A/N: Read, review and enjoy!

-Batcave, fourteen weeks ago-

"Again."

"This is pointless!"

They've been at it now for over three hours. Peter is drenched in sweat; his fighting togs cling to him uncomfortably. When he begged Batman for the opportunity to work along side him, fighting crime, he hadn't imagined this.

He went to bed every night aching and sore but hadn't seen any progress. With his abilities, he assumed that eventually he would be able to stand toe to toe with the Dark Knight. So far he had been wrong.

The young man has found that not only was Batman the superior fighter, his stamina was superhuman as well. Peter was always near his limit at the end of these sessions while Batman's brow had the barest hint of perspiration.

"How so?" Batman asks maintaining his fighting stance, but allowing an amused smirk to pass over his face.

In his short time here, Peter has learned that Batman's questions always served a double purpose. It wasn't just about the answer, but how you answered. Peter thought carefully before answering. "Working out to the point of exhaustion doesn't do me a bit of good."

"No?" Batman still looks amused.

"No." Peter answers flatly. "We both know the upper limits of my stamina, what I can and can't do and for how long… I don't see any reason for this except to give you the opportunity to show you're better than me." Peter continues bitterly.

"What makes me better than you, Peter?" Batman questions dryly. "More skilled? Sure, but that's to be expected. More tactically solid? Of course and again, given that I've been training for this for as long as you've been alive, that's also a given. But, better, is an extremely subjective term…" Without another word Batman wheels and aims a kick at Peter. Peter avoids it, but falls flat on his back out of fatigue.

Bruce stands over Peter for a moment as the young man glares at him from the floor, before offering his hand. Despite how hard he had been pushing the Peter, Bruce is proud of his progress but there was a point that he knew he needed to drive home.

"Is young Master Peter allowed to break for lunch yet?" Alfred asks over the intercom system breaking the tension for a moment. It seemed to Peter that Alfred had perfected his role as referee between Batman and his protégés. He consistently called a time out any time it became necessary.

Pressing a button on the wall, Bruce answers. "In ten minutes, Alfred." Just as consistent was the Batman's penchant for delaying those time outs.

Toweling off his face, Peter can't help but comment. "So is ten minutes vigilante for two hours?"

Ignoring his attempts at wit, as he often does, Batman asks Peter a question that seems foolish considering the situation. "Do you know why you're so tired, Peter?"

Peter's mouth opens his mouth to offer another razor sharp retort. "I suppose you're going to tell me it's got nothing to do with the hours of intense exercise?"

Bruce tosses Peter a water bottle and answers. "You expend maximum effort in everything you do. Every punch, kick, every single move."

"Am I not supposed to?" Peter asks incredulously. The man had told him from the beginning that this was exactly what he expected and all that would be accepted.

"You are supposed to start to recognize how you can use your opponents' energy to supplement your own. Race car drivers call it, drafting." Noting the confusion on Peter's face, Bruce sighs. Tim picked up on this quickly, Dick not as fast as Tim, but early on. Barbara and Jason never seemed to get it, but they were both too passionate to really understand the concept of holding back. He hopes Peter is different in that respect.

"I know, I mean, I get it- about using an opponent's momentum to my advantage-"

"That is only one aspect…" Bruce sighs, trying to think of another example. "Athletes, the great ones, know how to conserve energy throughout the contest and then expel it in bursts. What you will learn, what I will teach you, is how to conserve energy and use it only when absolutely necessary…"

-Watchtower, lab level, right now-

So, even though Peter began his day with a workout, interrupted by an attack from Slade Wilson, which then led to a battle with several super powered robots both on earth and on the Watchtower, he wasn't at his breaking point. All thanks to his teacher, part time tormentor; Batman.

"How are you holding up, Spiderman?" Vixen heard rumors about Spiderman, but seeing him in action was another story. His agility was off the charts. Even with her ability to mimic animals, she couldn't match him.

"Fresh as a daisy, pretty lady," Peter answers webbing up another set of drones in his path. He and Power Girl made it to the floor where the Joker was holed up only to run into a haggard Vixen fighting off a half a dozen combatants.

"If we are to stop my masters' copy we need to get past these sentries…" Power Girl responds smashing the heads of two drones together. They clatter to the ground, but soon are on their feet again. Nothing seems to put them down for good.

"If you got any ideas sister, I'd love to hear them…" Vixen counters angrily. Even though the appearance of Spiderman had been timely, she didn't like the idea of fighting alongside a copy of a woman who she considered a friend. That such believable copies could be made of them disturbed her.

Leaving Hawkgirl, Flash and Artemis behind in disturbed her even more.

-Watchtower level one, twenty-five minutes ago-

"Nice!" Flash shouts over the blaring alarm horn.

"I always say; if the door is locked, just break a window!" Hawkgirl quips, securing her mace back to her belt.

The lockdown protocols meant that even with the proper security clearance, the hangar doors would remain closed. Using the combined efforts of her mace and the ships weapons, they manage to create a hole just to the side of the hangar doors. Disabling the locks and allowing them to board the Tower.

"Don't encourage her Flash! That plan was extremely reckless and dangerous!" Vixen chastises angrily, but then breaks into a smile. "That's my department!"

"Where is this alarm being generated from?" Artemis asks, attempting to get the three heroes refocused. "Did we trip this with our entry, or-"

"We tripped this one… once the system recognizes the hangar pressure has been restored it should cut off… but someone or something is attempting to access the secure functions of the Watchtower's systems without the proper code authority…" Flash answers over the blare of the alarm. "Anyone on this channel…? Copy?" Flash tires to get his comm-link to work, but there is no response. He figured there wouldn't be one. They were cut off from anyone who might be aboard the station and from any JL members planet-side. That was also part of lockdown protocol.

"Whatever is going on we need to neutralize the situation, fast." Hawkgirl adds, trying to get a hallway computer panel to work. She hopes that at least the basic functions are still unlocked. She wants to get an idea of who is actually up here now and who isn't supposed to be.

"Fast, happens to be my department, my winged beauty!" Flash jokes with a smile and a mock salute. "I'll be back in a sec-"

"Does he always-"

"-ond."

"-do that?" Artemis is surprised by the speedsters' sudden return.

"Yes." Vixen and Hawkgirl both answer.

"What do you want first; bad news or worse news?" Flash asks without the trace of a smile.

"Bad news." Hawkgirl answers, giving up her futile quest to activate the hallway panel.

"Bad news is the whole station is in lockdown. Every level is not only cut off from every other one, but the override points are being guarded by drone sentries from the training room."

Hawkgirl and Vixen exchange a worried glance. Those drones were Superman's idea, but they were designed by Batman. Fusing Earth and alien technology, each of them was like half a Superman with none of the weaknesses.

Normally there were safety protocols in place. It allowed them to be challenging opponents, but not life-threatening. But it was doubtful whoever set all this in motion was likely to leave those safety locks engaged.

"That means that it's likely the person behind this is still on board and that they're not done they're work yet…" Vixen adds hopefully. If there was still someone here to pummel that made it all the better for her.

Flash nods. "Yeah, which brings me to the worse news-" Before Flash can respond, he is throttled against Artemis hard by a gust of gale force wind. The force of the impact as their two bodies hit the wall leaves a sickening thud in the air. Both are clearly hurt, Flash is unconscious. The other two are thrown to the floor, spared the brunt of the attack.

"I imagine, Flash's worse news was concerning me…" Red Tornado stands in front of a shocked Hawkgirl and Vixen dragging a battered and bloody Superman behind him. "I- I am sorry-"

Red Tornado fires another blast at them, but this time Hawkgirl is better prepared and braces herself. "Vixen, you've got to get out of here!" Hawkgirl begins battering the winds back with her Nth metal mace, countering its effects.

"Not a chance!"

"We don't know who is still here and I can't hold him back for long!" Hawkgirl argues. In her mind she knew short of destroying the synthetic man, she didn't stand a chance against Tornado, but she could hold him off long enough for Vixen to round up the others.

If there were any others, which she doubted given the state of Superman, but someone had to be conscious enough to try and stop whatever this was.

"What about-?"

"Flash'll recover and Artemis is as tough as the come! You need to get to the upper levels and put a stop to this!" Hawkgirl swings her mace at Tornado who drops Superman's body long enough to counter it with his forearm.

"I suggest she take the air conditioning ducts up to the lab level. There are no defense protocols on them yet since the HVAC system was just updated." Red Tornado answers plainly, while still attacking Hawkgirl. "From there she will still encounter resistance in the hallway, but it's the best chance we have at stopping Joker…"

In between swings of her mace, through clenched teeth Hawkgirl asks: "We? Are you seriously trying to kill us or help us?"

"The Joker copy may have corrupted my body, but the higher functions of my programming remain as yet untouched. I cannot resist in fighting you, but I'm not bound from helping you…"

Vixen and Hawkgirl share one last glance before Vixen using her animal abilities, leaps into the air duct above her. She would need to climb up to the forty-third level to reach the lab control room where Joker would be waiting.

-Watchtower, lab level, right now-

"Looks like you could use a hand, Vixen." Power Girl pushes three drones backward down the hall, away from Vixen. She reaches down to help her to her feet.

Vixen grudgingly takes her hand and gets to her feet. "Thanks… uh… Power Girl… maybe that will finally put them down…" She manages to only groan slightly as the three drones get to their feet and head towards them in a full on sprint. "So much for that…"

"Well, one thing is for sure; this approach is getting us nowhere…" Peter mumbles evading the frontal attack, countering with low level explosives. The windows in the corridor may be reinforced, but he did not want to take any chances.

Peter had to admit, the strategy of the copy was flawless.

Take control of the minor sub-systems, like the training drones, set them with the task of preventing anyone from reaching the lab, while he finished his work. All this was only a delaying tactic while Joker continued to try and gain total control of the station.

Had he tried this in the main control room he would have been able to infect more systems in a shorter time frame, but been more open to a counter-attack as well.

This corridor is the only way to get to the lab while there were at least half a dozen entrances to the main control room.

The hallway also works to our advantage in a sense that even though we're outnumbered two to one, they can't really take advantage of their numbers. But getting past them is also impossible… So what do we do then? We'll eventually get over run!

"You're Batman's protégé… what would he- unh! – do?" Only her powers of animal mimicry save keep her head attached to her shoulders, but Peter knows that the longer this continues, the less that will be the case.

Vixen's right. What do I know about these drones? Normally they're programmed to deactivate with a certain number of strikes, but they could realistically function until they run out of power or are severely damaged.

Since they were designed to withstand blows from the last son of Krypton himself, damaging them that much will be no easy feat.

But this is Batman we're talking about! He would have designed them with a shutoff failsafe of some sort. There's got to be some way to deactivate them if they were going haywire- wait!

"PG, catch!" Peter swings a hapless drone in the direction of Power Girl who catches it in surprise.

"Ok, I caught him, now what-?"

Peter doesn't answer; he simply delivers a two-fingered blow to the automaton's ear. One audible click later and it falls lifeless to the floor.

"What?"

"Aim for the left ear, two inches inside the canal there's an auto off switch!" Peter yells rejoining Vixen who was close to being overwhelmed.

"Could really use Flash for something like this!" Vixen yells once Peter returns to her side. They may have found the off switch, but they still had to get into position in order to use it.

"Who you telling?" Peter counters, trying to maneuver into position to incapacitate another drone. Of course, Batman designed them to be adaptive in nature, which meant it would not be as easy to shut off the other five. "Everyone who could have resolved this situation in seconds has been shut down! Lantern, Atom, Flash, Supes or J'onn could have taken care of this in under a minute!" Peter has to wonder if that wasn't the point.

"Well then let's hope you have not killed the Martian then…" Power Girl adds casually poking a thumb into the ear of a drone.

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?!" Vixen yells.

-Outside the Watchtower, forty minutes ago-

"What is that there?"

Spiderman follows the outstretched arm of Power Girl and notes that a portion of the Watchtower appears to be on fire. "Beats me toots, you're the one with the telescopic vision!"

At first there is no response, then after a moment Power Girl speaks again. "Martian Manhunter is… he's on fire!"

"Take us over there!" Spiderman's order is unnecessary as the two are already streaking towards him. They had to get into the Tower fast, Power Girl may not need to breathe, but he did. And his oxygen supply was limited.

"J'onn?" Spiderman asks once they're close enough. Idiot, he can't hear you!

Now I can…

Right- telepath…-uh… what's-?

Lantern… Atom… both taken out by Red Tornado… likely… likely under the influence of the Joker copy… doused me with a chemical… burns… burns so badly…

Spiderman notes that the lack of oxygen hasn't stopped the flames in the slightest. The chemical composition would be worth studying when this was all over.

We'll help you… we just need to get you back inside…

I can make the two of you intangible enough to get through the hull and then you need to stop the robot before he gains complete control of the station…

When J'onn grabs their hands, Peter expects to feel the heat from the flames but he doesn't, just a tickle as the Manhunter phases them through the hull.

There…! Ungh…

The effort that requires takes its toll on the Martian and he collapses to the floor. He may not need to breathe like humans do, but Peter has no idea what long term effects the chemical will have on his unique biology.

"Will he-?"

"I have no idea." Peter answers honestly taking off his space suit. "But I can at least do something to hopefully stabilize him…" Reaching into his belt he pulls out two pellets and tosses them onto J'onn's unconscious form. In an instant the man is covered in white foam. Seconds later, the foam hardens.

"What is it?"

"A fire retardant foam that Batman whipped up. Was supposed to be used to stop some jerk named Firefly, but this should at least smother the flames …" Peter hoped that the foam would ease the obvious pain J'onn was in.

"Are you sure he won't need to breathe?"

-Watchtower, Lab Level, right now-

"Quit being so melodramatic, PG-13, he'll be fine!" Peter wasn't sure about that, but he couldn't worry about it now. "In fact, you and Vixen need to head to the Main Control station!"

Peter knew that if they had a hope of regaining control of the station someone needed to reset the primary systems in the control room and stop the copy. You couldn't reboot the system from the lab level and once the infiltration was stopped there was no telling if they'd even be able to reach the control room.

With most of the station on lock down it would be better to have someone at the ready when order was restored.

"That's idiotic!" Vixen had no intention of leaving. She already left Hawkgirl on her own against Red Tornado and since neither of them has turned up yet, she's wondering if she made the right call.

"Actually, I believe he's correct." Power Girl announces, twisting the arm of a drone until she's able to wrench it free.

"What?"

"Now that we've discerned how to deactivate the drones he should be able to get into the lab and stop Joker. Once he does, someone will need to reactivate the communications and teleportation array."

Have to have a talk with Hiro about just how well he knows our systems…

"Why can't he just do that when he stops the copy?" Vixen drops a drone and jams a finger into its ear. It still struggles under her leg. "What gives?"

Spiderman leaps over an attacker and webs the drone Vixen is unable to deactivate, to the wall. "I was afraid of this…" Peter knew that there was the possibility that not all the drones would have the same deactivation function as the ones in the Cave. And there wouldn't be a way to distinguish them either, because that would give Batman an advantage in a training situation. "There are a couple other ways they can be shut down, just please, get up there!"

"How will we even know when you've stopped the copy… if you can stop him at all?" Vixen asks elbowing a nearby drone.

"PG and I have our own communicators, when I've shut him down I'll let her know, ok?" Peter offers keeping himself between the ladies and the drones.

Power Girl and Vixen both hesitate.

"Now!" Peter yells in a tone that sounds so much like the Dark Knight himself it scares him. But it has the desired effect. The two of them get moving.

"Won't the control room be even more heavily protected?" Vixen asks as they leave.

"Can't do anything there with the controls locked out, so there's no reason for him to waste resources guarding it…" It was really only a theory of Peter's; one he desperately hopes is correct, because if he's wrong, he may be sending both women to their deaths.

Holding off the three remaining drones with electric blasts from his gauntlet he begins formulating a plan.

The other two common deactivation points he built into these things are under the right arm and in the small of the back… If I watch their attacks carefully I should be able to determine which areas they're protecting the most.

Spiderman stops attacking and waits. Because of the narrowness of the corridor the first drone steps forward to attack alone.

Favoring kick attacks and short jabs… hello right armpit…

Evading the combinations, Peter wades in carefully and when he finds an opening he strikes decisively.

The other two fall in succession. After waiting for his openings he targets the back of one and the armpit of the other. With that done, he hopes that Joker doesn't have any more surprises.

"I can see why Batman has so much confidence in you-"

His spider sense screams a warning and he narrowly avoids the blast. From his position on the wall he takes note of a heavily damaged but still functional Red Tornado. Damage likely sustained from battling Superman, Hawkgirl and Artemis.

"You've seen better days Red…" Peter quips, holding his side. He may have avoided Tornado's attack, but in doing so he felt something tear from his ribcage.

"Hawkgirl and Artemis are… spirited fighters… but for the most part only human…" There's the smallest hint of sadness in his voice. "Much like you…" Although obviously slowed by the damage he'd taken, Tornado is still very fast.

Spiderman, taxed beyond his limits isn't able to avoid several of the blows administered by the robot and ends up on the floor coughing up blood.

Ugh… man… something is definitely broken inside… can't think about that now… wait his chest…

Within his now open chest cavity Peter spots a green pulse.

Lantern's ring… if I can get to it…

Tornado helps his cause by lifting Spiderman up by the throat, choking him.

"My base programming will not allow me to kill thankfully, but I have to incapacitate you… I am sorry…"

Straining and gasping for air, Spiderman manages to fire a web shot into the compartment pulling the ring free.

"What do you hope to do with that, Spiderman? Only approved Lanterns may-"

Focusing all his will he manages a burst of green energy to separate the two of them. Tossing Tornado down the hall. Sputtering to catch his breath, he slides the ring onto his finger.

Not likely to manage that again… but I may have bought myself some time…

Spiderman opens the lab to find Joker sitting confidently in a lab chair, tubes jutting from his body directly into the console.

"And along came a spider…" Joker quips not stopping his task. "I'll be with you in a minute…"

Spiderman removes the device Hiro gave him and points it in the direction of Joker. With a click and whir, Joker shuts down retracting the cables and falling to the floor.

"Sorta anticlimactic…" Spiderman grumbles leaning against the wall gingerly. "Power Girl… reset the systems…" He vaguely hears her confirm his order.

"That was impressive… what you did with the ring-" Tornado appears in the doorway, when he notes the condition of the young hero he stops short. "I hope I didn't cause you any permanent harm…" Tornado offers coming into the room.

"I'll let you know the second I regain consciousness…."

Without another word Spiderman sinks to the floor unconscious

-Just above Wayne Manor-

What have you got for me, Nightwing?

Most of the targets have been taken out, still waiting on reports from some of the others, but we have eighteen confirms-

Good.

Anything on your end? Did you locate-

I need you to take over coordinating the rest of the efforts, follow up on anyone not responding.

What do you think I been doing? Batman what about-?

Batman, out.

Bruce shuts off his communicator and barrels towards the side of a hill, just behind Wayne Manor. He rarely took this entrance, because it was too close to his civilian home. It was only to be used in emergencies, but tonight qualifies.

From what Oliver told him, Diana was in bad shape and given the state of undress in which they found her, he could only imagine the horrors she endured. Until he could be sure of her safety, he wouldn't update the others.

Soon as his plane penetrates the false rock face and enters the cave he ejects allowing the auto pilot to self guide into the landing area. The instant his feet touch the stone floor he sprints to the recovery room.

Green Arrow intercepts him.

"Hold on there, Bats!" Oliver holds up his hands. "Take a breath."

Fighting his instinct to level Oliver with a punch he stops. "What's her status, Arrow?"

"Stable." He announces watching Batman warily. He'd never seen him this keyed up. He and most of the others always looked to him to be the calm, cold center of clarity. "Dove and Dinah are cleaning her up, she's pretty battered and bruised, but her injuries don't seem fatal."

Bruce would have preferred Alfred to verify that. There was no one he trusted more when it came to such matters, but Alfred was Bruce Wayne's butler and only a select few in the League know that he and Batman are the same person. "Fine." Batman forces himself to become detached again. "Quinn and Joker are in custody?"

Oliver nods. "Yeah Harley Quinn is still conscious… but I don't think Joker will be up for talking for quite some time…" Oliver explains to Batman what happened when Dove encountered Joker and how she nearly flash fried him to death.

"I'll question Harley later… now I would like to check in on Wonder Woman." Batman states with a firmness that indicates it is not a request. Oliver nods.

"Of course…"

-BatCave, recovery room-

After taking a shower and allowing Dinah and Dove to bandage some of her wounds, Diana almost feels normal again. Her body still aches with what Joker did to her, but the pain is beginning to fade as well. She knows that the memories of tonight will linger longer than the wounds.

From a distance she can hear his voice, talking to Oliver. She wonders if he will come and see how she is. Her head sinks back into the pillow as Dove and Dinah look over the monitors.

No Diana… He'll question Harley Quinn first of course… he won't be sidetracked because-

"Diana…?"

She looks up to see Batman staring down at her with obvious concern on his face. It was the same look she saw when he thought she was buried under rubble, possibly dead. She was deeply touched.

"Batman…." She didn't know what else to say.

"Uh… we should probably synch up with the rest of the ground teams, Dove, see if there's any news on the Watchtower…" Dinah suggests, sensing the heavy mood present in the room.

"Right… uh… we'll let you know the minute we find anything out Batman…" Dove announces, picking up on Dinah's hint. "Should probably check on our prisoners too, before we go…" Dove hadn't been around the League long, but she'd been a member long enough to know some things she needed to stay out of.

Despite her curiosity.

Batman's eyes never leave Diana's but he nods in agreement. When the two leave and close the door behind them, he waits for a beat and then speaks. "How bad?"

Darkness clouds her normally bright eyes. "I'll live." But she wasn't entirely sure of the conviction of her words. Her most intimate interaction with a man before the events of the past few days had been beyond mild. Now, violated in ways she had only read of, or heard about second hand, left her wondering if she could ever bear the touch of a man again.

The two sit in silence for a while. The both of them wrapped tightly within their own thoughts. Batman, for his part wishes he could have been the one to find Diana.

Instead of tangling with Poison Ivy and Talia he would have preferred to have been the one to confront Joker. Although some good did come from the encounter with Ivy. He was able to return her to prison where she belonged. Having her off the streets was definitely a good thing.

Diana breaks the silence with a bitter chuckle. "All the times I wanted to get a moment alone with you, this was not what I had in mind…"

"Diana…"

"What's going on with the Watchtower…?" Diana interrupts; avoiding what she could only assume was going to be another "we can't do this speech." Not because she didn't agree, but because of all she'd been through, she was beginning to see his side of the argument.

Batman tells her all that he knows. Once he gets her up to speed on the duplicates, Hiro, and Ares, she's even angrier than before.

"Do you know why Circe would have done this to you…?" Batman asks. While he knew that the sorceress' hatred for Diana ran deep, he didn't see her allying herself with the Joker. Then again he didn't see Ares forming an alliance with Vandal Savage either. None of these collaborations made any sense at all.

"I think… I'm not entirely sure it was her…" Diana answers sitting up in bed. She can feel her strength slowly returning. "Could she do something like this? Of course, but she wouldn't risk the wrath of Athena… or my mother…"

Batman knew firsthand just how formidable an opponent Hippolyta could be. "It didn't make sense to me that she would reveal herself to you, to us, so easily…" Circe could have just as easily kept up the appearance of Batman when Diana figured out something was amiss. Whoever was behind this, wanted them chasing after Circe, wanted them following a lead that would delay them getting to Wonder Woman.

It almost worked.

"You saw how she… uh… tricked me…?" The realization that he knew about Circe brought with it the embarrassment he saw the kiss.

"…yes…" Batman turns away, slightly embarrassed himself. Everyone, including him saw just how passionately Diana returned that kiss. If he had any questions about how she felt for him, they were gone. If he had questions about how he felt about her, tonight also destroyed them.

"I'd ask how, but I already know the answer… cameras, right?"

Bruce can tell that she is not happy with this, but is compelled to be honest with her. "Yes. But they are only to be used in extreme situations… once we saw the condition of your room and the fact no one could reach you on the communicator… we had to know what happened…"

Diana simply nods and lies back down on the bed. With another silence now between them, he takes a look at her vital signs. Noting that all his attention is now on the display, curiosity gets the better of her.

"What?"

"The toxin they used to sap your strength… I've seen this composition before…"

"I'm not surprised… Ivy worked with someone with knowledge of Amazonian flora and fauna to come up with it…"

Batman nods, turning from the display. "It'll take at least another twenty-four hours to work its way from your system… you'll stay here until you recover…"

The words were said innocently enough, but they rubbed Diana wrong. "Will I-?" Diana sits up, albeit painfully.

Batman places a hand on her shoulder and to his dismay, Diana flinches. "When you are fully recovered…" Batman removes his hand quickly, picking up on her discomfort. He'd seen this before; trauma like she's experienced was bound to have some lingering effects. "Then you are welcome to rejoin the fight. Until then…"

Diana falls back in her bed discouraged. "What will you do next?"

"First, I'm going to make sure that Alfred makes you something to eat… and then… I'm going to have a very unpleasant conversation." Batman grits his teeth in anger. He was looking forward to sitting down with the Joker.

-Metropolis Tower, 92nd floor-

"Finally!"

"Was there ever any doubt?"

She doesn't answer because if she were to be honest, he would not like the answer. There were times she didn't think they could fulfill all the needed conditions, that the artifacts of power would never reveal themselves.

Even stranger that a man like Lex Luthor would have such an item in his possession with no idea of its power.

Lyta looks down at Lex Luthor as well as the seventeen other members of his security force. Lex was one of the few that is still breathing.

To his credit, the human put up a decent fight, but between her father, Savage and herself the outcome of the contest was never in doubt. All the weapons in world wouldn't halt the three of them or even slow them down.

"To think I once considered allying myself with such a dullard…" Savage snorts angrily, giving Luthor an unceremonious kick. "All this time he had an item in his office that could bring gods to their knees and he never knew it…"

Ares doesn't bother to point out that Savage would not have known the items true origin either without him because the usefulness of Savage had run its course. It was well past time to put an end to their alliance in Ares' opinion.

He may not ever admit it, but without Savage's connections and resources this plot would have taken longer to execute.

The artifacts were pieces of note within mythology, but as was often the case with myths, the whole story was only known to a few.

The sword of Peleus was the first item recovered; said to give its wielder victory in any battle. But there was an additional quality to it. Its edge is sharp enough to split atoms and anyone struck by it is instantly drained of their vitality. An invaluable weapon when dealing with men who can juggle 747's.

The shield of Ajax was the second; the perfect accessory for Ares plans since it absorbs all forms of energy and transfers its power to the user. History makes no note of this fact, since at the time it was in use; its primary function had been turning away blades not energy.

But having been there at the time of its forging, Ares knew all about it.

The Hide of the Nemean lion was the third piece. The beast that Heracles felled was the most fearsome in the land at the time, so he fashioned the hide into armor and then had it enchanted by Zeus himself.

The final piece was the ring of Gyges, said to give the user invisibility. That was really an incorrect translation. It made the wearer untouchable to the point they seemed invisible, because their opponent could not land a blow.

These four items on their own, in the hands of the right person, were deadly, but when combined they were destruction.

When the world of men was young, Zeus noticed his children were petty and given to childish outbursts which at times harmed mankind. He decided to make it so should any of his kind get truly out of hand that a champion, upon collecting the four pieces could right the situation. Of course, the champion was to be of his choosing, as was the target. He would empower the weapons once the champion was chosen.

It was not supposed to be his son who would gather them together again. And Ares was definitely not supposed to be able to unleash their power either.

In fact to make sure such a thing was impossible; Zeus hid their true nature and placed conditions on them that would leave them unrevealed until met. If one knew what they were looking for they could find them, but they would be just trinkets if the conditions were not satisfied.

The first was for a god to loose faith in their champion.

The second was for a warrior to shed tears of despair.

The third was for a mortal to die and live again three times.

The fourth was for an immortal to die at the hands of the woman he loves.

Once that happens, the ring Lex kept in a display case in his Metropolis office would be active and the power of the pieces of four would be unlocked.

"Daughter, it is time…"

A/N: Next up, the unlocking! And the despair that follows…