DISCLAIMER: DC Comics is not owned by me. Any canon characters used in this story are the property of DC Comics. This story is mainly about original characters, though it occurs in the DC universe - specifically, within the universe established by DantesClover in Hidden Agenda (read it, y'all). The song "What I've Done" is the property of Linkin Park.
Author's Note: The characters Morana, Echo, Zero, Nano, Sta, Tic (pronounced "tech"), and StaTic (the fused form of Sta and Tic) are the propety of me, of course. As is their group, Covert Action Team Zeta (C.A.T.Z.). The characters Dr. Celia Williams and Carter Roulet are the property of DantesClover, and are used with his permission. If you want to know about those two characters, check out his stories Hidden Agenda and Against the World. You should also check out Bone, Luck, and X by heartofwind. Pretty good story. It's also set within the same universe as DantesClover's two Roulet stories.
Epilogue - Aftermath
Five Years Later
Echo tossed her backpack onto the couch in her dorm room before crossing the small living room into the kitchen. Her roommate still had a couple of classes before she got back, so she had the whole dorm to herself for the moment. Opening the fridge, she pulled out a container of cheese-covered noodles and went to put it in the microwave. As she waited for the food to cook, she shook her head at what had happened over the last five years. After C.A.T.Z., for all intents and purposes, broke up, she'd gone back home and enrolled in a college. Now twenty-four years old, she was working towards a bachelor's degree in engineering with a background in she liked to call acoustical engineering (she was studying how sound affected structures and materials, with the intent of applying that knowledge to making buildings less susceptible to shattering). She hadn't given up her dream of becoming a 'sanctioned' super hero, though she had applied most of her time and energies to her studies. The ding of the microwave caught her attention and she took her food out and to the small table. She had enrolled under her given name, Erika Morgan, since 'Echo' wouldn't exactly have worked on her application. She'd actually run into 'Metropolis' favorite son,' Superman, during one of her 'super hero escapades' and he'd been impressed by her skill - rough as it was. He'd also told her that perhaps one day she might be able to join the Justice League. "But you don't need to join the League, or even have special powers, to do good wherever and whenever you can." She had kept that in mind over the next couple of years as she went through the difficulty of getting an engineering degree.
She hadn't been able to stay in touch with the other girls from CATZ; all of them had dropped off the radar. Morana and Zero hadn't shown themselves at all (rather surprising considering Morana's penchant for bloodshed and Zero's reputation as a sniper/assassin-for-hire). Sta and Tic had likewise vanished, though the duo had always been an enigma and probably had gone back to wherever they'd originally come from. Nano had actually gone to work for the government, involving herself in some kind of super secret agency devoted to 'cyber security' and 'proactive intelligence gathering;' she'd sent Erika (as Echo) a specially encoded message saying just that (Erika suspected that she missed Morana and was trying to find the blood-thirsty girl). Sighing, she picked at her food and wondered just how her old friends were really doing.
Zero was waiting in the lobby of a glass-enclosed skyscraper. She was dressed in a conservatively-cut red pantsuit with a dark green blouse and dress shoes (not heels) of the same color. Her pale gray hair, which she'd grown out to halfway down her back, was pulled back into a ponytail that kept it out of the way - but in a stylish manner. On her lap was a black briefcase, though it didn't contain a weapon of any sort; no hidden guns or swords, no bombs, nor was it a specially-designed assault rifle compartmentalized into a briefcase. She kept her unique eyes hidden behind a pair polarized wrap-around sunglasses that impeded her vision not at all but prevented others from seeing them. A slight smile creased the twenty-three year old's face as a nervous-looking young man walked up to her and said, "Miss Ciphra? The chairman will see you now." Nodding to him, she stood up and followed the man to a bank of elevators. The name he'd called her, Ciphra, was actually the Latin word for 'zero;' a clever and obvious ploy to disguise her name that nevertheless worked (after all, few people know Latin, and fewer still would make the connection between 'Zero' and 'Miss Ciphra').
"Welcome, Miss Ciphra," the chairman said as she walked into his office. "Please," he went on, "sit down." Nodding to him graciously, she sat in the indicated chair and set her briefcase beside it.
"Let us dispense with the pleasantries, Mister Chairman," Zero said, "and move right to business. We received word that you are looking for someone to 'handle' a difficult 'business venture' in a discreet manner."
"You do get right to the point, Miss Ciphra," the gray-haired man said with a slightly nervous chuckle. "Nevertheless, you are correct."
"Do not state the obvious. It gets tedious."
"Of course, of course. Now, I am aware of the cost you and your employer charge for such services, and I will be able to make the payments."
"I have the contracts already drawn up," Zero told him. "They are non-negotiable, non-alterable, and non-refundable. Should you attempt to break your contract in any way, form, or manner, the penalties will not be to your liking. Clear?"
"As the glass on this building," the chairman said with a nervous swallow.
"Good." Zero reached down and pulled the contracts out of the briefcase. "If you fail to make a payment on time, you will receive a one-time visit as a warning. If a second payment is not received, an 'adjustment' shall be made." The slight emphasis on adjustment made it clear just what it meant. After he'd signed the contracts, with only a little hesitation, she slipped them back into the briefcase and stood, holding out a hand. When he'd shaken it, she said, "The Outfit is grateful to have your business."
Sta and Tic
Contrary to what their former teammates might believe, Sta and Tic hadn't 'gone home;' rather, they'd merely gone to where they wouldn't be noticed. Surprisingly, the suggestion to 'hide' in the Australian Outback had been Tic's idea. Because of their unique abilities, they didn't have to worry about power - or even satellite reception. They simply bought storage batteries and a generator, along with the components to make a satellite receiver and hooked everything up. Tic would recharge the batteries before going to sleep, and Sta would use her electromagnetism to 'pull in' satellite signals via their hook-up. There really wasn't much call for super heroes in 'the land down under' so they contented themselves with helping out in natural disasters. They actually did earn an income of sorts; Tic turned out to be pretty adept at woodcarving while Sta, naturally, had a gift for painting (she painted Tic's carvings as well as affordable paintings for homes and offices). It was enough to keep them supplied with food and other necessities.
But while they found this life rather relaxing and enjoyable, they knew that - one day - trouble would come back.
Nano was in the unit's headquarters van, right now serving as the strike team's secure and virtually unhackable communications link and mission coordinator. The unit was, right now, running a counter-intelligence operation in the middle of a major American city; their parent organization had received a tip-off about an active terrorist network in the area and had mobilized one of their elite teams to handle the situation. Every single member of the organization's strike teams had a reason for joining, a reason that the organization had promised to help them with.
For Nano, her reason was to find Morana. She knew, without a doubt, that the artificially-created organic girl had been responsible for that massacre at the 'defense technologies research facility' five years ago; but after that there hadn't been a peep out of her. The organization had agreed to help her in return for a period of employment, and she had agreed to their terms. Though she was helping with this counter-terror/-intelligence op, her primary role right now was the investigation and analysis of any and all information regarding a new group or organization calling itself 'The Outfit.' They weren't a terrorist organization, nor anything even related to that; what little information they had managed to get seemed to point to The Outfit being a mercenary group that hired out for various activities ranging from 'proactive industrial espionage' to 'tactical small unit combat'. They appeared to work solely for money, but were selective about whose money they took. Nano had a feeling that Morana was connected to The Outfit in some way.
Blinking her eyes for a moment, she returned her full attention to the situation at hand.
Morana finished her tai chi exercises and sat down at her desk. She had, over the past three and a half years, taken to wearing lightweight clothes when she worked out; usually loose capris-style pants and a sleeveless shirt; though she still cared for her swords naked (that would never change). Turning on her computer, she watched as the holographic screen floated into place in the middle of the desk. She saw a blinking envelope icon and touched it, watching as it expanded into an email from Zero. The message was only two words: Contract accepted. With a smile, she deleted the message and looked through her availability list. Looks like Team 3 is up next, she thought, selecting the four-man team's icon, automatically sending an activation message to each member's email account. Though just twenty-one now, Morana was the nominal 'leader' of the ghostly mercenary organization known as The Outfit. In just two years, they had developed a reputation for discretion and success. And for ruthlessness; any time one of their clients tried to weasel out of the contract, either Morana or Zero had eliminated the 'problem' quickly and personally. The message had swiftly spread: Don't cheat The Outfit. Between the two of them, Zero (aka 'Miss Ciphra') was the 'public face' of The Outfit; Morana ran things from 'behind the scenes.' She did work a few ops herself every now and then, but not as many as she was capable of doing. The reason for that walked into her office and drew a smile from her, a genuine and loving smile which her friends would never have believed her capable of. She got up from behind her desk, the holo-screen automatically vanishing as she left. She walked up to the little girl and easily picked her up. Hugging her close, she said, "Vesna, is everything alright?"
"Yes, mommy," the four-year-old girl said, hugging her mom tightly. "I just wanted to see you."
"Well, I'm done working, so let's go play," Morana told her daughter.
"Can I play with the ka-ta-na today?" she said, enunciating the sword.
"You know you have to wait until you're ten."
"Am I ten now?"
"Not yet," she replied with a chuckle. "We'll stick with the daggers for now."
Author's Note: Okay, now, just who did I shock?