Too Many Long Boxes!
   
   

End of Summer
 
JLA/Titans: Invasion!
by Syl Francis

Chapter Twenty-Four

Illogical! Illogical! All of the biological life-forms had escaped. The AI's sensors reported that they had returned to their ship. The AI concluded that the only solution would be to expel the alien ship from the bay that it currently occupied and destroy it.

The AI ran an analysis program. Previous efforts to eject the ship had been met with resistance. Somehow, the smaller ship had remained firmly anchored to its current spot when the bay had been depressurized.

Conclusion: Reverse tactics!

The AI's systems seem to glow with new life…


"Don't you dare try to get up!" Robin ordered. "Or I'll strap you down!"

Kid Flash looked at his friend in shock. How could Robin talk to Batman like that?

His eyes closed, Batman's mouth twitched weakly. "You'd better show some respect," he murmured, "or I'll give you a spanking."

Robin gave him a wicked grin. "Oh, yeah? You and what Army? Look at you! You can't even hold your head up without help."

Batman nodded imperceptibly. "Okay, partner," he said faintly. "You're in charge…" He swallowed, struggling to maintain consciousness. "The codes…still have to…give you…the codes…"

Batman fell into a deep sleep.

"What did he mean about codes, Robbie?" Kid Flash asked.

Robin shrugged. "I'm not sure, Twinkletoes. We were in the middle of reprogramming the alien ship's AI when everything hit, remember?"

Kid Flash nodded. How he could forget?

"Maybe he's talking about the program we were working on," Robin mused, "although, I thought we'd finished it." He shrugged and started heading forward to the Command Center. "Well, we can't worry about it right now. We've gotta get the Avenger outta here, first. We're a sitting duck, and it's just a matter of time before the alien decides to bring the battle directly to us."

Kid Flash opened his mouth to reply, but was interrupted by a series of jolts against the ship's hull. The boys were slammed against the bulkheads with bone-jarring force! Robin's acrobatic training helped him maintain his balance as he continued forward at a run.

"Report!" he ordered sharply as he entered the Command Center. Wonder Girl was running a systems diagnostic.

Not looking up, she replied, "We're being hit by unidentified solid objects approximately weighing-in at a ton or more…the size of large houses!"

"Single or multiple family?" Kid Flash sniggered.

"Shut up, Twinkletoes!" both WG and Robin barked. Frowning, Kid Flash took his station at the ship's sensors. Aqualad and Speedy soon joined them at navigation and weapons, respectively.

"Looks like the gang's all here!" Kid Flash called. He was immediately assailed by his teammates' rebukes:

"Shut up, Twinkletoes!"

"--Fleetfeet!"

"--Hayseed!"

"--Flasheroo!"

Kid Flash's face fell at the verbal assault. "Hey, don't take it personally, Kid," Green Arrow quietly advised. "The other JLAers are always telling me to shut up, too. It don't mean nothing."

Kid Flash looked at GA a bit uncertainly, but in the end his own sunny personality won out and he turned back, smiling, to his station. His smile didn't last long, however.

The Avenger was suddenly rocked with a ground shaking whump! The interior lights flickered and all ship's systems went momentarily offline.

"Another one like that, and we're toast!" muttered Robin. "We're getting out of here, Titans! Wonder Girl--! Engine start up procedures!"

"Check!"

"Aqualad--! Plot a course that'll take us approximately one AU from the alien!"

"Aye, aye, Skipper!"

Shaking his head, but not bothering to comment on Aqualad's silliness, Robin addressed Kid Flash.

"Flasheroo--! Sensors--forward and aft. Report any anomalies, ASAP!"

"Gotcha, Robbie!"

"Speedy--! Stand-by weapons--! Monitor shields…report any weaknesses to WG!"

"Roger!"

"Okay, Titans…here we go!"

Robin disengaged the Avenger's magnetic grapplers, which acted as the ship's 'anchors,' holding the ship firmly to its berth. He activated the anti-gravs in order to maneuver in the relatively enclosed space of the alien's giant cargo bay. Bringing the Avenger about, Robin was about to engage the forward thrusters, when the Titans were startled by a new threat!

"Robbie!" WG shouted. "The doors! They're closing!"

"Suffering swordfish! We'll never make it!"

"Don't bet on it, Gill-head," Robin muttered through gritted teeth. Not daring to power up the warp drive in the enclosed space, Robin fired the impeller engines. The Titans were instantly thrust backwards on their seats as the powerful thrusters suddenly threw them forward towards the steadily closing doors.

GA stood in the rear of the command section. It took almost all his iron will to keep a solid grip on the handholds he'd grabbed onto as soon as Robin fired the engines. While seeming outwardly calm, inside, GA's emotions were churning.

The kid'll never make it, he thought.

GA bit down on his tongue to keep from speaking up. This was the Titans' play. He was just along for the ride.

"Speedy--! Ready weapons!"

"Weapons ready!"

"Fire!" The Avenger's powerful particle beams shot forward, dead center at the steadily closing doors. Two red-hot scars began forming where Speedy aimed the deadly beams. The red quickly turned to white, which in turn became blue-white.

Robin felt beads of sweat poring down his forehead. They were almost to the doors.

"Distance to impact--!" reported Kid Flash. "500 meters…400 meters…300…200…Robbie, we're gonna hit--!!"

It wasn't working! The particle beams were proving ineffective against whatever material the doors were made of.

"100 meters to impact! Robbie--!"

The doors continued closing relentlessly…

Abruptly, Robin spun the Avenger, 180 degrees on her x-axis.

"Cease fire!" he barked. He expertly brought the Avenger about to her former berth. "Activate magnetic grapplers--"

"Magnetic grapplers--activated!" Wonder Girl reported.

Robin disengaged the impeller drive, and slowly brought the Avenger back to rest.


"So what do we do now?" asked Speedy.

"We break out," Robin said. They all looked at him, but he was busy running a systems check. "WG, bring up the handshake program." Wonder Girl looked at him in surprise, then did as ordered.

"Flasheroo, remember that little thing you did earlier up at the Forward Command Center with the computer program?" Robin asked the question as if he were only half-listening to what he himself was saying.

Kid Flash nodded, then realizing that Robin wasn't looking at him, answered. "Yeah, I remember."

"Good. I need your speed."

Kid Flash was next to him immediately. "I want you to look at this pattern," Robin said. "Now I want you go through every letter/number/symbol substitute that you can think of until you make those doors go 'open sesame'. Got it?"

Kid Flash looked at him seriously. "Yeah, no prob." He shrugged. "But it'll take a while," he added.

"I know," Robin acknowledged. "Flasheroo, this is important…When you think you've hit on the right combination, don't, I repeat, don't, open the doors. It'll tip our hand."

Kid Flash froze. "But--? If I can't try to open them in order to test the program, how will I know that I've succeeded?"

Robin looked confidently at his friend. "You'll know, Flasheroo." He turned to Wonder Girl. "WG, I'll need you to get the Avenger ready and primed for take off the second I say, 'Go!'"

"But, Robbie, what are you going to do?"

"The rest of us are going on a little 'magical mystery tour'," he said enigmatically. "And Aqualad here is our tour guide."

Aqualad smiled, understanding dawning in his violet eyes.

"Let's go!" Robin ordered, heading towards the infirmary.


"Can you do it?" Robin asked anxiously. Aqualad gazed at him with serious violet eyes.

"It is not a question of whether I can do it, Robin. It's a question of whether you will allow me to. Your mind shields are exceptionally strong. I believe that it would require someone much more powerful than I to willfully break through them. However, if you voluntarily let your shields down, it should not be a problem."

Robin looked helplessly at his friend and teammate. "But how can do that? I didn't even know that I had these 'shields' in place before you told me."

"Do you trust me?" Aqualad asked. "Do you trust us?" His question took in the others who were gathered round. Robin looked first at Speedy, then at Green Arrow. He swallowed. He looked back at Speedy. The junior archer was giving him a steady look. Robin held Speedy's eyes a moment longer.

He slowly nodded. "Yeah, I trust you. With my life." He looked at Batman and Green Lantern. "With all our lives."

Speedy responded with a slow grin. "Okay, then, Bird-boy! Let's do it!"


"Awaken…!"

Robin snapped awake. He looked around. The shadows caressed him, protected him. Comfortable in his element, he began walking carefully, stealthily. He stopped.

He was on a tight rope that spanned across the empty space into the deeper gloom beyond. He walked in the shadows afforded by the endless stalactites that surrounded him.

"He does that quite well, doesn't he, sir?"

"He should, Alfred. He's been doing it since before he was born. Isn't that so, Dick?"

Dick grinned. His mom and dad used to go up on the high wire and trapeze while she was still carrying him, in order to prepare their unborn baby for the life of a circus aerialist…


The scene shifted.

Dick inexplicably found himself in the middle of the Batcave's vast training room. Alfred stood in his usual staid manner, holding a silver tray laden with two tall glasses of iced water with a lemon twist.

Bruce was demonstrating yet another strength hold on the rings.

"Kid stuff," Dick pshawed. "I thought you were going to teach me stuff I didn't know."

"You'd better show some respect," Bruce threatened, "or I'll give you a spanking."

"Oh, yeah," Dick giggled, racing for a rope, and rapidly climbing it to the Batcave's highest reaches. "You and what army? Look at you…you're slower'n Maggie, the Tattooed Lady."

"That does it! You can run…but you can't hide!" Bruce said, swinging over and beginning the chase. "I am the World's Greatest Detective, you know!"

"Oooh…I guess, here's where you strike fear into the hearts of criminals, right?" Dick giggled again as he dived off the impossible heights he'd reached.

"Sir--!" Alfred warned, dropping his tray.

"Dick--! Don't--!"

Dick calmly reached out a hand for one of the rings that Bruce had been using, and with a sure grip stopped his dizzying descent. With a twist and a flourish, he landed on the mat below, both arms held up.

"See, kid stuff…!"


He blinked. The scene had shifted again.

He was sitting on a stool, a warming blanket around him. He was looking up at his new mentor and guardian with a look of incomprehension.

"Son, you're not ready for that kind of stunt!" Bruce said.

"But you yourself said that I've been doing this since before I was born--!"

"That was just a figure of speech! Look, I'm not even sure about this whole sidekick bit, either." Bruce knelt before him and held him by both his arms. "You're still just a kid…and…" he struggled with his churning emotions. "You've become very important to me, son. I couldn't bear to lose you…"


This time, he took control of the shift.

"You said we were partners," Dick reminded him quietly. "Partners trust each other. Bruce…you've gotta learn to trust me. You trained me, remember? A guy couldn't ask for a better teacher. I'm not a little kid anymore…Look at me, Bruce! Look at me!"

Batman slowly turned around and looked at his young partner, who stood proudly before him in a spotlight, wearing his Robin costume. He was surrounded by shadowy figures outside the circle of light…Batman squinted to focus on them, but they were too hazy for him to make out.

"I know you can't really see them, Batman, but these are my friends…our friends. The Titans and GA. I'm the Titans' leader, Batman. They trust me, and I trust them. Just like I trust you, with my life. I've got a job to do, Batman, and I need your help. But you're unconscious right now, and I had to use Aqualad's help to contact you."

"You mean mind-to-mind?" Batman's demeanor became instantly cold, withdrawn.

"Like I said, I trust them. With my life. With our lives. Aqualad assured me that anything that was personal, anything that had to with our lives that I didn't want them to know about, he and the others wouldn't see. And I know they won't…because I have my friend's word on it…Do you trust me?"

Batman nodded. "Go on. What do you need?"

"The codes, sir. You're the only one who knows them. I need to reprogram the alien ship so that it'll stop this senseless war against Earth…"


"Welcome to the Emerald City," Speedy quipped.

"Hey, where'd everybody go?" GA asked.

"Oh, they're around," Speedy assured him. "You just can't see them."

GA nodded. "Oh. Well, looks like we're definitely not in Kansas anymore. Gotta say, though…I kinda like the color scheme."

Speedy snorted. "Yeah, you and GL would make a great team, Ollie. Mister By-the-Book and Mister Non-Conformist!"

"And why would I want another partner when I've got you, eh, kid?" GA asked. Speedy looked at him expecting a punch line. When none was forthcoming, he smiled inwardly. "Come on, kid," GA said clapping his junior partner on the shoulder. "Let's go find our so-called Emerald Knight. "


The deep gloom of the Batcave was gone. Robin looked around. Everything was green!

"Guess we're not in Kan--"

"--Don't say it," Aqualad interrupted. Robin looked at him nonplussed. "Sorry. It's just that I've heard that same line too many times already."

"Oh." Robin looked around. "Where're Speedy and GA?"

"Oh, they're here," Aqualad assured him. "You just can't see them." At Robin's look, he explained. "I'm in mind contact with you, and Speedy is in mind contact with GA. And, of course, Speedy and I are in contact with each other. I can see them and Speedy can us, but you can't see them and GA can't see us."

"How come?" Robin was genuinely curious. Aqualad shrugged.

"It's just easier. Like I said…your mind shields are very powerful. It's taking a lot more concentration on my part than normal to keep you in the link. But I'm not a powerful enough esper to link you with the others. So…"

"So, I'll have to trust you that the others are actually there."

"Correct."

"Um, will I at least be able to see GL when we find him?"

"Of course. This is his dream after all. He'll be able to see us all. And I wouldn't at all doubt it that once we find him, or his consciousness, we'll all be able to see each other."

Robin shrugged. "Then let's go."

"Speedy says to remind you that he'll have to relay our conversations to GA and vice versa."

Robin sighed. "Oh, this is just turning out to be perfect." However, he nodded and looked at Aqualad as if to say, 'Lead on.'


The attacks on the Avenger started again. Wonder Girl kept the outer shields on maximum and even tried to anticipate the attacks by adjusting the shields accordingly. After one particularly violent attack, which threw the systems offline, she vented her growing frustration.

"Okay, I've had just about enough!" she hissed. Kid Flash looked up her.

"WG, the power…can you get it back on? I don't know how long the work I've already done will last with the power gone!"

"Hold on a sec," she muttered. She checked several of her instruments, and still agitated she slammed her fist on the panel. It went through the metal plate!

"Whoa…" Kid Flash whispered.

Wonder Girl dropped her eyes in shame. "I am sorry, Wally. Now I really have to fix it."

"Hey no prob," he answered. "I'm good at puzzles, remember? Show me a diagram and I'll have it fixed in no time!" Wonder Girl smiled gratefully at him.

The Avenger was suddenly rocked again.

"That's it!" she yelled. "I'm going out there and I'm going to put an end to this nonsense!"

"But Robbie said--"

"I know what Robbie said! To get the Avenger ready for takeoff! Well, I can't do that as long I'm being pelted with house-sized boulders!"

"But, WG, the bay is still depressurized… my powers are useless in a vacuum."

"But mine aren't. Don't forget, I'm an Amazon," she said a bit imperiously. "I can survive under extreme conditions. All I need is an oxygen mask, and I'll be okay."

"Uh…I don't think that's such a good idea, Donna. Robbie isn't gonna like this…"

"Robbie's not here, remember? And I'm in charge. I'm going out there."

At that moment they were rocked by a powerful ~whump~! And all systems went down.


"Ollie! What a pleasure!" GL called. Robin's eyes seemed to open. He saw Speedy and GA for the first time. Speedy waved 'hello.'

"Hal, how're you doing, buddy?" GA replied. He sat down on a chaise lounge next to GL's. Olive, the exotic waitress, was instantly at his side. "Um, whatever he's having," he said indicating GL.

"Mighty decent of you to show, Ollie," GL said sincerely. "The kids were by here earlier, but couldn't quite get through my defenses. Strong will and all, you know." He shrugged.

GA nodded, only half-understanding. "GL, we need that strong will of yours just about now. We need your ring. We need you. Whatever's troubling you, buddy, you've gotta fight it--" he was interrupted by Olive bringing him his drink. He looked at its 'greenness' and grimaced. Shrugging he took a sip. His grimace deepened. "What is this stuff…? Tastes like green honey!"

He put it down on a table that appeared out of nowhere.

Robin meanwhile was watching everything through fascinated eyes. The landscape kept changing around them. One second they were in a green alpine mountain lodge, the next they were in a Hansel and Gretal hunter-green forest. Momentarily, they were on a beach with miles of endless green sand.

"I don't believe this," he muttered. As soon as the words were out of his mouth, the scene began to blur, to phase out, like a monitor that was badly in need of tuning. He blinked and shook his head at the same time.

The 'picture' was suddenly clear and stabilized.

"Did you see that?" he asked.

"See what?" Speedy asked.

Aqualad was nodding thoughtfully. "It makes sense. When we first arrived here in 'Greenland,' Speedy didn't believe what he saw, either. It took awhile to get him to accept what he saw and work with it. Perhaps, that was the wrong approach…perhaps, what we should be doing is strengthen our disbelief."

Robin nodded thoughtfully. Getting an idea, he cleared his throat. GL and GA looked up.

"Excuse me, GL, but we really don't have a whole lotta time. We left Wonder Girl and Kid Flash alone in the Avenger and you and Batman are both lying unconscious in the infirmary. The alien armada is still attacking the Earth, and the mother ship is determined to destroy us. Like it or not, GL you're the only one of us powerful enough to stop it. We need you to break out of this little Green Paradise setup you've got here."

"Look, kid, like I told the other Titans, I've tried, but--"

"Coward--" Robin interrupted, coldly. The others looked at him in shock.

GL smiled uncertainly. "Kid, I swear, I've tried--"

"Loser…you're nothing but a born loser! Batman told me about you…how you totaled your jeep and killed your passenger…"

GL jumped to his feet. "That was an accident--!"

"You were drunk! You were feeling sorry for yourself…just like you're doing now. What happened? Turned down by Space Command, wasn't it?" Robin crossed his arms, smirking. "A loser, a coward, and a drunk! Not to mention a murderer. No wonder you can't wake up. If I were you, I wouldn't want to wake up either!"

GA studied Robin a moment longer, then turned to his teammate. "What Robin just said true, Lantern? Were you responsible for someone's death, because you were drunk?"

GL shook his head in hot denial, but the tears were streaming nevertheless. He fell slowly to his knees. "It was an accident…I didn't mean it--! Please--! Stop it! Stop it!"

"Look at this place, GL," Robin harangued. "If it weren't so ludicrous, it'd be pathetic. A green cocoon to curl up and die in…"

GL was immediately surrounded by a 'green cocoon.'

Robin was momentarily stopped by the sudden shift, but then continued with his cruel litany.

"Well, I don't believe in this place! Do you hear me? We are not in some wild, peppermint-colored world. We're in the middle of a space battle, and you, like it or not, are a member of the JLA--the World's Greatest Heroes!"

The landscape seemed to fizzle and snap temporarily, but then came back, stronger than ever.

Robin stopped, breathing raggedly. GL was curled up on the side of his chair, weeping incessantly. Robin didn't know if he could go on. The more upset GL became, the stronger the green landscape seemed to become. He looked at Aqualad for help. Aqualad picked up where Robin had left off.

"Perhaps Aquaman was wrong about you," he said tentatively. "He has been known to make mistakes before in assessing a person's character. But even so, Arthur knows what is important, and he knows what he must do when Atlantis is in danger. He is the King after all. He does his duty…You are the Green Lantern of Earth. You have a duty to your people, to us, to yourself." He paused. "I know that you are not a coward, GL. Or at least, the GL I know is not a coward…nor a loser."

"That's where you're wrong, Gill-head," Speedy broke in. "I say we're wasting our time. Let the loser cower here under his little 'green blanket' forever…" A green blanket suddenly appeared around GL's shaking shoulders. "We need to get back and help Wonder Doll and Twinkletoes. This guy's useless."

"Yeah, useless…look at this place. He can't even keep it steady. It keeps phasing in and out," GA added. "What's the matter, Hal…can't keep up the illusion without our help? That's it, isn't it? If we don't believe in it, you can't hold it up. Well, I for one don't believe in it. I think that you're just afraid to wake up because you're afraid of failure. You've failed so many times in the past, that now, when the JLA is faced with our first real threat to Earth, you're too chicken to do what you've sworn to do."

GA turned away in disgust. "Well, like Speedy here said…we don't have time for this. We have a world to save. You can cower here in your little green world and fight off your little green demons. And I pray that when you do finally wake up, you can live with yourself…'cause I know I sure won't want to have anything to do with you."

Even as he said the words, GA knew that they came from the heart. Perhaps a few minutes ago, it had all been a ploy to get GL to wake up and stand on his own two feet, but there was too much at stake. At the moment all he felt was disgust.

"No…please, don't leave. I-I'm trying, Ollie…I swear. It's just that…it hurts so much. And he keeps taking over…he's waiting to taking over. I'm not sure how much longer I can fight him off."

"Who, GL?" Robin asked. "Who are you talking about?"

"Awwww…can it, Robbie," Speedy said in disgust. "That's the sign line of horse feathers he tried to feed me'n Gill-head here earlier. Let's go…the guy's not a hero…he's just a big zero!"

~YOU ARE RIGHT! HAL JORDAN IS NOTHING BUT A LOSER! TELL ME…WHY DO YOU PUT UP WITH HIM?~

They all looked up to the sound of the new voice. Another Green Lantern hovered in mid-air above them. He looked like a slightly older version of GL, with gray streaks along the temples, his costume a bit different. Nevertheless, the lantern emblem figured prominently on his chest.

~GREETINGS! THE NAME IS HAL JORDAN…BUT YOU MAY CALL ME PARALLAX!~


"WG, are you sure?"

Wonder Girl continued to put on the exo-suit. She nodded a bit distractedly. She didn't really need the suit, but Kid Flash had insisted, otherwise he threatened that he'd go with her.

Finished, she turned to him. "It's the only way, Wally." They looked at each other. They were standing in pitch darkness. The incessant pounding along the hull had finally brought down all systems. They were running on temporary life-support and emergency lights only.

"Everyone's depending on us. I've got to stop the attack, and you have to bring the ship's systems back up. I'm the best 'person' for the job to meet the enemy hand to hand, and you're the best 'man' to fix the systems at super speed. You know that."

Kid Flash nodded unhappily.

"Let's go," she said. They headed for the ship's airlock. At the heavy hatch, Wonder Girl stopped and turned to face Kid Flash. She suddenly hugged him.

"Take care, Donna," he whispered, fiercely. She turned and headed quickly into the airlock.

Kid Flash closed the outer hatch and locked it down. Wonder Girl smiled from inside the hatch, then she shut the inner hatch. Kid Flash heard the lock as it fell in place. He zipped to the Command Center and began running the necessary systems diagnostics at supersonic speed.

Within moments, the pounding started again…


"Parallax?" GA asked. "Who the hell are you?"

~"I AM HAL JORDAN…OR RATHER HAL JORDAN IS ME. OR HE WILL BE!"~

"No!!!" GL cried, standing up defiantly. "I'm not you!" As soon as GL stood, his swimming trunks and flowered shirt were replaced by his familiar Green Lantern costume.

~"THEN WHY DO YOU HIDE AND COWER WHEN YOU ENCOUNTER ME? WHAT HAVE YOU TO FEAR? YOU ARE MY YIN…I AM YOUR YANG…YOUR DARK SIDE…THE SIDE OF YOU WHO RAGED AGAINST THE POWERS THAT BE WHEN YOU WERE PASSED OVER FOR THE ASTRONAUT PROGRAM…THE SIDE OF YOU WHO DESPISES CAROL FERRIS AND HER COLD SUPERIORITY…THE SIDE OF YOU WHO CHAFES UNDER THE GUARDIANS OF OA AND THEIR INSIPID INTERERENCE ON YOUR SECTOR OF SPACE…YOUR PLANET!"~

"No…I didn't deserve to be passed over, but Space Command did what it thought best for the program. I couldn't challenge it…they did what they thought was right. And Carol…I love her, I don't hate her…you don't know what you're talking about. And the Guardians…they're my friends and my teachers. They have the galaxy's best interests at heart. They're good Beings…I don't resent them."

~"MAYBE YOU DON'T, BUT I DO! AND SINCE I AM YOU, MY RESENTMENT IS EATING AWAY AT YOU, AND YOU CAN'T HANDLE IT!" Parallax looked at GL with undisguised contempt. By then the Emerald Knight was levitated next to his doppelganger. ~"BY THE COSMOS…YOU ARE A LOSER! EVEN THE CHILDREN CAN SEE IT."~

"No!" Robin shouted. "Don't let him win, GL! You're not a coward or a loser! You're Green Lantern of Earth! One of the world's greatest heroes, and I'm proud to know you!"

"The kid's right, buddy," GA called. "You're a real hero in my eyes. Maybe you do have cause to feel a might resentful for being treated unfairly, but I've never known you to willingly hurt anyone. If your passenger was killed because you were drinking, then I know you've already taken responsibility for it, and it's a guilt that'll never go away. But you've acknowledged it, and you've faced it. I'm proud to be your teammate, and I'll be proud to continue working with you."

~"OH LISTEN TO THE LITTLE PEOPLE AND HOW THEY DO GO ON,"~ Parallax scoffed. He looked at the heroes on the ground and an emerald beam shot out from his chest. The Titans and GA scrambled for cover.

"What are you doing?" shouted GL flying to avoid being hit.

~"GETTING RID OF THE PESTS…THEY ANNOY ME."~

"No…! They're my friends!" GL shouted, aiming his ring and powerful will at the evil imposter. "I won't let you destroy them! I won't let you destroy me!"

~"TOO LATE, HAL…I'M ALREADY TOO MUCH A PART OF YOU. YOU WON'T GET RID OF ME SO EASILY."~

Parallax turned on GL and aimed the full brunt of his emerald beam at his mirror self.

The two emerald beams met in mid-trajectory: GL's ring versus Parallax's chest emblem's beam.

GL began reciting his oath, drawing strength from the familiar words…

"In brightest day--"

As they fought above them, the Titans and GA weren't idle.

"In blackest night--"

"Speedy!" Robin called. The junior archer looked up from where he'd dove for cover. Robin spotted him and sprinted towards him. As he slid to a stop, he quickly removed his yellow cape.

"No evil--"

"You think you can--?"

"You kidding? Hand it here, leader man!" Speedy quickly selected a special arrow from his quiver, hooked Robin's cape to the tip, took careful aim, and let fly!

"--Shall escape my sight."

"Aqualad, your esper powers…can you control the arrow's flight?" Robin called.

"Let those who worship evil's might--"

"I will try, Robin," Aqualad said and began to concentrate. As Robin watched, Speedy's carefully aimed arrow wobbled a bit and disappeared!

"Beware my power--"

Before Robin could blink in surprise, the arrow reappeared immediately above Parallax's head. The hook suddenly released Robin's cape and it fell over the evil twin's head, billowing in a shroud over his lantern emblem, and quickly wrapping itself tightly around him. Robin could swear that his cape had actually grown in length!

Caught unawares, Parallax struggled against the surprise attack.

"Green Lantern's light--!"

GL's full measure of will power took over. Since this was his dream, his emerald ring suddenly held dominance over the color yellow. As happened before with Kid Flash, the usual physical laws were no longer in effect.

"You are not me! And I sure as hell am not you! You're some kind of feverish monster brought on by the alien's torture machine, and I'm sending you back to where you belong… the darkest recesses of my sub-conscious, where the only harm you'll ever cause is a bad nightmare after too much spicy chili!"

As they watched, Parallax slowly started to fade, becoming first transparent, and then beginning to shrink. As he shrank and faded further, Parallax continued struggling against Robin's cape; however, GL's emerald beam and will power kept him firmly in place.

Finally, he disappeared completely.

Robin's cape fell into his hands…


Wonder Girl leaped out of the way of yet another missile while smashing another into atoms. She was growing weary of the game. And her inner frustration was increasing exponentially.

"Okay, Mister Ship…I've just about had it," she muttered. "I've taken all I can stand, and I can't stand no more!" She paused. "Donna, you've got to stop watching cartoons with Wally."

As another boulder-sized object careened towards her, Wonder Girl flew up to it, matched its speed and trajectory, and 'caught' it. Her powerful hands gripped the object tightly, and emulating a pitcher's windup, she reached back, and threw it back with all the force she could muster.

When it hit, she felt the entire ship shudder from the impact. She dusted her hands in satisfaction, but didn't have time to indulge in celebration for long,
as the boulder-sized objects began flying at ever-faster rates.

Looking around quickly for something to help her, Wonder Girl suddenly spotted the support beams that ran along the length of the open bay. An idea instantly formed. She flew to one, and taking a firm hold of it, pulled it from its foundations.

Lifting it easily, she soon flew back to the middle of the bay, and hovered halfway to the ceiling rafters. Holding the gigantic beam like a bat, she waited for the next assault…


Kid Flash zoomed through the Avenger flipping switches, connecting wires, rewiring circuits, and tracing the movement of charged electrons. He worked with intense concentration on bringing the ship's power back on line.

He looked over the ship's plans yet, again, tracing the wiring carefully. Studying the diagram, he finally sighed in disgust. He'd done everything according to the plans. He'd checked it and double-checked it. What had he done wrong?

"Need help?"

Kid Flash seemed to jump out of his skin. "Who--?"

The dark, menacing figure stood in the open hatch. Or rather, he was leaning weakly against the open hatch.

"Batman!" Kid Flash squeaked. Catching himself, he zipped over to the Dark Knight and assisted him to a chair. It was a mark of Batman's weakness that he willingly accepted the boy's help.

"What are you doing out of bed!?" Kid Flash demanded. Then realizing whom he was addressing, he swallowed and added in a very small voice, "--sir?"

Batman leaned back, his eyes closed. His mouth twitched imperceptibly. The weak grin bolstered Kid Flash's sagging determination. "Sir, Robbie said you had to stay in bed…you're--" Batman opened a single, baleful eye and stared. The nervous youngster paused and finished weakly, "--sick."

Batman shook his head. "Codes…have to finish…codes…"

Kid Flash shook his head helplessly. "But every system is offline!" He was near tears. "I've tried everything! Checked every circuit and double-checked it! Triple-checked it! I can't fix it!"

Batman held his hand up for quiet. Seeming to grow in strength, he stood. With a slight hesitation, he walked to the command console. Kid Flash had the ship's plans strewn across it. Batman took a cursory glance at the diagram and carefully checked the readings and dials on the control panel.

Gritting his teeth, he made a fist and slammed it on the control panel. Kid Flash jumped. The systems all suddenly flickered and came online. Batman went pale under his cowl, the effort having taken some of what little strength he'd mustered earlier.

"Whoa," Kid Flash whispered, awed. He made a move to assist the Dark Knight, but Batman put his hand up in a staying movement.

"We have work to do…let's get started."

CONTINUED!

 
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