"Incoming transmission" chirped the computer as a large holographic screen appeared. Green Arrow's world-famous golden beard filled the image. Red Tornado's head was present in a corner, but nobody cared about that, because it was beardless.
"Arrow. Report." said Batman, very matter-of-factually. (It really was a very nice beard).
"The buildings are totaled. Definitely a controlled demolition. So far, no bodies, but it looks like there were a bunch of underground tunnels, just like at Cadmus D.C. It's going to take a while to sort it all out, even with the Canadians pitching in."
"What have you told them?" asked Aquaman.
"The League heard a rumor about activity on another op, sent in some recon to make sure the place was dormant, recon got attacked, backup arrived, things exploded."
"That's pretty much the truth" said Wonder Woman, raising an eyebrow at Batman. "I'm almost impressed." Batman resisted rolling his eyes at the sarcasm on the grounds that his mask would just conceal it.
"They know we've got missing personnel out here," continued Arrow "and I'm not sure how much longer it'll be until they start asking which Justice Leaguers they're looking for."
"When you have to, inform them that all missing League members have been located, and that it was merely communications error. The recon units have successfully been recovered. Apologize for wasting their time."
"Hey. Why do I have to apologize? It was your..."
Batman raised an eyebrow.
"Uh, anyways, the goons we caught are secured and they've started waking up" said Arrow, rapidly changing subject.
"Have they said anything?" asked Aquaman.
"They claim that they have no idea why we have taken them prisoner, nor do they recall a battle last night" said Red Tornado, stepping forward.
"A lie" said Wonder Woman. "It is easy enough to claim amnesia. To prove it is another matter."
"I don't know" said Green Arrow. "They've been separated the entire time we've had them, and yet they all came up with the exact same excuse. Different wording, too, so it didn't sound rehearsed. Most of them seem more freaked out about it than anything else."
Batman thought for a second before bringing up a file on another holoscreen. "Right after Sportsmaster's plane took off, Superboy reported some sort of high-pitched sound. No one else heard it, but my cowl recorded it, and analysis shows that it in fact has a complicated and precise pattern. Definitely artificial."
"If they wanted to be sure they didn't leave any loose ends behind..." began Superman.
"...then the sound might have triggered a post-hypnotic suggestion" finished Martian Manhunter, entering the room alongside Black Canary.
"Exactly" said Batman, taking the pair of lead-lined containers from the Martian. Superman eyed the one marked 'Caution: Kryptonite' warily, but the lead was thick enough that he physically felt no different.
"J'onn, get back out there" ordered Batman. "Take Wonder Woman with you. You two should be able to tell if their memories really are being suppressed. If so, see if you can reverse it. I want answers. Now."
The Martian and Amazon nodded and moved towards the zeta tube. Wonder Woman checked her Lasso of Truth (TM) as they stepped into the teleporter.
"Canary. What are Miss Martian and Superboy's conditions?" the Dark Knight asked.
"They've been through a lot" said Canary. "M'gann is definitely traumatized. Thinks she's some kind of monster and we'll all hate her for it. But I think Conner's having issues too. He's just better at hiding it. Maybe if there was someone he could connect with? Like a family member or something?"
Superman did his best to look like he wasn't trying to be nonchalant. And he was failing.
"Anyway," continued Canary, clearly annoyed at Superman "I'll need sessions with them right away, say, in an hour or so?"
"Negative" said Batman.
"Excuse me?" asked Canary, hands on her hips. "I am the team therapist, am I not? And they need therapy. The sooner, the better."
"You are the Team's teacher and therapist" said Batman, making eye contact with her. "You are also a member of the Justice League. This investigation is already keeping four other Leaguers out of the way. We don't have the manpower to let anyone else stay on the sidelines until the incident it fully resolved."
"The sidelines?" exploded Canary. "Do you think making sure that we haven't just permanently scarred two teenagers in the prime of their lives..."
"Hey, isn't Miss Martian in her forties or something?" asked Green Arrow, still visible on the holoscreen. Canary glared at him.
The holoscreen closed.
"Both Miss Martian and Superboy are capable of dealing with this on their own for one more day" said Batman.
"You haven't even considered that they're children, have you?" shouted Canary. "They are children, and we're sending them to fight the worst people on the planet! What happens when one of them finally gets killed? Huh? What are we supposed to say then? That we're sorry?"
"Every member of the Team is fully aware of the risks..." began Batman, but Black Canary cut him off.
"You think that everyone can take the same stress you can, just by acting all dark and broody! But look at you! You never even got over it, did you?"
Batman seemed almost... stunned at the ferocity of the accusations. Superman and Aquaman were stunned to see that Batman was stunned, such a rare occasion as it was.
In the middle of this stunned silence of stunnedness, Conner and M'gann walked in, arms around each other's shoulders, though no one seemed to notice them. They stopped suddenly, noticing the epic showdown taking place in front of them. One Kid Flash would have paid money to be able to watch.
Batman's eyes narrowed into the continent-destroying Batglare.
"Don't bring my parents into this."
Superman and Aquaman were both trying to figure out who they should grab first if blows were exchanged when the zeta tube activated, providing a convenient distraction.
"Recognize: Dr. Fate 17, Captain Marvel 15."
Sure enough, the cheery man/boy that was Captain Marvel appeared, flying forwards into the room. Dr. Fate's face was hidden behind his golden helmet, but he looked as though he couldn't wait to be away from the other hero.
"Hey guys!" Marvel shouted. The assembled Leaguers were too struck by mood whiplash to say anything, so the Captain flew past them towards Conner and M'gann, who was still bald and sickly white.
"Oh my god, M'gann!" cried the new arrival, dropping to the ground. The Martian girl glanced down at the floor, tears starting to well in her eyes. This was the rejection she had been waiting for.
"You look awesome!" finished the Captain. "You've gotta turn into cool stuff like that more often!"
Everyone in the room stared at him, and it was clear they were all thinking the same thing.
Why did we let this guy in?
"Oh, sorry" he said, rubbing his neck in embarrassment. "Am I interrupting something?"
Batman, Black Canary, Aquaman and Superman looked at other.
"Greta?" Zatanna asked, shocked. She hadn't seen the ghost girl since Halloween. By the looks of it, not much had changed, save an expanded vocabulary.
"How did you get here?" the magician asked. "Didn't you pass on?"
"Grey Man found Secret in afterlife, said Z needed Secret's help fighting bad lady" said Greta. "So Secret came!"
"Grey Man?" asked Zatanna."Who's that?"
"Secret doesn't know. But Grey Man was very nice. He led Secret straight to Z's soul! Bad lady doesn't know we're here." Greta paused and thought for a second. "So now Secret will help Z!" she shouted cheerfully, like that was all that needed to be done.
"Help… how?" asked Zatanna. She felt as if tears were welling up in her eyes, and the extremely cheery ghost girl wasn't helping. Nor was the fact that they weren't her eyes anymore. They were Tala's.
"I lost. If I try anything, she'll know I'm still here. She'll… she'll destroy me."
"Secret knows how Z feels. Secret tried a long time to stop Billy."
"You mean Harm?" asked Zatanna. Man, that guy had been off the deep end, that's for sure.
Greta nodded. "Secret couldn't fight Billy. Secret could only watch Billy hurt people. Secret thought she'd never stop Billy. But then Z and At appeared."
"You mean me and Artemis?" asked Zatanna. (Were their names really that hard to pronounce?)
"You fought Billy… Secret thought you could stop him. But Billy was too strong"
Zatanna could remember all right. Harm had been able to shrug off spells, arrows and fiery explosions like they were nothing. They'd barely been able to hold out before he'd overpowered both of them. That could have been the end, right there...
"And you helped us" she said.
"Secret did what she could, and At and Z stopped Billy. Now Billy will never hurt anyone again. See?"
I do see thought Zatanna. Greta removed the gag that kept me from using magic. That was it. But just that was enough to beat Harm. Being a hero means trusting in others, and being ready to make the ultimate sacrifice. If I can just give Robin a chance… he'll do the rest. I can be sure of that.
"Z and Secret will help Ro fight bad lady, yes?" asked Secret.
"Yes, Greta. Z will help fight her."