"You got the plan," Gordon asked not for the first time as he handed Adana a blue equipment bag, after personally explaining the wallet was really a microburst transceiver that shouldn't be capable of being jammed. It would keep them in touch no matter what happened.
In the bag was also a few things any average teen would carry, and enough cash to 'interest' an apparent mercenary.
Everything else was in her head. The code words. The plan. The address to the safe house just two blocks from the campus where she would set up the meet by posing as someone other than Adana Winter.
She transported down to the park near the campus, walking over to the library in casual clothes, wearing a blonde wig, and took a table well away from anyone else to boot up the search engine Ola Kelinski had told her about.
In the space, she wrote simply, 'Desperate girl needs Target hit.'
She pushed the search button. Then waited as the results showed a blank page still loading.
Considering the college used a major broadband company, she doubted it was that sluggish. She waited, trying not to look too anxious, and then five minutes later, the page loaded with a simple sentence.
"Where would she meet her Target?"
She typed in the address of the safe house.
Twenty minutes, was the immediate reply this time, as if they knew she was fifteen minutes from the house.
She fought not to run, and presented an uneasy, perhaps genuinely desperate coed who needed a problem taken care of that required extreme measures. Her background, already carefully set in place, suggested she was a trust-fund girl with a guardian siphoning off her legacy while he played the concerned family friend.
Hopefully, it was believable enough to smoke this guy out. Hopefully, she was right about being able to handle him.
She made it home with three minutes to spare. After all, she didn't want to super-speed home, and tip her hand right off. For all she knew, this guy had someone, or someway to watch her. She had to keep up appearances. She fumbled with her door key, adding to her 'anxious' demeanor, and walked into the small house she was allegedly renting.
Even as she shut the door, she turned to face a shadow that moved out of the hall, and eyed her.
The mask, she knew, looked just distinctive enough to suggest someone long dead.
Or, supposedly dead.
"No names. Just tell me one reason I don't erase you, instead of your alleged problems," the man in the mask that was black on one side, dark gold on the other, showing only one eye in the colors. The rest of his costume was a reversal of the same color scheme. He had a belt full of throwing knives. Two suspicious gauntlets on his wrists, and equipment pouches on his forearms, and calves.
So if he wasn't the Titan's old nemesis Slade, supposedly long dead, then he was obviously connected to him somehow.
Great. Even she knew that Slade, as Deathstroke, had been one of the most formidable mercenaries alive for years.
"I have…money. I saved all I could. I…"
"I know all about your problems. The question is, how did a nobody like you get my contact information? That's what I'm really curious about, girl? So, why don't you take off the cheap wig, and tell me what this is really about."
"How did you know I was wearing a wig?"
"Your coloring is off."
"I'm attending school incognito. That's all. You don't know how much the price of fame can ruin your life," she blustered.
"I think I might surprise you. You, however, don't surprise me. Take off the wig."
She pulled it off.
"You're supposed to be Regina Holston? I don't see it. Too lean. Too fit. You're hardly the image of a trust fund baby."
"I like to work out," Adana said, and carefully set her bag down on the nearby end table, just in case.
"Then, too, there is that very distinctive visage. And the gleam of those oh, so interesting bracelets under your sleeves. I've actually been wanting to meet you, Adana Winter, for some time."
"You are good. Maybe as good as the original Slade Wilson."
It was hard to say through that mask, but she had the feeling he smirked.
"It's just as well you're here. I have a lot of very interested people that would like to meet you."
"Funny, you should say so," she said, and raised her fists. "I'm looking for them myself. Something about….Project Failsafe? Cadmus? General Aiers? Any of that ringing any bells?"
"You're smarter than they thought if you've already put all that together. I'm afraid you will have to come with me now. You know too much to be….."
The man went flying as she moved forward, smashing a fist into his jaw, and sending him back through the hall, bouncing off the far wall, and smirked, expecting him to fall.
Instead, he bounced, rolled back to his feet, and produced two long sais that expanded out of his sleeves as if they had been collapsed until that moment.
"Not bad. Now, it's my turn, little girl," he smirked as he charged forward.
Adana blocked the first few furious exchanges, but then one of the sais only brushed her side as it crackled with some form of arcane energy, and Adana went down screaming at the unexpected rush of pain that overwhelmed her.
"Now to finish…."
"Dad," an incredulous cry sounded even as he raised his weapons over Adana's sprawled form.
Target spun around, staring at the blonde that had somehow just appeared behind him. Even he had not detected her when the Amazon bitch had walked into the house. He frowned, and stared at the girl in a simple, dark blue bodysuit that stank of League design.
"Darla? What are you doing here?"
"Dad," Ada groaned, slowly sitting back up. "He's your dad?"
"Well, he sure sounds like it. Only I didn't know that, did I? Jeez, it's not like he sit me down, and said, 'Sweetie, the reason I travel so much is I'm an international hit man bumping off all your friends!'"
"Girl," he growled.
"What? Gonna send me to bed without supper? Jeez, dad, you killed her father. For all I know, you were part of the same bunch that killed mom!"
"What do you know about that," he spat, surprised by her outburst in spite of himself.
"Know," she hissed, stalking toward her father. "I was in the damn car," she said, and swung a fist at him.
For one of the very few times in his professional life, Target was taken completely by surprise as he went flying back into the bedroom, and through the outer wall before tumbling to a stop.
"Whoa, and I thought I was the one with super strength," Ada joked as she got to her feet.
"Funny. You okay?"
"I'm getting better. Whatever he hit me with is already wearing off. Come on, we can't let him…..get away," she said, stopping in the the yard outside the shattered wall, and seeing no sign of the Deathstroke wannabe.
"Great," Ada frowned, looking around. "Cap is going to kill me."
"Well, I kind of went behind his back…. Hey, how did you even get here?"
"Uh, actually, Captain silver-pants sent me as backup. Him and Green Bean knew all about your plan. Your tall buddy ratted you out."
"I should have known," she muttered. "Still, thanks. I thought he had me for a minute there."
"Yeah, no problem. I still owe you a few dozen," Pinky grinned, and hugged her. "Hey, I could be your sidekick now!"
"Still," she said, heading back to the house through the broken wall. "I don't get why they didn't transport the whole team instead of just you when Target showed."
"I….didn't transport down," Pinky grinned. "I was with you all along."
"What? No way. I would have noticed…."
"You impersonated someone else?"
"More like something else. I was your new bag," Pinkie preened.
They had reached the living room by then, and she looked around, and saw her transceiver on the floor, next to the purse, cash, and the other accessories. Everything lay scattered around as if just dumped there. Only there was no purse.
"You…..were the bag?"
"Green bean thinks I might have someone called Plastic Man's powers."
"Whoa. Mom used to talk about him. He was….crazy," Adana admitted.
"Really? He sounds cool to me. I'll have to look him up. Online, I mean, because your buddies say he vanished just about the time the registration act was first doing its thing."
"That makes sense. So, if your mom's company was behind tapping meta's genes and powers, she might have been trying to blow the whistle when they…."
"Yeah. And dad was part of it, too. Maybe he didn't realize he was at the time, but he had to know. He had to have figured it out. And he did nothing. Ada," she said grimly now, her eyes glittering just a bit. "We have to take him down."
"No argument," she said. "Especially since I think I know his mentor."
"Yeah? Who? The incredibly colorblind man?"
"Deathstroke," she said.
"Who," Pinkie sputtered.
Captain Atom and J'onn had no trouble recognizing the name.
"We're missing something," Adana tapped her fingers as she eyed Gordon doing research on the computer while they sat around the briefing room in the Watchtower four days later.
"I don't know. It's slow, but we're getting more and more of the pieces to this puzzle," her teammate told her.
"Not fast enough," she complained.
"I agree with her," Pinkie, who had taken to trailing after them added. "And you can bet Deathstroke, Jr. isn't sitting on his treacherous, colorblind butt."
Every member of the team stared at her.
They knew all about the encounter by now. Spark was more than chagrinned at his supposedly unjammable transceiver being jammed. If Pinkie had not been in place, they wouldn't have known what was going on, or been able to arrive in time to help. The shock factor of facing his own daughter likely helped run him off.
Or so Robbie guessed.
"Well, he had to be using some serious tech to block me, and almost take out Meta," Spark remarked somberly. "You were lucky he got scared off."
"My right cross didn't hurt," Pinkie added without being insulted by his curt manner.
"His equipment," Adana said after a moment, looking back to Gordon. "No way that little equipment belt of his carried a power source good enough to block the League's technology, and your tech toys. He had to be broadcasting. Spark, could you use the transceiver to duplicate that frequency, and backtrack it?"
"Smart," Pinkie murmured.
"Very smart," Gordon declared, and turned in his chair to roll it toward a nearby console to the right of the computer log he had been working on. "Okay, the feedback loop I detected had a definite UHF band, so… Bingo. There. Using the NSA satellite, because they won't mind," he smirked over his shoulder, "We can tie in the loop, and find any recent activity that matches….."
"Got him," Adana said, walking over to stand behind Gordon as the GPS locked on the signal, and traced it to a single location.
"Hey," Pinkie said, coming up behind her. "That's my house! Are you telling me my dad has a lair in my own house? And I never noticed?"
"It is probably hidden. Underground, or behind a hidden panel."
They all looked at Robert.
"It's where my uncle always hid his crap," he shrugged.
"So, your uncle really was a bad guy?"
"Thought you knew that, goddess," he winked at Gaia, not currently wearing his helmet, though he still had his armor on.
"And you decided to redeem the family name," the young teen smirked.
"Actually, my uncle left a spell that keeps anyone from using the armor for evil any longer. Not that I wanted to be a bad guy. I mean, have you not noticed how much time those guys spend behind bars? Not my thing," Robert declared.
Todd just rolled his eyes.
"So," Gaia asked. "Do we go after this jerk, or do we run it past the Captain this time?"
"Much as I would like to just go pound on him," Adana admitted, "We'd better brief Captain Atom. Aside from this guy being at least as good as the original Slade, this is a civilian residence."
"My civilian residence," Pinkie sputtered. "So feel free to kick in the doors, and drag his sorry ass anywhere you want to take him," she told him.
"We see Cap, first," Gordon agreed.
"Then, let's go," Pinkie told him. "I get the feeling that the longer we wait, the more chance dear old dad will slip away again."
"Suit up," Gordon told them all. "If Cap gives us the green light, we move out at once."
"In position," Ember murmured, having jumped out of the new van a few moments ago as Robert drove past the back of the Steele residence, and let him, and Gaia out.
"So am I," the younger teen rasped a moment later as Ember reported.
"I'm waiting in the van, and monitoring the digital environment," Gordon reported. "Robert is backup. Plasti-Girl and Meta will go in the front, and see what they find. Everyone stay sharp. We have to contain, and catch this guy. No other options."
"Seriously? Plasti-Girl," Pinkie complained even as she looked down at her still bland, blue jumpsuit that begged seriously intervention.
"Seems to fit," Robbie grinned from the front seat as he pulled up just two doors away from the Steele house.
"This is not the time. Everyone, get ready. Meta. Go," Spark ordered.
She nodded, and opened the side door of the van.
Stepping out, she stood aside for Pinkie, and the pair headed for the front door even as Gordon closed the door behind them.
"I don't know if it means anything, but that is dad's car," Pinkie told Adana as they neared the drive, and spotted the familiar sedan in the open garage. "He seems to like oversized antiques."
"An old high school friend called them lead sleds," Adana murmured. "Big engines, lot of power."
"Consider who dad is supposed to be, he likely has it amped up way past specs," Pinkie guessed.
"Goes without saying. Even I felt whatever it was he used to charge those sais of his, and lately, not much had been penetrating my skin."
"Really? So you're like….invulnerable now, too?"
"Focus," Gordon rasped in their ears through their transceivers.
"Playing the role," Adana shot back, and headed for the door. "Do we knock," she asked Pinkie.
"At my own door? Yeah, right," she smirked, and pulled out a key.
Opening the door, she shoved it open, and yelled, "Hey, old man! I'm home. Wanna come out, and explain yourself now?"
"I'm in the kitchen," her father replied almost at once, surprising Adana.
She glanced at Pinkie, who shrugged, and headed for the kitchen.
"Well, at least you're not wearing that dreadful fashion disaster anymore," Pinkie declared when they walked into the room to find him standing near the sink.
"And yet you are," Ian Steele told his daughter in a disapproving tone as he eyed her as he lifted the glass of water he had been filling.
"What can I say? Fighting bad guys, or bad dads, tends to shred my wardrobe. Ask Ada. She goes through blouses like tissue."
Adana glowered at that, but said nothing as the man moved to sit at the table, and then started chopping onions of all things.
"You are likely wondering what I intend?"
"We are," Adana said somberly.
"Duh," Pinkie spat.
"Fair enough. I would like to ask you both a few questions. What you tell me will directly impact my decision as to how I react. Darla…."
"Call me Pinkie, dad," she growled.
"Really," he murmured, eyeing her streaked hair. "Still the rebel? Never mind. You mentioned General Aiers when we last met," he said to Adana. "And you, girl, suggested you were present when your mother died. I'll admit, I've had my doubts about the day she died. So then, tell me a story. I suggest you both be convincing," the man's innocuous manner belying his cold tone.
"What I know came from Pinkie," Adana told him. "And the information we've accumulated since. Let her tell you what happened."
"All right. Try to be articulate, if you don't mind. This is important to all of us, girl," he growled at Pinkie.
"See what I have to live with," Pinkie huffed. "Just because I don't read dictionaries, or something…."
"Pinkie," Adana cut her off.
"Fine. Fine. I said I was there, because I was, dad. I was in the car the day Aiers, or whatever loopy name he uses, killed mom. She might have survived going over the guardrail, but she wouldn't have survived whatever smacked her in the back of the head, taking off most of her skull."
"I see. Now, tell me why you were there? And, more importantly, how did you survive," he demanded.
"We all have our secrets, dad," she smirked.
"I suppose it has something to do with how you hit me with the strength of ten men earlier?"
"I did? Cool," she beamed, tossing her hair with a smug expression.
"You said you were in the car. Were you exposed to something? Did your mother take something from the lab?"
"No. I did."
He stood up now, looking grimmer than ever as she gave a quick, careless explanation of the vial, and how she was exposed to its contents.
"You saw nothing else?"
"I was kind of busy trying not to drown at the time," she huffed.
Damien Steele looked directly at Adana now.
"I fought your mother, once. Not that she knew it was me. She was good. You're better. Still, I'll tell you this now, out of respect for her. I will not be taken. I will, however, help you. It seems we both these men…..a debt."
"Go on," Adana said as Pinkie just glowered.
"When my wife…. Your mother….. Died," he said, looking to Pinkie. "I was working on another case, or they might have tried to use me. Not that they know who I am under the mask. No one does, until you two found me out. The point is, I made a query into her death, unofficially, and was told she had stolen samples and data from Janus. It's what they call themselves now, by the way. Politicians do like to be clever. Or pretend they are. I, at the time, could hardly make waves considering the evidence against her. Not that I knew Aiers was really Glory-Hound at the time. If I had….."
"You would have questioned their whole load of bull….."
"Darla," he cut her off. "The point is, I had doubts, and always wondered, but could never find the entire truth. Now, I know more. It is obvious they lied to me. I take that….poorly. Trust, I've long felt, is a benchmark for a successful contract. They have lost mine."
He walked over to the stove, turned on the back burner, but instead of doing the expected, he then pulled up the burner he had apparently activated, and it folded up to reveal a hidden panel under the main surface. He pulled out three flash drives he scooped up, and held them out to Adana.
"Everything I have on Janus, its backers, and senior officers. Complete with most of the meta research, and the intended projects to date."
"Just like that," Adana asked.
"Just like that. With a singular proviso."
"That, I expected," she admitted.
"Naturally," Damien smiled. "Do as you will, but Aiers is mine."
"That's not my call," Adana told him. "We're more concerned with stopping Janus as a whole, and cutting off this Project Failsafe."
"It's not a project. It's a person."
"A person," Pinkie frowned.
"Six years ago, they found a certain…..cloned meta. Using his DNA for a base, they created a mental and physical shell they intended to use to fuse the programming, and powers they wanted into the construct they made of it. It is intended to be the ultimate weapon. Supposedly, it could take down the Kryptonian, too."
"No…..way," Pinkie rasped.
"Cadmus voiced concerns about a League that might go out of control. What's Janus' excuse," Adana demanded.
"The usual. They want power, and they want it all. Someone decided with more and more metas being born every day, they were losing said power. So they felt if they couldn't control them, they would shut them down. Permanently, if necessary. They felt if they were the supreme power in the nation, no one else, meta, or super power, could or would dare stand against them."
"So, it's just the usual megalomaniacs out for world domination," Pinkie drawled. "And you helped them," she sneered at her father.
"It was a job. It paid the bills," he remarked blandly.
"I suddenly feel dirty," Pinkie told Ada.
"Don't be so melodramatic. Now, I've told you what I can, and you have the data you need to find, and shut Janus down," Ian told her. "Recall my proviso," he told Adana.
"What makes you think we're letting you go anywhere," Pinkie spat now. "You're coming with us, daddy-dearest. You can explain yourself to….."
He turned, threw down a small sphere neither noted he was holding, and when the smoke cleared, he was gone.
"Spark, Ember, he bailed," Adana shouted into the comlink. "I so should have seen that coming," she groaned, heading for the front door as she pointed to the back, telling Pinky, "Check that way!"
A frustrating twenty minute search later found nothing.
Except an empty secret panel in the back of Ian's closet, and nothing else.
"This guy is good," Spark declared with reluctant admiration. "He let us follow his signal, and shut it down afterward. And we played right into his hands."
"You can't find a new trail?"
"The frequency has gone dead. I doubt he's still using the same channel," Spark told Adana as they all climbed back into the van.
"Cap ain't gonna like this," Robbie said.
"No, but we did get this. If it's legit," Adana told them, holding out three flash drives. "We could have Janus by the throat."
"And if what I heard was real, we still have to find Aiers before Plasti-Girl's father kills him," Spark added.
"We'd better get back to the Watchtower and brief the rest of the League," Ember said as they all looked at Pinkie.
"Would it sound bad if I said I hope the old man gets to that murdering freak first," Pinkie asked somberly.
"Not to me," Gaia murmured.
No one else commented.
To Be Continued….