Jim sighed as he waited alone in the Bioship. He had managed to tell his mom he was probably going to be out late, so she wasn't worrying, but Jim had plenty to think about. The conversation the Team had with Zatanna about what she could and couldn't do had hardly left Jim feeling much better about having Zatara poking his nose into Arcadia's business. Seeing her make Professor Ivo spill his secrets up close while under a disguise created by Zatanna and the Team's wonderfully creative pseudonym of "Jay" hadn't really helped. All it would take for everything to unravel would be her directing that spell at him.
After the Team had gotten a location out of Ivo- Jim wasn't sure if he should be impressed that they thought to ask Morrow's rival or disappointed that Batman hadn't- Jim tried and failed to convince the Team to take the information to the League and let them handle it. Hence, sitting alone in the Bioship and avoiding whatever combat inevitably ensued. And hoping everyone came back in one piece.
Jim's mind wandered back to the helplessness he felt when Claire disappeared. It made him understand how the other's must have felt when he left for the Darklands. Or at least part of it. That part alone was enough to make him feel like a total ass. From there his mind would inevitably begin berating him and telling him they should have left him to rot for all the loyalty he'd shown and all the trouble he'd caused them with one impulsive decision. He really didn't deserve them. It was a minor miracle that he hadn't started self-sabotaging his relationships yet. The presence of people who'd done worse and were still considered worthy of some kind of relationship was probably helping considerably.
A massive explosion rocked the ground, rattled through Jim's bones, and set his ears ringing. Jim was on his feet and running before he could even truly process it. The base the Team was attempting to infiltrate was a good distance away. More than just a good distance away, actually. There wasn't much around here that could cause that big of an explosion.
Jim slowed his pace for a moment as he thought about just what he was doing. He couldn't help the Team at all without his armor, and he couldn't afford to be seen or, rather, identified wearing it.
Jim's pace picked up again as he came to a decision. Reaching into his pocket, Jim pulled out the Amulet, relaxing ever so slightly under the familiar blue glow. "For the Glory of Merlin, Daylight is Mine to Command," Jim whispered. The magic lifted Jim in a swirl of blue light as the armor appeared and attached itself to him before depositing him back on the ground. Jim then called on his helmet to hide his face.
The forest was dark, but Jim remembered which way the Team had gone and now had the faint light of his armor to see by. Finally, the trees thinned, and Jim could hear the Team.
"-no turning back from that!" Wally's voice came through, as Jim edged a bit closer to get a look at the situation. "We need to vent the pressure, fast." The Team stood clustered at the base of the mountain around a damaged Red Tornado whose legs had been melted off. There was no sign of any enemies, but the lava and smoke were pouring out of the volcano. "But the ash cloud will bring on a worldwide nuclear winter unless you divert it
Red Tornado struggled for a second before managing to pull up and fly towards the top of the mountain. Wally turned to Robin, "Triangulate around the pressure locus," he instructed, watching the image.
"Right," Robin said, jerking into motion and pulling something up on his holocomp. Jim couldn't see what was going on from where he was, but it seemed to be what Wally wanted.
"There, there, and there!" Wally said, pointing at something on the computer before turning to Artemis, who nodded and pulled out some arrows to ready a shot.
Jim turned and began his trip back to the Bioship. The Team had the situation under control, and even if they didn't, Jim wouldn't be able to help them any. As he wandered, Jim began to think again. He was more than a little grateful Gunmar and the changelings had never decided to try something like that, or at least never got the chance. Jim could handle a lot of things, but a volcano creating a nuclear winter? That was well outside his wheelhouse.
Jim jogged over the uneven ground in the dark, metal armor clanking softly with each step. The hair on the back of Jim's neck stood on end and he slowed to a stop, glancing around as he dismissed his helmet to get a better look at his surroundings. Dark rock with glowing green flecks created bridges, arches, pillars, caves, and caverns for as far as Jim could see and as far as he remembered walking. The eclipse hung in the gap far above like it always had. There was no one there, but there always could be. Jim needed to find food and shelter, he needed to rest his aching feet.
Jim paused again as he walked. This didn't make sense. Jim remembered leaving the Darklands. Jim closed his eyes and focused. He couldn't trust them right now. Where had he been? A soft wind blew through rustling… leaves? Definitely leaves. He was in a forest. Jim took a deep breath through his nose, smelling the fresh air, the dirt, and… ash? Right, volcano. He was with the Team. He was walking back to the Bioship. Gunmar was dead and Enrique was safe.
Jim opened his eyes and dismissed his armor as he continued his journey back to the ship. He picked up his pace realizing he didn't know how long his episode had lasted. He could not afford to be found outside of the Bioship.
Jim made it there first. He sat in his chair, trying to look like he hadn't ever left. Jim closed his eyes, breathing in and holding it. He reminded himself once more that Gunmar was dead. He released the breath. Jim opened his eyes and breathed in. He was in the Bioship waiting for the Team, so he could go home, most likely after getting told off by Black Canary and Zatara. Out. He had an English paper due on Tuesday and still needed to edit it and print it off. In. Claire's birthday was in a few weeks. He should start making plans. Out.
Jim was fairly certain he was going to be alright long enough to get home but continued the breathing anyway. Even if he lasted long enough to escape the Team or Canary noticing, it was going to be rough. Jim probably wasn't going to sleep tonight. Normally when it was the Darklands causing him trouble specifically, he could hunt down Nomura and spend the night talking. It was something that helped both of them cope with that set of memories. But she had left for a week-long business trip to Cincinnati just the other day, so he couldn't even do that. He just had to push through.
Jim released his last breath and plastered a smile on his face as he heard the Team approaching. He was sure he wasn't fooling anyone. "Hey, guys." Jim stood up, shifting nervously. "What was that explosion?"
"Super volcano," Artemis answered distractedly. "Don't worry. We handled it."
Jim was silent for a moment as he watched Superboy carry Red Tornado aboard and set him on a bench M'gann had the Bioship form for him. "Not gonna ask," he finally said. "So, back to the Cave?"
Kaldur nodded. "Back to the Cave," he agreed as the Team, Jim, and Zatanna took their seats.
While Jim attempted to keep his thoughts and emotions under control, Kaldur began composing the report he would have to give to Batman. Most of it was fairly standard if he ignored the parts where he was going to emphasize them deliberately not bring Jim into hostile territory, but he was going to have to talk to Batman about the strange figure he saw.
He didn't see much, and they weren't around for long, but it was concerning. All Kaldur had managed to see was someone humanoid in shape wearing some kind of glowing armor that had odd horns on the helmet leaving the area through the tree line. They had been too far away for him to make out any other details accurately and had their back to the group as they left. The real problem was that Kaldur couldn't recognize them and none of his teammates had ever heard of someone like that, and they were so far out in the wilderness that it was rare to even find campers up there, especially at this time of year. Not that someone dressed like that could have been camping. No. This person was involved somehow and likely knew something. Except even Red Tornado didn't know anything and hadn't seen them in Morrow's base.
This person was a real mystery, but Kaldur was sure Batman could dig up something.
The Cave was quite when Jim arrived. And empty. Or, at least, it felt that way. Jim began to wander the halls, looking for someone. When he stepped into the sitting room and kitchen, Superboy was where he always was, sitting on the couch watching static, and M'gann was in the kitchen cooking, but her movements were slow and distracted. Another figure, a tall man with a blue cape and green skin, was also there and turned when Jim entered. Neither teen shifted from their tasks.
"Mr. Lake," Martian Manhunter greeted, "Please, come with me."
The older Martian turned again and began to leave the room.
Jim gave M'gann a concerned glance. "Wha-"
Jim winced as his questions were cut off by Martian Manhunter's stern voice in his head. Without any further questions, Jim followed Manhunter to one of the side rooms. Once there, he tried again. "What happened?"
"A training exercise went wrong. The Team has been given some time off to process."
Jim blinked. "They're practically catatonic!" Well, M'gann was. Superboy was harder to tell. "That's a bit more than just 'gone wrong'!"
"It is not your concern, Mr. Lake," Manhunter said. "The League will take care of them. Do you have anything to report?"
Jim scowled at the hero, wanting to keep pressing the subject, but eventually he sighed and dropped it. "No. Everything's normal." Nomura wasn't back yet. The trip had probably just been extended or there was trouble with delays or a layover or something. But she hadn't called anyone either.
Manhunter nodded. "Then perhaps you should go home. There will not be much here for you today."
"Fine, fine," Jim grumbled with a wave of his hand. "I'll go home."
"I can see why my niece says your mind is so strange," Manhunter mused before Jim could actually leave the room.
"What?" Jim asked as he turned back to look at the Martian.
"I maintain a certain level of psychic awareness of my surroundings. M'gann does as well. Normally it is very easy to make out a mind's presence and what emotions dominate it at a given moment. But your mind is different. I can barely feel it and cannot feel anything from it. Any weaker and I would not be able to feel it at all and would have mistaken you for an android."
Jim just blinked for a moment. "Good to know." With that, he left. Jim was tempted to try and interact with M'gann and Superboy but figured Manhunter would find a way to send him home against his will if he tried, so instead he chose to leave and would see if the situation resolved itself next week.
Hopefully that got the attention of those that tend to not read these things. As I stated last time, you will not be getting a chapter for Loose Lips next week. Instead I will be posting the last chapter of The Other Grayson-Fenton. Which means the next chapter is to be released on 9/26.
I repeat, the next update is on 9/26.
Wednesday the 26th of September.
I am currently planning on staying on the every other week schedule after that. I will have decided by the next update and will inform you then.
Hope you enjoyed, and please, don't forget to review,