"Talk" said Robin, increasing the pressure on Tigress's chest. "Now."
"You're crazy!" Tigress replied, struggling. "I'm Artemis!"
"No, you're not" Robin replied. "Of course, that leaves the question as to what you actually are. Cheshire accepted you a bit too easily for you to be a random shapeshifter, and a clone, if that's even possible, wouldn't have made that comment about her mother. And Sportsmaster talked about you being an example of his good genes, so, that leaves…"
Tigress spat in his face and flipped over, knocking Robin off. Before the Boy Wonder could react, Tigress had gotten to her feet and dashed down the hallway. Kid Flash tried to pursue, but the Brain's nanites were still inhibiting his superspeed.
"Come on!" Robin shouted as they chased after her, leaving the unconscious Cheshire back in the hall. "We can't let her get away!"
"So that really isn't Artemis?" Kid Flash asked.
"Don't think so" Robin replied as they took another left. Tigress was in good shape and they were both exhausted, but adrenaline had temporarily evened the odds. Key word being 'temporarily.' "Cheshire seems to think that she's her sister, though" he said.
"Evil twin, then?" Kid Flash proposed.
"Yes evil, yes some sort of twin, no on twin sister. There's no way that could have been hidden from the databases, unless Artemis's mom spent a LOT of effort kept her a secret for some reason."
"So what, then?" Kid Flash asked as they took a right.
"That's what we need to find out."
"Sportsmaster, this is Tigress" shouted Tigress into her radio. "Sportsmaster? Manta? Anyone?"
"Tigress, this is Calculator" said Noah Kuttler, back in the control room. "What is it?"
"They know!" Tigress shouted. "Cheshire is down and they know!"
"Who knows what?" asked Kuttler, confused.
"Kid Flash and Robin! They know about me! They're looking for the real Artemis!"
Kuttler was trying to figure out how to respond when he was pulled away from his station by Vandal Savage, who snatched a radio.
"Are you suggesting that not only have you failed to kill two children, but they have determined the secret of Gemini Base?"
"I don't think they know exactly what the base does, but they know there's another Artemis! What should I do?"
Savage swore in a language that had been dead for three thousand years and slammed his fist on Kuttler's desk.
"Head towards Sector F" he said into the radio. "Lure them there. I will deal with this debacle personally."
Savage stood up and clenched a fist, regaining control of his anger. Discipline was key in these sorts of situations. He flicked the radio to another channel. "Psimon, Robin and Kid Flash are still inside the base. Find them and ensure that they do not leave. Ever. Kill them if you can, wipe as many of their memories as possible if you cannot."
"And the subject?" Psimon radioed back.
"Keep her alive unless we are completely overrun. She is still of some use to us. If you must retreat without her, terminate."
"Acknowledged" Psimon replied.
Savage changed the radio channel again. "My old friend, it is imperative that your... secret weapon be deployed now."
"Already on it" replied the Brain. "Those fools in the League haven't seen anything yet!"
Savage replaced the radio and stared at a holoscreen depicting the battle between Klarion, Tala and the League. It shouldn't be possible, but there appeared to be a risk that his two trump cards were going to lose. Most of his other combat-capable pieces were down as well.
"Mr. Kuttler" he said to, well, Kuttler. "It seems we may have to destroy this base and retreat. Ready the self-destructs on the device and the exfiltration bands and be prepared to wipe the computers with the push of a button. You will only push said button on my exact orders. Gemini Base represents a significant investment by our cause, and sacrificing that investment without reason will lead to... extreme discipline. Do you understand?"
Kuttler nodded, and began to prepare the necessary programs as Savage stormed out of the room, tucking that black alien box into his pocket. Beads of sweat had started to appear on the technician's brow. Normally, he prided himself on doing his job with professional coolness, but the Justice League and the Light's sorcerers were duking it out outside, and he was starting to get nervous. What if the League did make it inside the base? What if they did capture him?
Kuttler took a second to arrange for a back-up of all relevant data with regards to the Light to be downloaded onto his own personal USB, and ensured that he had his lawyer's business card in his wallet.
The League wasn't going to make it this far, of course, and there were the exfil bands, but there was no benefit in being overly optimistic.
Robin and Kid Flash were getting really tired. Ironically, it was Kid Flash who had to stop first. He'd always been an okay sprinter, but he was really used to his superpowered physiology doing the hard work of running for him. Robin was trained to push himself to his physical limits, which didn't mean that he hurt any less (he didn't) but that he was better at moving on through it. Right now, Kid Flash was about to collapse.
Robin stopped to check on him. Catching Tigress was important, but losing KF was not acceptable. Not at this stage. Not after all they'd done.
After a second or two of deep breaths, Kid Flash was able to keep going. For a minute, Robin thought that they had lost Tigress, but he heard the sound of combat boots on concrete and followed, discovering that Tigress was just a turn away. Again they ran, and again Kid Flash had to take a second to deal with the crazy stitch in his side. Again, Tigress disappeared from view, only to reappear around the next corner. No matter how much they should be falling behind, they would always find her the same distance ahead of them.
"She's leading us somewhere" Robin whispered.
"Good thing or bad?" Kid Flash asked in reply.
"Probably bad. She was trying to kill us earlier, remember?"
"Good point. What should we do?"
"The same thing we always do when bad guys leave us instructions" Robin replied with a grin. "We ignore them." Kid Flash got the message and smiled back.
"Hey Rob!" he shouted, or at least said as loud as his aching lungs would allow. "I think she went this way!" He pointed down a hallway that was the opposite of how Tigress had gone.
"You're probably right" Robin replied loudly. "Let's go!"
They darted down the hallway, turned the first corner and stopped, ready to ambush Tigress.
A sound echoed down the hallway. It sounded suspiciously like the clattering of a dropped object, followed by faint swearing. Interesting.
"Should we check that out?" Kid Flash asked.
Robin shrugged and nodded. It was just a mysterious noise inside a gigantic supervillain base.
What could go wrong?
"Tigress!" Kuttler said into the radio, monitoring the situation via security cameras. "They've gone down another pathway. They're still in Sector E, near Psimon's position. You need to stop them before they get to him."
"Give me a goddamn minute!" Tigress responded, doing a 180 and sprinting back towards where she'd last seen the boys, careful to keep track of her relative position. It's not like she had much more experience navigating this place than they did.
"Tamsly, Entworth" Kuttler said. "Robin and Kid Flash are coming towards you. Intercept and terminate."
"Typical" muttered Tamsly as Entworth finished picking his rifle up from off the floor. Typical of clumsy Entworth to blow something as simple as guarding Psimon's door by dropping his gun. That's what you get for trying to twirl an assault rifle like a baton. No wonder they were on guard duty instead of fighting the Justice League. Which, granted, Tamsly was okay with. He wasn't really in Superman's weight class. He could admit that.
"Hey, Calc, that Flash kid doesn't have superspeed, right?" Entworth asked.
"Correct, and you guys better take them both out or Savage is going to be pissed" Kuttler advised. "He and Tigress are inbound to your location."
"Sports' kid?" Entworth asked.
"Yeah, that one" Kuttler replied, not wanting to get into semantic arguments over whether Tigress counted as Sportsmaster's daughter or not.
"Make sure Psimon's targeting them with everything he's got" Kuttler said. "He's not picking up his radio."
"Yeah, he tends to do that when he's focusing" said Tamsly, moving to open the door.
A yellow-clad head poked itself around the corner and Entworth opened fire. The head retreated a split second before the bullets got there.
"Hey, do you guys know where the restroom is?" Kid Flash asked. "I've really been meaning to go. I mean, how can you have a giant supervillain base and not have properly labeled restrooms?"
Entworth started to reply, but Tamsly smacked him and they moved up, guns leveled, breathing steady.
There was a slight scuffling sound behind them. Probably nothing.
Of course, when dealing with superheroes, 'probably nothing' generally means 'shoot here, like right now.' Sure enough, Tamsly whirled around just in time to see the Boy Wonder charging at him, an object in either hand. Tamsly tried to shoot, but before he could, Robin had thrown the contents of his hands at the two men, striking them both in the head.
Tamsly then did something that he'd feel really guilty about later. Instead of becoming the guy who got famous for killing Robin, he spent his one-second window of Robin-shooting opportunity trying to figure out if he'd really just been hit in the nose with a shoe.
Then Robin's sock-clad foot slammed into Tamsly's face. The boy spun, knocking Entworth's feet out from under him. A kick to the chest and Entworth was out as well.
"Nice going, Rob!" Kid Flash said as he jogged down the hall. Robin held up a finger to his lips and motioned for them to flatten against the wall. KF did so as Robin replaced his shoes.
"What?" KF whispered. Robin pointed at the metal door behind them and the speedster understood. If there were still guys guarding this door even with the Justice League bearing down on the place, there had to be something important. Robin quietly checked one of the two guards' pockets, found a key that looked about the right size, carefully inserted it into the door and, in one fluid motion turned the key, turned the handle and threw open the door, hurling himself inside before he could even see what was there. Speed and surprise were his only advantages.
Information is power. That was the first lesson that Batman had taught him, four years ago. No matter your strength, your skills, your weapons, your powers, it was the information you had and how you used it that decided the victor.
As such, Robin had long ago been trained to take in information at a rapid pace and process it into something useful, make a decision, concoct a plan and put it into action all without stopping or pausing. No matter what the situation, when he began a door breach, he was going to have to evaluate the scene, determine his best option and execute it without hesitation. And Robin was pretty good at it.
Even so, the scene on the other side of the door shocked him. The room wasn't that large, about the same size as the other rooms they'd encountered. It was blank concrete, like so many other things they'd seen recently. There was no furniture, save a table and two chairs, both occupied. In one chair was Psimon, looking paler than normal but nevertheless evil. He was facing away from the door, staring with intent (and probably psychic powers) at the occupant of the other chair.
She was on the opposite side of the table, facing the door, not that she was even aware of it. Her familiar green uniform was gone, replaced with simple civvies. She was slumped over on the table, arms held behind the chair by a pair of handcuffs. Her head was flat on the table, eyes closed, her long blonde hair sliding off the side of the table.
It was definitely her.
It was definitely Artemis.
Robin leaped at Psimon, but the psychic turned around and suddenly everything was dark.
Hello again, Robin he said telepathically. Robin felt himself slam into the table and fall over, no longer able to control his body. Though he could barely see, Psimon was standing over him, smiling.
I'd been hoping to see you again Psimon cackled. After all, you are such an... interesting subject.
Robin could take him in a psych-off. Probably. Maybe. Normally. He'd done okay last time, but that had been forever ago. He was physically and emotionally exhausted, and he hadn't eaten since before they'd set out to Cape Chidley.
Truth be told, his chances didn't look that good.
Robin felt his strength fading. Images began flashing before his eyes. Some were from his memories that Psimon had stolen earlier. Mom and Dad falling, Zucco, Joker, the Bialya op. Others were new images, obviously fictional but still heart-wrenching. The entire Team dead. Batman screaming in pain. Buildings exploding, civilians being slaughtered with nothing he could do. No matter how hard he tried to focus, those images kept coming, seeping away at his focus. His body was Psimon's, and soon his mind would be as well, and then, perhaps, his very soul...
Pathetic, really thought-spoke Psimon. I really expected mor-
There was a crack and Psimon stumbled forwards. The images flickered and began to fade. Psimon turned around only to receive another strike to the temple, courtesy of a chair-wielding Kid Flash. The psychic collapsed.
"You okay?" the speedster asked, putting down the chair.
"I'm... fine" grunted Robin, obviously lying as he tried to clear his head. "Don't worry about me. Help her." He pointed at Artemis.
By the time the Boy Wonder had recovered enough that he could drag himself to his feet without throwing up, KF had already found the keys to Artemis's handcuffs and unlocked them.
"How is she?" Robin asked, almost not wanting to know.
"She's breathing, but she's unconscious and her pulse is weak" the speedster replied. "What have these guys been doing to her?"
"If I had a guess," Robin said, leaning on the table to steady himself, "Psimon's been digging around in her head, trying to get as much information as possible."
"Monsters" KF muttered, putting Artemis's arm over his shoulder. "Come on, we have to get her out of here."
Artemis's eyes fluttered open for a brief second. "W-Wally...?" she muttered.
"Don't worry, babe" he said. "We've got you now. You're safe."
"Safe may be a relative term" Robin said, grabbing Artemis's other side. Sure enough, that familiar sound of combat boots echoed down the hall.
"What do we do?" KF asked.
"We've gotta move, now" Robin said, ripping a strange band off of Artemis's forearm. It was black and had some strange, circuit-like designs on it, as well as a dull red light. A quick glance showed that Psimon was wearing one as well. Whatever it was, it was probably bad guy tech, which meant it was probably bad news.
They'd just made it back into the hall when Tigress appeared, quashing any doubt that they had left that Artemis and Tigress were two different people.
Tigress hesitated for a moment until she saw Artemis.
"The game's over" shouted Robin. "We've got the real Artemis! Give it up!"
"You've got NOTHING!" Tigress roared, charging.
"Didn't think that would work" Robin muttered, leaving Artemis on KF's shoulder and rushing to intercept Tigress's attack. "Get going!" he shouted to his teammates as Tigress lashed out with a kick (that he ducked under) followed by a series of increasingly brutal punches. It was all he could do to dodge or block them, unable even to snark. After a few seconds, he was able to get in a light kick that knocked Tigress back. She grunted, pulled out a knife and charged again.
So not asterous.
Robin jumped backwards to avoid a slash, backflipped and grabbed a rifle from one of the unconscious goons at his feet. Using the gun like a staff, he deflected a slash with the knife and scored another kick to Tigress's chin. She fell backwards but was recovering too fast to go for a knockout, so Robin did the next best thing and ran like crazy in the direction that Artemis and KF had gone.
Which was good, because a second
later he heard gunfire and realized that leaving a dangerous enemy trying to
kill him next to a loaded gun was a bad idea.
He kept running.
Meanwhile, Kid Flash and Artemis were making as fast of time as they could. Artemis was barely conscious, and Kid Flash was exhausted. They needed a place to rest... no, they needed to get out of there.
"W-what's going on?" Artemis muttered.
"Oh, you know, the usual" KF huffed, trying to sound less tired, scared and out-of-control than he was. "Bad guys capture us, take us to bad guy bases, we break out, find out there's an evil duplicate you running around. Pretty typical. How are you?"
"A-another me?" Artemis asked. "How'd that happen?"
"I have no idea, babe, but she's been going around pretending to be you, calling herself the mole and blowing up our stuff. What's the last thing you remember?"
"The Bioship. The Bioship went down. M'gann grabbed me, but we fell and I blacked out. Since then, everything's been... fuzzy."
"That's Psimon for you" the speedster said, looking for a place to hide. "He's been screwing around with your brain since then. Rob thinks he was trying to dig intel out of your head."
"Wonderful" Artemis muttered. "And the others?"
"We're not sure. Justice League's kicking their way in here, or trying, but we haven't seen the rest of the Team in a while."
The next door they came across was different from the others. It was larger, with what looked like reinforced metal plating and a sign that said 'Q.E.D. Control Room.' KF tried the handle and found that it was unlocked, which was good, since Robin suddenly appeared with a gun-wielding Tigress right behind him.
"In here!" the speedster shouted as he and Artemis took cover inside. Robin dove in and Kid Flash slammed the door as bullets bounced off of the outer plating. KF locked the door and they all took half a second to breath before looking around.
The sign that had said 'Control Room' certainly seemed accurate. Desks covered in computers filled the room, and a giant pane of reinforced glass gave a breathtaking view of... something.
It looked kind of like a concrete pit filled with machinery. Cables snaked around, connecting large wall conduits to a series of metal rings suspended in the middle, interlocked to form a sort of sphere.
"What is this thing?" Artemis asked, awed.
Robin checked on some of the consoles, reading off random words. "Entanglement flux, resonance stability, dimensional anchor, quantum superposition... Those mean anything, KF?"
"They sound like something to do with space-time manipulation" the speedster said. "A teleporter?"
Robin shook his head. "It's not that hard to make a teleporter, and these guys were able to use boom tubes earlier, remember?"
"Hey, come to think of it," Kid Flash suggested "if these guys were Parasite's bosses, maybe this has something to do with his hey-let's-make-a-black-hole-in-freaking-Switzerland plan."
"Certainly possible" Robin said. "Whatever it is, it's inactive now, and given the amount of power it takes, it can't be easy to turn on."
"Either way, we should probably get a move on" Artemis said. "Unless we want my evil twin coming back with a chainsaw or something. What's up with her, anyways? I mean, you know, existing and all?"
"Not quite sure yet" said Robin. "But I get the feeling that it has something to do with this device."
The lock on the door clicked open.
All three heroes swore as they dashed out another door to the side, which led to a catwalk with stairs leading down into the pit. Without hesitation, they ran down, sliding on the railings whenever possible to save energy.
"Thanks, Calc" Tigress said into her radio as she entered the control room, gun raised. "Gotta love remote-controlled locks."
"Whatever" replied Kuttler. "Just get in there and kill them before they damage anything! The Q.E.D. is priceless, and Savage is already about to have us all tortured to death as it is."
"Yeah, I know" Tigress shouted, sweeping the room. It wasn't that hard to see where the three had gone, and she pursued, firing a few potshots down the stairs. Unfortunately, she hadn't had time to grab any ammunition, so she was down to six more bullets and her knife.
I really wish Jade was here she thought. Either of them.
Robin, Kid Flash and Artemis emerged from the mass of stairs at the center of the pit. By the looks of it, there was an elevator on the other end of the room, and they could take that to some place that wasn't this and hopefully wasn't full of bad guys.
They were almost at the rings in the center when the elevator door opened to reveal one of the many, many people that they would prefer not standing between them and an exit.
"This has gone on for quite long enough" declared Vandal Savage, stepping out of the elevator. Behind them, Tigress appeared, brandishing her rifle.
"You have indeed impressed me" Savage admitted. "You have evaded my agents countless times, defeated numerous opponents without your usual superpowers or gadgets and even made it all the way here to the Q.E.D., the centerpiece of Gemini Base."
He narrowed his eyes and removed a wicked blade from his sleeve, which he attached to his wrist.
"As well as your final resting place."