The Battle for National City
Between them Kara and the Captain carried the dormant body of the monster and what pieces they could collect to the DEO. Kara was a little worried showing a virtual stranger the DEO, but if he wasn't on their side he'd end up there anyway.
'Impressive.' He said as Alex and Vasquez wheeled in a trolly for them to put the body in containment.
After hefting the statue like body on to the platform they watched it get taken away'You've seen one underground back ops base you've seen them all I guess.' Kara said and lead him to the main room. There the Director stood like the statue they'd just moved.
'It's actually is sort of familiar.' The Captain smiled, 'My uh, mentor, spent time in a cave. Preparing for what was to come.'
J'onn gave him a look 'And that was?'
'Me.' He admitted and Kara tried to keep the shock from her face. She knew this Captain had an ego, but there was something about what he said. 'Who are you?'
'I'm the Director of the Department of Extra-Normal Operations.' J'onn told him. 'We protect the World from threats its not ready for. Both aliens and meta-humans like yourself.'
'Meta-humans? I don't think I've heard that term before.' The Captain told him and then smiled. 'I assume you mean men and women born with extraordinary gifts.'
'That's one way of putting it.' Alex said as she came up. 'The, well, suspect is in containment. But I think they're dead.'
'Well we didn't kill it.' Kara told them. 'It just sort of stopped.'
J'onn nodded, 'Same with the plants. They're not spreading, but any attempt to cut or burn them just re-grows. We need to find out what we can. Agent Danvers, take point with the research.' Kara's sister nodded and with a glance to the Captain she headed to her lab. 'We thank you for your help, Captain, but we can take it from here.'
'Understood Mr Director. It was good working with you Supergirl.' he offed his hand and she took it.
It was a good, strong, handshake. 'Same here. If this plant guy comes back and I do need help have you got a phone or something? Just in case.' Kara didn't want to admit it, but she was kinda creeped out by the fight. It wasn't like any of her others and the way it just ended didn't sit right with her.
'Not really a phone person, I don't have one. Don't worry, if you need me I'll be there.' He told her and headed out.
Kara watched him go. So did J'onn, but he had a strange look on his face. 'You read his mind?' she asked him.
J'onn huffed and turned his back. 'That's why you showed him here, you wanted me to use my martian powers on him?'
'No.' she didn't sound convincing, not even to herself. 'Well anything we can find out is good right?'
'Yes.' He rumbled. 'Only I couldn't.'
'Some kind of Martian law about mind reading?'
He gave a quick laugh and headed off, deeper into the complex. 'There's that, and I literally couldn't. He has some sort of protection. Shielding. I've never felt anything like it before. I could pick up surface thoughts, some emotions, but it was like he could tell what I was doing.'
They were heading to Alex's lab. 'He's psychic to?'
'No. More like he knew how to stop me. You're right. We need to find out everything we can about him.' With that he opened the door and they found Alex looking through a microscope. 'What we got?'
'Nothing.' She told them. 'Nothing useful. Kara was right when she said it was a plant. That's exactly what it is and I can't explain why.' There was a beep and she moved to her computer. 'I left Vasquez to do a full scan. She just sent me the results.'
Kara tried to read over her sisters shoulder, but it looked like an alien language. One she couldn't read. 'What's it say?'
'That it never was alive. It can't have been. There's no internal organs, not even a brain. I've studied every alien that we've ever captured. Even the ones that can change their form to energy or gas. They can only do so for a short time and when they're drained of energy they return to a physical state. Just like Livewire.' She sat down. 'This thing has nothing like that. No muscles either. There is no way it could move, nothing for it to think with. If I didn't know anybette I'd say it was a lawn sculpture.'
Kara could tell she didn't believe her. 'I'm telling you that thing was moving. And talking.'
'I can't see how.'
J'onn though was looking seriously at the wall. 'It could all have been an illusion. Some sort of trick from our new friend?'
'You think the Captain had something to do with it?' Kara asked, that didn't make any sense to her. 'How?'
'How did he block my telepathy? Where did he come from and why couldn't we detect anything? There are too many questions and I think his timing is suspicious. He comes just at the right time to help with this threat. I don't like it.'
'But you just said we should focus on the plant thing.' Kara pointed out. 'Besides, I've already asked Winn to dig up what he can on the Captain.'
As much as J'onn hated to admit it Mr Schott was a computer genius, better than even his hand picked officers back in the DEO. 'Miss Danvers tells me you've been collecting research on every superhero that's shown up for years.'
They'd met at cat-co, in Miss Danver's new office. It was cramped with both Danver's sister's, himself, Schott and James Olson. 'It's kind of a hobby.' he admitted nervously. 'I have a website I work on. It's just a little scrapbook.'
'It's more than we have.' J'onn admitted. The DEO had focused on outside threats, not internal ones. 'What do you know about this new visitor?' 'Really? Okay.' He stood up and looked around. 'Urm. Well I was going to do some print outs but the copier was being used.'
J'onn tried to keep his temper in check. 'We'll do without, somehow.'
Svhott winced. 'Well the hero we now know is called Captain Marvel first turned up about eight years ago, in Fawcett City.'
'Fawcett City? Never heard of it.' Alex told them. Neither had J'onn.
'It's not a real city, it's a large town to the north.' Olsen suppled. 'I had to do a story once up there. It was about some mysterious hero now I think about it. Never could track them down.'
Mr Schott nodded 'That was him. At least I believe it was. I did find a few photos, but they were all from old cell phone cameras. Real low resolution, you couldn't see much.'
'What about his powers, any reports on those?' J'onn asked trying to gauge a threat assessment.
'Super strength, I'm guessing super speed and flight too. A lot of people mistake him for Superman because their powers are so alike. He might even be Kryptonian.'
'He's not.' Kara told them. She was in her human-guise, including glasses. This was incase Cat Grant walked in on them. How they were going explain J'onn's presence however, especially now the media mogul knew he was part of the DEO was another question. 'What? I can tell. You can't?'
'Not really.' Alex admitted. 'You can sense it somehow?'
Kara shrugged; 'I guess. I haven't really thought of it.'
'So if he's not Kryptonian, how can he do these things?' Olsen asked. 'I mean sure, there was Barry but he was from another universe and he only had speed.'
J'onn had been brought up to date with what happened at the DEO during his absence. The idea that there was another universe, one where this super fast hero resided was interesting, but not important. 'He has to be an alien. Most meta-humans only have one power, at best two or three, but always from the same source. Those with super speed aren't, say, super strong as well. And flying? No human has ever had that ability.'
'Plus he throws lighting.' Kara added. 'I saw him clap his hands together and pull one out of thin air. Unless that was part of his illusion thing. We still don't know if he was behind that. Or if it was an illusion. Let's face it, we don't know anything.'
'Then that must change.' A hollow voice spoke from the corner of the room. J'onn spun, pistol in hand. So had Alex, Kara pulled off her glasses and was ready.
'Who are you?'
The man was of average hight, but that was the only thing remotely normal about him. He wore a blue cloak over a blue suit, held around his neck by a gold chain. His face was hidden under the shadow of a blue fedora hat. J'onn couldn't make out any features, save for the eyes. He had none, instead there were two bright white voids. It looked like two stars lost in an endless void. 'I am a Stranger, a Phantom and I am here to warn you. All of you, the danger to this great city is more than you know.'
Billy sat in the coffee shop and looked at the handful of coins he had left. After his lunch it all added up to a couple of dollars and fifty two cents. Not that his lunch was that great. A sandwich and glass of orange juice.
He would have liked more, but life in National City was expensive. He'd tried looking for work back home in Fawcett but no one would hire him. Then a friend he knew from the radio station offered him a spare room. They'd moved down here a year or so ago. Billy still had to pay a rent but it was so small he could make it.
Not for much longer though, and if he didn't get a job soon he was going to have to leave. Without much of an education and only himself to really rely on Billy wasn't holding out much hope. Still Miss Danvers had said she'd give him a chance, and she seemed like a nice enough woman.
As he took a sip of juice Billy felt the hair on the back of his neck rise. While not Captain Marvel right now he'd learnt enough about magic to know something was happening and close. The busy sound of people suddenly stopped as all around him people froze.
They stopped moving, they weren't even breathing. Billy could even see the steam from the percolator was stuck there, unmoving as the people. Then came a ghostly whisper, in the unnatural silence it was almost a shout. 'Billy Batson.'
Billy was no fool and knew that whatever was doing this was powerful and he, as himself, was no match. 'Shazam!' he cried out, but instead of being his by the mystical thunderbolt and becoming Captain Marvel he just stood there.
Whatever was happening he'd been cut off from his powers. He tried again. 'Shazam!' but it sill didn't work. He was left standing there alone in a coffee shop full of people that were like statues.
'Billy Batson.' the voice whispered again.
'You did this. Who are you? Where are you?'
'I am here, champion of magic.' Billy spun to see what looked like green fog roll in. It seemed to pour out of the air itself and collect in a open space in the middle of the room. After a moment the smoke seemed to fold in on itself. Becoming a man with incredibly pale skin, mostly hidden under an oversized green hood and cloak.
He'd heard of this thing and he knew just how much trouble he was in. 'The Spectre! What do you want with me?'
'For you to heed my words. Justice has come to the mortals of this world. I task you to defend it against those that would see criminals saved.'
Kara stepped between the whoever he was and her friends. 'I won't let you hurt them.' she told the Stranger.
'I mean no mortal creature harm.'
'So you're what immortal?' Alex asked.
The figure tilted his head slightly, as if seeing her for the first time. 'There are those that believe so. There is much that is unknown, even to one such as myself.'
'From you?' J'onn asked carefully and Kara shuffled her feet, centring herself incase she needed to blast them with her freeze breath or heat vision.
'I am destined to observe, I am beyond what you know as fate.' He told them, again being cryptic. 'However, on rare occasions, the danger is so great I am compelled to reveal my existence.'
Winn stepped up behind Kara 'This is so cool.' He whispered.
Kara flashed him a quick smile and then turned back to the Stranger. 'Right, so you're here to warn us about the Captain?'
'Captain Marvel is not your true foe. While he may chose to stand against you the threat you face is so much more.' The Stranger held up a gloved hand and it began to glow. Kara had to squint but deep in the glow she could see pictures. Like holograms. The light began to take on the shape of the pictures. The first was someones face 'The man he once was, Alec Holland. He experimented, using reason to deduce the secrets of existence with the skill you call science. That which is precious often requires sacrifice, science is no different and Alec Holland's journey was besieged by loss. Finally the loss of his own mortal life.'
The pictures in the Strangers hand seemed to explode and sparks of light fell to the floor. 'A sad, common and all to often forgotten tale. This time was different. Alec Holland's sacrifice gave birth to something new.'
'Holland was destroyed, but something survived. A creature born of pain and death. A creature of nature. Known by the ungainly name it has been cursed with by it's victims. The Swamp Thing.' The Spectre hissed in it's ghostly voice. 'Now it's attention has turned to National City.'
Billy gaped. It was terrifying, a monster this powerful. 'How do I fight him?'
'You cannot. The bodies you see are mere shadows, constructs of a mind buried deep in the heart of nature itself. A prolonged battle would only serve to fan the creatures rage and make it's goals even more justified.'
'What are you talking about?'
'Man has soured this world, tarnished the greatest gift ever received. Is it not written that for every action there is a reaction? This creature is vengeance, it is justice. A reminder that there is a cost to ones actions. A price must be paid. A pound of flesh. Stand against him at your peril.'
Knowing full well he was basically standing up to the literal Wrath of God Billy tied to stare down the Spectre. 'I won't let him hurt innocent people.'
'There is no innocent. All mankind is complacent to one degree or another. This is truth. You must chose to stand with him and accept this, or compound your crimes.'
Billy was no fool, but without the Wisdom of Soloman he couldn't judge. The Spectre was obviously trying to manipulate him though and that left one question. 'What do you need Captain Marvel for?'
'The Kryptonian girl. She is too impulsive. Too blinded by ignorance. She would stand in the way of justice. I am forbidden to interfere. Your alter ego has the wisdom and strength to convince her. Drive her from this place, turn her from the course of interference. Let justice and vengeance prevail as it inevitably must. Lest her ignorance cause more damage.'
'Why is he attacking now and why here in National City?' J'onn asked, still not lowering his gun.
'Who but he can say? Perhaps the last vestiges of humanity have finally left him. Perhaps he simply decided it was time, that he is confidant of his abilities to wreak havoc on the world of man. All I can reveal is that National City is just the start. He will not stop until his goal is achieved. You, champions of the Mortal realm, must stop him, lest chaos follow in the Swamp Thing's wake.' With that the figure took half a step back into the shadowy corner of the small office.
What should have been nothing more than a slightly dark patch of wall seemed to swallow them. For a moment the shadow was so black as to be fathomless, but only in that tiny corner. Then the shadow faded as quickly as it came, leaving a blank space and nothing more.
Kara got there first tapping at the space. 'It's solid. I can't see where he went.'
'X-ray?' J'onn asked stepping next to her. He could phase through walls but it took a lot of concentration, but the intruder was no martian.
She shook her head. 'Tried, no sign.'
'What are you guy's doing?' Mr Shott asked, sounding confused.
J'onn spun, something was wrong, even Alex looked bewildered as to why the were poking a wall. 'He just vanished.' Kara said as he reached out.
'Who?' Mr Olsen asked as the others shared looks that spoke volumes.
'It's no use Miss Danvers.' J'onn told Supergirl as he reached out carefully with his psychic powers. 'They don't remember. Any of it. We need to get back to the DEO, now.'
Alex frowned. 'So you're saying we met someone in your office, talked for about ten minutes, they just teleported out and we have no memory of it?' she asked Kara. J'onn had gone on ahead, giving the two sisters chance to catch up and for Kara to tell her what was going on.
'That's what I'm saying. What I don't get is why. Why tell us what's going on only for you guys to forget. It doesn't make any sense.' Alex's sister threw her arms wide.
'But you and Hank, J'onn do remember. Maybe that was the point.' Alex suggested. 'What I want to know is how we forgot.'
'There was a light show. Maybe some sort of hypnotic suggestion that didn't effect us because we're not human.' Kara guessed. The pair of them made it into the main chamber of the DEO, where the Director was already reading a file. 'What we got?'
'So far the story checks out. Alec Holland; Born 1978, missing presumed dead 2005. He was a biological chemist, with a doctorate in genetics.' He threw the file on the table. 'Reports show he was trying to create a new species of plant, one that could survive in the most desolate conditions.'
'I might be able to make some sense out of it.' Alex offered, her own expertise in exobiology coming in handy. Picking up the folder she noticed the date on the front. It was last opened a few years ago, it also had the DEO seal on it.
'How did you find it so fast?'
'Holland was someone considered contacting when forming the DEO. We had his file on record and I remembered the name. I've got Vasquez cross referencing with unexplained phenomenon near to where he disappeared. Seeing if we can find something.'
Another agent came up. 'Sir, ma'ams. We have a visitor. It's him. The guy in the… cape.'
'Show him in.' J'onn ordered. a few moments later the so called Captain was being escorted in. 'Alex had to admit he was very handsome. She usually lent more in the direction of the bad boy that this guy wasn't, but he had a mystery about him she found interesting. They knew so little about who he was, but at the same time he was open and friendly.
It didn't hurt that he was really tall and had more muscles on him than anyone else Alex had ever seen. 'Supergirl, Agent Danvers, Director. We have a big problem.'
'So we've been told. Captain, I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to stand down.' J'onn warned. 'This is a delicate situation that has to do with national security. When the current situation is contained we can discuss what happens then.'
'I'm afraid you might still need me.' He frowned for a second. 'How did you find out?'
'Some strange guy in a blue cloak.' Kara told him.
'By all the Powers.' He whispered under his voice. 'They're both here.'
'Both?' Asked Alex
He shook his head 'I met with someone else. The Spectre. The being you met is called the Phantom Stranger. They're both absolutes. When it comes to agents of fate there are none more powerful. They only show when there is something very wrong. Both at the same time can only mean the threat is real'
J'onn stepped around the desk and Alex noticed he'd unclipped his sidearm. She knew why of course. He was an unknown, an extra complication. If they were facing a titanic external threat an unknown would be in the way. They were going to have to get him out of the way. One way or another. 'So why haven't we heard about them?'
'Spend enough time around mystics and wizards you pick up a few things.' he shrugged.
'We're going to need a full debriefing. Everything you know about what's happening and about you.'
The Captain shook his head. 'We don't have time for that. We need to evacuate the City. If we wait any longer people could be hurt.'
'Evacuate, you mean surrender?' Alex asked.
J'onn lent against the strategy table. 'That is a major metropolitan city, and you want to evacuate it. Do you have any idea what that would take?'
'The City is already lost Director. This isn't some alien threat, or mad scientist bent to prove his crackpot theories. This is a living Avatar of nature itself, angry with humanity. We either appease him, or fight and lose.'
'We could always win.' Kara planted her fists on her hips and tried to stand as tall as the Captain. It didn't work and she only barely reached his chin.
'You are extraordinary Supergirl and I don't doubt your strength, but you can't win this. No one can. Not me and certainly not your cousin.' Alex could tell that had been the wrong thing to say.
'I might surprise you.' Kara snapped back.
'We've got another hit.' An Agent called out from the computers. 'Reports of rapid plant growth.'
'No, confirmed, but it's on the outer edges.' The main screen switched to show a map and a large glowing icon to the east. Quickly followed by two more. One to the south and the other to the north. Only leaving the east, which faced the sea.
'They're surrounding the City.' Kara said aloud what everyone was already thinking. With that and a all too familiar whoosh she flew into action
'Losing National City is not an option.' J'onn told them. 'I might not have the friends I once did, but I still have some resources. I'm going see what I can call on. If you insist on helping Captain help to try and stop this.'
'I'll do what I can.' he promised
End Act Two