Apologies in advance for this being a downer.

Disclaimer: I own whom I own. I don't own whom I don't. Rating: PG-13 for language Author: Moi

Reaping What's Been Sown **

There was a male voice in the distance. something very calm and professional and detached. "And she hasn't mentioned anything like this to you before? Usually an irritable uterus will give signs of problems before stress induces something like this."

Mara tried to concentrate on the voices around her, but it all seemed so far away.

"She hasn't said anything-but it would be like her not to."

"Braxton- Hicks contractions usually are an early sign of these kinds of problems. Extreme stress can cause violent reactions. If what you said is true, then it was most likely the incident at hand that caused the situation, not any other outlying forces."

"But you'll let me know for sure?" Her father sounded so worried. What had happened? She'd been talking to Jordy. Vaguely she remembered the monitor going dead. Then seeing Batman standing above her.

"We will inform you if there is ANY possibility that this was induced by an outside source. Until then, we will keep her on the muscle relaxers and Terbutaline. She's improved greatly in the last twenty minutes or so. I'd say your presence is. lucky."

"I don't believe in luck," her father informed the doctor grimly. "And there has been enough misfortune running around today."

Slowly, Mara opened her eyes. The room wasn't even white. It was simply metallic. It wasn't her father that was talking to the doctor-it was Nightwing. "What." She took a deep breath. "Da-Ni--"

Nightwing's hand instantly clasped over hers, careful of the IV running into it. "Robin." He seemed to be breathless suddenly, and he looked so old and tired. "Batman found you in the cave. You're at S.T.A.R."

She gave half a nod. "I was talking to Jordy."

The color went out of her father's face. "What do you remember?" He looked desperately to the tall doctor with the gaunt face, begging him silently to leave. The man looked at them both once, then exited.

"I was talking. then the monitor went dead. And it hurt." She swallowed, her throat suddenly so dry.

"Honey, do you remember anything that happened when the signal went out?"

"What happened?" she asked seriously. Something bad had happened.

"Honey," he only called her that when things were at their worst. "There was an acc-something happened at the Titans Tower."

"Jordy's not coming home," she whispered. She didn't know how she knew. But she felt it inside of her. The light in her life had gone out. The will that sustained her had diminished. Her husband was gone.

She just knew it, inside of her. Her father's hand unfolded from around a silver ring. "He's not coming home," Nightwing confirmed sadly. "I'm so sorry."

Taking the Green Lantern ring from her father, Robin nodded, trying to be brave.

* * *

Balius reported it. Strangely enough, he and Iris had been the first people at the tower. It seems they'd been on their way, even before Oracle had alerted the team that all of their sensors and communications systems had suddenly dropped offline. Nightwing had been in Bludhaven and had immediately redirected himself to New York.

Enroot, the situation became clearer. There was a thick brass colored dust all over the nerve center of the tower, it looked like metal shavings or coffee grinds. Whatever it was, or had been, had eaten everything in its wake, had spread out through two levels of the underground headquarters, and then had suddenly ceased its progression. The structure was unstable, he'd been informed, and after searching, Balius had found only part of Matrix's android body in what was left of the kitchen. The devouring had ceased before finishing off Matrix's chest and head, leaving his hard drives thankfully intact.

Nightwing had breathed a sigh of relief then, noting that only Matrix should have been at the tower-until he wondered why Matrix was in the kitchen, presumably recharging while on duty. This feeling of impending doom closed around him still further when they'd found Jordan Rayner's Green Lantern ring and Balius explained that he'd been covering for the android. He and the rest of the Titans quickened their pace to get to the tower, to uncover the source of the trouble. Currently it wasn't boding well for the Lantern who'd been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

It wasn't until that he was nearly there that he'd received the call from Oracle that Batman had found Robin the cave, almost delirious with pain. It was then that Nightwing's world turned an amber haze. He only remembered the facts, as though he were reporting them. He didn't remember feeling anything after that-perhaps he'd shut himself off. It had been necessary, when he'd dug his hand into the pilings of black and gold dust in the tower, then began trudging through the thick mass that covered the floor.

He boots kicked up masses of the crunchy matter. It scraped against itself as it shifted. Flashing his light on the piles, he inspected it closely, and knew that it was nano bots. "They ate all organic and inorganic matter, devouring it to replicate, and then they suddenly shut off," Nightwing told his companions. He looked up at Troia and Arsenal, then behind him to Balius and Iris. He had his arm about the young woman, comforting her. Nightwing noted that she seemed to hold herself somewhat responsible. It was something to file away in his head.

Arsenal bent and picked up some of the stuff. A handful of dead microscopic bots flittered through his fingers like metallic sand. "And no immediate sign of a possible source." He swore and shook his head. "It could be that Terminus guy, it could be."

Donna's hand gently fell on his shoulder. "Anyone."

"Shit," Roy muttered, looking around at the assembled group. "Someone has to tell Kyle," he said sadly. He got to his feet, then kicked at the sawdust-like substance. "Me an' Donna will go."

"Oracle can tell him," Nightwing said methodically, then realized how callus it sounded. "I mean. we have other things to do here." He stared down at Jordy's ring. It hadn't been consumed because it was neither organic or inorganic, it was the product of magic. He was forced to draw the obvious conclusion upon seeing the ring and the disaster area."Get Daedelus here," he demanded. "I want to know where this came from and how this happened. I want Matrix put back on-line. I don't care if we have to put his hard disks inside a Game Cube, but I want to know what he knows."

"I'm going to Kyle," Donna said, preparing to fly off. "If you need me, call me."

"Donna--"

"Just let her go, man," Roy said quietly as Troia rose into the air. "Go check on Bubbles. We aren't going to know if this stuff's related till you do."

He saw the anxiety on Roy's face, it was anxiety FOR him. Dick clenched his jaw for a moment, looking at his group. It wasn't the first time they'd lost a member. But this hadn't even been battle. They had no idea yet what enemy they faced. "I'm going to S.T.A.R Labs. They're taking Robin there. You're right. I need to know if this is related." He didn't believe in coincidences.

Oracle said they'd brought Mara to S.T.A.R. because they had no idea what had prompted her condition. If it was related to her 'other' life, the last place for her was a regular hospital. There was also the added complication that the baby was not entirely human. She'd been seen immediately by a Meta specialist, but hadn't really stabilized until he'd shown up.

Then he'd had to watch her wake. He didn't know how he'd find the words, but he was spared the job of finding them-she already knew. One hand instinctively went to her belly, and she told him that Jordy wasn't coming back, and she was right.

Sadness crept into her features, but she didn't cry. He wondered if it was due to the excessive amounts of drugs currently being pumped into her. Nightwing slid his hand under her neck and sat her up just a little. His other arm came around her, and he held her tight, rocking her ever so slightly. "I'm sorry," he reiterated, knowing it wasn't anything.

"I was going to meet him," she told her father dully. "I was going to go. And we were going to. He's not coming home."

His lips crushed up against her forehead. "Some kind of microbe invaded the tower. They devoured everything within their path in seconds. He. it was probably over before he realized what was happening. We'll find out who and why. I promise."

* * *

It had been over before Barbara even knew what was happening.

After her fruitless confrontation with Jimmy, she'd left Kristen crying on the couch, and went back to her war room, pondering the question of where she'd gone wrong. Despite his propensity towards destruction, he'd been her good child. And now, it was like Kristen had said-no one recognized him.

Suddenly, an alert blared at the Titans' tower. It flashed for not even a second, then the display went dead. That was enough to tell her something was amiss. All attempts at reestablishing communications were futile and left her frustrated at her impotence. Most tragedies in recent memory began with broken communications.

Calling all the Titans, she found Balius and Iris enroot. They explained what they'd found to her, and her heart ached. Minutes later, the call had come from the Cave, and she grew ill.

Dick had asked for Daedelus. She remembered the two unanswered calls to Jimmy's lab, the hopelessness she felt at seeing her childrens' lives spiral out of control right before her eyes. "Jimmy, Jordy's gone. Mara's life might depend on what you can tell your father about what attacked Jordy."

There'd been no response that last time either, but a minute later, Jimmy had appeared in her office, his usual bag of equipment slung over one shoulder and some other bag that she had never seen before in the other hand. He stood stonily waiting for his orders and listened to them in silence.

"Give me a location on Talia Head," he demanded as he walked towards the door.

"Why?"

"She knows why," he said, then left. Chills ran down her spine. It seemed quite plain and reasonable to her that Talia would be dead not five minutes after she gave location information to her son.

Obviously he blamed HER for whatever was transpiring, and she wanted to know why.

* * *

Daedelus arrived on-site and made his way below ground. The Titans Tower being destroyed seemed to be a regular occurrence. Still, it had been a few years. Maybe they were due. Maybe life needed to stop fucking on him for once in a while.

His brain couldn't comprehend that Jordy wasn't there. His mind couldn't begin to think about Mara. He only had one comprehendible thought on his mind. "Location on Talia," he demanded of his mother.

"No, Jimmy," Barbara snapped. "Not unless you tell me what the hell's going on."

"You afraid I'm going to kill her?" the young man ground back as he found an access tunnel that wasn't sealed by magnetic lock. He flashed his halogen light the length of the chamber, making sure nothing would interrupt his path.

"YES," Barbara replied with brutal honesty.

"You should be," James replied darkly. "If you wont help me, I'll find her myself. SHE is responsible for this."

"And what proof do you have of that?"

"I have my sources." He cut the connection, no longer wishing to listen to his mother's incessant rambling. He'd found her once, he could do so again.

A signal reconnection sounded in his ear. "Jimmy, listen to me. Jordy--"

"Just stop," he said, cutting her off. He couldn't think about his friend. His only friend. The only person who listened to him, no matter how stupid he was being. The person he fought with the last time he'd seen.

"Jimmy, you're upset. Just. wait. Don't do anything you'll regret."

The young man pushed hard against the door that lead to the main monitor center. It gave way beneath his efforts, and eventually slid back enough that he could get himself and his equipment through. When Daedelus was done, Icarus would be paying Talia a visit. "Don't, Oracle. There's no place for honor in this line of work. The only thing that there's time for is--"

He fell short as soon as his flashlight caught sight of the debris. Pain knotted in his stomach. "It's not Talia," a hollow voice emitted. One hand brushed against the sand-like metallic shells. He knew what these things were. He knew what they did.

"What are they?" his Uncle Roy asked him. "How'd they get here?"

"B-13," he said, the lie smoothly coming off of his lips. "It only takes one, then they reproduce like rabbits. Released into the air, dropped."

"Dropped-like when the secure wing was broken into yesterday?"

"Yeah. Do you know who?"

"Tall guy, black suit. That's all the security cameras picked up."

"Then I'd say that's your culprit," Jimmy said fluidly. He knew he was their culprit in more ways than one. A hand punched the ground. "Damnit! God damnit! Damn it all to hell!" The young man screamed. "Fucking security upgrade was for nothing! I didn't do shit against microbes!"

"Jimmy! No one blames you. Calm down, come on."

Rising, the young man stormed off, his diagnosis given.

* * *

"So what you're telling me is that we don't know shit," Nightwing said angrily to his group. Less than half their team was there-Roy, Iris and Balius stood around what was left of the conference room. It was hard to look at.

Nightwing clasped his hands behind his back, trying to remain stalwart. "We don't know a god-damned thing, and Jimmy's missing." He sighed and shook his head. The young man had gotten Matrix' head working again, then had disappeared. Roy said that likely Jimmy was just trying to pull himself together, but Dick was worried. He didn't share his son's B-13 diagnosis. He had a strong suspicion that it was Apokolypitic technology, with a leaning towards Kryptonian bastardization, now that he'd had a chance to actually study it himself.

"We know that THIS," Balius gestured to the devastated inner sanctum. "And Robin's. incident are not related."

"We don't know that. We just have no proof." He didn't know if she had seen more and was choosing to forget, or if it had been something more. He'd ordered the doctors at the lab to run tests for every kind of microbe infector known to man, especially anything resembling foreign technological matter in her body. He also told them to do it before she regained her strength, because once that happened, she'd put up too much of a fight.

"Well, I want somebody's ass to kick," Roy said out loud, ever so eloquently expressing the thoughts of the group. "And I say we start with the guy in black. He's gotta be working for the demon's bitch."

"Oracle thinks that Jimmy seemed to have some kind of inside track. He thought it was Talia, and he was going to go after her. Then he saw the mess, and said it wasn't her. I think he knows who the man in black was, too. I think we need to find Jimmy and beat some sort of answer out of him." He was through playing games-even with his children. The time for games was over when people ended up dead.

"And where the hell do you start looking for someone who was raised Bat?" Roy asked mockingly.

"You start working like the Bat," Nightwing informed his company. "You hunt like the Bat, you THINK like the Bat, and you use the Bat's arsenal."

Iris and Balius held their place. Roy winced. "The protocols." He knew what his friend meant.

Nightwing nodded. "The protocols."

* * *

"Hey, Waddles," a male voice whispered in the darkness.

With hesitation, Mara opened her eyes. In the dim light of the room, her brother looked as bad as she felt. His eyes were round and red, but his face was hard and his jaw locked.

"Hey. I came to check on you."

"Dad left," Mara whispered sadly. "He was here."

As her father had done a few hours before, Jimmy pressed his lips to her forehead. "He had to work. He's trying to find out. look. I just stopped in," Jimmy explained. "I think I can find out what's going on."

"Was it Talia?" It didn't seem like Talia's MO, but things had changed so much lately. there could be something she didn't know-something she hadn't anticipated.

"No," Jimmy informed her stonily. "It wasn't Talia." A hand gently brushed away hairs on her face. "But I'll end it. I'll. I'll do what I can for you. And I'll let you know when it's done."

Mara looked at the door. "Just talk to mom."

"It's more complicated than just mom now. And I promise you. when it's all over. When this is done, I'll fix things with them."

"Don't-I mean-dad had to go--" She was supposed to hate him. She didn't know why she was asking him to stay.

"I gotta go, Waddles," but he hesitated and didn't leave.

"I want to go home," was all she could think to say.

"I know. Just. take care of yourself. I'll take care of everything. Once a fucker is on my shit list, they don't escape," he said sternly.

She nodded her thanks. It was so difficult to be here. To be even unable to stay awake, much less do anything. The one time in her life, the ONLY time when she needed to do something, she couldn't. Her IV-laden hand reached up and brushed the stubble on his cheek. She had a feeling she wasn't going to see him for a long time. "Just don't forget," she made him promise. "I need. what I mean. I don't." Mara drew in a sucking breath, trying to find the right words. "No more fighting."

He nodded, then gently put her hand back down on her belly. Letting go, he brought his hand up and touched the Lantern ring on the chain about her neck. It was all she had left of Jordan. He didn't want to think of what would happen when they asked her to give it back. "Take care. I'll fix everything else. EVERYTHING."

Mara clenched her eyes shut, thinking she might cry, but the tears didn't come. When she opened them, her brother was gone.

* * *

The first thing Nightwing noted was that there was no door connected to the hinges outside Talia's bedroom. The thickness of the door frame confirmed the weight of the door, and the force with which it would have been necessary to use to knock it from it's hinges. It seemed like with each new clue, the mystery grew deeper.

One hand clasped over the mouth of the petite sleeping form nestled among the violet satin blankets and pillows. Talia's eyes opened and she let out a muffled yelp.

"You're going to tell me what I want to know," he informed her. "You're going to tell me what business my son had with you."

The angry fire in her eyes suddenly grew icy as he pulled his hand away. Suddenly something twisted erupted behind their green depths. "Wouldn't you like to know," she said noncommittally.

"I will know. You will tell me."

A smile spread across her lips. "Just the business of keeping my bed warm."

Nightwing punched the pillow bare inches from her head. "The TRUTH, Talia," he ground out between clenched teeth.

"The truth, young Detective, is as I said. It is no concern of mine, if you are incapable of accepting my words." Her fingers trailed up his arm and to his cheek then to his lips. "He's very. enthusiastic. But I'm certain you could bring a certain.tempered passion--"

Nightwing's hand snapped out and pinched the nerve on the side of her neck, dropping her into silence. He paused, drawing in a ragged breath. He hadn't even asked about the Man in Black. He'd simply heard all that he could bare, and had silenced her.

Talia was not the beginning and end of knowledge. He could find the Man in Black himself. He and Oracle would. THEY were responsible for this-THEY would somehow see it to conclusion.

* * *

The glass doors leading to the director's office shattered-not into pieces, but into dust. It hung thick and white in the air, and the figure behind the desk instantly lifted his sleeve to his mouth and clenched his eyes shut.

Icarus moved towards the desk with cool effiency, not caring about the air quality. "You broke the deal," an electronic voice ground out as a fist slammed on the wooden desk. "You were to leave the Titans alone. No more drones targeting them. NOTHING. NO ONE was supposed to get hurt," he hollered. "NO ONE! NONE of my people!" One hand reached out into the clearing air and grabbed hold of the lapels of the figure behind the desk. "MY PEOPLE DON'T GET HURT!"

"They aren't your people," a voice ground out as the man behind the desk dared to open his eyes. "Not when you work for us."

"I don't work for you," Icarus informed the man as he pulled the gaunt figure out of the chair and over the desk, towards him. "Not any more. WHY? WHY did you do it?" he demanded.

The thin, flushed cheeks of the putrid creature in his grasp puffed once, then collapsed as Icarus' grip suddenly slid from the black suit to the director's throat. "I didn't order it!"

"WHO DID?" An answer wasn't immediately forthcoming, so he throttled the man. "I gave you that technology as a safe guard against Apokolyps. NOT to use against my people! WHO ORDERD IT?" He shook one more time-hard.

"I did, sweetness," a female voice chirped behind him.

Icarus turned back towards the doorway. He realized life wasn't fucking him. He was fucking himself at this point, and other people were being made to pay. "Granny Goodness."

* * *

Mara dozed, feeling hands on her again. She'd actually slept through all of their prodding and poking the last two times. Her father had ordered this, and so she had to behave.

She felt a set of hands slide beneath her back, and she knew she was about to be moved. Slowly, she drew in a deep breath and then held onto it. They'd not moved her once since she'd come in here. They were not moving her now.

Without opening her eyes, she cut outward with one arm, catching her assailant in the throat. Her eyes snapped opened when she realized she'd hit neither one hard enough to effect real pain, just to make them stagger back a moment. She damned her weakness. She observed that her attacker was not S.T.A.R. staff. Obviously the woman with the golden eyes and periwinkle skin didn't belong.

She sat up suddenly, feeling a renewal of pain in her back and sides. Pulling herself forward, she managed to put herself just out of the grasp of the gasping, bristling woman. She struggled to get her knees beneath her, but as she moved away from the wall, the IV tore out of her hand. Just as the tape and needle left her skin, she grabbed it and pulled hard on the tube, bringing the pole crashing down on her opponent.

Again, it was slowing, but it wasn't effective. The woman hit the bed with a sudden thud, but was putting her hands beneath her before Mara could react. "What the hell do you want?" she cried out, tugging on the sheet beneath her. The purple woman's hands were pulled from beneath her, and she landed on the linoleum with a thud.

Trying not to be sick, Mara quickly put her feet on the floor and began pulling herself around the bed as the Meta on the floor rose. Swallowing the pain of movement, she dropped to the floor behind the foot of the bed just as her opponent rose and fired a blast of icy white energy flew in her direction. She needed to think. She needed a way out.

Grabbing hold of the foot of the bed, she pulled as hard as she could, pushing the bed sideways towards the Meta. It was like she was tearing apart inside as she did so. The assailant let out a gurgled yelp as she crushed up against the wall.

Mara collapsed backward, hitting her head as she did so. Her hands went to her stomach, trying to hold back the agony inside her.

The bed shot away from the wall, catching fire with the force of the pale purple woman's power. It stopped just short of Mara as she dug her heels into the floor, trying to push herself backward. The woman's hands ignited again, and Mara faltered, clenching her eyes shut.

There was a crinkling sound, like glass breaking above her, and the heat from the bed suddenly went out and a cool breeze swept through the room.

Mara opened her eyes and the figure against the wall was frozen to it, and the bed was encased in ice.

"At least I'm not wasting my time here," Crystal said angrily.

A slow breath finally permitted itself to bleed through Mara's lips and into her lungs. She didn't know when she'd stopped inhaling. Her eyes fell closed again as she took in the cool air, trying to use it's power to wash away her agony. There were breathing exercised for everything. There were mind techniques..

Her grandfather had never taught her anything about this. If he were here.

Hands were immediately upon her, and despite how badly she wished to crawl away and lick her wounds in private, Mara knew this was for the best. She'd let them do whatever they had to, to protect all she had left.

"Jimmy." Mara whispered as she was lifted from the floor.

"Isn't coming," Crystal answered. "They can't find the man in black. Oracle thought you might be a continued target. I had to fight my way in here, there was another one blocking the wing."

"Thank you," Mara said as she let out a deep breath. She was regulating her breathing when she'd really rather just scream, but she didn't know what choice she had.

"Thanking me won't get you out of this. Rule of three, what you send out is returned threefold."

"You too," Mara managed, before she was removed from the chilling, smoking room. She wanted to go home. It was cool and dark and safe there.

* * *

Jimmy waited until Crystal was making her report to Nightwing. She'd been watching over the hospital room since his sister had been stabilized again. He didn't know if he could face her, or anyone just yet.

Creeping into the room, he tried not to look at her face. Removing the thin leather glove from his hand, she shoved it into the back pocket of his faded jeans, then gently slid his fingers under Mara's. Her hand was bruised and ripped opened, where the IV had been. The bandage covering the wound was soaked with blood.

Had they come for her to punish him? What concern was it of Granny Goodness? She'd gotten what she wanted. He'd been manufacturing technology to face an Apokoliptic threat, all so she could use it on this world and her own to take over. His own altruism (albeit motivated by the thrill of covertly snatching technology from Apokolyps and improving upon it) had bit him in the ass. They were on the verge of war, and he wasn't sure what could be done, and the first casualty had been his best friend.

"I'm sorry, Mara," he whispered. One finger traced the purple throbbing veins of her hand, wondering what he could do. "Every time I think I'm smarter than the game." He forced himself to look at her. Her eyes had black shadows beneath them. Her face was pale and pasty and her lips were gray and listless.

Slowly, his eyes moved to the lump beneath the sheet. The back of one finger gently grazed her belly. "Just keep yourself well, ok? Or get well. Mara. you've come too far." to have it ruined all in one bad day, he wanted to finish. To have it ruined by ME.

"Mara. you keep making it through stuff. Make it through this." He slid his hand from beneath hers and kissed her cold forehead.

Regretfully, he pulled himself up into the ventilation system, preparing to dodge security and get out the same way he got in.

"Jimmy!" a voice cried out, just as he disappeared into the shaft. He didn't respond, but he didn't move away either. He didn't know why he stayed. He hated her. But he still loved her. If only his heart would make up it's mind. "Jimmy, come back. Your dad--"

"Crys," he said without emotion. "Whatever else you have against her-take care of her."

"Jimmy, we have to talk. About her, about Jordy. all of this. I know he was your friend-Jimmy just come down here.."

"Take care of her," he ordered. "Take care of our boys."

By the time Crystal ghosted enough to levitate into the air duct, her husband was gone.

Sadly, she lowered herself to the ground, staring at the inert body and the lively, beeping monitoring systems attached to it. "Karma," She whispered by way of explanation. "It always comes back and bites you in the ass."

THE END

(For now)