My most sincere thank to all of you for the followings and comments.

Special Thanks to Hellacre, as always, for taking time to do her wonderful editing (It may sound too much a-kissing, but it's the truth).

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Chapter 21 – No one is to blame.

Day 26

Planet Almerac – City of Potentoris – Triad Team Quarters

Hour of Aldrios

"NO."

"But, J'onn…," GL started.

"I said no."

"J'onn, please! We have to make her pay!" Zatanna declared.

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When the three Justice League members met back at the Javelin late yesterday evening for their daily contact with the Watchtower and to talk about their findings of the day, J'onn seemed distant, strangely quiet. His answers were monosyllabic and his entire attitude was like someone who had turned his autopilot mode on. He even requested Stewart to transmit their report instead of doing it himself as usual. When asked how things went with the Queen, he said he had 'nothing of relevance to report'. They had an early dinner. Zee and GL noticed, with some relief, J'onn's appetite was a healthy one. May be a little more than usual, though. When the Martian called it a night right after eating, their concern grew. The two Leaguers discussed the matter till late in the night and decided to get some definitive answers in the morning.

They started the interrogation over three steaming mugs of yellow tea. J'onn seemed to be back to his usual self, but still trying to give elusive answers. Zatanna wasn't taking any of his crap and she let him know without a doubt.

"Listen to me, you enormous green mountain of bullshit, we're not going anywhere until you give a perfectly good explanation of what happened yesterday with that bi…sorry, Maxima and during the five hours we were out of communication, you hear me? What if you are unknowingly withholding intel that can compromise our mission? Trats gnikaeps!" Her concern was more personal than professional, but it was a good excuse to make him talk.

The Manhunter felt cornered. Reluctantly, greatly ashamed, and as succinctly as he could, he told them the events of his lunch with the Queen.

"This is outrageous! How could she?! Oh, God, J'onn…!" Zatanna couldn't believe her own ears.

"Unbelievable! The nerve of that woman! We need to file a complaint on an interplanetary court, denounce her and expose her behavior…!"

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"I'm not going to start an interplanetary diplomatic incident over a moment of weakness." J'onzz sounded adamant.

"Weakness?! Wars were started over this kind of 'moments of weakness'. The woman practically roofied you…!" snapped Zee. "I curse the moment they made me turn my communicator off at the Healing Center, because it may have interfered with their delicate medical apparatus!"

"They made me leave mine at the entrance of the Military Base 'no foreign communication devices beyond this point, Sir. Security orders,' said the idiot guard." John was looking for something to punch. "As an ex-soldier, I can understand that, but still! Dammit!"

"Both of you calm down…It's not your fault. And Maxima…as much as she tried, didn't force me to do anything. I was in control of myself…most of the time. I could've said no…it's just that…" The Martian wasn't sure how to say it. "My senses were so hyperstimulated by the surroundings, the beautiful gardens…HER beauty. I…I just didn't want to say no to the chance of a mental as well as a physical union. I'm sorry, I don't know how can I put it some other way. It's being so long… That's why I'm talking about weakness: There was a stimulant involved, yes, but shortly after I realized I've been drugged I KNEW, even though I could resist it, I wanted to succumb to the temptation…I wanted HER… And, H'Ronmeer help me, I'm wishing we could repeat it!" The Martian covered his face with his hands.

Seen how troubled their colleague felt about the whole thing, Zee and GL backed down from their self-righteous anger. The magician sat beside him and put her hand on his shoulder.

"J'onn, I'm sorry. I can't imagine how lonely you must've felt all these years... Tell us what you want us to do. Anything!"

"Man, I don't know what to say. We just wanted to help! There's nothing to be ashamed of. Even Superman had to be rescued from Maxima's claws by Diana. Our Queen is a tough lady to be denied and a very alluring one at that." The moment he finished his sentence John looked at the sorceress and regretted his words. Zatanna shot an assassin look at him. "I…I think. Just saying…," he shrugged.

The Martian stood.. Straightening his massive shoulders, he said with a clear voice, "I'm willing to bet this…incident was part of Maxima's plan to derail us from our investigation of her involvement with what happened to the Trinity team…"

"Yeah. That and her eagerness to lay her paws on you. The day before she seemed quite smitten by your display of power. I just didn't count on her acting so quickly upon it," said Zee.

"Be as it may, the best way to put the Queen in her place is to find out for certain if she had something to do with the disappearance of our friends, but, in order to do that, we have to stop any plan Darkseid may have for the sector. Let's get things back on track." He sat back down and added, in a more matter of fact way, "I thank you both, my friends. Now that I'm less distracted than yesterday, let's talk again about what did you learn from your visits."

Zatanna decided to respect her fellow leaguer's decision regarding Maxima. She was relieved to see him back to his regular self.

"The Healing Center is missing one of their doctors, a female named Axine, who's currently on leave of absence due to alleged family matters. She came five months ago from one of the provinces highly recommended and with impeccable credentials. Her area of expertise was biochemistry. They put her immediately to work analyzing blood samples, which she did extremely well."

"That's why," added GL, "when it came to recruit personnel for the medical part of the security of the peace talks, the military called her to inspect the blood of the alien delegations. One thing she insisted on was extracting the blood herself, because it was the only way she could be 100% sure whose sample she was testing. Her superiors saw it as thorough and let her work. She was part of the team at the Ancestral Hall the day we detected the device inside Katar's head. Since we didn't make the incident public at the time, and the talks were almost over, nobody suspected her when she asked for a leave."

"And…Voilá!" Zatanna produced a profile photo of the doctor, a beautiful woman with black hair and dark almond eyes, whose ice cold stare betrayed the soft expression of her pretty face and give it to the Martian. "Looks familiar?" She took the picture back and started to draw three bands masking some of her features. She returned it to J'onn. "How about now?"

"Lashina!" the Manhunter muttered.

"Bingo!" said Zee. "No wonder she could do as she pleased: with a babe like her, all her team mates could thought of was how to get under her lab coat." And added with a hint of disdain, "Man, I can assure you a clever woman knows how to use that to her advantage." The sorceress distractedly move a strand of her hair behind her ear, batting her thick eye lashes seductively. She suddenly snapped her fingers in front of Stewart's face, who seemed hypnotized by the gesture. "I can't tell you how many of my 'magic' tricks were possible thanks to my fishnets."

"Do we know where she is?" asked J'onn.

"Unfortunately, no. But I asked the people at the Security Center to scan the planet for boom-tube residual energy and nothing came up, other than the missile of the inauguration, so we think she's still on Almerac." Said GL.

"We have to inform the Queen of your discovery. Let me call to ask for a meeting," the Martian said.

"J'onn, are you sure you want to see her?" Zatanna asked.

"Yes. Worst thing we can do now is show ourselves in a position of weakness. We have two situations to solve, let's focus on that," the Martian said. Although he made his voice sound firm, the sensations of the day before were still fresh in his mind.

Zee took upon herself to call the Royal Palace. When she was making the call, Stewart, seeing the somewhat lost expression of the Martian, approached his green friend. "You okay, man? You spaced out for a sec there."

"Oh! Yes. I'm fine. Having to look at Maxima without replaying yesterday's events in my mind is going to be difficult," answered the Manhunter.

"That good, huh?" Stewart's face wasn't smiling, but his eyes expression were very eloquent.

"You have no idea…"

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Planet Earth's Orbit – Watchtower, Justice League Headquarters

22,300 miles above the surface – 11 A.M. GMT

Dr. Kimiyo Hoshi's office.

"So far we haven't been able to find any damage in your cerebral cortex. In fact, the little scar left by the implant had disappeared completely. You are 100% recovered," said the physician "Perhaps another scan…"

"Please, Doctor, no more scans. If I have to go into one of your contraptions again, I shall go mad. Can you venture a diagnosis? Why my connection…," Katar looked at Shayera, who hadn't left his side since he opened his eyes, and took her hand, "…OUR connection was severed?"

" We, with Dr. Palmer, don't even know what caused it in the first place. Ray thinks it might be mystical in origin, so he requested the help of one of our most powerful allies in that field: Doctor Fate…"

"Great! Another Doctor!" Katar interrupted Kimiyo rolling his eyes.

"Not that kind of Doctor. Doctor Fate is a mystical being whose origin can be traced back to ancient Egypt. You said your visions were from that period also," said Doctor Light.

"That's right. To tell you the truth, Kimi, they were quite disturbing," explained Shayera. "Nevertheless, they suggested a past relationship between Katar and me, and we would like to dig deeper into that mystery. Also, if there's any chance they were real, they mean there were members of our people here on Earth some five thousand years ago, that's two thousand years before our planet developed space travel. How's that even possible is something we need to find out." She turn to Katar. "I think we should give Doctor Fate a chance to help us, Peacock"

"Alright, I agree. But I need some guarantees this mystic person won't mess our brains any more than they already are," the Commander said.

"I assure you no harm will come to you from his part. Fate is not only very powerful, but extremely efficient as well. I vouch for him." The physician looked straight to his eyes. "If there's a chance this is a magical kind of manifestation, he's the person who can get to the bottom of the enigma."

"When can we see him?" asked Shayera.

"Fate is only accessible in his Tower, which exists somewhere between this realm and the mystical one, and the only way to reach him is through his wife, Imza. She decides if a case is worthy of his attention. Don't worry: I'm pretty sure yours would certainly rattle their curiosity. Ray has already issued a request for a meeting. It's just a matter of a few days. I'll have to ask you for a little more patience. In the mean time, why don't you go somewhere to clear your minds?" suggested Doctor Light

"Yeah, right. Like people on Earth would like to see a couple of Thanagarians strolling around the streets," Shayera snorted.

"Explain to me again why did you choose to remain on this planet, please?" teased Katar.

"I told you: the Justice League is my family, the only one I had left until I met you. Besides, after what our people did to this world, can you blame them?" she retorted.

"You know how I feel about our people's devotion for war and conquest. Still, I don't know if I would ever have the courage of opposing them as you did. I admire you for that, Magpie." Katar squeezed her hand affectionately. "I'm sure you can give me a tour to very beautiful and very isolated places where the both of us can have a good time without being disturbed."

"That I can do. Kimi, my communicator will be reachable at all times. Please, call me the moment Imza answers. C'mon, Birdboy, I'm gonna make you see this World like nobody did before. I think I know exactly where to beguin: the Amazon rainforest. Believe me, Peacock, there's nothing on Thanagar like it and it still has some very secluded places nobody ever visits or even know they exist. I used to hide there when I felt sad and miserable. It will be nice, for a change, having someone I love by my side to share their beauty in happiness." Hawkgirl reached up to peck his mouth. "Let's make a quick raid to the pantry to gather some groceries for our picnic…well…a lot of groceries," and she whispered close to his ear, "I promise you I'll make you burn quite a lot of calories, handsome."

"Uuh…very well, then!" His throat got suddenly so dry he had to swallow. After a short pause "Just one thing: what exactly is a 'picnic'?"

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Planet Almerac – City of Potentoris – Royal Palace

Throne Hall – Three crons till Hour of Hann

Maxima was looking at the Thanagarian representative she was supposed to be listening to, who was presenting a report about Katar and his alleged involvement in the failed attempt at the Ancestral Hall.

"…Commander Katar Hol is a highly decorated officer, well known for his bravery and commanding skills. No doubt one of our finest warriors. However, it has been noted by many of his comrades certain dissent regarding our (ahem) foreign policies…"

The Queen was imagining the man having his face in his prominent abdomen and had to bury her sharp nails in the palm of her hand to avoid laughing. Definitely, old Thanagarians shouldn't wander around with their torso uncovered or, at least, get in shape.

Her mind was elsewhere. A couple of powerful green arms holding her tight. Big hands roaming her naked body while her most intimate self willingly surrendered to this vigorous man. A warm sensation was growing inside her stomach, forcing her to cross her legs. She tried to focus on the winged man's voice.

"…whether he allied himself with the enemy, or he was selected as carrier and scapegoat due to his profile, we will never know, because this so called Justice League kidnapped and took him away before we had the chance of cross examine him. With your permission, Exalted One, I want to emphasize that these people, who deem themselves above interplanetary laws, had already provided sanctuary to the traitor Shayera Thal…"

But the most extraordinary thing was their mind connection. She had no idea the images and sensations the Martian summoned in her mind could ever run so deep. A lesser mind would've lost it completely to that explosion of feelings. The mind of that man was extremely complex. She could feel the joy, the lust and desire, the happiness during their union, but she could also felt an incredible sadness hidden underneath, the kind only an unbearable loss could cause. And then, closed doors. Whenever she tried to dig into his secrets, a telepathic barrier appeared. Fair enough, her secrets were under lock and key as well, so she dedicated to enjoy herself and let him know she was doing it. When you can feel your partner's pleasure as well as your own during sex, the experience becomes ecstasy. Further more when both climax together, turning it into a shared epiphany. They climaxed together several times.

"…so here I am, Exalted One, on behalf of my government, issuing a petition for the immediate restitution of Commander Katar Hol to initiate our investigation, if the Exalted One would so graciously agree."

"Dear Kloss above us! This damned owl is still speaking!" thought Maxima.

Lord Brega, Ceremonial Responsible, took a quick look at his Queen and noticed she had no idea what was the representative talking about.

"The Exalted One would carefully consider your government's petition, Ambassador Hen, we will contact you at your delegation's headquarters as soon as a decision is made," he quickly said. The Thanagarian inclined his head and, with a fluttering of feathers, left the hall.

Something caught the ruler's attention. She gestured her protocol manager to approach.

"My dear Brega," she started.

"'Dear? DEAR Brega?'" Now he knew the Queen was not herself and he was in trouble again.

"…We didn't catch the Ambassador's name. What did you say it was?" she asked.

"Hen, Exalted One, Denor Hen," he answered.

Maxima's eyes got big as coffee plates. "Like the…aaah-ha-ha, like the chicks mo…ha-ha-ha…mother! Bah-ha-ha-ha! It suits him! It ha-ha-ha…suits him perfectly, ha-ha-ha-ha! I can p…I can picture him laying ha-ha-ha, laying eggha-ha-ha-haaa." Her crystalline laughter echoed all over the chamber. All her courtroom personnel looked at the throne in awe, wondering what could make their monarch laugh so hard and not knowing if to be pleased or alarmed by it.

At that precise moment, the court's Schedule Keeper entered the hall. Seeing the Queen laughing herself to tears he stopped on his tracks. He waited until the ruler quiet down.

"Sorry to interrupt, Exalted One. Your next petitioner is Minister Caremis, of the Fornimus province. "

Wiping her eyes and rubbing her aching belly. Maxima said, "Aaaw…Of course. Of course." As soon as she burst into laughter, she regained her composure. "Send him in."

"Oh! And the Justice League made a request to have an audience. Apparently there has been a development in their investigation," the Schedule Keeper added.

"The Justice League?" 'The Martian', she thought. "Clear Our schedule after the next petitioner! Any information from the League has precedence. Tell them We're waiting to see them immediately!" Maxima was afraid of how they would react on yesterday's events, as well as what may they have found in the course of their search, but was also eager to see 'the Emerald Beast', as she started calling him intimately, again.