Mindstorm, part 2
Disclaimers and other information in "part 0"
"Superman. Medbay." The younger man was working the controls of the teleport system, and behind Batman another tube flared to life. "Hold on, we'll go together," he suggested.
The glare of the tube faded and Arthur stepped down. "What's going on?"
"Come on," Green Lantern urged, leading them swiftly toward the medbay. "Something's wrong with Superman. J'onn just showed up with him a couple minutes ago..."
His voice trailed off as they joined the rest of the League in the medbay, gathered around an exam table holding the rigid body of the Man of Steel. Batman took in the clenched muscle stiffness of Superman, the way J'onn stood over him, his hands resting on - no, penetrating - the Kryptonian skull, and snapped, "Computer!"
Behind him, a projection winked on and steadied.
"...psychic... assault..." J'onn gritted out haltingly in explanation, and Batman noted he had closed his eyes, his face a study in concentration.
"Arthur, see if you can help J'onn. Computer, show Superman's movements in the last 15 minutes."
"He just called up about half an hour ago," Green Lantern offered. "He was fine then."
"Ah!" Arthur exclaimed, recoiling slightly from J'onn.
Diana rushed to his side. "Arthur? Are you-?"
He shook her off. "Fine. Surprised."
"What is it?" Wally asked, staring at Superman with an expression of mesmerized horror.
"Don't know yet," Arthur grunted, reaching for J'onn's arm.
Batman turned his attention back toward the viewing screen, Plasticman sidling up beside him in the shape of a telescope. "What're we looking for?"
Batman stared at the map before him, his eyes tracking the motion of Superman's signal down the West Coast. "Increase playback speed by 3.5," he ordered the computer, ignoring Plasticman.
Behind him, he heard Diana ask, "Arthur?"
"Stop!" he ordered the computer. "Playback the last 30 seconds."
Wally zipped suddenly to join him. "What've you got?"
Batman's eyes narrowed as the replay showed the same abrupt halt of Superman's signal, frozen over a pinpoint on the map. He reached his finger to the spot. "Wyoming," he identified.
"Yes..." J'onn's voice agreed, drawing the attention of the others. "Sorry... trying to stabilize..."
Beside him, Arthur was stock still, breathing with deliberate slowness. Superman remained unchanged.
"Can you fix him?" Green Lantern asked quietly, shades of his youth bleeding into his tone.
"Don't... know.... hold..."
"Do what you can, J'onn. Diana, you and Lantern go check out where he went down in Wyoming. Plasticman, I want you on monitor."
"Batman, I think-" Diana began, glancing back at Superman.
"We don't know what hit him, Diana," Batman pointed out coldly. "You and Green Lantern are the best odds of countering any threat that might be on the ground there."
Diana glared at him for a moment, then followed Green Lantern and Plasticman from the room as Wally zipped in to take her place. "What about me?" he asked.
"Just wait a moment," Batman directed, his eyes shifting to the frozen tableau around Superman. "Chairs, now!" he barked, seeing something beginning to give in Aquaman.
The Flash obeyed instantly, settling a chair under Arthur just as the Atlantean's knees began to buckle. Wally put out a steadying hand as he positioned another chair beneath J'onn.
"Arthur?" Batman prompted, noting that J'onn remained transfixed and unwilling to disrupt him.
There was a whoosh of air as Wally disappeared and reappeared with a pitcher of water - which he upended over Arthur's head.
A sigh of relief escaped the Atlantean monarch and he slumped in the chair.
"I think..." J'onn's voice whispered, and Batman watched as the Martian raised one of his hands from Superman's head and brought it over his face wearily. His other hand brushed gently across Superman's eyelids, closing eyes Batman hadn't realized were blindly, unblinkingly open.
"He's alive," he reassured, catching the chill horror that passed through the room at his gesture. He kept his hand resting gently on Superman's forehead and slowly opened his own eyes. "Arthur, thank you. I am sorry I was not more gentle."
Batman noticed Aquaman nod in acknowledgement, too drained to speak, but his eyes were fixed on J'onn's exhausted features. "What is it?"
J'onn stared down at his lap, and Batman realized that J'onn was floating, his legs fused into an indistinct blur of green. A part of him wanted to cross to him, hold him, but this wasn't the moment. "It is like... a bomb... vicious... it burst into his psyche... shattered his reality. He felt it happening and called out to me. He held on for those six seconds it took me to get there."
J'onn brushed his fingers across Superman's forehead. "Whoever did this wanted him to suffer a psychotic break. Wanted him to start destroying the world ... use him as a weapon. He... didn't let them."
"Man..." Wally breathed, staring at Superman's still rigid body.
"What's his current status?" Batman asked carefully.
"With Arthur to anchor me I was able to stabilize a reality for him." J'onn grimaced slightly. "It's not a pleasant one, but it's stable. I had to seal it..."
J'onn faltered slightly, and Wally reached over to touch him. "You okay there, Green Guy?"
J'onn nodded and raised his eyes to Batman. "I'll recover," he said, although the touch of his mind in Batman's said something else entirely. "I think perhaps it would be wise to get Arthur to his quarters. And maybe..."
Wally, already helping Arthur to his feet, hesitated. "What is it, J'onn?" Batman asked.
"I think it would be good to get Lois here." The words came reluctantly from J'onn's mouth.
Batman nodded, retaking command. "Plasticman," he barked to the room, and the still hovering projection monitor filled with the other man's rubbery countenance.
"You rang? How's big Blue?"
"Stable. We need you to find the current whereabouts of Lois Lane. The Flash will meet you in the monitor womb in a few minutes."
"You got it." Plasticman stretched across the view screen shaped as a lightning bolt. "See you in a-"
Batman cut the feed with a gesture, and Wally looked at him expectantly. "Help Arthur," Batman directed. "Then you will find Lois. Be discreet, but let her know the severity of the situation. Bring her here."
"Understood," Wally acknowledged. "Ready to move, Aquaman?"
The blond monarch worked to pull himself more upright. "Yes," he whispered, and the two moved slowly out of the room.
Batman watched their slow trek, waiting until they were gone before moving to J'onn's side. The Martian still floated, one hand still on Superman's forehead. Batman claimed the other one. "What's his status?" he asked again quietly, watching J'onn's face alertly and gently running one hand over the curved arc of J'onn's back.
J'onn's mouth formed a grim line. "It's not good. He's aware of us, of what's going on around him, but it has to pass..." J'onn's voice caught, and Batman squeezed his hand.
"Forgive me," J'onn whispered after a moment. "The attack... it muddled his conscious states, mixed nightmare and reality together horribly. He's still... he's still living it. There's something of him there, underneath it. Something of him here, funneling what's happening around him down to the part of him that kept him from going berserk. But in between..."
"Can you help him?"
J'onn shook his head. "It was all I could do to seal it off... to shut down his motor responses to it." On this last he met Batman's - Bruce's - eyes.
Batman met his gaze, seeing the haunted feeling in the red depths that stared out at him, the self-horror at having paralyzed a friend inside a waking nightmare. Bruce wordlessly pressed his lips to the arm in front of him, rested a cheek momentarily against J'onn's flesh in a woefully inadequate gesture of comfort.
"I have to stay with him," J'onn explained. "I can't leave him - not if there's going to be anything left of the man we know if we can find a way to stop this."
Batman nodded his understanding, his eyes drifting down to the rigid body on the medbay table. A warning hum sounded, enough that he could step away from J'onn, so they both could make their faces into expressions of impassive professionalism before the monitor viewscreen cleared.
"Batman? We found Lois," the Flash stated, "but she's at the Planet. You sure you want-?"
"Yes," Batman stated. "Access plan 21-kappa and follow the instructions. Tell Plasticman I will be there momentarily."
"Twenty-one-kappa," Wally repeated. "Got it." Batman saw his eyes widen slightly as he read the file, but Wally was a professional. He could handle it. He would have to. They all would have to. With a final glance at their fallen leader and a last comforting brush of J'onn's arm, Batman turned and headed out of the medbay toward the monitor womb.