"Why did you stop," Dreadnaught asked, and looked over the slender girl's shoulder.
"Intersection. Which way, smart guy?"
"Experience has taught me that the right side is the one where all the trouble waits. Let's go that way."
She looked back at him, scowling.
"I don't see the others yet. How do we let them know…..?"
He banged a hard fist into the wall on the right side.
"They'll get the message," he said as a faint vibration sounded through the dimly lit corridor, most of the emergency lighting blinking as if power were being interrupted.
Gaia shrugged, and moved on with him.
A few moments later, Ada and Pinkie stopped at the same intersection, and looked around.
"I thought I heard someone punch a wall," she pointed out. "Dreadnaught must have gone right. So, that leaves straight ahead, or left?"
"Left. In every movie I've ever seen, the evil lair always had the labs to the left."
Ada considered that claim.
"Good as any reason. I'll let Spark know where we went," she said, and pressed a nail into the wall, and scratched an arrow.
"Whoa. Remind me never to let you scratch my back," the blonde exclaimed.
"I've improved my control lately. I wouldn't hurt you, Pinkie," she assured her.
"Good to know. In case I do need my back scratched," she grinned.
"I'm surprised we haven't run into…..someone already," she said as they kept moving down the apparently empty corridor.
"Kind of makes it suspicious, don't it," the blonde nodded her agreement.
"Makes me think they're either careless, or more likely, diverted."
"Maybe. Or maybe they realize someone is hitting all their bases, and decided to push up their agenda."
"Which means everyone may be in the evil labs, waiting on us," she asked.
"And if dad beat us here?"
"Get ready for trouble. I get the feeling your dad isn't the type to take prisoners."
"Covert international assassin? Goes without saying," Pinky murmured.
They figured out the likely reasoning when they found the first bodies.
Two sentries slumped against the wall, small daggers still embedded in their throats from behind.
"Yeah, I think it's safe to say that dad's here," Pinky murmured, looking at the third body across the corridor where the tunnel split again. "I think he went that way," she said, spotting a fourth body laying prone in the middle of the hall.
"Yeah," Adana agreed, and looked around. "We stick together."
"I could check that way, and come right back?"
"Splitting up never works. To quote your films, it's a good way to get into trouble."
"True. True. Look what happened to Dale in Scream X."
Adana rolled her eyes.
"We follow the bodies. It stands to reason Mr. Steele knows where he's going."
"Since he's likely been here before," Pinkie said, sounding a bit less nonchalant, and a lot more angry.
"Stay calm, and stay focused, Pinky," Ada told her. "We have a mission. We can't lose sight of that."
"I know. I know. Hey, what's that," she asked, and pointed into a room filled with frosted tubes. Inside, over half a dozen men and women in white coats lay slumped around the chamber. All of them obviously dead.
"Looks like your father's been here, too," Ada murmured, and walked over to stare up at one of the tubes. "No…..way."
"What is it," Pinkie asked.
"Pinkie," she said, wiping a hand over the surface of the tube, trying to clear some of the frosted condensation. "I think this is Superboy! He vanished over ten years ago!"
"Really? The real deal? Girl, we have so got to get him out of there."
"Definitely," Ada agreed, and looked around. She didn't recognize all the faces in the twenty tubes around her, but she did spot another one. "Pinkie….."
"Plastic Man," she said, staring up at a frozen figure elongated, with oversized fists flash-frozen in the act of trying to break free. "Probably the source of your powers."
"He looks pissed," she said, staring at the unnaturally fluid face caught in the midst of stretching in odd directions.
"Just the kind of guy we want when we face whatever is still ahead. See if you can find some kind of shutoff switch, or something?"
Pinky stared around, walked over to a computer console, and picked up a chair.
"Found it," she said, and slammed the heavy, metal frame into the nearest computer. Then the next. And the next.
The panels all started sparking, smoking and smoldering as something behind the walls whined, and the tubes began to vent super-cooled gases.
"Better not let that touch you," Adana warned as the bluish mist chilled her flesh, and made her uniform unexpectedly brittle.
"Moving on," Pinkie quipped, and flung the chair at the last computer.
The chair stuck in the sparking, shorting panel even as they heard a faint crack.
Then glass exploded as a teenage form in a black tee jumped out to land in a fighting crouch as he looked around in confusion.
"What the hell," he growled. "Who are you? Where's that freak Aiers?"
"Right about now? Running for his life," Pinkie quipped. "We thought we'd help chase him."
"Who are you," Connor demanded again, looking around, and looking grim as the others in the tubes didn't show his speed, or resilience in coming out of their long hibernation.
"Long story short," Adana told him. "I'm Meta. That's Plasti-Girl. We're with the League Auxiliary. These guys are trying to create a meta super-weapon, and we're here to stop them. You in?"
Superboy frowned, then eyed the others, just starting to slump in their tubes as they slowly came back to life.
"Right. Are the Titans here? Have you seen Robin? Did he….?"
"Connor," Adana cut him off. "It's been over ten years since they grabbed you. Nightwing… That is, Robin retired, and the Titans faded. I doubt you'd even recognize the League these days."
"Meagan," he asked gruffly. "Miss Martian?"
"I don't know. You'd have to ask J'onn."
"So, he's still around," the Kryptonian clone murmured, sounding less than pleased.
"So's my grandmother. Wonder Woman," she told him. "Now, are you functional?"
He glowered at her as Pinkie just stared at him with a wide smile.
"Plasti-Girl, huh? You're O'Brian's kid? I didn't even know he was…."
"God, no! My dad's the assassin trying to kill Aiers about now. Probably the guy who caught you, knowing him," the blonde smirked. "Nice look, by the way. Jeans, and a tee. Simple. Understated. Works on you, boy. Works….fine," she leered.
Connor turned to eye Adana.
"You sure she's not O'Brian's?"
"After a fashion. She was exposed to a meta-serum with his DNA."
Even as he opened his mouth to ask something more, the entire complex rumbled ominously.
"And that's our clue to run," Pinkie drawled.
"Conner, my team is already on point. Leave this to us, and get these people out of here. There's an exit right at the hall outside, and straight up through the corridor to the surface. You should still be fast enough to get them all out before something else happens. Go."
"Since when did little girls start running the League….?"
"Go," Meta shouted, and turned to leave the room.
"I'd listen. Last guy that annoyed her? She punched through two walls. With one finger," Pinkie winked, and ran after Meta.
"One….finger," Connor frowned.
Then the walls reverberated again.
"Okay, I know that tune," he grumbled, and while he wanted some payback of his own, nineteen innocent lives were now in his hands. He had seen what befell leaving innocents behind in places like this before now. He jerked a tube open, and pulled out the young woman within, and lay her down. In short order, he had them all out, all on the floor, and then scooped up two of them, and ran for the exit Meta had outlined.
Ten minutes later, he was back inside, having left all nineteen men and women outside in the forest, well away from the surprisingly battered structure that must have set on top the underground complex until a short time ago.
Knowing the way he had come, he turned, and followed the opposite direction, and noted a lot of dead bodies around him. He rushed into a room just in time to see Meta fly across the room, smashing face-first into the wall hard enough to bury her in the steel paneling, and cursing fluently as she pushed to free herself.
He grabbed an arm, and pulled.
"What hit….you," he asked, and turned even as she dropped to the floor to see a seven foot behemoth in a dark green jumpsuit that looked more armor than cloth. One with a visibly powerful musculature, and no more face than burning slits for eyes.
"Let me guess, Doomsday on steroids," Connor swore as he stared at the thing hammering on Plasti-Girl, who kept trying to trip him with her bizarrely fluid limbs while a younger man in golden armor pounded ineffectually on the creature as it stomped toward an exit on the far side of the chamber.
"Worse," a man laying nearby in a strikingly familiar costume rasped. "Failsafe is a bio-organic construct without a true mind. Just a program. One genetically infused with the best, and strongest powers of every meta on the planet. I tried to stop Aiers…."
The man rasped, his bloody mask half torn from his face. His chest badly crushed.
"He….activated it early. Unfortunately, it turns out, Failsafe has its own logic driving him. Somehow, he decided the only way to control the meta population, is kill them all."
"But every man, woman, and child on the planet is a potential carrier of that gene," Superboy gasped.
"Where's Aiers now? Can he shut it down," Meta asked the man, knowing even Pinkie's dad, slime that he was, deserved better than this.
"Aiers….is dead. First….victim of his own monster. There's irony," he rasped as Pinkie raced over just then, and eyed him.
"Meta, we can't stop it. Tell me you have a plan, girl, because if it gets out….."
"Sweetie, run. You can't stop this thing," Damien told his daughter. "And….I can't….protect you," he choked out weakly.
"Don't worry, dad," she said, eyeing him uneasily. "We'll get you out of here."
"Too late. You have to…warn everyone. Town….ten miles southeast of here. If it gets there….they all die. I tried…. Forgot my own….first rule."
"What rule," Pinkie rasped, looking as if she were trying not to cry as Ian cough, and blood spattered from his lips.
"Always….leave yourself….an escape plan. Didn't think….they would activate…." He looked up at Meta. "You scared them. You're….as strong as….him. It scared them. But…..not sure if even you can….."
Damien went limp, and sagged against the wall, staring blankly.
"Dad," Pinkie rasped, grasping his shoulders, and shaking him.
"Pinkie…..We have to go. We still have a job….."
Somewhere down that exit, they heard a hellish scream, and burst of superheated flame boiled out of the corridor beyond.
"Behind me," Connor and Adana both shouted as they jumped up, and covered Pinkie.
He stared at her, but said nothing as the girl he knew as Meta raised her hands, and crossed her wrists, somehow holding back the surge of raw flame.
"We have to go now," Ada told her friend. "I'll go after the others, you get to the surface, and call J'onn. Tell the others what's happening, and tell them to send all the help they can now!"
Then she was flying away faster than Connor expected.
He looked down at the blonde, unshed tears in her eyes, and asked, "You going to be okay?"
She stared up at him, then back down at her father.
"I'll have to be. Where are the others?"
"Outside. In the…..woods," he rasped. "That thing will walk right over them," he swore, and vanished in a blur of speed, leaving her behind.
Pinkie stared down at her dad.
"I should so hate you," she rasped, and raised a small fist. "You….moron," she said. Then she jumped up, and ran after the others as she fumbled with the transceiver, hoping she wasn't too deep to get a signal to the Martian.
"Didn't we just leave you," Ember and Spark asked as they met Dreadnaught and Gaia at the intersection of another corridor.
"Deja vu," Robbie smiled from under his helmet. "Looks like all roads lead to….there," he pointed, and heard shouting even as he did.
"Let's go," Spark said. "I think we've found what we're looking for down here," he said a moment later as they burst into a huge lab chamber where a massive figure in some kind of green armor stood in the middle of a huge tank filled with some kind of fluid.
Wires and tubes were all over the slate-gray humanoid, and it had no face beyond a blank oval with two empty slots where eyes should be.
The general turned from the battered man in a Deathstroke knockoff costume, and glowered at the four heroes.
"It seems I have no choice. You four will cease to interfere with our plans now," he said, and slammed a palm down on a panel.
"No," Target shouted, and rushed to push him aside.
"Too late, traitor. Our Failsafe will contain, and control you meddlesome metas once and for all. The future belongs to mankind! Not you genetic freaks!"
"Bet Neanderthals thought the same thing. Look what happened to them," Dreadnaught quipped even as an electric surge went through the tank, and the empty slits in the faceless oval flared with blue flame.
"Uh-oh," Gaia rasped.
"Uh-oh, is right," Spark hissed. "I don't know what the operating system is here, but I can't get into it. I can't shut it down."
"We learned our lessons, boy," the general spat at him. "You, and your kind have met your match," he laughed as the massive figure just put its feet down, then looked around the chamber. Right before simply walking right through the thick plexiglass that contained it, the fluid rushing out around it.
"Failsafe, Code Beta. Contain these four…. Five," Aiers spat, glancing at Target. "Obey!"
The behemoth looked down at him.
"System error," the creature droned from its throat in an electronic rasp, no lips to give it voice. "Humans are meta. Metas are human. To properly contain metas implies the extinction of the species."
"What," Ember and Spark both gasped.
"Parameters acceptable. Extinguishment of meta population begins," the giant droned, and reached out to backhand Target across the room, even as it lifted Aiers by his throat, snapping his neck with the barest shake of its big hand.
"Dreadnaught, hit him hard. Ember, try superheating his joints, and slowing him down. Gaia," Spark turned to her. "Do whatever you can," he said grimly. "We can't let this thing get out."
"Run," the battered man across the room shouted. "You kids can't stop that thing," he said, pulling out two small grenades he threw right at the giant.
Even as Dreadnaught slammed into him from behind at a full charge.
The explosions rocked the base around them, and systems began to go crazy, but the giant in green armor just turned, eyed Target, and threw an entire computer console at him with one hand while ignoring Dreadnaught's impacts to his back.
The assassin barely rolled out of the way even as Ember unleashed a torrent of flame at the creature's face, realizing his joints were too armored for him to penetrate anyway.
"Tell me this guy has a computer brain you can zap," Ember yelled, barely ducking a piece of machinery tossed his way.
"Spark," Gaia hissed. "I can't touch this guy. It's like he's…..beyond even my reach. I can't hit him with anything, because he's too…..too….."
"Try anything," Spark shouted, even as Meta flew into the room, and slammed into the creature with both fists.
For the first time, the thing rocked back, almost knocked backward over ten feet, and Dreadnaught cheered even as Pinkie appeared, and try to wrap up the creature's feet by stretching into a long, winding hobble, hoping to trip him so they could keep him down.
"Hit him again," Dreadnaught shouted, and rammed into the thing from the side even as Meta flashed forward, making their ears ring with the force of her blow that made the featureless head turn when she unleashed a powerful right.
Just before the more massive fist backhanded her, flinging her across the room to drive her into the wall with enough force to dent it, and almost mount herself inside the steel.
Spark stared as a lean, young teen in a black tee with a distinctive shield appeared to help her, but he turned to eye the problem directly.
"We have to get him outside where Gaia can turn lose her elemental mojo," he decided. "There's a way out there," he shouted at Robert as Dreadnaught continued to pound at the thing even as Pinkie went to help Meta, too, but seemed to be distracted by something else.
"I've got him," Ember said, and launched another fireball into the creature's face. "C'mon, ugly! This way. Catch me if you can," he said as he ran for the panel Spark opened when he detected the circuits around him.
"Go," Spark shouted at Gaia and Dreadnaught as the thing lumbered after the other teen, giving an electronic growl of rage. "As soon as you can, hit him with all you can," he told Gaia. "Don't worry about finesse, just slam him!"
"On it," the girl nodded, and ran down the corridor as Spark turned electrical, and sought some other way to find a means of stopping the thing. Just in case.
It was fortunate he was in his electrical form, because even as he was racing after his teammates, sure that Meta would catch up once she caught her breath, the corridor ahead erupted with a boiling wall of flame as a shrill scream of pain reached his ears.
"Todd," he rasped, and rushed forward just in time to see the giant stomping off toward the surface, no sign of Robbie or Gaia around him.
He did see Ember. Todd lay on the ground, his legs badly mangled, and his left arm at an unnatural angle. He was also burned over most of his body, his uniform barely rags that looked scorched, and blow out across his entire frame.
"Ember! Todd, what happened," he asked as he ran up to him, taking human form again as he knelt beside him.
The boy, in obvious pain, looking up, and gave a rueful smile.
"Had to…..get Gaia time to slip….past him. Get outside….first," he rasped. "I….didn't run," the badly burned Ember rasped, laying in Spark's arms as Meta ran up to join them just then.
"Ada…. This thing…. You can't….touch it. He's….invulnerable. Worse than…."
"He's gone," Spark told her, his eyes sizzling as tears flowed from them. "Ada, this thing. It's got some kind of….bio-electric field. You can't touch him. Energy attacks…can't penetrate it. We just can't touch him. It's like…."
"It's Kryptonian," Adana told him with sudden realization. "The bio-electric field is a semblance of a Kryptonian aura. Get him out of here," she said, straightening up as she nodded at Ember. "We're not leaving him down here."
Spark looked up as Connor came up behind them.
"Are you supposed to be…?"
"Superboy," Connor growled. "And I have an axe to grind. Let's go, Meta. Your friends are flushing that beast right toward where I left those other people."
"Oh, no," she groaned.
"Go," Spark told her.
Adana vanished in a blur of speed.
The apparent Superboy right behind her.
"Good luck," he told them as he carefully lifted his teammate, and friend. "You're going to need it."
To Be Continued…