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Fallout, chapter 3

Location: the Kent's farm, Conner and Max's bedroom

In the middle of the night, Max sat up in bed and exclaimed, "I'm an idiot!"

This woke Conner. "What's going on? What's wrong?"

"I need to get to the Slab right away."

"Hold on, I'll come with you."

Max contacted the DEO to let them know they'd be arriving soon.

Location: the Slab

"What's going on here?" the warden demanded.

"I need to see Inertia, immediately," Match ordered.

The warden looked at Superboy, and Kon nodded. He didn't know what Match was up to, but he trusted that it was both important and urgent.

The warden gave the orders, and Inertia was brought to them.

"What's going on?" he asked, holding his hand out in greeting.

Match's eyes narrowed at this. Moving swiftly, he took the warden's gun and shot Inertia in the leg. The teen shrieked in pain and fell to the floor, writhing in pain.

"What are you doing?" the warden demanded.

Kon went to take the gun away, but found himself anchored to the ground. Match had immobilized him.

"Where's Inertia?" Match demanded.

"Are you crazy?" the warden shouted. "You just shot him!"

Match ignored the warden. "I want two things from you: return to your natural form and give me Inertia's location. Failure to comply...you don't want to know what will happen if you don't."

Kon shivered at the lack of emotion in Match's voice. He was being deadly serious.

Inertia seemed to think so as well. The teen's body shimmered and revealed a featureless humanoid form. Kon and the warden gave exclamations of surprise.

"My second request," Match ordered.

The shapeshifter gave him coordinates.

Match returned the warden's gun. "Take him away."

"How'd you know?" Kon asked, able to move again. "I couldn't tell the difference."

"He held out the wrong hand," Match said, absently. "I'm going to request backup."

"Who took him captive? How'd this person manage to break him out of the Slab? Why him?"

"It was Desaad," Match replied. "It's an attempt to either lure me into a trap or to use Thaddeus to cause me pain."

"What are you going to do?"

"I know what it's like to be abandoned; I won't do that to him. Desaad has left me few choices."

"I'm coming with you. You'll need my help."

"Be ready to leave in two minutes. I'm calling for backup."

Location: at the coordinates

"Are you ready?" Match asked.

Kon looked at his brother. He was in full mission-mode, without a trace of hesitation or emotion. It scared him sometimes to see Match like this.

"Let's go," Superboy nodded.

The two entered the building. Inertia was being suspended from the ceiling by a cable in the center of the otherwise featureless room.

"You came!" the blond teen called out. "Help!"

Match scanned the room but saw nothing that looked like a trap. He cautiously advanced on Inertia. Nothing happened. He gestured for Kon to come up to them.

"Be prepared to shield us," Match told him. "I'm going to get Inertia."

Match flew up and examined the cable. It appeared normal. He severed it and took Inertia to the ground. There weren't any traps that were activated by freeing him.

"Untie my hands, and we can get out of here!" Inertia urged. "I don't want to wait around for that creepy guy!"

"What did he do to you?" Match asked as he untied the teen.

"He gave me life," Inertia claimed as he produced a knife with a green blade and ran it into Match's stomach.

Match gasped. Kon sagged to his knees, a feeling of weakness coming over him. The knife was made out of Kryptonite.

A boom tube opened, and a figure was shoved out of it before it closed. The real Inertia gasped at the scene before him. A holographic representation of Desaad's head appeared.

"Well done!" he crowed. "You did exactly as I anticipated!"

Match looked at Inertia with glazed eyes and concentrated. With the last remnants of his power, he broke Inertia's power inhibitor. Inertia sprang into action and rained a flurry of supersonic blows on his impersonator. The fake Inertia fell to the ground, reverting to its true form that was identical to the other doppelganger. Inertia went over to Match.

"Grife," he breathed as he saw the blade sticking in him and the blood flowing from the wound.

Match weakly chuckled. "Those 30th century curses always made me laugh."

"This isn't funny!" Inertia shouted. "What do I...this knife needs to go."

The knife was removed from the premises, and Inertia was back in less than half a second.

"The next step is to apply pressure," Inertia reminded himself aloud.

He pressed his hands to the wound, trying to staunch the flow of blood. He was surprised when another pair of hands joined his; Superboy had recovered enough to help.

"What do we do next?" Inertia asked.

"I'll bind his wounds with my powers," Kon said. "That'll give our backup enough time to get here."

As if on cue, Superman and the Martian Manhunter burst in.

"I'll take him to the hospital," Superman said.

"I'll handle things here," J'onn told them

Location: the JLA Watchtower, medical bay

"You're getting to be a regular visitor," Kon said. "Maybe you shouldn't be so reckless."

Match looked a bit pale. "I suppose I'm indebted to Desaad's twisted nature. A gut wound is painful and takes a while to be lethal; a stab in the chest would have been considerably more deadly."

"You know how to put someone at ease."

"I'm sorry; I know you don't like me being so clinical about these things."

"You've been critically wounded, so I'll let it slide this time."

"Please move the communications screen this way. There's something I need to do."

Location: the Slab

Inertia was being moved. He wasn't sure where he was going, but he knew that the warden was not happy about it. The man had told him that he'd be back.

After being transferred to an armored car, he felt a beam of light envelop his body. He looked at the policemen accompanying him, but they didn't seem surprised.

When Inertia's vision cleared, he saw Match and the Martian Manhunter.

"Hello, Thaddeus," Match welcomed him. "This is the JLA Watchtower. The rest of your detention time will be served here."

"Huh?" he asked. "What do you mean?"

"The Slab wasn't safe anymore," the Martian Manhunter said. "We've arranged to give you quarters here. You won't have full access to everything here, but you'll have much more freedom than at the Slab."

"Think of it as being under house arrest," Match said.

"This is a bit much to take in," Thaddeus said.

"The Martian Manhunter will show you around and explain the rules," Match said. "You will be under scrutiny here, but that will lessen when others learn to trust you."

J'onn and Thaddeus went off. A moment later, Batman stepped from the shadows.

"I've already told you that I don't agree with this," he told Match.

"I know."

"Did you consider that your own experiences are influencing you? You were trusted and now you're quick to trust?"

"Of course my experiences influenced me. It would be foolish to deny that. Still, he had the opportunity to run away, but he stayed to help. That earned him the benefit of the doubt."

"How are you feeling?"

"Physically, I won't be at my peak for a time, but I'm fully capable of providing support."

"Excellent. While you're still here, I'd like you to work on the Gathering Storm project."

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