Worst Case Scenario

Scorched Earth

Batman ran.

Granted, he ran a lot in his occupation, but anyone who had carefully studied his average running-in-the-direction-of-supervillains run (and indeed, there are such people) would notice some slight differences. His strides were wider, his movements less disciplined.

Such a person would get the feeling that he absolutely had to get to where he was going, that whatever was there was higher on his priorities list than saving the world.

Probably because it was.

Batman was vaguely aware that Green Arrow and Black Canary had appeared out of the darkness and taken up positions to either side of him, ready to blow away any enemies that might appear.

Miss Martian and Superboy were not far behind, all the heroes running at their top speeds.

Martian Manhunter and Red Tornado were flying ahead, sweeping for additional hostiles.

Nothing, save Sportsmaster's initial group. The rest (and there were certainly more) were likely holed up in the old Cadmus base.

Whoever was behind this had access to a lot of resources: Apokoliptan weaponry, state-of-the-art military drones, multiple cargo planes and a surface-to-air missile with the capability to take down a cloaked Martian Bioship. They had been in communication with Parasite when he had nearly destroyed Europe.

And Sportsmaster was involved. Again. That couldn't be a coincidence.

Something big was going on, and they needed to shut it down ASAP.

Since the only flight-capable heroes present had slowed down to avoid getting too far ahead, Sportsmaster's truck had outrun the group and disappeared.

"Batman, this is Watchtower" said Green Lantern over the radio. "I've got Sportsmaster on thermals. That truck has just reached the runway. There's still a C-5 there. They may be trying to take off."

"Acknowledged" said Batman, transferring the information to the others through J'onn's mental link. Red Tornado, being a robot, was not connected, but had received the transmission regardless.

"Tornado, Manhunter, intercept and neutralize the plane" the Dark Knight ordered. "The rest of us will sweep the buildings."

He swept his head back and forth, the sensors in his bat 'ears' scanning ahead for traps, bombs, cameras or hidden autoturrets (which were always annoying).


Either the mysterious enemy hadn't been here long or they had been very sloppy about security. And nothing about these guys had screamed sloppy.

Something was definitely wrong.

The truck reached the runway in record time. Being chased by superheroes will do that.

"Go! Go!" shouted Sportsmaster as he and the last of his men dashed up the long rear ramp. The massive plane lurched forward as it began to pick up speed.

"Everybody here?" the blue-masked mercenary asked as the rear door closed. Freeze was sitting off in a corner, still working on his torn suit. The rest of the men quickly counted among themselves.

"We're missing six" replied Epsilon.

Sportsmaster nodded in acknowledgement. "Send the signal once we're in the air."

Too bad for them.

The cargo plane was already speeding down the runway when Martian Manhunter and Red Tornado arrived.

A quick psychic sweep detected 16 humans present, though the sweep was too vague to give identities.

"Inquiry: Shall I stop it?" asked Tornado.

"No" replied Martian Manhunter. "I have this."

Simply crashing the plane, even when it was on the ground would be dangerous, both for the villains and any prisoners inside. Plus, Batman had recently released an official League Directive for all members (especially Superman) to take measures to minimize collateral damage, both for PR and to preserve evidence.

Besides, there was an easier way.

Invisible and intangible, Manhunter flew over the plane, reaching the cockpit in a few seconds. He would simply phase inside and force the pilots to pull over.

The plane was moving fast enough that he wouldn't be able to go through the ceiling. Instead, the Martian flew slightly ahead of the plane and phased in through the main window.

Or rather, he would have.

Except he didn't go through the window.

Instead, it slammed into him at 50 miles an hour.

The impact sent him spinning away, rolling off the plane's nose and onto the ground. The C-5 rushed over him, barely giving him the chance to evade the wheels and emerge safely on the other side.

In the cockpit, Tala smiled as the glowing red runes on the window faded.

"Sir, we've got hostiles in pursuit!" said Tau, his voice mixing with the roar of the engines as it echoed through the plane's hold.

"I'll handle this" said Mr. Freeze, picking up a black cylinder, which, while smaller than his infamous freeze ray, was still impressive.

Sportsmaster smiled and nodded.

"Do it."

"Tornado!" shouted Martian Manhunter, lying flat on the runway. "Destroy the engines!"

Sometimes the second-simplest method was required.

Red Tornado picked up speed, moving off to the plane's left. Down below, a door opened on the side, and there was a flash of blue light.

Tornado froze in shock. And, well, because the temperature around him had just dropped 80 degrees, coating him in ice.

And then he started falling.

J'onn's head was spinning, but he saw Red Tornado plummeting towards the ground.

Mustering all his will, the Martian reached out telekinetically and caught the android a few feet from the ground, keeping him from shattering into so many pieces that they'd never put him back together again.

J'onn started to get back to his feet. There was still time to stop the plane.

And then something exploded.

"We're almost at the southernmost building" Batman said over the mental link. "We'll sweep that and move on from there. Expect heavy resistance and a possible hostage situation." Everyone knew what that meant. If the bad guys got desperate, they would use their prisoners as hostages.

A chain-link fence surrounded the inner part of the base, but a simple thermite bomb blew straight through it. Batman didn't even slow down as he dashed past an empty guard tower.

The first building was simple, only a single floor (though, of course, the first Project Cadmus had seemed a mere two stories, so additional levels were not out of the question). Its white plaster walls were cracked from harsh winters and poor maintenance. The windows were dark and cracked.

They were thirty feet away now.

Fire ripped through the building, shattering the windows and scorching the plaster. As Batman skidded to a stop, raising one hand to cover his head, similar explosions ripped through the other two buildings. Smaller demolition charges shattered the support pillars, and one by one, the buildings crumbled into rubble.

Nothing (except Superman) could have survived.

The explosion broke J'onn's concentration, and he dropped Tornado. Fortunately, the frozen robot was close enough to the ground that he didn't break, but he was definitely out of the fight.

J'onn tried to get to his feet, but his balance was still off.

The plane lifted off into the sky and disappeared. Literally. As if it had faded from existence.

Batman and the others appeared and everyone took a second to catch their breath. Miss Martian was crying into Superboy's shoulder.

"They're all gone" she whispered.

"There was nothing in those buildings" said Green Arrow. "The bad guys knew we were coming and were pulling out anyways."

Batman's eyes narrowed. "And they didn't want to leave any evidence behind" he said. The Dark Knight touched his earpiece.

"Watchtower, this is Batman. There's nothing here. Tell me you have eyes on the planes."

"Batman!" replied Green Lantern. "All the cargo planes just vanished off the radar! The Canadian Air Force has fighters in the area, but there's nothing they can do!"

"The planes are equipped with Martian camouflage" said Martian Manhunter.

"Are you sure?" asked Black Canary.

"I am certain" replied the elder Martian. M'gann looked down at the ground, trying to suppress more tears.

"So we have no way of tracking them" said Conner. He scanned the air with his super-vision, but didn't see any sign of the plane. Suddenly, he winced and covered his ears.

"What's wrong?" asked Black Canary, M'gann and Green Arrow simultaneously.

"Can you hear that?" Conner asked, trying to suppress the pain in his head.

"I didn't hear anything" said Green Arrow. "It must be a ultrasonic."

"Well, it's gone now" said Conner as the buzzing faded away to ringing in his ears. "What do you think it was?"

"I don't know" said Batman. "But it may be our only lead. Lantern, we're going to have to get the rest of the League down here, see what we can dig up."

"Okay, but they aren't going to like this" replied Lantern, signing off.

"Whoever these guys are, they're good" said Green Arrow, staring at the ruined buildings.

"And they have the rest of the Team prisoner as well" said Manhunter.

Batman's eyes narrowed, in the way he normally reserved for villains on par with the Joker.

"Then this is war."

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