Barb grinned at Robert's expression when he stared at the steaming plate set in front of him.
"Veggie crap? Are you serious? This is….."
"Yes," Adana asked.
"Chick food," he sputtered, still standing behind the chair that was set for his place.
"Did he really just say…?"
"He said it," Adana grinned, sitting down with Barb at the small, round table, and picking up a fork.
"Maybe Todd can bring a pizza back," he said. "I'll call…."
"I know you know the drill," she cut him off. "No unauthorized personal calls on duty. And Todd was sent to join up with the rest of the team on something else that came up."
"He was," he frowned. "Why didn't you tell me?"
"I am. Now. Sit down, eat, and I'll tell you all about it," she grinned.
"Jeez, and I thought Gordon was bossy."
"I'll tell him you said so."
"Just tell me you made something besides…?"
He grimaced at the plate.
She slid the serving platter across the table, and he sighed, and scooped up half the bread there.
"Aren't you even going to try it," Barb asked. "It's actually pretty good," she informed him.
"One bite won't kill you," Adana told him with a grin.
"I'm not so sure," he muttered, stuffing half the first slice of warm, buttered and seasoned bread into his mouth.
"Try it. I dare you," Barb grinned.
He scowled at her, and looked back down at the plate.
"What will the world think if they knew Dreadnaught was afraid of vegetables," Barb asked blandly, giving Adana a wink.
The brunette couldn't help but snigger.
"Fine. One bite. But when I gag….."
He snatched up his fork, took a less than large bite, and began to slowly chew. Swallowing after a moment, he said nothing as he lifted another, larger bite to his mouth.
"Well," Barb asked.
"This isn't too bad," he admitted, and began to eat in earnest.
"Wow, I can't believe…."
"Don't let it go to your head," Robert cut Adana off. "It still would have been better with some meat in it."
"Then I guess you'll want to cook breakfast yourself tomorrow morning," Adana told him.
He continued to eat, eyeing her thoughtfully, and then drawled, "Nah. You girls obviously don't do too bad in the kitchen. Just like I said. Chicks cook. Men eat. It wouldn't be right to upset natural laws."
"Here's another law for you," Adana told him smugly. "Chicks cook. Guys clean up."
He scowled, and glanced over at the sink already filled with soapy water that steamed above the mound of suds, and had a few handles from several pots sticking up.
"You don't mean….?"
"We cooked. You wash. Unless you'd rather get really hungry before we share again," Adana told him with a faint smirk.
"Now you're being evil," he complained.
Barb only laughed all the more.
"Fine. Fine. I'll wash the damn pots."
"You'll wash up everything."
"Okay," he muttered, and shoved his plate toward her.
His empty plate.
"Could I have some more?"
Barb grinned as Adana chuckled.
"So, what did Cap say?"
"Actually, it's what we told him," Adana told him, rising to fill his plate again, and putting it in front of him. This time he started eating without hesitation.
"What's that," he asked around a full mouth, making both women roll their eyes.
"Barb remember that her dad once mentioned Cadmus. The implication is….they might still be active."
"Damn," he murmured, suddenly looking serious.
"You have heard of them?"
"Who hasn't? My uncle was one of their original 'Suicide Squad' members. They sent him to die, and wrote him off when he got caught during a mission. The only reason he retired was so they couldn't come after him again. Without his armor, they didn't know who he was."
"Smart," Barb nodded.
"Well, he was a felon, too. It stood to reason he would want to hide his face, so he never took off his armor when around…..anyone else."
"I would say the smartest thing he did was retire," Adana murmured.
"Not even going to argue," she was told as Robert just eyed her now. "So, what else?"
"Cap sent Todd to join the guys, and check out some leads. He should have joined them by now, so, I guess, they're on track. Hopefully, they'll find something that will help us figure this one out before too long."
"Uh, did you guys hear something," Barb asked as they all froze at the same instant, and Adana turned toward the back door.
"Dreadnaught, armor up," she told Robert just before the door was kicked in.
"Definitely a genetic tracker," Todd was told when Gordon joined him down the block just ten minutes after he had led one of the men off. The other had stayed behind.
For all the good it did.
Gaia raised a fog, and they simply strolled right over, and knocked the man out, taking a small box he carried that matched the one Todd now held.
"Figured. I noticed it was really chirping when I got close to the guy."
"I have more bad news," Gordon told him.
"They have Robbie's DNA in this, too. In fact, it has all the current junior provisionals coded."
"Mine," Gaia asked uneasily, this being the first Gordon had said of his findings since he had taken the small device that looked like a smart phone from the agent who was identified as NSA from his wallet.
"No. You're too new, I guess. They wouldn't yet realize you're with us. Which might be a good thing. The point is…."
"They'll be able to find Robbie, and that means…."
"I called Cap. Hopefully, he warned them in time for them to bail."
"Yeah," Todd frowned. "Only it won't do any good as long as they can use these things to keep hunting….. Any of us," he realized, staring at the device.
"Not much longer," Gordon declared. "Trust me on that."
"I just sent a virus out into their wireless operating system. It's about to crush whatever mainframe is loading their DNA scans, and primary location foci. Meanwhile, we have to continue with our plan. We are obviously skirting something big here, Ember. Captain Atom said we have to find that link. Now."
"Then let's go," he said, and pulled off his jacket, and sweater, exposing the top of his usual costume.
"Right," Gordon agreed, and simply jerked off his own shirt.
"No way am I changing in the middle of a dirty alley," Gaia told them.
Wisely, neither of them commented.
"Armor up," Adana barely shouted even as two men spilled in the back door, aiming various kinds of weapons at them.
Even as they did, three more burst in the front door of small duplex, the other side being rented as a blind. Barb screamed even as Robert jumped up, a shimmering violet haze surrounding him just before his clothes morphed into his usual golden armor, complete with helmet.
"Magic so rules," he shouted, and charged the three firing ineffectually from across the living room.
Adana put herself between Barb, and the other two, and charged them in the same instant, deflecting some kind of pronged barb that sparked with an electric charge even as the other tried to fire at the blonde.
Only he carried a very heavy magnum pistol that was obviously intended to be lethal.
Focusing on him, she rushed forward, grabbed the hand with the gun in it, and squeezed.
The man howled, pulled back, but had to release the gun which she crushed in one hand with surprising ease, and tossed the ruined weapon toward the first man now rushing past her to the blonde Barb with a knife in his other now he had pulled from behind his back.
The mangled gun hit him in the back of the head, driving him forward, and nearly unconscious as he slid across the floor.
"Dreadnaught, we have to bail!"
"I've got these guys," he jeered, dropping the last conscious man.
"We have more coming. We have to go now!"
"Right behind you, Meta," he shouted, proving he had been listening as he scooped up Barb, winked, and told her, "Don't worry. We've got you."
"Follow me," she told him. "And don't stop for anything," she said.
"Meta, Dreadnaught," Captain Atom's voice came over their coms. "We just learned they had genetic-trackers with Robbie's DNA in it. You have to….."
"Already moving, boss," Dreadnaught answered. "Got any clues where to go where we won't draw the wrong crowd."
"Fallback position delta," he replied. "We'll transport you up from there."
"Understood," Robert replied as he surged forward. "Looks like I get to lead, doll-face. Not that view wasn't spectacular," he chortled as he passed Adana, and moved forward to take a turn to the right.
"I swear, one of these days….."
"Look out," Barb screamed as they turned the corner even as someone in a black suit stood there aiming a long tube at them.
Even as she screamed, the vapor trail of the mini-missile erupted as it slammed right into Adana's chest, drove her back into a storage shed near the house behind them, and exploded.
"Ada," Barb screamed as Dreadnaught skid to a stop, and stared at the burning rubble as four more suits converged on them.
Just as the burning rubble exploded in all directions as Ada leapt up, and out of the ruined storage shed, and actually seemed to hover in the sky for a second before she glared down at the men surrounding Dreadnaught and Barb.
"I have had enough of your guys," she shouted, slamming into the ground just shy of one man, and grabbing him up to throw with impressive force into another.
Both men went down, and neither got up.
She turned to glower at the other two, and hissed, "This….is where you start running."
The men eyed one another, glanced back at the angry girl in scorched, ragged clothing over an untouched blue bodysuit, and bolted back the way they had come.
"Way to clean house, girl," Dreadnaught cheered her. "You might just have some chops after all. Now, let's blaze before they grow a pair."
She didn't argue as she looked to Barb, who was pale, and staring as she eyed her.
"There," Robert pointed. "We get in that storage shed, and we can teleport."
"Why couldn't we do that back there?"
"Blondie's got no beacon, Meta," she was called. "And we couldn't leave her behind."
"Oh. Right. You're right."
"Bet that hurt."
"Saying I was right," he grinned, the smug expression evident across his entire lower jaw.
"You're still a jerk," she said as he tapped in a code once they reached the shed, and stepped inside the minute the door opened.
"On the pad," he pointed, and Adana frowned at him. "I know the drill."
A moment later, three more agents kicked in the door, and found nothing but an empty shed.
"I don't know about this," Barb said as she stood before one of the most famous League members of all time. Even she didn't realize how tall he was in real life, though. Or how scary looking he was up close.
"Don't worry," Adana told her. "J'onn won't hurt you. He just wants to see if you know things you might not realize. Things that might help us help you, and your dad."
"And find Cadmus," Barb nodded.
"It's looking more and more like Cadmus may well be the center of this investigation," Captain Atom told her as he walked up behind her. "J'onn?""I'm already….in," he murmured, and Barb tore her gaze from Adana, and stared at the Martian whose eyes were glowing a weird yellowish color that made them seem empty.
"Don't worry," Adana told her, putting a comforting hand on the blonde's shoulder.
"Idiots. You have likely tipped our hand, and alerted the entire League. I warned you about using the trackers so overtly. Or directly engaging the heroes. This was supposed to be a covert operation all along. You do know what that means," Dillon Connors demanded of the men who stood in his office.
"We were….found out. Those kids are sharper than we were led to believe. And the team at the safe house we tracked down was taken out so fast, and so hard they didn't even have time to report. These kids may be young, but they are….."
"They're good, sir. Better than expected," the grimacing agent admitted.
"All the more reason we need something, or someone to counter them. We've had League members, and so-called heroes go rogue before now. If these new members follow type, we'll have no way to stop them if they go bad."
"What of the rest of the League? Wouldn't they…?"
"You honestly think they would turn on their own? Look at how they stood up for the Thanagarian even before the League became a world power in its own right. Look at how they stood up for that infernal Kryptonian time-after-time even when he showed us he could be just as corrupt, and malleable as anyone else. Frankly, it still worries me we haven't seen that cousin of his in all this time. Who knows what she's really up to out there?"
"I thought….she just retired," one of the men murmured.
"They'd like us to think that, wouldn't they? Well, the last time we thought someone retired, Parasite almost destroyed our entire governing body when he attacked a joint session of Congress! No, we have to be ready, and we have to have real power that will not only neutralize these….heroes, but completely overwhelm them from the start," he all but spat.
One of the three men in the office glanced at his senior officer, and grimaced.
Neither said it, but they were all thinking it.
This guy was borderline.
"Just tell me you at least neutralized the civilian target?"
"They took her with them. We don't know if she was injured, or even hurt," the senior member of the trio reported. "And the team that hit the house is still in ICU. Out cold. We don't know what happened, except that the targets were…..able to escape."
"Wonderful. Just wonderful. You should be scrubbing toilets, you moron. Not leading operations. Get out of my sight. All of you."
The men left without argument. None of them even bothering to look back.
Dillon Connors walked back behind his desk, sat down, and pivoted the chair to look out the view behind him from the tall, steel and glass spire that was the local headquarters for the national BMR. The Bureau of Meta Regulation had formed to first help new metas with the difficulties associated with the often abrupt, and sometimes unnerving manifestation of their powers. With more metas being spawned almost daily in the past few years, the government was overwhelmed dealing with far too many that went rogue, and chose to follow the easier path to fame and fortune in crime.
The latest president to take power exploited the growing discontent within the rest of the nation to make registration mandatory, and government sponsorship all but a requirement to stay out of jail. Even alleged carriers that knew they had the gene, but had not manifested were required to register. Then the President realized that some of the new mutations had some very practical value.
To him, and his Administration.
Especially since the League refused to bow to any one political organization. Not even those in their own apparent nation.
Dillon, however, had seen the writing on the wall.
Man was coming to an evolutionary crossroads. Much like the Neanderthal likely had thousands of years ago. Only this time, it was humanity that was facing extinction as more and more of the super-powered freaks cropped up, and began to sublimate ordinary, and more natural men and women. Where the president thought it was quite all right to encourage, and exploit the new metas, Dillon saw a threat that needed controlling, or even neutralizing.
The President might want his special teams to counter more and more powerful vigilantes, but Dillon wanted the power to simply shut them all down.
Just in case.
After years of research, and years of covert, and very careful management, he was very close to that end now. The Winter girl was fast proving she might well be the key to his ultimate success, but she was also proving all but impossible to reach.
Even he had not realized that singular freak, related to that annoying Amazon who felt justified in foisting her ridiculous political views off on them, was in fact the culmination of a genetic amalgamation that might just be the key to his own project.
When he first manifested, even he had only seen just another meta to tap, and potentially use.
He certainly never expected the boy to shift genders, and develop even more power than her mother. Or her equally annoying sister, he mused as he considered a certain agent in the NSA that was fast becoming infamous for results outside the proverbial box.
Tala Winter was a hardnosed, hardcore agent that was known to openly defy orders at times, and yet still managed to close cases faster, and easier than most men with years more experience. It didn't take much to guess how, or why. Her own powers were equal to Amazon herself, even if they weren't in the Princess' range.
But Adana. That unlikely of all metas, kept evolving. Kept getting stronger.
And now she was obviously openly working with the League in spite of her earlier protestations.
He had to know what had happened in that safe house. Then he needed to get that girl in his labs. Her genetics, he was certain, were the key to the entire failsafe project he had crafted. It was time, he decided, to risk becoming proactive. It was the only way to proceed if they were to succeed before the League could meddle in human affairs again.
Then he had an idea.
"Rose," he buzzed his secretary, who had the sense to know she was a secretary, and nothing else. "Get me Target," he growled.
The woman gave a noise of affirmation, and shut off the intercom.
He did like a woman that knew her place. And very soon, those annoying Amazons, along with that freak they had spawned, would learn theirs. Along with every other meta freak on the planet.
To Be Continued…