The Phoenix smiled, staring down from the Clocktower in her city of Shining Falls, Pennsylvania. The sun was beginning to rise, dawning the skyscrapers and other buildings in a soft pale light. She always loved this time of morning, though she could rarely wake up this early. As it was, only a nightmare had woken her. A nightmare filled with pain...

She wiped away the tear falling down her cheek, trying to forget Steven and their last encounter. It was painful, him ignoring everything they had had together to have a life of crime. She knew they would see each other once more, but seeing him on the other side and not on the sidelines would be different. She hated change.

She looked up at the sun that had rise substantially now, the golden sky reminding her that she hadn't had breakfast yet. Perhaps she should simply stop by the local cafe for an early cup of chai. She look once more at the sky. She had time.

She walked inside the cafe, feeling the warmth of the ovens. She felt her mouth salivating at the smell of coffee and pastries that filled the room. She looked over to Johanna, the cafe's owner, manager, and employee of the month. She looked up from the display case where she filled it up with today's specials. She smiled as warmly as the rest of the cafe.

"The usual, Sophia?"

"Yes, please."

Sophia looked around, hoping that her red Phoenix uniform wasn't showing from her school bag. She sat down, waiting patiently for Johanna to finish up with her order, noticing two fliers on the window. One for a dance show, another for a local beauty pageant. She sighed in relaxation; it was six thirty in the morning on the Fourth of July. Sophia knew from experience that this was one of the busiest days in the year, for both her and Johanna.

For a while, Sophia read, enjoying the moments of peace and silence. She had rarely had a minute to relax since she took up the role of the Phoenix five months ago. Having only AP summer classes alongside crime fighting didn't help either.

Her moment was soon ruined however when another girl her own age walked through the doors. She looked of Asian descent with her black hair and equally dark eyes. She looked as if she had only just woken, but Sophia saw her eyes watching, absorbing every detail in the small cafe. Sophia grinned imperceptibly. This girl was smart, no doubt.

"Ah, Maria! Come in, come in! I'm so glad you could make it in on such short notice and so early," Johanna said while bringing out the chai tea and chocolate muffin for Sophia.

"Anything to keep the job," She spoke with a light accent. Canada, maybe?

"I thought you said you would never hire anyone, Johanna?" Sophia asked, quoting the owner.

"You know how things are on Independence Day. Everyone needs at least a little help."

Sophia was about to reply when her phone began to shout Good Time, telling her that her parents were calling. She sighed, suddenly remembering it was almost seven and her parents would be waking up, wondering where their little girl was.

Sophia answered, assured her parents that she was okay and on her way home, and ran off, chai still in her hand and muffin in her mouth. She knew Johanna would be chuckling as she often left this way. It wasn't long after navigating her beloved city that she came upon her house.

It was not big or fancy, nor did it seem out of the ordinary. It had been painted a pale blue with white trim years ago when her parents first bought the house and hadn't been painted since. There was an old oak tree on the side that had grown over the roof of the house like an ancient protector. The grass that covered the entire front yard was still brownish yellow from the indian summer. Sophia sighed with a sense of comfort.

She opened the door and walked into the living room where her parents would be, watching the news. She had grown used to the family pictures and her father's Olympic gold trophies and the disorganized papers her mother had of strange alien symbols and their translations on the coffee table. She no longer noticed the only spot in the bare floor that would squeal loudly when stepped upon.

Her father was in his lazy chair, as it was called. His hair was dark, his skin tan, his eyes brown. He had been born in Argentina but came over to the States when he was nine. He simply looked at his daughter with a mixture of fondness and disapproval.

Her mother was on the couch, drinking her own cup of chai tea. She had pale white hair, but no wrinkles or any other obvious signs of aging. Most assumed that she had simply grayed early or dyed it, but that was not the truth. The truth was the same reason she had striking golden eyes, though most assumed she wore contacts, as her daughter. She was the original Phoenix after all.

"Patrol?" Her mother didn't even bother looking up from the papers in her hands.

"Sort of. I just wanted to clear my head before meeting the Justice League later."

"Excited?" her father asked. When she first discovered her powers, he had been the most supportive.

Sophia smiled, showing her enthusiasm. Her mother looked over at the old grandfather clock then hurriedly began to file her papers away. She nodded back to Sophia who understood. She ran back to her bedroom, put on her Phoenix uniform then met her mother who was already in her old uniform that had not been worn in some sixteen, seventeen years.

"My two favorite girls," her father said, hugging them both before wishing them good luck.

The Phoenix was not sure what to expect when meeting the League. Her mother, being her mentor, would introduce her to the League and other superheroes. She would be evaluated. Through a series of tests, they would decided upon whether or not she would continue to be trained. A decision that affected her entire life.

"Phoenix?" Both women turned their heads, though the young man speaking, a tall man with dark hair wearing the tradition Batman uniform, was speaking to the elder.

"What's the matter?"

"The hearing must be pushed back. There's an issue near Gotham that must take our attention."

"Such as?"

The man narrowed his eyes at the younger Phoenix but spoke slowly. "A boy has appeared 'from thin air' reports say into the middle of the city. He went beserk, injuring several and had now disappeared. He reeked of Void energy."

The elder's eyes grew wide, but remained calm. The younger wrinkled her nose in confusion, but left it be, understanding that she was not supposed to know. The elder nodded and walked away with a young Phoenix with a temper following.

"I thought today was the day!" She said as soon as they had gotten home moments later through a zeta tube.

"It was. But if you want to be a hero, then you need to know is that nothing ever goes as plan."

"I know, but-"

"No buts. Today is the Fourth of July. Go out and enjoy yourself. I'll meet you at the cafe before the parade and fireworks start."

Sophia rushed out of the house, annoyed by her mother. She walked out of the house, slamming the door. She wandered around the city, muttering angrily to herself, frightening some tourists passing by. Before she knew, she found herself right back at the cafe ordering a one of the specials. She wasn't even sure until which one the girl Maria brought it out. Sophia, looked around, seeing everyone had left to join in the festivities, except for a man and his two teenage children who looked like they were twins. They were waiting for their drinks. Except for Sophia's mood, everyone seemed happy and patriotic.

How wrong she could be.

Someone had walked in, dressed in all black. Sophia instantly recognized him as Steven. He recognized her immediately and took a seat next to her. She scowled and faced him.

"What are you doing here?" Her voice was hushed.

"Enjoying a coffee. I am still allowed to do that, right?"

"You're a wanted criminal. I could drag you over to the police."

"In the middle of the heart of the city? With everyone watching? Without your Phoenix costume?"

Sophia sighed, admitting temporary defeat. She groaned mentally.

"You know, meeting me for coffee or tea or whatever it is you drink could be considered a date," he pointed out.

"Please, I'm fairly certain you becoming his apprentice effectively ended our relationship."

He was about to say something when they both heard screams outside. A man Sophia had never seen before was running down the street with a gun, shouting something about how the world was being taken over and the contaminated must pay the price for their crimes.

Sophia and Steven didn't even stand up before he came in the cafe and singled his eyes on the twins. He aimed for them, but as the crack of gunfire sounded throughout the city, their father stepped in front of them. The girl screamed, the boy stood there. Steven disarmed the man quickly and shoved into the wall, knocking him unconscious with blood dripping down his broken nose. Sophia turned her attention to the man, but saw it was too late. A red stain over his chest was rapidly growing. His voice was harsh as he tried to speak to his children.

"It wasn't... your fault..."

Steven came over, still holding the weapon. He spoke harshly, something that was new to Sophia. "Sorry it had to go down this way, Soph. And for the record, I never stopped caring about you." Steven disappeared as quickly as he had come, leaving behind no evidence of his presence.

Sophia was left there standing, her mouth opened. The twins, torn between their father and the girl who looked to be connected to their father's murder. Johanna, good and faithful Johanna closed her doors and brought the twins and Sophia to the back. Johanna looked at the twins eyes and searched for signs of shock. The girl was, but again, the boy seemed oddly calm by the situation, though Johanna confirmed he was in shock as well.

"Sophia, now might be a good time to suit up."

Sophia nodded, but did not register her voice. However, she simply began to walk over to a relatively concealed corner of the room and began to strip and changed into her uniform. The twins seemed shocked by having the Phoenix suddenly there. Before she put on the mask, she walked over to the twins.

"Who was he?"

"Our uncle," the boy answered. Sophia noticed how his hair seemed a blue gray. Before she thought he had dyed it, but noticed that the color extended down into the roots. "He saved us. He brought us over here from London to start a new life. He decided that today we would celebrate. It was the day America was born and started its own course in history. He decided that it was our turn."

Sophia put on her mask, concealing all but her golden eyes. She was about to leave the back room, when the girl grabbed her arm, holding her back.

"If you're going after him, we're coming with you."

"I appreciate it, but this is sort of my job."

"And he is our uncle."

"I'm sorry, but-"

The brother spoke now. "If you don't take us with you, we'll do it on our own. And unlike you, we don't guarantee that the bad guy will make it to jail."

The Phoenix stared at the pair, debating the seriousness. However, they were both solid in their stance and she knew that that was a bad sighed reluctantly before nodding and signaling them to follow her.

She led them to the old Clocktower at the heart of the city where they climbed up several flights of stairs. The twins began to wonder if this hero would ever help them and if they should leave now. The Phoenix never turned her head to see if they did.

When they got to the heart of the top of the tower, the Phoenix heard them gasp in awe upon seeing the view. Through the clock face, they could see the entire city, but all around them was high tech equipment that looked vaguely looked back at her.

"Welcome, I guess. I don't usually have visitors, so ignore the mess. And don't touch anything! I only just got most of this set up about five months ago. Names?" the Phoenix asked.



"So what's your story?" The Phoenix walked over to a rather large computer and began to furiously type. A few things popped up which after scanning quickly, she ignored and continued to press buttons.

"No story."

"Everyone has a story."

"Not us."

The Phoenix stopped what she was doing and turned around to face them. She looked them directly in the eyes through her mask. She slowly took it off, making her seem more human. "Five months ago, I watched the one boy I ever cared about get attacked by a terrorist. Actually, my entire school did. He wasn't expected to live. Later that day, after my parents blew it off and I was releasing my stress and frustration, I discovered my powers. I inherited them from my mother. She was the original Phoenix. Against my parents wishes, I took up her mantle. I swore my revenge." She waited a moment before continuing. "The boy lived. I kept it a secret from him. My greatest mistake. He became the apprentice of my enemy, the very one who nearly killed him. No matter how you look at it, you need a certain amount of truth and honesty between partners. No, I'm not offering you to be my sidekicks. But if you want to work with me, then I need all your cards on the table."

The boy sighed. "Our's isn't much better. Short story, our father betrayed us. He twisted us into his experiments. Our uncle saved us."

The Phoenix nodded, understanding their reluctance to share and not asking for more. Something on the computer popped up, distracting them from the conversation. She looked over at them.

"Pack your bags. We're heading to Detroit."

Orion looked around the entrances to the dark alley, hoping to see a face that had become familiar to him since he entered his career as a street fighter. He eagerly awaited the pretty feminine dark blue eyes that were accented by her faded tan kin and full lips. He heard his name being called from afar, a constant, "Cherufe! Cherufe! You're up!" in his ears. He sighed, about to turn around when he saw her, a goddess among savages. He smiled, catching her eye before turning around to see his opponent.

He was big, but Cherufe had a trick up his sleeves,

It was over within moments. The man had charged like a bull, not expecting his opponent to jump out of the way in time. Cherufe had jumped on him, wrapping his arms around his neck, strangling him. The man was out. Cherufe had to admit that he was just a little sad that the man had not allowed him to use his tricks.

Orion, declared the victor, walked coolly over to Deadshot, the local city girl who seemed to do whatever needed to be done, no questions asked. He had heard his manager once asking her if she ever wanted to step in the ring, but she denied him, saying she didn't need the money. Orion was impressed by her at the very least.

"Deadshot." He nodded as he approached.

"Cherufe." Her voice was cold, something that Orion embraced. "I'm surprised that you didn't have to use those little tricks of yours this time."

"Lucky, I guess."

She looked at him curiously, causing shivers to race down Orion's spine. "You seem to have quite a bit of luck about you, don't you?"

"Only if I can have dinner with you."

She looked at him a moment longer. "Then you are indeed a lucky guy. I have to deliver something later, but after that I'm free."

Orion never even had the chance to ask her where she wanted dinner before the sounds of a jet's engines passed overhead. They both looked up, only to find the jet gone. When they looked back at the ground, three people were standing there, one wearing the unmistakable uniform of the Phoenix, someone Orion thought was dead. The other two were nearly identical, though fraternal twins in nature. They stood behind her, a certain menace in their eyes.

Orion froze along with most of the people leaving the Crossroads fight, however Deadshot was not as surprised. Instantly, two guns she kept hidden were out and firing. She shouted out to him to release a smoke shield. He was about to when smoke came not from him and his own powers, but the Phoenix. Smoke rose in a distinct pattern which he only guessed was a signal of sorts. Then all hell broke loose.

A strong gust of wind blew through the alley, sending people fleeing. Deadshot adjusted for the wind speed and continued to fire. A deep frost slowly spread over the ground, climbing up the city walls. Orion slipped as he tried to run over to help Deadshot. Falling down, he cracked his head. He soon felt the warm stickiness of blood gliding down his neck. The last thing he saw was the Phoenix gracefully controlling her ruby red fire to take down surround Deadshot before darkness overwhelmed him.

The Phoenix was staring down at the two before her, a boy and girl roughly her own age if not a year or two older. The boy was wearing a red muscle shirt with black pants. He had light blond hair cut short. The girl had faded tan skin, caramel hair, and wore a black and blue camouflage shirt with black skinny jeans. Both were out cold.

"I thought I said that we needed a certain amount of honesty between us if we were going to work together."

Alice and James were standing behind her sheepishly. James spoke first. "We weren't sure we could trust you."

"Trust starts with the truth and ends with the truth."

"When we were children, our father experimented on us. That much is true. He gave us powers. I control ice and snow. Like Jack Frost," said James.

"Wind," Alice said.

"Anything else?"

"Our uncle saved us. We will be avenging him."

"Revenge will not-"

They were interrupted by the boy and girl waking. The boy instantly moved over slightly to the side, taking a protective stance. Both were looking up at the Phoenix, Alice, and James. Both had something akin to hatred in their eyes, only softer and more confused.

"I thought the Phoenix was dead," the boy said.

"The basis of the Phoenix legend is that they are reborn in fire," James interjected. "The basis of the Cherufe legend is that they are cruel monster that live in volcanoes. Now seeing as we found you among street fighters, am I right in assuming your street name has some sort of meaning?"

"Cherufe, don't answer," the girl said. The Phoenix saw something in her eyes that look familiar. Where had she seen that before?

"Didn't plan on it," the boy answered. He turned his attention back to his captors. "So who are you?"

"I thought that should be obvious, Cherufe and Deadshot." The Phoenix took back control of the investigation. She ignored the look of surprise upon Deadshot's face. The Phoenix began to pace. "I am a hero; I have morals and rules I must follow. However, these two," she thought for a moment. "Jack Frost and Whirlwind, are not. Meaning they have no rules in which to obey."

"What's that to us?" Deadshot asked. Now the Phoenix recognized the look in her eyes. Alice wore the same one. It was determination. Determination to hide something important.

"Nothing, actually. Out of curiosity, did you know that your little Crossroads fights are funded by the Hell Squad?" All eight eyes turned to her, all with confusion and surprise. "That links you to them. The boy who killed their uncle, practically a father figure to them, was killed by a Hell Squad apprentice. That links you to Frost and Whirl. Why don't you two think about the position you are in while I get myself a cup of chai tea."

The Phoenix walked out of the room with a cocky smile. Before she left the door, Cherufe shouted for her to stop. She turned back.

"I don't know anything about the Hell Squad organizing the Crossroads. But I do know that one kid has been hanging out around recently with an unusual interest in the fights. He doesn't have any powers like some of us do, but there is something else about him. Something I haven't seen before in a fighter. He's known as Bloodhound at the Crossroads. I can take you to him."

The Phoenix nodded.

As they touched down on top of a building and the Phoenix turned on the cloak, the five of them walked out to look down on one of the Crossroads. There was one man of maybe thirty years was facing a boy of sixteen. His hair was black but that was all any of the team could see of his face. The rest was covered with a red mask. The rest of the street costume was black. Quickly, the fight commenced with the shout of a man on the side. The man attacked first. The boy dodged his blows with his lips cracking a knowing smile. The Phoenix immediately understood. The boy was playing the man in order to draw out the fight and keep the small crowd roaring, increasing his popularity. The Phoenix saw the boy touch a red gem, most likely a ruby, on his wrist and the man was flying into the wall. The man tried to stand back up, but soon lost consciousness. The people creating the ring shouted . Money was passed around as bets were won and lost. One man, probably the boys manager, clapped him on the back and a small portion of the money made at the Crossroads, though probably hundreds of dollars at least, was given to him.

The Phoenix dropped down off the rooftop, landing in the middle of the crowd. Her hero suit changed before anyone could notice into a smoky gray uniform. She grinned slightly.

"Bloodhound, right? Word around the Crossroads is that you can fight. And after that little show, I think you're nothing more than a trained monkey performing a silly circus act."

The crowd went silent, all sensing a challenge approaching. The boy responded, "If you want to get beaten, then get in line."

"Why? So you can get your 'manager' to the real dirty work and cheat by giving you my secrets?"

A murmur swept through the crowd. A few realized that with any fight, there was some planning, but almost non realized that the managers would trade and buy secrets about the opponent. And as the ultimate secret was out, the Phoenix knew that in order to keep his integrity, Bloodhound would have to fight.

The boy came out, striking the first blow. The Phoenix rolled into it. She grinned and stepped back, waiting for him to take the next blow. He straightened himself, likewise knowing that he could not always be on the offensive. The resulting stare down lasted several minutes. An observer was about to start shouting taunts when a thin ice began to creep down the walls and onto the ground. The wind dropped quickly; the air grew still. The chattering of teeth and misty breath resounded. The boy threw a curious glance at the Phoenix. She shrugged, releasing smoke from her hands.

The boy touched his ruby. Air whirled around him blocking the smoke. She grinned devilishly, compensating for this by directing the smoke around him to block the view of the audience. She heard the roaring wind around the edge of the smoke ring. The audience would be deaf as well as blind.

"Bloodhound, we need to talk."

"Says the person who challenged me." He was still thinking they were fighting."

"Sorry, that's a cover. I'm really the Phoenix." Her uniform changed from the gray to the scarlet red with yellow emblem. She smiled slyly. "You see?"

The boy took off his mask, slowly, hesitantly. "Then why am I not arrested yet? These fights are illegal, or are you so new, that you don't know that yet?"

"I need to find someone. You can tell me who."

"What makes you think I want to tell you?"

"Nothing really. I only figured I should ask before kicking your butt."

"You can't."

"Let's find out later. Will you come willing or do I have to lock you up?"

"If I come willingly, will I still be able to fight in the Crossroads afterwards?"

"We'll see."

The boy nodded and followed the Phoenix to the roof where the jet was. When the wind died down and the smoke cleared, there was nothing left for the audience to see except a small crackling flame which died out as the sound of engines faded.

The boy was sitting down in the plane as if he owned the place. He had taken his mask off to reveal a lovely set dark eyes that the Phoenix found appealing. Though his ease, made her wary.

"I don't know much about whatever it is you're talking about, with the killing and nonsense. I don't even know anyone named Steven. But if you're looking for the Hell Squad," he smiled devilishly. "I can take you to them. I was there once, a while ago. I need to pay them a visit for everything they did to me."

The Phoenix looked at his eyes and knew that this boy would only help them so long as it fit into his own agenda. She knew that he was dangerous and couldn't be trusted. "Just show us where."

The boy looked at her as if she was a little girl, ruffling the Phoenix. "No. I'm taking you. You can't ditch me that easily."

The Phoenix glared at him then walked over to the others. They were watching her, looking for a lead. Alice and James were watching the boy, wondering if he really could take them to the man who killed their uncle. Alice appeared confused while her twin looked deadly. The Phoenix knew it was wiser not to let him anywhere near Bloodhound. "What do you guys think?"

"Why are we talking about this? Let's get the info out of him then ditch him. I don't like the way he can backstab his 'friends' so easily," James said, his arms crossed.


"I... Can he really do what he says he can?"

"He either knows a lot more and is luring us into a trap, or he knows nothing and is distracting us for as long as possible."

"I think we should take the chance."

The Phoenix nodded. She turned back to Bloodhound. "Take us there." Bloodhound nodded smiling and went up to the cockpit of the jet. The Phoenix glared as she cared deeply about her jet that was a birthday gift two months ago. She clenched her fists and let it go. She turned back to Alice and James. "I'm going to check in on our friends in the back." They nodded and let her go.

The jet was not large, something that annoyed her until now as she could keep an eye on Bloodhound. Within half a minute, she was looking at Cherufe and Deadshot in the tail end of the plane. They looked more bored than anything with nothing to entertain them except each other.

"We're heading to the Hell Squad."

"Can we go? Home, I mean." Deadshot asked.

"After we finish up here. Right now, Bloodhound took the wheel and is taking us there now." The Phoenix paused. "Would you like to help us? I know both of you were part of the Crossroads and everything, but this would be-"

"First, only Cherufe was part of the Crossroads. I only watch. And second, how long until we get there?"

Cherufe coughed violently and stared at Deadshot, his eyes wide. "What are you talking about? I thought you didn't know about their involvement. And no offense, but I really don't want to-"

"Cherufe, I don't expect you to understand, but I need to do this."

The Phoenix nodded, unsure of Deadshot's reasons and hoping she didn't have a grudge like Bloodhound, but glad for the help. She unlocked the cell and let the girl come out. Cherufe sighed but got up as well. "I'll come to, then."

"I appreciate it. Come up to the front."

The Phoenix led the two of them up front where Bloodhound was still happily flying her jet. She glared, but ignored him. She was about to open her mouth when Bloodhound spoke.

"Your jet is amazing. She is purring like a kitten and faster than a peregrine falcon. It took me a couple seconds to get the hang of her, but she is easier to handle than a puppy. Oh, and we're here."

The Phoenix took a deep breath before giving the order to land.

When The Phoenix woke up from the darkness that had been swirling around her, she was in a cell of some sort. She sat up quickly, confused, disoriented, and worried. She saw Alice, James, Bloodhound, Deadshot, Cherufe and others more that she didn't know who were all staring at them as outsiders. She stood up. After a moment or two of trying to shake off the fog in her head, the rest of her group began to wake up with the same sluggish effects as her.

"Where are we?" James asked with a slur in his words.

"I don't know. I just woke up." The Phoenix replied.

"Were we drugged?" Cherufe asked.

"Feels like it," Alice commented, rubbing her head.

"I have to admit, I didn't see that coming," Bloodhound said.

"What happened?" The Phoenix shouted. She felt her skin tingle as she understood that she had made a mistake for trusting Bloodhound now others were going to pay the price for her stupidity.

"Don't you remember?"

"I remember you leading us down a secret tunnel. Beyond that no, not much. Alice is right; we were drugged. How do you remember?"

"I'm immune to the drug. They used a different one on me, one that doesn't have short term memory loss as a side effect."

"Then answer my question. What happened?"

"We were ambushed. What else? Now it looks like we're about to be fighting."

The Phoenix was about to lunge for him, when rod stabbed her back and electrocuted her. She screamed, barely hearing the voice telling her to save it for the Crossroads. She was lying on the ground, waiting for the spasms to pass. She glared up at him, then accepted James' hand up. She looked behind her where the person with the cattle prod should have been. He or she was gone.

"What did he mean?"

"Get your head into it, Phoenix. We're at the Hell Squad's training center for the Crossroads. We are about to be put up against the best of the best. Who knows what sort of deadly combination of powers and combat skills are in this room?" Bloodhound seemed frantic now, pacing up and now six feet of floor.

"Phoenix!" A voice from beyond the wall called her. A door opened and after looking around, she walked through as it promptly closed behind her. She looked at the person who had called her. It was Steven.

"What the-"

"I know it's confusing, but trust me this is all I can do for you. If you come with me now, then I can get you out of here." He took her hand

The Phoenix realized what he was offering and took her hand back. "What? No. I'm not leaving my friends."

"You mean the traumatized twins you met earlier today, and the three illegal street fighters that you've picked up since then."

"Friends might be too strong a word, but regardless, they are here because of me. I'm not leaving without them, Steven."

"Why? You have a chance to escape. They are nothing more than dead weight, Soph."

The Phoenix stared at him. For once, she was not thinking as her alias, but as Sophia, the teenager who had almost fallen in love with him. She saw the boy who had smiled at her while she was a stranger, who had held her close after she had lost her grandmother, who had kissed her in the rain, who had almost died. But she also saw that that boy had died in the attack on their school, leaving a villain behind in his body.

"Do you remember when we were still at school and they asked us what we wanted to be after we graduated? When the hell did being a supervillain become your top choice?"

"What? Soph-"

"No. It's the Phoenix. And that is the difference between you and me, Malice," she said using the name of the boy who had taken Steven's body. "I know what loyalty and courage is. Loyalty is knowing who you can trust. The others might have a lot of work to do, but I know that one day, they will be closer to me than you ever were. And courage is knowing that I could very well escape now but choosing to stay behind and face whatever hell you have waiting back in there for me."

The boy's eyes went dark, leaving nothing of Steven behind. He nodded them the door opened and Sophia was being shoved into the pen where all the people were waiting. The others looked at her curiously, but before any questions could be asked, she shook her head and looked at them.

"When we get out of here, I need to ask a favor of all of you."

"You mean if," Jasper butted in.

"What is it?" Deadshot asked.

"Alice, James, this all started out as looking for the guy who killed your uncle. When we get out of here, this all goes to the League. I can't pretend that nothing happened. I was supposed to meet my mom for the Independence Day Parade. It's at least nightfall by now. I can't and won't cover this up. But that doesn't mean we can't stop searching. I have an idea, but I need you guys on board with it."

"What is it?" James asked.

"We be a team. It's happened before. Deadshot, Cherufe, and even Bloodhound can join to. "

Alice looked at her brother then back at the Phoenix. "I'd like that."

Deadshot looked around, then nodded. "It would be nice for a change to do something beneficial to society."

Cherufe sighed, but smiled. "If you're doing it, then I guess I have to."

"I don't need to be babysat." Deadshot spat back.

"I'm don't plan on it. I just want to be with you."

The shadow of a smile passed over Deadshot's face while Bloodhound laughed out loud.

"Don't plan on me joining. I'm going straight back to the Crossroads after this."

The Phoenix nodded, expecting this answer. She opened her mouth to say something when a loud shot interrupted them.

"Sophia Rivers and Jasper Moran shall fight next for Nolan," a voice over the loudspeaker announced.

"Sophia? Who the heck is Sophia?" Bloodhound asked.

"Me," the Phoenix replied. "Who's Jasper?"

"Me," Bloodhound responded after a moment.

The two were grabbed by the men with the cattle prods and brought to the center of the room. The strangers formed a circle around them and the Phoenix knew what was coming with a sinking feeling in her gut. She looked over her shoulder and saw a tinted window with a dark figure behind with a smaller one behind him. She shuddered, knowing that the infamous leader of the Hell Squad was watching them an expecting them to fight.

A new voice spoke. It was Malice. "Jasper Moran, the greatest fighter of the Crossroads thus far with the greatest potential Nolan has ever seen." A roar went throughout the standing crowd. "Sophia Rivers, sixteen years old, his opponent, the Phoenix!" Boos followed her name.

The two of them faced off, the Phoenix wondering how to start. She smiled, remembering of their earlier fight. "Looks like we finally get that fight," she taunted.

Bloodhound smiled. "Looks like it, Soph."

A blast of fire came towards his face which he dodged, surprised. "Don't call me that," she hissed through gritted teeth. Bloodhound began to mutter something unintelligible when the Phoenix came up and punched him in the jaw, drawing blood from his mouth. He stared at her in surprise.

"Honestly, I didn't think you had it in you."

The Phoenix narrowed her eyes. "I don't want to do this anymore than you."

"You're wrong, Soph," he said as he narrowly missed another fireball. "I love this." He threw a punch at her, hitting her in the forehead. As she tried to reorient herself, an idea came into her head.

"I'll make a deal with you, Jasper." She grinned as he narrowed his eyes upon hearing his name. I'll let you keep on fighting in the Crossroads if you win. In fact, I'll even join you if you win."

He smiled, "What's the catch?"

"If I win, you join the team."

He smiled even wider. "Better get used to the idea of you becoming illegal, hero."

The brawl of the century began. It was longer, harder, and more intense than the other Crossroads that had occurred before. It was the brawl Nolan was looking for and a thing smile crept across his face as powers ceased and fists and blood ensued. They were both ruthless, fighting for what they believe in. He spoke to the figure behind him,"You see, son, this is what you are meant to be."

As a final first was thrown, knocking the Phoenix down to the ground, Bloodhound pinned her. She struggled, but unable to move and with what passed as a ref about to call it, she did the only thing she could think of that would surprise Bloodhound and Jasper.

She kissed him.

It was short, but long enough for the desired reaction. Jasper backed up, taking his weight off of her, trying to absorb the information his brain was telling him. As soon as he realized his mistake though, it was too late. The Phoenix had pinned him, and headbutted him, sending him into a fitful sleep.

The ref called it, declaring the victor the challenger, Sophia. She stood, but before the guards could take her away, she spin around, with fire dancing at her fingertips, creating a cyclone of flame. It burned everyone nearby, except the unconscious Jasper. He looked better asleep, she thought to herself. Not so I-hate-the-world in his face.

The fire died down, leaving burned men and frightened faces of Crossroad trainees. She walked over to her team, who were all smiling. She grabbed Jasper, threw him over her shoulder, and began to lead everyone out, leaving behind presents for the Hell Squad as they went. When they reached the outside, it was cold and dark. The moon was shining and the stars were twinkling. The Phoenix set down Jasper gently on the concrete, got out her cell phone, and saw something that made her cringe.

57 missed messages. Mom.

"Sophia Haleigh Rivers, you are in so much trouble." Her mom's angry voice came through the phone as she picked up the phone after the first ring. "Where the hell are you?"

"Sorry, Mom. I got held up with work. I'll see you in a few."

"Oh, no, you won't. You are staying right there until I can get there. Do you hear me, Sophia?"

"Yes, Mom," Sophia responded with a certain irritated fondness. She should have expected this, but it was still ridiculous to be a superhero with you mom checking in on you.

Alice looked at her brother a ways away who was surprisingly unharmed. It hadn't been as easy getting out as Sophia made it to be. Her brother was pacing with his thinking face on. She didn't like it when he wore that face. She never did.

"James, what's up?" she asked nervously walking up to him.

He looked at her and her heart sank. She knew that face. She knew it only too well. "Alice... I think I'm going to go away for a while."

"What?" Alice tried not to shout."

"I can't do this team thing. I need to go find the man who killed Uncle Rory. I can't do that here. I'm sorry."

"So what are you going to do then? Scour the planet until you find him?"

"Whatever it takes."

"I'm staying."

"What?" It was her brother's turn to be surprised and not shout.

"I'm staying." She looked into his eyes. "James, I need a home. And I think this is the way to find Rory's murderer."

"Then I guess we'll see who's right. Do me a favor, don't tell the others. I don't think the Phoenix will want me out on my own."

"Okay." Alice was numb with pain as she watched her twin disappear into the darkness while she looked at the strangers she had just called a home.

The Phoenix nearly choked on water she had gotten from her jet a quarter mile away. Instead of just her mom, the entire Justice League showed up. Sophia tried not to show how very scared she was as they stared at the group of teenagers for a while.

"Star talking," Batman said.

The Phoenix glanced around at those she was trusted, even if a little reluctantly. However, before she could speak, her mom rushed up with sparks in her white hair. "Why didn't you call, Phoenix?" Sophia could hear the hurt in her voice.

"I didn't exactly expect it to turn into a this."

The elder Phoenix began to open her mouth, when Batman silenced her. He said in a voice much different from the first Batman, "Regardless, this won't happen again. You will not be trained by the League, Phoenix."

"Then I won't be trained by the League."


"What I, I mean we, did here, though not expected, was good. And we're a team now. We all have some basic training and the Hell Squad has suffered a blow with their Crossroad deals. How long do you think it will take them to recover from this? Not easily."

Batman opened his mouth but was interrupted by Jasper who was waking up. "Why let them tell us what to do? Either get on board, or get out of the way."

Batman narrowed his eyes when Flash, who was as late as ever, showed up. "Hey, it looks like we got a new team!" he exclaimed, earning himself a glare from Batman. "Lighten up, D- Bats. Come on, you were even younger than they were when we started."

The Phoenix smiled and crossed her arms, knowing when a battle had been won. The other followed her lead as they stared down the Justice League. Even Jasper, who could be less than thrilled with the idea of being part of the team instead of on his own at the Crossroads. Batman stared at them. The Phoenix began to wonder if she had made a mistake by not submitting to the League.

"This is the cave I trained in with five others as Robin. And since you are all so determined to fight the good fight, you'll do it on League terms. Aqualad agreed to live here and be your supervisor. Tigress is in charge of training." Batman paused for the slightest moment. "I, will deploy you on missions."

"Real missions?" Deadshot asked. She was now Emily Lesnicki, wearing a plain white v-neck shirt and blue skinny jeans.

"Yes," Batman answered. "But covert. We need a team that can operate on the sly. The six of you will be that team."

"Sweet! Wait, six? I thought James-" An elbow from Alice silenced Cherufe whose real name was Orion Days. He now wore a brown hoodie with red jeans.

The team looked behind them where Batman had indicated. The Flash walked in with a young tall girl with straight red hair pulled back by his side. "This is the Flash's daughter, Kid Flash."

"You can call me Iris," she said in a small voice. Sophia, who was wearing her red hair down and a black leather jacket with blue jeans, knew that though the voice was small, someone formidable stood there.

She smiled, looking at her teammates.

"Today is the day."

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thanks you guys so much if you actually stuck through the entire chapter. Sorry, it's long. My idea is to post each chapter as if it was an episode so they are all going to be super long. Anyways, as this story is filled with OCs not created/owned by me, I have to go around and give credit. If you want to create your own OC and submit it for the story, then just go to the bottom of my profile page. It will have everything you need.

Alice Duncan/Whirlwind and James Duncan/Jack Frost- BartAllenFangirl

Jasper Moran/Bloodhound- A Tragic Galaxy

Emily Lesnicki/Deadshot- HufflepuffFinder

Sophia Rivers- my OC

Orion Days- I actually don't know, it was an anon review on In Another World

Iris West- Kamil the Awesome

That's it for now. I did hint at some some characters who have yet to make an appearance and they will be given credit as they come into the plot. Please review to give me constructive criticism, ideas and/or a general "I love it!" Thanks for reading!

~Jennifer Scott