Waking, part 13

by Chicago

Disclaimers in "part 0"

Kyle stood just inside the threshold of the conference room, watching his teammates file out, waiting until only Nightwing remained at the table. Then he stepped forward, taking J'onn's empty chair. "Nightwing," he began tentatively.

"Yeah," the other man answered, his tone hinting that he was waiting for Kyle's report.

Kyle glanced up at the rotating Oracle mask over the conference table.

"I'm going to start my search engines," the synthetic voice said. "Call me if you need me."

"Thanks, Oracle," Nightwing replied, watching as the mask winked out. Then he turned to Kyle. "I'm covering monitor. You want to walk there with me?"

Kyle nodded wordlessly and fell into stride beside the other man, trying to order his jumbled thoughts. "I'm not sure-" He stopped speaking.

"Go ahead."

"I'm not sure we should be trying to stop this," he confessed guiltily.

If this surprised Nightwing, he gave no sign. He just kept walking. "Tell me more."

"What I felt in J'onn's quarters - it wasn't the same as when the whatever it is stopped before."

"I gathered," Nightwing acknowledged. "I'm sorry I made you stay longer."

"No," Kyle shook his head. "I think it's something we needed to know. I just - I'm not sure I trust the League's judgment right now." The door to the monitor womb opened, and Kyle followed Nightwing in. "Did they remember to set you up with the security codes?" he asked.

"Oracle," Nightwing replied, "and I think you're right."


"About the League. Their judgment's been off on this one since J'onn first brought up the idea that it was something to worry about."

"You know about -"

"Batman put me on alert right before you guys met. When Oracle didn't report any change in operating procedure? I can imagine how things went." Nightwing settled into the monitor chair, and Kyle floated cross-legged beside him.

"It wasn't very fair to J'onn," Kyle admitted. "Which is kinda why-"

"Go on."

Kyle sighed. "You remember that whole thing a while back with the guys from the 853rd century or whatever it was?"

Nightwing nodded once.

"Okay, when that whole thing was going on, the future J'onn left a message for himself - here." He tapped his temple.

Nightwing actually shuddered. "I hate it when he does stuff like that."

Kyle gave him a startled look. "Huh?"

"Never mind. I take it you know what the message was?"

"Well, J'onn kinda told me when he retrieved it. He said it was a vision of the future - a beautiful vision of peace and beauty and justice. Something about minds and spirits evolving. It just - I could tell it really inspired him."

"Something like that would."

"Well, look - what if that's part of what's going on right now?"

"How do you mean?"

"I mean, yeah, I figure it's an outside source and all, but what if J'onn's out there convincing them how to do it right. To really help us - I dunno - evolve or something."

Nightwing leaned back, steepling his fingers in front of his face in an eerie echo of his mentor. "Tell me more."

Kyle shifted. "It's just, when I got into J'onn's quarters - listen, do me a favor."

Nightwing raised an eyebrow at him.

"Look, I just realized - clear your mind for a sec, okay?"

Nightwing nodded. "Okay."

Kyle closed his eyes and concentrated. He focused all his mental energy on remembering the exact rush of joy he'd felt on the occasions when his League seniors had complimented him for his performance, making it the sole content of his thought. Then he opened his eyes.

It was faint, but there was a hint of a smile on Nightwing's face.

"You felt it," Kyle stated.

"A sense of joy? Yes. Trick of the ring?"

"No. I didn't notice until it was cut off, but something since the energy came back, it vibrates with everyone's emotions. Like actually feeling the link between everyone. And when it was gone -" Kyle shuddered. "Being in J'onn's room almost hurt."

Nightwing's face creased into a frown. "You sure you weren't picking up some of J'onn's energy?"

Kyle stared at him for a moment, the idea triggering a sense of horror. "Dude, I hope not."

Nightwing waved the reaction away. "It's neither here nor there. The issue is more isolating accurately what's really going on before we address it."

"But it sounds like you're already getting-"

"The League has a distorted sense of industry," Nightwing dismissed. "Even in an emergency, it'll take time to get security releases on the dampener technology, and more time to set up the production process. It's doable in a reasonable time frame if it proves that's what we have to do, but I knew none of them would rest until it sounded like we had a possible solution."

"You're manipulating them," Kyle accused.

"No," Nightwing met his eyes. "I just trust their judgment at the moment as much as you do."

Kyle bowed his head in acknowledgement. "So what do we do?" he asked.

"We look for clues. We find out if children aren't affected by this because they're immune or because they're beneath notice or because whatever it is understands enough to not harm a child. We figure out what's different about humans and Atlanteans - and why Amazons aren't troubled by this. Why J'onn felt it and Superman doesn't."

This last had a speculative tone, and Nightwing leaned forward to open a comlink. He was answered instantaneously. "Oracle."

"Oracle, it's Nightwing with Green Lantern. Did you get anywhere on that scrambled teleport sequence?"

"Not a pinpoint - Batman covered his tracks pretty well. Or J'onn's tracks."

"But you have an idea?"

"Not down to Earth, certainly."

"Somewhere else in the solar system then. I presume those things don't have any kind of galactic range."

"Not without some serious tinkering. What are you thinking?"

"I'm thinking the answer is under our noses and we don't know where to look," Nightwing replied.

"Mars," Oracle stated.

"White Martians?" Kyle worried. "But they're all -"

"Not White Martians. J'onn wouldn't have insisted on facing them alone."

"But what? There's nothing on Mars anymore. At all."

"Kyle, when you ran into J'onn in the 853rd century-"

Kyle snorted. "I didn't run into him. He was just suddenly there with a telepathic link. I don't think anyone saw him."

"Oracle, do we have any record of J'onn's presence, anything in the debriefing notes-"

"Searching - just fragments of his appearance over their headnet thing. The notes are horrible anyway because of the whole secret plan."

"Right. Kyle, you were there. Do you remember what he said, if he gave any indication of where he was -"

"Oh, he was on Mars - which was weird because it was the only planet they hadn't colonized..." He trailed off, a flash of memory coming back to him. "I'm wrong," he said quietly. "He wasn't on Mars. He was Mars. You don't think-"

"I don't know what to think," Nightwing replied grimly, "beyond we need to do a lot of reading up on Mars."

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