The Big Guns
“Manta, what is your status?” Vandal Savage said into a radio, his voice even more gravely than usual.
“It appears that the entire League is here! Nigma is down, though that’s not much of a loss, but we need to pull back and regroup or we’ll get pounded! Requesting backup!”
“Very well” said Savage. “Form up at Entrance 4. I am sending you some assistance to... even the odds.”
“We’re not evacuating?” Noah Kuttler asked. He felt kind of useless standing here in this command center, but if he went out and tried to fight the League he’d get flattened worse than Riddler.
“No. Not yet” Savage replied. “This facility is too important, its contents too valuable. We have retreated enough these past two days. Now we will let the League see our true power. Unless you have a problem with that, of course.”
“No, no, you’re the boss” Kuttler said, privately trying to get his heart rate down.
Savage sighed and turned to the Brain.
“I assume you have already deployed the security drones?” the immortal asked.
“Indeed, Savage. I am not sure what good they will do against against, say, Superman, but they will keep the League occupied.”
“Deploy all of Ivo’s remaining MONQIs as well” said Savage. “They have proven themselves just barely useful enough for this situation. Your... pets may be helpful as well.”
“Of course” replied Brain. “And I have one last idea which may prove to be effective.” He and Mullah turned towards the door in order to leave, only to stop. “Do you really think we can win this particular battle?” Brain asked.
“I am not certain,” Savage replied, being honest for once. “And we may yet be forced to abandon Gemini Base and our substantial investment in your device, but any casualties that we can inflict will be... appreciated. The Justice League already know that we are a threat, but they do not yet realize the magnitude. They believe that we are simply another Injustice League, ironically enough. A collection of short-sighted supervillains working together for personal gain, just waiting to be beaten down and taken to jail.”
He narrowed his eyes.
“We will correct their misconceptions.”
“I wish us both luck in that regard, my friend” said the Brain. “Come along, Mullah.”
The gorilla grunted and followed the Brain out the door.
“Savage?” the radio crackled. “This is Psimon. I have, as you requested, ceased the... interview. The subject is currently comatose and secure in Sector E.”
“Good. Make sure that the subject remains in our hands. We cannot afford letting the League know all of our secrets.”
“Of course. Speaking of which, I’ve just learned some delightful little tidbits about...”
“Save it for later, Psimon. For now I need you to interfere with the League’s forces. Can you do that?”
“Yes, yes. I’m still a little weak, but I should be able to help. Though it would be appreciated if the rest of your men target the two Martians, especially the younger one. She appears to be quite powerful, and I would not like to end up comatose, if you don’t mind.”
“That would be... inconvenient” Savage admitted begrudgingly. Though I would not miss your attitude.
“Sportsmaster, report” he said, raising his radio again and switching to another channel.
“I’ve gotten most of the men not already fighting in position” the mercenary replied. “We’re about to move out of Entrance 2 to engage. Are we getting any... irregular support?”
“Klarion and Tala should be their shortly. Psimon do what he can to assist you, but for the moment, I will keep Black Adam and Mr. Freeze in reserve. Their presence here could shatter the illusion that Belle Reve is not under our control, though Batman suspects as much already. Or... it could cause the League substantial confusion, distracting them from the incoming checkmate. But for now we have time and we can afford a defense in depth. Do what you can.”
“What about Tigress and Cheshire?”
“I have sent them to terminate Robin and the speedster. Regardless of the outcome of this battle, the League will not succeed in their rescue. Besides, as advantageous as Tigress would be from a psychological standpoint, especially in battle against her ‘team,’ we cannot risk her capture and interrogation. If she broke...”
“I get it. They’ll make sure the sidekicks bite it. If there’s one thing Jade’s good at, it’s killing.”
“Ra’s will be very upset with her if she does not” Savage said. “And if Tigress wishes to join our League of Assassins, she should get used to it as well.”
“Yeah, well, I’m going to go bail out Manta’s sorry hide now. Wish me luck.”
Savage frowned as he switched off the channel. He did not pay top dollar to mercenaries for them to interact with him, the greatest conqueror in human history, in such casual tones. However, Sportsmaster was (usually) worth the expense, and his connection to Artemis Crock had proven to be a useful bonus.
Savage also knew that his irritation stemmed less from Sportsmaster and more from the fact that the League had traced their sidekicks to this facility, even after all their precautions and Tigress’s uploading of Kuttler’s computer virus.
Could it be that Tigress had given the League the information? Savage wondered.
No, it’s not possible. She has no reason to go to them. She knows that they would never accept her, especially not after what she has done.
Nevertheless, he had Kuttler pull up the security camera feeds from the room containing Robin and Kid Flash. If Tigress was a traitor to the Light, she would not allow the sidekicks to be killed. Cheshire was more than capable of defeating her if need be.
Now, Tigress he thought, staring intently at the screen, where the two daughters of the Crock family were approaching the prisoners’ room. Prove to me that you are worthy of being more than a mere pawn. Prove your loyalty to the Light and the future of mankind.
Kuttler leaned over to watch, only to receive Savage’s glare and return his eyes to his own screen.
I need a vacation the technician thought.
Black Manta was not having a good day. His forces were in shambles and hastily pulling back, Riddler was out (not that he’d been much help) and his perfect ambush had gone from 12 on 4 odds in his favor to 11 on 20 against him.
Manta swore as he ducked under a punch and leaped backwards, firing his suit’s eyebeams. Aquaman (it just had to be Aquaman, didn’t it?) dodged to the left, avoiding the lasers. Kaldur came at him from the right, swinging a hard-water mace. It collided with the side of Manta’s helmet and sent him sprawling on the ground. Before he’d stopped rolling, Manta twisted his body, snatching a grenade off of his belt and tossed it. The explosion was unlikely to seriously harm either Atlantean, but it would give him a second or two to recover.
A pair of electric discs from one of the men flew by and latched onto Aquaman. That only distracted him for a moment before he smashed one and Kaldur destroyed the other, but it was enough time for Manta to raise his wrist blaster and get a good hit in Aquaman’s chest. Probably not enough to kill him, but it would knock him out of the fight for a minute.
Kaldur charged, furious at the attack on his mentor. Manta couldn’t quite decide if he was proud of his son or not. On the one hand, he had made himself the lapdog of Aquaman and the Justice League and seemed to lack the ambition to move upwards in the world. On the other hand, he was the top warrior in Atlantis outside of the royal family (presumably thanks to his good genes, of course) and was the leader of this “Team” the League seemed to depend on so much. Granted, he was in charge of a bunch of sidekicks, but he was currently head sidekick, which wasn’t all that bad for 16. Certainly better than Manta had been at that age.
“You have good form” Manta commented, dodging another blow and slapping Kaldur on the back, knocking him off his balance.
“Be silent, so that your defeat may be quick and painless” Kaldur replied, twirling into a spin kick.
“Ooh, a threat. Good job there, Kaldur’ahm” said Manta, parrying easily. “You almost managed to intimidate me. Almost.”
“I do not need to intimidate you, Manta” Kaldur snarled, sweeping his leg low. “I merely need to ensure that you remain in custody for the rest of your days for the lives you have taken.”
Manta jumped back out of the kick’s range, only to charge again and throw a series of punches, each backed up by the strength of the robotic exoskeleton in his armor. “But if that happened, then I’d have nothing to do but tell stories. You know, about my days before I put on this suit and became Black Manta. I wonder if your mother would be willing to...”
“Do NOT speak of her!” Kaldur growled, spinning away from another punch and knocking Manta to the ground with a blast of water.
Manta grunted. Kaldur was also showing admirable loyalty to his side, which was both a good thing and a bad thing. Maybe once the League was in pieces he’d realize the error of his ways. For now, Manta would just have to live with the fact that his son considered his greatest enemy to be more of a father figure.
“You haven’t told him yet, have you? I do hope you haven’t. I want to get to see his face when he rejects you. Because he’ll do that, you know. Atlanteans are very particular about bloodlines, and yours is as bad as they come.”
“You don’t know anything about me or King Orin” Kaldur said, preparing for a knockout blow.
Manta allowed himself a smile under his helmet. The words were getting to Kaldur, as much as he refused to admit it. It would take time, of course, but he’d come around. And Manta had time.
“We shall see” the mercenary said, knocked Kaldur’s legs out from under him and rolling to his feet. Manta unloaded a few more energy blasts at the rest of the battle, striking the Superboy and forcing Red Arrow to take cover.
Good enough he thought, as he turned to run. His little father-son chat had caused him to lag behind in the retreat, and he wasn’t in a good position to fight the whole League simultaneously.
Besides, he thought, looking at the internal displays in his helmet. Brain’s pets have arrived.
Superboy growled as he landed flat on his back, courtesy of two shots from Black Manta. By all rights he should have gotten over any attachment to the shirts that he wore on missions a LONG time ago, but it still irked him to see one take any damage.
“They’re falling back” he said into his radio. Ordinarily they’d be relying on a telepathic link, but for Rocket’s benefit they were reserving that for in-combat communication.
“I see them” said Rocket, who was still back in Paris. She sat at a desk (who would have thought that becoming a superhero would lead to desk work?) leaning over a holographic display, providing a bird’s-eye-view of the area, full of scattered red heat signatures, most of which had little symbols denoting them as League members. Next to her was Superboy’s mechanical sphere, apparently named Sphere. Supposedly it and magic didn’t mix well, so it had been left behind.
“The SkyCam drone is now online” Rocket reported. Sphere beeped encouragingly.
“Our enemies appear to be retreating into their base” Aqualad said. “Do you see any method by which they might escape the area?”
“Nope” Rocket replied. “The place looks sealed up pretty tight. Of course, knowing these guys they’ve probably got all sorts of stuff hidden inside.”
Nearby, Batman checked his own holographic display on his wrist.
“It looks like there are four possible entrances” he said. “Squad A, move to the one to the west. Squad B, take the one to the east. Squads C and D will take the other two and the Team will infiltrate using the vents. Rescuing Robin and Kid Flash is top priority, objective number two is capturing as many villains as possible and intel gathering is priority three. Is everyone clear?”
The various League members responded in the affirmative, as did the Team.
“And me?” asked a voice over the radio.
“The enemy knows that we’re here. Robin and Kid Flash must be secured at once or we risk losing them. You’re in the best position to do that. You are clear to proceed. Breach and clear.”
“Roger” said Superman. “Here goes nothing. ETA thirty seconds.”
“Uh, guys?” Rocket asked the Team. “Do you see anything... strange out there?”
“Why?” asked Red Arrow. He might not be quite as experienced as Robin, but he knew that that was never a good phrase to hear.
“There are some weird thermal signatures that just popped up. They’re moving towards your position.”
Superboy stood still, focusing his super-senses. It was hard to hear anything specific with twenty other people around, but he still could hear... footfalls. Not human footsteps, though. Too fast for that. Mixed in was some growling and a mechanic... chittering?
“Uh-oh” he said as realization struck him like a ten-ton weight.
“What?” asked the rest of the Team.
He tried to respond, but it was too late.
Without warning, a pack of kobra-venomed wolves wearing inhibitor collars with MONQIs riding them like cowboys appeared from over the crest of a small hill, slamming into the League’s lines.
“You have got to be kidding me” Red Arrow muttered.
And then the wolves were upon them.