Chapter 13: Interlude
SEPTEMBER 8, 08:35 EDT
"What do you mean we lost Shadow?!" Wally's exclamation broke throughout the entire cave. The entire team was assembled in the briefing chamber, all in varying states of distress.
Roy had come back with Aqualad disheveled late in the night and reported to Batman and the League immediately. The war between the two Rhelasia's had been stopped thanks to their help and Lex Luthor showing off his assistant's arm, but Naruto had gone MIA after following Deathstroke into the city.
He hadn't reported back and all communication with him had gone black.
Batman stood before the Team, alongside Superman, Black Canary, and Red Tornado. From the looks on the two human Leaguers, the news was disturbing as well.
"We lost contact with Shadow approximately six hours ago, and all communication since then has been blocked. We are doing everything we can to find his location." The Batman explained calmly, though there was a tenseness in his body that Robin recognized. Whatever they had discovered about Naruto in the last six hours hadn't been good news, and if it was enough to worry Batman (even slightly) it was enough to send Robin into a panic.
"We can help." Conner spoke up through the tension, "We can gather information and report back, go to Rhelasia and pick up a trail." His voice was calm, despite the roaring storm of emotions he was feeling. Naruto was gone. Without a trace and not even Batman was able to find out where he was or what happened to him. They couldn't just sit around and do nothing, he was a part of their Team, he spent more time with them than he did the League. They had to do something.
It was Superman who stepped forward a bit, recognizing something in Conner's posture that reminded him of himself when he was a teenager with raging emotions. "Shadow is a League member, and as such the League will be doing everything to get him back." Superman explained calmly, though was honestly surprised by the hatred in the glare that Superboy gave him.
"He's ours." Conner said vehemently, clenching his hands into fists to stop himself from giving in completely to his anger. "He spends more time here than he does with any of you. WE can help!"
"This is what our Team is meant for Batman. Subterfuge, reconnaissance, ect. We can pick up something in Rhelasia in Megan's bioship." Robin put in helpfully.
"Yeah! We can totally help get Naruto back!" Wally agreed adamantly.
"You can't just expect us to do nothing." Artemis threw in crossing her arms. The moment they were called for briefing, she suited up, having a feeling it wasn't just a good-morning wakeup call. Megan nodded next to her, agreeing wholeheartedly.
"We are willing to lend assistance, please allow us to. I recall which direction the helicopter Naruto went after had gone. We may find something that was missed." Kaldur felt particularly responsible for Naruto's disappearance, as did Roy. They knew, logically, that there was nothing that could have stopped Naruto from pursuing Deathstroke (given the animosity they felt when he appeared), but logic was trumped quite often by emotion, and their emotions were taking over.
Batman and the other Leaguer's stared at the Team, recognizing how determined they all were. If Naruto's disappearance didn't connect in some way to this hidden organization of Villains they had suspected, all would have agreed to send them to do reconnaissance. However, Shadow's disappearance directly involved Deathstroke, Cheshire, Ras Al Ghul, and Sportsmaster. This was too high risk a mission to send the Team on. Too many variables and unknowns.
"No." Batman said firmly, continuing before any of the Team had a chance to protest. "None of you will be doing anything. You will not involve yourself in any of this and will leave it to the League." He could feel their defiance, but stood firm and stern, "Do I make myself clear?"
The entire Team was angry at once again being turned away from a mission. As though they were worthless. As though they were just little kids playing at being heroes.
Canary saw this and spoke up, hoping to help them understand.
"This isn't because we think you uncappable of helping. We do." She said softly, "But this involves a lot more than just his going MIA. The League of Shadows is directly involved. Ras Al Ghul, Sportsmaster, Cheshire and Deathstroke are all involved. We can only speculate who else may be a part of this and it's too risky to send any of you out."
It doesn't seem to do much to placate them: Conner storms out, his anger radiating off him in waves that worry her. Robin 'tsks' annoyed, refusing to even look at Batman before he leaves the room as well. Megan remains silent, looking at the ground sadly before she floats off in Conner's direction. Wally groans frustrated before flashing out of sight and Artemis and Kaldur both walk out of the room unhappily.
If Batman wasn't so sure that Robin would discover what happened to Naruto through League channels, they would have merely said that Shadow was on a mission. No muss no fuss with the Team and the League would do everything possible to get to the missing Leaguer as quickly as possible. They couldn't risk them…their kids lives in this. It was far too dangerous, even for them.
With a sigh, the Leaguers motioned to move to the Zeta-tube to get back to the Watchtower. Hopefully Zatara had managed to locate him with his scrying spell. It had failed the last two times, but hopefully Naruto had been moved out of whatever magic repelling place he was kept in.
It was a small hope, but it was something.
As all but Red Tornado made their way through the Zeta-tube, Canary could only hope that Naruto was ok.
'Please be safe and come back.'
Conner smashed through as many training bots as he could, releasing as much of his anger as he could with each scream and destruction of the bots.
How could they expect them to do nothing! Naruto was theirs! He was a part of their Team and he cared about them just as much as they cared about him. He would never leave one of them in the hands of their enemies, Naruto would do everything to get them back. How could they expect the Team to do any less? They were capable! They could help!
"This reeks man!" Wally screamed frustratingly as he appeared in the training chamber alongside the rest of the Team. Conner stopped his destruction with a grunt and deep breath. His body was still screaming to do something, but his team members could come up with a plan to bypass the League.
"Ugh! How can they think we can't help find Naruto?!" Artemis groaned as she pulled her bow to destroy a bot on the far side of the chamber. "Can't deal with the League of Shadows…please! We can so help!"
"Batman will have everything on Shadow locked down by now. If he really wants to, which he does, I'll have trouble breaking through. Probably won't even get any information before it destroys itself!" Robin groaned annoyed as he worked on the computer in his arm brace. The hologram showed date files that were completely locked, and an annoying beep of "access denied" continued to blare in the otherwise silent chamber.
Conner went to the side panel on the chamber and turned it into the Training ground that Naruto had first put them through when he became their Supervisor. It was familiar and set most of the Team a little less on edge.
"Robin," Kaldur spoke up in the silence, "What can you find on Deathstroke?"
"Deathmuncher?" Robin queried before typing on the holographic keyboard and bringing up a few pictures along with a list of information. "Deathstoke, also known as Slade Wilson. He's the most sought-after assassin with a 98% success rate. Seriously skilled and powerful enough to go toe to toe with the best of the League. Fourty-seven years old and kicking a lot of butt in the underground." Robin read aloud to the rest of his team.
"Is there anything on there between Shadow and Deathstroke?" Kaldur asked looking at the information laid before them.
Robin squinted at the holographic projections, "Not that I can see… why? What happened exactly between Deathstroke and Naruto in Taepei?"
Kaldur shook his head lightly as the rest of the Team motioned closer to the two. "When Deathstoke came into view, Naruto…it was as though he lost sight of everything before him. Lost control, completely, at the sight of that man." He explained as he remembered the feeling of worthlessness that the man exuded when he saw Deathstroke. "I could barely breath or move…he let loose this wave of…intent. He meant to kill Deathstroke. Of that I am certain."
Suddenly, Robin's computer started to go on the fritz.
"What the-!?" Robin began to furiously type on the keyboard, trying to figure out what was happening to his computer. "Someone is trying to hack me!"
=*kshh*…ell….ca-h…e…*kshh*= the communication was broken and hard to understand.
"Is that…?" Megan peered closely at the communicator, believing she recognized the voice.
"Cheshire!?" it was Artemis. She would recognize her sisters voice anywhere.
=*kshhh* Don't have a lot of time kiddos, but I think we need to have a little chat, hm?=
"What do you know of Fire Shadow's disappearance Cheshire." It was Kaldur who spoke, his voice firm and unrelenting in his demand.
=Enough.= was the reply, =*kshh* Bet the big boys aren't letting you play, hm?=
"Tell us where Shadow is!" Wally exclaimed angrily at the communicator.
=Over this crappy easily broken through communicator? Flat chance, kid.=
"Why did you contact us." Kaldur demanded.
It was silent for a few painstaking moments, and Robin continued to fiddle with the keyboard trying to keep the communication line open.
=Because I need your help, and you want Shadow.= she replied, =So let's help each other. What do you say?=
SEPTEMBER 10, 02:44
"How fares Simon?" Vandal Savage's voice broke out in an open conference room. It had been three days since Fire Shadows capture and mental detainment from Simon. They hadn't been able to get through to either of the two, a mental battle likely taking place in which no one could penetrate. They had created a damn barrier between the two, a sphere that couldn't be broken through no matter what they did.
Frustration didn't begin to describe his feelings on the situation.
"Still locked with Fire Shadow, though there are moments when the barrier breaks momentarily. Not long enough to do anything but it is an indication that whatever battle they are having will end soon. Even should Simon lose, Shadow will be considerably fatigued and should be easily subdued." It was a faceless voice that said this, a grunt they put to observe the two.
"Had you allowed my plan to finish, all of this could very well have been avoided." Lex Luthor cut in sneering down at them as he stared at his nails in supposed uninterest.
"Perhaps." Savage acquiesced, "However, this should have been a quicker and more secure way to gain Fire Shadows cooperation, as well as Deathstroke's."
"Bringing him to the negotiations brought us to this little deadlock." Queen Bee said annoyed as she crossed her arms. "Had I been given a chance to see the boy I could have controlled him to a degree if not out-right. You placed too much faith in Simon."
"Regardless," the Brain cut in, "Ze boy iz locked in mental battle with zis Simon. Nothing we 'ave done haz done anything to stop it. We must continue on az planned, no?"
"Ooooh, now we can get to the fun stuff." Klarion giggled as he stroked his familiar, Tinkles.
"Indeed." Vandal Savage said with a small nod, "Let us continue then."