All's Fair, part 8

by Chicago

Disclaimers in "part 0"

"Qwsp?" Green Lantern speculated.

Batman watched as Superman shook his head. "Not really flamboyant enough, and too much restraint. This stalemate has a -bargain-like quality."

Flash groaned. "Neron."

Batman studied the monitor array with his eyes, keeping his face toward the camera linking him to the conference room shoes teammates wouldn't notice that he was not participating in their blind guessing game. It wasn't Neron. He'd already mentally discounted most of the villains being named around the conference table with simple means, motive and opportunity formula, but lacking more knowledge of their foe, the brainstorming exercise at the table was not a bad use of JLA time. With more practice they might, in time, hone their deductive skills enough to be of more use.

"What about Ra's al Ghul?" Plasticman asked with a shiver, not bothering to mask his discomfort at the idea with a distortion of his body.

"Negative," Batman answered in clipped tones. "Ra's would not risk an ecosystem. His grudge is with humans."

"Yeah, but -"

"It's not Ra's."

"Batman has spoken," Plasticman intoned, assuming the dimensions of a judge at the bench.

"Plasticman," Wonder Woman chided. "It could be really personal, you realize. Someone after -"

A ping on the monitor board caught Batman's attention. He frowned. Old JLA tech, still kept functional for former members, just in case. He muted the his audio to the conference room and opened a channel. "Watchtower."

"This is Fire," a woman's voice announced. Batman began running the voice analyzer. "I have information about the missing persons at Lake Titicaca." The voice print almost matched the one on file for Beatriz da Costa.

Batman narrowed his eyes. He knew from J'onn that Fire had been looking into one of the missing person cases and had quietly gone along when J'onn opted not to mention it when Superman deployed the team earlier. But the anomaly in the voice print...

"Deadman," he growled.

"Oh, man, it had to be you on duty, didn't it?" came the reply. "Look, I'm sorry about that whole mess with Klarion, but I do have information about the case and you probably want it sooner than later."

"I'm homing into your signal to teleport," Batman stated. "You can give your report to the team."

"Fine," Fire's voice agreed, and Batman activated the teleporter as he turned his attention back to the conference room.

"Superman," he interrupted, "we have Deadman teleporting in with a report from South America regarding our missing persons. He is occupying the Fire's body. Someone will need to escort him to the conference room."

Wonder Woman stood. "I'll go."

Superman nodded and Diana left the room. "Batman, has any more information come in?"

"No." He locked gazes with Superman, letting the one word carry the reminder that he would have reported it instantly if it had. The Man of Steel's concerns about outside issues were beginning to hamper their working relationship, but now was not the time to address it.

"Deadman, huh?" Flash commented. "That sounds like a bad sign."

"Let's hear his report, Flash," Superman suggested, and quiet descended around the table. A moment later, Wonder Woman reentered with the body of Beatriz da Costa in tow.

Superman stood, ignoring Plasticman's exaggerated pant and Kyle's significant glance to Wally at the entrance of the scantily clad woman. "Deadman. You have information for us?"

"I've been talking to Ice," Deadman replied without preamble.

Plasticman assumed the form of a drink glass with ice cubes. "Did it talk back?"

"The Earth resurrected her," Deadman continued, pausing as the team around him reacted.

"Tora?" Flash queried, a hint of reverence in his tone.

"Wait, who's -" Green Lantern wondered.

"Former JLA. Deceased," Batman cut him off. Deceased on a JLA mission to save the world while he was still in a body cast in the bowels of the Batcave. Such a waste. "Continue, Deadman."

"The missing women are being held in Tibet by two enemies of the JLA, the Centurian and Prometheus."

"Crap," Green Lantern muttered.

"Wait," Flash puzzled. "The Centurian - he's stuck some otherwhere type place with his brain scrambled. And Prometheus-"

"Was in Limbo," Deadman agreed. "They hitched a ride on the Atlantean magic that cut through dimensional boundaries to try to get Poseidonis back."

"Prometheus is not a magic user," Batman put in. "And the Centurian's powers were alchemical in nature but not strictly speaking magical."

"You're right, Batman. Their tap into the Atlantean magic was made possible by the sorcerer Mordru-" At the mention of the name, Batman keyed a quick message to Oracle - "still trapped in Fate's amulet but gaining enough power from the whole dimensional disruption to use these two as lackeys."

The Flash let out a low whistle. "With lackeys like that, who needs to bother with an army? I presume they're going to brainwash the women and -"

"No. The women are being held in case they need to sacrifice someone."

Batman glanced down at the smaller screen holding Oracle's reply. Damn. He typed another order.

"Sacrifice?" Wonder Woman questioned. "Well, that makes it simple enough. We storm their stronghold and -"

Deadman shook Fire's head. "Bad idea. The women are hostages and an ace in the hole. Right now they're content just to keep Poseidonis from returning to Earth. But as Flash noted, neither the Centurian nor Prometheus is altogether there. They burn for revenge and don't much care if they destroy the Earth in the process. With Mordru's guidance, they can whip up some pretty nasty magic using human sacrifice, and you can bet they will if they get wind of you guys coming."

Superman sighed. "Okay. At least we know the enemy, at least. Batman, what is the status of the JSA? If this Mordru is one of Fate's captives-"

"The JSA is presently engaged in an off-planet mission."

"Perhaps if we at least contact Dr. Fate-"

"Enough off-planet that Oracle has no data on their precise whereabouts. The program indicates that they have requested no communication attempts."

Superman? The unexpected voice on the telepathic net caused the heroes around the table to start and Batman forced back a small grin.

"Go ahead, J'onn."

I apologize for being out of touch, but I was able to speak to Aquaman.

"Is he all right?" Wonder Woman asked.

For the moment. I've established my own homing link to him, but with the dimensional interference that is the best I can hope to do. Poseidonis has been badly affected by their battle to return.

"Badly how?" Plasticman inquired.

Their magic was tapped by the sorcerer -

"Mordru," Green Lantern supplied, triggering a sense of surprise over the net.

Yes. How-?

"Deadman has informed us," Batman relayed, simultaneously opening his memory along his personal link to J'onn. He heard a little oh from his lover, but when J'onn's voice returned to the net, it was all business.

Mordru's tap on the magic made possible the desalination of the oceans. It was a gambit to stop the return of Poseidonis - for every bit of water they sent through, so much salt would be removed from the ocean and used to poison Earth's fresh water supply. The Atlantean mages pressed forward until they realized they couldn't beat the clock, but now their own envelope of water is dangerously depleted.

The pocket in which Tempest teleported them was large enough to be self-sustaining. Now, even with conservation measures in place, it is doubtful that Poseidonis can hang on form longer than four days at the outside.

"Four days," Superman echoed. "And if we try to bring them back, Mordru and company destroy the Earth. If we attack their stronghold, they sacrifice hostages and unleash nasty magic and possibly destroy the world. If we leave the situation alone, we lose Poseidonis and the hostages and they'll continue to build strength."

"Unless they can destroy you first," Deadman added. "They'd much rather destroy the JLA and have the Earth as their playground. And the sacrifice of one of you might be enough to bring Mordru back into this plane."

"Did you catch that, J'onn?"

Batman relayed it.

"Y'know, it's not like Prometheus couldn't manage to make a sacrifice out of one of us," Flash pointed out. "We needed Catwoman to defeat him."

"And Arthur," Plasticman pointed out. "Same deal on the Centurian, except then it was that Moon Maiden chick and Aquaman."

"You weren't here for that one," Green Lantern objected.

Plasticman morphed into a cartoonish wolf. "I checked the archives. She was a hottie."

A speculative look crossed Kyle's face before Superman's voice snapped him back to attention.

"We're going to need a plan, and we're definitely going to need Zatanna and Tempest. J'onn how soon can you teleport up?"

There was just enough pause to send anxious looks around the table, and when the reply came it was Zatanna rather than J'onn. We'll need at least twenty minutes.

"Tempest?" Wally asked uncertainly.

Twenty minutes, Zatanna reiterated.

"We will have the new data ready for review when you arrive," Batman promised without inflection. He felt the tightening of J'onn's link to him as J'onn struggled to soothe Tempest's mind and wished fleetingly that he could be physically present at his side. He shoved the thought aside as Deadman entered the monitor womb.

"I think I can pinpoint their stronghold," Deadman reported with Fire's voice.

Batman nodded once and pulled up a map of Tibet. "Let's begin."

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