All's Fair, part 11

by Chicago

Disclaimers in "part 0"



Zatanna was right, Atom's voice sounded grimly over the telepathic net. They've each got a hostage within arm's reach -little girls.

Easier to control, Wonder Woman remarked. Any sign of sacrificial weapons on their persons?

In the monitor womb, Superman started. He often forgot that Diana, although not a magic user herself, was fairly well versed in the occult and various arcane arts. He glanced at Batman perched slightly above him, but the Dark Knight was merely adding information to the schematic of the Everest compound with an occasional glance at the eerily still scene in the Atlantic Corridor.

Prometheus is wearing a short dagger on his belt, jade handle shaped like a pair of entwined snakes, one consuming the other. The Centurian...

Atom?

The Centurian has a broad sword, but god only knows what he thinks he's going to do with it in close quarters. He's scaring the crap out of that kid, though.

Do not engage, Atom, Batman reminded, sensing the outrage of the other hero.

I copy, Atom replied tightly, and Superman found himself grateful that the telepathic link did not allow them J'onn's ability to send images of what they were seeing to the whole group.

-not sure about the Centurian, Wonder Woman was saying, but given Prometheus' blade we're looking at spells of mind and weather control - usually associated with demon summonings, although not always.

That makes me feel better, Plasticman groused.

Zatanna, Wonder Woman continued, can you confirm?

There was strain in the response. Confirmed. Hands full here, sorry.

Superman shot a look at Batman, but if the other man shared his concern for the beta team, he showed no sign. Superman had been convinced that by this point, beta team would have at least opened the conduit to Poseidonis, but all indications were that they were still proceeding cautiously to link Zatanna's magic to the Atlantean mages on the other side.

So if we take out Prometheus- Green Lantern mused.

We have to deal with an out of control Centurian, GL, Atom reported. Prometheus has him on a short leash, but he's clearly raving - and I for one don't relish dealing with more of those ghost warriors.

Superman nodded to himself. It had taken over an hour for the alpha team to get into position after they were forced to adopt a contingency plan to avoid the ghost soldiers patrolling the mountain. Engaging even one would be the death of the mission, and unlike human soldiers, they could not be captured or overwhelmed before they could report back. Wonder Woman had split the team, sending Fire, Steel and Atom to do reconnaissance and taking Plasticman and Green Lantern with her to prepare to act on the other's intelligence.

The good news is, Steel broke in, that most of the hostages seem to be held just south of your position, Wonder Woman. If you follow the cavern you're in back, Fire says it should link into the main dungeon area. Infrared shows 60 in that group.

Sixty, Wonder Woman repeated. That means we're missing three. Atom?

I've got two in sight. Hold on...

There was a long moment of silence before Atom's voice came back. Dear God.

What is it?

Looks like they've got some magic scheme in the works already. Third hostage is a teenage girl, strapped to an altar. There's a pentagram inscribed around it in sand and they've got her in this white dress-

Virgin sacrifice. A gamble, Wonder Woman interpreted. It might be enough to bring Mordru through. But Atom, our two targets are not at the altar now?

Negative. Seem to be avoiding it in fact.

Hmm.

Is that a good hmm or a bad hmm? Plasticman asked.

I'm betting there's a purification angle involved, but I'm not sure. Regardless, that doesn't look to give us much time. Okay team, listen up. Our first priority is to get the hostages out, then we can deal with the goons. The ones down here should be no problem - Lantern can scoop them up and get them to safety. Fire, is there a way to get Plasticman up to wherever that altar is?

Atom, you - thanks. There was a pause. Yeah, but he'll have to get across the main dungeon to access the tunnel up. There should be a corridor leading past some smaller cells that twists into a staircase about 30 meters in.

Great. We can work with that. The other two - Superman?

Right here, he acknowledged.

Give us five min-

Wonder Woman?

There was no answer.

J'onn, I've lost the link. Can you -? He stopped, realizing there was none of the usual link echo in his head. J'onn? J'onn!

"Wonder Woman confirms they need your distraction in five minutes," Batman reported. "I've synchronized our time pieces so in the absence of communications, we'll work on a time table."

"You've got to pull him back!"

Batman stared hard at Superman. "We've planned for this contingency. Beta team is independent unless we need them on Everest."

"Beta team is in trouble, Bruce. They haven't managed to get through, and now we've lost J'onn-"

"We've lost his link."

"And it's more important that we have him back here maintaining the link than risk alpha team's mission. Or risk beta team. We've got time on that one. We can go back with a better game plan -"

"J'onn said four days. We have no idea whether time moves the same in the dimension where they're trapped. You were clear - alpha team was not to expect back up unless they failed. They haven't failed yet."

"Dammit, Bruce. This isn't about appearances. You can't just leave him stuck between dimensions without communication with us."

"J'onn is fully capable of handling the situation."

"Yeah, that's your answer, isn't it? Know their limits and push them past it. You're always like this with the people you love!"

Dead silence followed the echo of Superman's words. He met Batman's eyes with a fierce, accusing glare, then found himself losing a staredown. This wasn't the way he'd wanted to handle this. And Batman's expression said more than a rebuttal, made him feel like Superman himself was jeopardizing both teams. He dropped his gaze.

"You'll want to fly in to this position to issue your challenge," Batman said stiffly, highlighting a portion of the air space above the stronghold. "And I suggest you hurry. They're expecting you in one minute, 23 seconds."

Superman noted the map and then looked back to Batman. "Bruce, I'm -"

"One minute, 12 seconds."

"Flash," Superman ordered as he zoomed from the room, "set the teleporter." He would make it to his position in time, but that didn't help the heaviness of his heart.



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