Superboy landed hard. Fortunately, by virtue of being Superboy, he was pretty much unharmed and quickly leaped to his feet.
The Bioship was another story. One didn't need Kryptonian super-vision to see it falling from the sky, flames leaking out as it broke into pieces.
One thought filled his mind:
Superboy ripped open his pants pocket (literally) and grabbed the palm-sized case containing Luthor's shields, the little stickers that suppressed his human DNA. He only had four left, but he needed the ability to fly now more than ever.
He thumbed the button, causing the shutter to retract, and grabbed one of the patches.
Or rather, he would have.
But there weren't any.
The case was empty.
And in the second he spent staring in disbelief, the Bioship's remains slammed into the ground.
Rocket opened her eyes, which was odd, considering the fact that the last thing she remembered was falling to her death.
The second thing she noticed was that she couldn't move.
"I've got her!" shouted Red Arrow. Rocket tried to say something but she couldn't breath. There was something pressing on her chest. From what she could see, their fragment of the ship had landed right on top of her.
Red Arrow heaved and pushed the rounded organics-infused-metal husk off of Rocket. It rolled a few feet away before stopped. The archer reached down and ripped Rocket out of the pink, sticky foam she was coated in.
"Is this yours?" she asked, shaking off the foam that was stuck to her arms.
Red Arrow nodded. "It absorbed the shock, kept us alive. Looks like it kept the ship from crushing you, too."
"Lucky me" muttered Rocket as her eyes settled on the other two people present.
Robin looked okay, with a few scratches and holes in his costume. He was kneeling over Zatanna. She wasn't moving.
"Is she...?" asked Rocket, not wanting to ask the question, not wanting to consider the possibility that the member of the Team who had welcomed her, had always been the nicest to her, even more than M'gann, was actually...
Red Arrow shook his head. "She's alive. But barely."
Robin stood up and turned to face Rocket.
"What happened to her? Right before she collapsed? What were her symptoms?"
"Well, uh, I don't really..."
"You were the one right next to her. WHAT WERE HER SYMPTOMS!?" shouted the boy. Rocket squeaked and took a step back. The younger boy leaped forward and grabbed her by the collar.
"You were right next to her! What happened!?"
Red Arrow grabbed Robin by the cape and pulled him away.
"Robin!" the archer said sternly. "This isn't the time. Zatanna needs medical attention and, if you hadn't noticed, we just got shot down in the middle of hostile territory! We've only got half of the Team as it is! We all need to work together!"
Robin glanced down at the ground and took a few deep breaths.
"I... I'm sorry. I just, well, you know..."
Red Arrow looked at him and Rocket.
"She was poisoned" he said.
"That seems likely" agreed Robin. "Either that or some kind of magical feedback thing only she was sensitive too."
"But who would...?" asked Rocket.
"It's the mole" said Red Arrow.
"Mole? What mole?" Why am I always the last to know about these things? Rocket thought.
"A while back we got a tip that someone on the team was feeding intel to the other side" said Robin. "Nothing really came of it, but..."
"If she was poisoned," continued Red Arrow, "it was almost certainly either at the Cave or on the Bioship. Which means..."
"Someone on the Team did it" finished Rocket, realizing the implications.
The archer nodded. "The Bioship was cloaked and they were still able to take it down. Why?"
"Because they have someone on the inside" said Robin.
Rocket gasped, not even wanting to say the words. "One of the nine of us is... a traitor?"
The boys nodded. "It could be anyone" said the Boy Wonder. "It could be you."
"Me?" said Rocket, her voice catching in her throat.
"You were the one sitting next to her" said Robin. "And you are the newest one... You've been a hero like what, six months?"
"I'M NO TRAITOR!" shouted Rocket, stamping her foot for good measure. It was somewhat childish, but really! Being accused of being a spy? This was not how her first mission was supposed to go.
"Or Miss Martian" said Red Arrow.
"Oh, come on, Roy" said Robin. "Would she really blow up her own ship?"
"Guys!" shouted Rocket, stamping her foot again. "It doesn't matter! We need to find the others, get this girl some help and then there's still the actual mission to do! Now how is this conversation helping us do any of that?"
Robin and Red Arrow exchanged looks.
"You're right" they both said. Robin bent down to check on Zatanna again.
"We need to move" said Red Arrow. "Someone will come looking for the wreckage"
Rocket glanced around at the dark woods from which hordes of baddies could come pouring out any second.
"Can we move her?" the archer asked Robin.
"I think so. She's out cold, and with all the tumbling she did in the crash, I doubt we can make it any worse."
"Sorry" said Rocket, a little sheepishly. "My belt is tapped out. I don't know when it'll work again. These two hands are all I've got."
"Old fashioned way it is, then" said Robin. "There's a hill over that way with some bushes we can use for cover. I say we move over there and then try to contact the Team. Okay?"
"Okay" was the reply. Rocket grabbed Zatanna's arms, Red Arrow took her feet, and they ran.
Superboy threw the shield case to the ground and stomped on it, crushing the metal into pieces.
"Useless piece of junk!" he shouted, unsure of whether he was talking about the case or himself.
There had been four shields in there. He'd counted last night. So why weren't there any now?
Superboy stopped for a second and took a few deep breaths, using the calming technique Black Canary had taught him.
Obviously, someone had done something with the shields. That means the person had to know about them.
That meant they worked for Luthor.
Clearly this had been part of his plan. Get Superboy dependent on the things and then make sure he doesn't have them when things go to hell. Make him weak.
Well, I'm sorry, Lex Superboy thought. But I was doing this way before I got your little shields.
He took one more look at the destroyed case and started walking.
Aqualad swam through the cold, dark, December waters. It was hard to see, but he had confirmed that there did not appear to be any usable undersea hatches. In fact, there hadn't really been anything down there at all. Unfortunately, he seemed somehow unable to contact the rest of the team by radio. He considered calling the Watchtower, but figured it best to surface first and attempt to make contact again.
Aqualad broke the surface of the water. The moon was almost full and gave a reasonable illumination of the area. Between rocky cliffs was the beach Robin had pointed out on the map. Beyond that was a forest of large trees.
"Team, this is Aqualad. Come in" he spoke into his radio.
"Team, this is Aqualad. Robin, Red Arrow, Miss Martian, can you hear me?"
Then something broke through.
"Aqualad, this is Superboy."
"Superboy? What's going on?"
"Not sure. We got hit by something. Bioship's down."
"What? That's impossible! Is anyone else alright?"
"I don't know. I fell out a ways from the crash site. Haven't been able to contact anyone else. I'll go look for them."
"Not yet, Superboy. Are you near the coastline?"
"Not too far, yeah."
"I will meet up with you. We will search for the others together. Is that understood?"
"I got it, Kalder. I'll meet you by the beach. Superboy out."
Aqualad dove under the water again, swimming towards the shore as fast as possible.
If the Team had gone down when he was not with them... how could he explain to Aquaman?
How could he explain to Batman?
Aqualad reached the beach and ran over the sand as fast as his webbed feet could carry him.
Normally he would have avoided the beach. Too obvious of a place for traps.
Normally, he would have climbed up one of the shorter cliffs, which would have taken just sixty seconds more, if that much.
Normally, his entire team hadn't just been shot down while he was on recon.
The sand in front of him exploded, sending Aqualad flying into the air.
He landed hard and rolled, stunned but still grabbing for his waterbearers.
He heard the zing of two hovering red disks.
He felt intense pain as they poured electricity into his body.
He lowered his arm and went limp, playing dead.
A lone, dark figure emerged from the shadows, holding the signature strapped-to-body system of alien Apokoliptan weapons.
The silhouette alone was recognizable in the moonlight. The hated enemy of his people.
Aqualad swung the one waterbearer he could reach forward, extending his will to the ocean beside him.
A massive wave of saltwater flew up onto the beach, smashing into and engulfing the man.
Aqualad somehow, somehow got to his feet, stumbled forward, his body still shaking from the pain of the electric disks.
The enemy was stunned, his weapon knocked aside. Aqualad pointed his waterbearer at the man and managed to say one word.
Black Manta slowly pushed his weapon aside and put up his hands towards his face.
No, not his face.
And with the press of a button, he removed it, revealing his face.
From Black Manta's wrist came a harsh red light.
And then everything was still.