J'onn shifted his weight uncomfortably as he listened patiently to Dinah's narrative. It troubled him greatly, but at the same time, it all seemed to make a kind of horrifying sense. When she was done explaining, all the Manhunter could ask was, "Have you spoken to M'gann yet?"
"Nightwing is doing that now." Replied the Black Canary. "They're outside right now."
"I would very much like to speak with her as well."
Richard Grayson's strangled cry died down and was silenced. The man lay on the ground beneath where M'gann hovered –unconscious. His resistance finally gone, his barriers down, his mind open. It hurt her to have to do this to him, to Nightwing, to Robin, little trollish Robin with his mischievous grin and odd wordplays. Richard Grayson… Dick. She never knew his name before. For some reason it didn't seem to fit him, 'Richard' was to upright, to strait-edged, to dignified. But 'Dick', oh yes, that was Nightwing, that was Robin. Dick.
It was a dick move to try and remove her from the Team, to separate her from her family on Earth, the family she had chosen. To try and take her brother from her. But lucky for her, it was also an easy fix. Just a quick tweak of his memories of the conversation, then a bit deeper to more in-depthly edit the things Conner had told him and… Damn it! Black Canary, Superman and the other Robin had been there too! Well, that put a bit of a wrinkle in things. If it had just been Nightwing –Dick- then it was a quick fix. But there were other people to corroborate with Conner, it would be more damning for her now to have Nightwing return to the Cave thinking she was all sunshine and roses after so many others knew where he had gone and why he wished to speak with her.
'Well played.' She did have to give him his due props. It was the perfect failsafe because it was so damn simple. 'You would make an excellent Batman one day.'
Now the question was: 'What do I do now?'
Whatever she might have decided, it didn't matter. At that very moment none other than Conner himself came sprinting up the trail towards her. The newest little Robin just half a step behind him, dressed in his winter stealth uniform for some unknown and ultimately irrelevant reason. She turned to face the pair, not quite sure what to do. Wipe their minds too? All three of them, right here? She could do it. But it would take more concentration, which meant more time. That raised the risk of yet another member of the Team stumbling on her. This was quickly snowballing into a situation she could not control and the martian girl had no idea what to do!
Robin froze in his steps the moment he spotted Richard Grayson laying prostrate beneath her. "Di- Nightwing!"
Conner barred his teeth, reminding her so much more of Wolf in that moment then of the Superboy. His eyes snapped between the unconscious Nightwing and her hovering above him. "What did you do!?"
"I…" Her words faltered. "Nothing yet."
"'Yet'?" Robin echoed, voice halfway between an apprehensive choke and a vehement snarl. He fell to his knees next to the Nightwing and immediately began checking the man's pulse and breathing. Those things were fine. But then, those things were not really what either of them were worried about at the moment. He shook Dick's shoulders. "'Wing? Are you there? Wake up. Please just be asleep, or unconscious, or whatever and not brain-dead. 'Wing?"
Conner placed himself between the still floating M'gann and the prostrate Nightwing with Robin kneeling over him. He glared up at her, his throat unusually tight. Heart hammering against his chest in a way that couldn't have been good. He worked enough moisture into his mouth to ask, "Is he…? You didn't…?"
He couldn't bring himself to finish the questions, but she knew what he was asking. "No, I didn't." She said. "He's still intact."
Relief flooded the Superboy's whole being. She had not mind-crushed him, not entirely. Nightwing was unconscious, not catatonic. He could recover; he would not become a vegetable. Then the relief shifted, morphing into another emotion that hardened him enough to say, "M'gann, this has to stop. Its one thing to mind-crush and brain-bend enemies, but Nightwing is a Teammate, Nightwing is a friend. Come back to the Cave and we'll get you some help."
Her eyes blazed once again. "Are you insane? Back to the Cave after what I just did to our precious leader? They'll crucify me!"
"I won't let them." Kon promised. "The Team looks after our own and you're one of our own."
Her eyes once again blazed with a crimson glow. "If you think that then you're just as naïve as Superman. This is all your fault anyway!" She snarled. "I told you not to stir-up trouble! Now look what you made me do. Nightwing's laying there because of you!"
At that comment the Robin lifted his head. All his training in psychology and transference registered her comment and processed it as either a psychological tactic to make Superboy doubt himself, or else M'gann's attempt to convince herself that nothing was her fault, thereby exercising herself of any blame and only succeeding in feeding her persecution complex. In M'gann's own mind, she was the victim. Robin couldn't seem to vocalize any of this, however. All that managed to make its way to his lips was, "You're crazy."
…And with that single comment their confrontation with Miss Martian shifted from words to actions.
Superboy had just enough time to throw up a shield made from his TTK before the wave of M'gann's own telekinetic attack slammed into them. Her strike hit like a battering-ram against an armored wall and both gritted their teeth against the strain. The air around them crackled with the energy of two opposing TK fields, the trees rustled though there was no wind, the grass bent. The Robin stood-up and, hooking his arms under the Nightwing's armpits, tried to drag the man out of the immediate battle area.
Whether drawn by the distress of everyone's psychic signatures, the clash of telekinetic powers, or because they were simply already on their way out it wasn't clear, but Black Canary and the Martian Manhunter soon appeared on the forest trail. Dinah broke into a sprint the moment she saw Robin dragging an unconscious Nightwing, and Superboy facing off against Miss Martian. J'onn flew to intervene between his niece and the demi-kryptonian, but was stopped by the Boy Wonder.
"J'onn!" He called. "Nightwing… I need you to look at Nightwing! M'gann said she didn't do anything to him yet, but… I need to be sure."
The Martian Manhunter doubled back to kneel beside the unconscious man, opposite the Robin. He placed his hands on Dick's temples, extending his telepathic senses, examining and assessing. After a prolonged pause he looked back up at the Boy Wonder and said, "There is some stress damage, but he is otherwise fine. Some short-term memories seem to have been altered."
"Altered…" The Robin echoed slowly, as if he were reaching a conclusion. Kon had said that M'gann tried to erase and alter his memories in order to sway him to her opinions. She wasn't trying to wipe his mind completely. Apparently, the martian girl tried to do the same thing with Dick. Alter his memory of his conversation with Kon so that the Superboy appeared to be the villain and Miss Martian was the innocent victim. Some explaining would need to be done when the Nightwing woke up. But that was small and inconsequential. "So, he's fine. Good."
The Boy Wonder stood, pulling off the fur-lined cape of his winter stealth gear. It really was far to hot for this temperate a climate. Up in the arctic at Clark's Fortress is was practical, back here at the Cave it was just pain silly. He left the heavy cape to crumple on the grass next to Nightwing, barking a question that sounded far more like a command, "Can you or Canary watch him for me!"
Fishing into his belt, the Robin leapt into the air and launched two robinrangs at M'gann. Neither one connected with her, however. The martian girl dogged one, shifting her body shape to avoid it and then deflected the other with her telekinesis. But they were distraction enough for the Superboy to launch an attack of his own with his telekinetic power. Once again assuming virabhadrasana, channeling his prana and focusing it on Miss Martian. He launched a psy-blast that sent M'gann flying smack into the trunk of a nearby tree with a very unpleasant sounding THWAK! for accompaniment.
"Did… did M'gann just throw herself?" Canary blinked, not seeing a source for the blow that sent the martian girl flying.
"I am sensing a second telekinetic field." The Martian Manhunter informed her. "I might be mistaken, but… I believe its originating from Conner."
Had she been human, M'gann's spine would most definitely have been broken. Luckily for her, she was a white-martian shape-shifter and didn't actually have a spine to break. It still hurt though. Like a fucking bitch! Miss Martian held onto a broken tree branch to steady herself as she glared down at the two boys. Superboy and Robin. Apprentices of Superman and Batman. The World's Finest. "Oh, this is so cute." She gave a mirthless laugh. "What are you supposed to be now? The Junior Finest?"
It was empty banter and they all knew it. The martian girl was just stalling. This situation was already out of her control and she had no idea how to handle it. Nightwing alone she could take care of. Conner and Robin, they could have been dealt with too –eventually. But now Black Canary and her own uncle were on the scene and M'gann had no idea what to do. Should she mind-crush them all? Uncle J'onn would put up a fight, but she learned years ago that she was stronger than him. She would have to break him first to keep him from shielding the others, then a quick telepathic blast to render the rest of them unconscious as she'd done to Nightwing.
After that it would be just a simple matter of altering their memories to fit whatever scenario made her appear innocent was most believable. Conner on the other hand… Him she might have to erase completely. She had tried to get along with him after he left her and for almost a year it had gone alright. Granted, they almost never spoke to one another outside of Team business, but they had been civil to one another. Then he had to go and start this damn drama, bring the rest of the mentors and Team leaders down on her head. She couldn't alter his memories, he would know that she had, instead she would have to wipe him clean, then make the other's believe that she had done it in self defense. That would work. He attacked her, she had no choice but to defend herself. It was an accident. She didn't mean to turn him into a drooling vegetable. It just happened that way.
That would be her new plan.
Another psy-blast from Conner's TK field hit her in the side, breaking her concentration. Then it morphed its shape into an invisible tentacle that wrapped itself around her mid-section and dragged her down earthward, slamming M'gann to the ground. She glared up at the Superboy –Conner- her former lover.
"And here I thought you didn't like tentacles." She teased.
He cringed noticeably.
She took the opportunity to regain her footing. But no sooner had the martian girl reclaimed a standing position than a bolo made of thin but strong black cable and weighted with two vaguely bat-shaped weights at the end wrapped itself around her.
"Keep your head in the game, Superboy!" Robin snapped.
M'gann grit her teeth in annoyance. She was the most powerful telepath that she knew of, but that didn't mean much if she couldn't get a moment's reprieve from their onslaughts long enough to actually concentrate! If she could just get a handle on their minds, then the martian girl would once again have control of the situation, control of them, control of everything. There was no way for a non-telepath to combat a telepath. They would not be able to retaliate mentally. But they sure as hell can retaliate physically. Break her concentration. Which is exactly what they were doing now. Not giving Miss Martian a moment's peace to collect her thoughts and launch her offensive.
"What is going on here!?" Admittedly, this question was already a tad belated on the part of Black Canary, but it still had to be asked. Although, by this point, really the answer should have been obvious.
No one bothered to answer the Black Canary, however. Instead, M'gann shifted her form, becoming as inconsistent as water and melted herself out of Robin's bolo. She slithered through the grass as a snake.
Kon snatched her up with his bare hand.
M'gann shifted her form again, this time into that of a giant spider. She pinned the Superboy to the ground with one massive spider-leg to the back. He let out a snarl of pain that was muffled by a face full of grass and dirt.
Two tiny pellets hit her in the back, bursting on impact, and covering M'gann's back in a substance that burned her martian skin. She let loose a scream of discomfort and fell backwards, shifting her form once again –this time back to her standard humanoid shape- and rolled in the spring grass in an effort to quench the burn.
Superboy drew himself up into a crouch. "You're hurting her!"
Robin just looked at him through the whited-out slits of his mask. "Look what she did to Nightwing! She can do the exact same to us given the opportunity to concentrate. Is that what you want?"
Kon ignored the little Robin, instead focusing his tactile telekinesis. There wasn't a single inch of M'gann's body he hadn't touched. He remembered the feel of her under his hands; the weight of her in his arms… and sent out his TTK along the grass, under her back. He separated the chemicals from Robin's bombs –magnesium oxide and glycerin- from the organic bio-fabric of her uniform. The burning sensation subsided and she breathed a sigh of relief.
"Idiot." M'gann groaned.
"How we treat our enemies is what separates us from the bad guys, M'gann." Said the Superboy, climbing to his feet.
She stayed down on the ground where she was. "So, I'm your enemy now?"
"I don't want you to be."
Kon reached a hand down to help her up.
M'gann took the offered hand, but she didn't use it to pull herself up. Instead, the martian girl shifted one of her legs into a whip-like tail and swatted one of his feet out from under him. Unbalanced, all it took was one sharp yank from Miss Martian and the Superboy was the one on the ground instead, with her on top of him, straddling his thighs, pinning him to the ground.
"Superboy!" Robin exclaimed.
It was then, in that moment with M'gann straddling Kon's narrow hips that the others from the Cave came out wondering where everyone had gone to.
La'gaan and Garfield came striding up the path, but both paused when they saw the odd scene before them. An unconscious Nightwing in the arms of J'onn. Canary standing and starring at Robin, Superboy and Miss Martian as if she had no idea what to do. Robin with his hand in his belt, fishing out another weapon. And finally, Kon pinned to the ground, M'gann sitting on his lap.
"Uh… what's going on…?" Asked the Beast Boy.
"Gar…!" M'gann gasped.
"Angelfish?" La'gaan looked like he'd just walked in on an affair. They might as well have had their pants down if his expression was anything to go by.
"La'gaan, this isn't what it looks like!" She was quick to assure him.
The Superboy twisted beneath her, trying to maneuver his head enough to look at the new arrivals. He got a partial view of La'gaan's face and instantly felt sorry for the irritating jerk. He might be rude most of the time, he might be obnoxious, he might go out of his way to insult and irritate the demi-kryptonian… But he really did love the martian girl. Within a few short seconds, Kon's dislike of the atlantian was quickly transformed into pity.
"What's going on?" The Lagoon Boy echoed Gar's question.
"I…" Once again the martian girl's words faltered.
Black Canary took this opportunity to step in. "M'gann," she began, "why don't you let Superboy up and come inside so we can talk? I want to listen to everything you have to say."
Miss Martian's attention shifted from her boyfriend and little brother newly arrived, to the Black Canary standing in front of them. She was about to snap back with something hostile and snarly, denying that Canary actually wanted to talk to her after what she'd just witnessed, after what M'gann had done to Nightwing, after what she knew she'd done to Superboy… Then her eyes shifted to the unconscious Nightwing held in her uncle's arms.
Nightwing… the first Robin… Adorable little Robin with his trollish grin, boyish computer pranks and amusing word plays. Richard Grayson… Dick. She had also thought of him as a little brother at one point in time. Not quite as much of a brother as she thought of Gar, but still family.
She looked down at the Superboy pinned beneath her. Her ex-boyfriend, her former lover, her former mate… 'Instead of working it out and compromising like a healthy functional couple…' He said to her that day at the farm, and it was true. Instead of talking with him about his disapproval of her conduct and working through it together, reaching a compromise like a functional couple, she had instead tried to erase the memory that he was ever angry with her to begin with. She had tried to control him no better than Cadmus had.
'My god, M'gann! Do you understand what a violation this is?' He asked that night, the night he woke-up in the middle of her attempt and in his agitation ended their relationship right then and there. At the time M'gann thought it was nothing more than an over-reaction. He was distraught and would come back to her. But he never did… and she always knew why. The knowledge was always there like the shadow of a fact in the back of her mind, but she didn't grasp the full implications behind that fact until this moment.
…No better than Cadmus.
The martian girl looked back to the Black Canary, her eyes suddenly glassy, and said, "I have a problem."