"I'm bored," Barb sighed, staring out a window away from the TV that droned in the corner of the room.
"You could be dead," Robbie drawled blandly as he watched the screen.
"Robbie," Adana spat at the teen lounging on the couch across the room, fixed on the television that was playing national news, but saying nothing of import to any of them. "Shut up."
"You could shut me up," he grinned.
"I doubt it. I'd be in trouble with Captain Marvel again for breaking your neck," she spat.
Barb gaped at her.
"I was thinking one of you could cook us something. Chicks cook, right?"
"Is he kidding," Barb asked her incredulously.
"I'm afraid not. Robbie is our resident dinosaur," she grumbled. "Right out of the stone age."
"Whatever. I'm just hungry," the teen hero told her.
"You're always hungry," Adana told him.
"Magically supercharged metabolism, doll-face. What's your excuse?"
Barb sighed, and looked out the window again.
"I'll make something. Todd should be back pretty soon, and he'll be hungry, too. Want to help," Adana asked the blonde.
"Uh, I'm actually not very good in the kitchen," the blonde admitted.
"Well, you can help all the same. Or do you want to sit in here with the caveman by yourself?"
Barb eyed the sandy-haired teen whose brown eyes cut, and swept over her figure. In her borrowed clothes, her own having been all ruined, she looked a bit silly since Adana's clothing were actually a bit small for her.
"I'll help," she muttered dourly, and pushed to her feet.
"Keep your eyes on the box," Adana told him. "We have to know if they put anything out. Misdirection can be a clue, too."
"I know the drill. Just go make grub."
"Grub," Adana muttered, glaring back at him. "I'll make grub."
"He's a bit of a jerk, isn't he," Barb asked when she walked into the kitchen behind her. "I mean, on TV he always seemed kind of…..cool."
"Reality always sucks," Barb was told as Adana went over to pull open cabinets, and see what was available in the safe house where they had been delivered. "It's why I would rather read books, and live a normal life."
"Really? You have all that power, and you still just want to be….a housewife?"
"I didn't say that," Adana grimaced. "I was thinking of maybe doing something with bio-chemical research. Medicine. Even law, if it comes to that. Something that could actually help people," she said, pulling things out of one of the cabinets.
"But….heroes help. You're helping me now."
"I'm trying," Adana said after a moment, pausing as she looked around for pans. "See if you can find a cake pan, or casserole dish, will you? I've never been in this place, so I'm not sure what's here."
"Okay," Barb said, surprising her by not arguing. The blonde, she guessed, was still overwhelmed by all that was happening to her of late.
"Thanks," Adana told her, and started looking through the refrigerator to see what was there, too. "Hey, cranberry juice. I love that stuff," she said, and pulled out the bottle, along with a few other things.
"Does diet count?'
"Ugh. No," Barb grimaced.
"And Pinkie would have bet cash you lived on diet everything."
"Have you tasted diet soda," Barb asked her, her porcelain features wrinkling in disdain.
"Ugh. Seriously. I'd rather just drink water."
"I loved the water on Queen Hippolyta's island," she smiled. "It was like…. Well, it was good. Clear, and clean, and so fresh it just… Well, it was good."
"Right. Right. I did hear you were….an Amazon."
"Yeah," she murmured.
"So, why don't you have the armor like….?"
"That was special armor forged by the gods. Originally, it belonged to the queen, but when Diana came to Man's World, she chose to….borrow it."
"Oh. I see. But, they couldn't make more?"
"The armor is worn only by those specially chosen by the gods, too. One champion per generation. My grandmother is that champion just now."
"Okay. Well, I guess it…..makes sense to you guys. Uh, girls."
Adana grinned now.
"Actually, I still get confused by the whole warrior code myself. Amazons, at heart, are trained warriors. Ready to fight at any instant. Yet we practice peace, and try to use diplomacy to solve problems if given the choice."
"But, very few people want to sit, and talk. So, usually, we fight."
"Okay. Have you ever…? I mean, besides those guys at school, did you ever….fight? I mean, seriously?"
"Well, our training is pretty serious. There are some parts of the island that aren't safe even for Amazons. It makes a good place to practice certain lessons."
"Oh. So, it's not all girls sitting around talking about art and culture like some guys think?"
"There is a lot of scholarship. We also take our physical training just as seriously, though. I won't tell you how freaked I was the first time I faced my trials. Training to deflect projectiles, like arrows, spears, or even bullets, is not the same as actually doing it."
"Janey said you were…. You were like Wonder Woman the way you faced down those guys that morning. She said you didn't hesitate, or even look scared. You just…."
"You want to know something, Barb," she said, eyeing a can of mixed vegetables.
"I was terrified. Not for myself. I knew… Well, I figured I'd be okay. I just afraid I was going to let the others down. Professor Weems was shot before I could even react, and then I heard all that shooting from down the hall while I was protecting my class. I was terrified. I was afraid I was going to let more people die."
"But….you saved a lot of people, too."
"Yeah. One of the bad guy's family is still trying to sue me, though."
"Seriously. Say, you don't mind vegetarian food, do you?"
"No. Frankly, I try to avoid beef anyway. Too much fat, and cholesterol."
"No argument. But I'm betting that Robbie won't care much for 'chicks' cooking all the time after I serve up one of mom's vegetable lasagna's," she grinned.
"So, you can be evil," Barb chortled.
"Only with him. He's okay, most times, but the rest of the time….?"
"Big jerk," she nodded.
"Sounds like my last boyfriend," Barb sighed as Adana went to work opening cans, and preparing the pasta.
"Actually, my current boyfriend Doug isn't much better. He started out nice enough, but he didn't seem to understand that just because I'm blonde, it doesn't mean I'm a bimbo," she grumbled.
"Yeah, I get that."
"Same troubles, huh?"
"Actually…. Well, I've never dated."
"Well, I grew up….shy. Very, very shy. There were….other issues, but let's just say I don't foresee any relationships in my immediate future."
"But…. You're a hero. And smart. And pretty. And…. Well, you're practically royalty, too, since you're related to Princess Diana. Guys would probably be all over you if….."
Adana gave her a rueful expression.
"Okay, that came out wrong, but you know what I mean. I'm sure guys…. Nice guys….. Would love to go out with you if you…..gave them a chance."
Adana said nothing as he took the pans Barb had found by then, and began the sauce and vegetable mix she would use for filling.
"There's a few complications that make that highly unlikely."
"Don't worry about it. We're here to help you. Remember," Adana told her.
"I know a lot of the girls don't like me. Too rich. Too connected. Too bitchy. They all think they know me. Or how I am. But…. I have some very nice friends. I can be nice, too. If you like, maybe I could get someone to double with Doug, and we could…?"
"No," Adana said so fast she didn't even have time to finish her sentence.
"You're not even going to think about…..? Wait, are you…..gay?"
Adana dropped her head, and slowly shook it.
"I don't honestly know," she told her after a very long pause. "Let's just say I'm different, not interested, and not likely to be interested?"
"Well, it's not like you're an alien," Barb pressed. "Even Princess Diana goes out on dates. I heard she even dated Superman once. That must have been….."
"Barb," she cut her off, and turned to look at her. "Can I trust you?"
Barb just stared at her.
"I mean it. Can I really trust you?"
"You're helping save my life. You've already saved it at least once. Maybe twice. Of course you can trust me," she nearly babbled.
"I'm….different. Really different. Before my meta-gene manifested….."
"You were a shrimpy little girl no one noticed," Barb smiled.
"I was a shrimpy little boy no one noticed," Adana told her.
Barb's lips moved for several moments before she managed a single sound.
"I changed. Obviously. But I'm still not…..well, normal. I'm a hermaphrodite. Male, and female, in one body."
"Awkward," Adana suggested.
Barb said nothing, just staring.
"You can see why I would want to keep that quiet," she went on.
"Mum's the word," she finally nodded at her, and it surprised Adana. "Have you told your friends yet?"
"You're the first one outside family, and the government to know."
"Well, I did have to register as an active meta," she reminded her. "Those freaks kept babbling about testing me in spite of my preferences to avoid them, and the fact Amazons are technically exempt from their DNA registry. They acted like all they really wanted was to take me apart, though. Those scientists haven't changed that much since the bad old days of Cadmus."
"Cadmus," Barb asked. "How do you know about them?"
"Well, mom, and my grandmother Diana were connected to the League back when Dr. Hamilton was waging war on them."
"But….nothing recent? I mean….no one is investigating them now, are they?"
"Now? Last I heard, they were shut down years ago," Adana told her.
"But, Ada, I heard dad talking to someone that said he was needed back at Cadmus the week he….disappeared." The blonde's eyes rounded, and stared at the brunette as she asked, "Do you think….?"
"It's a lead we need to check out. I'd better let Captain Marvel know. This could be bigger than we realized."
"But dad's just a….a politician. Not a…..mad doctor," she protested.
"Half the politicos in D.C. were a part of Cadmus at the original start. If they're restarting the old labs….. We have to find out. Before something bad happens."
"Maybe…. Maybe my dad found out, and they grabbed him because he was going to….tell someone. He wouldn't…. I mean, he couldn't….."
"We'll find out," Adana told her. "And we'll find him, no matter what is going on. I promise," she told her.
Barb just nodded.
"Where are you?"
"About a block from the safe house," Todd replied quietly as he made a show of studying the electronics in the pawn shop window. Which also gave him a good view of the street behind, and around him. "I ditched the van, and still managed to pick up a tail before I got through the park. Someone is definitely trying to trail us, Captain."
"Understood. I just heard from Ada. Incidentally, she's using Meta as her code-name, now."
"I know. So, what's up?"
"I want you to rendezvous with Gaia, and Spark. We just received information that might indicate Cadmus is trying to get back into the game. I need you three to thoroughly investigate Daniel Wilson's home, and office. Very thoroughly."
"Where do we meet up?"
The channel was quiet for a few seconds, and then the somber voice directed him three blocks over to a local coffee shop.
"Right. Are we engaging, or still just eyes on this one?"
"Spark is your team leader, and will make the decision based on what you find. For now, we need confirmation on Cadmus' operative status one way, or the other. That is your priority."
"Along with finding Wilson?"
"If we're right about this, finding Cadmus will put you in touch with Wilson."
"Understood, Cap. And, looks like my buddies are back. I'm starting to think they have some kind of gene-tracker, or spy satellite eyes on us, because no way are these guys that good."
"Loose them, and meet up with the others. I'll investigate any local spy satellites."
"And if they're using gene-trackers?"
"We'll find out if the satellites aren't an issue," Captain Atom told him, and then closed the channel.
"Right. Because leaving the new guy with his shirt tails hanging is just standard procedure now. Right," he muttered, and noted the two men were now crossing the street just up the block.
He waited for them to mingle with the pedestrian traffic, and then ducked around the building, ran down the ally, and ran through the back of the pawn shop to wait near the public restroom. He gave them a few minutes to chase him up the alley, and then walked through the pawn shop, out the front door as the owner stared hard at him, and then headed down to meet his teammates.
So far, so good. The two weren't showing yet.
He ran up the street, ducked through the back alleys all the same, and entered the coffee shop through the back door. The cook glared at him, but he grinned, said, "I'm surprising some friends, guy. No big."
Walking out into the main lobby, he paused to order a black coffee, and walked over to the booth where Gaia sat beside Spark.
"You two make a cute couple," he smiled.
"I thought Robbie was the tactless one," Gordon drawled. "What's with the jacket," he asked, knowing that shapeless jacket had been part of his earlier wardrobe.
"I'm blending in. I've had two suits chasing me all over town. I'm pretty sure I ditched them before I dropped the girls, but they popped up twice since I ditched the van. Can't be coincidence."
"No," Gordon agreed. "Cap said you had new information for us?"
"He didn't tell you what?"
"Just said to meet you here, and you'd relay the word on our updated assignment."
"Meta phoned home."
"Oh, I guess you didn't get that one. Ada is using Meta now. Anyway, Cap said there may be a connection between Wilson, and a resurgence of Cadmus. I kid you not."
"Cadmus," Gordon spat. "Even I remember when dad used to talk about those guys. They darn near blew up the planet themselves before they were shut down."
"Well, apparently, they might be back. We have to check out the Wilson house, and his offices, and see if we can find anything that….confirms anything," Todd told them.
"We checked out the house. Nothing there. Even the home computer was a blank. Nothing but the usual harmless emails, and social tweets."
Todd nodded at Gordon. If Spark said there was nothing on the computer, then there was nothing on it. "Maybe the office, then," he suggested.
"Definitely. We might want to go back through the house, though. Just in case. You might see something we overlooked. And knowing we are looking for something that was likely very well hidden might give us new ideas of how, and where to look."
"Did he have a basement," Todd asked.
"Two story manor. No basement," Gordon murmured thoughtfully.
"Does that seem likely to you," Todd asked him.
"Now that you mention it….."
"You know, having the butler guy give us a tour likely didn't help," Gaia pointed out. "He'd be sure to keep us away from anywhere this Wilson wanted to keep….secret."
"And a point for you," Todd nodded at her.
"Two points. Starched, and stuffy might be worried, too, but it could have been for other reasons than a missing employer, and his endangered kid," Gordon realized.
"Okay. Office first, and then we surprise Jeeves with a late night visit," Todd told them.
"So, Meta? What's up with that one? Kind of….generic, isn't it?"
"You know Ada," Todd told Gordon with a shrug.
"True. I'm surprised she even bothered at all."
"I'm not touching that one. And….there's the twins again," he said, lifting his coffee that had arrived just then, and discretely gesturing to the window where two men were standing in shadow just out of sight across the street.
Only one had peered out, and given himself away since Todd had been purposely keeping his eyes open for them just in case.
"Ember, Spark," Captain Atom's voice came over their comlinks they wore in their ears as active provisionals on assignment. "There is no satellite in the area. They are tracking you via some other means. I suggest you find out how, and neutralize it. We may need to know about it, at the least."
"Understood, Cap. Thanks for the heads up," Spark responded.
There was no reply.
"Paper, rock, scissors," Todd asked.
"If they're using tech, I need to see it. I want to find out what it is, and how it works."
"I guessed either spy satellites, or gene-trackers. Only how would they have…."
"Meta-registration files," Gaia told them. "Isn't all our DNA is on file for anyone with the….clearance to view it."
"Good point," Todd nodded. "Second question. How did they know to track me, and why not just track Ada directly?"
"Because some DNA isn't on file," Gordon realized. "One of the provisions of Princess Diana supporting the meta-registration at the start was that no Amazonian DNA was to be on file, or available for experimentation. Which means they wouldn't have Ada's to work with either."
"Really," Gordon nodded at Gaia. "The Big Guy isn't on file, either. But he's technically not a meta anyway. But after all the mess some people made screwing with his DNA in the early days, he refuses to let anyone have so much as a hair now."
"I can't blame him," Gaia murmured. "I don't like the idea some hack with a test tube can just play with our genetics anyway. Talk about invasion of privacy."
"Yeah. Big time," Todd agreed. "Okay, so, we lure the suits out, and you get to take them out," he asked Gordon.
"You go ahead. If they follow, we follow. If they split up, we take out the one that stays behind, and follow. Less chance of losing whoever is holding whatever gizmo they have. Ready," he asked in the next breath.
"Ready," Todd nodded at Gordon.
"So am I," Gaia told them.
"If you act, use nonlethal methods," he told her. "We incapacitate only. No debilitating injuries, or death."
"Fine. Fine," the girl sighed.
"I don't know. Right now I wouldn't mind scorching those nosy….."
"Fine. Fine. So, no flaming enemas."
Gaia giggled at that one. Gordon only glared at his teammate as Todd climbed to his feet to pay for his coffee before leaving.
To Be Continued…..