Mindstorm, part 7

by Chicago

Disclaimers and other information in "part 0" Note that the scene involving Kobra includes verbatim quotes and description from JSA #45.

Batman watched the teleport monitor signal Wally's successful arrival on the planet's surface. He could still feel the exhausted worry of J'onn's mind, an echo of the telepathic link that the Martian did not have the energy to maintain. The others would understand the seriousness of Superman's condition from the fact J'onn had asked for Lois to be brought up, but they could not know how fragile his "stable" condition really was, how possible it was that "stable" could become "dangerous." Batman was not going to be the one to tell them. At least, not until he had a chance to stash some kryptonite in the Watchtower.

As he turned to the monitor showing Superman's interrupted flight path, the comlink crackled to life. "Plasticman, Wonder Woman. We're at the site. Is there any radio traffic or movement from the base about two miles away?"

Plasticman started to open his mouth to reply, then stopped at a gesture from Batman. The Dark Knight frowned, his eyes scanning concentric circles around Superman's crash zone and seeing only terrain markings on their map. "Wonder Woman, please give a more accurate fix on the base."

This time Kyle answered. "Batman, I'm having the ring send up coordinates."

Batman's fingers tapped across the keyboard, downloading Kyle's projected data. "Received. I'm bringing satellite focus in on the region. Negative on radio communication, checking for other activity. Is there anything on site?"

"Hey, Batman, anything you need me-" Plasticman cut in from the other monitor station.

"Watch everything else," Batman ordered, turning his attention back to the reports from Lantern and Wonder Woman. He ignored Eel's muttering as Kyle began speaking again.

"Crash looks to have been a trajectory of 90 degrees."

Batman scowled at the satellite image he was receiving at the coordinates Kyle had indicated. He sent a quick command to Oracle to piggyback their imaging capabilities to a DOD satellite, at the same time switching over to infrared scanning on his current feed. Another corner of his mind focused on the new information Kyle was giving him. "Hm. J'onn characterizes whatever hit him as being like a psychic bomb. It is possible he stopped instantly when it hit."

"Like hitting a wall," Diana's voice murmured over the comlink. Then, more decisively, she said, "Batman, I am not certain it is relevant, but the forest is unnaturally quiet."

An instant message from Oracle reported that the DOD imaging was not providing a cleaner feed in the visible light spectrum. Did he want her to try a hack? He sent her a quick affirmative, and returned his attention to the team on the ground. "I have no activity heading your direction on that base, but infrared picks up sentries. Odd. And you say quiet. Lantern, can you scan -?"

"Already on it," Kyle answered. "Doesn't look like there's any animal life forms within 300 yards of us, although as we've been talking that distance has been slowly decreasing."

A shiver of potential danger triggered down Batman's spine as Diana asked, "Purposeful decreasing?"

Kyle's answer calmed the sudden worry. "More milling. Like everything scattered and is just coming back."

"Scattered 300 yards in all directions," Batman considered. "A bigger distance than some species could have gotten in the minutes since Superman fell." Unless the impact of the fall...

"Magic?" Green Lantern speculated.

Diana's response was quick and certain. "No. I would know if it were magic." But J'onn had said it wasn't telepathy, at least not active telepathy. Beneath the cowl, Bruce Wayne's forehead creased in concentration.

The momentary puzzlement was set aside, though, as Lantern's voice came through in suddenly uneasy tones. "I don't like this."

"Agreed," Batman concurred, trusting Kyle's instinct for danger. "Both of you should get out of there."

"Batman?" Wonder Woman asked.

"J'onn said like a psychic bomb. That may be more accurate than we know. I've got Oracle trying to hack the facility you've pointed out, and if they've noticed you-"

"On our way out," Lantern acknowledged, and Batman watched as both Kyle's and Diana's signals showed them to be moving away from the crash site.

"See J'onn when you get back here," Batman ordered. "If there was any residue-"

"Understood," Diana interrupted. He was unsurprised at her next query. "How is Superman?"

Batman felt the unwelcome flavor of J'onn's weariness and worry return to memory and quashed it firmly. "Stable."

"We got that from Plasticman, but J'onn hasn't jumped in with a telepathic link." Diana's tone was getting almost hostile. "What does stable mean?"

"Stable. We will discuss this when you get here." He snapped closed the comlink decisively, his eyes turning to Oracle's report on the military facility Wonder Woman and Green Lantern had noticed. It was too close to Superman's crash site to explain away why the base wasn't investigating; they had to have noticed. They had the requisite radar facilities and... an angry frown turned down the corners of Batman's mouth. They had DEO clearance for meta research. His fingers reached to the keys, sending rapid fire orders to Oracle to find out the exact clearance codes and any details of research they might be doing.

Almost as quickly as he typed, a red flagged note came up from Oracle. His eyes widened a little at the name she had plucked from the base's record history. Masters. Damn.

He did not have time to process the development before the teleport signal alerted him to the arrivals of the Flash and Lois Lane. The comlink flared to life again, this time with Wally announcing unnecessarily, "We're here."

Batman did not remark on the obviousness of the point, instead making a quick check of what was happening in the medbay. He almost cursed aloud when he saw the way J'onn was curled in on himself, linked in a trembling circuit with the still unmoving Superman. "Wally, have Lois wait outside when you get to the medbay," he ordered.

"Will do," Wally answered briefly, his tone hiding any worry at this demand, undoubtedly for Lois' benefit. Batman glanced back at the troubling images from the medbay-

"That doesn't look good," Plasticman's voice suddenly chirped from near his elbow.

Batman turned with a snarl.

Plas pulled back a little, his head adopting the shape of a cartoon rabbit in a "don't hit me" pose. "It doesn't. You want me to spell you so you-?"

"Watch the monitor, Plasticman," Batman snapped, turning his back on the other hero and fighting off the urge to answer him with a yes. His eyes went back to the red flag document from Oracle. Masters. Lois was working on the Masters assassination. Coincidence?

He reached out to the keyboard. "Check cell phone records on Kent, C and Lane, L," he typed.

An acknowledgment came through almost instantly, and Batman felt his eyes drift back to the monitor showing the medbay. Wally was there now, and as he watched, J'onn seemed to come back into himself. A weak smile on the Martian features did much to reassure Batman, and he turned back to the information continuing to come in from Oracle.

"Batman, Kyle and Diana are back," Plasticman interrupted, his words followed in seconds by a comlink ping.

"Go ahead, Diana," Batman identified.

"We're back," she said brusquely. "Is J'onn still in the medbay?"

"Affirmative, but he may not be available. Are you or Lantern feeling any ill effects?"

"I'm fine," Kyle answered. "Diana?"

There was a minute pause that suggested the reigning in of temper, then Diana said, "What's going on, Batman? Has Superman's condition worsened?"

Batman glanced at the monitor. Lois was settling down at Superman's bedside. "It does not appear to have. Lois Lane has just arrived," he explained.

"Oh." Did he imagine it, or was there a sense of mollified surprise in Diana's tone? "So what next?" she asked.

"Hold-" Batman began, only to have Plasticman interrupt him.

"Batman, we've got problems planetside."

"Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, please stand by," Batman directed, turning his attention to the monitor Plasticman was watching.

"Kobra," Plasticman explained, identifying the source of the superhero scramble outside the US District Court in New York City. "Powergirl just pulled a bomb out of the crowd, let it explode above the skyline."

"And the bomb was from Kobra's people?"

"Not clear," Plasticman admitted, leaning in to the keyboard and hitting a few keys. "I tried to activate our spy cams inside, but -" He gestured toward a blank blue screen on one monitor.

"Hh," Batman responded, stepping forward and displacing Plasticman at the keyboard. "If the JSA is on scene - there we go."

Plasticman blinked as the blue screen fuzzed and suddenly showed King Kobra in the witness box, no fewer than five guns leveled at his head. "How - wait, why's he just sitting there?"

Another key tap brought sound into the monitor womb, and in his ear, Kyle's voice asked, "You need us somewhere, Batman?"

"I'm not sure yet. Wait."

From the monitor speaker, Mr. Terrific's voice sounded tinnily: "...being played."

Kobra's answer was clearer. "Very astute of you, Mr. Terrific. And now that I have the world's attention, allow me to explain--" Above the small monitor, television feeds from various media outlets suddenly flared to life to deliver Kobra's message - that five hundred people outside the courthouse had been implanted with incendiary devices and would self-immolate if Kobra were not instantly released.

"Oh, man," Plasticman breathed. "Why the hell do the bad guys get to play by different rules?" Batman held up a silencing hand as he listened to Director Bones, but the words from the DEO chief's mouth only got Plasticman started. "He's not just going to let him go? What the - how many times -"

"Plasticman!" Batman snapped, turning away in disgust as Kobra teleported off the courthouse steps. "Diana, Kyle, there's nothing we can do about it at this moment, but you should know that Kobra has successfully engineered an escape from his trial."

"He WHAT?" Kyle demanded. "How -"

"I suggest," Batman overrode, "that both you and Wonder Woman report to your own quarters where you can follow the news. I will contact you when J'onn is able to scan you. Stay on alert."

"Any updates on Superman?" Wonder Woman wanted to know.

"Still stable," Batman repeated for what felt like the twentieth time. A beeping sound came from his previous work station, and he crossed back to it. "Batman out." He glanced down to see a flashing message from Oracle. He gritted his teeth to hold back a curse and reclaimed his seat. He glanced regretfully at the medbay monitor before tapping the code that would signal J'onn.

There was barely a pause before J'onn's voice came through with its usual soothing baritone. "Go ahead, monitor."

Batman kept his expression neutral as he offered a greeting nod toward Lois. "Lois. I have been screening traffic on Clark's and your cell phone accounts." She looked about to protest, but he continued, "There have been numerous calls from Clark's parents. I have managed to create a satellite link so that you will be able to get service if you would like to return their calls."

Lois closed her mouth and reached for something on the floor, her words muffled as she spoke to J'onn.

The Martian's words came back clearly: "He has been attacked and hurt, but he is stable."

Lois seemed to take a moment to gather herself before she opened her phone. "Eight messages! Batman, this will connect down to the planet?"

"It will," he promised, turning his attention to J'onn as she quickly began punching in numbers.

As he met J'onn's eyes, he felt the sudden sense of connection that signaled the opening of a telepathic link. J'onn, he welcomed warmly, forcing back any consciousness of Kobra's escape and the possible military involvement in Superman's condition in order to offer comfort to the weary touch that answered him.

If Batman were not so well versed in the limits of Martian reserves, the strain evident in J'onn's mind would have alarmed him. Instead, he was able to lend strength to his lover, letting him tap into Bruce's energy. He offered a mental caress, hoping to soothe, and suddenly J'onn was recoiling.

Can't - have -

Go, Bruce allowed, recognizing a pressure against J'onn's mind that must be originating with Superman. On the monitor, he could see J'onn's eyes grow glassy and a fixedly mild expression overtake his features. He was trying to be reassuring, Batman recognized, wishing there were something he could do.

He gave himself a mental shake. There was something he could do. He could solve this mystery, find out what had been done to Superman so it could be undone.

Masters had somehow been connected to the base in Wyoming. Coincidental red herring? The man had been high in a shadow government that may or may not have been in Luthor's control. He had his fingers all over the place, as they had discovered during the Du Bois case.

He glanced back at the medbay monitor and frowned at the expression on Lois' face. He bumped up the sound to hear what she was saying. "... doctors say what caused it?"

That didn't sound like they were discussing Superman.

"... there with you now? ... Oh, Martha... Yes... I just wish - ... I will... You should too, you know. ... Okay... Take care of him for us. As soon as things get better here... yeah. Give him our love. Bye."

Batman watched quietly as Lois closed her phone and regarded it for a long time, her teeth peering out to worry her lower lip in a very unLois-like fashion. He gave her a moment, but he spoke to her before she shook herself out of it enough to notice the attitude of J'onn's face and body. "Lois, is there anything you need?"

Her head snapped up, and the eyes that met his showed more fear than he was used to from her. "I need everyone to be okay," she pointed out with a hint of her trademark sarcasm. "Don't suppose your billions could buy me that, eh, Bruce?"

He didn't wince; he knew where her reaction was coming from. "Not directly," he answered honestly. "Did something happen to the Kents?"

"Beyond me having to tell them about this? It was so news they didn't need. Martha was calling from the hospital. Jonathan collapsed into seizures this morning."

"This morning," Batman repeated.

"That's what I just said. At least Mrs. Ross is around to-"

Batman ignored her comments in favor of typing directions to Oracle. "Lois," he interrupted, "this is important. What time this morning?"

Lois blinked. "More or less just now. Twenty minutes, half an hour ago. Why - " Her eyes widened and she turned her gaze back to her husband. "You don't think-"

"I don't know what to think," Batman replied grimly. "However, some coincidences are too coincidental. Do you-"

But he could see Lois was not paying attention to him. Instead she was staring at Superman - and, Batman realized belatedly, at-

"J'onn?" her voice queried.

Batman forced his tone into a gentler register. "He's okay," he stated.

"How do you know?"

He let his voice settle even further into Bruce Wayne's registers. "Because I do."

That brought Lois' attention back to the monitor. "And my husband?" There was a tearful edge in her voice.

"J'onn says he's stable," Bruce reassured. "It is requiring a lot of work from J'onn to keep him stable, but he would not lie."

Lois blinked quickly a couple times and reached her hand back to wrap around Superman's unresponding fingers.

Batman cleared his throat. "I'm going to let you go," he said, "but I want to send Aquaman down to talk to Clark's parents. Martha likes him, and he may learn something that will help-"

He stopped speaking at Lois' distracted nod, and realizing she was doing her best not to cry in front of him, he quietly disconnected his line to the medbay. He kept a monitoring view open, but he had work to do, and he had to trust J'onn to care for Lois and her husband.

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