Mindstorm, part 9

by Chicago

Disclaimers and other information in "part 0"

It was not the first time that the fastest man on Earth had been sent for coffee in the midst of a world crisis. In fact, it was something of a routine request as far as that went; the staff at selected Radu's had become accustomed to a sudden gust of wind followed by a depletion of caffeinated beverages and generous contribution to the cash drawer.

Except this time, the Flash had not been sent to Radu's.

This time, the Flash was moving carefully through the medbay door bearing a silver tea tray.

"Coffee!" he announced as he entered, forcing more cheer than he felt into his tone. He set the tea tray down on a table near to the bed where Superman lay.

"You are a ministering angel," Lois Lane announced gratefully, rising from her chair. "J'onn?"

Wally joined Lois in looking expectantly at the Martian, but J'onn offered a slight smile and shook his head. "You go ahead."

Lois shrugged and crossed to the table. "What's with the fancy china?"

"Um-"

"She knows, Wallace," J'onn rumbled mildly, causing Lois to turn.

"Knows what?"

"Well, then, Alfred sent up some Chocos, too," Wally stated with a sense of relief, noting that Lois accepted the implied answer. "He told me to insist that you eat some."

"That's sweet," Lois remarked as she lifted a newly filled cup to her lips. "And this is really good coffee!" she added.

"Alfred has very high standards," J'onn observed. "And Wally, I will have some Chocos later. Am I to infer that there is about to be a changing of the guard on monitor?"

Wally blinked. "Batman said-"

J'onn waved away Wally's words. "He is not the only detective here. I suspect-"

"J'onn. Flash. Lois." The monitor screen suddenly flared to life, revealing Batman's stoic features. "I think you need to hear Aquaman's report. Go ahead, Arthur."

"J'onn, I was just in to see Jonathan Kent. He's doing pretty well, by the way, Lois. But J'onn, the energy around him - it's much diminished, but -"

"It's the same?"

"Exactly. Absolutely exactly the same."

"Same as what?" Lois demanded.

"J'onn, you can explain better than I can-"

"Earlier today," J'onn began, directing his words toward Lois but speaking to all of them, "I was able to isolate the mental energies winding through Superman's mind which are not a part of his normal psychical matrix. I shared those with Arthur when we scanned Kyle and Diana and found no sign that they had been exposed to the same foreign mental signature. But what Arthur is saying now-"

"They went after Jonathan, too," Lois breathed, carefully setting her coffee cup back on the table as if afraid she would drop it.

"I've been triangulating the data of this mornings attacks," Batman suddenly put in over the monitor. "It appears that Mr. Kent's seizures happened not more than 80 seconds before Superman was struck down over Wyoming. We are dealing with something or someone that could potentially attack with pinpoint accuracy two targets 609 miles apart-"

"Or something that could move really fast," Wally mused. "You said over a minute before..."

"J'onn?" Batman prompted.

A faint frown creased J'onn's face. Faster than thought, Wally zipped to the Martian's side to lay a careful hand on J'onn's shoulder. "J'onn?"

A tense silence reigned for a few beats, and then a heavy sigh escaped J'onn. "I'm sorry. I thought I could trace - or match - or -"

"J'onn," Batman's voice was sternly admonishing. "No extra risks. If you slip into the same -"

"I won't," J'onn dismissed with enough brusqueness to draw a startled look from Lois. "It's just frustrating. I feel like I should know, but - if there were another telepath - I'm sorry, Arthur, but someone stronger than you are-"

"I understand," Arthur reassured over the monitor audio.

"It just doesn't make sense," J'onn fretted. "What he's going through - if there's a telepath behind it, it's like - it's like someone used Mayavana-"

"What is Mayavana?" Lois demanded. "Who did this-"

"We're trying to find out, Lois," Batman interrupted coldly.

"Batman," J'onn chided. He closed his eyes. "I'm trying-"

"J'onn, stop," Wally murmured, feeling J'onn's body begin to tremble under the hand he still rested on J'onn's shoulder.

"Look, I'm not trying to say J'onn should do anything dangerous, I just want to know-"

"Mayavana is an extreme telepathic technique," Batman began with what felt to Wally like haste. Did it unnerve Batman to think of danger to J'onn? It must, Wally decided as he listened to Batman continue his explanation.

"Martians can handle Mayavana once in a lifetime. It is a way of recreating reality for the target of the technique, of altering their perceptions so they believe the world to be in whatever way the telepath crafts it."

"Wait, Martians can do it?"

"There are no Martians besides J'onn, Lois," Arthur pointed out. "I should probably return to Jonathan and Martha -"

"Go ahead, Arthur," Batman dismissed. "J'onn, you say it's like Mayavana-"

"Much like it. The way Superman's reality is shifting I cannot decide if it is a more or less sophisticated attack -"

"How much of its similarity is a product of your efforts to stabilize what was done to him?"

J'onn hesitated. "I'm not-"

"Wait," Lois said again. "If a Martian can recreate reality for someone, why can't J'onn just go into Clark's mind and recreate the real reality for him?"

A good question, Wally noted, looking to J'onn with sudden hope and feeling that hope whither at the way J'onn's shoulders slumped.

"It's the way Batman explained - a Martian can perform the technique only once in a lifetime," J'onn said.

"And you've already used it," Lois realized. "Look, there must be something. How many telepaths are there? J'onn, can't you just scan the Earth or something and -"

"He can't," Wally answered for him, giving J'onn's shoulder a squeeze and then crossing back to Lois. "Not while he's protecting Superman's mind. And if he doesn't protect that-"

"There's no point to finding the bad guy," Lois finished, sinking down into a chair beside the table. "Dammit!"

"J'onn can't," Batman broke in, startling them into remembering he was still listening on monitor, "but maybe someone else can."

J'onn raised his head. "Bruce?"

"Wally, I need to get planetside. If you'll take monitor - J'onn, Lois, I've got something I want to look into and I will call you."

"I'm on my -"

"-way," Wally answered, the final word delivered in the heart of the monitor womb. He stopped still and blinked at the scenes of chaos raging around him. "My god!"

"I want to keep you in reserve in case we need another speedster. And someone needs to be on monitor, and J'onn can't."

Wally took a deep breath, watching shadows swallowing New York City. "I know. You're right."

Batman paused to look hard in Wally's direction. "Don't give them more to worry about," he ordered.

Wally met Batman's look evenly. "I won't. Figure it out."

"I will," Batman promised, turning and disappearing in the direction of the teleporters.

Wally did not watch him go, turning instead to the seemingly endless scenes of disaster on the planet below. A frightening number of JSA communicators were showing a lack of activity given the amount of action below - and the general "all call" distress beacon sounding from Dr. Mid-Nite's lab. He cut between views, catching a glimpse of what looked like a sandstorm in Manhattan, finding Wonder Woman in Paris lending her considerable strength to rescue and recovery of bomb victims, wincing at the demands for medical supplies and reports of heroes down.

No one was calling the Watchtower. They may have done so earlier, in which case Batman must have told them something. Probably not that Superman was badly hurt; that kind of news was too demoralizing to hear in a battle. More likely he had told a perfect truth - Superman was off planet and unavailable, as was Martian Manhunter.

Wally sighed, frustrated to not be down below, helping where he could. He understood why he was babysitting the Watchtower, but still -

"Wally!"

Lois' voice was panicked as it sounded through the monitor.

"Lois? What's wrong?" he answered, opening the video link.

He could see before she spoke. "Something's wrong with J'onn. I don't know-"

Wally forced his voice to be calming as he watched the writhing of the twisted form that J'onn had assumed. "Just hold on, Lois."

"Okay," Lois agreed shakily, "Just - hurry."

Wally tapped the keyboard impatiently, signaling Batman faster than the computer relays could register. "I am. I am."

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