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Fugue State, chapter 6

Location: Match's mind, the core

The group wasn't quite prepared for what they saw next. Match was entrapped in a tangle of machinery while a figure in purple robes stood near him.

"You should give up," the man said. "There's nothing anyone can do to save you."

"Desaad!" Superman shouted, recognizing him. "Get away from him!"

"Motherbox, dispose of them," Desaad said.

The machinery broke off a pod that turned into a robot. The robot lumbered towards the group.

Superman plowed into it and brushed it aside. However, dozens of robots sprung up in its place. The others joined in.

"Fools!" Desaad bellowed. "Your powers are physical. The motherbox simulates telepathy for me! You can't withstand my power!"

J'onn frowned at this and concentrated. The machinery and robots started to crumble as J'onn's psychic powers started to undo the manifestations of Desaad's artificial telepathy.

Match broke free from his bonds and smashed the remaining robots. It was his mind, so now that he was free, he had powers over the environment that others did not.

Desaad backed off. "You're free. Ah well, I suppose it's for the best. I find dealing with prey unaware of their situation to be...unsatisfying."

"You don't understand, do you?" Match asked him.

"What are you babbling about?"

Match flashed a vicious grin at him. "This was a trap. I wished to learn the identity of the one targeting me. Do you really think you could have penetrated my mental defenses otherwise?"

Desaad looked uncertain. "That's absurd!"

"Believe what you want, I have my answers. For now, everyone's going to return to their bodies."

Location: the JLA Watchtower, medical bay

Everybody blinked as their minds returned to their bodies. Match's eyes opened and he smiled weakly at everyone as he removed the diodes on his body.

"Thank you," he told them.

"Don't use yourself as bait for crazy things!" Kon scolded. "Stop trying to get yourself injured or killed!"

"That was too risky," Batman agreed.

"Oh," Match replied nonchalantly. "That wasn't the truth. I didn't use my unconscious mind as bait. To deceive your enemies, first you must deceive your allies."

"You lied?" Superman asked. "Why?"

"It was to unsettle Desaad. He didn't think of the possibility that I could do such a risky stunt. It will keep him wondering what else I'm capable of, and that will cause him to hesitate. I've been reacting to him, and now he has to react to me."

"Would you have used yourself as bait if you thought of it?" Kon asked.

Match paused to consider it. "No. The risks far outweighed the benefits. There are limits to the lengths that I will go."

"We need to talk," Batman told him.

Match sighed. "I imagine that each of you will want to talk to me. Before that, I do want to thank you all again. You're all very important to me, and I wouldn't be here if you didn't undertake great risks to free me."

"You're important to us, as well," Superman said.

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Well, no footnotes this time. I hope that you enjoyed reading this! The next story "Fallout" will immediately follow the events of this one.

Any and all comments welcome!