Worst Case Scenario

Comparing Notes

Bristol County, Massachusetts

December 28, 19:16 EST

"Aqualad, report" said Batman. The holographic display flickered. On one screen was Batman, still in Spain, with Green Arrow and Aquaman behind him. On the other was Captain Atom on the Watchtower. The Team, Flash and Red Tornado were sitting around the holodisplay like a campfire in the back of a van they'd been able to rent thanks to one of Batman's infamous emergency stashes. Black Canary was in the front, driving like a maniac and cursing at the evening traffic.

"Mt. Justice is without power but still secure under lockdown. We have left Superboy's Wolf to stand guard." said Aqualad. "As the Cave's zeta tubes were heavily damaged, we are currently in route to Boston in order to rendezvous with the League."

"Good" said Batman. "We believe we have a lead on the location of Kid Flash and Robin, but it's going to take some time before we're sure. Once we have a confirmed target, we'll need to move fast."

Most of the Team members seemed relieved at the opportunity to rescue their missing teammates, but the topic of discussion soon shifted to a far more depressing subject.

"What happened?" Batman asked.

"It would appear that Artemis has betrayed the Team" Aqualad sadly.

"Not possible" said Green Arrow, pushing Batman aside. "Trust me, she'd-"

"Give it a rest, Ollie" cut in Red Arrow. "We were there. We saw it with our own eyes. She's rogue. She stabbed us in the back twice in a single day."

"Explain" said Batman.

"Well, first, after we crashed, she faked a distress signal in order to lure me over to her position for an ambush" said Red Arrow.

"And it worked?" Flash asked. Roy scowled but nodded.

"She then popped up in order to help me protect Zatanna" Rocket added in. "Or, at least that's what she said. I got attacked and knocked out right afterwards, and she ran off with Zatanna, who had been rendered unconscious beforehand, so it was probably a setup."

"After we were first captured at Cape Chidley," Aqualad said, turning towards the screen, "Rocket, Robin, Red Arrow and I were confronted by Cheshire and Artemis. They claimed to be sisters, and Robin backed up their story."

"All records indicate that that is the truth" Batman said. "Artemis is the daughter of Sportsmaster and the sister of Cheshire."

"Why didn't you inform us?" Red Arrow shouted, slamming his fist on the metal floor of the van. "Why did you claim she was GA's niece?"

"Because everyone deserves a clean slate" Green Arrow said. "If you all had known about her family, that she was the child of criminals, would you all have treated her the same?"

The various Team members looked at each other but said nothing.

"Continue" Batman ordered.

"Artemis declared that she was going into her so-called 'family business' because, as the saying goes, blood is thicker than water" Aqualad said. "She also made reference to a dislike of superheroes and their hypocritical, quote, 'better-than-you' attitudes."

"That doesn't really sound like Artemis" Miss Martian said.

"Well, obviously the Artemis we all thought we knew was nothing more than a carefully crafted mask" Red Arrow spit out. Aqualad glanced at him, worried expression on his face. Somehow, Roy was taking the betrayal the hardest, even though he'd known Artemis the least. Was it because she had been at the top of his list of mole suspects?

I must think on these things later the Atlantean thought. He cleared his throat and continued.

"She also claimed to have poisoned Kid Flash with a liquid form of Joker Toxin before the mission had even started."

Flash hadn't known that.

"She... what?" he stammered. "To Wally? How could she..."

"Are we certain that this is the truth?" Batman asked.

"When I last saw him," Superboy said "Wally was definitely suffering from something with the same effect as Joker Toxin. Creepy laughter and all."

"You said that he seemed fine when you saw him later" Batman said to Aqualad.

"It would appear that he received an antidote of some sort while in captivity" the Atlantean replied.

"Presumably to keep him alive as a prisoner" said Red Tornado.

The entire van shifted as Black Canary swerved to avoid a semi-trailer truck. "Learn how to drive!" she shouted. Everyone else ignored her.

"But then why freeze him?" Red Arrow asked. "It doesn't make any sense."

"There aren't a whole lot of good ways to hold a speedster" Green Arrow said. "They tend to be rather... slippery."

"Well, what can I say" said Flash. "I'm just that good at my job."

"Nevertheless" Aqualad continued. "We next encountered Artemis at the base in Spain. Robin, Rocket and I found her in the company of Kid Flash and Red Arrow, who vouched for her."

"That was a mistake" Red Arrow said. "According to Wally, Artemis freed him from the block of ice he was trapped in. By the looks of it, she was planning to let him out and allow him to escape the base without informing him of her betrayal. When I confronted her about this, she claimed that she was operating as an undercover operative on the orders of Batman, but decided to risk her cover in order to prevent Wally from being experimented on."

"Batman?" Flash asked. "There wasn't...?"

"No, there was not" Batman snapped. "I had no intention of exploiting Artemis's relations in order to make her a double agent. Any actions she took during the last forty-eight hours occurred outside of my influence."

"As much as I'd love a great conspiracy story about you, Bats" Red Arrow said "Artemis hasn't had a good run on the truth recently. She claimed that Miss Martian died in the Bioship crash, for example."

"She said what?" asked Miss Martian, her voice still rather quiet. "Why would she do that?"

"Artemis said that Sportsmaster gave her a script to read to us in order to 'burn bridges' and make sure that she was truly on their side, or at least be unable to rejoin the Team" the archer replied. "But then again, that was on the assumption that she was an undercover agent, so it's probably another pack of lies."

"But this whole thing doesn't make any sense" Rocket said. "Artemis was going to get busted for not being a double agent the instant she got back to the League. So what was the point?"

"Not necessarily" Aqualad pointed out. "Only you, myself, Red Arrow and Robin knew of her betrayal. Had we not escaped, Artemis could have simply walked out of our enemy's base and return to the fold, her secret safe but half of the Team in custody of her employers. Our encounter with her, however, forced her to improvise and gamble that she would be able to access Mt. Justice's computers before we checked her story."

"Hence the virus" Red Tornado said. "She succeeded in covering her own escape, inflicted a large amount of damage to the Cave's systems and gained a large psychological victory by forcing us to scramble in order to deactivate a self-destruct which was not even armed."

"I doubt she could have armed it if she tried" Batman said. "The detonators were all removed when the League abandoned the Cave and I saw no reason to equip a base inhabited by teenagers with a potentially lethal self-destruct."

"Uh, thanks, I guess" Rocket said.

"But that still doesn't accomplish anything" Superboy pointed out. "All of that risk and all she does is damage the Cave a bit?"

"Well, that's all the damage that we saw" Miss Martian said. "What if her true target was something else?"

"Like what?" Rocket asked.

"She went to Mt. Justice and then zeta'd out to who knows where" said Flash. "Could that place she went be her target?"

"It seems poor strategy to reveal your status as a traitor before your target is within reach" Aquaman said.

"Oh god." Realization hit Green Arrow like a falling brick. Or maybe a boxing-glove arrow. "Did the computer virus get out of Mt. Justice?"

Captain Atom and Batman looked at each other.

"There were a series of glitches on the Watchtower computers around the time that Artemis went AWOL" Captain Atom said. "We haven't seen anything like a full systems crash, but it did look like some data got deleted."

"What kind of data?" asked five people at once.

"Mainly standard sensor stuff. Infrared scans, cloud cover, multi-spec sca- Uh-oh."

"What!?" demanded, well, everyone involved.

"The multi-spectral energy scan data for the last several days was wiped. We'll need to do a full system analysis to see if anything else is missing. The scanner itself seems to be having some coding errors as well."

"That's it?" Rocket asked. "The big evil plan was to take out a scanner?"

Batman swore under his breath.

"That is the Watchtower's primary scanner for energy anomalies. It's the same one that picked up the Bialyan portals the Team investigated in September."

"Boom tubes" said Superboy. "That's how they got their Apokoliptan weapons."

"The portal they used to escape in Spain certainly resembled your description of a boom tube" Aqualad said.

"That's what it was!" shouted M'gann. "They were covering their tracks, so that we couldn't trace their portal!"

"It might be something else, as well" Captain Atom said. "All of the data we collected about the Geneva black hole Parasite tried to create was in the affected databanks. Ordinarily I wouldn't bring it up, but based on Batman's suspicions of Parasite's alleged bosses..."

"Keep checking for Trojan Horses or other nasty surprises and prepare for a full system wipe" Batman ordered.

Hawkman briefly appeared onscreen beside Atom. The Thanagarian handed the Captain a piece of paper. Atom nodded and typed something in off of the sheet.

"We've narrowed down the location that Robin's message was broadcast from" Atom said. "It appears to be a set of grassy hills, with nothing but farmland for miles around."

"But very little of what we've seen today is as it seems" Aqualad said.

"The main scanners are still down and the data from the last week is gone, but looking back over a month shows some suspicious thermal signatures. It may be an underground facility."

"That would certainly be in keeping with their M.O. so far" grunted Black Canary, who was continuing to juggle the dual tasks of listening in on the conversation and driving through Massachusetts traffic at the highest speed possible.

"Robin's message mentioned a large device of some sort that was drawing a lot of power" said Green Arrow "but other than 'something evil' we don't really know what it could be."

"Then it's time to find out" said Batman. "As soon as you all are at the Boston zeta tubes, teleport to Paris. The rest of the League will meet you there. We're only going to have one shot at this, so we can't fly in like an air show. We need to reach the base fast but undetected."

"And how do you recommend we do that?" Red Arrow asked, sarcastically. "Magic?"

Batman smiled.

"Something like that."

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