Chapter One: Debriefing
Disclaimer: Characters and premise are the property of DC, I'm just borrowing them for a little non-profit fun.
Some months later
On the Watchtower, Batman addressed the JLA. "Warworld is a planet recreated as a troop-carrier of massive portions. It is propelled by two city-sized engine complexes spaced roughly 2000 miles apart. The JLA, working in concert with Ms. Waller's operatives-"
"Flash's damned Rogues under government conscript," Captain Atom muttered.
"-intend to disable both engine complexes. Once the planet has been rendered immobile Green Lantern Mogo will tow Warworld to a suitable star system and place it in a life-sustaining orbit." Batman continued the briefing. "The two teams sent to disabled Warworld's engine complexes will be working independently. One team will consist of myself, Captain Cold, Heatwave, Mirror Master and Captain Boomerang. The second will be the Atom supported by Martian Manhunter, Red Tornado, Lantern Rayner and Captain Atom."
Hawkman stood up, frowning. "This is foolishness. The League has more than enough resources to field two teams. Why are we going through this charade of teaming up with bank robbers?"
"Don't dismiss the Rogues because they aren't interested in taking over the planet or wholesale slaughter," Flash said.
"Come on," Guy Gardner snorted. "I know I've been off planet for a couple of years and I wouldn't sneeze at the likes of Grodd or a couple of the others, but the bulk of your rogue's gallery are a joke. I mean a bargain-basement Mr. Freeze, a guy with a flame thrower, a guy with mirrors and a guy with boomerangs? Oh and the kid who hits people with rubber chickens. Where is the kid anyway? He was always good for a laugh when he made the news. Remember the giant cream pie?"
"Chocolate chip banana cream pie," Barry corrected. "And while all eyes were focused on Trickster and his insane prank his teammates cleaned out two different banks."
"Look," Flash sighed. "Do any of you think it would be harder for us to stop the bad guys if we didn't care who got hurt in the process? Why do you assume the Rogues are less capable because they avoid collateral damage?"
"They're still crooks and we still don't need them," Hawkman said.
"Their arrests have practically orphaned four kids," Flash said. "They're trying to make it right and get back to their kids, without a jailbreak. There's no reason for us to stop them. Believe me, they can do the job."
"The Rogues should be kept away from those kids, from any kids. They're criminals," Superman said. "What we should be doing is finding those kids real families."
"You had your chance," Flash snapped, remembering the looks on Conner and Evan's faces when he'd had to tell them that the Rogues had been taken in. "The Rogues are flawed certainly, but at least they're trying."
"You're the ones who decided it had to be me," Superman said. "I told you no from the first. I told you I'm not his father."
"This is a debriefing, not a debate," Batman stated. "The decisions have already been made." He looked to Superman and Wonder Woman. "Most of you are only here so that you'll know what's coming if both teams fail on Warworld."
"At least split the Rogues up between the teams," Lantern Rayner said. "Take a few extra people and if they flake, no harm done. There's no reason for you to stake your life on them following through on the deal they made with Waller."
"While I don't expect that to happen, the consequences of failure are such that we should have a contingency plan," Batman continued over Kyle's objections and the youngest Earth-born Lantern had never felt more like a kid at the grown-up's table.
It was probably the worst response possible, but being ignored only made Kyle more determined to get his point across. "You were in Miami," he argued. "You saw the Injustice Society. When things started turning against them it was like rats on a sinking ship. Luthor's escape plan nearly killed two of his allies. And Joker- My god, Harley Quinn is still in the ICU because he didn't care who got hurt. She's his lover!"
"And the Injustice League are not the Rogues," Flash said simply.
"Flash vouches for them. I have my reasons for working with them," Batman stated. "End. Of. Discussion. Now, contingencies..."
"Would you look at that," Sam breathed, his face pressed up against the viewport as the Earth and moon shrank in the distance.
"Ain't half the view I got," Rory declared as he stared into the sun's fiery depths, enraptured.
Maybe ten minutes later Len cleared his throat. "If you're done with the sight-seeing?"
Boomerang pulled out a sonic boomerang and started working on tuning it. If here were any bugs, their observes would find the effect 'coincidentally' jammed audio signals.
"You heard Waller's briefing," Cold said. "Where we're headed there ain't no cops, no capes and no civilians. There's just us and them and if they make it past us to the earth there ain't gonna be much to go home to. This time out there are only two rules: Get the job done and go home alive."
"I'm thinking the Batman might take issue," Heatwave said.
Cold hesitated. "Don't rub it in the hero's face if you can avoid it, but don't hold back."
"His kid's got an impressive vindictive streak to him," Mirror Master remarked, thinking of the measures Robin had put in place to discourage further attacks on Conner. "No one's been feeding that kid turn the other cheek crap. The Bat might not be too unreasonable."
"The Joker's still above ground," Heatwave pointed out. "That gives you a notion of the Bat's stance on killing."
Cold grimaced, "At the end of the day the job is to blow a rocket booster the size of a city. A thing like that doesn't run itself. If the hero balks when it hits him that there's gonna be casualties the job still has to get done. Heatwave, Boomerang keep your eyes peeled. Sam and I aren't much in the way of explosions, you're our plan B if it comes to that."
"And while we're on the trip?" Boomerang asked. "The wing girl isn't around but the metal man and the Lantern brat are traveling with us. They hurt a Rogue."
"Best do it on the way there," Mirror Master remarked. "While they've still got incentive to keep us in good condition."
Cold nodded in agreement.
"The Lantern didn't do the damage and he's practically a kid himself," Heatwave reminded the others. "Honestly I can't figure why he's up here 'stead of at Mount Justice with the other kiddie capes... or off sulking like the Arrow brat."
Boomerang flicked peas across the ship's cafeteria, striking the back of Kyle's neck with pin-point accuracy.
The first three or four times Kyle ignored it. Then he spun around and shouted, "Cut it out!"
The Rogues talked to each other as if they hadn't any clue that Kyle was yelling at them. As soon as Kyle turned back to his lunch Boomerang flicked another pea.
This times Kyle jumped up and stormed across the room. "What is this? Middle school? Grow-up!"
The escalation drew the attention of the other half-dozen JLA'ers in the room.
"Something the matter with you?" Cold asked laconically.
"You're what's the matter with me!" Kyle exclaimed. "Leave me alone!"
Cold turned his back on Kyle dismissively.
Kyle threw up his arms and started toward his table. The Rogues traded a grin as Boomerang flicked yet another pea.
J'onn frowned, there was a disconnect between the Rogue's childish antics and the darker sense of anticipation that he was sensing from them.
Kyle spun back around and grabbed Cold's shoulder. Heatwave leaned across the table, grabbed Kyle's collar and tossed him to the floor.
Several of the League members leapt up to go to Kyle's aid but Captain Atom was the closest to the action. Seeing him backing Kyle up the others held back. As Kyle had said this was middle school crap, turning it into a full scale battle on a space-ship was probably an over-reaction.
"We have all had enough of you!" the gleaming metallic man declared.
" 'S not like we started it, mate," Boomerang argued.
"You did too start it!" Kyle exclaimed. "I was just-"
"Started with Con," Cold interrupted icily.
Mirror Master tossed a flash-grenade in the air, blinding everyone in the room. But the Rogues had already gotten a lock on their target.
Moments later, blinking spots from their vision the League members saw Captain Atom pinned to the wall by a pair of boomerangs. The air around him was thick with extreme temperature mirages. Boomerang held a third weapon that hummed ominously, his arm cocked back to throw.
"Feeling a little brittle?" Cold asked in a dead monotone. "That was about half the thermal shock Heatwave and I are capable of delivering. Come after one of mine again and we'll crack you like a safe."
Even as the League moved to intervene the Rogues holstered their weapons and stood down.
"Eight seconds," J'Onn said. "It was childishness, then eight second later Nathaniel could have been dead if Cold was truthful about how much they held back."
"Eight seconds is an extended fight for the Flash," Batman pointed out.
"Well, if I had been doubting Flash about their capability, I'm not now," John Steward said. "Have you considered holding their weapons until we make planet-fall? Just to avoid another incident?"
"If they give them up without a fight, it only means that they have hold outs," Batman replied. "This way everyone knows they're armed and if they have half a brain will act accordingly."
"We could further restrict their access to the ship," J'onn suggested.
Batman looked displeased.
"Captain Atom will be spending the night in the infirmary undergoing heat treatments to restore his shell's malleability," John Stewart said. "It's insufficient to say that there won't be anymore trouble. Even if they did something you've been wanting to do for months."
"Treating them as prisoners will make them more defensive," Batman stated. "As we've already blown any chance we had of persuading Conner to return to the fold, it becomes imperative that we establish some frame for co-existence with the primary adult influences in his life."
"I still say this is about you wanting to bust Nathaniel or Shiera one," John replied.
Kyle grimaced, he'd been hoping to catch one of the Rogues alone. The way things had gone down the other day bothered him. He just wanted to talk and one-to-one seemed like the best bet to get a real answer, but none of the Rogues were ever caught alone.
In fact, talking to a pair of them rather than all four was a pretty rare opportunity. Kyle took a deep breath and hurried down the hall after Mirror Master and Heatwave. "Wait up a second," he called.
The two Rogues turned and gave Kyle a dubious look.
Kyle's plan for approaching them underwent a rapid shift. "Um, first, well, I'm sorry about Superboy getting hurt," he said awkwardly. "We didn't mean for things to happen that way. It was just... well, this isn't the first time someone's tried to recreate Superman's powers and it tends to end badly."
Heatwave and Mirror Master traded a disgusted look and resumed walking
"I'm trying to apologize!" Kyle protested.
Mirror Master snorted, "Doing a piss-poor job of it," he muttered to Heatwave, not stopping.
"Wait!" Kyle exclaimed. "You put Captain Atom in the infirmary but me..."
"And we pull 'high school' crap on you," Mirror Master filled in.
"Naw, he said 'middle school crap'," Heatwave corrected. "High School 'd imply we were acting his age."
"I'm not in High School!" Kyle protested in outrage.
"Think he wants to know why we're treating him like a newbie trying way too hard to hang with the cool kids," Mirror Master said.
"Gotta give ya points for loyalty, kid," Heatwave said. "You stick by your friends, but-"
"But one wonders if you argue so determinedly because you believe in the rightness of their actions or because you seek to convince yourself of such?" Red Tornado asked as he walked up behind Kyle and put his hand on the younger hero's shoulder.
Kyle shrugged him off. "I'm not some kid," he exclaimed, "I'm a fully trained Lantern. How many times do I have to say it?"
Red Tornado watched solemnly as Kyle stormed off. "They feel committed," he said apologetically to the Rogues. "They feel they have gone too far to allow themselves to consider the possibility that they are wrong about Conner."