Simultaneously accompanying Garfield's yelp, the darkness below them started to be replaced with a reddish tinted glow. Garfield looked below the ship and saw another access hatch again open below the ship.
Conner looked over at his younger teammate and raised an eyebrow in amusement.
Realizing what was going on Garfield smiled sheepishly at Conner and rubbed the back of his head, "Sorry."
At that moment M'gann's eyes returned to their normal state and looked sympathetically at her little brother, "I should of warned you." Looking back to the front of the ship, M'gann resumed their descent.
"How far are we from the surface," Conner asked. He never actually asked M'gann how far below the outer surface of Mars did her people live.
"Well our cities are about 30 miles below surface, but we will be landing at 10," M'gann began in an informative voice. "Also our colonies are about 20 miles inward."
"Thats a long hike," Superboy commented out loud.
"40 miles!" Beastboy exclaimed, "Can't we just fly closer in or something?" Again patience was not one of his strong suits, and walking wasn't high on the list either.
"I would but flying the ship too close may draw attention and we don't know where they might have guards patrolling," M'gann explained.
Garfield was about to continue his protests when he felt the familiar sensation of the ship making contact with ground. Immediately Beastboy got up and started to sprint below to the hanger.
Both M'gann and Conner watched as Garfield dashed down the ramp to the hanger, and out of the ship.
Conner and M'gann got up almost at the same time and started to follow the eager Beastboy.
"Still not a fan of enclosed spaces is he," Superboy remarked stopping at the ramp leading below and turned to M'gann.
"Could be a side effect of being able to change into any animal," M'gann mused.
Superboy nodded an agreement and M'gann started to go down the ramp, but Superboy stopped her by gently grabbing her upper arm. "About earlier," Conner began softly, "the coms..."
"I understand... it's fine," M'gann offered but slight tinge of hurt was evident in her voice.
"Thanks," Conner said in low almost apologetic tone and reached and tipped M'gann's chin up to look him in the eyes, "We're just... I am not there yet."
"I know," M'gann agreed sadly.
"Hopefully we'll get there," Conner said quietly and gave M'gann a quick chaste kiss trying to convey that he was trying. Letting her go Superboy continued down the ramp.
M'Gann watched his retreating form disappear at the bottom of the hanger. She could still feel a ghostly trace of where he had held her arm and kissed her.
Taking a moment to reflect on their situation, she thought of how different their relationship was than what it used to be. That they cared enough about each other not to want the other one to find someone else. To be in an relationship together, but yet far from the loving and full of trust one they used to share..
"A pinch is not as much as you can grab with your fist," Artemis glared at her boyfriend of a few months.
Wally just looked at his steamed girlfriend and retorted just as frustrated, "Listen I know what I am doing."
Artemis let out a condescending laugh and stared more adamantly as she believed Wally was ruining dinner. She stood in what she thought of as her mad stance, feet set hip width apart, a hand on her hip, and a hand pointing a finger menacingly at the object of her malice. "Know what you're doing!? You eat anything, Kid Garbage Disposal!"
Sitting on the couch in front of the television, Conner glanced from the arguing couple back to the television. "Explain to me why they're together again? More importantly how you talked me into this?" Conner asked mentally to Megan.
Megan, who was curled into Conner's side with his hand over her shoulder, didn't break eye contact with the movie playing in front of her. "That's just how they are," Megan answered back, "Robin calls it their foreplay. As to why we are here, this is Wally and Artemis's way of thanking us for being there when Wally met Artemis's mother."
Superboy remembered the occasion of going along to the meet Artemis's mother, another situation he wasn't quite sure how he had gotten into. From what he understood, Artemis had wanted backup because she thought the dinner could turn awkward with just her mother and Wally there. He couldn't honestly say the dinner had been one of the highlights of his life, but talking with Artemis's mother was interesting. While Conner didn't approve of Paula's past career, he did enjoy hearing her explain how she felt freer in her Huntress identity than she did her civilian.
Conner was aware of the continued argument going on behind them, as Wolf in came in from another part of the cave. Superboy watched the large Wolf's ears perk up as a few higher volumed words echoed from the kitchen but quickly dismissed the disturbance, and then proceeded to jump up on the couch and lay his head down on Megan's lap.
"Robin just had to take Zatanna on a ski trip that weekend, then it would be them here and not us," Superboy continued still not too pleased with the situation.
Megan looked down and began to rub the giant wolf's head, "I guess it is a little convenient they went that weekend all of a sudden."
"Suppose Zatanna knows Robin's secret identity," Conner mused and briefly, tuning out the continued commotion behind him.
Megan looked confused, "You think so?"
Superboy shrugged, "Heard Robin say Batman was going along too. Doubt batman would go skiing in a cowl."
Megan smiled at the mental image of Batman in full costume skiing down a mountain, although she imagined it would be the cape and not the cowl that would provide more problems. She quietly thought how perceptive Conner really was, and how none of the others really knew that side of him. On the outside her boyfriend was a man of few words and somewhat standoffish, but when it was like this she got to see his true self that he buried away.
Interrupting her musings, Megan heard another disagreement startup in the kitchen.
"Will you stop eating what we are actually managing to get finished," Artemis shrieked in annoyance.
"Can't help it got a fast metabolism... gotta eat,"Wally said between bites of garlic bread.
"We could sneak out," Superboy offered in an almost pleading tone.
"What!" Megan ask surprised and almost blew their cover by starting to turn toward to her boyfriend, "We can't just walk out on them."
"Sure we can," Conner continued keeping his eyes on the screen in front of them, "They're so wrapped up in arguing with each other, they won't notice we left."
"We shouldn't..." Megan started "Where would we go." Megan hated to admit it but the idea of sneaking out for a private a date thrilled her. When they had kept their relationship a secret from the team, it was because they thought their private lives were their own business and also to not have anyone question their motives in the field. However Megan had secretly relished the secret lovers relationship, something that she had loved watching in movies ever since Uncle J'ohnn had started transmitting to Mars.
"I don't know, get sphere and ride into town and get some pizza from Mario's," Conner began, "Then go up to our spot on the mountain overlooking the ocean."
"Kind of cold to have a picnic," Megan tried to reason. The caring friend part of her would feel bad for ditching their friends. "And every time we go up there we end up falling asleep looking at the stars."
"I"ll keep you warm," Conner said affectionately and could actually feel Megan's defenses crumble.
Megan bit her lip nervously and was enticed by the thought, "Okay you win but how do we get out of here without them noticing?"
Having already thought of that Conner used his super hearing to pinpoint exactly where the two unhappy chefs were. Conner grinned victoriously finding them to have moved to the far back corner to argue more privately.
"Go," Conner urged and helped guide Megan up and off the couch. At the movement of Megan, Wolf sneezed unhappily at the loss of the warm lap.
As the couple kept watch on the kitchen, they could not see Artemis or Wally and hurriedly sneaked the rest of the way out of the kitchen.
After a few seconds Wally glanced around the corner of the kitchen cabinets.
"Are they gone?" Artemis asked.
"Yep," Wally replied happily.
"Thought they would never leave," Artemis said and pushed Wally up against the oven and kissed him.
"Told you if we kept yelling at each other they would leave," Wally said happy with himself that the plan worked.
"Well we wouldn't have had too if you didn't eat all the ingredients to the pasta," Artemis retorted playfully mad.
"Hehe," Wally chuckled embarrassingly, "Pizza?
Megan let a wistful smile come over her face thinking about the memory, letting it disappear as she followed after Conner and remembering their present circumstances.
Outside the ramp of the ship, Beastboy stood and stretched his arms out, glad to be somewhere he could finally move. He was so caught up in his newfound freedom that he did not notice the very cold temperature in the new environment. Coming down from his euphoria Garfield started to notice as his teeth involuntarily chattered and the fur around his body tensed up.
"Unless you plan on spending the mission as a polar bear," Superboy said coming down the hanger ramp wearing a brown leather jacket and large hiking pack on his back, "You better put this on." Conner than proceeded to toss a red and white winter coat towards Garfield.
Garfield caught the coat and looked at it curiously; wondering what was more out of place, Conner actually making a joke or him having to wear clothing that wasn't apart of his martian attire. Deciding not to call attention to Conner's rare flexing of a funny bone, Garfield put on the jacket. Although Garfield found he rather ask about the large pack on Conner's back.
Seeing where Garfield was staring Conner offered up an explanation, "Long hike and we may have to camp the night before we make our move."
"Yeah but you shouldn't have to carry everything," Megan said catching up to Superboy from out of the ship.
Conner turned to face her, and watched as Megan placed a hand on the ship. Instantly the ship brought up the ramp and faded into the surroundings of the isolated rocky cave. "Super strength," Conner explained brushing off the concern.
Before Megan could put up any more resistance Conner spoke again when he noticed something different about her, "What's with the coat?" Conner had known Megan long and well enough to discern between her bio-organic clothes and the rare moments when she wore regular clothes.
Megan looked down at her black with red trim jacket and looked back at Conner and tried to speak in a normal tone, "I haven't been back here in awhile, my biology has sort of adapted to Earth's climate... it shouldn't take more than a few hours before I won't need it anymore."
"That is so crash!" Garfield exclaimed. He had been fascinated by Martian physiology ever since he gained his powers.
For his part Superboy simply nodded in acceptance, but like old habits he could tell when M'gann was trying to hide the truth. He knew though it was not important to push the subject right now, especially with Garfield around. Good or bad Conner had always tried to make sure Garfield looked up to his blood-sister. Megan was as close to a mother as the young boy had, and Conner didn't want to do anything to diminish that.
"Better get going if we want to be out of this tunnel before we make camp," M'gann said and walked past Conner and Garfield to take the lead.
Garfield fell immediately into step with his sister and started talking about the latest movies that were out and what they should see first. "And since you and Conner seem to be "talking" again, he can go along again too," Garfield kept on excitedly.
"Maybe," Megan replied but her voice betrayed her true emotions.
Conner knew Megan wasn't really listening to Garfield. Maybe she was still thinking about the situation with coms, but he was pretty sure it had to do with something else. Something that probably weighed more heavily on her mind than the mission or their relationship struggles.
Not exactly where I planned to stop this chapter but it was getting long enough, and I haven't posted in a couple of days. We are approaching the real start of the mission soon, and I have to say I am excited to type it out. Sadly at the earliest next chapter won't be until at least Saturday.
Again thanks for the reviews. If you do review let me know if I handled the Artemis/Wally dynamic well enough. Hope you all are still enjoying the story.