Clueless – Chapter 1 – Fallen Comrade

"Robots?" The Flash was a red and yellow blur as he sped past two of the little machines on the ground. The vibrations from his passing left both robots quivering piles of shiny silver springs and gears. "Who uses robots anymore? That's SO last century."

From the dozens of mechanical mercenaries that began the battle that morning, only a few remained functional. Those were being dealt with by Superman and Wonder Woman. Heat vision and angry fists finished off the last of them.

Superman, standing on the desert floor next to one of the larger piles of junk, became thoughtful. "This isn't right. This is too easy."

"Does it matter?" asked Wonder Woman, trying unsuccessfully to wipe some oil from her hands. "They're done and now we can go back to headquarters. I need to get this gunk off. Ugh!"

"No, something else must be behind this. Look at the electronics in these things." He picked up one of the dozens of boards that littered the ground. "I don't see any logic boards in any of these things. All I see are receivers. Something else is controlling them." He scanned the area around them as he explained, but found nothing.

Wonder Woman sighed as Flash came to a stop in front of them. "Well, that's 'a bot' all, I guess." Wonder Woman groaned. He had been spitting out ridiculous puns all morning and she didn't think she could take much more.

Turning on his communicator, the Man of Steel ignored them both for the moment. "Oracle, we need some assistance please." When Oracle acknowledged the call, he proceeded to fill her in on what happened and his theory about a master controller.

Oracle wasn't having a good day. She'd woken up early with a bad head cold. At first she attributed it to allergies, only to remind herself that she was in space and there weren't a whole lot of allergens floating around. On top of that, she'd almost fallen to the floor trying to get from her bed to her wheelchair. That was four hours ago and her mood hadn't improved much. Grumpily, she began an electronic satellite scan of the area.

"Superman, if you'd kept your comm line open, I could have already--"

"I know, Oracle, and I'm sorry. I'll try to remember to keep the comm line open from now on", promised an abashed Superman. He glanced at Diana in time to see her roll her eyes. She'd heard this discussion before. Oracle scolds and Kal apologizes...until the next mission when it happens all over again. Oracle must be having a bad day, Diana mused. She wasn't normally so sharp with him. Oracle broke in on her reverie.

"And of course you know that it's really hard to stay mad at you", she groused. "I can't even see you, but I'll bet that you've got that wounded puppy look on your face with sad blue eyes." Flash was trying, and failing, to stifle a laugh. Diana almost laughed herself because Oracle was right. The expression on his face was exactly as she described.

A decidedly uncomfortable Superman was about to apologize again, but Oracle interrupted. "Got it. Two miles due east from your location. The device is about 3 feet tall, dull gray metal. Cylindrical. It looks like...well, it looks like a trash can. It seems to be constructed from a softer metal, probably lead."

"Ah, I didn't scan that far out. I assumed that it would be closer to us. There, I see it now. Diana, wait!" But Wonder Woman was already flying towards it, impatient to be done with this whole business.

Superman had almost caught up with her when an odd feeling came over him. Hunch, premonition or whatever it was told him that Diana was way too close to that thing.

With a burst of superspeed, he caught up to her about twenty meters from the cylinder. It did look like a garbage can. Or one of those robots from Star Wars. Alarm bells were still ringing in his head and he did the first thing that came to mind. He grabbed Diana and turned her away from the thing, effectively shielding her with his body. She looked up at him and looked as if she was about to yell something at him when he heard the explosion behind him. There was a moment of excruciating pain and then...

Diana was tired of playing with these mechanical toys. She just wanted to be done with this and get back to the JLA headquarters and take a nice long shower. She felt as if she'd been dipped in motor oil. The robots had been very well lubricated, presumably because whomever made them had them well prepared for a desert environment. Each time she crushed one, more oil was splattered on her. Her hands were so slick with it that the last robot she tried to grab slipped out of her hands and was sent flying into another one, destroying both. Dirt and blood she could deal with, but this was something else altogether. All she wanted to do right now was smash that controller and then go back and take a nice long shower. Kal would probably want to study the damn thing first, but Diana didn't have the patience for that today. She'd just take care of it herself. She really needed that shower.

She could see it clearly now. Yes, it did look like a trash can. Inwardly, she groaned. "Great", she thought. "I'll have to listen to Wally make stupid jokes about it all the way back to headquarters." Maybe she could wipe off enough of the oil from her hands so they wouldn't slip when she tried to choke him, as she would probably want to later. He certainly was the Fastest Man Alive, but nothing moved faster than his mouth sometimes. Maybe they called him "Flash" because he said the first thing that flashed into his head. She shook her head to clear it. She had more important things to think about.

Almost on top of it, Diana was startled to see a blue and red blur move in front of her. The next thing she knew, Kal was in front of her with his arms wrapped around her. About to ask him what in Hades he thought he was doing, she felt and heard the explosion behind him. She was looking into his eyes at that instant and saw them go wide as his face contorted in pain. Then everything went black.

When she opened her eyes, Diana found she was flat on her back staring at the sky roughly a half mile from the explosion. Turning her head, she could see Kal laying face down in the sand next to her. He wasn't moving. Scrambling up, she screamed at Flash "Get over here, now!" He was there before she finished her sentence. "Get us a transporter down here." Gently lifting Kal's cape, there were shards of what looked like green rock imbedded in his back and legs. There were dozens of those shards sticking out of him. They had to be kryptonite. Nothing else could pierce his skin like that. He was still breathing, though. That was heartening. Those shards had to be removed immediately.

She turned to Flash again. "Wally, I need you to pull those pieces of kryptonite out of him. Quickly!" Leaving him to it, Diana looked around and she found some of the larger pieces of the controller, and with her superhuman strength, began to mould them into a box. Before she finished, Flash had a pile of the kryptonite in his hands, waiting for the container to be completed. Diana handed him the box and he put the shards into it and closed the make-shift lid.

"I think I got all of it", said the speedster.

"You think you got all of it?" Diana flared. "You damn well better know you got it all. Just one of those little slivers can kill him."

"Diana, chill out. I don't have x-ray vision, ya know. I got all of it that I could see."

"Don't tell me to--" Diana was cut off as the transporter arrived. Instead of yelling at Flash, she bent and gently picked Kal up off the ground, carrying him to the transporter tube. A strangely quiet Flash followed her in.

"Don't worry, Diana, he'll be okay. You know Supes, takes a licking and keeps on ticking." It was just another feeble attempt at humor, but then, that was all he usually had. Diana let out a long breath as they waited to be transported. "Wally, I'm sorry I yelled at you."

Wally West had seen and heard lots of strange and amazing things since becoming the Scarlet Speedster, but he could not recall anything stranger than Wonder Woman actually apologizing to him. For one of the few times in his life, Wally was not just silent, but actually speechless. The desert around them faded away.