All's Fair, part 9

by Chicago

Disclaimers in "part 0"



There were too many names, too many sensations. Pleasures mixed too intensely with pain - joy of victory twisted into the touch of hands, of lips, melding with smiles of acceptance, of true friendship, of mere nods of approval that sent swelling pride through his body to meet the slaps of rejection, the cold of exile, the snapping of bones, the burning of lungs. They wouldn't back off, wouldn't wait their turn to be felt. He struggled against the tide of his mind, rising with tsunami force to play against every nerve. What was memory and what was now? Who was now, in all those voices, all those names? If he just knew who-

Tempest.

He gasped, clinging tightly to this raft battered in the storm. His name now, he understood. Not Aqualad. Not Doomchild. Those were earlier - not now. He fought to identify the sensations tied to each name, to submerge everything that wasn't Tempest. The vicious whirlpool of memory began to subside.

Tempest, Ambassador of Atlantis, father of Cerdian...

Cerdian! His son - he had a son. Being a father was new, and the cares and wisdom of fatherhood swam forward, marking the recent past. The rest began to quell itself, not settled, but also not now, not in the moment, happening simultaneously with all his life.

Tempest, you are near to the beacon in the Atlantic Corridor.

A moment of searing agony as he relived the explosion of the probe, the desperate gambit to save the city of Poseidonis - then it too washed into memory, off the surface of the moment. The pain, though - useful. Where it was with him was very close to now. Other sensations drifted back.

Tempest.

This time the voice had more of a demanding quality, and he realized it wasn't his voice. Someone was helping him, anchoring him...

I am here, Tempest.

Who? The purple haze of memory began to eddy and clear. A JLA mission. A chance to recover Poseidonis. A meeting near the beacon. An attempt to - he breathed deeply and mentally reached for the anchor in his mind. J'onn, he identified.

He felt a flood of relief from the point of stillness in his still unquiet mind. He let the sensation flow over him, resting into it. As he did so, he became aware of his body cradled in gentle arms and the pressure of the ocean cocooning him. With an effort, he opened his eyes.

The filtered light through the water was green enough that it took him a moment to pick J'onn out, floating just in front of him with a faint smile on his face. It worked, the Martian projected, answering the unasked question that had leapt to the forefront of Tempest's mind.

Are they okay? he asked urgently, relief and worry mingling.

They are alive. Take a moment to recover yourself, and I will explain.

J'onn's words had the force of an order, and Tempest found he couldn't raise the anxiety he felt he should feel. Instead he leaned back into the arms around him, letting the currents stirred by passing sea creatures caress his face. Then he sat up abruptly, twisting to see who held him. "Zatanna!" he exclaimed, wincing as his voice at surface volume echoed in his ears. "How - you shouldn't -"

Shh, she soothed over the telepathic link. My magic protects me.

He looked at her warily. You aren't using your magic.

She smiled. I am. And J'onn, I think that answers our question. There was a hint of triumph in her tone.

What question? What's -

Calm, Tempest. Again, it felt like an order, and he could feel J'onn's voice forestalling the rise of the raw emotions of Tempest's sorted but undealt with memories. Your feelings will be tangled and close to the surface for some time. You must strive for calm so they do not overwhelm you.

Tempest swallowed and nodded, understanding. He took a moment to center himself and found he couldn't - not in the way he had been trained. The training itself flew up at him, rocking his equilibrium and forcing him to again grasp for J'onn's solid presence in his mind. He paused to catch his breath. You did warn me, he finally admitted wryly.

And you did open the way for me to speak to Orin, J'onn returned. Zatanna was experimenting with her magic, seeing whether you would sense it if she exercised it through my telepathy. That you did not gives us some hope of rescuing Poseidonis.

Rescuing? They are in - Tempest stopped, forcing himself to release his alarm before a crippling wave of emotion could crash over him.

You were wise, J'onn began, noting Tempest's self-control with a reassuring brush of approval, to teleport Poseidonis within a self-sustaining portion of the ocean. It has kept them safe as they sought to find a way to return.

Tempest nodded, allowing this information to assuage his guilt rather than focusing on the "but" that he knew was coming.

The mages of Poseidonis figured out how to undo your teleportation, Zatanna stepped in, and they began using their magic to do so. They succeeded in returning some portion of the ocean before their magic was tapped by another source.

The desalination, Tempest considered, focusing on logically understanding what had happened and struggling to keep his worry contained. When Orin realized that the Earth was threatened because someone was tapping into the magic, he must have ordered them to cease and desist.

Yes, J'onn confirmed. A heavy decision for the crown. Poseidonis can no longer sustain itself where it is, but given the choice between the city and the rest of the world?

Tempest closed his eyes, struggling to force back memories that accompanied the wash of pride and worry that swelled in him. A fragment of some forgotten comprehension settled into his mind, the realization not so long ago that where Orin's subjects must see their king as decisive and right-minded, Garth had been a needed target for the bottled uncertainty that raged in Aquaman. He would need that understanding later, to make sense of the jumble in his mind, but for now he used it as a net to hold things in place, to free himself to think more clearly. But there is hope?

We will need to consult with the rest of the team to be certain, but yes, Zatanna's discovery gives us something to work with.

Shielding magic with telepathy, Tempest considered. I can-

Wait, Tempest, Zatanna advised, giving his arm a squeeze. She nodded toward J'onn. Let's port up.

Tempest fought the urge to scream impatiently. They had a chance for a rescue! Again there was J'onn's touch to his mind. Calm, he reminded him. Youthful frustration will settle back into its place in time.

Tempest latched on to the soothing voice. Can you-? he asked in a small voice.

I won't leave, J'onn reassured, and Tempest relaxed as the familiar sensation of the teleporter caught him.

He clung tightly to J'onn's mental support as he stepped free of the teleport tubes, unprepared for the cacaphony of memories attached to the Watchtower. He blinked away the encroaching lavender greyness as a familiar voice greeted, "Hey, Gillhead. Lookin' a bit seasick."

"Wally," Garth breathed, equilibrium returning as his friend clapped a hand on his shoulder. The concern in Wally's eyes almost made him weep.

"Most of the crew is in the conference room planning a sneak attack on Everest," the Flash informed them, already leading them down the hall. "They're trying to cut the outside time estimates down." He shot a worried look at Tempest, and Garth realized that Poseidonis must be gasping already. Again he anchored to J'onn's steadying presence in his mind, fighting resentment at how debilitated he felt.

It'll ease in time, J'onn reminded again even as he began speaking aloud. "We may have found a way to bring Poseidonis back under their radar," he reported.

"Really? Man, that's good news. The best stealth team we can come up with is you, me, Batman and Atom, and -"

"J'onn!"

Tempest started as they entered the conference room and Fire rushed forward to hug the Martian. Almost as quickly, Superman was at his side.

"Are you all right, Tempest?"

Garth nodded. "Not 100%, but I'm still in this one," he replied.

"Zatanna, good," Batman's voice interrupted. "We have succeeded in isolating the stronghold on Everest. We could use your assessment of their magical defenses."

"Batman, wait. J'onn said-"

"A moment, Wallace," J'onn interrupted, leading Fire to a chair at the table and keeping a hand on her shoulder. "Continue, Zatanna."

Tempest stared at J'onn, utterly bewildered. There was a way to save Poseidonis-

"Wohs secnefed!" Zatanna barked at the snowy sattelite feed. She furrowed her brow for a moment, then tried, "Wohs noitceted serusaem." She glanced at Tempest and J'onn, then directed her attention to Batman.

"Mordru must not have sway in this dimension," she remarked. "There's no spells in place."

"And the technology interface wouldn't interfere with your sense of them?" Superman asked.

A hint of a smirk crossed Zatanna's face. "Just gives me a focus - magic is easy enough to sense if you know to look for it."

"No spells," Batman mused. "So it's not likely that they will have a way to pick up superhuman activity. That opens up the strike team a bit. J'onn, you and Superman-"

"No," J'onn cut him off. Tempest was surprised that Batman merely fell into an anticipating silence, his face expressionless and not radiating any disapproval.

It was Superman who asked, "J'onn?"

"If there are no magical defenses there, then Zatanna is free to help Tempest and I recover Poseidonis."

A corner of Batman's mouth quirked, but Tempest found he couldn't focus on why in the cascading emotion that followed this announcement.

"What?"

"What about-"

"Can you-"

J'onn held up a stilling hand. "We will need to contact Steel. And we will need someone here to coordinate the teams." He gave Batman a significant look. "We will still need a strike force on the mountain -" Tempest noted that at this J'onn's hand on Fire's shoulder tightened - "but I think our options have opened up a great deal."



back to previous partend part 9next part

Return to Chicago's Library