Ch 24: Termination
I am so, so sorry this took so long. Despite knowing just how this chapter was going to end and sort of knowing how I wanted it to start, I just found it really difficult to write action with this many people. Plus, Quantum has been kicking my butt (my professor's awesome – she's so smart and really likes super heroes! – but she's still super scary and always seems kind of disappointed when we don't know what's going on) and I just got my wisdom teeth out.
Anyways, enough excuses. I really hope you guys like this. It's the longest chapter to date! Over 5,000 words! That means we're almost there!
With the new information the Team is able to provide on Klarion, Batman's reluctance to join in the assault wanes. With Bruce's assistance, the heroes quickly develop a plan; they decide to take advantage of Klarion's inability to track the TD tech and use the five remotes to stage their attack.
First, Wally and Clark beam down to the desert where Artemis and Wally were separated. They purposefully take League teleporters down, risking interception by Klarion in the hopes that, if he's still watching them, he'll think they're still looking for him. Why else would the League's two fastest members return to the scene of the crime, so to speak, and immediately begin circling up the globe, as if continuing Wally's search pattern from earlier?
Klarion shouldn't guess that it's to conceal the presence of Conner and Dick, who had used two of the TD tech remotes (before sending them back to the Watchtower with Kaldur) to meet them. Clark and Wally easily scoop up their respective brothers and continue on their way. Slowly, they make their way up to England, where Diana and John are staging to carry Bruce and Kaldur to the battlefield. Adjusting for their differing speeds and distances from Klarion's moor, all eight of them should arrive at about the same time, hopefully to the surprise of the Witch Boy. M'gann, J'onn and Shayera leave for Earth last; their chosen staging point is a small cluster of trees adjacent to the moor.
From there, M'gann and J'onn should be able to coordinate the initial simultaneous attack, then use the TD tech to teleport in while Klarion's distracted. Shayera can then use her Nth metal mace to smash through Klarion's defenses, leaving him open to the others attacks, and hopefully distracting him enough that Kaldur can move in and free Artemis with his sorcery. If all goes well, they can finish this before Klarion even knows what hit him.
If all goes well.
J'onn meditates as he waits in a copse of trees near Klarion's moor with his niece and Shayera. Well, he's attempting to, anyways.
Shayera, not unusually, seems somewhat agitated. The Thanagarian keeps pacing between the trees, occasionally flexing her wings and brandishing her mace. J'onn can't help but think that it looks like she's intimidating the trees to warm up for the coming battle.
In contrast, M'gann is… utterly calm. Almost eerily so. She sits in a meditative pose that mirrors his own, but her emotions don't seem to roil like his do. He knows she is focused on the task at hand – stretching her mind as far to the South as she can, and as far East and West as she dares – so that she can catch their friends as early as possible and coordinate the attack. As with the rest of the plan, she risks detection by Klarion, but she doesn't seem to acknowledge that danger.
Unlike him, she is confident in her ability to link her friends successfully. She's had plenty of practice at it, after all. In that, J'onn envies M'gann. She has spent so much time in her teammates' heads that she's not even giving it a second thought. She knows it will go smoothly, that she and her team will fight as one, as they always have. J'onn so wishes he could be so confident.
"You should be this confident, Uncle J'onn." She encourages him gently. "You can do this, I know it."
She touches on his memories of his own mental acuity, highlighting his vast experience. She pulls on his own interactions with his teammates, and even how he's kept somewhat in practice by occasionally linking with Wally. Then, she sends over a few of her own – just little ones, just enough to emphasize how easy it is, how he certainly won't have any trouble
Her confidence rolls back through the bond, this time an assurance for him rather than herself. Her belief in him is gratifying, if a little naïve. He can't help but wonder, "How can you be so calm? Aren't you angry, or scared, or worried?"
She lets him in a little more, and he can feel the answer: she is. She's so worried – almost heartsick – for Artemis. She's so afraid for them – afraid of failing them – in this upcoming battle. Most of all, she's furious with Klarion and all he's put them through.
Still, despite these strong, reasonable, emotions, she's still in control. Her sadness is not the despair that echoed through her soul, almost killing her teammates during their 'unwinnable' training simulation. Her fear is not the terror that compelled her to meddle in Conner's mind when he confronted her over her interrogation methods. Her fury not the anger that overwhelmed such that she tore apart Kaldur's mind as revenge for Artemis' "death."
"We've all faced so much." She reminds him. "I will never let such things control me again. Not when my Team needs me to be in control."
"You make it sound so simple."
"I don't mean to. It was a hard fight to balance this kind of determination. It's just… I can't help but believe in them. And I'll do anything in my power to make sure we win this one.
Her assertion is accompanied by such strong emotions that J'onn can't help but get caught up in agreement. Before he can respond, though, her head swivels towards the south and he feels her catch her Teammate's mind. He uses that as his guide, reaching out until he brushes minds with the other Leaguers. One by one, they yield, despite their discomfort with the intimacy of it all. Even Bruce lets him in with only minimal hesitation. After a few moments, the Leaguers begin to adjust. Something about the link just feels… like it belongs.
The whole process takes only a few heartbeats, and before J'onn realizes it, M'gann is reaching out to Artemis; the final step before the assault.
J'onn steels himself, and feels the other founders do the same. Their determination bleeds into his, solidifying the link. In the instant before they begin, J'onn decides to reach out to Wally too. The speedster gladly accepts him, despite already being linked up with M'gann. It just feels… right, to have all the founders together like this.
J'onn does his best to hold on to that feeling. He refuses to think that this might be the first and last time he'll ever have his family safe and close like this.
Then, M'gann is pulling Artemis into the link and helping them all see Klarion's position. It's time.
It takes all the control Artemis has not to give anything away when she feels M'gann's mind brush her own. Luckily, if there's one thing Artemis has learned these past years, it's control. Klarion even doesn't seem to notice her sudden alertness; he doesn't miss a single beat in his diatribe. Good.
Artemis opens her mind just a little wider to her sister, allowing the Martian to glean all she can about the situation. Artemis can feel the information disseminating to the rest of her Team, and even to… the League Founders? She catches a glimpse of their plan and tries not to let her hopes rise too high. This… might actually work. Artemis does her best to ready herself to fight. Unfortunately, Klarion was thinking clearly enough to relieve her of her weapons, but she'll find a way to make do.
"Brace yourself." M'gann warns and Artemis does.
Almost instantly, a red blur comes charging in from her right, Klarion's back. At the same time, a blue streak zooms in from her left. The blue being – who Artemis realizes must be Superman – slams into the Witch Boy's face. Simultaneously, the red blur – her Wally – slides easily across the soft ground of the moor to take out Klarion's feet. The combined hits send Klarion flying back, right into the newly appeared Shayera's mace.
There's a resounding crack as the Nth metal smashes through the Witch Boy's wards and into the back of his head. Artemis marvels at the Thanagarian's ability to aim despite the disorientation that comes with using TD tech. M'gann and J'onn must be helping her, she realizes.
The others arrive before Klarion even hits the ground. Wonder Woman and Green Lantern move to incapacitate their foe physically. The mind link cuts out as J'onn and M'gann teleport in and focus their attention on attacking the villain mentally. Artemis doesn't see what happens after that. The crackling electricity of Kaldur's sorcery blurs the cage-orb around her, and she suddenly finds strong arms holding her steady as she struggles to regain her bearings.
"Thanks Kal," she murmurs, and gives herself a couple of breaths to gather her strength in the comfort of her old partner's embrace. She pulls away as soon as she thinks she's steady, though, to face the battle that still rages beside them.
It seems Klarion managed to evade most of John's constructs, as the two are still exchanging deadly blasts of light. Diana's lasso seems to have caught one of his wrists, at least, though she's no longer holding the other end. Artemis catches a glimpse of the Amazon's red, blistered hands as she moves to join Green Lantern's attacks and realizes the Lord of Chaos must have been able to overcome the lasso's magic with his own flame-sorcery.
The Martians seem to be having more success. Their mental attacks are slowing the Witch Boy down by quitea lot. Enough that Batman and Nightwing are taking the risk of moving closer, bringing the fight close-range. Artemis and Kaldur move instinctively to support them, and she notices the gleam of inhibitor collars in the Bats' hands.
"Come on…" she whispers to no one in particular as she charges the Witch Boy, desperately hoping this will work…
"No, no, no!" Klarion rages and bursts into flame. "Stop it!"
On his last outburst, the flame around him grows into a column, then rushes out straight at them…
Artemis hears Kaldur do something he's never done before: swear.
John mentally vows to do something nice for Katma Tui the next time he sees his old teacher. It's only her hellacious training that allowed him the reflexes to throw up a shield in time to block most of Klarion's attack. He even managed to extend his protection to the magically vulnerable Kryptonians near him. They're still knocked back by the burst of magical flame, but at least they're standing.
Aqualad, likewise, seems to have been able to protect Artemis, Nightwing and Batman from what would probably have been a lethal attack at that range. Wally seems to have escaped the blast mostly unscathed, though he's limping – the fire seems to have partially caught him when he went back to pull Shayera to safety with him.
Diana took the blast straight on. It's lucky she's somewhat resistant to magic. The Amazon looks more than a little worse for the wear, but she's at least – with some difficulty – able to stand under her own power. J'onn and M'gann also took the blast head on, and each lies in a heap on the ground. They're not moving.
It takes John only a moment to process all of this, a good thing since a moment is really all he has.
"So that's how you want to play?" The Witch Boy hisses, voice pitching up as he speaks. "Bring it on, then. I'll make you all pay for this!"
Klarion's heaving with rage, but otherwise looking fairly unscathed for all the damage they thought they'd done to him. Unnatural red flames lick the sorcerer's feet, but he doesn't seem to notice. Of course not, John realizes as he notices the lambent sheen around the Witch Boy. He's reconstructing his wards. John immediately drops his own shield and levels a light beam at Klarion, hoping to at least knock the villain off-balance so he can't finish reconstructing his defenses.
No dice. The green bolt ricochets off the wards and Klarion wheels to face him unharmed. In the face of a new barrage of attacks, John can do little more than will his own shield to hold.
Conner is thankful for John's protection; he knows the green glow he saw just before Klarion's blast blinded him probably saved his life. Still, it's hard not to be a little resentful as he rushes over to where the love of his life lays crumpled on the ground. M'gann is just as weak to flame as he is to magic, after all, and if something happened to her…
Conner's heart stutters as he scoops her up and carries her out of Klarion's immediate range. He's vaguely aware of Clark doing the same thing for J'onn out of the corner of his eye, but is too focused on fluttering heartbeat of the limp green woman in his arms. It's barely there, but Conner feels it clearly as he holds her close to his own heart.
"Thank Rao,"* he whispers as he lays her down and begins to administer field aid to the worst of her burns. He wants so much to keep himself between her and the threat at their back, but too many years of training remind him that it's better – for all of them – if he keeps an eyes on the battle instead.
It's a good thing he does too. His friends are doing their best with the counter-attack, but they've lost the element of surprise. The growing number of injuries they're suffered is only compounding the problem. If something doesn't change soon, they're going to lose this battle. When M'gann seems to be stable under his hands, he's forced to make one of the most painful decisions of his life. Still, he pushes down his desperate worry and focuses instead on his other friends' peril. It's this determination to save the rest of their family that keeps him from glancing back as he rushes back into the fray.
So focused is he that he misses the warm brown eyes that flutter open to watch his retreating back. Even with his super-hearing, he doesn't hear the knowing, worried moan, "Conner… no."
Even in the heat of battle, Bruce can't help but admire the naturalness of the movement amongst the younger heroes. Without thought, Nightwing, Artemis, and Aqualad move to encircle the Witch Boy. Bruce instinctively mimics them, falling back to cover Klarion's fourth side. Kaldur is making his stand at Klarion's front. His sorcery makes him the biggest threat, and together with John's attempts to draw the Chaos Lord's fire, allows him to act as a good distraction for the non-metas around him.
Nigthwing's hands twitch, almost imperceptibly. Bruce thinks he recognizes the pellets that have appeared between the boy's fingers as restraining foam. It's probably their best option, he thinks in agreement with the boy's choice. With Klarion's shields back up and the inhibitor collars lost in the blast, there's – as much as Bruce hates to admit it – not much else they can do but restrain their foe so their allies can recover.
He notices Artemis eyeing the lasso that's still hanging off of Klarion's right wrist – the arm closest to her. He supposes there's little else the weaponless archer can do short of simply tackling the Witch Boy, and silently pulls out a wire-wrapped batarang so he can match her.
Then, on some unconscious signal, they all move.
Kaldur adds electricity to the water stream Klarion's so far been able to block, as if to cut through the Witch Boy's shields. John is still firing at the villain from above, keeping enough of his attention that Nightwing's pellets and Bruce's batarang go unnoticed long enough to strike true. At the same time, Artemis lunges for the end of Diana's lasso.
Bruce pulls on his wire as she does, and together, they pull Klarion's arms out of position enough to drop his shield.
Kaldur's attack is able to cut a hole through the remaining wards. Klarion starts to stumble back, but the high-density polyethylene foam around his feet tangles his legs up. Wally and Shayera, too, have finally made it back, and are pressing the attack before Klarion even hits the ground. For an instant, they have the upper hand.
Then, Klarion splays his hands and releases a concussive blast that sends Hawk Girl and Flash slamming back into the ground. With another whisper, the Lord of Chaos sets runes glowing on the ground around him. The runes rush away from the Witch Boy, racing out to wrap around the heroes in Klarion's range. Bruce feels the runes squeeze him, as if they as if they had a physical weight, before a scorching shock races through his body.
Klarion's disturbing cackling is the last thing Bruce is aware of before the world goes black.
The touch is subtle. It's not enough draw Klarion's attention, but more than enough to ensure J'onn is conscious and get his attention. Concerned, J'onn lets M'gann in immediately even as he tries to orient himself physically to check on her. She was so close to the blast…
That's not the kind of help she needs, though. A hesitant idea trickles through the link, followed by more persuasive assertions as M'gann shares her memories of Klarion's plans and the last few minutes of the battle. Apparently Klarion has the whole moor rigged with rituals and runes, and should he get the chance to activate many of them… well. They need to end this before he can.
J'onn's hesitant to agree to her idea, though. He's never heard of anyone doing something like what she's suggesting before. He certainly never would have thought to do it with the other Leaguers… "This is a huge breach of privacy. It might not even work."
"I know. Trust me, I know." He knows she does, too. Even if he couldn't feel the guilt and fear warring within her, he saw her regrets during their mind meld. M'gann swore she would never betray her teammate's trust again. Some might consider her plan exactly such a betrayal, though she thinks this is different. It's necessary. "I don't know what else we can do." He doesn't either. "I can lose their trust if it will save their lives. Are you willing to risk the same?"
He glances across the battlefield, where half of his family lays trapped or unconscious, and the other half is fighting for their lives. Even as he watches, another blast from Klarion knocks them down and back. More than one voice cries out in pain.
Any reservations he might have leave him at the sound. "I am."
With a mental nod they release all of their barriers and, as they did during their own mind-meld, pull their family in with a swirl of memories.
How can Gar still call you sister after you let his mom die and marked him as a freak?
You convince yourself you're a normal farm boy, right up until the bullet bounces off of you.
A gun goes off twice. Bang. Bang. Your parents fall.
The spotlight follows their bodies all the way down to the ground.
"Get up, Shayera. You knew we wouldn't all survive this war."
Your captain says Marines don't grieve until the living all make it out.
You help the other young heroes get out. They give you Superman and the moon in return.
Moonshine lights your first view of the surface world. It's beautiful.
Man's world is different from Themiscyra, but still beautiful. You hope you're strong enough to save it.
You calls on the strongest of the new world to defend it from the White Martians. You hope they're strong enough to compensate for your failure…
You know you're too slow. That you've failed them. You just need her to know you love her before the end…
Your arrows are useless as the Anomaly's flames swirl around you, but you won't let this be his end. You hope he knows how sorry you are to leave him again.
The world seems to come back to Artemis slowly as her mind adjusts to the unfamiliar memories.
Something's still not right though. Everything seems to be moving... sluggishly. Her belt is too heavy with weapons. Her boots seem to have developed heels. Her wings… wait, what?
Artemis – they – begin to realize what's happening. Well, J'onn and Batman figured it out. She thinks. The link is too strong. Their identities and perceptions have blended, as if they were a single, continuous mind…
All this happens in what is probably a millisecond, thanks to the speed of Wally's – their – thoughts. It's a good thing for the brevity of their confusion too. They are in nearly the same position as they were before the Martians pulled their minds together, though now they're at least all conscious again.
Klarion wheels to face a charging Superman. Once again, runes glow across the moor, and Clark only barely dodges the mystical tendrils that lash out at him as M'gann's memory rushes through their minds. Dick attempts to take advantage of the Witch Boy's distraction to back flip off of Diana's braced hands, but Klarion deterred Clark too quickly, he's turning back around…
….to Dick, who's midway through a twist that leaves him exposed to the blast of light Klarion is shooting at his back. Artemis watches it with Wally's speed of perception, agonizingly aware of her inability to do anything but watch as the blast arcs towards her teammate -
-And she's already running, but that attack is nearly point blank, she's not going to make it-
-and she thinks Not My Son!-
-and the ring on her finger glows with her will. A barrier forms between the attack and the acrobat, shielding him from the blast-
-but the Dick's still falling; the backlash from the blast knocked him out of his back-flip and sent him hurtling toward the ground. –
-At this rate he'll land on his head. Fragile human necks aren't meant to withstand that-
-so she reaches out her mind and pulls his foot-
-so she braces her ankle to impact the imaginary wall and pushes, correcting her rotation in time to land somewhat gracelessly on her feet.
Klarion looks as surprised as Artemis feels. For a stunned second, no one moves.
Then, they realize what this new level of teamwork might allow them to do. With only a subconscious check, they agree to a new assault.
Kaldur and Dick take advantage of the Martians' precise telekinesis. Used to fighting in water and air, respectively, the Team leaders take advantage of this chance to fight in all three dimensions, herding the Witch Boy back into the others' attacks any time he attempts to escape or regroup.
Bruce feels free to hurl batarangs at their target without worry of harming his allies; they know exactly where his projectiles are going to be, and won't accidently step into their path. In fact, the Dark Knight even throws a couple explosive charges past the Lord of Chaos, knowing Diana can deflect them straight back at Klarion with her bracers. The Witch Boy, caught of guard, is greeted repeatedly with a face full of smoke.
Clark and Conner take advantage of their foe's blindness to duck in with a series of super-punches. The two weave between each other with the grace of long-practiced partners, taking advantage of Superboy's extensive experience with Black Canary's partner training.
Together, they keep Klarion on his toes, and, with M'gann's stolen knowledge of Klarion's prepared rituals, keep him from activating any of his more powerful magic.
Unfortunately, Klarion still has his wards woven tightly around himself, so while their attacks have done little real damage to the Witch Boy, the Kryptonians are burned terribly by every punch. They quickly realize this and pull back. With their augmented brainstorming capabilities, the twelve heroes decide on a new plan of attack with barely a moment's hesitation.
When Klarion whirls to attack M'gann and end the mind meld, Artemis' hand twitches for a bow. The ring on Artemis' – John's – finger glows, and "her" bow, perfectly balanced and smooth, despite its hard-light construction – forms in her hand. Ring-made projectiles would be useless, John's memories tell them, and her – Kaldur's – tattoos glow in response, condensing water into a pre-knocked arrow.
It flies straight for Klarion's back. It, along with a mental barrage from J'onn – with additional strength lent by Clark and Conner – distracts Klarion enough for Shayera to swoop in from above. Her mace smashes through Klarion's wards and straight into his face. Wally follows through, zipping by to punch the Witch Boy before the hole in his shield knits back together.
The force of the blows send the Witch Boy flying back, though Wally's momentum carries him still further before he can slide to a stop.
Unfortunately, the jolt of pain as the physical attacks connect also sends a shock back through J'onn's mental probe, making them all wince.
The moment of hesitation is enough for Klarion to recover. With a burst of flame, he once again knocks J'onn and M'gann from the sky. The Martian's incapacitation abruptly shatters the mind link, so Artemis is alone when she thinks, "Oh, No." as the Witch Boy morphs into his Chaotic Demon form.
"That's enough!" He shrieks, eyes glowing. Runes glow everywhere, burnt into the ground and projected on to the now-black sky in the Lord of Chaos' rage. "This. Ends. Now."
Wally's momentum only just carries him out of Klarion's range. When wally whirls around to face his foe again, he takes in the changes to the battlefield in a fraction of a second. Despite the magic-blackened sky, the world seems to glow, courtesy of Klarion's runes, so Wally has a clear view of his foe. Klarion has trapped the other heroes in the same kind of flaming spheres as Artemis was. The Lord of Chaos stands at the center of his captured prizes, grin stretched obscenely wide across his face as he stares Wally down.
"What now, little speedster? All out of ideas?" Klarion flexes his hands. In response, the spheres contract, and their captives cry out in pain. Wally's eyes narrow. No.
Almost in response to his desperation, a glint of light catches his eye. Wally takes a second look at the battered Witch Boy… and notices the familiar lens that hangs over from Klarion's now-exposed chest. At once, M'gann and Zatanna's lessons in magic come back to him.
A plan forms in Wally's mind. He calls on every wisp of the Speed Force he's ever felt. He can feel it enveloping him, comforting him, telling him to run.
It feels like he reaches Klarion in an instant. As he approaches, he can see a thin, protective sheen around the Witch Boy's figure. No matter. Wally has protection of his own now. Klarion' smirks as Wally claws his hand, reaching out as if to gouge the villain's eyes or to punch him in the nose. Instead, at the last instant, he reaches for the small, familiar circle of glass attached to Klarion's chest. His hand burns as he touches the protective magicks around the lens, but it's no matter. The Speed Force heals his hand as quickly as it is damaged.
The Witch Boy's smile disappears as Wally's hand closes around the glass piece. Luckily, Wally's momentum continues to carry him forward, past and away from the Lord of Chaos.
Klarion may be quick enough to follow what's happening, but he's not quick enough to react to it. That means Wally has time to turn around and take in the magician's fury in all its glory. First Klarion whips around to face him, dropping the lambent cages that hold Wally's family while he's at it. When Wally tauntingly waves the lens and grins back at the scowling Witch Boy, Klarion really loses it. With a scream of pure rage, he unleashes a wall of fire straight at speedster.
Wally is unconcerned. He is cocooned in the Speed Force, and thus could give himself eons before the attack reached him, if he wanted. He uses the time to examine the lens in his hand, and get mental confirmation from M'gann that his guess was right; this is, in fact, Klarion's new anchor. The fire's only halfway to him when he takes the glass piece between his hands, and begins applying pressure. Whether Wally's old lens had become brittle from the current of magic flowing through it, or because his own adrenalin added to his power, Wally will never know. What's important, though, is how the lens – his lens – crumples between his palms, how the fire dissolves inches from his face, and how Klarion's screams of rage turn into screams of pain.
Wally tosses the dust into the air, letting scatter on the wind. Klarion was already losing form, but with that gesture, swirling red engulfs him entirely. For an instant, everything seems to be drawn towards the dark red center of the mass. Even Wally can't help but take a half-step towards it. Then, as if it had never been, the swirl implodes, leaving neither sound nor sight nor any other evidence it has ever existed.
Klarion is gone, and can never return.
*Rao is, I believe, the head Kryptonian god.
AN: Whew. It's finally over. Well I mean, the story's not. There's a ridiculous amount of dénouement to get through, and I haven't even finished writing it yet! I've written a lot of it though, so hopefully the rest of the updates will be pretty regular. I'm obviously not going to make my goal of finishing by the anniversary, but I might make my secret goal of getting this fic to 100k words! Who'd of thought I'd ever get anywhere near that? Wish me luck.
I just want to thank you all again for sticking with me through this whole thing. I still get excited every time I see I have a new favorite/follow/review. Seriously, you all mean so much to me, and I never would have gotten this far without you. So thanks, dear readers, for being so wonderful, and as always, I'm open to any comments or criticism you might have for me.