"This isn't training," Adana complained as she sat up, clad only in a blue body-stocking without any sigils on it. "It's sexual harassment!"
"I call it fun, Gorgeous," the stocky teen in golden armor that covered all but his very squared jaw grinned.
Dreadnaught was a young man who had inherited mystic armor that made him an unstoppable force of destruction. Rather than follow his late uncle's felonious footsteps, he chose to become a hero, and went to work stomping on anyone that threatened his neighborhood. After more than a few jaywalkers ended up in ICU, the League conscripted him to properly train him, and ensure he stayed on the proper path.
"I don't know," Ember murmured, the slight young man with a starburst on his dark red costume shook his head as he saw the warning in the way Adana's dark blue eyes got darker, and began to glitter. When she stood up, both fists were clenched, and the master of fire in any form stepped back as he saw the danger when the young brunette didn't bother rubbing her chest where Dreadnaught had slammed a palm into her to both strike, and grope as one when he attacked her.
"Not my fault the chick can't take a hit. I heard she was tough. Like Wonder-Babe, but so far, I am not impr…"
Dreadnaught's howl preceded him as he slammed through two bulkheads, and bounced off a third, landing at J'onn J'ones' feet.
"You just cannot help yourself, can you, Robert?""It's….Dreadnaught," the young man grinned crookedly, and fell over, out cold.
The Martian sighed, and regarded the ruptured bulkheads, grateful the training room was deep in the heart of the new Watchtower, and not close to an outer bulkhead. He had already guessed that Adana's strength was very close to Diana's, even surpassing her own mother's, and yet they had not seen any evidence of it in her training to date.
"What happened," he asked as he walked into the training chamber where the VR had shut down after the wall had been ruptured.
Ember cringed, a bit wary of the Martian for reasons of his own as Adana just glared.
"He….touched me," she spat, fists still clenched.
"I see," he remarked blandly, and turned to the fourth member of the team. "Gordon," he asked the older teen that went by Spark, for his ability to channel and control all things electric. Along with the juice that ran them. "What is your assessment?"
Gordon, actually having some more field experience than any of the other three, was their unofficial team leader.
"Robert did grope her, and then slammed her physically, and verbally. You do know how he is, sir," Gordon remarked bluntly.
"Indeed. Still, Adana, you have to learn to cope with such...touching. And such mocking. Talk to your mother, or any of the other female members. They can help you. Because I assure you, the criminals you will face…."
"Look, I don't want to face anyone," she sputtered. "I don't want to be on a team. I just want to…."
"Live a normal live," Ember, and Spark both said in tandem.
"Well, I do," she huffed.
"Let me tell you something about that," Phase, their current training instructor, and senior advisor said as she passed through the walls of the observation booth, and levitated down to join them.
Adana turned to the white-haired woman that didn't look much older than she did, and shrugged.
"Even normal women have to cope with misogynists, and misanthropes. Unlike you, they don't always have the strength, or ability to deal with their problems. They have to use their minds. They have to learn to cope by using the system against itself."
J'onn said nothing as the woman lectured her, pointedly ignoring the two male teens around her.
"Mom gave me all the same lectures, Phase," she sighed. "But, somehow, I don't think any kind of passive resistance will ever penetrate Gordon's head."
The woman smiled faintly now.
"Dreadnaught is an entirely different case, and level of male. Consider him….clueless. And harmless."
"Harmless," she sputtered.
"Which of you just got shoved through a wall," the woman asked pointedly.
"Two walls," J'onn remarked dryly, eyeing Adana again.
"Oh. Uh, guess I…..lost my temper," she sighed.
"Again," her two teammates declared.
"It might cheer you to know you are getting a fifth member to round out your team," J'onn said before anyone else could go on.
Still, it surprised her that he wasn't chewing her out about the bulkheads. Then again, that wasn't J'onn's way.
Of course when her mother heard about it…
"And it's another female," J'onn said as he glanced to Gordon.
"Cool," Ember smiled. "Do we know her?"
"She is new, too. She just manifested her metagene. She's been using the code-name Gaia."
"Whoa," Ember murmured. "Kind of gutsy, calling yourself after a goddess, or something, isn't it?"
"She is a rare elemental, and can command all four major elements at once," J'onn told them. "Her potential power is quite impressive, but she has….issues."
"Don't we all," Gordon sighed.
"She is an orphan. Her family was murdered in a drive-by by warring gangs," J'onn told them. "So, be patient."
"Poor girl," Adana murmured.
"Poor gangs," Ember murmured. "How many did she take out when she…..blossomed?"
"All of them," J'onn told him dryly.
Not one of them had a thing to say to that.
"Unfortunately, or fortunately for her, the authorities couldn't hold her, and didn't want to try. They turned her over to us to train, and guide, hoping we could keep her from becoming another Poison Ivy."
"Who," Ember and Spark both frowned.
"You guys don't know Ivy," Adana asked her teammates. "She practically endangered the world as often as Lex Luthor in her own way."
"Yes. Fortunately, as she grew older, she matured, and retreated to willing isolation in the South American rain forests."
"So, that's why all the clear-cutting suddenly stopped a while back," Phase murmured. "I had wondered."
"If you will come with me, I will introduce you to your new teammate," J'onn told them. "Meanwhile, Adana, I'll leave you to explain the….bulkheads to Captain Atom before you return to the planet."
She groaned, and shook her head.
"Sucks to be you," Gordon told her bluntly.
"Say, when is she going to get a code-name? I mean, we all got one, but she still hasn't….."
"I'm just training to fine-tune my control over…."
"We know," both boys groaned.
"One never knows what might come up in your future," J'onn told her as they left the training chamber, and followed him down the corridor. "It might be wise to have a….code-name to refer to when you must establish your….civilian identity."
"My civilian identity is established, and it's the only one I want, or need," she grumbled.
"Don't mention my mom," she muttered at Gordon.
The young man sighed, and shook his head.
"Give her time," J'onn's voice spoke for him alone.
"She's had months. She's only getting worse, and her stubbornness is threatening the cohesiveness of this team," Gordon replied mentally himself. "You have to know that."
"Every team has its issues. You will find a way to manage. Just as we did at the start."
Gordon wanted to roll his eyes at that one. No way could the Martian compare their group to the Big Seven who had started the League. No way could their dysfunctional group be anything close to what they must have been.
J'onn said no more as they took a lift to the next level, Dreadnaught silently joining them along the way as he just stared hard at Adana, and kept rubbing his jaw every few minutes. He had, of course, already been mentally briefed by J'onn when he woke him, and summoned him to follow them.
"Inside. People, this is Gaia. Your new teammate. Gaia, this is Team Gamma. Gordon, or Spark. He is team leader. He has real field experience, so listen to him. Ember is relatively new, too. Then there is Dreadnaught," he said, glancing at the still stunned young man in the golden armor. "And, this is Adanna."
"No hero name," Gaia asked her quietly as the slender black teen with bobbed, black hair that barely brushed her shoulders.
"I'm no hero," Adana told her just as quietly.
The teen studied her, and nodded.
"I saw you in the newspapers a while back. You are a hero. A good one, I think."
"I don't pay attention to what those hacks wrote. I read between the lines," the younger girl told her. "Sometimes, it's what isn't said that's important."
"So, what's your deal," Dreadnaught chose to regain his usual lack of subtlety, or tact just then. "Because we already got one guy that tosses around fire. It's not like we need another…."
Gaia's eyes glowed silver for a moment, and Robert frowned.
Robert staggered dizzily, and stepped backward.
"What did you….?"
He fell flat on his face, and stayed there.
"What did you do," Adana asked, astonished at how easily she had just dropped the magically-powered teen powerhouse who really was hard to slow down.
"I just turned a tenth of a percent of his blood plasma to alcohol, and it intoxicated him so fast it overwhelmed his senses," the girl told them.
"You can do that," Ember exclaimed.
"Fluid, in any form, is under my control. I could freeze your blood in your veins. Boil it. Or turn it to dust."
"Let's not get too extreme," J'onn cut in. "Gaia, you'll be working, and training with Team Gamma as of now. Gordon will introduce you to your training advisor, and show you around. I need to go. She paused to eye Adana. "Try not to kill one another."
The brunette blushed as Ember continued to gape at the new member of their team.
"You know, I thought you were being cocky using the name of a goddess," he told her as the Martian left. "Only if you can do all that with just….liquids, I don't even want to know what you can do with the rest of your gifts."
"So, why not something like Elemental, then," Gordon asked. "If you do use all four….?"
"It sounded stupid," Gaia told them. "And let's face it, it's been used by more than a few heroes, and villains in the past. I wanted something more….appropriate," the younger girl told them. "That a problem?."
"Not at all," Ember told her quickly.
"It's your choice," Gordon told her. "I was just curious. That's all."
"So, Spark? You like that old Static guy that used to fly around?"
"Hardly. I control anything electronic, and all things electrical, along with electricity."
"Ember, I get. Flame, huh?"
"Heat, too, in general. I can amp it, or steal it. And control it any way I want," the teen beamed.
"Me, too," Gaia nodded. "Maybe we could….compare notes, and see if we can teach each other some new tricks."
"That'd be cool," Ember agreed. "We were just in training, but it's probably going to be a while before we can use the VR chamber again."
"Did you happen to be around to notice the sudden banging earlier?"
She turned back to Gordon, and nodded. "I did feel some serious reverberations. I was told it wasn't serious, though."
"Ada here put our resident stud through two bulkheads," Gordon said, nodding at Dreadnaught.
"So, he must be tougher than he looks," she murmured.
"He's very powerful. So is Adana," Ember told her.
"You really need a name, then. I mean, Adana?"
"You should know," Adana started.
"She only got roped into training because Captain Marvel went ballistic after she killed a couple of terrorists stopping those guys that attacked her college. He felt she needed to learn…..ah, finesse," Ember told her.
"I really am trying to live a normal life," Adana sighed, leaning against a conference table.
"So, you're in college," Gaia murmured. "Cool. I'm hoping to go myself when I….if I graduate high school."
"Hey, if I could manage it, I'm sure you can," Adana told her.
"I hope you're right. I'll admit, I didn't technically kill anyone, but…..I put a lot of guys in the hospital for a long time when I took out those stupid gang-bangers."
"I'm sure they deserved it," Adana told her.
"Well, I thought so. The law didn't," she muttered.
"So, what did you do," Spark asked.
"I considered just wiping them out. I mean, I could suddenly do almost literally anything to them, and they would….be history. Dust. Less than dust. But….they wouldn't suffer," she said. "Not the way me, or those other families have to suffer because they wanted to bring their stupid war to our neighborhood."
She eyed Gordon, his light blue costume, and sighed.
"I turned their bones to crystal. Every gang member I could find, I turned their bones into very fragile crystal. You figure it out."
"Ouch. So if they did….anything…?""All their bones started breaking, fracturing. Shattering," she nodded at Ember with a faint smile. "They all screamed. A lot," she said, trying to sound neutral.
"Works for me," Adana murmured, remembering her own bullying before her manifestation.
"Well, they made me change them back. Of course, I did, but….even I can't heal bones already broken. A lot of them are still in traction. And will be a long time. Maybe it will…..teach them something."
"We can hope," Gordon agreed. "Now, why don't you 'fix' our resident misogynist, and let's go meet Phase. Even if we can't exercise, we can get your up to speed."
"If we're not training, I'm going back," Adana told them. "I am finishing up midterms."
"Thought you were already finished," Ember asked.
Adana shot a cold glare at him.
"Gamma," Captain Atom said as he walked into the room before she could escape. "You have an assignment."
"An assignment," Ember said, looking eager, and excited.
"Sir, are you sure…..?"
"Very," Captain Atom cut off Adana. "I'll give you the briefing, then Adana and I need to talk," he said, eyeing her frankly.
She groaned, knowing that expression.
"First, wake up Dreadnaught. I didn't think even you could knock him out that long," he accused Adana.
"Maybe his head isn't as thick as he thinks," Adana said before anyone could advise him his suspicion about what happened to the teen wasn't accurate.
"I'll wake him up," Gaia said, slightly surprised no one pointed fingers at her.
"Do it, this is serious," he said, and walked over to a computer console, and pushed a flash drive into the machine.
"Back with us, Dreadnaught," he asked.
"Yeah, Cap. Don't know why I'm so….woozy….."
"I can imagine," he said, eyeing Adana again, his disapproval evident.
Adana dropped into a chair she had yet to occupy as the others sat down to study the monitor that flared to life as she only folded her arms over her chest, and stared back.
"This is Barbara Wilson," he said as Adana's jaw all but dropped as she stared at the blonde beauty queen that attended her college. "Adana, as of now, you're her personal bodyguard."
"I'm what," she sputtered, jerking to her feet, and glaring. "No way, no how!"
"Sit…..down," Captain Atom spat at her, sounding as if he might even be a little angry just then.
Adana slowly sat down
"Two days ago, Daniel Wilson disappeared," he went on, another picture coming up on the monitor to show an older man with silvering, sandy temples. "The League is very concerned about his disappearance. Very concerned. Mr. Wilson is not only the CEO of Gen-Tech, Unlimited, a major bio-chemical concern. He is also the chief presidential advisor on all things meta for the White House. We do not yet know who took him, or why, but it cannot be a good thing."
"So, you think someone will come after his daughter so they can use her for leverage if the old man isn't cooperating," Robert realized.
"Accurately, if simplistically stated. We'll be dividing you up for this one. Gaia, I want you and Spark to follow any leads into the kidnapping. See what you can find out, and if you can locate who did this, and why. Ember, you and Dreadnaught will be backup, and stay incognito in the area in case Adana might need you. She, meanwhile, will stay close to the Wilson girl, and protect her against any attempts to abduct her."
"Ember's not quite old enough to hang around colleges," Dreadnaught told him. "You do know that, don't you? Me, I'd fit right in, but….flame-boy is a bit…."
"You will be going in as a prospective student that is looking to transfer," Dreadnaught was told. "Your brother, Ember, will be with you as a prospective future student, since you will be his guardian."
"Cool," Robert grinned at the younger teen.
Ember only closed his eyes, and shook his head, foreseeing all manner of complications with this one.
"As of now, you are on a major, and active case, ladies and gentlemen. Training, for the moment, is over. So prepare yourself. And I do expect you to act professionally at all times. Remember, lives are now resting in your hands."
He looked them over, and then pointedly eyed Adana.
"The rest of you can go. Prepare yourselves, and see J'onn on the bridge. He'll have your undercover identities for those that need them, and give you a final briefing on what to expect. Adana, you'll stay here, and have a final word with me," he said as somberly as ever as his silvery eyes studied her.
Adana ducked her head, and sighed.
Why did she still feel like she was back in high school with the big shot jocks walking over her?
To his credit, Captain Atom didn't say a word until the door had closed behind her four teammates. Then he walked over, and actually sat down beside her.
"I don't want to lecture you."
She said nothing to that.
"I know you have to understand that you could have endangered everyone on this station today with that stunt."
She grimaced, and nodded.
"Yes, sir. I know, I lost my temper. I thought…. I felt I had it under control, but Robbie…."
"Dreadnaught might appear to be a careless, and callous sort, but he's smarter than you realize, girl."
"What," she sputtered.
"How long have you been holding back? How long have you been going through the motions, pretending to cooperate? He wanted to see if you really could hold your own if it came down to it. Do you think we put teams together arbitrarily here? You have to depend on one another. Trust one another. How, Adana, can those people trust you when you won't even commit yourself to training?"
"But I'm not even trying to be a…..a hero. I just…."
"Do you think your mother woke up one morning, and just decided to put on her costume? She will probably tear me apart, but I'm going to tell you something it's likely past time you knew."
Adana said nothing as he seemed to steel himself, and then told her, "It started the day your father was murdered."
"Murdered," she hissed, eyes round with confusion.
To Be Continued….