©July 2003
Rating: PG-13
Characters: Batman, Robin, Justice League
Disclaimer: Characters herein are owned by DC Comics/Time Warner/AOL.
No profit is realized from creation of stories based on these trademarked characters.
The Duon are original characters.
Not to be archived without permission.
Comments and feedback are welcome to SKHwrite@cranky-dog.com


The Host

By SKH



Part One

Heat lightning ripped across the hot summer sky of the Gotham City outskirts, illuminating the deserted road and sleeping countryside. The Batmobile cruised steadily toward home, its driver reasonably contented with the night's patrol of the city. The car's passenger had just dropped off to sleep, dozing in the aftermath of the night's adrenaline rush.

The Batman relaxed to the rhythmic breathing of his young partner. This had been Robin's longest night of closely supervised patrol so far. Barely eleven years of age, the boy had demonstrated control beyond his years, bridling his enthusiasm with discipline and a keen attention to the Batman's commands. 'Gifted' was the word that most often came to Batman's mind when he thought about his ward and partner-in-training. Before the year was out, Gotham's guardian was sure Robin would be ready for his 'final exam' before taking a more permanent place by his side. Until then, the boy's nights on patrol were strategically planned, practicing maneuvers and learning the lessons that would become ingrained to near-instinct.

The Batman's attention snapped to the comm-panel as a unique frequency flashed just as the audio signal came across the speakers.

[[ "Batman, this is the Justice League orbital station... There's an incoming unidentified space craft entering Earth atmosphere on a trajectory that will terminate in your proximity. Respond." ]] The Martian Manhunter's voice was calm with an undertone of urgency.

With a glance at his sleeping young partner, the Batman replied, keeping his voice low. "Is the descent controlled, and where's the Boy Scout?" The Batman pressed a switch on the car's instrument panel, raising a small Doppler radar antenna. A screen illuminated on the panel, showing a moving blip.

[[ "The craft appears to be under the control of a single sentient, Batman. Superman is responding to an earthquake in China and will be there as soon as he can. Wonder Woman is on her way to you, as well as the Flash. Green Lantern is currently off-planet." ]] The Martian, attuned with respectful empathy to his Justice League team mates, caught a spike of concern from the Dark Knight. It was different than any he had sensed from the man during previous occasions of working together.

"J'onn, I'm tracking an object that looks to land approximately 20 kilometers from my location. That's farm country, so we may be able to avoid much civilian interference."

Another glance at the passenger seat showed two large blue eyes looking back at him, quickly blinking off the shroud of sleep. Every instinct the Batman had told him to take the boy back to the Batcave before proceeding to the incoming emergency. Yet with time so short, he would just have to rely on the boy's training to keep him safe under circumstances best left to the super terrestrial members of the League.

[[ "The Flash should rendezvous with you now, Batman. I'll guide him to the object for first contact, and you can back him up." ]]

The Doppler screen showed a very fast moving object approaching the Batmobile. A tap at Batman's window drew an excited gasp from the Boy Wonder as the smiling face of The Flash appeared for a brief moment before streaking ahead of them.

"Whoa! Wow, did you see *that*?" Robin shouted. He leaned forward, resting his hands on the dash and peered intently out the windshield.

"Sit back."

"Yes, sir," Robin replied, complying immediately. Batman's voice didn't share his own excitement at seeing the momentary glimpse of the Fastest Man Alive. 'Well, duh,' Robin thought. 'He knows the Flash from the JLA cases. Still, way cool!' Robin sat still in his seat, staring at his guardian, waiting for him to explain or command. Inside, though, every nerve was jumping with anticipation. 'Please don't take me home, please don't take me home,' he recited to himself.

"We have a... detour to make," Batman explained. "Since this isn't planned, you will follow my lead and do precisely what I say."

"Will Superman be there?" Robin asked, trying not to sound too excited.

"He'd better be," the Dark Knight answered with a low growl.


Barry Allen -- the Flash -- watched the cloudy skies as he was guided by the Martian Manhunter toward the incoming alien craft.

[[ "It should be within your visual range, Flash." ]]

True to the Martian's word, a storm cloud in the northeastern sky began to glow from a light source other than lightning. With a fiery burst, the craft emerged from the clouds, traveling too fast for a safe landing. The Flash dashed in front of the spacecraft and began to wave his arm in a circular motion, creating a buffeting air vortex in order to slow its perilous descent.

On his radar screen, Batman saw the radar blip stop and disappear. The craft was down. Scanning the horizon, he saw no indication of an explosion. A single sentient, J'onn had said. Three Leaguers could handle a single alien sentient. Batman would feel better with a fourth, blue-suited Leaguer along, and better still if the boy were home, safe.

The Batmobile turned off the back road onto a dirt pathway between fields.

[[ "Another three hundred yards, Batman," ]] Flash announced over his comm-link. [[ "The space ship is on the ground, intact. Nothing has come out of it, though. ]]

Batman hit the accelerator and closed the distance in seconds. He aimed the headlights and a side mounted spotlight at the craft and the Speedster standing vigil. The Batmobile stopped and its canopy flew open.

"Stay in the car!" Batman ordered his young charge. Robin stared at the strange craft several yards beyond the car and nodded. Gotham's guardian slowly circled the alien craft, which was the size of a Lear jet, taking radiation readings, saying nothing to his colleague.

Robin unhooked his safety harness and leaned forward, watching. A real space ship! The Flash! And Superman would be here, too! It was one thing to fly the jumplines above Gotham City's dirty streets looking for criminals, but Batman had never said anything to him about *this* kind of stuff. In fact, he *never* talked about what he did with the Justice League.

"So what do we have here, little man?" a woman's voice whispered over Robin's shoulder, causing him to gasp loudly. Unnoticed by the boy, Batman's head whipped around at the sound, transmitted by an open comm-link in the Batmobile, and picked up by the microphone in his cowl.

Robin turned and looked up into a pair of beautiful blue eyes, surrounded by the most beautiful face he'd ever seen. The woman had a halo of long, dark curls, and she was smiling so sweetly.

"Where did you come from?" Robin asked in wonderment, smiling back at this beautiful angel-woman.

"From an invisible airplane, little man," the woman replied. She pushed the boy's hair back away from his face, drawing her fingers down his cheek to cup his chin.

Robin's heart swelled at her touch, as soft as his mother's.

"Diana!"

Although he heard his guardian's sharp call, Robin couldn't take his eyes off the angel-woman, who now backed away and walked toward Batman and the Flash. Robin's eyes grew wide with recognition and his mouth dropped open. Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman. She was supposed to be a goddess, according to what was recorded in the Batcomputer's files. She sure looked like one.

"So that's the child Kal-El told me about," Diana said to the Batman. "A little small for a warrior-trainee, isn't he?"

"We have a situation here. This craft, and its occupant, should be your concern," Batman growled.

Before the Amazon Princess could reply, a section of the space craft began to glow a dull blue. A circular shape appeared and the metal within the circle seemed to disappear, leaving a hole. The three Justice Leaguers took a defensive stance, backing away from the ship.

Two silvery blue hands, each with four long digits, gripped the edge of the hole in the craft, followed by a slender head with two large eyes and a small mouth.

" ^o~`v`o^ "

The occupant of the craft attempted to speak to the Leaguers.

" ^o~`v`o^ ... ^^o~~`~ "

A nictating membrane blinked vertically over the eyes. With what appeared to be some effort, the sentient crawled out of the hatch and stood before the Leaguers.

From within the dark folds of his cape, the Batman palmed a batarang, gauging the alien. From the seat of the Batmobile, the Boy Wonder gaped at the dream-like scene unfolding before him.

The alien turned quickly toward Batman, who flinched almost imperceptibly. Suddenly, the three Leaguers grabbed their heads at the temples and staggered. The Flash dropped to his knees as the alien looked from one to the other. Wonder Woman doubled over, barely keeping her footing. Batman gripped the sides of his cowl and let out a painful grunt. He stumbled backward and fell.

Robin bolted up in horror, standing on the seat of the Batmobile.

"Batman!" he shouted, gripping the edge of the windshield.

"S-s-stay!" the Batman groaned, holding his hand out at the boy.

The alien looked at Robin and started moving toward the car on its skinny blue legs. Reaching into his utility belt, Robin took out two objects, a magnesium flash and a smoke pellet. He threw them at the alien and dropped down into his seat. While the pellets burst into a smoky flash, Robin hit the control for the canopy, to slide it back into place.

It didn't respond.

The alien reached the car.

Robin felt the long hands grab his arm and he twisted, trying to break the creature's hold. He felt himself being pulled out of the car, and going with the momentum, he kicked off of the side of the Batmobile to flip backwards over the creature's head. He was free for an instant and rolled away from the alien, headed for his downed partner.

" ^o~`v`o^ " The creature vocalized again. It moved faster than anyone expected and grabbed the boy again, turning the squirming Robin to face it. The alien pulled Robin into its arms holding him tightly against its abdomen.

Robin could scarcely breathe, and definitely could not move as he stared into the huge dark eyes. He felt dizzy and his thoughts scrambled in confusion.

And then the pain hit him.

The Batman was instantly mobilized by the boy's screams. A tightness he had never felt before gripped the Batman in the pit of his stomach as he began to move toward his young partner. The boy was arched backward, arms locked straight and pushing against the creature. Robin's head was thrown back, mouth open, screaming worse than from any nightmare he'd ever had.

The Batman let loose a batarang. It flew true to its mark, encircling the alien's head with a double loop of decel cable. Yanking the cable as hard as he could, the Batman pulled the alien off its feet. Both the creature and the boy dropped to the ground. Batman rushed to his partner, pulling him away from the alien. To his horror, Batman saw a dark, fleshy tendril disappear beneath Robin's tunic.

Laying the boy on the hood of the Batmobile, Batman ripped open Robin's tunic and pulled up his blood stained shirt. The wriggling end of the tendril slipped through the boy's navel into his body. Almost immediately, Robin began jerking violently in a seizure, his eyes rolling back white. Batman placed two fingers in the boy's mouth to keep him from biting his tongue and tried to hold Robin as still as possible.

Wonder Woman moved toward the alien, pulling the Flash to his feet as she went. "Help Batman with the child," she ordered, pushing the Speedster at the Batmobile. She bent to inspect the alien, which appeared dead. It was motionless, and its eye membranes had closed. In the center of its abdomen was a hole about ten centimeters wide, with a mixture of dark fluid and the boy's bright red blood around it.

Before she could process a thought, a humming sound, increasing in pitch and volume, emanated from the alien space craft.

A streak of blue and red appeared before her, lifting the craft out of the soil and carrying it into the sky. The blur halted, and Superman hurled the ship with all his might up into the clouds. A blinding, silver-blue flash lit up the cloud, sending streaks of lightning across the sky.

With heart-wrenching finality, Robin's seizure ceased, and he went limp and lifeless. Batman ripped off his glove and held his finger's to the boy's carotid artery, feeling a faint and erratic pulse.

Superman landed next to the Flash and pushed the Speedster aside. He looked at the brightly costumed youth for a moment, then placed his hand on the Batman's shoulder.

Batman spun and shoved the Man of Steel, gripping the blue suit in both fists. "A little *late* aren't you, flyboy?" he spat through clenched teeth.

Superman looked at Batman with an equally steely gaze. "Give me the boy. Follow me up to the station."

Suddenly, Batman's fists gripped nothing, and he wheeled about to see Superman wrapping Robin in the red cape. In the blink of an eye, he streaked up into the clouds with his precious cargo and was gone.

Continued in Part Two...