All's Fair, part 7
by ChicagoDisclaimers in "part 0"
J'onn turned to see the young man stepping out of the ocean, his gasp a product of lungs suddenly freed from the gripping pressure of the deep. He felt the internal shudder of Batman, too tightly linked to J'onn to miss the moment. He mentally chided Bruce for his stray thought that no human could have survived the instant transition from bone crushing ocean deeps to the lightness of air, then managed to keep a fond smile off his face at the grump he got in response as the Dark Knight returned his attention to teleporting the rest of the team back to the moon.
"Mr. Manhunter, sir," Tempest greeted with typical unfailing politeness.
"Call me J'onn, please," J'onn corrected, stepping forward to offer the younger hero a handshake. He was always faintly startled by the awe with which the Titans and Young Justice seemed to regard him. "Anything new?"
Tempest shook his head. "Things seem to have stabilized here, although -" He glanced significantly at Zatanna, who now frowned into empty air.
J'onn nodded. "She said spiritual magic. You must have teleported them safely across a dimensional divide to stir up such response."
There was a hint of pain in the violet eyes regarding him, but Tempest's voice remained steady. "That would explain why our best efforts were unable to locate them," he acknowledged.
"There's elemental magic here, too," Zatanna broke in, shaking off whatever spell she'd been using. "Hi, J'onn."
"Zatanna. What do you see?"
She shook her head. "It's murky. There's Atlantean magic webbed around Tempest, and traces of it here, but -"
"Something's deliberately working against it. They've hit some kind of stalemate, so the opposing forces are too fractured for me to read. No active spells. But the elemental stuff leaves a strong signature. Whatever magic was brought to bear tinkered enough to bring the earth to its own defense."
"The ice," J'onn murmured thoughtfully. Atom's information combined with Batman's calculations had made it clear that each of the affected bodies of fresh water had enough concentrated sea salt at their bottom to create miniature ocean-like environments. Had the lakes actually been converted to salt water, it is likely that the Earth's ecological equilibrium would have been irreparably damaged. Now it would be no great matter to teleport the salt back into the ocean, although until they knew what they were dealing with? "You have an idea how to proceed?"
"I doubt there's more that I can uncover," Zatanna confessed. "We'll need to go back to the magical sources to find out what's happening. With an unknown opponent that'll be hard to accomplish, and the link to Atlantis -" She paused and considered J'onn speculatively. "You'd know better than I - can an empathic link be followed by a telepath?"
"To link back with someone?" He considered. There were means of pursuing such links taught to all Manhunters, although the rules governing such desperate measures were strict. "It can be done," he said slowly, watching Tempest's face carefully, "although it is rather - invasive - to the mind harboring the link."
Tempest didn't bat an eye. "I trust you."
J'onn smiled weakly. "I'm honored, but it's not a matter of trust. To try to tap someone else's link - you have to synchronize into the link itself. It... brings issues to the surface. With an empathic link - that kind of tie is usually based in close connections between the parties involved. There are often memories... best left..." he trailed off, reading Tempest's understanding. Something flickered in the younger man's eyes, but his face took on a more determined cast.
"Will you be able to speak to Aquaman?"
"And this will help us bring him back?"
J'onn looked uncertainly to Zatanna.
"Until we know the magic keeping them where they are?" She shrugged. "I do not see many alternatives."
"Many, or any?" J'onn asked.
J'onn responded to the tentative touch from Batman with reassurance, keeping his focus on Zatanna as she thought. This was not a situation he relished, but the feel of Bruce's trust of his judgment somehow made it easier.
Finally, Zatanna spoke. "I don't know that there's nothing else we can do, but without creating more disaster than we're already dealing with - this might be our best option."
"Then we do it," Tempest put in.
J'onn hesitated, then spoke over the link he still maintained with the JLA. Superman.
Go ahead, J'onn. We're listening.
I may be able - with Tempest's help - to form a telepathic link to Aquaman.
You sound worried.
It's not ideal, J'onn confessed.
I want to do it, Tempest stated flatly over the link.
J'onn, - Diana's voice - what are the risks?
J'onn glanced at Tempest. The procedure is... difficult on the person on the tapped end of the link.
Difficult how? Flash projected, concern for his friend clear.
Psychologically it can open old scars. It muddles past and present... uncomfortably.
What does it gain us? Batman sounded purely calculating over the link.
Zatanna jumped in. There's a kind of magical stalemate happening here. Something is blocking Poseidonis from returning and seems to be using the Earth as hostage to keep them where they are. But I cannot trace the magic back to its source. Aquaman may be able to tell us who or what they're fighting so we can create an end run.
Or he may not, Green Lantern pointed out. Tempest, are you sure-?
Martian Manhunter has made me aware of the risks. I am sure.
Unless you have more information there? J'onn hoped.
Superman's headshake was almost visible over the link. No. We have a plan to return things to normal, but if we can get Poseidonis back-
We have to do this, Tempest argued. We can't think that anyone who is willing and powerful enough to keep Atlantis from becoming whole again is going to just sit back if we let them get away with it.
He's got a point, Plasticman interjected. We gotta get to the heart of this one. Besides, I miss old fishbreath.
We all do, Plasticman, J'onn reminded mildly. I should be able to maintain the telepathic link for you while we do this, but I doubt I'll be able to hook Arthur into it.
Understood. You will be able to report back?
I'm trained to this, Superman. While nothing is certain on a mental plane, I'm afraid Tempest must bear the brunt of the risk.
I am prepared for that, Tempest reiterated.
There was a moment's silence on the link. Very well, Superman decided. Try it. But don't push beyond either of your limits. Promise me you'll back off if things get too dicey. We can find another way.
We have to get him back, Superman. Tempest's expression was closed.
J'onn sighed to himself, then projected, We will use our best judgment, Superman.
I know you will. Good luck.
Thank you. J'onn shifted his attention away from the link and back to Tempest. "You'll probably want to sit down for this," he advised.
Tempest nodded tightly and settled down cross-legged on the rocky ground. J'onn sat also, although he hovered an inch or two above the ocean floor. He rested a hand on Garth's shoulder, feeling the tension there as he offered a comforting squeeze. Then he cleared his own mind and gently probed for the open end of Aquaman's link to his heir apparent.
The threads of the link ran deep, and he regretfully found himself snapping up his mental shields against the maelstrom released in Tempest's mind by his mental tracing of the connection. J'onn wished he could have summoned another telepath to anchor Garth, but this wasn't Mars. Such telepaths as existed on Earth were not trained to this kind of work, and enlisting one of them would likely have left him with two minds to worry about rather than one. He was dimly aware of Zatanna stepping in beside Garth, taking up the young man's hand as Tempest gritted his teeth to keep from crying out. She was muttering a spell, J'onn realized, containing the purple energy beginning to flare from Garth's body in unconscious reaction. Then he was caught up in Aquaman's link, flowing effortlessly through the familiar energy of his friend's outstretched mind...
J'onn? Arthur's tone was incredulous, and J'onn could feel him raising a heavy head from his desk.
I am here, Orin, he replied.