Author's Note:

It occurs to me that I should clarify about Zatara. In Earth-? he's a good twenty years older than Batman, and used to be a good friend of Batman's parents before the shooting. Bruce never got back in touch, but Batman eventually did. He's a decent combatant, but not Justice League level in this universe. His daughter Zatanna exists, and is making inroads in the stage magician business. Her involvement in actual magic has thus far been pretty low key, but it's really only a matter of time…

As usual, you don't need to know any of that. Zatanna isn't going to show up in this story. I just like sharing.


Zatara murmured divination spells as he passed a white gloved hand through the air above Shikako's sleeping body. He shivered at the power he sensed coming from within.

"I fear that attempting to drive the elemental out would not end well," Zatara admitted. "If it truly does not self-identify with a name, it is difficult to get a grip on it. Names are... a way to interact with others. If it had a name, I could, in principle, call upon it for aid. So, it claiming no name is a statement of non-interference with the physical plane. Now, practically, this is an area where my expertise is limited, but I do not see an easy way to separate the two. Not completely, at any rate. I might achieve some success, but I am no great archmage, and this is an incredibly powerful elemental. So long as Shikako is even slightly welcoming of it..."

Shiho interrupted. "Welcoming? What do you mean, welcoming?"

"Possessions require... hooks," the magician said. "Truly, completely unwilling possessions are incredibly difficult to accomplish. It isn't like she called upon it to enter her, but there are other things. Sometimes, ghosts will prey on loneliness or a drive for vengeance. Demons will prey on desire for power, and dark emotions, evil intentions, that sort of thing. For an elemental... alignment of purpose, I suspect, though this is an uncommon event."

"So, you are saying that she agrees with its goals?" Batman mused.

"It appeared in her dreams first, yes?"

Shiho nodded. "She, didn't realize what was happening, and had trouble remembering, but after the glowing eyes thing happened she guessed that that was how it started."

"For this to have occurred in a matter of days, she must have a natural talent as a shaman," Zatara thought out loud. Which... wasn't necessarily a good thing. That was a talent that very much required training lest... well, this entire experience sufficed as a cautionary tale. "It probably showed her its intentions, but without training, she was unable to maintain that knowledge upon awakening. Really, given what Nekron is up to, it is unsurprising that she welcomed it in, albeit unconsciously. Consider what it has done so far: it brought Shikako's friends to a place of safety and aid, counteracted Nekron's attempts to wipe out all life in the universe, talked with some people, and fell asleep. It hasn't done anything Shikako would really object to, unless my assessment of her character is truly off."

"Except for the possession thing," Shiho pointed out dryly.

"If she truly considered that an unconscionable violation, it would be rather obvious," Zatara said as he stood back from her sleeping form. "Most possessions fail not because of any outside aid from those such as myself, but because the possessing entity attempts to force the host to violate some character trait, vow, or moral stance that is intrinsic to the host. Superman, Flash," he turned towards them, "you have spent the most time with the elemental. What is your assessment of its character?"

Flash glanced at Superman before speaking up. "It has a very different view on the world than most people do, and I'm not sure it has any concept of 'sympathy' but... I kind of have a hard time considering it a bad guy."

Superman nodded. "I think its biggest flaw is that it just... doesn't really care about things like suffering and death. It wouldn't let someone die in front of it, but..." He snapped his fingers. "Ah! You are probably familiar with the argument about why God doesn't intervene to prevent terrible things from happening?" Most of the others nodded with varying degrees of assertiveness, while Shiho shrugged and the Martian Manhunter waved him on. "The usual conclusion is that it would violate free will. Well, the elemental is kind of like that, except it doesn't claim any moral superiority because it doesn't care about morality at all. It really cares more about people having the free will to experience life in its full range, including all the bad parts, and even including death, than it does about being benevolent."

Zatara smiled. "Well, that should make things easier. To be honest, if that's the case you have very little to worry about. I assume you asked it to leave? How did it respond?"

"It said that we wouldn't be able to get rid of it, the three of us, I mean, so we should accept the situation," Shiho recalled. "And that it had a noble purpose to serve, that it understood it was inconvenient, and that Shikako had welcomed it, though not consciously."

"We didn't really want to press, since we were mostly worried about it vanishing on us at the time," Flash considered, "but I did ask it to come back to the Watchtower, and it said, um, that she didn't plan on letting us have the chance to come up with a plan to remove it and execute it until... the crisis had passed." He groaned, smacking himself on the forehead. "Oh, wow, I totally missed that."

Zatara nodded along as they spoke. "Given what we know, I rather suspect we will not need to resort to force. I can make some preparations, just in case... If nothing else, I can set up a ritual to send a being back to its home plane. It won't be any good while the elemental is in a host body, so I will have to do some more research on that front. Plan for the worst, and all that."

"Please do so," Superman requested. "After all, there definitely is at least one elemental running around that we very much need to forcibly be rid of."

"Yes, and that one has a name," Zatara considered. Nekron... Maybe he could come up with something. "I don't normally make artifacts, but I'm feeling a little inspired. I doubt I'll have it done in the time-frame your battle against Nekron will conclude, but given the threat he poses, a little planning ahead may be worthwhile. I'll put together a small... containment unit, so to speak. If one of you can trap a little of the Black Light in it, I can get together with a few colleagues and try to make an amulet specialized for dealing with him. You've seen the sort of thing I'm talking about before, I imagine?"

"Glows in his presence, defends against his magic, that sort of thing?" Flash nodded.

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," Zatara agreed. He then had a rather dark thought, and winced. "...Though I suppose if he wins, I shan't have the chance. Batman has my number. If you need anything else..." He looked at them leadingly.

"Just... how do you think we should handle his... revenants," Flash asked grimly.

"...They aren't the people they once were," Zatara advised. "After this incident, I'd recommend respectfully cremating the remains, to purify any lingering energies, so... don't hold back."

He picked up top hat from the table where he had set it down, and let Batman lead the way out of the room.


"So how are you feeling, Alan?"

Alan rolled his eyes as Diana gently, but firmly, manhandled him into a chair at his kitchen table. "I'm feeling like an old man. What do you want me to say, Diana? A necromancer turns my dead friends to the cause of evil, I take so long getting my ring that I'm almost too late, and then I waste most of my charge bouncing an energy absorber off rocks to little effect. Today has just been fantastic, really."

"The way I see it, you saved a little girl's life, saved the world, and stopped our friends' bodies being used to kill people," Diana corrected as she fished food out of his fridge. "Not bad for a man in his eighties. Did you remember to take your arthritis medication this morning?"

"Yes, mother, I did," Alan sighed. "And I don't really want to hear that from the woman who was in her sixties when she first met me."

"Don't feel bad, most people don't age as gracefully as I do," Diana grinned shamelessly, before looking at him glumly. "I will miss you, you know. It hasn't even been a century yet, and already practically everyone from back then seems to be at death's door or past it. I'm still not used to it, really. When I go back home, everything is just like I left it, but people out here change so quickly..."

"You've picked yourself up another good crew," Alan said with a smile. "They're a good bunch of kids; they'll look after you when I'm gone. Hopefully last a good bit longer, too. Healthcare these days is worlds better than what we had to suffer through. And, you know, I've heard rumors about you and Superman..." He waggled his eyebrows, and caught the orange she tossed at his head. Without missing a beat, he set to work pealing it.

"They're all in the cute kid stage from my perspective," Diana said as she moved the selection of sandwich-makings she'd found on the table with a couple of plates. "I do know Superman's species is supposed to be pretty long-lived, so who knows what the situation will be like this time next century, but I'm not going to bother making any plans."

"Sandwiches?" Alan asked 'innocently'. "Not going to try wrangling my stove this time?"

Diana snorted. "Not a chance. I've learned my lesson. Any cooking I do will involve actual flames at some stage of the process. You can keep those terrible electric coils for your own use, thank you very much."


"So what does it look like?" Shiho asked Hanabi once they finally had the lounge to just themselves and Shikako's unconscious form. "Any ideas?"

Her byakugan couldn't… couldn't really see the energies involved. Not like it showed chakra so clearly. But there were signs. Chakra left… ripples was the best way she had to put it, on the world around it. Energy manipulation of all sorts left that sort of sign, like a wake behind the prow of a ship. With her byakugan active, she could see that sort of thing if she looked for it very carefully.

So looking at Shikako wasn't blinding. Hanabi couldn't see the elemental. But trying to see it left her feeling seasick.

"It isn't inside her chakra system," Hanabi said slowly. "It's just… sort of there. But not physically present. I could block her tenketsu, but that would only stop her from using jutsu. The elemental's power wouldn't be inhibited at all, so it will just leave again when she wakes up."

"And being weakened when going into a fight could get her killed," Shiho concluded glumly. "Better not. We could try keeping her unconscious, but we'd run out of knock-out tags eventually…"

"So we can't do anything?" Chiyako sounded greatly disappointed. "But, she's right here! We have to be able to do something, right?"

Shiho just sighed, and gave the little Aburame a hug.

Hanabi shook her head slowly, and canceled her byakugan. "I think we should try waiting for it to leave on its own. We can't compel it now… but maybe the specialist the Justice League brought in can come through with something. Patience is necessary here."

"I don't like relying on them for everything," Shiho admitted. "I mean, I know we need the help, but…"

"There's a time and place for pride."

"They're nice. I think we can trust them."

Shiho nodded. "You're both right. I just don't like feeling useless."

"Okay," Chiyako nodded thoughtfully. "Tell us a story!"

Shiho grimaced. "You could at least pretend you think I'm actually getting somewhere with the portal, you know."

Chiyako batted her eyelashes at the kunoichi while Hanabi rolled her eyes.

"I feel so loved," Shiho muttered. "I am getting somewhere… slowly. But, fine. What sort of story?"

Well, if Shiho was offering… "A ninja story." Obviously.

Chiyako nodded in agreement. Shiho sighed.

"Geeze. Well, Aoba did tell me about the first mission he ever went on with Shikako," Shiho mused leadingly.

Chiyako sat up ramrod straight. Hanabi just raised an eyebrow. No need to look too fascinated… but given the stories Hinata had told her about Shikako's missions, this was certain to be interesting.


"No, Abigail, just keep an eye out. Alan and I will handle this. Call in a few more security guards, and make sure someone in every shift has my number." Wonder Woman paced around the room, talking into a mobile phone. "Just, keep yourself safe."

"Nothing?" Kyle asked her once she hung up.

"Well, Nekron did show up at the JSA museum," Wonder Woman told him. "He just teleported in, grabbed a few pieces of equipment for his revenants, and left. The security system didn't stand a chance. One of the security guards on the night shift tried to stop him, but…" She sighed. "Abigail is just about spitting nails, but she's much too frail to actually do anything about it. I'll have to stop by after all of this is over, cheer her up."

Kyle raised an eyebrow. "I thought you were calling the curator?"

"Abigail wasn't always a curator," Wonder Woman glanced at him, and then grinned cheekily. "She used to run a grocery store."

"And now I'm curious," Kyle had to admit. "Was she the original Black Canary?"

"Red Tornado," Wonder Woman said deadpan.

Kyle scrutinized her, unsure whether she was serious. Wonder Woman started to smirk at him. Her being a princess, Kyle was always a little thrown off when she displayed her sense of humor. It clashed with expectations a bit.

"I honestly have no idea if you're serious or not," Kyle gave in. Red Tornado was, if he remembered correctly, a rather burly person with no overt powers that he could recall. Also, he had been under the impression that Red Tornado was a man. Would someone actually go so far as to obscure their gender when fighting crime?

Kyle had a hard time imagining it, but then being a Green Lantern was literally his job. He hadn't actually done artwork for money since he got the Ring. He wore the mask to help protect his family, but it wasn't really a disguise like some costumes were. This was a uniform. Being a Green Lantern was the very opposite of hiding yourself. It was about being a light in the darkness that evil couldn't miss or hide from, and destroying evil wherever you found it. If someone didn't have the self-confidence for that, it was hard to imagine that they'd be able to use the Ring at all.

Well, not every superhero needed an indomitable will like a Green Lantern but he didn't think any of them were insecure. Setting everything else aside, the outfits alone took a lot of gumption. Maybe the social situation had just been different back then? Gender equality was still a work in progress, so back in the forties maybe… but then Black Canary and Wonder Woman certainly hadn't bothered hiding anything. Seriously, those costumes… no, don't get distracted.

"You can come meet her if you want," Wonder Woman offered cheerfully.

"I'll probably have to miss out," Kyle said, a little regretfully. "I'll need to go back to Oa after this. They'll need me to report on all of this in person."

Wonder Woman nodded understandingly. "Well, she'd be pleased at the opportunity, so consider it an open offer." She scrolled through her phone's contact list again, and placed another call.

"Sadie? Yes, it's Diana. Could you pass Jack the phone? Thank you…" Wonder Woman waited for a few moments, and then grimaced at the question that came down the line. "No, I'm sorry; this isn't really a social call. You shouldn't be in danger for now, but I wanted to be the one to warn you that we're having trouble with a necromancer, and your father…"

Kyle decided to leave Wonder Woman to it. Some conversations weren't meant to be pried into.


"We apologize for not taking care of this form's limitations," the Life Entity said very earnestly to Chiyako and Hanabi while Shiho's snores emerged from behind a stack of physics texts. "We initially expected a swift conclusion of our battle with Nekron, and failed to reconsider appropriately after Nekron withdrew."

"Is Nee-chan okay in there?" Chiyako held onto Shikako's head with her hands and turned it back and forth slightly, while looking inside her eyes, like she expected to see a little Shikako in there if she looked hard enough. Hanabi had to hold back a snort at the mental image.

"Her mental fortitude is restored," the Life Entity assured them. "It is a very noticeable improvement. We believe that we know the best way to deal with Nekron now. Are you safe and healthy here? We can relocate you if you prefer."

"I'd be better if I had Shikako back," Chiyako looked at the Life Entity hopefully, and tried resorting to pouting when she was rebuffed. It didn't work.

Hanabi shook her head. "I feel confident that the people here are trying to look out for our interests. We'll stay here until we get Shikako back, so you absolutely aren't allowed to get her killed, understood?" She lectured the elemental. "And if you don't give her back when Nekron is gone, we'll find a way to get rid of you, so don't even think about keeping her!"

Shiho bolted upright at Hanabi's raised voice, and, kunai drawn, readied herself to lunge towards the noise. Unfortunately, she just ended up tripping over a chair leg and her head slammed onto the table-top.

"Gah! Who- Shikako- No, it's still you," she concluded, giving the elemental a disgruntled glare. "Go back to your home plane already."

"We are pleased to see that you are well," the Life Entity smiled joyfully at her, which only served to make Shiho more annoyed. "This one is once more fully recovered. The crisis should be resolved shortly. Please look after the children in this one's stead for a little while longer."

"Hmph. I can do that much."


J'onn did not hover for this meditation. Containing and focusing himself was not the goal here. Instead, he set himself free.

His humanoid form melted away, his limbs becoming multi-jointed, his hands becoming three-fingered and clawed, plates of higher density flesh rising in places. His almost-human face became unrecognizable.

But he did not stop. Setting aside his thoughts of shape, he cast his mind out. Somewhere on this world, an enemy to all life had gone to ground. He could not track Nekron precisely enough to be useful.

But he knew the elemental was on the North American continent. He could start there, looking for six rather peculiar thought-patterns he had recently encountered.

And as his mind spread out over the land, so did his body to a lesser degree. He rooted himself into the earth to keep himself from moving too far, and then allowed himself to shift without further thought. As he reached across the sky, so his branches spread out from his indomitable trunk. As he peered close, his leaves grew out, and as he found his targets he burst into bloom.

It took long minutes to gather himself back together, all the thoughts and feelings and memories, before he could slowly compact his body back into its normal form.

Superman waited patiently, trusting that J'onn would come through.

J'onn opened his eyes, once more the Martian Manhunter.

"California," J'onn said out loud, too mentally exhausted to want to speak directly into Superman's mind. "Gateway City."


In which: the Life Entity acts in a consistent manner and once everyone puts the pieces together they can focus more on just beating the hell out of Nekron, Zatara's attitude towards preparation demonstrates why he's in Batman's circle of friends, Wonder Woman has to make some calls to warn past allies about Nekron's actions and... some people talk to each other, I guess. And Nekron is about to be the one on the defensive for once.

Also, a noodle incident remains as such. But if you must know, what happened on the mission with Aoba is-

-and that's how, sixteen hours later, they ended up twenty miles from where they started, staring at the bonfire Aoba had set as it burnt itself out. The intelligence pickup was a success, though it wasn't exactly standard operating procedure.

And now you know.