Disclaimer: I don't own the characters you read before you. All rights belong to Warner Brothers, and all that.
Author's Note: A birthday story for Neoinean. With Infinite Crisis merging all the past Doom Patrol continuities into one, I'm going to play with it. To anyone actually knowledgeable of the Grant Morrison comic canon: I'll say much obliged and I'll re-edit if I'm off. That being said, don't worry about canon too much.
It's all I got, Neoi. Heh.
Timeline: Around "Snowblind."
A white javelin-shaped jet sliced through the bleak Siberian sky. The pilot, a strapping man clad in a black bodysuit with a vertically centered violet stripe, tautly gripped the steering wheel.
"I know she's here somewhere," he crustily uttered.
His similarly dressed co-pilot, a short-skirted double of June Cleaver, soothingly patted his shoulder. "Steve, you shouldn't stress; you'll eventually catch her."
His jaw clenched. "Rita, I should've had her when we first met up with Beast Boy again."
"You know Rouge has a chronic habit of popping up, so why you worry?" A deadpan tone vocalized rearward.
"Don't paraphrase Alfred E. Neuman on me, Larry."
The malcontent, swathed in matching uniform and ashen mummy bandages, leaned backward in his aisle chair. "It's still a game of 'spy vs. spy' to me."
Steve sneered, his flattop mauve helmet sagging. "Larry, if you think you could do better…."
"I'm not the leader — you are. Where are we, anyway?"
"We're just outside the Lipetsk Oblast airbase."
Larry budged within his seat. "Can we land here?"
"What, you're in the mood for borscht or something?" the final crewmember, a barrel-chested, carrot-plated mechanical man, gruffly spoke.
"I heard a rumor that Valentina Vostok was returning here."
"Larry, I'm not going to land in restrictive space for a rehash of the good old days."
"Then, I'll walk." He unbuckled his seatbelt and raced toward a metal door. His teammates' protests ignored, he activated the gateway. The rushing air currents whisked his gangly body downward.
"Maybe I should have thought this through."
Slitted eyes focused on an unsealed garbage truck, plodding within the wooded landscape. Arms expanded, a black humanoid form was ejected from his upper torso. The energy being then soared into the transport's engine and caused an explosion.
With the driver distracted, he freely plunked into the immobilized bin. The caricature soon popped out and rejoined with its owner. The stirring metahuman scrunched his nose at his cushion: a massive pile of rotting vegetables.
"At least, it wasn't something like kitty litter."
A snarling Steve slammed his fist onto the control panel. "I can't believe Larry did that."
The android sealed the open hatch. "Give the guy a break; it's not like he does it all the time."
"Larry knows the rules, Cliff — we can't let emotions get in the mission's way."
He flippantly waved his hand. "Yeah, yeah."
Rita's gaze was on her leader. "Steve, you know what the Negative energy spirit went through: merging with Valentina after Larry was presumed dead. The three of them are forever bonded because of that."
"And my eyes forever melted at the sight of a Negative Man with boobs."
She glared. "Cliff!"
"What, I'm trying to lighten the mood."
Steve faintly smiled. "We should go after him, or, at least, have him rendezvous with us."
"No, I think Larry needs to be by himself for now. Besides, he's moving slowly in radar; he should be alright."
He fiddled with his headgear's miniature antennae. "Fine, Rita."
The younger lady clasped her hands frontward. "Actually, Larry's outburst has inspired me to ask you about Garfield — I also heard rumors about his team being in Russia, as well."
He veered off. "After we deal with Rouge, maybe. But I'm not making any promises."
"You're such a softie at times, Steve," Cliff simpered.
He snorted, as the aircraft elevated higher into the gray firmament.
Larry plodded along a dirt path, his landing pad smoldering in the distance. His destination seemed to be a forested valley overlooking the inspiring village of Polibino and the elaborate Nechayev estate. His veiled eyes honed in on the manor's renowned hyperboloid tower. The dull metal of the undersized, open-framed spire complimented the gray atmosphere.
"Still looks like a mini Eiffel Tower."
"You wouldn't be far off. I believe the Tower gave Shukhov inspiration, for he didn't build his until 1896 — seven years after construction. I knew you'd be here." An accented female voice declared itself.
Tilting to the proper direction, it was from an imposing, blonde Russian woman. She was garbed in a ginger-tinted cosmonaut jumpsuit.
"Valentina," he stated in his usual flat tenor.
"It's been a while, hasn't it?"
"Long enough; I heard you were returning home."
"I thought the timing was right, after seeing your cue with your recent public profile."
He folded his arms outward. "Freaks get attention."
"Of course. You know, I still miss the good old days with the Doom Patrol."
"You weren't one to reminisce."
Valentina toyed with her straight, long tresses. "Things change."
He stroked his chin. "And I merged with the Spirit again."
She broadened herself. "Yes, I still miss that — I miss the ability to make a difference in the world. There was the Cold War, but that's so passé, now. I suppose I'm a little bitter about the two of you bonding once again."
An eyebrow arched underneath his dressing. "I'm surprised."
She tentatively approached him. "After the tedium of the Cold War, you want more out of life."
He stepped backward. "You still need to perfect on your research, Madame Rouge."
She gasped in shock. "'Madame Rouge'? What do you mean?"
Larry counted off with his fingers. "One: Valentina was happy to be free of the Spirit. That leads to two: we parted on good terms, when I rejected it. The last time I spoke to her, she didn't know it re-merged with me. And three: Colonel Valentina Vostok was a smart woman, but she wasn't a walking encyclopedia."
She flashed her bare teeth. "Is that all?"
"Yeah, and you were also too cautious by not saying one of my names — you were better off as yourself."
"Fine, then, Negative Man," she spat in a French pronunciation. Her figure transmuted into a gaunt, raven-haired mature woman. She was festooned in a blood red bodysuit, accompanied with a jet-black starched collar, thigh-high stiletto boots and extended gloves.
He adopted a defensive gesture. "Whenever you're ready."
Madame Rouge twirled one of her dangling, frontal locks. "You don't waste time, do you? Mento, at least, banters with me."
"I don't have his wit, and they'll be here any minute."
She roved a hand through her symmetrical bob, revealing a silvery earpiece in her left ear. "It will just be the two of us. This little device also counts as a signal jammer, thus making me invisible to such pedestrian things like radar."
Negative Man motioned about. "But if I move around, it might attract the Lipetsk Oblast airbase."
Her palms were raised. "That might be true, if you were going to move around like that. As much as I would enjoy you aping such things, I'm not here for that. So, you don't have to bring out your 'special friend.'"
"You don't seem like the borscht type."
Her upper lip withdrew. "Please, except for caviar, I have no use for the Russian version of a meal. No, I'm here strictly for you."
"I already knew of your connection to Vostok, so all I had to do was wait for you. A radioactive mummy would stand out in Polibino, hence being here in the outskirts."
He nodded. "You have all the cards, then."
"Only enough to talk — I'm quite chatty when the subject intrigues me."
"Too bad I have nothing to say."
The shapeshifter had a wily glint in her eyes. "Despite your drab affect, you're most interesting — like with Ms. Vostok and her stint as Negative Woman. Even that's a drop in the well, compared to the real story."
"You have a point?" Larry shot the Spirit out like a cannon, directed at her. Elongated limbs latched to tree trunks, her slingshot form captured the ramming entity and bounced it back to its source.
"If I wanted you captured, you'd already be mine. So, can we resume, or do you want to show off more of your bourgeois sense of machismo?"
The mummy dusted off his bindings. "There are simpler ways to contact me, you know."
Retracting her appendages, Madame Rouge advanced. "Indeed, but I still have my day job."
He was locked in summoning pose. "If you don't stop, you'll see more bourgeois machismo and my 'special friend.'"
She halted, scowling. "Very well. When I first heard the truth, Negative Man, I was very impressed. All this time, I had no idea of the…bizarre curiosity lurking inside you. What do they say — it's always the quiet ones."
"Freaks get more attention."
"That, they do, but you give yourself too little credit."
"Oh, I disagree, as I measured you up to the other vices: such as ego and…sexuality." She inclined forward, body akimbo. "I know your secret…, Rebis."
Negative Man's nostrils curved. "If you're going to tease about that, there's a line."
"Rebis is why I wanted to speak to you. In our world, everything is so clear-cut: we have barrel-chested pillars of testosterone like Superman and scantily clad Amazonian women running around with the American flag as panties. These caricatures set the stage, but we both know that sexuality is far more multifaceted.
"As part of my missions, I sometimes have to masquerade as men, thinking like them, almost becoming them. All the while, I wonder about losing my womanhood in the process. And what of you? You've been there as the divine hermaphrodite — surely, you must know how changing one's sex can alter one's perspectives."
He shifted again, his sights on the township. "That was a long time ago."
Her angular jaw drooped. "You sound ashamed?"
"It doesn't matter. If you wanted to talk dirty, Rouge, go on a talk show."
"Talk shows can't give me proper sexual epiphanies, as I've had with you and your exploits, Rebis."
Larry sighed. "For your information, the Spirit had a drive to impregnate itself, as part of the Aenigma Regis — I was only along for the ride."
"Please, I doubt that was what you had in mind when you bonded with that…thing."
"I was surprised, too."
"I'm sure, and don't tell me that you've never experienced vagina envy as Rebis — I've certainly felt penis envy whenever I've transformed into a man," Madame Rouge smirked.
His spine stiffened. "Now, I'm surprised."
"Now, you're learning."
"In my case, it's over; Rebis purged itself of me, leaving me on my own for a while. It obviously came back in the original form, and the rest. So, are we going to fight?"
Her eyebrow ridge was at the bottom. "Typical American: I want to engage in discussion, and you would rather use fisticuffs."
"Now, we're talking geo-politics?"
"No, we're talking about two distant mortal enemies possessing a common link. I'm usually so busy with Mento that I don't focus on the rest of you."
"Mento is more exciting."
"And you need to stop following Mento's lead all the time. Besides, when you were Rebis, didn't you think of him, at least, a little differently?" She morphed into Steve.
Negative Man shrugged a shoulder. "I had other things on my mind."
"Not even once?"
She returned to her previous facade. "A pity, as I think Elasti-Girl is far too pure for him."
"So, this is a ploy to ask him out on a date?"
"Don't be stupid. Now, I'm not so bad after all, am I?"
"This doesn't change anything."
"No, but after this, you shouldn't be as averse to meeting elsewhere one day, having a superior French repast as we discuss on this further. The comings and goings of Rebis is still a hot topic in our circles." Madame Rouge grinned like a Cheshire cat.
Larry re-doubled up his arms. "Ask me after we take down your boss."
"It's a date. So, you're going to call your friends and attack me? Like I said, you're my main business in Russia."
He relaxed at last. "Hearing you actually admit actual penis envy is enough. Next time, though…."
"Of course. Have a care, Negative Man — we are not alone, after all." She was now a scruffy female peasant.
"How did you know I was going to be here?"
"I didn't. However, our interaction would have been inevitable, courtesy of probability and Vostok's background. By the way, thanks for the tip on research," she articulated in elderly intonation.
He eyed her trundling toward Polibino. "Oh, great."
Eventually, his team's plane alighted itself nearby with a glowering Steve emerging first.
"Rita suggested leaving you alone for a while. Radar didn't spot anything beyond yourself, so you couldn't have connected with Valentina."
He peered upward. "I used the time to think; there's always next time."
The chief angled away. "Larry, look, I'm…sorry about before."
The two entered the plane. "Priorities, right? Oh, and you'll need to pay off the driver involved in my crash landing."
Rita engaged him in a crushing embrace. "Oh, Larry!"
"I was better off freefalling."
"Next time, don't steal my material, buddy," Cliff kidded from afar.
"Come on, Doom Patrol, let's go hunt for Madame Rouge. Then…, we'll meet up with Garfield," Steve authoritatively declared.
Larry reclined into his chair. "You're the leader."
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