This, Wally thought, was a nice change of pace. No supervillains. No flaming buildings, no crashing planes. No physics textbooks, no multivariable calculus, no statistical mechanics or differential equations; no Barry to tell him to put down his phone and pick up his books, no Rudy to point out his numerous, embarrassing failures as not only a son, but a human being – no, there was none of that. There was just him, his friends, the bustling, ever-busy pulse of New York life, and Marv’s Pizza.
“Oh my gob – thish pizza’s sho good,” said Wally. The cheese. The tomatoes. Just the right amount of pepperoni. They all combined into a blast of such intense flavour, he didn’t know how to begin to describe it. He was already digging into his fourth pie, and he was in heaven. “I’m in heaben.”
He swallowed. “This is probably the one thing Flash and I can agree on. New York pizza’s the best.” He paused to contemplate, tapping his finger against his chin in a blur, and sighed. “Wait, no. He likes Chicago’s better. Say, Babs, are you uh… are you gonna finish yours?”
The redhead roused herself from where she’d been staring contemplatively out the window at nothing. Trying idly to figure out whether the busted street light outside increased her chances of hopping the subway turnstile without getting caught. More officers on the street, sure. But just traffic patrol, and I’m at least as good as Dad as far as they’re concerned…
“Maybe, maybe not,” she shrugged nonchalantly. “But do you really wanna test me?” Babs lips curled into something that was either smile or smirk, depending on how long a person looked.
“Absolutely. My feelings for pizza are stronger than my fear of you.” But he made no attempt at stealing her slice. “Shame Dick couldn’t make it. I didn’t expect to hear back from Roy, but it’d be nice to get Batboy out of his cave sometimes, y’know?”
She didn’t answer right away, taking a too-big bite of the slice before her, feeling sauce and cheese scald the roof of her mouth in a way that felt almost indulgent. Behind her, the place was loud with chatter and alive with the motion of people milling from door to table to pinball and back again. At the counter, a tourist was ordering two cheese slices in broken English. Babs thought she heard something vaguely Mediterranean in the accent. Outside, a motorcycle roared by, close. Somewhere on the far side of the room, a family groaned off-tune strains of happy birthday over a child’s ever-louder screaming. A radio overhead played decade-old pop hits from a former Disney star, static just beneath the dim glow and fainter hum of neon, and everywhere the sheer overpowering scent of mozzarella and tomato and oregano.
Three officers on the street, two at the corner. He’s gotta just be getting off a long shift, way he’s pacing like that. I bet he wouldn’t stop me if I jumped the turnstile. If he noticed...
She swallowed and looked back at Wally without ever having given indication that she’d left.
“He wanted to be here, but that’s the Bat-life.” She shrugged again, gave him a wry smirk, more genuine this time. “Think Barry’s bad? Try Bruce.”
“Nuh-uh. No thanks. My head’s already exploded from Feynman diagrams and atomic processes, I don’t need any more neurosis on top of my neurosis. Especially not the Bat-kind.”
"I don't quite see the big deal about pizza," Donna interjected, quizzically holding up a slimy triangle of bread and cheese with a look somewhere between bemusement and disgust. "It's mostly just grease, Wally. Fire-warmed bread wrapped in grease."
She turned to the squat figure seated next to her, what looked like a child no older than 12 with a shock of dark hair and bewildered look plastered on his face.
“A little different from what you're used to in Atlantis, Garth?"
The young Atlantean was currently quite discombobulated by the whole experience. The surface metropolis was like a forest of glass and stone, surrounded by the wheeled chariots that they called ‘cars’ -- some of which were the size of small whales!
Equally strange was this… pizza. Arthur had often brought souvenirs of his visits to the surface communities along the northern coastal regions, but those had been seal jerky, smoked fish, or whale meat. This was…
The boy held the triangular slice in his hands, as though trying to figure out just what it was. Grease and cheese ran down one side of his hand. Vibrant, violet-colored irises glanced up at the remark from the Themysciran Amazon. “I don’t think this would do well in the ocean,” the boy offered in a light-hearted manner.
At least it was a food that could be enjoyed with hands. Atlanteans didn’t have the same kind of cutlery as these surface dwellers it seemed. The miniature trident in particular confused the boy. “What’s… uh, what’s bread again?”
11:35 a.m. | Hell's Kitchen, Manhattan, New York City
The summer sun beat down on a bustling urban hub built of wrought iron and glass. Millions of fragile primates weaved in-between streets of smooth stone, where beasts of steel and rubber raced bumper-to-rear to cross the expansive city. High above it all and maneuvering between the towers of glass were flocks of birds and fluffy masses of condensed water vapor- 'clouds,' the locals called them. Kon-El passed his palm through the billowing sheet, feeling each individual drop pass through the crevices in his fingertips; they slipped down his palm like a thousand, tiny tendrils reaching out to greet his touch.
Though it felt like an eternity to him, Kon-El didn't linger there for long before gravity took hold of his weight and dragged him down. It was like an anchor tied around his ankles, keeping him from staying up where he belonged for more than seconds at a time. It was painfully frustrating, but he couldn't stew in his irritations at the moment.
He was more concerned with making sure he landed.
Despite hours upon hours of practice with Kal, Kon was...nervous, embarrassingly enough. Not of being hurt in the fall, obviously- nothing could hurt a Kryptonian- but of screwing up his landing and accidentally destroying something he shouldn't. Everything around him was just so fragile. The humans, their homes, their cars. His genetic template had once referred to the world as 'cardboard.' As Kon understood it, that material was as fragile to humans as humans were to people like Kon.
The air bent around his sleek form as he descended from the air like a rock, his arms held out to give him balance and his feet pointed in such a way that he hoped to direct his landing. He could feel the minute changes in the air pressure and wind direction down to the millisecond. It was a lot of information, and all of it useless given how little control he had over his gravitational field. For a moment, he thought he could feel himself slowing- that perhaps he was starting to get a handle on the whole 'flying' thing-
Just before he tasted concrete.
"Damn it-" Kon snarled in a flash of red hot anger, his fingers digging into the street and shattering the asphalt like it was made of glass. In a huff he dragged himself back to his feet using a nearby street lamp, his grip just harsh enough to snap off a piece of its metal exterior. Enraged by his own clumsiness, he chucked the debris into the sky, watching as the steel disappeared above the cloud layer and soared toward the New York Harbor.
His little superpowered-tantrum drew the attention of more than a few nearby humans. The Kryptonian clone's cheeks flushed a bright red at the sight of their pointed cameras and the sound of their panicked whispers. He hadn't intended to make a scene, or to break anything, or to look like such an angry oaf while doing all of it.
"Show's over." He snapped, taking off into the air with a leap that shook the street. The Superboy carried himself with an awkward glide toward a nearby brick building, landing atop its roof in a stumble that turned into an even more awkward roll. He couldn't understand why he was such a klutz. CADMUS had run him through simulation after simulation while he was trapped in their breeding chambers- flying hadn't been nearly so hard then. Kon assumed flying in the real world was just harder, but then Kara and Kal had both mastered it when they were years younger than he was.
A puddle left behind by last night's rain caught the clone's eye, drawing him toward it. He knelt down, watching his reflection match him in the still water. The face he saw didn't feel like it was his own; it looked too much like Kal's. Like a distorted, imperfect copy of the original. The crest he wore on his chest was much the same. It lacked the correct angles. The lines were too rounded out and soft- not as strong and uncompromising as the real symbol of the House of El.
Kon-El would’ve had trouble tearing his eyes away, if not for some distant cry for help. He immediately felt his mood shift as his attention focused fully on the far away voice; sound so quiet and so intermingled with other noise that no human could’ve heard, yet for him it was crystal clear all the same. “Finally.” He muttered to himself, rising back up to his feet. He bounded across the rooftop and leaped from it, taking to the air to soar again. Another precious few seconds spent among the clouds. Superboy savored them, even as he descended back down to earth. He didn’t feel the same nervous energy in his veins as he aimed for a clearing in an alley beneath him. The purpose he felt didn’t allow for it.
11:15 a.m. | Lower East Side, Manhattan, New York City
The sun peeked through the tattered blinds, pouring random and scattered rays of sunlight across the abysmally cramped “studio apartment.” Sitting on the edge of the rugged mattress was a kid no older than seventeen, his crop of long orange hair spilled out to his shoulders. Roy’s tongue was sticking out the corner of his lip as he was hunched over a small, homemade workbench. He finished tightening the final screw on a block-like arrowhead before holding it up towards a ray of sunlight to examine his work. He gave the faintest of smiles at his work before gingerly placing it into the quiver next to him. In a smooth motion, Roy was able to stand in a small square of free floorspace, slide his jacket on, flick his motorcycle helmet into his left hand, and hoist the quiver onto his right shoulder. He carefully navigated the cluttered floorspace filled with spare piles of metal scraps and wires as he exited his apartment.
He exited his building through the back door and out into the back alley and immediately made his way towards a pile of garbage and tarp tucked away in the corner. With a flick of his right hand, the tarp swung out over the bags of garbage and revealed a sleek red motorcycle. It was a little gaudy, and that was almost the point. He pulled the helmet over his head while he stepped over a few bags to mount the bike. He felt a slight buzz emanating from his pocket, and pulled out a cheap flip phone. He checked it, giving a slight sigh. Dinah… He sent the call to voicemail and shoved the phone back in his pocket. He knew he could expect a message to listen to later.
Roy shot out of the back alley and slid into the New York traffic. It wasn’t long before he pulled to a stop in a parking spot across from a familiar pizza place. Through the visor hiding his face, Roy spotted some old friends, though Dick was obviously not present. They looked the same as he remembered. Wally was excitedly digging into his slices, Babs was taking everything in, Donna seemed slightly peeved by the delicacies of the Big Apple, and Garth... well, he was a fish out of water. Part of Roy wanted to just turn his bike off and walk inside, but he held back the impulse. He wasn't ready. Not yet. As if on cue, a bit of static in his helmet proceeded a call on the police scanner. Roy revved his engine and shot off into traffic, his red leather jacket becoming nearly a blur. He had to get to work.
New York City, Manhattan The Research Lab of Professor Adam Strange
Koriand’r never liked zeta beam travel.
Being teleported through two beacons on separate ends of the galaxy was convenient, but it was also painful. For Kori it was like experiencing the worst of sensory overload and burning pain. She supposed the Rannian scientists who developed it thought the positive aspects outweighed the negative. The Princess of Tamaran obviously did not come to the same conclusion, though after being chased across an abandoned planet with her pursuers to her back she didn’t exactly think about the displeasure of zeta beam travel when she found a malfunctioning teleportation device in an old survey post. Kori knew the dangers of a working zeta beam transponder. But fortunately, instead of having her body deconstruct in the process of moving through time and space she found herself simply thrown into a laboratory halfway across the galaxy.
But Kori didn’t get the time to “take a breath” and try to figure out where she was. By the time she had gotten to her feet – her pursuers had made the courageous move to follow her through the malfunctioning transponder and Kori was not so lucky to have them end up missing their limbs or frying their brains upon contact. She had immediately screamed as she scrambled to her back just as the laboratory’s warning device screamed out in a language she did not understand; though she knew exactly what was happening when her eyes caught the device beginning to tremble and crack.
The transponder was going to go nova and the laboratory was going to explode.
Hours earlier | Indonesian Archipelago, Pacific Ocean
The SS Sun Vista lay under more than two hundred feet of water, in the middle of the busiest shipping strait in the world.
The shadow passed through the halls of the majestic ocean liner. It was perhaps even more crowded inside now than in its golden age, when it ferried passengers between Italy and Australia in the late 1970s. Large schools of small fish moved in and through the wreck. Eels passed through shadow, tucked away in the cupboards and closets. A blue-clad hand passed through the lightless expanse, a fog of silt passing through the water.
A porcelain plate was withdrawn from the cupboard, disturbing an eel that spiraled along the youth's arm before shooting off into the inky darkness. The white enamel was emblazoned with colorful tones of lapis lazuli and gold. The plate shone under the violet light of a pair of vibrant purple irises that pierced through the darkness. The Atlantean boy turned the plate over in his hands, inspecting it for a moment, before he returned it back to the shelf and withdrew a tea cup that was emblazoned with a similar pattern.
The Prince of Idylls hovered in one of the galleys that had serviced the many lounges across the ship that had ended its career as a cruise ship. Much of the flatware was recognizable from Themyscira, when Garth had visited during the Isthmian Games, such as the spoons and knives. But the one object he could not identify was a most perplexing form. It was like a miniature trident, no larger than a spoon, with four prongs instead of three.
Turning the small utensil over in his hands, the youth hovered there in the galley looking over the object as he tried to imagine its purpose.
Come on, Tadpole. You can explore later.
The words were not spoken so much as they were thought. Transmitted might even have been the apt term. At the telepathic summons, the young Garth altered his buoyancy without so much as a thought to what he was doing. Effortlessly, the child rose up through the sea, emerging from the inside of the ocean liner that was resting on its side on the sea floor. Halting his ascent, the youth glided through the water toward where an iconic hero of orange and green waited for him. Why do they have miniature tridents? the boy asked, holding out the object that he had found.
The Aquaman was looking upward. Overhead, the silhouette of a large oil tanker blotted out the sun with its massive shape. A plethora of smaller shadows created large wakes around themselves, as the distorted sound of muffled gunfire tricked down through the water. Turning his head toward the boy, Arthur paused for a moment. A quizzical looked crossed his face at the question. It's a fork, he uttered simply. Now, come on.
With that, Arthur began rising up toward the surface. Garth followed beside, starting to push with strong dolphin kicks as he fought to keep pace with the Aquaman as the two built up speed. The surface of the water was coming up fast.
The pair exploded from out of the water. Arthur arcing through the air like some Greek hero of the ancient legends. Cresting from out of the top of a wave, Aquaman sailed from out of the sea to land on his feet atop the bow of the tanker.
Garth followed, shooting out of the sea like a flying fish. A brief panic knotted the pit of his stomach, as he felt the water fall away and the air hit him. Feeling a loss of control, the boy's arms floundered as he realized that swimming in the air really was not a thing.
The boy smacked down on the ship, face-planting as he effectively belly-flopped the landing next to Aquaman.
Keep your head down. Look out for any crew that are in trouble. Arthur's words echoed from inside the boy's head, as the Aquaman launched himself toward one of the small boats.
Pushing himself up from off the deck, the boy found himself gripped in a moment of vertigo as he slid with the sudden roll of the ship, listing in the open sea. Staggering, floundering, and possibly screaming, the boy struggled to find his balance walking upright on the moving deck of the ship. The sound of bullets whizzed by, men shouting in an indistinct language, as Arthur's orange and green form moved from boat to boat.
Holding a hand against the side of the ship's superstructure, the boy crouched down low as he traveled around where he imagined the crew would be. As he rounded the corner, a man wielding a rifle popped out of a doorway. For a moment, the two just stared at one another. Then the man leveled the gun at the boy.
"Ah!" the Aqualad yelped. Not at all sounding like a twelve year old girl. Nope, not even a little bit. Well, maybe a little bit.
Panicked, a sweep of the boy's arm to knocked the barrel away had the effect of smacking the weapon right out of the man's hand. As the rifle spun through the air, it was all that either could do to just watch in surprise as it sailed over the side and splashed down into the water. The pair then looked at each other again for a moment, before the modern pirate drew a machete.
Ducking to one side, the boy side-stepped his attack, then ducked as the man lashed out with a backhand slash that caused the machete to thwak hard against the side of the ship's structure. The man's arm came back for another strike, as Garth lunged forward with a shove.
This didn't go how either planned. In rapid succession, the two connected. Then they were no longer connected. Garth's foot slid out from under him, dropping the boy to his knees as he nearly face-planted a second time. The pirate, meanwhile, went airborne. Straight over the ship's railing.
The feeling of relief at no longer being attacked quickly drained aware to a feeling of impending doom at the sound of the man splashing into the sea. "Ah!" the boy yelped again, scrambling back to his feet and over to the side of the ship.
The pirate was floundering in the ocean, sputtering as he was lifted and pulled away by the seas. I can do this... the boy thought, as he brought his hands out in front of him.
The child's purple eyes burned with a vibrant, violet light. He could feel the tide. I can do this...
You will fail.
You're just a tadpole. You can't do anything.
Sucking in a breath of air, Garth pushed his hands forward. As he did, a swell lifted the pirate up in the ocean. Turning his palms inward, the boy then made a rowing motion, pulling his arms back toward the sea. As he did, the swell transformed into a wave that swept back toward the ship. Gritting his teeth, Garth planed his hand out as the crest of the wave reached the side of the ship.
The wave crashed into the side of the ship, slamming the pirate against the superstructure. Bouncing off the bulkhead, the pirate slapped down on the nonskid deck.
Garth winced, shying back at how that had been... a little more rough than what he'd had in mind.
But wait... it worked? Purple irises shone brightly as he child looked over the water-logged, semi-conscious pirate. It worked. IT WORKED!"WAHOO!" the boy shouted, jumping up into the air with a newfound energy.
The sound of something landing on the deck behind him caught the boy by surprise. An Arthur-sized shadow passing over him. Withering, the boy seemed to shrink as he anxiously turned to look back at the Aquaman.
Arthur brought a hand up to sweep his water-soaked hair from out of his face. Looking over the nervous, suspiciously guilty-looking, hand-wringing Aqualad and the unconscious pirate sleeping in a puddle on the deck, it was all that the man could do to give the lad a nod of respect. Good job, Tadpole, Arthur remarked simply, before moving the boy aside so that he could reach down and pick up the pirate, then wordlessly moved to carry the man back toward where he had tied up the others on the deck.
Garth just watched, wide-eyed and breathless.
It had worked. It had worked. And... had Aquaman said good job? To him? A nervous giggle slipped from the child's lips, only growing louder as the boy tried to hold it in. Grabbing hold of the front of his red shirt, the boy cautiously walked out toward where Arthur was being joined by the crew of the tanker. They were coming out to congratulate and thank their hero.
Shyly, the boy skirted back toward the shadows. He gave an involuntary jump when his back hit against the railing. Turning his head, he looked down the side of the tanker to where the sea looked inviting below.
Excited about your date with Donna?
Arthur's voice caused the boy to whip back around with a gasp. Then, he gave a scowl. Across the forecastle, Arthur was laughing with the crew, seemingly fitting right in with them. The man cast a spare glance over toward the boy.
It's not a date! Garth voiced in protest, an involuntary shudder passing across his body as he stuck his tongue out in disgust. A date? With a girl? Much gross. Many no thank you.
Wait, what day is it? the boy thought, panic taking hold as he suddenly remembered that Donna had said something about meeting some of the other kids that hung around the Justice League. They were going to some place called New York.
Which, why was it New York? Was there an Old York?
M A R V ’ S P I Z Z A
Now | Midtown, Manhattan, New York City
The boy's feet didn't reach all the way to the ground.
You do not belong at this table.
Awkwardly, the Prince of Idylls was squirming in his chair as he looked around the table. He wished that he could be invisible. It was just so amazing. The Kid Flash. The Batgirl. Wonder Girl. These were teenagers who were real heroes.
Not like him.
The boy was quiet as he watched the interaction between Wally and Barbara, taking cues from them as to how he was supposed to eat the pizza. Which, the hands was that it was okay to use hands. That suited Garth just fine. With all the stories that he'd heard from Arthur, about multiple spoons and needing to know the difference between which plates of food that they went with, Garth had some very peculiar ideas about what surface dweller table manners were like. But, these seemed like normal people eating normal flat bread. Which, was really quite good. They didn't have anything like this in Poseidonis. It actually reminded him of Themysciran flat breads, which were one of his favorite foods to get during the Isthmian Games or the Arrhephoria festival or Thesmophoria.
You definitely couldn't get flat bread at Thierna Na Oge's Thesmophoria celebration in the Strait of Gibraltar.
The Atlantean youth reached across the table, pulling out a salt packet. Opening the contents into a glass of water, the boy swirled it around for a moment before he brought the glass up to drink. It wasn't sea water, but it helped to mask the taste of that fluoridated tap water that had been supplied by the waiter.
In retrospect, Garth wasn't sure whether he heard or felt the explosion. A tremor rattling the windows as the loud BOOM rolled like thunder. The boy choked as he had been mid-drink, spilling some water on himself as he looked around the table.
Koriand’r winced, face down some amount of distance away from what remained of the laboratory she had found herself in. She closed her eyes and reopened them, trying her best to focus away from the pain and discomfort. The impact of the transporters overload had blown apart the lab’s easternmost wall, igniting the building with unnatural fire, and tossing what appeared to be a variety of primitive transport vehicles on their sides. Some people were crushed under debris and metal while others ran away in fear as Kori’s pursuers called out for her in a toxic, vicious tongue. She knew the words well.
Find the slave.
She couldn’t let the Gordanians catch her, but at the same time what kind of person would she be if she let innocent people be hurt simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time? What kind of Princess of Tamaran would she be? These people had no chance against Gordanian weapons. The amount of energy she had left from X’chal was low, but she couldn’t just run away. She wouldn’t. A bright hue of energy surrounded her and she pushed forward, flying above the streets as her hands began to glow with neon green energy. She would do everything she could. Even if it ended in her inevitable capture.
“You chase me across the galaxy? Your master must be proud!”
"Oh, thank you so very much, Superman!" The old woman's voice pitched and shook, her lips spread out into a wide grin. She stood before her apartment door, her old, scratch-ridden key clutched between her fragile fingers as she looked back over her shoulder at 'Superman.' He was shorter than he looked on TV. And that red and blue suit he always wore was absent, replaced by some white, capeless variant; truthfully it looked like a downgrade, but who was she to tell Superman that after he helped her carry her groceries all the way up here?
"Let me give you something for your trouble," She grunted, struggling to poke the key into the lock. Her hand was shaking too much to focus. It was hard not to be nervous with the Man of Tomorrow standing just behind her, after all. "some cookies, maybe? My grandchildren say they're the best they've ever-"
"No." Kon-El interrupted, his voice more forceful than he intended. He didn't notice the affect his words had until he saw the look of absolute shock on the elderly lady's face, and he felt his own quickly heat up. "I...I mean, er, I appreciate the offer, ma'am. But I have to go. And I'm not-"
"The world can wait a few minutes!" She insisted, still fighting to even open her front door while Kon-El bounced impatiently behind her; she either paid him no mind or was too oblivious to see how eager he was to move on with his day. "You deserve a break, sweetheart."
When he ran away from the Fortress and came to the New York City his sort-of cousin had told him so much about, he'd been expecting...more. Where were all the villains Kal was always fighting? Where were the disasters he and Kara insisted they had to stop when they left Kon-El alone in that frozen castle? He didn't think they'd lie to him, yet...
"Oh, I hate this dumb thing sometimes. Always has to jam on me." The grandma huffed, slapping her palm up against the wooden frame.
She'd said something after that, too, but Kon-El missed it. It was too far away for the aging human to hear, yet to Kon it was as loud and thunderous as if it'd happened just outside. A clap like thunder rolled in the distance, followed shortly by the sound of screeching wheels, honking horns and the screams of the wounded and the dying. By the time the woman had turned around, 'Superman' was gone, her groceries scattered across the hallway and the nearby window shattered into a thousand pieces.
C I T Y S T R E E T S
Noon | Midtown, Manhattan, New York City
Superboy crossed the city toward the source of the explosion as quickly as he could, leaving behind broken concrete and a collapsed- thankfully empty- taxi. Each leap dragged him through the air and right back down to the earth with a crash, shaking the streets with a thunderous smack before he took off once more. It didn't take long to arrive at his destination, though how he'd handle what he found there was another matter entirely.
The first thing he noticed was the smell. CADMUS's simulations of smell were far less...visceral. He could pick out the individual stenches, differentiating each crushed body and every burning car from all the rest. Smoke choked his nostrils, thick and black thanks to the tires caught in the explosion; it was like a punch straight to his nervous system.
His ears, too, suffered. Screams of the frightened and the hurt, punctuated by the clamor of rending metal and the screeching of unearthly tongues. The flickering flames were a constant, quiet thumping in the back of his head as he rose to his feet and shook off the sensory overload as best he could.
Once Kon wrestled back control, he looked out over the street, and found it occupied by monsters. Giant, lipless lizards with bodies like gorillas and eyes burning with otherworldly hate. It didn't take a genius to know they were aliens, but it was the flying girl that gave him pause. Her skin was orange, and her eyes glowed green. Her heart didn't beat like a human's. She wasn't a meta, and the language she yelled in didn't sound like any he had ever heard.
'Another alien.' He decided with a wordless grunt, rising to his full height. He was no Superman, but Kon was still rather tall and broad for someone his age; the skin tight, white solar suit that he wore showed the contours of his lab-built body well. Strong yet thus far untested hands clenched tight into fists brought level beside the bright red crest he wore. Alien as it felt on him, Kon knew it meant something- to more than just the people of earth.
Kon took in a deep breath, empowering his lungs as he shouted at the top of his voice. "HEY!" He roared until he'd gotten the aliens' collective attention. "I'LL SAY THIS ONCE: Get down on your knees and put your hands on your heads." Superboy let power flow up into his eyes, lighting them a bright, dangerous red. "Or you're not gonna like what happens next."
The restaurant shook, and Wally dropped Barbara’s slice of pizza.
“Oh man, I was so close – ” His ears rang faintly as he looked down, for a split second, at the ruined slice, before what happened clicked in his ever-speedy mind. An explosion. He took inventory of the room, checking that everyone was okay – a waitress had dropped some glasses, shattering them all over the floor, and what kids were there wailed something awful, but no one seemed hurt. Okay, Wally. You know the drill. What now?
He glanced back at his table.
“You guys okay?” he asked, reaching into his pocket and taking out a golden ring. “I’m gonna – we should – I’m gonna go check this out.”
He stood up, placing the ring on his middle finger as he made for the door. “Back in a Fl– ”
But he was out of there before he could finish, his costume enveloping him, and with lightning trailing behind him, he ran towards whichever danger lay ahead.
The boy’s words may as well had been gibberish, but Kori had the feeling of his intent even though she old heard them as she let out a beam of neon energy at her attackers. Language was funny like that – tone traveled across all frames of spoken word. The boy was angry, displeased about those who would attack his home and endanger his people. Kori thought of it like the story of the Portkin. Much like the Portkin the two sides could not understand each other and Kori understood that the Gordanians were much much more irreverent than the Tamaranean hunters in the story. Gordanians didn’t rethink, or negotiate for that matter. Especially not when they were chasing after prey that would elevate their status among the confederate leaders they served.
Starfire spun underneath one of the electromagnetic blasts that exited the Gordanian weapons. Her brows narrowed, recalling how the beams felt when they touched her skin. Her people were strong against gamma beams and anything revolving around ultraviolet radiation. The Gordanians had developed weapons to counteract this somehow, weapons that revolved around electromagnetic energy. It was worse than being cold. It burned like fire, but with a bone chill that attacked her nerves. Energies that could slow and disorient. She still wasn't sure how the Gordanians got their hands on it.
As she blasted one of the aliens back into the ruined laboratory she shouted back despite knowing he wouldn't understand her, “They seek only destruction! Help your people!”
It was a futile effort, but maybe the alien could also decipher tone. However, just as she ended her sentence the loud hum of the Gordanian energy weapons became apparent as a flurry of more energy beams screamed past her head, hitting the buildings behind her. Kori immediately cursed in Tamaranean, ducking and weaving the best she could. She tried to count how many of her pursuers had followed her from Staphis, but between the fire that had begun to spread and the innocent people caught in the crossfire it was hard to keep focus.
At the very least there was at least a Thanagarian dozen.
She shot out another blast of neon energy as she flew down and kicked one of the Gordanians in their chin, sending him flying back into a few of his friends.
The hybrid engine hummed rather quietly in the busy New York streets. The red blur of Roy Harper bobbed between cars caught in gridlock traffic, narrowly missing side mirrors at his breakneck speed. The motorcycle gave a shrieking beep as it managed to swerve through an open gap in traffic and into a side alley. He was always one for shortcuts. The ground trembled as a booming explosion nearly shocked Roy into a crash with a dumpster. Luckily, the scarlet archer was able to pull on the brakes and turn the bike perpendicular to its motion, drifting to a halt. He activated the kickstand and dismounted the bike, instinctively removing his right glove and placing his palm on the rear bumper. The bike seemed to hum to life as the seemingly sleek chasis of motorcycle began to break apart and form a sort of makeshift weapons rack.
Roy slung the quiver over his head to rest the strap on his shoulder, and grabbed an elongated red box. He pressed a large black button on its side, and the box too fragmented and extended out to form a compound bow. Such an advanced bow was the crowning achievement of Roy's time as the ward of Oliver Queen. It took him years to create this functioning prototype, and the thought of the time spent with Oliver crafting the design almost tugged Roy's lips into a slight grin. Almost.
Roy stocked up on a few select arrows and placed them into his quiver before walking to the front of the bike and tapping a button on the main console. The weapon rack folded itself back up within seconds, and the bike appeared to be just a sleek set of wheels again. The archer pulled out a strange-looking trick arrow from his quiver, knocked it back in his bow, and pulled down a wire from the arrow's head down to hook onto his belt. Roy fired towards the top of the building and waited a few moments. The wire grew taught for but a second before it began hoisting him up at a rapid pace. He grimaced as he felt a rather nasty wedgie forming under his jeans, a byproduct of not wearing the right clothing for the job. The same shit Oliver used to go on about.
Roy didn't have time to go over the musings of his former mentor, as he saw the ledge of the building's roof fast approaching. His left hand extended upward and managed to catch the ledge. Using the momentum of the arrow, Roy hoisted himself onto the tarred rooftop rather effortlessly. He fetched the arrow-turned-grappling-hook and turned his gaze towards the skyline. It took him but a moment to pinpoint the location of the explosion by the cloud of smoke bellowing nearby. He took a deep breath before breaking into a sprint to traverse the New York rooftops and approach the scene.
It took Roy only a minute or so before he was able to perch on a rooftop overlooking the scene. His red motorcycle helmet kept his face obscured. He looked over the scene, his eyes narrowing as he saw a few individuals. An orange girl flying around shooting green lasers from her hands, ugly gorilla's with alien weaponry firing at her, and a rather impressive-looking teenager in a white superman outfit. Just the kind of fun Roy was looking to get involved in. The Red Arrow lobbed an arrow and fired towards the fiery rubble of the building across the road. The arrow-head fragmented and let loose a torrent of white foam over the flames. It wasn't enough to put the fire out entirely, but it was enough to keep it at bay for now. With that settled, Roy's attention turned to the conflict below. He wasn't entirely sure who it was he should be more concerned about... and he knew the other legacies would be here any second. Best not ruin the surprise just yet.
In the time it took him to do so, the Kid Flash had vanished from inside the pizzeria, leaving the young Atlantean to try to make sense of the words that he'd spoken. Had Wally suggested that they go check that out? Wait, check what out? The surface world? He didn't know the first thing about the surface world!
As anxiety crept through the dark haired boy, a sharp scream was muffled through the windows of the restaurant. Turning his head toward the sound, Garth watched as a panicked group was running through the streets as the people mulling about outside reacted to something that he couldn't see.
Not from inside the pizzeria.
Yep, totally outside the comfort zone right now.
Swallowing, the boy stood up from the table and started to make his way toward the door. Skidding to a halt just past the doorway, the small Atlantean turned his head. This strange urban jungle of glass and concrete was disorienting as he tried to look up in search of the commotion.
Whatever it was, it was happening on the other side of the restaurant.
Bracing himself, Garth leapt up into the air. Awkwardly, he fumbled about as he landed atop the roof to Marv's Pizza, which gave him a vantage point for seeing...
...well, he wasn't really all that certain.
There were a bunch of really strange looking creatures. They kind of reminded him of the gorgons of Greek mythology. Then there was a lady with red hair, who was swimming in mid-air. And she wasn't the only air-swimmer either, there was a teenage guy as well.
So, next question.
Who's the good guy? Or, gal?
Turning to look around, Garth was presented with the fact that he couldn't exactly ask that question. He'd left Barbara and Donna's side. And Wally wasn't in sight.
At times like this, the surface world's mode of verbalized communication was frustrating for its obvious limitations. Taking a deep breath, Garth's purple irises flashed as the boy paused to switch to a more familiar style of communicating. In his mind's eye, he could visualize Donna, Barbara and Wally. Touching each of their minds, the boy found himself reassured by the knowledge of their presence as the telepathic rapport was built between them.
Hey, guys. Question. Which one's are the bad guys?
Even before the explosion rattled the tiny pizza joint, Babs knew from the way Wally’s expression flashed from cautiously amused to vaguely alarmed confusion something bad was going to happen. But Wally was Wally, so even seeing his reaction didn’t give her much time to prep hers.
Fortunately, she’d never needed much.
Her ears were still ringing when Wally disappeared, though she could guess what he’d said. Barbara rolled her eyes and pulled her hair up into a ponytail. “Show off,” she muttered to herself before turning again to puzzle over the remainder of her friends. Well. Friend, plus a new guest she was going to assume was more indestructible than he looked. Most of her friends were.
“You good, kid?” she said. "What - ?" And then he was gone, and giving her a distinctly amphibian vibe at that. So, okay. She could hope he could take care of himself. And she knew Donna could. That just left -
Something else intruded on her senses, already going half a dozen miles a minute as she maneuvered herself away from their table and onto a counter stop sticky with beer.
Her eyes darted to the kitchen. The brassy doors were still swinging on their hinges, but she’d caught a glimpse or two every time a server had walked out in the last thirty minutes, and it was enough she could have redecorated the kitchen from a snapshot if she'd wanted to.
A six-range stove, three grates burning. Two towering pizza ovens on the opposite wall, shouldering the gas line running along the backside of the building, nearest the explosion. And the steady flow of civvies seeking a safe harbor that was maybe minutes from inferno.
Barbara dropped gracefully back to the floor, just avoiding a screaming toddler as she did. Grimacing, she grabbed the kid, shoved him back into the waiting arms of the woman she'd seen feeding him when they'd walked in, and made a beeline for her table again.
"D," she said tonelessly. "Could use a hand real quick, if we can get these tables up against those windows before - "
Whatever else she might have said was cut off by another voice, and while Babs was more than used to being talked over at the proverbial dinner table, it usually wasn't quite so intimate.
A flicker of something that wasn't smug amusement or indifference flickered across her face - a flash of something genuine and just a little ugly. It was gone as soon as it had come.
Oh, for fuck's - Yeah, hey, kiddo. Cute party trick, but this headspace is strictly PG13, cool? Or is intellectual property not so much a thing where you're from?
And with that, she shut him out hard. Or tried to, anyway, shifting focus again to split her attention between the increasingly panicked diners and the unabridged drone of Nickelback's full discography. She worked better on her own, anyway.
The scaled giants continued to pummel the alien girl, unconcerned with Kon-El's threats. His expression twisted with irritation and his eyes grew hotter, the crimson in them deepening as he cast his gaze over the scene before him. The reptiles were tearing through the streets to get at the girl. Though she was handling herself well, it would only be a matter of time before they overwhelmed her; and though he didn't trust her, Conner couldn't bring himself to just sit by and watch.
A pair of beams exploded out of Superboy's eyes and tore across the air until they slammed into the chest of a Gordanian warrior that was aiming his weapon at the alien girl's back. Kon squeezed his eyes shut, the heat still punching into his eyelids for several, painful seconds as he struggled to shut the energy off.
"I don't like being ignored." He snarled, rubbing the back of his hand until his eyes were cool enough to open.
Just in time for the invaders to return fire.
The solar suit was shredded by the blast, cutting a hole straight through it until it exploded across Conner's shoulder. A deep, arctic sort of cold spread across his flesh, turning it a bright pink and sending pain spiraling down Superboy's arm. He let out a howl and stumbled backward, his blood boiling with rage. Pain was a...new sensation. This pain, especially. It wasn't like the light numbness he'd felt during training. It was deeper. Like a series of ugly, sharp tendrils spiraling through his insides. Like many things, it made him angry.
Another primal howl was loosed from his lungs, and Superboy leaped across the street toward the monstrous things that had caused all of this. He cocked his arm back, locking it in place until just the right moment presented itself to let it loose. And when that moment came he loosed it like a cannon, his knuckles cracking against one of the alien's scaled, ugly faces. A sickening pop followed as the scales themselves buckled, and something warm and hot splashed up along Conner's hand; a good feeling, he decided, and one he was intent on experiencing many times in the next few minutes.
The wind whipped around Wally, feeling its cold but not its stabs as he ran, cocooned in his small field of distorted physics. His feet feathered over the ground, and he pushed towards the source of the explosion, extradimensional energy arcing like lightning behind him. Inside his pocket of anti-physics, friction did not exist; he felt no heat, no drag. Just the blood coursing through his veins, the beat of his heart and the ticking of time, time in which rubble falls, and people scream, and get hurt – and he runs.
Aliens. Bad ones. Eight of them, by Wally’s count – nine if he counted the orange one – but she seemed distressed, fiercely fighting against the others, and he was willing to bet that even if she helped cause this, she deserved the lesser half of the blame.
In his bubble, inside his mind, time expanded. Milliseconds stretched into seconds. And in those seconds of seconds, he saw –
– Superman? No, that’snotClark, it’ssomeoneelsehelooksmyage, whoishe, whatishedoi –
– foam? Fire, putting it out, wherediditcomefrom, lookslikeitcamefromarooftopcan’tseeanyoneuptheremanifDick’sherethat’dbewaytoocool –
Hey, guys. Question. Which one's are the bad guys? Garth’s voice cut through his thoughts, slow and long, and Barbara’s followed after, slower still.
Yeah, hey, kiddo. Cute party trick, but this headspace is strictly PG13, cool? Or is intellectual property not so much a thing where you're from?
Woahwhatthethisisnew, thought Wally, and he realised that he was thinking faster than they could process, Sorrymybad I’llslow down. Go for the big ugly green ones, Garth, I’m gonna help any bystanders that need helping. Maybe you could see where Agent Orange and “Superboy” stand, they’re uh –
“Superboy” splattered an alien,
– a little hard to get a read on.
People were staring a little too close to the action. If they stuck around, they’d get hurt.
Wally curved around the aliens, making a beeline for the bystanders.
The Gordanians snarled as one of them was immediately thrown aside with little effort.
But they were not afraid of a boy with the strength of a flamop, nor did they have reason to be. The Gordanians had feuded for centuries with beings of great strength and they had adapted to it. Tamaraneans, Thanagarians, and many others had been their sworn rivals. The ferocity of Gordanians was known to all of the races surrounding the Tamaranean Empire. As she fired several starbolts at her enemies, causing one of the Gordanian staves to explode in a burst of ion. As a group of Gordanians began to access the threat of her accidental rescuer one of the veteran hunters of the pack let out a loud snarl-like command, and it send a chill down Kori's spine.
Destroy him! The princess is mine.
Before she knew it all of the Gordanians minus the leader aimed their staff weapons at the boy and fired them at once while the one who had singled her out leaped through the air, his staff nearly hitting her square in the head. Her worries had been going to the people around her and her ally of convenience and it was beginning to effect her battle awareness. The warlord who trained her would be screaming at her if he could see her now.
As she dodged another strike from her enemy, the Gordanian twirled his staff, his finger slipping across a trigger and a blast of energy hit her in the face at point blank range. A blinding, bone chilling pain was the only thing she felt for a few seconds before she felt the Gordanian clutching her hair. Before she knew it she had been spun around and tossed like a ragdoll.
As her body collided with full force on one of the lightposts below. Before she could feel undazed the feeling of the staff slamming into her stomach caused her to regain her faculties, though not in the most ideal circumstance. She began to channel the energy she had left, drawing from the deepest of her reserves and in a few seconds her enemy was flying across the street from the expulsion of energy she had unleashed from her body. For a few moments she had time to compose herself, but she probably didn't have much more energy left. She coughed in pain before breathing long and deep.
The scene became even more complicated fast. A fishboy arrived onto the scene that Roy could have sworn he heard about from Oliver at some point... Garret maybe? A flash of yellow signaled the arrival of Wally. The alien cohort (other than the orange one) seemed to mostly be focusing their attacks on the Superteen. After years of working as a teenage vigilante, Roy's mind quickly normalized the high concentration of powered individuals. He took a moment to analyze the scene. The bystanders nearby were certainly in danger, but he knew Wally would be more focused on getting them safe. He could certainly do it faster than anyone else. The fire was contained enough for the moment, and something told Roy that his fishy friend would be best taking care of that situation with a little help. Guess that left the scarlet archer to aid the alien girl and the not Superman.
The Red Arrow pulled out a sharp arrow and knocked it back, his eyes scanning the scene below. He gave a small smile as he saw a fire hydrant not too far from the fire and fight below. The arrow was let loose, and it impacted with impeccable aim directly into the cap on the side of the fire hydrant. For a few seconds, only a high-pitched squeal emanated from the rupture point. Then, the cap shot off the hydrant as water began rushing out, the directed buildup of water pressure proving too much. From on top of the roof, Roy shouted as loud as he could, "Oi, Fishboy... Surf's Up!"
With that taken care of, Roy turned his attention quickly back to the aliens. From beneath his helmet a cocky grin spread over his lips as he knocked two trick arrows at once and let them loose, the arrows spreading apart and aimed towards the ground in front of a few of the bunched up hostiles. Upon hitting the ground, the arrows let loose small explosions. They weren't particularly powerful, especially for being this strong... but hopefully it was just enough to get their attention away from the Superboy long enough for him to make a move.
Kon-El repeatedly rammed his knuckles into the chest of the alien in front of him, the kinetic force of each blow seeming to slide right off of its natural armor. Many of the clone's strikes went wide as the Gordanian weaved passed many of the punches, deflecting the rest with smooth, trained movements. It was clear that Kon-El lacked anywhere close to the martial skill of the giants, and his raw strength was doing little to make up for it. The futility of it only made him rage all the more, and his fists came in with more force with each consecutive hit.
"Tough...bastards..." He grunted under his breath, the earthly expletive slipping easily into his daily language; it was the easiest way to loose his frustrations that didn't involve punching something.
The situation went from bad to worse when one of the aliens began to shout orders at the rest, causing them to shift their attention toward Kon. He froze for a moment, his eyes shooting wide as he stared at six separate beam weapons aimed right at his chest. Just getting hit with one of them had hurt. He reacted as quick as he could, his arms crossing in front of his face moments before the first of the beams stabbed into his flesh. The rest soon followed, each punching into him with more force than he'd ever felt in his (admittedly) short life. Charged particles drilled into Kon-El's chest, pouring on so much heat that the remains of his solar suit caught fire. The combined force was enough to start pushing the Superboy backward, his footing so ironclad that the concrete shattered under his dug-in heels.
A puncture formed in the center of his chest and an agonized howl found its way out of his throat. Something hot and sticky began to drip down his body. It took Kon several seconds of staring down at it to realize he was actually bleeding. He didn't even know he could bleed. Some strange concoction of rage and panic caused him to fight against the pain and fling his hands down toward the street, his fingers cutting through the asphalt and concrete with frightening ease. With a quick, powerful tug upwards, Kon tore a large chunk of the roadway upward, hefting it in front of himself to act as a shield against the alien weaponry. "If you think its that easy to kill me-"
In his brief moment of reprieve, Kon caught something out of the corner of his eye. A blur of yellow and red that quickly came into focus as his eyesight adjusted to follow something so impossibly fast. "Flash?" He managed to grumble, watching the speedster as he worked to clear the immediate area of civilians. The Scarlet Speedster he'd read about in the Justice League file wasn't looking so scarlet at the moment, strangely enough.
The sound of a pair of projectiles swooping through the air drew Superboy's gaze up over the lip of his crumbling, makeshift shield. Arrows, loosed by an unknown archer posted on a nearby rooftop, came flying down at the feet of the six Gordanians trying to skewer Kon-El like a clone-kebab. When the arrows landed, they exploded on contact, knocking about the line of extraterrestrials and sending up plumes of smoke that cut off their line of sight. It finally opened up an opportunity for Kon to get his hands on their scaley hides. "My turn."
He plucked what remained of his shield from the roadway, hoisting it overhead only to promptly toss it at the Gordanians with all of his otherworldly strength. After all the hits they were able to take before, Kon was confident that he didn't need to hold back against this lot- not if he actually wanted to survive this encounter. Spurred on by the presence of other heroes, he jumped into the midst of the Gordanians, unleashing a flurry of wild, untrained punches on anything he could get close to. One of the lizards went soaring out of the fight at the corner of his vision, some kind of greenish energy filling the sky in a chaotic, beautiful display of power. The alien girl must've hit him with something. That was two out of the fight so far. Just six left.
"HEY!" Kon hollered, hoping to get someone's attention as he took hold of one of the giant reptiles. Strong as Superboy was, he wasn't going to be able to fight the whole lot on his own. He needed to trim their numbers, split them up if he wanted to survive this. "SOMEBODY HIT THIS!" He spun around, tossing the Gordanian away from the brawl with the hope that he would be given a similar treatment as the other fallen opponents.
With one, swift tug, he removed the bloodied, shredded, and burning remains of his solar suit's shirt and tossed it to the ground. Kon took a moment to reset himself, burying his fist into his other palm as he let his gaze fall over the remaining aliens. "Alright, who wants to go first?"
Kori pushed her hand against the concrete underneath her, her vision was blurry, and there was a dull, reverberating, pain coming from the side of her head. Had she been at full power when she arrived on this new planet, she would’ve been in a far better position for a battle of such a scale. But beggars couldn’t be choosers, even if the beggars were beggar princesses. She was just glad she had timed her attacks against the “leader” of the group of Gordanians, otherwise she probably would’ve been in far worse shape.
She gritted her teeth and tried to refocus, looking in the direction her enemy had “flown”. Archaic buildings of steel and brick stood in the path with a Gordanian shaped hole in place of an exterior wall.
In a few seconds, she saw the silhouette of her captor-to-be, though before he looked at her he looked at his comrades-in-arms to see how they were doing. Gordanians didn’t have much facial muscles to express emotions, but Kori knew he wasn’t pleased. She didn’t even need to hear him snarl, his body language was all she needed. As his eyes re-met hers, she scrambled to her feet, remembering her training from her time with the Warlords of Okaara, changing to a defensive stance. She wasn’t sure how much longer she could last. But a Princess of Tamaran never went down without a fight; even if they were on their last breath.
Even with the dulcet tones of a world-renowned, five-time SOCAN award-winning group of musicians in her head, Babs could see things were going nowhere fast. Extraterrestrial street battle or no, she was still all but sitting on a diner full of civilians getting fuller by the minute, with a blown gas line imminent and closing - and, if she had to guess from the geyser of water she could only just see out the crowded windows, their nearest source of water was perhaps not to be counted on.
So, okay, Babs, think. Get the people out of the kitchen and away from the fucking action. The fun part happens later, assuming Wally leaves any leftovers, and when does he ever?
Exhaling, Babs shut her eyes, retracing the whole of the restaurant before her in a matter of seconds, drawing as much on what she'd seen just sitting with her friends as she did the imagined layout of the kitchen, the bank next door, the open storage underneath -
Green eyes flew open again. Breaking into the freezers under the restaurant wouldn't hold a panicked crowd for long, but it'd get them off the streets, out of the way, and away from a gas leak long enough for the others to clean up.
Pulling herself up over tabletops again, Babs skirted the crowd in a series of quick movements until her Converse found the sticky floor again just outside the kitchen where the smell of gas was strong enough to make her head ache. With a furtive glance around her, she dipped a hand in her pocket and pulled out a small, black and purple case no larger than a compact mirror. She didn't travel her her gear wrapped around a finger like some did, but she'd been with Bruce too long not to be at least a little prepared.