A/N: Ah, yes, I'm sure you're all quite sick of these fics that go along with the story with minimal variation, so I'm sorrry, but this is one. I swear on my life that it's more interesting than most, and there is a subplot going on that I DO own, so that's pretty good. If you think that you can't handle reading another one of these, just check out my Jesster Chronicles strories instead, and I'm sure that will satisfy you. Nonetheless, I'd love you forever if you'd send me a review on any of them. Please? Constructive criticism is always appreciated, but flames will be thoroughly doused in water :)
"You know, this gets really old, really fast," 16 year old Tessa Flynn sighed, dipping into a back bend to avoid another icicle that was shot at her. The attacker was a boy no older than twelve, who went by the name of Jack Frost. He had a nasty temper, which made him blow up like a top whenever he missed, practically throwing a temper tantrum. The little kid had cyrokenisis – the power to control ice – and was quite good at using it, so it was too bad he had two females equipped with Sonic Screams to shatter his ice.
It would be easy to take him down, because he is only twelve after all, but Black Canary wanted Tess to stall him for whatever reason, so she could swoop in and catch him unaware.
"Listen, kid, you wanna calm down a little?" Tessa, also known as Echo, threw a feigned kick at the boy's side. "You know, chill out?" She chuckled appreciatively at her joke, causing the boy to roll his eyes.
"Like I haven't heard that one before," he scowled, throwing more ice shards at her, which she dodged carefully. "Would you stay still so I can hit you?"
Black Canary made a motion with her hand up on the rafters of the warehouse, signaling that she was going to swoop in. Tess sighed, figuring this was all useless, but did as she was told. All it would take is to distract him a little bit more...say something, stupid! "You know what my favorite food is, Jacky?" Okay, random, but I can go with it.
"No, what?" he asked, confusedly, but not ceasing in his efforts to incapacitate her.
"Ice cream," she answered lightly, just as Canary leaped from the rafters and kicked him in the back, sending him to the ground with an 'oof.' The sound of ice shattering filled the warehouse as Echo leaned down to his pained face. "I'd offer to take you out for some, but," she released a wail that knocked him unconscious. "I'd say juvie is gonna keep you busy for quite a while."
"I see you've been working on your heroic banter," Canary teased, hand cuffing the boy as police moved in. "But you need to focus more, he almost got you that last time. I thought I was gonna have to pull an icicle out of your pancreas for a second."
"Thank you, oh wise Canary," Tessa deadpanned, trying not to think about the stares the two were getting as they made their way to where their motorcycles were parked. No matter what the circumstance was, the two blondes always managed to gain male attention, sometimes even from the villains themselves. Of course, their outfit choices didn't exactly scream innocent either. It's amazing how perverted men are, whether they be old, young, human, or not. Even though Tess was only sixteen, she could always feel the appreciative looks she received on a daily basis from random passersby or even the police themselves should they be involved. It all made her very uncomfortable, having been used to wearing a full body suit before she was forced to don the black and yellow bustier leotard by Canary. "Can we go now?"
"You sound excited," Dinah mused, mounting her bike and bringing it to life after putting the helmet on her head.
"You sound surprised," the younger girl bit back, mirroring her mentor's actions. "Today is the day, after all."
– Hall of Justice –
"Today's the day," Batman said, placing a hand on Robin's shoulder while Tess leaned on the other, being taller than the boy by at least a head.
"Welcome to the Hall of Justice," Green Arrow continued.
"Headquarters of the Justice League," Aquaman finished.
"Are you guys ready?" Black Canary asked from her spot next to her protege, who turned to her with an excited look. Tess opened her mouth to speak, but it snapped closed as she turned along with the others when a flash of yellow and red appeared.
"Aw man!" Kid Flash whined as the Flash stopped beside him. The redhead crossed his arms and turned to his mentor. "I knew we'd be the last ones here!"
The group sighed at the two, and they started to make their way to the Hall, who's front entrance had grown a crowd of tourists. Lovely. "How is it that the heroes with super speed are always late?" Tess asked as Wally came to stand next to Robin.
A sly smirk formed on the speedster's face as he raked his eyes over her body. "Hey beautiful, totally digging the new costume. Maybe –"
"Save it, Twinkletoes," she warned, waving a finger in his direction. Robin snickered at the nickname, and at the speedster's put out expression.
"Dude, harsh," KF grumbled, looking away.
"Can't you two be serious for once?" Speedy glared, causing Tess to roll her eyes and KF to stare at him incredulously.
"Uh, no," he answered, like it was the most obvious thing in the world (That isn't really far from the truth either).
"Where would the fun be in that?" Echo continued, putting her gloved hands on her hips. "Maybe you should just loosen up a bit, Red."
Speedy didn't answer, and instead chose to stare ahead again moodily as they began to walk towards the entrance to the hall – which was surrounded by civilians and other tourists trying to take pictures of the group.
"Is that Batman?"
"Look there's Black Canary and Echo!"
"I see Flash, and Flash Junior!"
"Isn't his name Speedy?"
"No, Speedy is Green Arrow's sidekick."
"Well, that makes no sense." Echo giggled, her hand over her mouth while she waved to a group of boys, who were staring open-mouthed at her. Okay, so she liked attention...a lot.
"Ready to see the Inner Sanctum?" Green Arrow asked, and a smirk appeared on his partner's face.
"Born that way."
"I'm glad we're all here," Aqualad stated.
Echo smiled at the Atlantean. "Me too."
"Have all five sidekicks ever been in the same place at the same time –" Wally began excitedly, until Speedy cut him off.
"Don't call us sidekicks," he glared. "Not after today."
"Sorry. First time at the Hall, I'm a little overwhelmed."
"No kidding," Echo remarked, making a face at the giant white building before them.
"You're overwhelmed, freeze was underwhelmed, why isn't anyone ever just whelmed?" Robin asked as they entered the Hall. He froze, mouth open, as he caught sight of the seven giant bronze statues of the founding members of the League, looking extremely heroic and threatening. "Oh, maybe that's why."
"Not to mention whelmed isn't even a word, Bird Brain," Echo smirked, elbowing his side lightly. He glared at her.
The iron-clad double doors in front of them opened with a hiss, revealing Martian Manhunter and Red Tornado. "Robin, Speedy, Aqualad, Echo, Kid Flash, welcome," Martian Manhunter greeted, before turning around and leading the group into the elevator-type thing. At least, it looked like an elevator, but as soon as the doors they entered shut, the wall on the other side opened up, revealing a library/meeting room. "You know have full access to the gym, our fully stocked galley, and of course, the library."
Automatically, as soon as Flash said, "Make yourselves at home," Echo went towards the shelves of books while the three younger boys flopped down in armchairs. Speedy was left standing in the middle of the group while the mentors discussed something in hushed tones.
"Speedy," Echo called, and he turned his head toward her. "Can I talk to you for a second?"
He nodded slightly, making his way towards her while the other boys eyes followed him interestedly. "What's wrong?" he whispered, bowing his head so he could look her in the eye.
"What's your deal, Roy?" she hissed back, fixing him with a glare that could peel paint. "I mean, why are you acting like this?"
"You know damn well what I'm talking about. Why are you being so harsh towards the boys? What happened to the guy I played Undead 2 with yesterday at his apartment? Because I definitely like him a helluva lot more than the guy I'm seeing now," she glared.
Tessa and Roy had been friends for years, ever since Green Arrow and Black Canary introduced them to each other when they were kids. Roy being Ollie's adopted son, and Tess being Dinah's adopted daughter, the two tended to spend a lot of time together whether in costume or as normal teenagers. Tess would even go as far as to say Roy was her best friend – not that she would admit it to his face or anything.
"Look, I'm sorry, okay Tess?" Roy sighed, rubbing his forehead. "I'm just stressed out."
Tess' eyes softened, and she touched his arm comfortingly, knowing she couldn't hug him like she usually did with the others watching like hawks. "'S fine, just try to chill out a little, okay? Your multiple personality disorder is making my head spin."
He chuckled, and most of the tension between them was released as she led him back over to the others. The computer began to scan the members of the League, who looked like they were going to leave somewhere. "What's going on?" Echo asked Robin, who shrugged.
"Mission debrief. Batman said they'll be back in a minute," he answered, and shot Speedy a weary look, who went from calm to enraged in seconds.
"That's it?" he blurted, stopping the League in their tracks. Echo winced, and retracted her arm. So much for chilling out. "You promised us a real look inside, not a glorified backstage pass."
"It's a first step. You have been granted access few others get," Aquaman said.
"Oh really?" Speedy gestured to the glass panel on the wall, where on the other side tourists were standing, taking pictures of them and pointing. "Who cares which side of the glass we're on?"
"Roy, you just need to be patient," Green Arrow said, stepping forward.
"What I need, is respect," he growled, turning away and facing the others. "They're treating us like kids. Worse, like sidekicks." (Which, in retrospect, isn't much worse at all). "We deserve better than this." They all shared a look, not really knowing what to say, and Echo bit her lip nervously. "You're kidding, right? You're playing their game? Why? Because you think they play fair?"
Now Echo was extremely confused. This was exactly how she figured it would go. Besides, they said they would be back soon, big deal. "Today was supposed to be the day. Step one into becoming full fledged members of the League."
"Well, sure...but I thought step one was a tour of the HQ..." Wally trailed off confusedly, while Tess kept her eyes on Speedy. He knows something that we don't, she thought warily. Something important.
"Except the hall really isn't the League's HQ!" Oh, so that was the secret, judging by the shocked looks on each of the mentor's faces. "I bet they never told you it's just a false front for tourists. And a pit stop for catching zeta-beam teleporter tubes to the real thing; an orbiting satellite, called the Watchtower." Echo's eyes widened, along with the rest of the boys'.
Everyone turned on Green Arrow, who sighed. "I know, but I thought maybe we could make an exception." Batman's eyes narrowed menacingly. "...or not."
"You're not helping your cause here, son," Aquaman spoke. "Stand down, or –"
"Or what? You'll send me to my room? And I'm not your son, I'm not even his!" Speedy glared, and pointed to Green Arrow."I thought I was his partner...but not anymore." Speedy threw his hat down, before addressing the others. "I guess they're right about you four, maybe you're not ready."
She felt a pang in her chest, knowing that she was included in the "you four" he was talking about, but he had stopped in front of Tess regardless. "Are you coming or not?" he asked. She bit her lip and stared into his mask, feeling tears spring to her eyes. Dammit, why did she have to cry at a time like this? Seeing the tears, his eyes softened, and his voice took on a pleading tone. "Tess..."
"If you want to throw everything away, fine," she hissed, suddenly feeling incredibly angry at the archer. He insulted her, maybe not intentionally, but it hurt her a lot more than he knew. "But don't expect me to do the same."
Roy glared, and turned away, stalking toward the door. It wasn't until then that she realized what she had just done, and tried to call after the archer. "Roy!" she gasped. "Roy, wait!" But he had already slammed the door and was gone by the time she finished.
The room was silent, all eyes on where the former hero was standing a moment ago, and Tess desperately tried to control her tears. Black Canary was the first to make a move, and walked over to her daughter and partner, pulling her into a hug. Echo sniffed, and tried not to cry in front of the others, who were giving her sympathetic looks. She didn't want their sympathy.
Before anyone else could do anything, an alarm sounded, and Superman appeared on the giant monitor system screen on the wall. "Superman to Justice League, there's been an explosion at Project Cadmus; it's on fire."
"I've had my suspicions about Cadmus. It may present the perfect opportunity to –" Batman was cut off by Zatara, who suddenly appeared in the bottom corner of the screen.
"Zatara to Justice League!" he gasped. "The Sorcerer of Wotan is using the Amulet of Aten to blot out the sun. Requesting full league response!"
Batman paused, "Superman?"
"...It's a small fire. Local authorities have it under control," he replied.
"Then Cadmus can wait." The Dark Knight cut off the com link, and pressed another button to contact the other members of the League. "All League members rendezvous at Zatara's coordinates." He turned to the four 'sidekicks.' "Stay put."
"What? Why?" Robin exclaimed.
"This is a League mission," Black Canary said, and Echo turned on her with an angry look.
"I thought we were going to be part of the League?" she frowned, narrowing her eyes at all of the adults, who returned her gaze stonily. "Or maybe that was a lie, too?"
"You're not trained –" Flash began, only to be cut off by his protege.
"I meant you're not trained to work as a part of this team," he amended, gesturing to Batman, Aquaman, Canary, and himself.
"There will be other missions, when you're ready," Aquaman stated.
Echo scoffed. "We are ready!" She was silenced with a glare from her mentor, but crossed her arms in a stand-offish pose nonetheless, holding her ground.
"For now," Batman glared. "Stay put."
The four turned and exited after Manhunter, Green Arrow, and Red Tornado, leaving the four alone. Echo sighed agitatedly, running a hand through her hair. "This sucks," she groaned. "I can't believe they would do something like that."
"When we're ready?" Kid Flash repeated, having come out of a stupor and began pacing. "How are we ever supposed to be ready when they treat us like...like sidekicks?"
"Newsflash Kid," Echo began bitterly. "We are sidekicks."
Aqualad frowned. "My mentor, my King...I thought he trusted me."
"Trust? They don't even trust us with the basics! They've got a secret HQ, in space!" Wally shouted, throwing up his arms.
"As much as I hate to admit this, KF's right. What else aren't they telling us?" Echo asked.
"I have a better question; why didn't we leave with Speedy?" Robin questioned, and Tess froze. Why didn't she leave? Roy was right, and he even offered to take her with him, but she declined, in favor of holding on to the little hope that he wasn't telling the truth, and her own mother actually trusted her. Hell, she didn't even trust her enough to tell her about the Watchtower, who's to say they aren't just stringing them along to get them off their backs about joining the League.
Kid Flash turned to Echo, frowning. "Why didn't you leave with Speedy?"
She bit her lip. "I guess I just hoped he was wrong. I was under the impression Canary was honest with me about everything." Tess glared at her feet. "What a joke."
The room was silent until Aqualad spoke up tentatively, "What is Project Cadmus?"
"Don't know..." Robin trailed off, before a sly smirk formed on his face and he dashed toward the computers. "But I can find out." He began to type a series of codes into the computer.
"Access denied," the computer spoke.
"Wanna bet?" the Boy Wonder snickered, entering a few codes. Files started appearing, and he bypassed firewalls and encryptions with ease, making Echo raise her eyebrows in amusement. Obviously, this kid had a lot of time on his hands.
"Whoa," KF gasped, looking like he was about to fall over in amazement. "How are you doing that?"
Robin grinned. "Same system as the Batcave."
"Alright, Project Cadmus," Robin began. "...Genetics lab here in D.C. That's all there is."
"Well, then that's it then. It's just a genetics lab," Echo shrugged, but Robin persisted.
"But if Batman is suspicious, maybe we should investigate."
"Solve their case before they do," Aqualad said, turning to Echo, who looked a little wary. "It would be poetic justice."
Robin shrugged. "Hey, they're all about justice."
"But they said to stay put."
"For the blotting out the sun mission, not this!" he pleaded, excitement evident in his voice.
"Robin, I don't know about this..." Tess frowned worriedly. "We could get in serious trouble."
"Wait, are you going to Cadmus?" Wally asked excitedly, grabbing his friends shoulders. "Because if you're going, I'm going."
"Echo?" Aqualad began, looking over at the girl, who was cracking her fingers – a nervous habit. "Are you coming?"
She sighed, and brought her head up to look at the other's hopeful faces, like they wouldn't go without her approval. Slowly, a smirk spread across her face, and she eyed them all. "If you can handle it."
"Oh, we can totally handle it, beautiful," Wally grinned, slinging an arm over her shoulder.
"So just like that, we're a team on a mission?" Aqualad asked.
Robin gave him a determined look. "We didn't come for a playdate."