been the worst of it. No matter how much she admired her, Lois Lane was just a reporter.
Canary, not making her feel better about the tightening coils in her stomach, looked away; foot tapping rhythmically against the reinforced steel of the floor she spoke, "Your 'Clockwork' gave us information that we couldn't confirm until we had access to the Watch Tower's computers. Now that we know that what he told us is factual we have to act as if his visions of the future are plausible." She looked back at them steadfast and unflinching, "The future Clockwork saw cannot come to pass."
In an effort to break the somber mood that fell upon them Canary continued with a smile smaller than the beam she had entered the room with, "The purpose of my visit isn't all doom and gloom. I do want to help you; starting with your mental well-being. If you need something to keep you occupied, or maybe a person you can talk to, just ask."
"Why do you think we need help? We enjoy each other's company and are perfectly fine keeping each other entertained." Danny replied so stubbornly that she knew that if he wasn't already in a straight-jacket he would have crossed his arms.
One of Black Canary's perfectly styled eyebrows rose, "There are cameras in this room. We could hear you fighting."
"Well in that case." Tucker said after a beat, "Can you hook us up with a TV? If I get sucked into a drum circle or whatever Sam's idea of fun is I might actually die."
Sam couldn't help it. She couldn't let Tucker's words go because everyone knew that, "A drum circle is a legitimate form of entertainment!" She shouted at cold unrelenting steel.
"Yeah, if you're at Stonehenge." Cold unrelenting steel answered back, "We're in a space age base, and I want space age entertainment!"
"Alright." Black Canary said, cutting off her retort about where he could shove his conformist entertainment, "We'll get you a TV, anything else?"
Tucker's 'ha!' transferred through the walls of the cell and to her, "See now we can have proper entertainment!" There was a pause as Canary's words caught up with him, and he responded with a confused, "What?"
"I told you that we wanted you to be comfortable." Canary expressed with a smirk at Tucker's fumble, "Compared to what others have requested from us a working TV is mundane. Is there anything else that you want?"
Her breath caught in her throat. Canary wasn't joking. Anything. They could ask for anything, and they will have it given to them. Well anything within reason. Sam wet her lips; there was so much that she wanted to have. The list of things that they were charged with, the ability to negotiate parole, the freedom to sit in all the meetings that the League will have concerning them. Asking for what they needed without overstepping was going to be tricky.
Making up her mind she opened her mouth.
"When's lunch?" Danny offered as their sole question.
Black Canary looked at the clock on the wall, "In about two hours from now. Is there anything I should know about your diets?"
"Sam's an ultra-recyclo-vegetarian, and Tucker physically cannot handle any meal that is more than one fifth vegetable base." Danny imparted easily recalling their dietary choices, "I'm fine with anything as long as it does not reanimate and try to kill me."
To Black Canary's credit she didn't react at their food choices other than to nod and leave closing the protesting door behind her.
Sam turned to face the wall that she knew Danny was just on the other side of. Her voice comparable to the sound of a storm and disbelief of hundreds, she bit out, "When's lunch. When's Lunch?"
Danny quickly answered back, "I panicked! It happens! Sometimes people panic!"
Yeah people panic, but, "Freakin' lunch!" She recounted, "Our one chance and you use it on lunch!"
"I told you I panicked." Danny yelped, "Tucker, back me up here!"
"Dude. You didn't even ask for a phone call." Tucker said clicking his tongue in disappointment, "How do you even mess up that bad."
She heard the distinct sound of cloth straining as Danny's usual gestures of frustration were impeded by the jacket he wore. As Danny's words were currently degrading into random noise more than recognizable sound, she spoke up, "As much as I would love to hear you choke out the alphabet, we have more pressing matters to think about."
Tucker gasped loudly, "More pressing than lunch? Say it's not so!"
"Guys focus!" She said cutting off the indignant noises Danny started to make, "We're in another of Clockwork's world ending prophecies. Shouldn't we be doing something?"
Tucker huffed dryly, "Like what? Anything we try to do might backfire or have no effect at all. The only clue we have to stopping this is 'don't get manipulated, don't get caught by the G.I.W, and don't interfere with Valerie's work'. Sam, that's not a lot to go on."
She bit the inside of her cheek. He was right. It wasn't a lot to go on. The Guys in White didn't just have the ball in their court they had a gun pointed at the official's head. "I know that it's not a lot Tucker. We need to know exactly what the G.I.W want, and how they work." Two things that, according to Clockwork, they couldn't know unless they wanted to be caught, because they would try to stop their plans. "We need to get more information on them. If we know who the dangerous ones are we know who to avoid."
"The list on who to avoid is easy." Danny spoke up, "First on that list is that freaky blond guy that came to arrest us."
Sam shivered as the memories of that smile came to her, "Mister Two. He said his division's purpose was to find out how people tick."
"Which is why we are going nowhere near that smiling nutcase. Anyone who smiles like that should be avoided at all costs, and be on a number of lists." Danny affirmed, and Sam ignored that strain in his voice. There was something wrong with that man, something very wrong, "Second on that list is Slade. I think we all can agree one Saw inspired experience is one too many."
That she could agree with. Losing two weeks of your life was more than a tad bit unnerving. Danny muttered, "That's two people down and we'll add more as they come."
Tucker sighed heavily enough for her to hear him, "More. There's always going to be more isn't there?"
"Danielle did say that there were ten divisions of the G.I.W. If we assume that Number Two's mentality is normal for them, yes, we are going to have much more people on that list." She said wishing that she could rub the hair standing up on the back of her neck. Nine more people with Two's power was a thought too terrifying to dwell on.
"This would be so much easier if we could get people to not fear ghosts." Danny grumbled loudly, "Then the G.I.W couldn't use fear to justify their actions."
She pointed a frown in Danny's direction not caring that he couldn't see it, "How would we get the world to not fear ghosts? There are people in Amity Park that still fear ghosts."
"I don't know. Maybe if we can get people to feel sorry for them..."
"Oh, that's a great idea, Danny." Tucker snarked, "Let's show them videos of ghosts and play Sarah McLachlan in the background."
"Well I don't see you coming up with any ideas." Danny groused.
"Because there is nothing that we can do, Danny. The ghosts or most of them already took the option given to them. Hiding in the Ghost Zone is the smartest thing for them to do at this point in time." Tucker explained, "The G.I.W are conducting human experiments. Imagine what they would do to a ghost."
She pursed her lips, and found herself agreeing with the techless techno geek, "Tucker's right, Danny. We've tried to fight for ghost rights, your sister tried to fight for ghost rights along with everyone in Amity Park. If we want to stop the G.I.W we have to go outside the law. Destroy their facilities from the inside out, show no mercy as we reduce them to rubble-" She trailed, her righteous indignation fading, "...and I just figured out what The Red Huntress is doing."
"Huntress is attacking the G.I.W's headquarters?" Tucker's squeak made her flinch. Wasn't Danny supposed to be the one who could break glass with his voice?
"If she was doing that we would have heard about it by now. She's probably going after the smaller ones and breaking the ghosts in them out." Sam said before muttering, "No wonder Danielle didn't want to tell us."
"Well she should have!" Tucker's voice rose, "We could have..!"
"That's why she didn't tell us." Danny said, "Tucker, I know you want to race back to earth and shake her for knowingly doing something so dangerous. It's Huntress she knows about the experiments, hell, that's probably why she agreed to work with Clockwork. After shaking her you would want to help her." Danny said his voice shaking and Sam knew that if she could see him he would be twitching. His obsession to protect must have been going haywire, "But we can't because that would be playing into their hands and will make us easier targets. We can't. Tucker, we would just be putting her in danger."
"So we just leave her to fight those nutcases by herself?" Tucker protested.
"Yes." Sam said, "If we were to go we would just be getting in her way. Danielle said it best, we have to follow through with Clockworks plan until it changes. Clockwork would never put Huntress in a situation he knew she couldn't handle. He made it so that we have to be all the way up here. Being near her on earth would have probably ended in us dying."
"I know that!" Tucker snapped, "There's more to it than just Huntress's safety. The Guys in White have crossed the threshold, mind you not just a few years ago. They crossed it before our parents were young, and we let them have Amity Park. I know people that can and have disappeared for weeks without anyone noticing! Huntress can protect herself. What about the people that the G.I.W target? What about the outcasts?"
The outcasts. The people that she knew like the back of her hand. People like Spike who spent the better part of high school and middle school sleeping in parks because his step-father would periodically lock him out of the house. The number of people that she knew who lived out of their vans was staggering. It wasn't strange for those people to just disappear. And with the Guys in White choking the town like it had been everyone would think they just left for a less oppressive atmosphere.
She was going to be sick.
Breathlessly Danny stammered, "W-we need to tell the League about this. About them. They need to check on them and see if they're alright."
"They will check on us again in about an hour. Though they probably already hear us through the cameras." Sam remarked, slowly pushing away her nausea and mounting guilt.
"I need to know my people are safe."
There, that rise underneath Danny's voice, that ghostly ring that echoed strongly even though he was in his human form. She held back a curse. Talking about Amity Park was bringing his obsession out in the worst way. They had to distract him or he would burn himself out worrying.
"Don't worry, Danny." Tucker piped up cheerfully, "According to that clock we have exactly one hour and fifteen minutes until lunch. You know the most important meal of the day. More important than newspapers, a radio or sitting in on the decisions that the League are going to make regarding us. Man, I cannot think of a hundred other things that Lunch is more important than."
A short pause and the heavy breathing beside her slowed down, "Tucker, are you sassing me?" Danny asked the cadence in his voice just a tad bit smaller than before.
"Me sassing the great Danny Phantom? No, that would be crazy!" The flare in Tucker's voice was blinding, "Almost as crazy as spending the only other freebie we have in a maximum security prison run by the most powerful heroes on earth on something completely frivolous. Good thing none of us did anything like that, right Danny?"
"Tucker, I will come over there and kick your ass." Danny growled out.
There was a moment of silence before Tucker answered back, "Will that be before, or after you waste our only phone call on ordering a pizza?"
Assured that Danny's obsession was muted, Sam tuned out the rest of their 'conversation' opting to rest against the back wall of her cell. She ignored the thumps Danny made. No doubt he had thrown himself to the floor in order to kick at Tucker's cell. The fainter answering bangs suggested that Tucker had taken on a similar approach of warfare.
They weren't going to stop until either one of them backs down, or they get interrupted. She had long since learned that interrupting them wouldn't solve the problem. Some people got rid of their anxiety by taking up crafts or meditating. Danny did so with conflict: be it training, fighting ghosts or something else that would occupy his mind.
Tucker was always up for creating conflict, and she was ever grateful for that even if it left her alone with her thoughts.
Worry about the prophecy, worry about the G.I.W., worry about their families and friends back in Amity Park, worry about the Titan's, or worry about Slade. What great choices lined up for her today.
The cool from the metal of the wall sunk into the back of her head, and man did it feel good. Maybe she could put off her worry enough to rest for a bit. The clock still read that there was two hours before lunch which meant there were three hours before Tucker and Danny stopped fighting. After resting for a bit she could try asking the League for something useful again.
Beneath the earth's surface the gentle slosh of lukewarm coffee accompanied the sound of shuffling feet in a too bright hallway. The hallway laid clean and barren; the agents who would usually fill its capacity were hidden behind doors working to stem their company's bleeding.
Number Four drank longingly from the cheap paper cup; the tips of her unkempt straight black hair kissing the liquid's surface.
Yawning she stopped at a divide in the hallway. One path would take her back to the main hub of her division where her people were trying their hardest to prove their worth by bringing in the dough; the big green bucks, the cold emotionless life giver.
Money. Everything always came down to money in this capitalistic world. Their promise of a big payday was the main reason they were allowed to spend so much resources on the Convicts. Failing to seize the Convicts was why senators across America were trying to secure their re-election by promising to close down their 'wasteful' facilities.
Greenbacks were the reason she had to get up before noon to prove her worth to Decimal even though she had no part in that failed operation. Money was also the reason that she had to work or face losing the privileges that she so much enjoyed. When you make a company forty-five billion a quarter you can get away with a lot. This was evident in her attire. A lightly stained white sweater, loose black sweatpants, and grey crocs with white socks. The only regulations that she had to follow was clothing colour scheme and her black sunglasses.
Decimal threatened to put her into a starched business suit if the G.I.W didn't exceed its last quarter's profit. He also said that he would rip off her limbs and have Division Two's experiments eat her alive, but he always said that when he wanted her to work harder.
Which brought her back to the divide in the hallway. Go back to work, or extend her two-hour 'bathroom break' to reheat her coffee. She took another sip and found that her cup was empty.
Might as well make a new pot.
The cafeteria was a sad little thing. Completely ignored as her agents would rather bring their own meals then spend money on subpar overpriced government food. Neglect was and will never be a good look on buildings, people, or ghosts. For years now the ceiling tiles needed replacing, the pure white turned a muddy yellow from leaky pipes and hanging dust. Dust that coated everything in a thin layer. Walls, counters, tables, chairs, and the floor. It probably was a hazard and one day she should get someone to take a look at that. Just, not now.
Four, like everyone else in her division gave the sagging ceiling a quick glance to make sure she wasn't in immediate danger before bee lining to the only thing of use in the cafeteria.
A warm whirring came from the immaculately cared for coffee machine as she buttoned in her need. Good O'l Irish Cream. Maybe she would take her next vacation in Ireland.
From behind her a... man? Yep man, place his head on top of hers.
"Make me a cup." The intruder mumbled into her hair.
"No." She said a small elation raising in her chest as the coffee began to pour, "Make your own."
She felt the head leave hers as the intruder whined, "I don't want to."
Pausing the conversation to grab her cup she turned around to face the man. Taller than she was, which wasn't saying much, curly short brown hair, a suit tailored and pressed to regulation excluding his crazy socks of the day. Bright purple washing machines on neon green peaked out from the break between his pants and shoes.
"Shouldn't you be working, Seven?" She asked the pouting man.
"Shouldn't you?" Seven asked back, and to that she sipped her coffee.
She knew Seven from the days when their titles were just five random letters of the alphabet. Twenty years was more than enough time to know the little details about a person, such as that Seven would never journey to her division unless he wanted something.
Four wasn't so prideful to think that this cafeteria's coffee was that good. Taking a long drag from her cup she asked, "What's wrong."
"I need...advice." Seven muttered out pulling at his collar with what she knew was sweaty hands. Ungloved hands. He must have forgotten to restock, "Decimal is coming down hard on me." Seven continued exasperated.
"He's coming down on everyone." She answered thinking about the earful she got, "He's very yelly this year. I heard that Two got the worse of it."
"That's why I'm here. What Two gave to Decimal to appease him was good, but it wasn't good enough." Seven answered slowly.
Blinking behind her tinted shades she asked, "Two's dead?"
Seven gave a short bark of laughter, "I wish. Then I would have something worthwhile to test on other than the usual licentious fare that my agents manage to scrounge up. The problem is that Two is hell bent on gaining favour and is demanding that I give him more subjects to test on. The brat's in his mad scientist phase and it's really eating up my resources." Seven's face fell, "Now Decimal wants me to up my product. This isn't the eighties! I don't understand how Decimal doesn't understand that, by and large, people care when people go missing."
She took another sip. That was a dilemma. A classic problem of supply and demand. "If you want to get more supply without drawing attention to yourself you have to outsource." She said turning the problem around in her head. "Contact Number Eight and gain free movement between the border states. After that just use the usual bait of opportunity. Keep the promised pay rate below minimum wage you don't want people to get suspicious. If that's a little too close to home, go international. The number of people who would drop everything for a chance to study in America is staggering. Spread rumours, say that you will pay for their education. Make sure you pick randomly as not to create traceable patterns. While that's happening send out plants who repeat success stories and flash money. Your product will ship themselves here."
Of course he could pull people from the worst cities in America but that would make for an impure product. It was kind of hard to conduct a proper experiment on someone detoxing on a cocktail of self-injected drugs.
A relieved smile crossed Seven's face and he clasped his hands together, "Four, you are a lifesaver. With the League cracking down we can't go to our usual spots." Another whine pushed from him, "It's so hard to find good candidates in this day and age."
"That's because you're using the methods of the last Seven. It's a global world now you have to adapt." She said, "Some of his stuff must be outdated."
Running his hand through his short hair Seven laughed awkwardly, "There are notes which reference local Ice Cream Parlors."
Frowning she pointed at him, "Update. Who knows how long we'll have to be on our toes before this all blows over."
"Number Ten is working hard to save face. She's even giving tours of her 'faculties'." Seven said scooting past her to gain access to the coffee machine. "Showing off ghosts we have, being friendly. I couldn't do what she does; being kind to those potential candidates, that is. Running after the latest shiny thing, clean except for the vaccines that keep them alive; minds healthy and trained by a great education system yet unused. Being so close to so much unrealized potential would drive me mad."
If she were to look at his hands she would see them miming that familiar and clean dash-dash-dash pattern. Amazing what muscle memory could do.
How Decimal expected Seven and Two to share the Convicts was beyond her. They didn't like each other and the way they conducted researched contradicted. They were going to fight on each step of their processes.
What was Decimal planning on doing? Killing the one that complained the most?
Four glanced at her oldest friend who was pouting because the coffee machine wasn't working fast enough. Then she looked at the grimy clock ticking to itself above the entrance to the cafeteria's kitchens. It looked like she was going to have to extend her bathroom break a little more.
Waiting until he finished filling his cup she spoke, "Now that you know how to fill your quota, Seven, want to talk celebrity news?" She wasn't surprised that he ignored her the man hated celebrity gossip. Nonchalantly she disclosed, "Well it's not celebrity 'celebrity' news. Some of the world's best alumni are planning a very stupid backpacking trip through central Africa. Most of them don't even speak any of the languages."
In his haste to face her Seven spilled what looked like most of his coffee on the tiled floor.
Eh. It wasn't like the floor wasn't already stained.
A.N: So I'm alive. I've gotten all of your many, many, many (I'm so sorry) questions. I will update as my will holds out. Also for the people who messaged me if I didn't message you back it's because your settings keep me from doing so. I don't really answer on site. Remember to change your settings to allow for two-way messaging.
Now for the newly introduced members of the Base Ten and the states they have jurisdiction over.
Number Four: South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi.
Number Seven: Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma.