His name was Target.
They called him that because he always hit his mark. Always.
It didn't matter if it was assassination, theft, or simple reconnaissance. He always got the job done. Always.
The beauty of his rep, known only to the political hotshots that usually hired him, was that very few people in the world even knew he existed. Even the League, filled with busybodies at the best of times, didn't know he existed.
Which was how he favored it.
Splashy, public shows might play to the media ratings, or certain egos, but it didn't get the job done.
Target was all about the job.
He knew his place, after a fashion, and he was well paid for his services.
The pay, he felt, was all the justification he required whatever the job.
Why shouldn't he enjoy his job? He was good at it. He was, literally, made for the work he performed. He viewed himself as no different than a clerk selling goods, or a fireman fighting fires. He had a job, and he was paid to do it. That it was a job he enjoyed only added to the few perks allowed him.
Not that it mattered.
The pay was good, and in due time, he would retire in complete anonymity, and no one would ever see him again. Not even those few that new he even existed.
When his latest assignment came in, he wanted to laugh.
Most of them were. Politicians, and puppet masters were always blind when it came to details. They wanted the splash, too, whatever else they claimed. They wanted people to see them, and know they were the one pulling strings. That they were the one with power that crushed otherwise meaningless lives.
They didn't see they were just another cog in a greater world that didn't care about any of them.
They didn't know their own place.
Little wonder they were never satisfied.
When the latest puppet master sent him after specific DNA, it was with instructions about being discreet, and letting no one see him. All the usual prevarications that meant nothing to him, since he never let anyone see him anyway. No one that lived, of course.
Target, after all, was very, very good at his job. Part of his value was in his anonymity, and he meant to keep it right up to the day he finally retired.
If he did.
Which, considering the payday on this job, wasn't going to be long. After all, how long would it take to get a sample of DNA from a mere girl?
Adana walked up behind Barb who was standing near a wide porthole, staring down at the planet below.
"Just….still…..reeling. It's hard to believe I'm really up here. With all these….legends."
"They're just people, too. Under the costumes, there are a lot of very ordinary people who would love to live normal lives if they were able," Adana told Barb.
"But….what would stop them? Who would stop them? They could….do anything?""Except turn their backs if someone needed help," Adana told her quietly, only recently realizing that was what drove even her mother at times during those few episodes when she lapsed back into active duty. Usually after just having declared that the last time was it. She was done.
"Oh. So…. Is that how you feel?"
"I told you about….me. I know what it's like to be picked on. Abused. Singled out. And that was before I had any power. I hated it. And that was just ordinary….bullying. I can't imagine how it must feel to the ordinary people that have to tolerate some…..poser that finds himself amped up overnight, and decides to crush the world for the heck of it."
"Cadmus is….different. From what I knew of the old group, they just feared the League was too big, and too powerful for their own good. They were a lot of old men who felt the government should have all the power, and only the government."
"Yeah. I guess….some people still feel that way. But, isn't the government supposed to be in control?"
"Ask the people on the street how they feel when the government turns a blind eye to natural, or even manmade disasters while they bribe blatant enemies to do what they want. Ask them how they feel when their own Congress passes laws that tells them they have no more rights to their own property when some bigshot wants their land for their own plans. Then tell me the government always knows what's best. Politicians are just people. People with more power than most, but unfortunately, more greed than most, too. And they don't always care about the people they are supposed to help. A man with a gun, or a politician with the government behind him. Both can hurt you, Barb. They just don't want you to fight either, because if you stand up to one, you might decide to stand up to the other, too."
"Oh. That….kind of makes sense."
"Something grandmother always used to say. I kind of paraphrased, but….I'm not as eloquent as Princess Diana can be. Still, it's the same thought. Sometimes, men get wrapped up in their own power and delusions, and they just forget that their dreams aren't everyone's dreams. Then, too, there are some that just don't care."
"I just can't imagine my dad being involved in anything like this. Did….? Did the Martian say anything yet? He never told me what, or if he found anything….in my head," she said with a shudder.
"First thing," Adana said, stepping closer, and putting a hand on her shoulder. "You can trust J'onn. He probably has more secrets than anyone else in the universe, but he doesn't gossip. Ever. So your own secrets, whatever they are, are safe. Okay?"
"Thanks," the blonde smiled timidly.
"You're welcome. In the meantime, while he sifts your thoughts for clues, he's not going to be saying anything that might be used against you, or your father. He's not the type. So don't worry about that, either. J'onn really is one of the really good guys. You can trust him."
"Thank you for that commendation, Meta," that very Martian declared as he walked up behind them just then, standing just behind Adana as Barb just stared at him. "However, you are needed below. Your friend will be safe enough here. I will look after her myself."
"Thanks, J'onn. What's going on? Did the guys find….?"
"Feral is waiting on the bridge. He will brief you."
Knowing a dismissal when she heard one, she turned to head for the command deck before glancing back, and waving to Barb.
"Don't worry. We're not finished yet, Barb. We'll find your dad, and get you back where you belong before you know it."
"Indeed. This way, young lady. I shall show you to more comfortable quarters where you may rest, do you wish it."
"Uh, thanks," Barb replied timidly as she followed the Martian.
Behind her, Adana took the lift to the bridge, and found Dreadnaught waiting on her, still in armor. Of course, she had since shed those ragged civilian clothes that were going to represent a sizeable hole in her wardrobe budget, and was now just wearing her training bodysuit, and of course, her bracelets.
"Meta," the golden-armored hero waved. "There you are. Ready to get back to kicking butt?"
The detective who was said to be related to the first, best Batman turned to glower at him from behind his feline mask.
"You are not supposed to go around just kicking butt, young man. You need to learn to use your mind, as much as your fists."
"We know, sir," Adana stepped in to avoid an inevitable lecture. "J'onn said you had information for us?"
"Yes. He did not detect anything that might indicate Wilson's guilt, or innocence in the girl's mind. He did, however, find several conversations she had unknowingly overheard that definitely indicates that Cadmus is once again a rising threat. You will rendezvous with your teammates, conclude your area search, and help find us a link to locating this new Cadmus. As of now, all other duties are on the shelf. This includes your collegiate activities. This, Meta, is an Alpha alert status."
"Alpha," she echoed, staring at the grim feline detective. "You think it's that big?"
"J'onn is worried. If he's worried, we'd better all worry," Feral told her. "Think you can focus past your own desires, Meta, and be part of a team?"
"Yes, sir," she nodded.
"Good. Then get ready to transport. And, Meta?"
"Sir," she turned back to him even as she stepped up on the teleport pad.
"You still need to work on pulling those punches. You put three more men in ICU today."
Dreadnaught grinned at her, his approval obvious even as the world shimmered, and turned white.
Pinkie yawned as she woke, looked around, and frowned.
"Ada still isn't back," she asked, spotting Lena at the desk in the room where she had dozed off waiting to hear from their friend.
"No," Lena said, glancing toward the nearby clock herself. "And I'm really getting worried. She's never been gone so long."
"Well, this is looking like one of those serious things. Looks like someone really was after Barbie, too."
"Yeah. Weird. Who would have thought someone like her had anything to worry about," Carla yawned from atop her own bunk as she rolled over to look down at them. "Anyone else hungry?"
"It is about time for dinner," Pinky sighed. "Guess Ada isn't going to make it back today either. What's it been? Three days now?"
"This is the third," Lena nodded. "I asked the dean, but he said we shouldn't bother him about League business. That it was none of our business."
"Sounds like him. Dr. Sanders is a bit of a prude when you get down to it. I'll bet he misses corporal punishment," Pinkie grumbled as she rolled to her feet, walked over to the mirror over the sink, and ran her hand through her tousled mane.
"You wanna borrow my comb," Carla asked, sitting up on the side of her bed, stretching before jumping down.
"Nah. I like the unkempt look," Pinkie grinned. "Gives all those boys out there ideas."
"Because you need to give them those ideas," Lena huffed skeptically.
"She has a point. I think it's genetic with guys. I doubt their libidos even have an off switch from what I've seen."
"Funny, I can't seem to find those guys," Pinkie complained.
"The fact you run around with a girl strong enough to break bones like twigs probably puts them off," Lena suggested.
"Huh? But I never used Ada to…."
"You didn't," Pinkie moaned.
"I might have suggested to Bobby Polanksi that if he touched me again, my friend might not like hearing someone was molesting me."
"Man. No wonder no one would even dance with me at that last party," Pinky complained. "Why did you even…."
"Polanski is a Neanderthal, Pink," Carla called her, running a comb through her hair after pushing her away from the mirror. "I hear he even notches his belt. Swear to God."
"Really," Pinky murmured.
"Girl, you really need to get some standards," Carla told her, knowing her tone by now.
"What? I have standards!"
"Yeah. And how's your grades? I thought you came over to study?"
"I did. I was. I thought Ada would be here by now. She can explain that economics stuff in words I understand. Dr. Williams isn't so good at that."
"Guess I lucked out. Professor Dalton is pretty easy-going," Carla grinned.
"Never had him," Pinky murmured. "Wonder if I could transfer."
"You still have to study," Lena pointed out.
"She's right," Carla agreed. "And now, we have to eat. Let's go, and we'll all hit the books again when we come back. Wouldn't look right if Ada came back to find us all flunking out, now would it?"
"Yeah, my old man would ground me life," Pinkie muttered. "Him, and his 'personal responsibility' lectures could put anyone to shame."
"You ain't heard Pops wail on my brothers," Carla laughed as they left the room.
None of them noted the shadow that moved across the windows, cracked to let a little cool air in on the unusually warm evening.
Pinkie had barely set down with her friends when her cell phone chirped.
"Hey, maybe that's…..?"
She fumbled to jerk out her phone from the back pocket of her snug jeans, and eyed the number.
"False alarm, it's the old man," she groaned, and lifted the phone. "Sorry, but I have to take it. Last time I tried to ditch him, he cut my allowance."
"You still get an allowance," Carla grinned.
"Hush," she hissed, and thumbed the right button. "Hi, dad. How are you?"
Lena and Carla both grinned as Pinkie seemed to cringe.
"Well, it was a tough test. I did get a C, though. Yes. Yes, sir! I, ah, am studying with friends. Well, we're eating now, but then we're going to study the rest of the evening. Yes, sir," she sighed. "The whole evening. Swear to God."
She cringed again, and shook her head.
"I'm not rolling my eyes," she lied vehemently as she did just that. "What, do you have spy cams on me now, or something? I'm not," she protested, rolling her eyes again. "Fine. I will. I will," she huffed, and hung up without saying goodbye.
"That's your father?"
"I think he thinks he's my parole officer, or something. Jerk."
"You know, he could have your phone bugged," Carla suggested.
Pinkie held up the smart phone, and grimaced.
"I never thought of that. Maybe I should trade it in? No, he'd complain about the unnecessary expense. Damn, it would be like him, too. Jerk."
"You could accidentally wash it," Lena grinned.
"Say, that could work," Pinkie grinned. "He's always saying how scatterbrained I am. Complains I'm my mom's very twin at times."
"So, your mom is…."
"History. Died in a car wreck."
"Well, to be honest, she wasn't too bright. She tried to drive around a super villain by driving off a bridge."
"She was still your mom," Pinkie was told by Lena.
Pinkie nodded, knowing the younger girl had her own issues about being an orphan.
"Yeah, she was. She was fun, too. More like a sister I never had, too. Until, you know, she was gone."
"That must suck. So, she actually drove off a bridge," Lena asked.
"No one knows why she did it, to be honest. But everyone agrees she saw the villain land in the middle of the bridge, and she just turned the car right toward the guardrail, and kept going. It was a long drop. She didn't stand a chance."
"Bummer," Lena murmured.
"Hey, we all go. I guess mom was must making sure no one forgot her by going out in style," Pinkie grinned.
"Does nothing get you down," a brunette asked as she came over just then, sitting down without being asked.
"Janey," Carla nodded. "What's up," she asked one of Barb's usual companions who had been hanging around them of late.
"I just wondered if you had heard…. From anyone," she said, shrugging. "You know, since they left?"
"Not yet," Pinkie told her. "Guess they're still busy, or something."
"Yeah. I hope Barb's all right."
Carla eyed the girl, and grinned.
"She's with Ada. She'll be fine," Carla assured her.
"Yep," Pinkie agreed. "I still can't believe all I saw her do that day those jerks came in shooting up the poli-sci building. She was like….."
"I was there," Janey Evans grimaced. "I still have nightmares about that guy pointing his gun at me."
"Hey," Lena told her. "Just remember, Ada was there, and stood between you. I don't think anyone is getting past her. Not the way she fights. So I'm sure your friend is fine. They're probably just making sure they find out who all is behind….whatever is going on."
"Yeah. Yeah, you're probably right," Janey murmured, staring blankly at her untouched tray.
"Hey, here's an idea. Wanna join our study session?"
"I'm a senior, you know that," she reminded Pinkie. "I just never had Economics until now."
"Well, duh, so you can help us figure out that economics stuff," the blonde grinned impenitently.
"Why not," Janey smiled wanly. "I really don't feel like being….by myself. If you don't mind?"
"Not at all. More the merrier. So, what is your GPA," Pinkie asked.
"Ignore her. She's a moron," Carla told her. "I'm sure Barb is fine. Ada is pretty tough, so if she's with her, she's probably fine."
Janey just nodded.
"That's good. That's….really good."
Target moved away from the campus, four different vials in a small holder that held hair and skin samples he had taken from the Amazon brat's clothes, and brush.
End of mission. No splashy showdown. No tipping off the wrong people.
"It's me. I have at least two viable samples on their way. Maybe more."
He resisted the urge to scowl for a moment at the tone on the other end as he drove carefully away from the campus, even smiling at one of the security guards that didn't even look twice his way.
They never did if you knew how to act.
"No," he said only after leaving the security guard behind. "I did not find them. I did raid her dorm room, which is full of leftover DNA if you geniuses had taken the time to realize you could scrape her clothes and brush for all the genetic samples you needed."
He didn't say anything as the man replied to that one, and smirked knowingly.
"I'll drop it at the usual place. I expect my finder's fee to be as prompt. Remember, this is my last foray. No more. I'm done."
This time he did scowl.
"If you try that, sir, you'll be the one making tomorrow's headlines. After a tragic, and unforeseeable accident. Understood?"
He smirked this time as he heard the immediate conciliatory tone.
"I thought you would feel that way. Goodbye, and forget we ever met. For your own good."
Driving on to the drop sight, he kept his phone in hand as he punched a speed dial, and waited for the answer. He knew it would take a moment. Or two. It would depend on her mood.
"Hi, dad! How are you," his daughter chirped far too brightly to be genuine.
"What did you do now," he demanded. "I got a call from your dean that suggested you were failing your tests."
"Well, it was a tough test," she sputtered. "I did get a C, though."
"Are you sure you're studying enough," he demanded.
"Yes! Yes, sir," she immediately amended, knowing he hated that kind of informality at the best of times. "I, ah, am studying with friends."
"Well, we're eating now, but then we're going to study the rest of the evening."
"Yes, sir," she grumbled in obvious complaint. "The whole evening. Swear to God."
"Don't be profane," he snapped. "You're not a thug. And don't roll your eyes," he added, knowing her quite well after all this time.
"I'm not rolling my eyes," she blatantly lied, which told her she was, since she couldn't lie very well at all. She never could.
"I think you are," he told her, just to annoy her, knowing she hated that.
"What, do you have spy cams on me now, or something?"
"Let's say I know when you are rolling those eyes, girl," he quipped.
"I'm not," she protested far too energetically.
"Just remember, study, and pass this term, or you are headed for boot camp. That's a promise, Darla. No arguments. So, study, or else."
"Fine. I will."
"I don't mean…."
"I will," she cut him off, and hung up.
"Rude as ever," he murmured, smiling faintly as she didn't even bother to say goodbye. As bad as her mother used to be.
He sobered at that.
Maybe. Maybe one day he would tell her what really happened. As she was, though, he didn't think she was ready to know the truth. He doubted she could manage it. She certainly couldn't manage the truth that he, her father, was Target, an assassin so covert that less than a half dozen people in the entire world knew for certain he was real.
He preferred it that way. He rather doubted Darla was the kind to handle secrets.
To Be Continued…