"Twice," Captain Atom said as he eyed the active teams now present, but focused on Adana. "You let him slip by you twice."
"At least they got close," Diana cut him off. "Until this week, we didn't even know this man existed," Diana remarked.
"I'd like to know how I fought someone I didn't even know I was fighting," Amazon, back in costume for this one, frowned at her daughter's report.
"This guy is pretty slick." Spark spot up. "He's better than anyone I've ever tracked. There's a good chance he's been around a long time, and no one ever even realized it."
"Goes without saying," Pinkie huffed. "I lived with the guy, and never had a clue. Jeez, you think you know someone," she said, eyeing Adana.
"While Janus is another issue, one I will be addressing with the President," Diana cut in. "Failsafe is obviously something that cannot be allowed to succeed. It must be shut down before they can activate it."
"Unfortunately, that is the one piece of information we don't have a location for here," J'onn remarked. "What we do have is five, heavily guarded locations similar to the Saskatchewan site around the world. While we couldn't pinpoint them with our satellites, we could confirm the same electronic void exists at the locations indicated."
"So, five teams," Captain Atom nodded. "I'll lead Alpha. Diana, you take Target Beta. Amazon will be leading Delta Squad. I've called in Dragon, and Feral to lead the other two teams."
"Which one do we get," Adana asked.
"You're backup to any site that requires it," Captain Atom told her. "So stay here, and stay ready."
"We're backup," Dreadnaught sputtered. "But we cracked this whole case. Without us, you wouldn't even have this case!"
"What he said," Pinkie muttered.
"I think even you children have to know that…."
"Did you call us…?"
"Oh, he did not," Gaia cut Todd off.
"You've been preaching responsibility to me the day I showed up," Adana stepped forward. "You told me I had an obligation to learn to do my best, and then do it," she said somberly. "Now, when we're about to finally put this mess in order, you want us to sit on our butts because you think we can't handle it? Jeez, you are one…"
"Ada," Diana cut her off.
"Ada," Amanda snapped.
"Fine," she spat. "But someone better remember that Barb Wilson's father is still down there somewhere, and so far as we know, he's another innocent dupe. So you better find him, because it won't be me that tells her she lost her dad while you charged in blowing things up!"
"We know our duty," Captain Atom retorted. "Likely better than you, young lady."
Adana's left eye twitched.
"Don't hit him," Todd tried to joke.
"Team leaders, get ready to move. Backup teams, you're assignments are posted on the bridge. I suggest your leaders familiarize yourself with where you might be called, if necessary. The rest of you, stand down," Captain Atom growled, looking right at Adana.
Adana just glared back at him.
"You have a problem with taking orders," Captain Atom pointedly faced her, staring into her set visage.
"Only from you," she spat, and turned, and stalked out of the conference room.
"Yo, Sparky. I know my girl," Pinkie whispered as the rest of the members left to break up into teams. "I predict she's about to do something entirely unauthorized, and probably crazy."
"I don't know her that well, but my girl's intuition says Meta is majorly pissed off, and looking for payback," Gaia agreed.
"For someone that didn't want to be a hero, she sure is trying hard," Robbie snorted.
"Don't you get it, Metal-head," Pinkie quipped. "She promised to bring Barbie's dad back. Safe, and alive. Now, how would you feel if you made that kind of promise, and got benched before you could pull it off?"
"I'd be tweaked," Robbie nodded.
"Let's go see what she's planning," Spark nodded at his team.
"I was going anyway," Pinkie drawled. "I just tipping you guys off, in case you're not all major suck-ups that only do whatever you're told."
"Us," Robbie laughed. "They don't call us Gamma for nothing. We're like….the loser team, Plasti…."
"Call me Pinkie, or shut up," she growled.
"Right. Pinkie," Robbie nodded. "Anyway, in our own ways, we've all screwed up before, and after we got drafted. And let me tell you, Cap doesn't constantly hang around because he likes us. He's still waiting for our next screw-up."
"Really? Cool," Pinkie grinned. "Maybe you guys are okay after all. Now, let's go save my best friend from herself."
They found her in the hangar, about to take a mini-van/jet down rather than try managing the teleport pad sure to be busy just then.
"Back to the start."
"Huh," Robbie frowned.
"Spark, you reviewed the data. Did you see anything that suggested that Failsafe was located anywhere in those five sites?"
"No," he frowned. "From the materials and research indicated, it seemed they were all fallback locations."
"Right. I started thinking about that. Where would you put the real Janus if you wanted someone to overlook it?"
Spark eyed her.
"You think it's still in Canada?"
"We leveled the dome. But only the ground level. What's to say something else wasn't under it? The first Cadmus was really fond of underground hangars, and hidden labs. Now, so far as I've heard, no one bothered to check under the ruin. And I'm not going to sit up here on my hands if the real bad guys are out there getting away."
"What else," Pinkie asked. "Because I'm guessing you figured something else, too."
"Like you say, duh. You father handed us those five sites on a platter. Which meant he didn't expect us to find anything. Not Aiers. Likely not Janus. Why not? Because he knew where they were, and that's where he's going."
"To Canada," they all said as one.
"You know, technically, we should inform the others about this," Todd said blandly.
"We're backup," Adana told Todd. "Do you really want to go up there and tell the silver control freak that his plan is flawed, and his less than favorite Amazon girl just figured out the hole in it?"
"He couldn't like that," Gaia said quietly.
"He wouldn't," Robbie agreed cheerfully. "He'd tell us to butt out, and stay put."
"He would," Gaia agreed.
"Well, as long as we're backup," Spark said after everyone looked his way. "We might as well go help ensure no one….left anything behind at the initial contact site. We won't be disobeying orders doing that. We're just going to ensure everything is copasetic, and do some cleanup while waiting for a call, if it comes."
"Now, that's slick," Pinkie grinned.
"Todd, Robbie, fuel up, and arm her to the teeth. I'll go up to the bridge and check on our official assignment, and then give them our…..unofficial itinerary. Guys, if Meta is right, gear up, and get ready. If that ground level was tough, you can bet the lower floors, if they are there, are going to be downright nasty."
"I'm guessing that we'll have one advantage going in," Adana reminded him.
"Yeah," Spark frowned. "What?"
"If I'm right, Pinkie's dad is probably already there," she told him grimly.
Spark frowned, then nodded.
"Everyone….hustle," he said, and took off for the bridge.
"Just like the first dome Gamma reported," one of Captain Atom's teammates remarked as they materialized away from the distortion field in the middle of the Sahara, and eyed the near-distant structure.
"Yes," the master of energy murmured, but was looking distracted.
"Something wrong, Captain?"
"Gamma. They're up to something," he told the young, but proven hero that used the name 'Catch,' simply because he could find, and analyze any ploy before you could finish thinking about it. He was also a very good martial artist.
"Naturally," the mental gymnast grinned. "They're going after Steele."
"Who is supposedly hunting Aiers just now?"
"Yes. I thought about that since the briefing. It occurs to me that he's likely back at the original dome site."
"But it was destroyed," the silver-plated hero frowned.
"The surface structure was," he agreed.
Captain Atom frowned.
"No one ever ascertained if there was anything under the rubble. Damn, we've gotten sloppy!"
"I say, trust them, and take care of our own assignment. I think they'll manage."
"Gamma," the man of energy sputtered.
"I won't deny they have a less than stellar record, Captain. But haven't you noticed how well they've meshed since Meta has joined. She has not only brought them closer together, but they are starting to operate as a rather effective group, too."
"Captain Atom," Psion appeared. "I'm getting multiple readings from the dome."
"It will heavily guarded…."
"Meta readings," the powerful psychic told him. "And they are in pain."
Captain Atom took a single look around him, eyed the ten members of his active squad, and pointed to each flank.
"Let's shut them down," he growled, and launched himself into the air, fists blazing with cosmic energy. Gamma, he realized, would have to fend for themselves for the moment, whatever they found.
"Hey, this is where I fell the first time," Robbie grinned as they passed the shallow crater.
"Focus," Spark told him. "We go in fast, and we go in hard. Anyone gets in the way, shut them down, and keep going. We have three objectives. Mr. Wilson. General Aiers. And, Failsafe. First one to find the civilian, get him out, and keep going."
"And if we find the general," Pinkie asked.
"Try to keep him alive long enough to arrest," Robbie told her with a crooked grin. "I take it I get point?"
"Not this time. Gaia, cover our approach. Meta, find a way down. I know it's there, I can feel the electronics under our feet now that all their previous interference is gone."
"Which means that Steele is likely already here," Ada commented, and moved forward even as Gaia's thin slender hands rose, and mist seemed to flow from around the willowy black teen as the forest grew murky.
"Radio silence as of now. Communicate only if you reach an objective, and can safely manage it."
"Or need help," Adana added. "Don't play cowboy, guys. If they've held other metas this long, then they likely know how to hurt you. If you get separated, and need help, yell."
"That goes for you, too," Adana was told by Spark. "Remember, Steele almost caught you once before, so we don't want to risk losing you, either."
"I'll be with her," Pinkie told them. "No way am I leaving my best girlfriend to do this alone."
"She's not alone," Robbie huffed.
Pinkie just stared at him.
"All right," Gaia cut in. "I have the whole area blanketed with fog. If they have cameras, or sentries, they're useless now."
"All right, then. Meta. Find a door."
"Right," the brunette said, and moved forward, hovering slightly off the ground as she used her other senses to move directly toward the still smoldering pile of rubble that had been a military post of some kind earlier.
"Show off," Pinkie grumbled, and loped after her.
"Spark," Ember hissed. "What if they already activated Failsafe?"
"Then we shut it down," Gaia answered for him.
"Whatever it is, we can't let it get out. We can't let them win. If it is here, Ember, we can't let it leave."
"You can count on me," he nodded.
"I know I can, buddy. Let's go. Before the girls leave us behind."
Diana turned to take a report from her second, and frowned. Captain Atom, and Dragon had cleared out their sites. Lots of hostage metas, inactive labs, and little else. Unfortunately, her site had proven to be much the same.
When she heard Catch's suspicion that Gamma had likely found, and gone after the real Janus, she was ready to follow.
Only they had to sit on their captives, and those they had freed who still needed help. Like it, or not, Adana was on her own for now.
"Has Amazon checked in? Or Feral?"
"Not yet," Sync replied, the young woman able to copy and use any power used against her. "But you know how they both can be when they get going. They may still be going through their sites," she told Diana who had taken most of the resistance out almost single-handedly.
It didn't hurt that most of the guards had taken one look at the legendary Wonder Woman, and ran.
"True. Keep me informed. And try to get someone to check in on Gamma's progress."
"I'll call the Martian," Sync nodded, knowing he was their best source so long as no tech was blocking his telepathy.
"Do it," Diana agreed. "Meanwhile, try to get more responders out here. Some of these captives are going to need serious care just to survive," she said grimly.
Unlike Cadmus, it didn't seem Janus was too concerned with whether their lab rats survived, or not. It sickened her to see the condition some of them were in, but she couldn't help but think of her granddaughter being in their hands, too, since she had been one of their targets from the start.
"I'm sure she'll be fine," Sync told her. "She has a good team with her."
Diana eyed the woman.
Unlike most, Sync started out as a police officer, and could handle herself better than some of their more experienced members. Gamma, however, had more than its share of issues.
The grandstanding Dreadnaught.
The virtually murderous Gaia.
Ember had a reputation for freezing, or running away when things got serious.
Spark was sometimes too cautious at times to even consider as a true warrior.
Adana had not even wanted to be here, and yet now she was joining a less than reputable team, dragging a potentially unstable girl along with her who might be her own father's pawn. It was not an ideal situation for anyone.
She certainly didn't like the idea of her granddaughter being in it. Whatever her powers, she was still inexperienced, and more likely to bull her way through things, than not. Which, she knew well enough, was not always a good way for a warrior to act.
"Found it," Meta said, straining as she pulled at the warped, steel panel that hid the exit Aiers had used in the command center just before the place blew. "And like I guessed, it leads down," she told her teammates as she tossed the panel aside, and they ripped open the warped wall panel that hid the escape hatch.
"We go in twos," Spark told them. "Two minutes apart. We don't want to bunch up, in case they're down there waiting."
"Agreed," Gaia nodded. "I'll go first, with Dreadnaught."
"Pinkie and I will go next," Meta said, nodding at the younger girl, and accepting her decision.
"Are you sure….?"
"C'mon, Sparky," Pinkie snorted. "Who's got the chops on this team? From what I've seen, my girl, and tin can there are about the heaviest hitters you have. Who better to thin out the herd that might be waiting? Then, while we take care of the baddies, you and the matchstick can sneak in behind us, and find Barbie's old man. Or whatever."
"That does make sense," Spark sighed. "All right. Go."
Gaia was already going.
"Gaia," he called out as she stepped into the passage. "No killing."
Gaia glanced back, but said nothing. Robbie just walked after her, winked over his shoulder, and drawled, "I'll keep her in line, boss. Don't worry, Cap won't have any complaints. You know, other than the whole disobeying orders, and sneaking off behind his back again."
Spark sighed, shaking his head again.
"Why did I sign up for this?"
"Because, as I recall, it was this, or juvie, oh, master hacker," Todd reminded him after Meta and Pinky followed the first two into the dark passage.
"Let's forget that one. Will you," he asked his friend, and teammate.
"Hey, I'm still trying to live down choking on that mission with Feral. Trust me, no one has let me live that one down."
"I'd have choked, too. Parasite? He's major league, buddy. I'd have run as fast as I could, too."
"Tell it to Captain Atom. I can see his opinion of me every time he looks my way."
"He's not fond of any of us, Ember. Now, let's forget the past, and go show them we can carry our own weight."
"Right. You can trust me, Spark. I won't bail," the young teen told him.
"I know you won't," Spark nodded.
Then led the way into the darkness, his eyes glowing white as he sought out an electronic trail he could exploit, or follow.
"Anything," Ember asked as he realized the passage split in a tee, and someone had carved an arrow right into the steel wall pointed left. He could guess. Since the other wall had a fist pounded into the right side.
Which let the straight corridor ahead for them.
"Here we go, buddy," he told Ember, and kept going straight.
To Be Continued…..