Royal Palace

Mari's Quarters

Mari woke up tired and irritated, both a result of the restless dreams that had plagued her all night. John and Greg: the first man she'd ever truly loved, and the man she was helplessly falling in love with. Her dreams were not quite nightmares but they hardly served to quell the conflicting emotions roiling within her. From the hurt and anger she felt toward John to the guilt and recrimination that gnawed at her ever since her late night rendezvous with Greg.

She showered and brushed her teeth, the steamy film on the mirror rapidly disappearing to reveal a vision of herself that looked about as bad as she felt. Her short hair, usually a breeze to manage, was sticking out all over the place in unruly tufts. The dark circles under her eyes were another unwelcome surprise, and she supposed she should count herself lucky that the single gray hair she'd discovered a few weeks ago seemed to be a one-off occurrence.

Not, she rationalized, that anyone on the strike force would particularly care how glamorous she looked. Given that her 'day job' revolved completely around her appearance, she often had to remind herself that in the League, she was valued for her training and her abilities. Not her looks.

She recalled Mr. Terrific advice from before the mission. Kasnia can get pretty cold this time of year. So she selected a warm, yet stylish marine overcoat to go with her costume. The garment was a custom design, outfitted with several hidden compartments for food rations, fire starters, and flares. Call me anything but don't call me unprepared.

For some reason, her mental voice had started to take on the cadence of Greg's deep southern drawl. Which was just great. As if things weren't going to be awkward enough between them. At least, she reasoned, she would have Wally as a buffer.

She splashed a final handful of water on her face, taking a deep breath. "You got this, girl," she said out loud. She looked at her reflection in the mirror and hoped that she hadn't just told herself another lie.

The strike force had been held at the ready for some time, and so Greg supposed he shouldn't be surprised that by noon that morning all three hundred men and women were packed and prepared for a voyage into the mountains. There would be one heavy armor, a Russian-made BTR-T tank outfitted with a 2A42 autocannon and an upraised machine gun turret. According to a particularly chatty engineer, the tank was far better suited to urban environments than the forests to which the Naedi laid claim. Still, it was a far sight better than any attack vehicles the K'Naedi would be able to bring to bear. Not to mention that the tank would be accompanied by a trio of the infamous Soviet 'Hind' helicopters. The eight-passenger attack aircraft were each armed to the teeth and would be flying overwatch for the mission.

All in all, not bad Greg supposed. Between the heavy armor, the choppers, and the transport jeeps they would make short time of the travel into the mountains. The ordinance wasn't exactly state-of-the-art, but it would leave whatever weapons any hostile K'Naedi forces managed to cobble together in the dust. He was concerned about the vulnerability of the Hinds to anti-aircraft fire, especially given report of the K'Naedi rebels' proficiency with RPGs and ground to air machine guns. Voicing those concerns, however, he'd been politely told by Diric that his role was advisory in nature and that his pilots knew how to defend themselves.

In all, it seemed a very serious operation. Impressive, even. The only question was whether these urban troops would be able to adapt-

"Oof!" Vig realized that in his contemplations he'd walked headlong into the person he'd hoped to avoid for as long as possible. At the edge of the troop formation, he'd assumed, wrongly, that he'd be alone.

Mari fixed him with her liquid brown eyes, searching out his with a look of surprise and embarrassment that probably mirrored his own. She looked amazing, of course. As usual. Her short, windswept hair framed her fine-boned features perfectly, and Greg felt a surge of attraction worm its way into the volatile emotional mix.

"Hey," he said, rocking back on his heels and jamming his hands deep into his pockets. A completely inadequate greeting, all things considered, but he had no idea what else to say.

Mari wore an expression halfway between a forced smile and a frown. "Hey, Greg." She seemed to decide that more conversation was necessary, despite the awkwardness. "Kinda chilly, huh."

Greg blinked in surprise.

"The weather, I mean."

"Right. Yeah, of course," he agreed noncommittally. His gaze had dropped from hers and he couldn't bring himself to meet it again. "Nighttime is when the temperatures are really going to start to plunge."

She turned toward the foreboding expanse of forest ahead. Even in the sunlight, the thick canopy kept the terrain in a night-like shade. "Do you think they're expecting us?"

"They'd be complete idiots not to. Besides, we're going into their territory. They'll see us coming from miles away."

"Wally should come in handy for that," she said. Then, as if just realizing the speedster's absence, "Where is he anyway?"


Kasnian Royal Palace

Capitol Conference Room

Audrey arrived at her office suite with a throbbing headache and jitters from her morning coffee. A secretary waiting outside gave her a sheaf of papers she knew she would ignore for the day, and she entered her glorified office without the slightest clue of how she would get anything accomplished.

For better or for worse, her strike team had been deployed. Among other things, it would mean more bloodshed. More loss. More resentment. She felt as if her dream of a united Kasnia were slowly crumbling in front of her eyes, and the more she tried to put it back together the faster it fell apart. Her father, for all of his flaws, had never been wracked with such uncertainty, such hesitance. She didn't know if it made her a better or a worse leader but she did know that she had never felt so alone.

A knock at the door startled her, a surprise since she'd given the secretary explicit instructions that she was not to be disturbed. "Who is it?" she snapped more irritably than necessary as she moved toward the door.

"What's red and gold and awesome all over?" came a familiar voice.

"Wally?!" She opened the door.

"Bingo," said the Flash, dressed in full uniform save that his mask was pulled back to his reveal his boyish features.

She was at once happy, confused, and irritated to see him. "What the hell are you doing here?"

"I've decided to stay."

"Come again?" an American phrase she'd picked up from a secret obsession with their primetime soaps.

"Your best security forces are out trekking in the forest," he said. "Along with two experienced members of the League. I figure you need someone here to keep an eye on things."

"Mr. West, I am the one who 'keeps an eye on things'."

"But you could still use my help." In the blink of an eye he was impishly sitting on her desk, feet dangling off the ground like an insouciant schoolboy. She found herself inexplicably charmed despite herself.

She cocked her head to the side as she strode around to the other side of her desk, taking a seat in the designer chair that awaited her. Flash obligingly slid off of her desk, though he didn't take a seat at one of the nearby chairs. "I could use your help," she replied. "Out in the forest where the bad guys are."

Flash, momentarily distracted by her accent (which he found adorable) took a moment to come up with a reply. "All due respect, your majesty, there's bad guys here too. Those K'Naedi assassins that ambushed us earlier had help. Inside help.

Audrey's eyes flickered downward. "I have been thinking about this," she admitted. "It's certainly no secret that there are those in the government who would love my head on a pike outside the palace walls. They've shown an uncanny ability to get close to me, even infiltrate my Royal Guard. It's why I asked for your help in the first place."

"So let me help," said Wally.

"You make it sound so simple."

He flashed a grin. "It is. And the first thing you're going to do is ignore all those papers and come with me to the bomb site.''

Audrey frowned. "It was nearly all I could stomach watching the footage from afar. What could possibly be gained by going there in person?"

"Well it's good P.R. for one," Wally replied smoothly. "The benevolent queen tending to her people makes for great press. You don't want to seem like you're walled up in the palace while your people suffer, do you?"

Audrey ignored the question. "And why do you want to return to that awful scene. All the survivors have already been rescued."

He chuckled. "I've got a little bit of expertise in crime scene analysis. The attack might be as straightforward as it seems, but I think it's best to look at the evidence again. Just to be safe."

"What about me?" The voice was not Audrey's but rather Sofia's- the young girl having surreptitiously entered Audrey's conference room during the discussion.

"Sofia! How long have you-" Audrey started to say, momentarily flustered.

Wally on the other hand broke into a huge smile, zooming next to the young girl and crouching as he went for a high five. "Hey kiddo!"

"Kiddo?" Sofia repeated quizzically. Though she did return the unfamiliar gesture with a tentative high five of her own. Her eyes widened as Flash again zoomed back into place next to Audrey's desk, the wind shear flipping loose strands of hair out of her eyes. "It's nice to see you," she told the superhero, surprised that she actually meant it. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt."

"You've interrupted nothing," Audrey assured her.

"It sounded like you were both planning to go visit the bridge," the young girl began. "I just. . .I don't want you to leave me here alone."

A comment on the silliness off such a sentiment rose to Audrey's lips before she realized that despite Sofia's mature carriage, she was really just a little girl. A little girl who had been abandoned far too many times before. And while Audrey had little, make that no experience dealing with children, she'd vowed to make a difference in this girl's life.

So she gave Wally a look that he deciphered right on cue. He gave just enough of a bow to reach Sofia's eye level, patted her on the shoulder with a "Seeya kiddo," and then backed out toward the exit. "I'll let you two talk for a bit," he said. Then, to Audrey, "What's say we head out in ten minutes or so?"

"Very well."

Sofia blinked and the Flash was gone, just like his namesake. "He didn't have to leave," she said.

"Well it was the polite thing for him to do," Audrey said.


The Queen, a woman accustomed to delivering long speeches in front of hostile audiences, found herself struggling to explain the concept of situational courtesy. "It just was," she managed at last.

"Are you going to go with him to the bridge?"

Audrey looked down at her. "Yes, probably. But I shan't be gone for long. Do you think you can manage here for just a few hours? I'll have the chef cook up a delicious meal for you and I'll have some movies and books brought to your room."

Sofia considered this for a moment. "Alright."

"I'll see you tonight, Sofia."

The young girl moved toward the door, but she paused before exiting altogether. "He likes you, you know."

Audrey's blush seemed to appear even before she grasped the full meaning of the girl's words. "What?"

"The Flash likes you, I can tell," Sofia continued. "I can see it."

The queen crossed her arms. "And what do you see, exactly?"

"That you like him too," Sofia replied without hesitation. The ghost of a smile tugged at the corner of her mouth.

Audrey forced a chuckle even as she shook her head. "Well now I know you're crazy."

"You like him a lot."

"I most certainly do not."

"It's why you can't stop smiling," Sofia observed.

And on that, Audrey had to admit, she had a point.

K'Naedi Stronghold

Kasnian Mountains

It was a meeting of war, perhaps the important meeting of his commanders that Viktor had ever assembled. Some dozen or so of them sat in what was functionally the most fortified structure for miles around. It was a natural cave, part of a labyrinthine series of underground structures protected by mountainside and rock wall thick enough to survive aerial bombardment. Despite the occasional bat, the humid air, and the dim lighting, it was an ideal location for these sorts of gatherings.

Viktor began the meeting with an aside. He wanted precisely zero looming distractions as plans were made to deal with the rapidly-approaching enemy forces. His commanders, of course, were understandably confused and distracted. Talin's presence at this meeting, at Viktor's side, of all things, was practically impossible to reconcile. That the disgraced woman, slated for execution last anyone had heard, seemed to have earned Viktor's favor required explanation. The leader of the K'Naedi was not known for his mercy.

Viktor contemplated all of this as he withdrew his dagger and drove its blade deep into the wooden tabletop with a resounding thunk. The background chatter of his commanders immediately as all attention squarely on him.

Viktor was not in the mood for pleasantries. "Talin, has been forgiven for her earlier failures. Her rank will not be restored yet but she is still to be considered on equal rank with the other commanders until such time as she has proven herself or squandered her second chance. If there are any objections to this, I will hear them after we have repelled the enemy. Is that clear?"

The men circled around the table nodded grudgingly. While few were friends of the abrasive Talin, most would acknowledge her as among the fiercest warriors the K'Naedi had to offer. If a full-scale clash with the enemy was indeed upon them, none would want the woman anywhere other than at their side.

They were still surprised, however, when Viktor sat down but Talin remained standing. Was he actually giving her the floor as well?

"Having dispensed with that," Talin began brusquely, "I have intelligence from our contact in the Royal Guard." She paused to let that juicy tidbit sink in. "Before I get to this however, there is one matter which must be immediately addressed. Did any of you have prior knowledge of the attack on the Queen's Bridge?"

Dozin, one of the younger commanders present, could scarcely hold back his anger. Seated two seats away from Talin, he jumped to his feet. "Who the hell are you to ask this, traitor? You were the one who authorized that disaster of a mission that led to five of our own slaughtered like dogs at the hands of our enemies. And you dare-"

Talin didn't let him finish. She skipped forward and to the left, like a practiced loss of balance which took her around the men seated between her and Dozin. Her entire body rotated with the maneuver, powering the vicious elbow strike she unloaded right into Dozin's jaw.

To the man's credit, he managed to stay conscious. He spun away from his seat and lashed out at Talin, a powerful if imprecise blow. She darted inside of his reach as the punch sailed harmlessly past. She kneed him in the groin and brought her fist up into his chin as he doubled over. She simultaneously trapped his extended arm in the crook of her shoulder and twisted with her entire body, propelling the larger man over her and into a sprawled heap on the ground.

He groaned, still doubled over in pain. All eyes turned to Viktor who had watched the brutal exchange with nary a word. His pitiless gaze, in turn, came to rest on Dozin. The man gingerly rose to his feet, backing away from Talin whose hips were tensed to launch right back into a savage beating. "Take your seat, Dozin. You will not speak for the rest of this meeting. Nod your head if I've made myself clear."

Jaw clenched, Dozin nodded.

"Continue," Viktor directed Talin.

She did, albeit after warily surveying the room. "It seems that whoever destroyed the Queen's Bridge is not affiliated with the K'Naedi. This leaves several options. One is that some of our Naedi brethren have decided to strike out against the Kasnian regime on their own. The other, which I find more compelling, is that this strike was a deliberate attempt to frame us and provide justification for an incursion into the mountains.

"Why would the queen feel she needed a justification?" asked one of the council members in the back. "If she wanted to attack us, she could have done so at any time. Especially with killing so many of her own citizens.

"Perhaps it is one of the queen's advisors or a member of her Royal Guard," Talin suggested. Perhaps this was the last bit of leverage they needed to convince her that an attack was necessary. I do not mean to dwell on the causal factors of our current predicament, however. The fact is, we have a small army headed our way. Preparations must be made."

She snapped her finger and an assistant thumbed the old yet functional projector to life. The image, though blurry, was a map of the forests and nearby mountainside. Talin didn't bother explaining this, pointing instead to the forest icon on the map. "Thanks to intelligence I have received from our source inside the Royal Guard, we have a very good idea of their plans. Our enemy progresses through these forests," she continued. "They will arrive at the village of Guinsluv in a few days' time. They will, undoubtedly, attempt to requisition supplies from the villagers. They will need to, because we will be conducting raids every night to relieve them of their food, fuel, and ammunition.

"The people of Guinsluv are sympathetic to our cause. They will help us lay the trap for our intruders. This will, however, require every ounce of energy and commitment that we can muster. Any able-bodied men and women under your command will begin readiness training at once. I need scouts, quick and nimble, to conduct our supply raids against the enemy. We will need to fell trees by the dozens to block the way of their assault vehicles. I want every squad to have at least one member with surface to air missile training. Our SAM turrets and RPGs should be more than a match for their helicopters."

She paused to let all of this sink in. "My source also confirms that the Justice League members are accompanying this incursion force. They have proven themselves extraordinarily difficult to kill. Do not forget that these three singlehandedly defeated not only Katya and Konrad, but Nadia and Odom as well." She knew what her audience was thinking: that the four elite K'naedi assassins were only dead because Talin had sent them on an unauthorized mission. But her point would still resonate.

"At the end of the day, we have one clear advantage," she continued, still not wishing to dwell on her past mistakes. "The outsiders come into our land. Our home. We know these forests, these caves. They do not. And they will pay for their ignorance- their arrogance- with their lives."

Viktor rose, impressed by Talin's ability to deliver such a terse yet rousing message. "I can't imagine that any more need be said on this matter," he said with a faint smile. "Now let us put our words to action. The Royal Guard approaches and we have quite the welcome to prepare."

The next few days seemed as awkward and interminable as the last, at least from Greg's perspective. Mari would scarcely speak to him except when absolutely necessary, and he found that he was beginning to resent her more and more as well. As if she hadn't been just as complicit in what had nearly transpired between them! No, the maddening part was knowing that she did feel attraction for him but that it would never be able to measure up to the great and mighty Green Lantern (who, incidentally, wasn't even with her anymore.

He grew irritated just thinking about it. And the weather certainly wasn't helping. Two of the men had already succumbed to the cold and were keeping the combat medics busy treating their simultaneous onsets of pneumonia. Greg for his part stayed aloof from the group for the most part, setting up his own tent and fire when the strike force made camp for the night.

And then there were the disappearances. Not people, but supplies. Ammunition, medicine, and food mostly. Diric was beginning to suspect a bandit roaming the forest and picking off the stolen goods, and Greg couldn't help but agree. Either way, the supply truck, had been moved to the center of camp and a constant guard posted. Whoever was stealing supplies wouldn't be doing so anymore, but the damage was already done. There wasn't anywhere near enough food left to feed all the men.

"I propose we set up hunting parties," he said to Diric late one night. These forests are cold but they should still have plenty game to choose from. It's that or we turn back before we have a starving army on our hands."

They were standing in the makeshift command bunker, a tent complex fortified with barbed wire fencing. Diric, his attention still mostly on a map on the wall, chuckled softly. "Creative solution," he said. "Truly. But we won't need it. There is a third option." He trailed his index finger toward a point on the map near this position. "This is Guinsluv. Don't bother remembering the name. It's a known K'Naedi village and it's within a day's march. Closer than that if we didn't have to clear the vegetation for our vehicles. We'll recoup our supplies there."

Greg frowned. "And what makes you think they'll cooperate."

The other man's laugh was darker this time. "Well, they won't have much choice, will they? This is a sanctioned mission from the Queen herself. Under Kasnian law, citizens must provide reasonable requisitions and accommodations for military personnel."

Greg's chin raised a fraction of an inch. "Under international law, citizens may not be forced to quarter soldiers."

Diric rolled his eyes. "Oh please. As if these scum deserve every bleeding heart concession in whatever U.N. convention pulled that out of their arse. I'm pretty sure it's against international law to blow up a bridge with hundreds of people still on it too. Maybe you should be more concerned about the Naedi-"

"Not all of them," Greg interjected. "We're here for the bad guys. Not the civilians."

"They are the civilians. They hide in the villages. They receive aid and comfort from the people. Naedi, K'Naedi, it's the same bloody thing."

"No, it's not." This was Mari's voice from the door. She entered with a walk that could silence auditoriums, her voice as hard as steel. "The Queen brought us here in part to oversee her own forces. So let us remind you again that neither we nor the rest of the League will permit war crimes to occur under our watch. Your incursion has a narrow and specific target and you will not deviate from those parameters."

Diric's jaw clenched. "I don't need to have this conversation again. Just remember that my men and the good of Kasnia will come before these mountain-dwelling vermin every time. Now if you will excuse me I have a great deal more planning to do."

Vigilante and Vixen exited together, neither sure what to say once they were outside.

"Thanks," Greg was the first to say, if stiffly at that. He was still peeved at Mari but he appreciated her help against Diric.

She shrugged off the gratitude. "Don't mention it."


More awkward silence, even as the voice in Mari's head screamed that this wasn't how it was supposed to be. She and Vig had never been unable to talk to each other. To share their feelings. Though she supposed that those feelings had never been about each other before. "Well, I'll see you tomorrow then, Greg."

"What's going on with you and John?" The question came from nowhere, at least as far as Vg could tell. He'd meant to bid her good night and somehow had ended up asking. . .that.

Mari gawked at him, disbelief in her eyes. "You really want to have this conversation now?"

He crossed his arms. "May as well."

"Frankly, it's none of your business."

The words were like a slap to the face. "After what almost happened between us, I think it is my business to know what's going on with you and your boyfriend."

"Ex-boyfriend," Mari interrupted, her eyes clouding with anger. "And again, none of your business." She wished she didn't feel the need to defend JOhn after all he had put her through, but it was undeniable that she still had feelings for the Green Lantern. The dissonance of her attraction to Greg and John was unbearable enough without Greg ripping the emotions out like an open wound. "What do you want from me, Greg?" she asked, already knowing the answer.

His jaw clenched. "I want to know where we stand, Mari. I-" He faltered, but only for a moment. "Mari, I'm in love with you."

Mari was already shaking her head. "I can't. . ."

"Can't what?"

"I can't give you that. I'm sorry."

He studied her trying to find the spark of attraction he had seen before in her eyes and her smile. "Do you feel anything for me?"

I love you too, she wanted to say.

"No," she actually said.

He looked thunderstruck. "You're lying," he whispered, his voice tinged with uncertainty.

And she was. But as much as her feelings for the cowboy had grown, she wasn't ready to close the chapter on John just yet. So she plunged ahead in breaking her best friend's heart. "There's is between us, Greg. We fooled around, I was feeling bad after what happened with John, and we made a mistake."

Greg's face deadened, betraying none of the hurt he felt at her words. "A rebound, huh?"

"We're just. . .friends." She willed him to dispute the assertion but he didn't. Instead he reached into his pocket and fished out a cigarette. Hating the smell of secondhand smoke, Mari took a step back. Which had probably been the point.

Vig lit his cigarette and took a long, slow inhale before speaking. His tone was measured despite the trembling of the cigarette in his hand. "Well, Mari, thanks for clearing that up. I'm inclined to agree with you one hundred and ten percent about that night bein' a mistake and you can bet your talisman it won't happen again."

"I think that's for the best," Mari told him, brushing eye with the back of her hand. If she started crying over this, she would never forgive herself.

Mari could see the wall Greg was already starting to build between them. The irrevocable changing of their relationship, all in real time. started to turn around but paused halfway. Regret rolled over her like a dense fog, all the more potent because she knew that she was the cause of the pain he worked so hard to conceal.

He didn't even seem to want to meet her eyes as he started to back away. "You and John deserve each other," he said simply.

Mari watched him walk away the smoke of his cigarette catching stray moonbeams in the brisk night air. The tears came unbidden and this time, she didn't resist. One day, she would get over Greg. Somehow. Even if, for the life of her, she couldn't imagine how.

What the hell does she see in that guy anyway? Vig fumed as he walked through the forest, his thoughts toward the Green Lantern less than charitable. The rub of it was that he'd never been a particularly big fan of John Stewart. Even before developing feelings for Mari, even before joining the League, he'd felt that the Lantern célèbre represented the worst of the League's potential for overreach. A man whose first loyalties lay not with his country or even the League, but with an army of alien soldiers powered by an infinite green battery.

That Earth's Lantern should also be with the most amazing woman he'd ever known was just insult to injury. And that disaster with the cell phone call in the middle of the night. . .he didn't even know how to categorize that one. He almost wished that the talk they'd just had would free him from his desire for Mari. After what she'd said, how could it not?

But his feelings were, lamentably, more powerful than ever. And he had no idea what to do about it. He'd told her he loved and she'd shot him down like a damn clay pigeon at a skeet shoot. The emptiness was agonizing, a feeling he hadn't had since the death of his wife. He realized with a start how much he'd come to rely on Mari for companionship up on the Watchtower and during his time with the League. Sure, he had other friends. But none who made him as genuinely happy as Mari.

"Maybe it's time for you to hang up the hat," he muttered to himself between puffs. "Go back to the ranch, back to the local crimefightin'.". He wouldn't go as far as to say that Mari was the only reason he'd stayed with the League. But now that she'd closed that chapter for good, it would be much easier to leave. Hell, it wasn't like she'd miss him much.

Greg accidentally missed the first path that led back to his tent and missed the second one on purpose. Something about the forests, a million miles away from his home country, seemed. . .comforting as he walked alone with his thoughts. Discarding the used cigarette, he plucked another one from his pocket, the notion crossing his mind that he really should quit sometime soon.

And then all thoughts of the dangers of smoking were replaced by more immediate concerns when he heard the unmistakable click of a handgun's safety mechanism being unlatched, and saw the three figures converging from all sides, their pistols glinting in the moonlight and pointed straight at him.

Stupid, he swore at himself. So lost in thought that he'd managed to let a couple amateurs get the drop on him. They were K'Naedi, based on the clothes and the Soviet-era Makarov pistols currently aimed at his head. They were in a lopsided triangular formation, surrounding him yet ensuring that missed shots were in no danger of hitting a comrade. They were just far enough away that handgun accuracy could be maintained without falling into range of a kick or lunge.

And there were three of them. Two, he could probably clear leather fast enough to shoot them before they got off a shot. But three? He didn't feel like risking his life on it.

"Don't try anything," said the lead soldier in thickly-accented English. "We know of your prowess with firearms and we will shoot you if deviate at all from the following instructions. Kneel, slowly, to the ground. Put your hands behind your head and interlock your fingers."

Greg was beginning to rapidly upgrade his assessment of these guys. Clearly, they weren't amateurs. And they had been well-briefed.

He shrugged. "Suit yourselves." He did as instructed, kneeling and putting his hands behind his head. He would have tried to escape but he didn't think he'd be able to do so without killing them. And despite their threats, it didn't look like they had any intention of killing him just yet.

Rough hands yanked his pistols out of their holsters while another pair grabbed his arms and secured them behind his back with a pair of plastic zipcuffs, the lightweight handcuff substitutes that, while composed of plastic, were more than durable enough to hold a prisoner.

Ridiculously, his cigarette was still in place. So, talking out of the corner of his mouth, he joked, "Don't suppose any of y'all have a light?"

That bit of humor earned Vigilante a fist in the stomach. He pitched forward, unable to stop his fall. But his captors caught him and stood him back up. "Not talking!"

He thought with no small amount of irony that being captured by terrorists wasn't even the worst he'd felt that day.

Author's Note:

Not much to say except that I haven't forgotten this story and will finish it come hell or high water. Even though Justice League Unlimited has been off the air for quite some time, I care very much for these characters and enjoy the process of putting them at the front and center of their own adventure.

As always, reviews are appreciated and mean a great deal to me. Apologies for typos, misspellings, grammatical oopsies, etc.

Thank you for taking the time to read and I hope you've enjoyed the story so far,