A Very Bad Day...
December 28, 15:16 EST
The quiet of the Cave's briefing room was interrupted by a golden ankh which materialized in the center. A second later, Aqualad, Red Arrow, Artemis, Rocket, Miss Martian, Superboy, Black Canary, Red Tornado and Wolf emerged from the ankh, which then faded away.
Rocket let out a little sigh of relief. Magical transport was very different from zeta beam transport, and she'd only ever done that once anyways. She had to admit, for a while there she hadn't thought she'd ever see Mt. Justice again, either due to untimely death, imprisonment by supervillains or being fired. She never thought she'd miss a place she'd first been to a day and a half ago, and yet it had been almost twenty-four hours since they'd left the Cave for their 'simple recon mission.'
"It is good to be back" Aqualad said. "Though we are still incomplete."
Fate had been furious that Zatanna was not only missing, but apparently possessed by a Lord of Chaos. Artemis had been half-afraid he'd send them back with their organs twisted or something.
Not really how the mission was supposed to go she thought.
Batman had taken the loss of Robin in silence, as he did everything. However, he was now personally leading the investigation of 'Aguila Base' as one of the guards had called it. Most of the League was either helping with that or heading back to the Watchtower or Hall of Justice. Evil conspiracy or not, there were still going to be random supervillains doing random supervillainy and the League's public image required them to have rapid response times.
"Rocket, Red Arrow, Aqualad, Artemis, if you would all please follow me to the medical bay?" asked Red Tornado. "Batman has requested that I provide an immediate physical examination to ensure that you are free of any injuries."
The four looked at each other and shrugged. It's not like a checkup was the worst thing that had happened to them that day.
Wolf went over into a corner and lay down, continuing to gnaw on a MONQI arm it had obtained earlier. M'gann and Conner turned to head towards their rooms.
"Not so fast" said Black Canary. "You two. Counseling. Now."
Conner started to protest, but decided against it mid-word. One, he did not want to take on Canary, not when she had that look, and two, if he and M'gann were going to come clean about their secrets (which they were), they might as well start with Canary.
M'gann glanced at the ground as if she had guessed what he was thinking, but she said nothing as they followed Canary out of the room.
Half an hour later and Red Tornado had finished cataloging the various bruises, cuts, burns and electrocution marks that the Team had managed to obtain. Roy had glared in Rocket's direction as he described how he'd been knocked into an electric fence, but resisted naming names for the moment.
"I see nothing which would force any of you off of active duty," the android said, "though I would recommend that Aqualad and Red Arrow refrain from more... strenuous activities for the next few days if possible."
"Not likely" Roy muttered.
"If you're done" said Artemis, "I'm gonna go hit the showers. Hard."
She walked out into the hall and took a left.
"Are the showers not that way?" asked Tornado, pointing to the right.
"Yeah, but I need to go by my room first, and it's this way, tin man" she said, disappearing.
Roy rolled his eyes. Like she'd been through half of what they had with her cushy 'fake mole' thing. He'd been knocked out, first by a kick to the face by Artemis and then by electrocution.
Eh, give it a rest, Roy he told himself. You've got bigger problems at the moment.
"Kaldur" he said, grabbing Aqualad's shoulder. "A moment?"
The Atlantean nodded and they stepped out into the empty hall.
"I should probably call my mom and Icon" Rocket said. "I bet they're worried sick." And I'm going to have to tell Icon about how I broke and then lost the belt... Awesome.
"What is the matter?" Kaldur asked.
"We've still got a mole problem" Roy said. "Artemis talked with Wally and I back in Spain. She thinks there's another mole on the Team."
"Impossible" Kaldur whispered.
"Well, if Artemis is an undercover plant working for our side, then that still leaves the question of Sportsmaster's source he talked about in September."
"I thought that we had established that he was merely spreading disinformation" replied Kaldur.
"That was before last night" Roy snapped. "Between the Bioship, and Wally being poisoned, and just the fact that they knew we were coming, it's clear that they've got something or someone on the inside. It can't be you, me, Robin or Wally."
"And why are you so certain of that?" asked Kaldur.
"Look, I know I can't be the mole, and I've known you three for years. There's no reason that I can think of that any of you could be flipped."
Kaldur took a deep breath. Father...
"Rocket and Zatanna are too new, and Robin said that Rocket only turned on me under Psimon's control, which I guess I can understand, since he made me put Wally in a headlock. Without him deserving it this time. If Artemis is out, that leaves Miss Martian and Superboy. The two people who's origins we know the least about. To start, I think we should..."
"Stop." Roy literally flinched in surprise at the Atlantean's calm but cold tone.
Kaldur looked Roy straight in the eye.
"You may be older than us, and will likely only be a part of this team for the few days until you officially join the League, but until then, I am team leader. I will investigate as necessary, but for the moment, you are merely throwing suspicion on anyone you can. That will lead to nothing but paranoia and infighting, which this team cannot afford. We still have three members missing, including two of my oldest surface friends. We cannot risk ripping the Team apart while they are still out there. If you have any further suspicions, please bring them up with myself or Batman, but do not act on them without our permission. Is that clear, my friend?"
Roy took a deep breath and bit his lip, like he was fighting back the urge to respond in anger.
"Crystal" he finally said.
"So, who wants to go first?" Black Canary asked. M'gann looked uncomfortably at Conner, who stepped forwards.
"Uh, actually, if you didn't mind, we'd like to do this together" he said.
"That's hardly good psychological procedure" Canary said.
"It's very important" Conner replied. "We've got something we need to tell you. Both of us."
M'gann nodded weakly, like she'd rather be anywhere on (or preferably off) the planet.
Conner took her hand and squeezed it, giving her one of those 'everything will be okay' smiles he so rarely broke out.
"Does this concern certain biological functions which are perfectly normal in teenagers?" Canary asked. Granted, neither of you are anything close to typical teenagers she thought but did not say.
The two teens looked at each other.
"Sort of" said M'gann. "Not really" said Conner at the same time.
"Well," said Canary, sighing and gesturing for them to enter what was unofficially the 'Shrink Room,' silently hoping this was not what she was afraid it was. "Don't keep me waiting."
When Roy and Kaldur returned to the medical bay, Red Tornado had opened a holo-screen to Batman and explained his assessment of the Team's various injuries.
"Wonder Woman has confirmed that the men we captured at Cape Chidley do in fact have amnesia about the events of last night and their employers" the Dark Knight said. "The only connection the Canadians have been able to get so far is that several of them are known associates of Sportsmaster, which doesn't help us in the slightest."
"And the base in Spain?" the android asked.
"It appears that it did belong to the Spanish military for a number of years before being decommissioned as part of budget cuts. It looks like the latest tenets had only set up shop here a month or two ago. There is evidence that planes matching those seen fleeing Cape Chidley landed here, but they were long gone by the time we arrived."
"What about the teleportation technology they used to escape?" asked Kaldur. "I have never seen such a portal. It lacked a platform and yet I sensed no magic from it."
"The Lanterns' rings have been picking up some odd radiation, matching the energy signature we detected over Bialya before your first mission there" Batman replied. "They tried to run a search through the Green Lantern Corps' database, but this particular information has been flagged as 'confidential.' I've sent one of them to Oa to get to the bottom of it."
"It sounds as though this may be similar to the portal technology wielded by Superboy's friends the Forever People and their enemies, the Apokoliptans" Red Tornado observed.
Batman frowned. "That would make sense, given the Apokoliptan weaponry we confiscated in Canada. But the presence of alien influences means that we must resolve this situation as soon as possible."
"What about our other leads?" asked Roy. "I heard something about Mr. Freeze?"
"Superboy and Miss Martian battled Mr. Freeze in Cape Chidley" Batman said.
"And I believe that he was the one who froze the door to the portal room in Spain" said Kaldur.
"Victor Fries is supposedly incarcerated in isolation at Belle Reve Penitentiary" said Red Tornado. "Yet it appears he is not."
"Actually, he is" said Flash, appearing in a new box in the corner of the screen. "We ran fingerprints, DNA, retinal scan, everything. Freeze is still in Belle Reve."
"Obviously he teleported from Spain and then took his place back in his cell" said Roy. "After all, you do believe the Warden has been compromised, haven't you?"
"This wouldn't be the first time we've accused Freeze of breaking out in secret" said Flash. "After all, we suspect his involvement in the Ice Fortress Incident. But I've got bad news for you all. I saw Freeze with my own eyes between when he was seen at Cape Chidley and when you saw him in Spain."
"What of Professor Ivo?" asked Kaldur. "Technology bearing his signature was present in both Canada and Spain."
"Ivo's still here too" said Flash. "But he wouldn't need to leave for someone to be able to make use of his designs. Especially since Artemis saw him in New Orleans a week ago. He could have simply made the toys at another time."
"Speaking of which" said Roy. "Your undercover operation sure flunked, didn't it?"
"What undercover operation?" Batman asked.
"Don't play dumb with us" said Roy. "The one where Artemis pretended to betray the Team in order to infiltrate the bad guys."
Batman frowned. "I never authorized an operation like that."
Red Arrow's eyes widened, as did Aqualad's.
"But Artemis said…"
"Hey, guys?" said Rocket, wandering back into the medical bay. "Have you seen Artemis? She wasn't in her room or the bathroom."
Suddenly, red emergency lights began flashing as an alarm bell rung out. "Warning" said the computer. "Virus detected." Batman's holoscreen dissolved into static.
Red Arrow turned around and dashed towards the Mission Room.
"Oh she did not…!"
"Okay" said Black Canary. "Enough putting it off. What is so important?"
"Well, uh," M'gann stumbled for the best way to start, a task not made easier by her extreme desire to not start at all.
"Perhaps you should begin at the beginning" said Canary.
"I'll go first" said Conner. "Around Thanksgiving, I went back to Cadmus. While I was there, I..."
Alarms blared as red lights began to flash.
"Oh what now?" asked Canary, as if her day didn't demand a big enough drink as it was.
Aqualad, Red Arrow, Rocket and Red Tornado sprinted (well, Tornado hovered) into the Mission Room just in time to see Artemis on the other side, unplugging a USB cord and slipping it back into a wrist computer hidden in her sleeve.
"Oh, hey guys" she said before a tiny crossbow appeared in her hands. The bolt hurtled forwards and struck the ground in front of them, exploding.
"TRAITOR!" Red Arrow shouted, coughing on smoke.
"Blah, blah, blah. You never do shut up, do you?" Artemis asked, sprinting towards the nearest zeta tube.
"Computer, shut down all zeta tubes!" Red Arrow cried. "Code Red Arrow B06!"
"Acknowledged" the computer replied. "Shutting… shutting… shuttinginginginging… Recognize: Artemis B07."
Red Arrow emerged from the smoke just in time to see Artemis standing in the teleporter. She blew him a kiss as she dissolved into light.
"Warning! Warning! Virus detected. Security systems failing." Suddenly, a burst of static filled the intercoms.
"Lockdown initiated" said the computer as the static cleared.
Red Arrow reached the zeta tube panel only for it to short out with a zap! A second later, both zeta tubes did the same. All across the mountain, heavy steel doors slammed down, sealing them in.
"Perfect" Roy grumbled as he slammed a fist into the side of the useless teleporter. "Just. Perfect."
"What happened?" asked Black Canary, running into the room, M'gann, and Conner right behind her. The others tried to say something, but none of them could find the words.
Roy, however, had no such problem.
"Artemis betrayed us!" he shouted. "Again! How could we be so stupid?"
"Artemis?" gasped Conner and M'gann simultaneously.
"How… why would she…?" stuttered the Martian.
Canary stamped a foot on the ground in anger. "It can't be…"
"It would indeed appear to be the case" said Red Tornado.
"It is" said Roy. "Trust us. We've seen it with our own eyes. Twice."
"Be calm, old friend" Kaldur said, placing a hand on the archer's shoulder. "We will find Artemis, and we will determine the truth of what has transpired. But for now, we should attempt to contact Batman. It is fortunate that the deception was discovered before significant damage was inflicted."
"Warning!" said the computer. "Intruders detected. All defense systems enabled. Self-destruct protocol initiated."
For a second, everything was silent save the buzzing of an alarm klaxon. Finally, Rocket spoke up.
"You just had to say it, didn't you?"