All's Fair, part 10

by Chicago

Disclaimers in "part 0"

Wally pushed back from the table, snatching a snow pea from the wok and munching on it. "Garth, you can cook for me anytime."

Garth raised an eyebrow. "What's the saying? Once is a favor, twice it's your job? No thanks. I know how you eat."

Wally chuckled and reached forward to pick out some broccoli. It felt almost like old times, he reflected, then squelched the thought. J'onn had been adamant - no walks down memory lane.


"Hmm?" Garth's face had resumed the brittle expression that it had worn intermittently since he had returned to the Watchtower, and he was pushing his food around on his plate with his chopsticks.

"You think it will work?"

There it was - the conversation they'd been carefully avoiding since being dismissed from the conference room an hour before. Garth needed rest, Superman had insisted, and it quickly became clear that the Flash's energies were needed at the Watchtower rather than on the ground.

Wally summoned up a confidence he didn't quite feel. "Of course it will. This is the JLA!" Never mind that the last time the Justice League had stormed Everest, the team had been hopelessly fractured.

Garth sighed and set down his chopsticks. "It's just that -" he waggled the fingers of one hand in the air, creating a small shower of purple sparks - "I've got this power and it just -" He sighed again.

Wally stared at his friend incredulously. "What are you talking about? I've seen you in action. You get going with those eye beams and-"

"I'm not trained, Wally," Garth interrupted, his eyes flaring.

Wally watched warily for a moment as Garth took a deep breath and fought to steady himself. It was unsettling to see the normally even-tempered Tempest struggling so visibly with his emotions, and Wally shuddered at what it must have been like to have his memories so shaken up by J'onn's effort to tap Garth's connection to Aquaman. "I'm sorry, Garth," he said quietly when it appeared that the other man had calmed. "To me, I can just see that you work well in a team and know when to use the power you have. I don't get this magic stuff."

"The problem is that I don't exactly, either. That's why Poseidonis is in this mess in the first place."

"Better this mess than destroyed by Imperiex," Wally reminded him gently. "And we'll get them out of it. You just have to be the power behind Zatanna's spell and -"

"If I knew what I was doing, we wouldn't need Zatanna there and she could help on Everest."

"If our teleporters didn't need a boost from the cosmic treadmill to teleport J'onn between dimensions, they wouldn't need me here and I could help on Everest. Part of being a team is knowing yourself and each other's limitations and taking action that works within those limitations. You know that, Garth."

Garth smiled weakly. "You sound like Robbie."

Wally pulled a face. "ARGH! No, ick, Batvibes -"

"Flash, Tempest."

Wally slapped his hand over his mouth as Batman's voice came through the intercom and Garth swallowed a laugh. "Yes, Batman," he answered.

"Report to the conference room." The intercom clicked off sharply, and Wally and Garth exchanged looks.

"Guess that's our cue," Wally chirped, clapping his hand on Garth's shoulder. "It will work."

Garth nodded and fell into step beside Wally as he led the way to the elevator.

The room hummed with conversation as the reassembled team began to settle around the conference table. Wally realized he'd gotten used to the relative quiet since the League had been pared down to its core eight members - seven, since Aquaman had disappeared. Even before then, though, Arthur didn't make a habit of haunting the Watchtower. There were rarely more than two or three people on the moon at any given time, and a month without a crisis made the sudden bustle exhilarating and unnerving at the same time. A quick head count showed 12 people around the table.

He settled into his seat beside Zatanna and gave her a quick smile. She returned it before turning her attention to Tempest and addressing him in low tones. Magic stuff, he surmised, feeling vaguely frustrated that his job in this involved running when told and then waiting. No one needed to pull him aside for instructions on that task.

"Attention, people," Superman's voice rang out, bringing immediate silence to the room as all heads turned to face him. "I need not remind you that time is of the essence right now and it is vitally important that we stay coordinated and stick to the plan for the sake of both teams."

He paused for nods around the table. Then: "We're dealing with a two fold threat. One is Mordru and his crew, and the other is the crisis developing in Poseidonis. Our first priority -" He paused again, making sure that everyone was absolutely paying attention - "is the safety of the Earth. Should our strike team on Everest fail to neutralize the Centurian and Prometheus before they launch a magical assault, beta team needs to be prepared to assist regardless of the status of your mission. Is that clear?"

Wally watched the slow head bobs around the table as he digested this information. He found he couldn't make himself meet Garth's eyes.

"That said," Superman continued, "the only reason beta team will be detached from their mission is if the earth is in jeopardy. Alpha team, do not count on back up unless your team fails."

"We won't fail, Superman," Fire stated firmly, and Wally realized with surprise that she'd be on the alpha team. He actually had expected her to be shipped home after Deadman had given his information and left her body - not that would have made any sense. The Centurian and Prometheus were holed up in a series of catacombs on Everest - catacombs which had served the Overmaster as dungeons. Fire knew them well.

"No, we won't," Wonder Woman seconded, her expression faintly affronted at the idea.

"I don't expect you to," Superman pointed out. "Alpha team, we are teleporting you to Tibet about a quarter mile from the strong hold. Based on the information we have from Oracle, that is the widest their technological detection measures might stretch."

"Only a quarter mile?" Green Lantern queried.

"They don't need more," Batman observed. "At that altitude and with the terrain, nature will take care of anyone that far away."

"Ulp," Plasticman put in, making his adam's apple bob dramatically with the exaggerated gulp. "Next time remind me to volunteer for the beta team."

"Because crushing ocean pressure is so nice this time of year," Fire snapped sarcastically.

"I take it floating everyone into range is not an option?" Green Lantern asked, ignoring this exchange.

"Correct. Stealth is the watchword. Lantern, your powers are visible enough that they should be held in reserve beyond the task of providing extra oxygen and warmth for your teammates. Fire, the same goes for you. Your first objective is to get close enough to the stronghold to allow Atom to infiltrate their systems and relay information to Steel. If we can shut down Prometheus' armor again, we'll be ahead of the game.

"Remember, once you take any action against the Centurian or Prometheus, they will be alerted to your presence. Zatanna suspects that they are keeping at least one of their hostages close at all times under instructions from Mordru, so when you strike, you will need to work swiftly if those hostages are going to be spared. We can hope they will dump the hostages in favor pursuing me when I appear on scene, but be prepared for them not to."

"You're providing the distraction?" Wally asked, surprised.

"Superman is too good a sacrifice to pass up if Mordru seeks to return to this world," Zatanna explained. "Once alpha team is in place and has analyzed their defenses, Superman's highly visible appearance should be distraction enough for you to strike."

"I won't be climbing Everest with you, so it's crucial we stay in contact and get the timing right on this."

"You won't be?" Wonder Woman asked.

"There are technological means for sensing an approaching alien," Batman said. "Superman is too great a risk to your stealth. Wonder Woman, that puts you and Steel in charge."

Wonder Woman nodded, settling back in her chair.

"We're going to teleport beta team first," Superman resumed. "Once we get Tempest and Zatanna down to the Atlantis trench, the Flash and Batman will coordinate with Steel to 'port J'onn into interdimensional space so he can set up a telepathic conduit for the spells which will bring back Poseidonis. J'onn, can you maintain the telepathic net for us while you are doing that?"

"I will endeavor to do so as long as I can," the Martian answered, "although as always, backup communications would be wise."

"Right," Superman agreed. "Once beta team is in place and has begun their work, we will observe the situation on Everest to be sure they are unaware of beta team's action. If the stronghold shows any signs of magic, beta team will desist and alpha team goes into a frontal assault."

"Umm," Wally ventured, "if Zatanna and Tempest are on beta team, how are we going to know if there's any magic going down?"

"I've worked a detection spell into the capabilities of the monitor womb," Zatanna answered. "Trust me, you'll know."

"If there's no sign of magic, alpha team will teleport down according to the previously outlined plan. Batman will remain here to coordinate teams and Flash will stay to handle the teleporter and any retrieval issues. Any questions?"

"Yeah," Plasticman piped up, his body shaped like a popsicle. "What is it with villains and cold climates? Why don't we ever fight crime in Cancun?"

"We have," J'onn replied mildly, then added suspiciously, "strangely enough until you joined the team."

Plasticman spluttered as Wally joined others in staring at J'onn. The Martian raised an eyebrow in response to the looks, a hint of amusement on his face, and Wally realized he was joking. A relieved laugh burned away some of the tension in the room.

"Okay," Superman took control again. "Teams get yourselves together and pool what you need. We'll reassemble at the teleporter in 15 minutes."

The meeting broke, and Wally walked over to Batman.

"Make sure your team understands the tap codes," he was saying to Steel.

Wally shot a nervous glance at J'onn as he approached. "You don't think the telepathic net -"

"Preparedness, Flash," Batman answered shortly as Steel joined Wonder Woman and the rest of the alpha team. "We should retest the teleporter configuration."

Batman turned, heading toward the door. Wally hesitated, looking at J'onn. "Are you sure-?"

"It is the best option, Wallace," J'onn reassured. "And I know you'll bring me back."

"Flash," Batman growled impatiently.

"Go," J'onn urged. Then he added telepathically, It'll make him feel better.

Wally nodded and followed Batman, but his mind had a new puzzle. Batman needed to feel better? Somehow that wasn't the thing he wanted to hear.

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