"This report is…..troubling," J'onn said as Captain Atom stood nearby.
"Kal-El and I went down to inspect the sight. Nothing was left. Aside from rubble, and bodies. Anything else, obviously, was gone."
"And Spark's data remains suspect since we have no hard drives, or other evidence to present."
"Precisely," Captain Atom murmured as J'onn frowned his way.
"What bothers you now?"
"Meta. Her powers are continuing to develop. Her strength has apparently doubled exponentially from the report Spark gave me. And she can now fly."
"Not completely unexpected. She is manifesting Diana's own divine gifts."
"Even her mother wasn't that strong."
"Agreed. But she is…..different," J'onn reminded him wryly.
"To say the least."
"I would have thought you would have been gratified that she acquitted herself so well in the field."
"I'm more worried she is growing radically more powerful at every turn, and still not properly controlling it. That base had to have had hundreds working inside it."
"She wasn't at fault in that. Even she couldn't stop a madman from self-destructing his own command."
"Perhaps, but bringing that civilian into the heart of a battle…."
"A very unique civilian. One that directly identified General Houston Aiers as not only the self-styled villain Glory-Hound, but the very man that killed her mother five years ago."
"I read the report," Captain Atom scowled.
"Just what really displeases you, my friend? I can sense your worry has more fuel than merely Meta's development, or is it this resurgence of Cadmus?"
"Cadmus. We missed them for over five years while they grew back right under our noses," he told J'onn. "Five years. You know what they pulled last time. Who knows what they have planned this time. What kind of….mess they may be instigating."
"I do agree. If they are willing to destroy their site, then it couldn't be their only operation. If they were willing to wipe out men, and materials on that level, then they must have similar sites elsewhere. Perhaps, even more dangerous ones."
"True," Captain Atom nodded. "But I've been thinking of something no one else has bothered to mention. We all know who Meta's grandfather is, J'onn. Add that to the mix, and then her father, and…. What if she's a time bomb? One that will blow up in our faces if we're not careful. Cadmus can't want her on a whim. They must know, too. And they must want her for….whatever they're planning."
"That is probably true. But she's part of Team Gamma now. Do you think telling her she must now go into hiding is going to go over well with her now that she's just starting to fit in here?"
The door suddenly opened, and Meta stepped inside. She walked over to face the pair, and just stared.
Then she pointedly turned to eye Captain Atom.
"You might be interested in knowing my hearing is sharper than ever now, too. In fact, I could hear every word while you two were discussing me. Every word," she quipped before he could say anything.
"Then you have to know we have a right to be concerned."
"Who just bailed out your team of hotshots down there," she shot. "They almost had the whole team trapped. They took out Spark, who I thought was supposed to be untouchable. Who knows what else was down there? So stop whining, and get over it."
"Now, listen to me, young lady…!"
"Zip it, or don't you want to hear the rest of our report," she asked as she glanced back as the rest of the team walked into the room just then.
"Rest of your report," J'onn asked quietly.
"We didn't share it all, because it looks like you guys might have a serious leak," Ada told them as the door shut, and she spoke only after Spark nodded. "As I said, my hearing is better than ever. Just before I took out their security balloon, or whatever it was…."
"A static vacuum sphere," Spark told her.
"Yeah, whatever," Adana waved as if that meant nothing. In fact, she likely knew better than anyone else what was involved. "The point is, I heard that general babbling about someone watching the Watchtower, and the League. And directing you. You guys have a leak. One that is making sure you don't go where they don't want you to go. Get it?"
"Unfortunately, that makes far too much sense," J'onn agreed. "It is not the first time that our government liaisons were exploited to manipulate our movements."
"And yet you still keep letting them….."
"It is the cost of maintaining our presence on a global stage," Captain Atom cut her off. "Even you have to know that."
"Maybe. But if you know it's happened before, it's kind of stupid to get taken in again. Don't you think?"
"I do," Gaia murmured.
"What do you suggest," the silver hero asked bluntly, looking as somber as she had ever seen him.
The five teammates all glanced at one another, and then nodded to Adana.
"We find their real headquarters, and take them out. What Spark didn't tell you, was that our friend Pinkie tipped us to something that puts their plans in perspective. They aren't just stealing powers from metas, or trying to register us. They are using the registration act to sample DNA profiles, and using nannite-fusion technology to create what they're calling Project Failsafe. A meta-containment program meant to control all metas on the planet. Or eliminate them."
"Again," Captain Atom said quietly, his eyes narrowing as they flashed fire. "When will they learn?"
"In time. One hopes," J'onn replied. "Still, Meta is right. If they are anywhere near finishing this project, we must find it, and stop it, before they unleash another monster on mankind."
"Because Brainiac, Doomsday, and even Eiling weren't enough the first time around," Dreadnaught huffed.
"What about Pinkie," Ada demanded now.
"She is still in medical, being….examined," Captain Atom told her.
"I know that. Why won't your flunkies let me see her? She's got to be freaked by all this."
"She was in quarantine for her own protection," the hero told her.
"Yeah? You sure you're not handing fresh samples to Cadmus spies," Gaia asked when Adana just glared.
J'onn met Captain Atom's look of alarm, and glanced away for a moment.
"They are not spies. Your friend is not in the clinic any longer, and is now free to receive visitors," J'onn told them after a moment of apparent distraction. "Still, you do make an excellent point," he told Adana. "Maybe it is time we reviewed our own security again," he spoke directly to his companion this time.
"I can accept that," Captain Atom nodded. "But the girl stays here until this is settled. "We don't need another civilian getting involved….."
"She's already involved," Adana pointed out.
"Or hurt," he concluded. "Which is why the Wilson girl remains here, too."
"Mr. Wilson wasn't there," Spark said as if sensing the question yet to be asked. "So it's time we got back to the hunt. After we check on Meta's friend."
"We had better bring in the rest of the League on this, too. We obviously have more of an issue here than first indicated," J'onn said gravely.
"Duh, comes to mind," Gaia muttered.
"That's just what I was going to say," Dreadnaught agreed. "Great minds, huh?"
"Not even going to try touching that one," Ember sighed.
"Smart," Adana told him.
"What," Robbie sputtered as they turned to leave.
"Meta," J'onn called out.
"In one thing, I agree with Captain Atom. You should reassess your control over your powers before you go out again. Just to be sure."
She eyed the Martian, and then zipped across the room, then back, and drawled, "Catch," before walking out.
J'onn caught the aluminum can with a colorful label, and stared at it.
Then turned it around.
It was perfectly smooth except for the smiley face carved into it by a very sharp nail.
"Now she's showing off," Captain Atom muttered.
"She does have her own style, doesn't she," J'onn almost smiled. "Much like her mother."
"God help us," the former military man grumbled.
"Then she just slammed through that steel wall like she was busting through Styrofoam, and tells the geek, 'Hey, guys, I knocked, but no one answered.' You had to see his face to believe it," Pinkie chortled as she told Barb the story as she sat in the clinic bed fully dressed, but lounging as if content to be there. "Oh, hey, Ada. Or do I call you Meta up here?"
"Ada still works," she smiled. "How are you doing?"
"Sweet. I can't believe you were a part of all this all year, and never shared."
"Uh-huh, cause it kept all the bad guys from spying, right? Tell me another," the blonde snorted.
"Well, it's supposed to," Adana said, and came over and nodded at Barb. "She did tell you that your dad wasn't there. Right?"
"Yeah. She told me you figured out he wasn't in that place before it…."
"We'll find him, Barb. Don't worry. And we'll shut these freaks down."
"Believe it," Robbie grinned, slamming a hard fist into his own palm, the armored gauntlets making a faint ringing echo. "And then we'll show them some old-school beat-down. Right, Pinkie?"
"Hey, I'm strictly second-string. That was not my idea of fun, even if I would have liked to empty that clip all over again after I found that…..jerk."
"You'll get another chance," Robbie told him.
"Honestly, I'm not sure I want it. At the time….it was all a haze. But….I'm not sure I want that. I can….understand what you feel now," she said to Adana. Just because I'm…..different, doesn't make me a hero."
"I can respect that," Adana told her.
No one said anything as Adana looked at her friend.
"Well, I might have been exposed to….something that lets me….uh, change my looks," Pinkie told Barb.
"You're…. Oh….my…..God," Barb gaped, staring at her very twin now sitting where Pinky had been.
"Tah-dah," the girl said, shifting back to her own face. "How's that for a party trick?"
"Weird," Barb muttered, just staring at her.
"Anyway, it's hardly enough to make me want to join the jock's club here with Ada."
"Jock's club," Robbie sputtered.
Pinkie just grinned, and winked at Adana.
"You can….keep my little secret, though. Right, Barbie," Pinkie asked.
"Who would believe me," the slightly older blonde sputtered.
"Too many of the wrong people," Spark told her.
"Besides, I'd hate to use my power for evil. I mean, just imagine if you ratted me out, and I took refuge in your face, and pretended to be you. Ruining your life forever by slumming with all the wrong people, and partying nonstop until everyone through you were…."
"Pinkie," Adana growled.
"Teasing," Pinkie laughed, holding up her hands in surrender as Ada glared, and Barb just stared in horror at her. "Honest. I was teasing. You wouldn't rat out friends. Would you, Barbie?"
"Just….don't call me Barbie any more, and we have a deal," she said quietly.
"That's cool. But you have to call me Pinkie. Darla doesn't work. Especially with Adana having a Carla run around. Imagine the confusion!"
"Yeah, because anyone would ever mistake you for Carla," Adana smirked.
Barb did laugh now.
"I think she's safe," Barb assured Adana.
"I'm just glad you are both okay. J'onn says he's keeping you both up here a little longer. Until we get to the bottom of this one. Now that we know some of the major players, the rest of the League will be getting involved. Hopefully, they will take some of the pressure off of us. And you," Adana added, looking pointedly at Barb.
"Thanks. In case I forgot, or forget. Thank you for everything you've done. Or will do," the girl told her. "All of you," she said to the team.
"No problem, gorgeous," Robbie grinned. "So, got any dances coming up you need an escort…."
"Out, Romeo," Ember shoved him.
"You get used to him," Spark said blandly as he turned to go, too.
"Or, you can punch him through a few walls," Gaia smirked at Adana. "That usually gets his attention, too. Right, Meta?"
Adana only blushed.
"You didn't," Pinkie gasped.
"So, those wholes the crew were repairing this week," Barb asked.
"He ticked me off, okay," Adana blushed.
"Remind me never to make you mad," Pinkie faked a shudder.
"How strong are you," Barb asked.
"Steel walls," Pinkie whispered to her.
"We'll meet you in the training chamber," Gaia shouted over her shoulder as she left with the rest of the team. "You know Cap won't let us go until you do what he said."
"Hey, can I watch," Pinkie asked.
Barb even looked interested.
"If Phase allows it," Adana just shrugged.
"Now, she scares me," Barb shivered. "She's….weird."
"You just met my team, and you think Phase is weird?"
"She's like a ghost," Barb sputtered at Adana. "A real ghost."
"You haven't seen Spark do his thing yet," Pinkie grinned.
"I'll call Phase, and see if she agrees to observers," Adana said when both girls eyed her. "After all, this is just an assessment. Not an actual training mission."
"Yeah, Cap is freaked over my power fluctuations when we were out, and thinks I might not be controlling myself properly."
"Well, nothing says out of control like punching through steel walls!"
"Not helping," Ada huffed at the strange blonde.
Pinkie, predictably, laughed.
"You, girl, are nuts," Adana complained.
Pinkie didn't argue.
"How is she doing," J'onn asked, startling the two girls who stared at him when he appeared beside Phase as the team ran through a standard take-down practice with robotic felons playing the bad guys. The sensors in each robot not only gauged the force used against them, but reported if the subsequent 'injuries' were incapacitating, critical, or even lethal.
"I'm really surprised," the silver-haired woman replied. "Her motor control is nothing short of exceptional compared to her earlier performances. She is faster, but ironically more coordinated, and she moves in tandem with the team far more smoothly than she had at first, too. If I didn't know better, I would think you slipped a ringer in on me."
"Have you tested her surges," he asked.
"Next level up. I'm tossing a surprise their way."
"Good. Captain Atom is concerned about her mood swings, too. Considering her past, it has to be addressed."
"Understood," she nodded as Pinkie looked back from Spark shooting past one of the robots in electrical form to allow Dreadnaught and Meta to smash through the barricade of imposing metal might.
"Mood swings," the pink-haired blonde asked.
"Adana has…issues. You should talk to her," Barb said quietly, glancing at the Martian. "I mean, since you are friends, and all."
J'onn eyed the other blonde, but said nothing.
Barb couldn't help but shrink even from his innocuous gaze.
It was kind of hard to be her usual bland self when you knew someone had been inside your head, and now knew all your secrets.
"Your friend is right, Ms. Wilson," J'onn said, though. "If you wish, you should speak to Adanna about her….issues. It might even help you both."
"Uh, whatever you say, Green bean," Pinkie quipped.
"Green bean," J'onn drawled, looking nonplussed.
"That's just….Pinkie," Barb told him, looking uneasy. "She's…..nuts like that."
"Indeed," he said, and Phase said, "You might want to watch this, J'onn. I'm about to amp the session."
One moment, Ada had been smacking the robot drones that were supposed to be hoods around, and even having a little fun since she didn't really have to worry about breaking anything. Or anyone.
Then, a very big foot stomped down on her, and smashed her into the ground. Literally, into the ground.
She peeled herself up out of the bulkhead, and looked up, and up, and up.
"Oh, you have to be kidding me," she moaned, seeing the apparent simulacrum of one her mom's old foes, the freak that called herself Titan.
Not related to the late, unlamented Giganta, she used some of the old technology left behind to recreate her powers, and turned herself into a fifty foot powerhouse before she decided stealing bank vaults was a great way to finance her retirement.
The last she had heard, Titan was still in lockdown, wearing a special collar designed to shock her witless if she tried to grow so much as an inch. It was a collar never intended to be removed. The simulacrum towering over her, and which had just moved on to try to smash Gaia into the far wall, wasn't wearing such a collar.
"Should have known this was going too easy," she muttered, and flew fast to grab Ember before he could be turned into a smear on the wall.
"Stay out of the way," she told him, dropping him across the room. "If this sim is like the real Titan, she is pretty much brute force, and plenty of it."
"Then leave her to me," Dreadnaught crowed, and ran straight at one big leg.
And got kicked face first into the bulkhead when the giant proved faster than she looked.
"Meta," Spark shouted, ducking a massive fist. "I can't control it. It's not like the drones. There's nothing for me to overload!"
"On it," Meta nodded, and flew straight up, smashing twin fists under that big chin, and driving the big female up off her feet a few inches, and staggering her back several feet.
But that was all.
"That all you got, gnat," the very real Titan grinned a very ominous sneer as both fists came up.
"Holy….crap," Ada howled. "I think she's the real thing!"
"What do you know," the apparent Titan smirked. "You might be smarter than your mommy, little girl. Too bad you weren't smart enough to retire," she spat, and slammed both fists into Ada's body, driving her back to the deck, and them smashing her back down into it.
"Phase," J'onn gasped, watching in astonishment from the booth. "What is going on here?"
"Trust me," the woman said, simply watching as Ada slowly sat up, her eyes glittering brightly, and glaring at the giantess that was headed right for her, swatting her teammates away like insects. Which, to her, they were.
J'onn frowned just as darkly as Pinkie and Barb, but they all watched.
Back on the floor, Ada sat up, glaring, and began to rise into the air.
"Okay, Granny," she shouted. "I don't know how you got up here, but I know where you're going. Down!"
"Oh, ho! Big talk for a little girl!"
Ada ducked the next fist, and the next. The knee surprised her, and drove her up into the ceiling hard enough to leave an impression.
"I love soccer," the giant brunette in the light gray bodysuit laughed as Ada fell halfway back to the deck before catching herself. "Score," she shouted, and backhanded her hard enough to smash her into the bulkhead again.
"This is getting old," Ada hissed, and turned to eye the giantess as her bewildered teammates wisely worked at staying out of her way. And from under her feet.
Then she smirked.
"Yo, Bimbo," she shouted. "You here to try out for the entertainment division?"
Titan's head spun around, glowering at her.
"If you are, you're in the wrong room!"
"You little cow. I'll show you who is a bimbo!"
"Mom had you pegged," she quipped, flashing past her to hover just behind her. "All boob, no brain."
"I beat your mother, little girl, and I'll…..!"
"Please, you never beat mom once she figured out your weakness," Ada grinned just a little manically. "And she told me!"
Ada flashed down, both fists hitting her in the side hard enough to make her stagger. Then, before Titan could react, Ada was gone, flying around to smash into her other side. Then back to the first. Back and forth, rocking her, and making her stagger.
Titan moaned, and staggered more overtly, then slowly toppled to sit down hard.
"Whoa," Dreadnaught howled, barely getting out of the way. "Not the way I want to meet chicks!"
Meta grinned, flew up, and hovered right in front of the woman that should still be in jail.
"Nightie-night," she said, and flew right into the center of her forehead, smacking her head back against the bulkhead. The woman was shrinking even as she collapsed.
Then Ada turned, still hovering in the air as she looked up at Phase with a cold gaze.
"Phase," J'onn demanded.
"The woman is okay. Meta only used just enough force to knock her out. I'm surprised at how easily she overwhelmed her, though," she said with a frown. "Even Amazon had trouble with her at that size. Her bulk makes her all but impervious to most….."
"Want to explain that," Ada demanded angrily, all but slamming through the door a moment later. "Because the last I heard, that bitch was still in lockdown. Where she belonged!"
"Calm down, and I'll explain," she said even as two physicians appeared to carry Titan out.
"I'd like to hear this one," Spark said grimly. "Last I heard, we didn't use real villains in our training sessions."
"Technically, Ola is not a villain. Not any longer. She's on parole. Considering her….skills, I talked her into coming her to join our training staff."
"And you trust her!"
"Your mother cleared her. For the job, and for this session," Phase told her.
"Meta, you have to know that with your extraordinary power fluctuations, we had to know you had a grasp on them, and could control them even under….extraordinary circumstances. Captain Atom made a valid point in that. We all felt that Titan's surprise appearance would be a viable test. Now, I am interested in how you bested her so easily."
"Mom found out she's got serious motion sickness," Ada finally grumbled. "She can't handle flying well at all. It stood to reason that a little induced motion sickness would trigger her condition, making her easier to manage," she told her.
"And you did it without unduly injuring, or killing her," Pinkie grinned. "So your silver buttinski can get off your back now, right?"
"Your what," Phase asked, looking at the two of them.
"This exercise is over," Adana finally told Phase, staring holes at her. "Don't ever do that to me again. Or you will regret it."
She then turned, and walked out.
"Whoa," Pinkie exclaimed.
"Indeed," J'onn murmured. "For a moment, she sounded very much like Diana."
"That's not who I was thinking about just now," Phase said tellingly as she stared after the girl. Whose blue eyes had shimmered a very disturbing red for a moment.
To Be Continued…..