"The truth is rarely pure and never simple"
Chapter One: Dreams
The sounds of people moving a talking shuffled around them, and Wally was the last to fight his way to consciousness. His body felt numb and unused, and his eyes were squeezed tightly together, as though someone had cemented them shut. He shifted – well, he tried to, but he found only a weak movement. It took all of his strength to order his fingers to flex. He would have looked around, but he could feel a pressure over his face and focused on the bridge of his nose. A helmet or mask of some kind was covering his face.
"What?" Wally thought confusedly, but then he heard noises around him. People were moving around him. The more he concentrated, the more he could identify what they were saying. They were mumbling on and on about some experiment.
"Is this it? He's the last one? Is the procedure complete?" a husky voice asked from
"Yes, the simulation is ending. All subjects are regaining consciousness," A feminine voice offered in an upbeat tone.
"Very good. Let's remove the helmets – remember, the simulations were very lucid. The candidates will be confused at first," The huskier voice added.
Then the helmet was lifted off his head, his fiery red hair sticking up in all directions as he lazily forced himself up and tried hard not close his eyes from the lights that glinted over his head. His head ached from the movement, and the room swiveled, making it hard for him to focus. His hands flew o his head as though to steady himself, though one he used the heel of one hand to rub at his eyes.
"What…?" he mumbled before his foggy brain caught up with himself, "Where am I? And who are you?" the speedster demanded, catching sight of the man in front of him.
The guy was tall and chubby, his doctor's robe buttoned tightly against his skin. A large stethoscope was hanging from around his neck, and a thick beard plastered the edges of his chin. Wide-framed glasses stood out in front of his two beady eyes that were currently looking at him with concern. Definitely not a villain that he recognized.
Wally sat up slowly, his joints feeling tense like he hadn't moved in a while. He tried to swing his legs over the edge of the table he was laying on, but two stronger hands pushed back down on his shoulders, forcing him to stay seated.
"No, Mister West," The chubby doctor chided him, "You are disoriented, and moving so quickly after the simulation will give you motion sickness and a severe headache, like Conner Kent over there," The man pointed another table.
Wally turned to see the clone grabbing at his head, biting his lip from the internal pain.
"Supey?" Wally asked, his brain suddenly clicking, "Conner? You okay?"
Conner flicked a look at Wally, and his eyes were filled with confusion. A nurse was standing over him and offering an Advil, but he was ignoring her completely.
"What's going on?" Wally asked him, but another voice answered.
"We don't know Baywatch," he heard Artemis mumble, "The good doctor here wanted to wait until we were all awake before he'd tell us anything," the girl muttered.
"All..?" Wally began, but as he looked around the room, he saw his bed was the last in a line of medical beds lined up against a wall. Superboy's was next to his, but as his eyes trailed down he saw Artemis, Miss Martian, Robin, Zatana, Aqualad, and Spee-Red Arrow. It took a moment for his mind to register that they were all in their civvies, but when he did he shook himself.
"Guys? Rob? Anyone want to clue me in here?" He faltered, his green eyes bouncing from person to person. No one looked like they had any answers though, except for the doctor who huffed in front of Wally.
"Oh dear," The doctor murmured, "I suppose the simulation was a tad realistic, and the suppression of your real memories was a delicate process, but don't worry they're still intact and should surface within twenty-four hours,"
"What do you mean?" Artemis asked from her own medical bed.
"If I don't get answers soon, I'll find my own," Roy added stubbornly, looking like he wasn't planning on staying very long.
The pudgy man frowned, tapping his chin with a thick index finger, "How do I explain this…Ah," he began, "Your memories should return to you shortly, but for now let me be blunt. As you may or may not remember, you signed up for this. We took teenagers from the surrounding cities, choosing the best candidates for our test,"
Robin looked at him disbelievingly, "Test?" he questioned, his eyes narrowing behind sunglasses, "What kind of test?"
"It was a scientific study, really," The doctor began, "We put teens in a scenario where they would have responsibility, take risks, deal with high stress, develop relationships, bonds, and things of that nature, and then we recorded the effects on their brain and how they would cope with these new situations. The study was supposed to be unaffected by previous relations, so we recruited teens from our neighboring cities that were eligible candidates for such a test. It just happened to be you, and all of you and your guardians signed a consent forms allowing us to subject you all to the simulation."
"What are you saying?" Conner broke in, his cobalt eyes now only shining slits of suspicion.
"That world you were living in was false," The doctor said lightly, "You were never sidekicks, you don't have mentors, you don't have powers, and you aren't a team. In fact, none of you knew each other previously aside from Artemis Crock and Roy Harper. They were both adopted by Oliver Queen and his fiancé, Dinah," The doctor met eyes with each teen.
"Now I know this is a lot to take in, and that this is-"
"Total bull crap?" Roy inserted, "Yeah, I noticed. I'm not buying this."
Wally looked down himself, at his hands. He couldn't vibrate them. No powers? No way.
Which seemed to Megan's line of think to, because suddenly every head turned when they heard a thud from somewhere behind them. They turned to see the girl picking herself up clumsily.
"I can't fly," Megan announced with a disappointed horror, "I can't connect with you guys telepathically either…" she trailed, her eyes suddenly tearing up.
"Of course you can't – I just explained this. The powers were a part of the simulation," The doctor huffed out tiredly.
Suddenly Wally, who'd been getting ready to stand, just let his knees buclkle.
"So…so none of it was real?" he asked in a disbelieving tone.
"Some components were based off your actual life," The chubby man trailed, pushing his glasses further up his face, "But only small fragments. Such as you, for example, Mister West. You are a star track athlete from your school, and considering you had to be a hero, we simply gave you enhanced speed. Artemis Crock and Roy Harper are archers, so we just kept their abilities as they were. Actually, it was quiet interesting to see how powers effected group dynamic and moral. Speaking of which, Richard Grayson is a male gymnast, and actually did help out a woman with a mugging when he was twelve or so. His parents are very proud of this,"
"Parents?" Robin squeaked out, his voice suddenly rough and scratchy, "As in, present tense?"
"Ah yes," The doctor smiled, "That was another component to the test, to see if different pasts effected your ability to perform. Your parents are very much alive, Mr. Grayson."
Robin suddenly got very quiet, his mouth clamoing shut as his thoughts pulled into over drive. His parents. They were alive…But then…?
"What about Batman?" The teen asked, "What about him?"
"Ah, your mentors. No, there is no Batman; or Flash, or Aquaman, Or Martian Manhunter, or Green Arrow, or anyone else, though I have a suspicion that your minds modeled your mentors off of the people closest to you."
"Wait just a second…" Artemis began, but the doctor cut her off.
"You all functioned and responded wonderfully, and now the test is over. You may collect your things outside the lab. If you are having any problems with adjusting or experiencing any severe headaches or memory lapses, come back and we'll give you a check up. Thank you for your time. You're free to go. If you have any questions, here is the clipboard with all your personal information on it. It should answer all your questions and jog a few memories even. Now, I have a lot of business to attend to. Forgive me, but I must go," The doctor finished, and abruptly left, his nurse tagging along with him, leaving right after he had handed the clipboard to Roy.
Then the teens were alone in the med room.
Silence choked the room, the air tense and fragile. No one spoke for a while, until Artemis crossed her arms defiantly.
"No way I dreamed my life up," Artemis declared.
Robin bit his lip, "Roy, what does the clipboard have in it?"
The elder archer was flipping through the papers, skimming each page briefly.
"It's about us…Well, if what Tubs said was true, it's about us," He answered.
Suddenly it seemed all the teens were around Roy, peering over his shoulder as they eyed the files.
"Richard 'Dick' Grayson was an honor-roll student from Gotham High. He'd originally grown up in the circus, but his family had finally settled into Gotham with the step-brother of John Grayson (Rob's father), Bruce Wayne. Bruce Wayne wasn't rich, either. They are just a middle class family living in a large city that had a high-but-manageable crime rate," Roy summarized quickly, not wanting to study Rob's face too hard.
"Conner Kent lived with his mother, Louis Kent, and his father in Metropolis. According to the file, Clark Kent was an in-out parent and was reportedly distant from Conner, hardly spending a lot of time with the family. His work with the Daily Planet as a reporter kept Clark busy too," Conner just looked away as Roy continued on.
"Artemis Crock was living with Oliver Queen to escape from her abusive father and dysfunctional family. She wasn't the first child Oliver Queen had taken in either, as he had adopted Roy Harper after his family was killed in a car crash," Roy frowned, saying nothing. Niether archer commented on the description and Roy moved on.
"Megan Morse lives with her single uncle in an apartment outside of Nevada. She's lived a pretty quiet life, and there wasn't much to say about her aside from maintaining high grades and volunteering for many organizations," He flicked a look at the Martian girl, still having her Caucasian appearance surprise him instead of her green skin.
"Kaldur Gilmore lives in a small town near Star City called Marsh Springs and attends a High school. He's expecting a scholarship from some college based on his grades, but also flying in on the swim team."
"Zatana Mazar lives with her father, Zatara Mazar. They operate a traveling magic show," Roy flicked a glance at the magician. Her eyes were big and sad, but a thin line of hope played in her eyes. If this had all been fake, her father must still be with her.
"Wally West was living with his uncle, Barry Allen, and his aunt, Iris Allen. He'd been taken in when authorities had found out and Wally had been being abused. Ever since then he's been living with in Central."
"But, but, I just had dinner with my parents!" Wally objected.
Roy looked up from the clipboard, "I know. In the simulation, you did."
Robin's fingers ran through his raven tinted hair, "You think this is real?"
"Well," Roy said, gesturing to the teens around him, "None of them have powers, and they can't fake that,"
"That's it?" Artemis replied deadpan.
"Give me another reason and prove me wrong, because I don't want to live with you," Roy fired back.
Aquald coughed, drawing attention towards himself, "My gills, my fins, the webbing on my fingers – they are gone." The Atlantean stated, and then he rubbed his arm across the tattoo that lided down his bicep and wrapped around his forearm, "These are the only things left," he avowed almost sadly.
Zatana looked up at all of them, "Guys...I don't think they're making this up," she whispered.
"But...but Rob is my best friend! No way we've never met before," Wally began, "And that was way too real to be fake," his eyes flew over everyone, begging for support, but his faith was shaken.
"Rob, remember Batman? He can't be fake – no one dreams a Bat-Glare! And all our missions, RT, Black Canary…" He started listing, his voice falling as he continued, "And...Flash isn't fake,"
"According to the doctor, our mentors were just our minds basing them off people we know and trust," Artemis replied in an unsure voice, "So it's possible…"
Wally hung his head in defeat.
"None of that was real?" he asked quietly.
Suddenly the eight teens were wrapped in silence.
They would have stayed that way longer if a nurse hadn't come in.
"Um, I know this has been a long, stressful, disorienting day, but we need to clear out this room. Don't worry, your families are waiting outside," The nurse smiled brightly, then opened the doors for the teens and gestured for them to walk outside, "Thank you so much. And don't worry – you can all keep in touch," she smiled.
The team – or were they that? – glanced at eachother.
"What I wouldn't do for a mind-link right now," Wally mumbled, but no one responded.
Instead, they all filed out the door, not sure what to expect anymore.
Author's Note: I am alive! I'm not sure how often I can update this, though I'd love to get in a post tomorrow if I can. I have the outline worked out, just have to get this all down. Usually I'd wait, but this has been bugging me, so I will post it now to keep my sanity. Now that that's over with, please review. It's good motivation And you're right, that request was in no way dignified. :D Love me anyway.