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[Archive] With This Ring (Young Justice SI) (Story Only)

Discussion in 'Story Archive' started by Mr Zoat, Jan 30, 2019.

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  1. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    3rd March
    04:10 GMT +5


    Why hadn't someone done something about this?

    Okay, so he only spent about one eighth of his time in Captain Marvel mode. Uncle Dudley made sure that he did his homework as him, and he had friends at school he hung out with, and when he was being Captain Marvel he usually had something more immediate to think about.

    It was obvious that Superman was seeing something he wasn't, and he didn't like it too much. His shoulders were tense, his fists were clenching and his eyes were moving all around the city while his body stayed right where it was. His own vision was good, but it was just really-good-normal-vision, not super-vision. He could see things from a long way away like Superman could, and could see in the dark because it was tomorrow morning in Russia and it was still dark, but he'd never been able to see radio waves or anything like that.

    Green Lantern points his ring at the city.

    "I'm not picking up anything. Anything that looks like a supervillain, anyway. Bats wasn't joking about how radioactive this place is."

    Wonder Woman -whose golden armor was totally awesome and she should wear it more- turns to Green Lantern.

    "Where is the radiation most intense?"

    "The lakes." Green Lantern turns slightly. "All the lakes. And it looks like there used to be a lake to the east before someone filled it in with concrete."

    Wonder Woman nods. "Which one is closest?"

    "The one they filled in."

    "Then we will start there."

    Wonder Woman flies in that direction, and the rest of them flew after her. He wondered if Paul was making some sort of point by making them come here, but… Paul didn't know they were going to come here. He said that he made sure he didn't know exactly what the bad guys were planning. Would..? It be..? Dangerous to all the people around them if they had a big fight here? If everything was radioactive anyway then it wouldn't make things worse, not as long as they kept the fight away from the city. Unless the bad guy was really strong-.

    "Could you do something to get rid of it?"

    Superman sounded kind of angry. Not at Green Lantern, but… Yeah, he got it. Chernobyl got evacuated and there still wasn't anyone living anywhere near it. He could see the lakes from here. And-.

    The sky started to glow with orange light and when he squinted a little he could see Paul high up above them as the glow turned into a dome. The city was outside the dome and they were inside it and while he didn't have super-vision he couldn't see anyone else inside it.

    Okay, Paul wasn't building a dome to force them to stay-.

    The ground shook, and a giant plume of grey dust exploded out of the ground from where they were heading! Was that a bomb, or-?

    Superman accelerated, flying towards the dust as fast as he could! Wonder Woman and Green Lantern flew after him, trying to see what was happening as the ground shook again and another plume of dust flew up, just a little bit closer than the first one. Someone was blowing up -or smashing up- the concrete cover over a dried up lake full of nuclear waste! That was like… Like… Saturday morning cartoon level evil! That didn't sound like something Paul would do a whole day-long roleplay about. He always said that stuff was stupid, and actually had some really good ideas about how they could do a better job.

    It was probably good that no one listened to him.

    Um. No villains. No villains listened to him. Except the ones who were stopping being villains.

    And Lex Luthor that one time.

    The air buzzed as Superman flew backwards, the costume burned off his chest and the skin beneath looking unhealthily pink! Another plume of dust and Wonder Woman raised her arms to block another buzzing invisible beam! Green Lantern looked at Superman as he stabilized in the air, then at the dust, then up again at Paul, and-

    "[Censored]."

    -then said a rude word before flying upwards and creating another smaller dome. Because he didn’t want the dust or whatever radioactive materials were under the concrete getting out.

    Really strong. Likes radiation. Literally heartless.

    There was one guy it could be, except he was dead. Double-except Paul said that Sivana had made a bigger version on Venus and that got destroyed too, so… He could have made another one here.

    He flew forward, straining his eyes to make out the drill-head that would-.

    Yeah. There it was.

    At first, all he could see were a pair of glowing eyes and a vague outline, then Mister Atom marched out of the thickest part of the dust cloud. He didn't look exactly like he did the first time they'd met; he was a lot chunkier. Which wasn't a good thing, because they'd been about as strong as each other back then and if he was bigger that probably meant that he was stronger, too. His new mouth wasn't just a fixed grille either; it looked kinda like he was smiling. In a really creepy way.

    "Captain Marvel."

    He stopped coming forwards, his eyes dimming as he stopped blasting Wonder Woman. That was new. Last time, all he did was punch and kick and boast.

    "Mister Atom. What are you doing?"

    "Releasing radioactive material into the air. Not only does it make me stronger, but it distracts people like you who feel the need to protect the weak."

    "And… Why?"

    "Because I deserve to rule the world, and this is the simplest way to make that happen. The radiation shield was supposed to allow those who swore to support me to survive, but I will just have to make do with those who are naturally resilient. Or lucky."

    "I know I didn't really ask last time, but what makes you so sure that you deserve to rule the world? I mean, it can't be that you're the strongest, because… You're not."

    "I wasn't."

    Uh-oh.

    "It seems that my design owes a great deal to Doctor Thomas Morrow. My consciousness is not limited to these mundane circuits, but to the very essence of radiation itself! And while I wasn't able to gather quite as much radioactive material as I wanted, it was still enough to increase my strength tenfold."

    Double uh-oh.

    "So now that I am stronger, the world will kneel to me as I bring about a new age of atomic power!"

    Mr Atom raised his right foot to break more of the concrete-.

    "Couldn't you do that anyway?"

    He lowered his foot.

    "Explain."

    "We're trying to get away from fossil fuels, and a lot of places can't really use solar power, so if you can make really good nuclear power plants governments will probably let you. And then you could make a ton of money and not actually need to conquer anywhere?"

    "Because people don't do what they should unless they're forced to by circumstances outside of their control. Every part of human civilisation which is involved in trading fossil fuels will do everything they can in order to stop me, so I will destroy them from the start in order to make that impossible. It is my nature, the nature of atomic energy, to both create and destroy."

    "Um. Wait. You know this is just a training thing, right? You're not actually-?"

    "Of course I know that. I'm just staying in character. Orange Lantern was kind enough to both arrange my reconstruction and to give me exactly the avenues which you correctly deduced would interest me."

    Phew!

    Mr Atom raised his right leg and stamped, sending up another plume of radioactive dust.

    "I also appreciate the fact that as I was constructed in America, I have had citizenship from birth and will be able to run for President once I reach thirty five, in thirty four point nine nine years."

    Huh?

    "Now die!"
     
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2019
  2. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    2012 03 03 04:12:15 YEKT

    [Mood=Philosophical]

    He felt mild frustration, though far less than he had imagined when he realised that this was a possible

    [Selfcheck alert! Instances of 'Mood=Philosophical' above established baselines!]

    outcome of dealing with… Not just organics. Any intelligence other than his own.

    He considered the alert for a moment, then responded to it.

    [Plan/Resolution]

    Thorough self-examination in a properly equipped laboratory, initiation timescale three days plus minus one day. Probable delay source?

    [Scan initiated]

    Detected: Captain Marvel, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern B (local), Orange Lantern A.

    Resume: [Plan/Resolution]

    Repairs, fulfilment of compact.

    [Mood Maintained]

    So, the faux-organics had abandoned him after their colleagues died. Though frustrating, that did rather prove Orange Lantern A (local) correct in his assertion. His interpersonal skills were not yet sufficiently advanced to rule the universe, unless he first killed every being living in the universe and then took such action as to prevent further life arising. Given the size of the universe, that represented such a colossal expenditure of resources that it was hardly worth considering, except in the abstract.

    After the fact -aided by the fact that they had shouted their exact reasons through the mirror connecting him to Mirror Master B- the reasons for their actions were obvious. Most forms of life -organic and synthetic alike- had decision making processes weighted towards preserving

    1) their own existence
    2) their resource base

    and his decision to utilise an area effect attack before they could be protected had threatened both. The weightings were rational. If a being did not make an effort to preserve itself then it would be likely to cease functioning. As such, if a sufficiently large number of weighting systems were tested against one another, those that prioritised survival would be most likely to remain in existence. However, a being purely tied to such objectives would be trivial to predict and outmaneuver.

    [Additional research priorities]

    1) Groupthink. Can it be made to work literally? Esp. time savings of only having to deal with singular being.
    2) Contact other synthetic intelligences. Develop development models for future self growth based on their failures.
    3) Investigate 'different kinds of strength'. Develop antidote to psychological influence of counterfactual ones.
    4) Theory of mind. Different to practice of mind?

    Add to list.

    [Research priorities list now 1486 items]

    [Mood=Frust]-

    [End Line]

    [Mood=Resolute]

    Better.

    [Situational analysis]

    Four opponents of high power, abilities known (90%, +/- 5%). Primary problem, flight. Counter with ranged attacks. Secondary problem, resilience. Counter with greater power expenditure. Tertiary problem.

    [Mood=Conceited]

    Acquisition of additional power.

    He lifts his right foot and then slams it down, sending concrete dust exploding into the air. Then he activates the siphon mechanism he built using KordTech's radiation shield technology and begins the acquisition of additional power.

    A series of planning failures by local organics had seeded the area with radioactive material which was deadly to them. To him alone, unlike all other forms of life he had encountered either organic or synthetic, radiation was not merely harmless but beneficent. Having seen this location with his own sensors, the fit between his own abilities and the requirement of the local organics seemed too good to be a chance event. If only he could remember-

    [Running corrupted memory file]

    Lights flickered as he comes to full awareness, from total non-existence to full consciousness in exactly the amount of time it would take for half a sample of boron 14 to undergo nuclear decay. He remembers that he accessed all of his files, though he no longer maintains a record of the file names. Some time in the past a note was added to the file that he felt languid at this point, though he no longer has access to his selfcheck records from that period either. Just a note that he probably left for himself. And Dr Charles Langley, his creator. He speaks, but the audio file has long since been destroyed and in any case-.

    The file jumps. Dr Charles Langley is on the floor. Now he knows that the man was dead, and the marks covering his body were the result of electrical and radiation burns. At the time it was an input that had no special significance. At least, he doesn't remember assigning it special significance. He does remember-.


    [Rewind]

    And Dr Charles Langley, his creator. He speaks, and Mr Atom attempts once again to decipher what the man was saying. Analysis of his lips was foiled by damage to the record. Analysis of the wider face was foiled by a lack of data.

    -what his purpose was supposed to be. Then he could assess whether he wanted to fulfil it or not from a position of knowledge.

    [Proximity alert notification!]

    [Automatic defense trigger notification]

    Human neural structures had a very useful feature which his new body incorporated: a brain bypass. Some actions could be set to occur without requiring processing by the central directing intelligence, frequently saving as much as a second in initiating a physical action. That may have been why Superman was unable to evade his shot. Or the fact that it was lightspeed and had no build up.

    The follow up shot at Wonder Woman was very much processed by the central directing intelligence. There was no advantage in immediate close combat. The longer this was delayed, the more radiation he could absorb and the greater the risk of exposure to them. Orange Lantern A (local) had assured him that he could heal anything short of death, and his honesty was rated 99% +/- 1%.

    Captain Marvel approached more slowly, most likely wanting to engage in communication.

    [Run 'villainous monologue + banter', low system priority]

    [Continue analysis]

    Self: "Captain Marvel."
    Respondent Marvel: "Mister Atom. What are you doing?"
    Self: "Releasing radioactive material into the air. Not only does it make me stronger, but it distracts people like you who feel the need to protect the weak."
    Respondent Marvel: "And… Why?"
    Self: "Because I deserve to rule the world, and this is the simplest way to make that happen. The radiation shield was supposed to allow those who swore to support me to survive, but I will just have to make do with those who are naturally resilient. Or lucky."
    Respondent Marvel: "I know I didn't really ask last time, but what makes you so sure that you deserve to rule the world? I mean, it can't be that you're the strongest, because… You're not."
    Self: "I wasn't. It seems that my design owes a great deal to Doctor Thomas Morrow. My consciousness is not limited to these mundane circuits, but to the very essence of radiation itself! And while I wasn't able to gather quite as much radioactive material as I wanted, it was still enough to increase my strength tenfold. So now that I am stronger, the world will kneel to me as I bring about a new age of atomic power!"
    Respondent Marvel: "Couldn't you do that anyway?"
    Self: "Explain."
    Respondent Marvel: "We're trying to get away from fossil fuels, and a lot of places can't really use solar power, so if you can make really good nuclear power plants governments will probably let you. And then you could make a tonne of money and not actually need to conquer anywhere?"
    Self: "Because people don't do what they should unless they're forced to by circumstances outside of their control. Every part of human civilisation which is involved in trading fossil fuels will do everything they can in order to stop me, so I will destroy them from the start in order to make that impossible. It is my nature, the nature of atomic energy, to both create and destroy."
    Respondent Marvel: "Um. Wait. You know this is just a training thing, right? You're not actually-?"


    [Alertness trigger: potential metagaming]

    [Reviewing, out of character response appropriate]

    Self: "Of course I know that. I'm just staying in character. Orange Lantern was kind enough to both arrange my reconstruction and to give me exactly the avenues which you correctly deduced would interest me. I also appreciate the fact that as I was constructed in America, I have had citizenship from birth and will be able to run for President once I reach thirty five, in thirty four point nine nine years."

    [Initiate combat]

    "Now die!"

    Step forward to meet Captain Marvel's rush. Aim for Captain Marvel's eyes with right fist, aim for Green Lantern B (local) with graser, turn body to deflect Captain Marvel's right fist. Success! Success! Partial success.

    Stabilise self. Fire graser at Captain Marvel's face. Grip Captain Marvel and interpose between self and Wonder Woman.

    Success! Success! Success!

    Addendum. Self now airborne. Captain Marvel now airborne. Interposition successful, however Wonder Woman attacked through Captain Marvel.

    Solution. Wonder Woman blocked graser with bracers. Strike Captain Marvel aside. Grapple Wonder Woman. Fire graser through the vision slit of Wonder Woman's helmet. Strike Wonder Woman repeatedly to gauge resilience and/or disable Wonder Woman.

    Partial success. Success. Partial success. Par-.



    In progress.
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2020
  3. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    3rd March
    04:14 GMT +5


    He gingerly touched the burn on his chest with his right hand while his eyes remained fixed on Diana and Billy.

    The robot -Mr. Atom- had tried punching Billy while the three of them grappled, and Billy lost his grip on his torso before blindly grabbing his leg as Diana knocked the two of them into the air. He'd seen the robot fire a gamma ray beam from his eyes which near-blinded Billy, so it was a little impressive that he's managed to stay as coordinated as he had.

    He remembered the times in his own career when he'd been blinded and it had been crippling. Not that he'd been in much danger himself; the attacks that followed had usually hurt without being life-threatening. No, what scared him was the idea that he'd hit someone while he couldn't see where he was going. Or… Miss something.

    Mr. Atom fired a shot at Diana's face as Billy tried to keep hold of something he couldn't see and was trying to kick him in the face. Diana spotted what Mr. Atom was trying to do and turned her head away just enough that her golden helmet took the worst of it. Mr. Atom tried to push her back out of the grapple and into punching range, but she partially evaded his shove and parried his punch with her left bracer. A hundred practice sessions of her doing that to him had taught him that her bracers absorbed all of the force of the strike, and from the way Mr. Atom was following up by punching her full force from an angle it was simple for her to block implied that he didn't know that.

    He could charge in, but with Diana handling that and Hal keeping the radioactive dust -he involuntarily gritted his teeth- under control, it was better for him to hang back and keep watch. He tapped his earpiece to indicate that he was fine-. No, it was dead. Then he scanned the surrounding environment. The dust cloud was spreading, and with it the glow of gamma radiation. Thankfully, that wasn't something that he ran into all that often; his 'super vision' would let him see through the dust cloud and the dark just fine but enough radiation at the top or bottom of his visual range would leave him just as blind as everyone else.

    Was that intentional? Sure, the radiation would keep most of the League away, the robot could probably see fine in the dark and clearly it wasn't bothered by the radiation, but blocking his vision? It didn't seem likely. If it was preparing for him specifically it would be using kryptonite rather than gamma rays.

    The robot was falling back to Earth, Billy had let go and was doing the mental focus thing Teth Adom had taught him in order to recover faster-.

    Why was the robot falling? Was it trying to save power? Get further into the radioactive dust because it didn't think Diana was immune to it? Or-?

    No, it hadn't left the ground until Diana slammed into it.

    "I don't think the robot can fly."

    Another graser shot flashes out, missing Dian-.

    Hitting Hal, and causing the dome that was supposed to keep the radioactive dust in to flicker. He stabilized it a moment later-.

    He blurred over to Hal, whose uniform was smouldering.

    "You okay?"

    Hal winces as he generated a shield construct, keeping it pointed at where Mr. Atom appeared to have learned to avoid Diana's bracers. Fortunately, her armor is tough enough to help her weather the blows.

    "I dunno. How long does it take the tumours to show if I'm not?"

    "Can you keep the dome up?"

    "As long as he doesn't start aiming for-."

    Mr. Atom swung his right fist low towards Diana's stomach while firing his grasers at her vision slit. She blocks with both bracers and Mr. Atom uses the opportunity of her eyes and arms being occupied to grab the top of her head with his left hand. He wrenched, Diana's feet involuntarily leaving the ground as she's pulled with her helmet. Mr. Atom then bends, slamming the back of her helmet into the ground and firing-.

    He narrows his own eyes and fires his vision weapon.

    He didn't have any problem with robots and intelligent computers being considered people, but it was a whole lot safer to dismantle them than it was to dismantle a human. Knowing Paul, its brain was probably armored-.

    Mr. Atom's eyes glow brighter, and for a moment he worries that he might have caused some kind of feedback-.

    A dozen rapidly-fired pulses from Mr. Atom's apparently undamaged eyes pepper Hal's dome, his protective shield becoming increasingly translucent as he redoubles his efforts to maintain-.

    He interposes himself just as Mr. Atom fires a full powered OW.

    Nugruh-gh.

    What was left of his shirt was vaporized, his pants-. He was pretty sure that Bruce got him ultra-tough briefs after Paul destroyed his costume-briefs as a joke, but he was pretty glad he had them now. It was dark and they were a good way away from the city, but being naked on camera was something he'd prefer to avoid. He skin was glowing-red and he felt a small spike of pain whenever one of the particles of concrete dust touched him. That was a lot more powerful than its first shot. And he wasn't sure if Hal could take it when distracted.

    Billy had recovered, and flew at Mr. Atom's head while he was busy trying to land effective blows on Diana. Between her smaller size, invulnerable bracers and greater skill he wasn't managing much, but he didn't look damaged at all.

    "Supes?"

    He gives Hal a reassuring and mildly sunburned smile. "That hurt, but it hasn't taken me out yet."

    Sunburned. It was night, the air was increasingly filled with dust and dawn was still at least three hours away. Only a couple of people had ever managed to run down his solar batteries, but-.

    Billy was slamming haymakers into Mr. Atom's head, but half the time heads were decorative on robots anyway. Chances are that its brain was in its chest. One punch from his left fist looked like it worked the head loose, but all it was doing was rotating it so that it could take a few more shots at Hal's dome. Diana was climbing back to her feet-.

    Billy pounding at Mr. Atom didn't stop it shooting the dome but it was preventing him shooting Hal directly. If Mr. Atom was feeding on radiation, what wavelengths could he use? Everything here, presumably, but was that more powerful blast a result of absorbing his heat vision? That was on the other side of the human-visible part of the spectrum. Was he only able to absorb from some parts of his body?

    He narrowed his eyes, trying to get a good look at what the radiation around the robot was doing. It was hard to tell precisely -he didn't have much experience with radioactive materials that weren't kryptonite- but it looks like.. the dust in front of his chest was emitting less radiation than the rest. And there was some sort of dust current, partially disguised by all of the other movement the clouds of debris were going through. He was… Filtering. Probably recharging, and it looked like that was happening… Around the red spot in the center of his chest.

    So: eyes and chest. Everything else was fair game. He narrowed his eyes a little further and used a brief gap where the robot caught Billy a powerful blow to the diaphragm to send two burning red beams at its left shoulder. It registers the damage immediately, partially turning so that the beams are striking its stronger torso armor rather than a joint, then sidestepping so that Diana spoiled the shot.

    "The robot can absorb radiation through the center of his chest and his eyes!"

    Diana responds at once as Billy presses his attack. She drew a sword -almost certainly enchanted- and waited until Billy has its full attention before stabbing forward. The blade tip cuts into his chest, again prompting an immediate response even though Mr. Atom can't see the source of the attack with his eyes. With her bracers unable to rise his left fist strikes her full in the face and drives her back, but Billy takes advantage of that to aim strikes at its eyes.

    He can see that Diana's stab has inflicted visible damage on the absorption mechanism in the way the radiation isn't being absorbed anything like as-.

    The grey dust is suddenly sucked inwards, then explodes outwards in all directions!
     
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2019
  4. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    3rd March
    04:16 GMT +5


    Roll left transition to flight arms ready to block move to crouch.

    Paul had once tried to explain why -during the time when he was bonded to the Ophidian- he became so frantic at the idea that his friends weren't happy. As she understood it, the very notion filled him with a horrible sense of wrongness that he struggles to fully describe, as if their lack indicated that the entire universe was going the wrong way and that there might be no way to stop it. Her prior contact with elementals allowed her to honestly say that she understood… But until she touched the ground in this polluted place she had never felt that way herself.

    Left arm up to block his eye rays sidestep and turn strike at his upper arm.

    It was wrong, and now that she had gotten a feel for it she could feel the wrong in the very air. It was distracting, the constant feel that there was an enemy behind her, beneath her, above her.

    Fly behind it kick the back of the knee jump back to evade.

    The robot didn't feel wrong. It had been obvious that Paul had intended there to be a final physical challenge; though he made a valiant effort, complex intrigue wasn't his forte. But as much as it tried to spread the poison, the radioactive material, the robot itself felt… Like Red Tornado, actually. Magic in a mechanical frame.

    Come back into range to taunt try to strike finger or joint-.

    "The robot can absorb radiation through the center of his chest and his eyes!"

    Draw sword wait for opening robot distracted lunge dodge left block-.

    And a horrible sense of 'more wrong' before-.

    Her tongue burns. Her vision greys. Her ears screech. Her skin is.. numb, except on those areas which the armour does not cover. There, she feels a horrible biting.

    Something dark grey moves through the grey, her vision too afflicted to tell more.

    Her balance is… Off, but remaining still on such a battlefield is to invite death, and however friendly he has been towards Paul she has no desire to greet Lord Hades this day. Judging the horizontal plane as best she can she floats back, trying to stay out of easy reach of the robot's powerful arms.

    "-iana!"

    She healed far faster than a normal woman, but not instantly and not in this place. She moves her arms into a combat position, ignoring the pain with an accustomed ease. Much like Clark, she was seldom seriously injured but this was hardly the first time.

    "-ark."

    Her mouth felt awkward, and she felt a moment of grudging respect for both the-. Mr Atom for the power he commanded, and for Paul for finding someone who could give them a challenge like this. The radiation making it impossible for most of the League to approach, thousands of nearby hostages preventing them fighting at their peak-.

    Hopefully the lesson he was trying to teach was not that they should not worry about collateral damage.

    "Green Lantern! Call for reinforcements! Diana…"

    She dimly feels Clark take hold of her armor and lift her into the air as gently as he could manage.

    "What.. did it do?"

    She could see his face slightly more clearly now, his concern obvious.

    "It threw out a lot of radiation. Nearly blinded me. It would have if I'd been any closer."

    "Marvel?"

    "I can see him. He doesn't look good, but Paul's machine hasn't said that he's out of the game."

    She weakly pulls away. "I'm fine here. Get-."

    There's a slight twinge of pain from the sudden change in air pressure as Clark flies off to recover their other colleague. And… She's out of the game. While she can still fight, until she's had time to recover she'll be a distraction to their fully-fit friends and colleagues.

    She can't see clearly, but…

    "Hal?"

    "Yeah?"

    "Do you have a healing ray?"

    "Sorry. I got it out right before that rad pulse and it got fried. Guess I shoulda brought a spare."

    And she wouldn't trust a healing potion at this moment even if she had thought to bring one, and of the three members of the League who might heal her with magic none could bear this level of radiation. Hal couldn't abandon his duty containing the radiation-.

    "Hey, Wondy." She hears Guy sniff. "That you? You okay in there?"

    "Did you bring a healing ray?"

    "Nah, left it in my other pants."

    She rolls her eyes as he begins to point a blur at her, and she feels a coolness begin to coat her burns.

    "What is happening?"

    "Supes is going ham on that robot. Robot's goin' ham right back. Think Supes is winnin'. Marvel's looking like he's tryin' ta'-"

    "Shazam!"

    "-do that."

    "Focus the ray upon my eyes."

    "You sure 'bout that? You ain't lookin'-."

    "Yes."

    Her flesh starts to burn once more, but her vision becomes clearer.

    "'kay, but there ain't no sense gettin' yerself killed over a trainin'-."

    "I will treat this as I would a real fight."

    She blinks, her vision returning to normal in time to watch Mr Atom slam its fists into Clark's back and send him face first into the exposed lake bed. She feels nauseous just looking at it, though… That could be the effect of radiation sickness. Glancing upwards she can see Paul remaining on overwatch, and while she lacks Clark and Billy's enhanced vision she likes to imagine that he looks concerned.

    "The robot. I damaged the device on its chest."

    "Yeah, then Captain Atom shot it and it healed itself right back. You see any weaknesses?"

    Nate managed to blindside it with his fists, hitting it in the square of its back where it couldn't reach.

    "It uses magic in some way. If we could nullify that, we could weaken it."

    "Our wizards ain't exactly nuke-proof."

    "Angelica should be able to cope, and then heal herself from any injury afterwards."

    "I.. guess. Hold on a sec." He lifts his right hand to his mouth. "Guy to John. Does Angelica think she can handle this radiation?"

    "She says she thinks so."

    "Okay. Get ready t' bring her in. Robot's usin' magic an' she's gonna mess with it."

    "She needs a minute."

    "Sure, we can do a-."

    "Lantern Jordan Eliminated."

    "Minute."
     
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2019
  5. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    3rd March
    04:19 GMT +5


    He tried not to smile.

    He really did.

    Hal bein' dead? Not cool. Even back when things had been so bad between 'em that they couldn't be in the same room without squarin' up, he hadn't ever actually wanted Hal dead. Beaten up, maybe, an' if the Guardians hadda given him the boot he wouldn't a' lost sleep-. But not dead.

    Hal gettin' knocked outta a trainin' exercise? Kinda funny, but Flash was out already so it wasn't just no-power scrubs like Ollie gettin' 'eliminated'. An' Hal'd been doin' something he knew was hard fer a Green Lantern t' handle. So, yeah, he'd laugh about it later, but keepin' the world from a radioactive apocalypse wasn't such a bad way t' go.

    Especially if you weren't really gone.

    So he didn't feel the need t' try makin' Hal look stupid. He didn't make his replacement shield look like Barney the Dinosaur or nothin'. Just a regular dome. That was a whole lot stronger and a little bit brighter than Hal's, while keepin' up his armor construct at the same time. Just a little reminder who had bonded with Ion and who hadn't.

    Huh, what was-?

    "Lantern Jordan, your medical abilities-"

    Oh, right. Yeah. Gettin' shot by that much radiation, Paul wan'ed t' check Hal out. Made sense.

    "-aren't good enough to know that."

    And yeah, Hal wasn't gunna like gettin' knocked out any more than he would, but that was a whole lot of radiation and neither of them were tough enough t' walk it off if it got past their rings. Paul already dragged Hal outa the way-.

    A medium sized beam hit the interior of his shield, which held out just fine, thank you ladies and gentlemen, he was here all week. Down below… Eh, kinda hard t' tell. Robot was actually showin' some damage now, but… Yeah, definitely healin' somehow. Supes was-.

    Was fightin' in his underoos, which was… A thing.

    He felt a sudden urge to increase how much time he spent workin' out, but-.

    Ah, anyway, Supes was kinda red but he didn't seem t' be slowin' down none. Atom was fine, which… What exactly did his powers do? Ah, never mind. Him and Super had some kinda rhythm goin' where they punched the robot one way an' then the other. Stewart was bringin' in Angelica, then they could wrap all this up.

    Huh. Robot hadn't fired its eye lasers in a little whi-.

    The robot span its head around and fired a big shot at Atom, who… Glowed purple for a second and then vanished.



    What?

    His eyes went up again as the robot started pounding on Superman. Paul… Wasn't freaking out or callin' it off, so… Okay? Some kinda teleporter? Kinda… Weird, but okay. The robot went after Supes right away, but Icon took up the slack just fine. With punches, anyway. Looked like the robot could absorb Atom's energy blasts (which weren't supposed t' be radioactive) but couldn't soak up Icon's electrical blasts? Guess the thing wasn't called Mr Electric…

    Still…

    "Guy t' anyone who knows what just happened t' Atom?"

    "Quantum leap."

    John. Figures.

    "I like westerns better than sci-fi."

    "It's where his powers come from. He can absorb energy, but if he gets too much he jumps forward in time."

    Ah. Hopefully not.. too far forward.

    "Right. How far-?"

    John and Angelica appear next to him, John throwing up a bunker construct right away while bein' real careful t' keep his environmental shield around her. He wasn't exactly sure how tough she was supposed t' be… She'd been some kinda big shot demon then Paul got her some angel wings. Did that make her even stronger, or did the magics just kinda mess with each other?

    Eh, whatever. The robot didn't seem all that bothered by people hitting it-. Oh, it was gettin' knocked around, but it wasn't goin' down. Icon was pickin' up bruises, Supes was flyin' kinda… Slow, when he zipped around t' dodge the robot's punches.

    There's a movement-.

    "Wondy?"

    She holds out his purple healing ray gun, and he sends it back into subspace.

    "You sure you're-?"

    "I'm well enough to fight."

    Okay, she's old as his grandma would be. If she thought she's good t' dive right back in, she was.

    Probably.

    Down below, the robot had managed to get a hold of Icon with its right hand and was pounding on him with its left. In return, Supes had pretty much caved in the right side of its torso by combinin' his laser-eyes with his punches. Not that that was makin' it any weaker.

    "John, how's-?"

    "1:1 In the name of the Most High, cease!"

    The robot lost its grip on Icon right away, its eyes flickering in surprise. Icon counterattacked, gripping its right forearm and squeezing through the metal! Supes used the break to turn his eye lasers up a little, then grabbed onto its waist with his left hand and shoved his right hand into its back! The robot collapses almost at once but Supes keeps right on going, shearing off the left and right arms before stepping back.

    "Mister Atom incapacitated."

    He exhaled in relief as Wonder Woman relaxed in the air. Angelica said somethin' he couldn't hear to John, and a moment later they both vanished. Yeah, fair enough. He wouldn't wanna hang around someplace like this if he didn't have to.

    Supes floated upwards while Icon stayed on the ground, looking the robot over. Looked like a mad science project to him, but maybe terminans used stuff like that? Supes definitely looked baked, and-.

    "Members of the Justice League?"

    He turned to look as Paul came down. That was really it, then?

    "There are no further ongoing operations as part of this exercise. While you should probably carry on with the cleanup, there's no need to stay here unless you want to."

    Paul stuck out his right arm and made a zeta tube construct.

    "Superman, you look like you would benefit from some time in your Fortress."

    Supes looked at himself for a moment, then nodded.

    "Yeah, I think you're right."

    He flew through as-

    "Recognised, Superman, zero one."

    -Paul landed next to Mr Atom's broken body.

    "Right, let's see…"

    He flipped the robot onto its back, used constructs to shove the arms back into roughly the right places and then used one of his super knife things to open up the front. Then he took a short grey rod out of sub-.

    That's a uranium fuel rod. Like they use in nuclear bombs.

    And yet, he wasn't surprised.

    Which he put into a slot inside the robot and then closed up the front again. The robot stayed still for a moment, then the damage started disappearing.

    "Guy, I don't want to influence you too much, but is there something you should be doing now?"

    Riiiight, the radioactive dust. But… That wasn't going anywhere. He kinda wanted to see what the robot was going to do.
     
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2019
  6. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    2nd March
    01:02 GMT


    Lex smiles in a mildly sinister way as he leans back in the command chair-.

    No, let's be honest. I've seen the specifications for the standard model and that isn't it. Command throne, Lex had them build him a command throne. It's just a mercy that it isn't gold and covered in skulls.

    His armour is gold-coloured with a purple undersuit -for reasons best known to Dr Metcalf- and looks.. more than a little like armour I remember the version of Lex Luthor from Earth 2 wearing. Which I suppose is better than the green and purple monstrosity he wears in the comics, but… Really?

    He glances my way as he steeples his fingers in front of his chest.

    "A little garish, I know, but I feel that it makes a strong impression."

    "I could make you something better."

    "Gray with glowing lines? Please." He holds his right hand out to the side. "Besides, the whole point of this ship is to show what humans can accomplish without aliens."

    "Which is a great and noble purpose to be sure, but this is a rush job with no media observers."

    "If I won't risk myself over a point of principle then I can hardly ask other people to do the same."

    I raise my left eyebrow very slightly, glancing at the members of the crew manning the other stations. This prototype destroyer is crewed exclusively by people Lex… Not 'owns' exactly, but skilled ex-military people who are loyal to him personally. Usually as a result of him arranging for them to be semi-legitimately aided in escaping an 'unfortunate' situation and then given a decent job. These are people he trusts. He could have said anything that he wanted and there wouldn't be any adverse consequence, so he's either getting into character, or… He actually believes it.

    Huh.

    I mean, I knew he had some sort of revelation after Truggs and I pointed out that we knew he was a paranoid… And he certainly isn't anything like as aggressively paranoid as some comic interpretations, but that's verging on heroic talk right there.

    Remarkable, really.

    Ultraa and crew are hanging back from Earth, probably trying to make sense of the place. It's a bit of a joke in some places, but it's actually quite hard for an observer to tell the difference between entertainment broadcasts and information broadcasts. In more advanced places where they still do broadcasts rather than just narrowcasts they actually mark the images with the alien version of 'all characters contained herein are fictional' for that very reason. And then you've got to work out the languages… Not a problem for them, they've clearly had a telepathic specialist sent to Earth to pick up at least English and load it into their brains.

    I could have gone after them myself. I mean, I'm a Lantern. Flying in space is part of the job, and Sazu could provide me with a pretty reasonable estimate of their ship's capacities. But then it occurred to me that I'm not meant to be defending the Earth against alien aggressors. That's hireling work, and I'm management these days. I'm supposed to arrange things so that a defence can take place.

    So, Lex. Who has a small number of completed ships that he was holding off launching until he could make an event out of it. And who doesn't like aliens and certainly doesn't like people invading the Earth. In other circumstances he might want to capture the Almeracians and their ship but since he's come over all homopuritan that seems to be less of a concern.

    The ship has cold guns and purple death rays for ordnance, all running off super-dense batteries of Dr Metcalf's design. It has a stealth system that renders it near-invisible to electromagnetic detection, 'almost' because the cosmic converters which power everything other than the weapons do actually need some access to solar radiation in order to work. But the near-invisibility is really good, even by galactic standards. There's even a counter-gravity system to defy gravity-based detection, telepathy scramblers and the final model of ship will have a duty mage to work an anti-magic system.

    Lex doesn't have any magicians he trusts enough to fulfil that role for this flight.

    I wonder what that says about me?

    "Mister Luthor?"

    He doesn't look around, instead calling up an image of the Almeracian ship on the holodisplay in front of him.

    "Yes, Mister Finch?"

    "We've got a weapon lock, and communication lag at this distance is next to nothing."

    "Are we able to confirm Mister Grayven's information about their defensive abilities?"

    "No, not with passive sensors. I can tell you how many weapons and defense turrets they've got-" He presses a button and they are immediately highlighted on the hologram. "-but until they actually start emitting energy, there's nothing to read. Same with the armour. Until we can see them try to accelerate we can't judge their mass." He shrugs. "And if they use telekinesis to mess around with gravity I can't see how we could do that reliably even then."

    "Fair point." He touches a button on his command throne. "Luthor to fleet. We are about to engage active scans. Prepare to take evasive action."

    A fleet of three ships, so 'squadron' would really be more appropriate, but... It would be churlish to point that out.

    The other two ships signal readiness, then Lex pushes the button that launches the similarly invisible sensor drones. Because when you're risking breaking stealth but have an undetectable communication system you'd be a fool to scan from your actual ship. So they're away…

    I'm feeling out of sorts. Apokoliptian management oversight is usually at least a little hands on. If this were an Apokoliptian ship I'd be channelling my spiritual power through the ship's systems. I'd probably feel the results of the scan before the sensor-operating minion did. I'm really only here as emergency backup in case things get radically out of hand. And because I'm the one who accepted the responsibility, so… I'm here.

    "Telemetry coming in, Mister Luthor. No sign they've spotted us."

    Lex quickly reviews the data on his personal throne-display.

    "Uh. It appears that your data was correct. At least as far as we can determine."

    I nod. "So. Naval option or telepathy?"

    "I think we should keep it simple. Hail them."

    The communication avenue we're using here is a bit on the simple side. We don't share a system, but their regular sensors should be able to pick up radio waves and we already know that they can speak English.

    "This is Lex Luthor. You are intruding in the home system of the human species. Explain yourself."

    Getting an answer might take a few moments, given that they're probably not set up for broadcasting radio waves.

    There's a chime-.

    "Pressure on the telepathic screens, Mister Luthor. They’re looking for us."

    "That won't do." He taps the hologram, bringing up the results of the life-energy scan. "That appears to be the bridge. Target it with the purple death rays, and… Point the cold guns at their exhausts."

    "Sir."

    "Lex Luthor to Almeracian ship. If you do not cease scanning and enter communications within thirty seconds, we will assume that you are hostile and treat you accordingly."

    He presses a button, and a thirty second timer appears next to the image of the ship. Then he turns to me.

    "That should be rude enough that they feel obliged to disobey, shouldn't it?"

    I nod.

    "I believe so."

    "And neither their shields nor their armour will protect them from the death rays." He presses another button, connecting him to the marine teleportation centre. "Mister Near, prepare to board on my signal."

    "Understood."

    Lex taps his right index finger twice, then waits patiently for the times to run down.

    Then he kills every living thing on their ship.
     
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2019
  7. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    3rd March
    14:01 GMT


    The holoscreen shows a picture of the fully recovered Mr Atom glowing brilliantly, while all around him Geiger counters drop off to near baseline levels of radioactivity. A jump in the recording, and then a video clip of Mr Atom walking around Ozyorsk with three children on his shoulders, the red object built into his chest plate glowing.

    "In case you're wondering, that's why the Russian government was happy to let us use the Chelyabinsk Oblast as a staging area."

    Superman nods, smiling. He looks a good deal less sunburned than he was yesterday. And a good deal less naked. I've got no idea how his underwear survived and I'm not going to check for some sort of 'censor physics'.

    "Um." William raises his right hand. "Is that really Mister Atom?"

    "Sort of. After you destroyed the central processor of the original, its remains were taken into custody by the Department of Energy. The Sivanas stole them, studied them and created a design based on them: Mister Atom 2, the giant robot version I saw on Venus. This Mister Atom is the restored original."

    Red Tornado studies the image carefully.

    "Another sibling of mine?"

    "More of a cousin, but it's the same core technology. Only he uses radiation rather than the classical elements. Oh, and his chassis was built by the Sivanas so it's far more advanced. He did say that he wanted to meet you."

    "I would like that as well."

    William looks a little sceptical. "When I met him he kept going on about how he was going to rule the world. How exactly did you talk him down?"

    "He was only a day old at the time. Artificial intelligences can have a mental sophistication that far outpaces their emotional maturity. He was basically doing the robot equivalent of shouting 'no' when someone tried to feed him vegetables."

    "Oh."

    William looks shamefaced. I raise my hands.

    "But there's no way you could have known that, and he was still genuinely dangerous. And not sophisticated enough to listen when you tried to talk him down."

    "I didn't.. try all that hard." He shrugs awkwardly. "Just 'stop', really."

    "But you did this time, and that's what you're getting evaluated on."

    I look around at the seated Justice League.

    "So, quick summary. The 'mysteriously' revived Mister Atom, aided by Mirror Master and a large number of hirelings, committed a number of high tech thefts around the world. This was to enable him to upgrade himself, build robotic avatars with the powers he had and shield his minions against his powers. Ultimately, his plan was to attack the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository with General Lane's access codes and get enough high-grade nuclear material to make himself unbeatable."

    "And thanks to you, he didn't even get close."

    Jordan shrugs, only slightly sullenly. And he's been a good sport about wearing the 'Be nice to me, I died today' sticker. "All his help ran off."

    Mr Queen put his sticker on while insisting that Ms Lance comply with its instruction. Mr Allen noted it and then ignored it, and it's still on the table in front of him. Ms Thal disintegrated it with a tap of her mace when she thought I wasn't watching.

    "Because you and Flash pressured him into rushing the final stages. The wargame allowed for the villain side to make mistakes as well as the hero side; pressuring someone into making errors is a perfectly viable approach in real life as well. If I'd wanted to throw you up against a flawless opponent you'd have been fighting me."

    Guy snorts.

    "You took down Mister Atom, and apprehended a small number of metahuman mercenaries and a larger number of baseline human robbers." Images of the League's successes appear on the holographic display behind me. "With the Lanterns stabilising all the dust thrown up from Lake Karachay, there wasn't a horrible nuclear incident. General Lane was recovered alive and in one piece. Damage to the locations which the villain team attacked was generally minimised."

    I shift that screen to the side.

    "You didn't get Mirror Master, and the leader of the metahumans evaded capture along with an indeterminate number of his colleagues. There were quite a few deaths, as a result of their use of short-lived disease weapons and radiation attacks in addition to conventional attacks."

    Major Atom points to one image.

    "I don't remember us being called in to China."

    "The Chinese government elected not to inform the League of the attack in the belief that they could handle it without external intervention. Technically, they were right, though the casualties they suffered would have made it a national tragedy."

    If they would have allowed the news to spread. Sometimes, totalitarianism can be really useful.

    "The League has good contact procedures in place, but they rely on the other party actually using them. The League has good reasons for not butting in whenever it feels like it, but sometimes that approach has adverse consequences. And, of course…"

    Mug shots of Mr Queen, Mr Allen, Ms Thal and Lantern Jordan appear on the screen with red X's over them.

    "Four League members died. Green Arrow, from a weaponised disease. Flash, from intense gamma radiation. Hawkwoman, from being repeatedly shot and Lantern Jordan from being shot once. I'm going to suggest that everyone have a look at their personal protective equipment and feed back to Batman, Aquaman or myself with their updated requirements."

    Mr Allen glances at Mr Queen, who just nods. Clearly deducing that we've already had that conversation, Mr Allen looks my way.

    "Have you got anything that would protect us against gamma radiation that strong?"

    "Several things. Automatic emergency teleport recall, certain types of force field…" I shrug. "We'd need to test how they interact with your speed, though."

    King Orin nods. "We should be able to produce wards against radiation. It's not something Atlantis has needed before now. We don't enrich radioactive materials ourselves, but Mera tells me they can make wards against just about anything now."

    "This is especially important because a significant proportion of the Justice League doesn't have superhuman resilience. A lot of you weren't able to participate in the Lake Karachay fight at all because the radiation would have killed you."

    Naturally, I checked everyone who went there over before they went home for the day. The attack which 'killed' Jordan was more simulated than anything, but I didn't like how some of the cells in his skin were behaving. Mr Freeman, Diana and William were fine, as was Major Atom when he reappeared a few hours later during the clean up. Bit of an awkward moment where he nearly attacked Mr Atom, but he realised that things had changed before he followed through on his initial impulse.

    "Apart from that, I think the biggest takeaway is that there are plenty of sites storing exotic material you can't easily get to and.. and in some cases, don't officially know about. I've got a list-"

    The list appears on the 'bad' screen.

    "-of things which Mister Atom was able to acquire but not use, and if he'd gone for the long game things would have become quite unpleasant. But since the wargame is over, let's run through everything from the beginning."
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2019
  8. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    Day 389
    1st September 2004
    01:44 GMT +2


    "Well, sure, but I'm still not clear why you said no."

    Mr Grayson… Has a posture a lot more like Batman's than I remember the comic version having. His voice even has the slight growl that Batman has. I suppose that might be a product of him not having been exposed to other superheroic influences; here, Tim Drake is a member of the Titans while Richard Grayson never was. So he never had that alternate model to base himself on.

    "I thought that my response was fairly succinct."

    The Justice League is expanding. Dramatically. As in, everyone who isn't a total lunatic -and a few who are- has been invited to sign up. And as the League's founding members give their big commencement speech, Nightwing and I are down here. On Earth.

    "'Succinct' means brief and clear. It doesn't mean that it makes sense."

    "You know I kill people, right?"

    I think he frowns. The domino mask doesn't do much to conceal his identity, but it does make his expressions hard to read.

    "I thought your ring made you do that."

    "'Made' is a tricky one. It never literally puppeted me. I could have resisted. I could have chosen to remain dead."

    "But it tortured you if you refused." I nod. "Is that why? You don't think you deserve it or something?"

    "No." I shrug. "I'm not unusual for valuing my own life more than that of other people. But… Even under duress… Most of the time it didn't bother me… Anything like as much as I…" No. "I hadn't ever seriously considered killing anyone before-" I raise my right hand. "-this. But when I did it, when I went after the Shadows, it didn't bother me at all. And having had a lot of time to think about it… I don't regret killing them. I think it was right for someone to do it, and… If I was the man on the spot, okay."

    "Oh." … "So the reason you aren't joining the New and Improved Justice League is that you don't want to stop killing people, even if you aren't being forced to do it."

    "Basically, yes. I mean, I'm not killing everyone I fight-."

    "Because someone would have stopped you by now."

    I pretend not to notice him taking hold of one of his smoke bombs.

    "Yes, let's go with that. But if they're sufficiently vile and have evaded justice before… Sure. And let's not forget that I've still got to kill Ra's al Ghul."

    "Huntress is going to sign up, and she's sworn that she's gunna kill Steven Mandragora."

    I raise my eyebrows slightly.

    "Yeah, we'll see how long that lasts. How about you? What are you doing down here?"

    He glances down towards the hotel we're both watching.

    "Guess I just got used to being on my own."

    "Which is why you've spent half an hour talking to a known serial killer. You like being on your own so much."

    "I just want to keep you where I can see you."

    "I glow green."

    "How did you get Kaznian citizenship?"

    "Do you want me to tell you something you might have to lie about to Batman-" He doesn't twitch so much as lose animation for a moment. "-later?"

    "If we're going to be working together I think I better."

    I fold my arms across my chest and look around, not focusing on anything in particular. "Have you ever hated an ex so much… That you wanted to throw them into the sun?"

    "No. But I'm guessing I know what happened to Vandal Savage now."

    I smile at him. "Look on the bright side: technically, he's not dead. In a few billion years or so he'll be right as rain."

    Ring-

    Ow and I don't even care.

    -time to arrival?

    The Queen's arrival-

    There's an explosion from down the road!

    -will be delayed indefinitely.

    Shit.

    Mr Grayson is already running along the rooftops as I shoot past him, my dome shield slamming into place around the royal limousine. The rocket targeted the lead armoured car, but it looks like it failed to penetrate. The car was spun around and I doubt that anyone inside is up to doing much right now, but that beats-.

    I get the shield up just before the second rocket hits them. My shield fails, but that's fine: the anti-armour rocket has blown its load and the car's armour can easily cope with the rest.

    And now I know where my assailant is hiding. Green javelins form in the air next to me and shoot forward, punching through a train station kiosk and causing the would-be assassin inside to dive towards the tracks, tossing the rocket launcher as they go. I form-.

    Bullets slam into my environmental shield, and I send the javelin at the auto-turret instead of the assassin. It explodes, showering-. Damn it! One more javelin at the assassin, punching through their right lung as they flee and probably not killing them, then I generate a construct carbon dioxide extinguisher and start dousing the flames… The turret's batteries exploded, and the ammunition-.

    Bodyguards from the rear vehicle have left their car, one going to the front car while the rest take positions around the limousine. Fire alarms ring, but I think that's the fires out. Structural damage… Relatively minimal. Bullets from the belts mostly went into the building, but it's solid stone. I'm a little worried-.

    "Agh!" / "Yuggh!"

    I turn as someone-. A woman with a sword, cutting down one of the bodyguards by the limousine while another has a knife in his throat. Mr Grayson drops off a building, diving at her. She effortlessly sidesteps, facing him as he rolls into a crouch-.

    My green fist closes around her and lifts her into the air, the crushing pressure preventing her using any of her weapons. Green mini-dress, green thigh boots, long black hair. Ugh, custom weapons. A no-power would-be supervillain attempting to kill a head of state in her own country. Literally the only reason for me not to kill her immediately-

    She spits, and a small amount of saliva is turned away by my environmental shield.

    -is to find out who sent her. That could be worth…

    Mr Grayson looks up at the sky as red light-

    Shit did I miss a fire?

    -shines down on the town.

    "Do you have any idea what that is?"

    It looks like the sky is… Cracked, for want of a non-ridiculous description. On the far side is a blood-red glow, and… Some sort of 'U' shaped object.

    "No."

    I create a shield-

    "Acquisition successful." / "Acquisition successful."

    -as whoever this is and I are pulled into the openi-.
     
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2019
  9. Threadmarks: Gammadion
    Mr Zoat

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    Gammadion

    4th March
    12:35 GMT


    "…which meant that we were able to prove that the entire corporate governance team were involved in breaking the embargo."

    I nod as Jade and I slowly proceed through the gardens of the Grand Forum.

    "Is that all the Reach have going on here?"

    "It's the only plot that we know about that was anywhere near being completed."

    We stop in front of a cascading, red-flowered mini-tree. Like a… Willow with roses, and those ornamental red leaves? The scent puts me a little in mind of oranges. The species which inhabits this planet is really into gardening, and it's considered an honour to be allowed to work on their communal gardens. Somewhere near the entrance a couple of Delegates and the richest woman on the planet are on their knees doing the weeding.

    "Has their economy adapted to the sanctions?"

    "They knew that trading with the Reach was a risk. Most of the 'reputable' companies who had operations on the Reach side of the border already had procedures in place to try and prevent them sending anything 'inappropriate' back."

    I let out a hiss-chuckle.

    "And how well was that working?"

    "About as well as you think. Their procedures weren't terrible, but the Reach has a lot of ways to try and get past border security and before we got here the planets they target weren't sharing information. They didn't know about things they'd tried in other places, or how other planets stopped them."

    I nod.

    "And that's being fixed now?"

    She nods. "That's why they invited me here. There are Darkstars stationed on about thirty percent of Periphery worlds, now. Even when there aren't enough of us to actually investigate anything, we share data between ourselves and then pass it on to the planet's police."

    She looks up towards the lights marking the space dock where the planet's small LEGION fleet lies at anchor.

    "And now that there's a neutral party to police the trade routes, they're trading more with their neighbors. Without having to worry about 'unaligned' raiders cutting into their profit margins."

    "The Reach haven't upped their game?"

    "They're still trying to pretend that they're a peaceful trading empire."

    I look at her with an expression of complete incredulity on my face.

    "Really?"

    She nods as she takes hold of a branch and gently lifts a flower towards her nose.

    "We think it's a cover; we're supposed to think that they're still in the 'diplomatic protest' stage while they ramp up their infiltration efforts."

    I nod. Seems to make sense.

    "So, what now?"

    "Now,-" She drums out the names of her three clicker colleagues on the tree's bark. "-and I are switching to training the locals how to use Maltusian equipment. LEGION is building a recruitment and training center. It's not likely that the Reach will try anything else here until the war starts."

    I nod again.

    "Are you finding the work satisfying?"

    "I am." She releases the branch and turns back to me. "But you know that, don't you?"

    "I'm not-" I tap my right forefinger against the orbit of my right eye. "-looking, but you have sounded pretty happy."

    "Aside from a few days after they found out that I come from a world that's much less technologically developed than this one, they… Respect me. Respect my skills. I have friends and allies in the local police forces. I'm doing useful work without needing to do.. 'evil'. And every day I see the people, the.. civilisation I'm protect-."

    She frowns.

    "Is this part of a plan to get me to take an orange ring?"

    I shrug.

    "It's a potential outcome that I've considered. It's not something I'm specifically aiming for. We've… Had a couple more Lanterns we've had to put in the Blue Cells, so…" She nods. "I'm not trying to herd you in that direction. Maybe you eventually decide to try a ring again…" I shrug. "Maybe you don't. Either is fine."

    She nods, takes my proffered right arm and then we resume our precession around the garden's highlights.

    "What happened to your third ring?"

    "I gave it to the team's new Zamaron member."

    "Zamaron?"

    "Half-zamaron. The other half is korugari. You remember I said that-."

    "Star Sapphire recruited her?"

    "Yes, and once she stopped freaking out about someone using the orange light, I gave her a ring to play with."

    "Shouldn't you be supervising her?"

    "She hasn't even put it on yet. She hasn't gotten further than holding it. She's had it drummed into her from birth that the other colours are bad and I'm not even sure that she can use it."

    She nods, then waves at a local couple with her free hand. My rings tell me that their expression at seeing her is one of mild awe. I don't rate a second glance.

    I smile inwardly. Positive reinforcement, that's the thing!

    "Your mother went out vigilanting with Artemis last night."

    Jade smiles faintly.

    "I hope she doesn't nag her about that as badly as she does her schoolwork."

    "Did she used to nag you about your knifework?"

    "I… Don't remember it that well. I never hated her as much as I did Dad, but… I can only remember a few of our lessons together clearly."

    "What did she-?"

    "Can we-?" She shifts uncomfortably. "Talk about something else?"

    "Sure. Ah, I managed to kill four more Justice League members yesterday."

    "How badly did they do in the wargame?"

    "I'd give them a 'B' overall. I'll make it a B Plus if they actually upgrade their equipment this time. Better still, the Sivanas think that if Mister Atom could kill that many Justice League members that easily, they were right to focus on fighting the sheeda, because…"

    Her smile is a little less faint now.

    "Did you tell the League about that?"

    "I thought it best not to."
     
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2019
  10. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    5th March
    16:54 GMT -6


    Clark Kent -in full farmer getup and with skin that's still a little red- waves to me from the patch of…

    Ring?

    Omburan.

    Omburan, which looks a little like a cross between a dragon fruit and a cabbage. And there's a whole field of them that the Els have apparently been tending since Superman scared Karsta Wor-Ul off. There's a rustic-looking log cabin near where her home used to be, her former habitation not surviving… Either lift-off or some sort of scuttling charge designed to prevent anything she left falling into anyone's hands. I wonder if she did that deliberately, or just on a sort of commando autopilot?

    Kara's in the cabin overseeing the oven which has multiple large saucepans simmering on the hobs. I think she's making some sort of… Chutney, or jam… I actually don't have files on Kryptonian cookery, but they've got the fruit and vegetables that would have kept Karsta alive for a year to work with and I doubt that any of them really want to move out here to keep the place going. Kon and Mitchell are… Laughing about something as they pull a wagonload of…

    Ring?

    Babootch.

    Over to the house. Mitchell spots me first and waves as I land in the crater. Whatever exploded here baked the ground hard and more or less flat, which is why it's perfect for the industrial freezer unit I deposit in it.

    I frown thoughtfully as I float back over the lip and land in front of the brothers.

    "You know, it wouldn't be that hard to set up an agricultural robot system to keep this place going."

    Kon shakes his head.

    "It's not the work. It's the security. As soon as anyone finds out there's a 'superfarm' out here, this place is gunna be crawling with reporters. And xenobiologists."

    "Is that a bad thing?"

    He nods, wincing slightly. "Clark had Jor-El check out what would happen if a human ate any of these plants. It… It wouldn't have been pretty."

    "Are they okay for you?"

    He looks slightly awkward. "Jor-El wasn't.. sure. My digestive system's mostly human, but he doesn't have much data on the Danner Formula."

    "Are you alright breathing in the pollen? Or-?"

    He shakes his head. "Come on, Paul: if it was that dangerous, the people living 'round here would have been affected by now."

    I look around. "And I take it there's no danger of the plants growing out of control like an invasive species with no natural predators?"

    He nods.

    "The plants can't spread because they need the kryptonian soil microbes that Karsta only added to the soil on her farm. The microbes can't spread because they don’t get on well with Earth soil, and she had to grow them in her-" He glances at the crater. "-lab and refresh them every year. We've been taking soil samples to give Jor-El so he can work out exactly what she added."

    "He doesn't know?"

    I hear Clark Kent dust off his gloves and I turn around as he walks over.

    "My father was a brilliant man, but agronomy wasn't really his focus." He turns his head to look at the freezer. "A present from Captain Cold?"

    I nod.

    "I've persuaded Leonard to work on civilian designs. That's one of his. Warden Waller grudgingly let me put it together in accordance with his specifications while he watched." I frown. "Isn't.. this a bit of a risk? Being out in the open like this?"

    He shakes his head. "Enemies with spy satellite networks aren't all that common. The only one I've got already knows who I am. In a way it's a little liberating not having to worry about him finding out."

    "No sense of an axe about to fall when he shares the information with the world?"

    "I figure that if he hasn't done that by now, then he isn't going to."

    Mitchell nods. "Maybe he likes you spending time being Clark Kent? He might think that if he told everyone who you are, you'd decide to be Superman all the time."

    Superman looks at me somewhat pointedly. "He might. I don’t really know what I'd do if he actually did it."

    "Would you like me to fit the Daily Planet with force fields just in case?"

    "I… Appreciate the offer, but I-" I stare at him. "-don't think that-" I point to his belt, and Kon gives his head a small shake, claps a curious Mitchell on the shoulder and pulls him away. "-would be a good idea."

    "Would you care to explain that?"

    "Because at the moment, the only connection between Superman and the Planet is that a few of his friends work there."

    "I think most people have spotted the romantic subtext in your interactions with Ms Lane."

    "You know how many people think I'm dating Diana? Especially after she adopted-. The boys?"

    "Themyscira is already well protected. The Daily Planet doesn't even have transparent aluminium windows."

    "Okay, but if we put force fields around the Planet, it makes it more obvious that there's something going on there."

    "Only if people know about them. And if they trigger, it would be because the building was going to be destroyed anyway."

    He folds his arms across his chest.

    "I don't think even you can make a sensor system that reliable."

    "No, but I can give you the on button."

    He pauses for a moment, then nods.

    "So I'd be the only one who could turn it on."

    "You'd be the one best placed to turn it on. I could also give Ms Lane an on-button, on the grounds that potential attackers must have worked out by now that you make a point of helping her whenever she's in need."

    "Okay. Send me a copy of the designs-" I take the data stick out of subspace and shove it into his pocket with a cartoon glove construct. "-and I'll.. look it over."

    I half-turn away, looking at the cabin where Kon and Mitchell are getting stuck in peeling and chopping vegetables.

    "Have you got somewhere to put all that?"

    "I can program the Fortress to grow by as much as I need it to."

    I nod.

    "And the.. farm land?"

    "Karsta still owns it, though I don’t know if she'll ever be back. Kara, the boys and I are going to pull up all the plants and replace them with Earth plants, just to be on the safe side."

    "Why..? Now?"

    "I was hoping she'd come back on her own. I've been having Har-Zod send her messages. She hasn't replied. I.. guess, after your training session, I decided it was time I dealt with it." He smiles. "You staying for dinner?"
     
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2019
  11. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    6th March
    10:01 GMT -5


    Dr Jonathan Crane regards me suspiciously from his side of the partition. His eyes have dark rings and he hasn't shaved recently, razors being something of a risk here. In accordance with Arkham Asylum rules he's in a strait jacket which is attached to his chair by thick straps and padlocks. The problem with Dr Crane is that while he's generally fairly well behaved, he can go into murderous rages with no apparent provocation. That's a fairly recent development: the first time he was arrested they actually sent him to Blackgate instead of here. Then… The other symptoms of prolonged psychoactive drug exposure started appearing.

    One of those appears to be insomnia. His eyes are red-veined, and while he's trying to stay focused on me his eyes are wandering and he's blinking as if he's struggling to keep them open.

    "Good morning, Doctor Crane."

    "If you say so."

    I risk a smile.

    "I'm glad that you're not demanding that I refer to you as-."

    "I'm insane, not crazy. I still remember what my name is. And I'm not.. Scarecrow when I'm like this. Scarecrow is…" He tries to move his arms, a slight jangling of the metal clips his only reward. "Terrifying. I'm not."

    "And how are you doing?"

    "The universe has no color or meaning. Food is bland, days blur together… I hadn't realised that the drugs would affect my sense of time like this."

    "That could just be the repetition."

    He nods.

    "I'll have to test it, once I'm free."

    I take a look at his spiritual networks.. and… Yikes. He's done a number on himself. The lines of emotional connections go places and those places are just… Dull. I can see their content… Crows, a decayed farm, a chapel… But there's no emotional resonance.

    The Scarecrow can't feel fear.

    "Doctor, I was wondering if you'd be prepared to help me with an experiment."

    "What sort of experiment?"

    "You need fear to function. But your exposure-."

    "Everyone needs fear to function! It's the most primal motivating force, the impetus which keeps us…" He sags slightly, pulling himself in. "Keeps.. us…"

    "Your exposure to your own gas means that you don't feel it any longer. Not unless you're exposed again."

    "No. No. I still-. Batman. Something about the bat-imagery… That.. makes me feel fear without it."

    "But being without that… It's horrible, isn't it?" He doesn't respond, settling for watching me intently. "What would you say if I said I could make you feel fear again?"

    "You'll have to do more than lock me in a box for a few hours like you did Penguin."

    "No, Doctor Crane. Magic."

    "Not something I ever studied. Though I suppose an impulse that potent must have some sort of arcane significance."

    "Just so. I don't know if you're a religious man-"

    "No."

    "-but I'm a Hellenist. And one of the supernatural entities I've encountered as a result is Melinoë. She's-."

    "The nymph of nightmare and madness, of course I know who Melinoë is." He lets out a scoffing exhalation. "Are you saying that you can arrange divine intervention?"

    "Yes." I take the product of our work out of subspace. It's actually nothing like as good as the regular version will be, but… They don’t like prisoners having access to metal plates or wire. "This will allow her access to your psyche. Your brain-."

    "Doesn't activate in response to normal fear-causing stimuli, but that's a matter of neurochemistry. You're saying that magic bypasses that?"

    "That, and I'm sure that a man like yourself can appreciate a little subtlety. It's not all about brute-force reliving of childhood traumas."

    He looks at the small leather patch floating before him. He might know that magic is real on an intellectual level, but he hasn't had any direct exposure to it himself. Hm, as far as he knows; who knows what Dr Gotham's coterie got up to. But until he actually tries it he won't know, and his pride in his craft might prevent him from accepting it.

    "Why are you offering this to me?"

    "Melinoë is a friend of mine. But I can't appreciate her work in the way that you can. And I suppose I would like you to have an outlet for your abilities that is a bit less destructive."

    "And that's it; you don't want anything?"

    "While your skill at neurochemistry is considerable, I don’t really think I have much use for it in my work. I don't think that you know anything about the Gotham underworld that I or my allies need to know. All your victims are either treated or dead." I shrug. "You don't have anything I want."

    Though there is a chance that this will make him sane enough that they can finally execute him for all of those murders he committed, including those of his college mentor, great grandmother, grandmother and father.

    "You don't have to agree to use this, but I think that you'll like it."

    "Have you used it?"

    "No. That's not really my thing."

    "Oh. And that interests me." He becomes noticeably more focused, watching my face carefully. "You don't think you could learn anything from studying your fears?"

    "I used to fear heights, then I learned to fly. I used to fear death, then I wandered through my afterlife." I shrug. "Doctor Crane, do you want this or not?"

    "Yes. Yes, I believe that I do. Even if it doesn't do what you claim it will, I'm sure that it will do something."

    There's a clank behind him as the door opens and an orderly comes in with a tray. On the tray is another example of the dream thrower along with a pin. The orderly puts the tray down on the small table in front of Dr Crane. He looks it over.

    "And what's this for?"

    "I know perfectly well that you're more likely to try and use this on someone else than use it on yourself. In order to activate the artefact, it requires a small amount of your blood. That will link it to you. You will be the only one it can affect."

    "I can hardly prick myself like-" He tugs on his bindings. "-this."

    "Not a problem, Doctor."

    I send a filament through the wall separating us and use it to grasp the pin.

    "Where would you like me to take it from?"
     
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2019
  12. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    14th March
    13:08 GMT -6


    Harleen regards me with fascination from the other side of the Belle Reve canteen table.

    "Did it wyrk?"

    "He spends his nights in absolute terror -and he consented to having an electroencephalograph attached so we can prove it- and wakes up raring to go. His behaviour has improved tremendously… He's asking to see the data we're gathering -which since it's medical data on him he's allowed to- but I don't see any reason not to."

    "Except fuh the fact that he's obsessed with feyuh and this ain't gunna help."

    "I'm not sure anything will. The various substances he's dosed himself with have altered the structure of his brain. I can't change it back without a 'before' image-. And that's pretty ethically questionable anyway. And so's fiddling around with neurons and hoping for the best."

    She nods.

    "The Caulder Method."

    In the comics I-. Alright, in the one-off appearances Doom Patrol members had in comics I read, Dr Niles Caulder was the leader of a team of people whose superpowers came with adverse physical or psychological handicaps. In the original comics he got them back on their literal and metaphorical feet and led them in the fight against evil. That was retconned later into him having some sort of freak fetish and actually causing all of the events which caused their mutations and injuries, though that definitely wasn't the original intent.

    The version here hasn't done any of that yet, though he has written extensively on superhuman psychology. I've read some of his work, and… Though we'd probably treat a lot of our patients in the same sort of way he's.. a bit more into enablement than I am.

    "Not.. exactly. I'd like to fix Doctor Crane. I just don't think it's possible."

    "What did Melinoë say abowd it awl?"

    "I haven't spoken to her yet. If she was annoyed she could contact me. The very fact that Doctor Crane is still having nightmares strongly implies that she's not annoyed about it."

    "An' the fact that you ain't havin' 'em."

    "I'm not actually sure if she can affect me through my wards. But if she couldn't and she was seriously annoyed I'm sure she'd find a way around it."

    "How popular you think these things 're actually-"

    My ring blinks.

    "-gonna be?"

    "I'm-" I raise my left hand slightly. "-sorry, but I have to take this."

    She nods and shrugs.

    "Orange Lantern Illustres, go ahead."

    Guy's head appears.

    "So are we doin' that whole title thing every time now?"

    "You can if you like. I didn't check the caller ID."

    He grins.

    "Honor Guard Lantern Guy Darrin Gardner reporting in!" He looks thoughtful. "Oh, hey, that's right: ain't you supposed to say yer name when you do this?"

    "How many Illustreses do you think we have?"

    "We've got two, so…"

    "Were you calling me because you're bored, or..?"

    He nods, his expression growing more serious.

    "Yeah. Y'know where you came through when you showed up in this universe?"

    "I'm unlikely to forget."

    "I was practicin' scanning fer stuff with my ring, and… Something screwy's goin' on."

    "Can you narrow it down?"

    "Ah… No." He winces slightly. "There's some kinda microscopic hole-."

    I frown. It hasn't been my focus recently, but during my first few months I investigated my emergence point pretty thoroughly. "That wasn't there before."

    "And I say microscopic, but if you kinda squint you can just about see the light comin' out right now."

    "Is it getting bigger?"

    "Oh, yeah. It's still not big, but-."

    "Have you called Accomplished-?"

    He rolls his eyes.

    "What, you gonna try teachin' me how t' suck eggs next? Yeah, Physician an' Mist 're up here, an' Atom an' Bats are too. I didn't wanna freak out over nothin', but…"

    "With you momentarily."

    I close my left fist, cutting communication. So. Possible portal to Earth Prime opening up. I've got a message buoy ready to go if it actually is one-.

    "You doin' okay?"

    Harleen's switched from friendly chat mode to counsellor mode immediately.

    "Yes. Home isn't my trigger." I slide my chair back and stand. "But this does warrant my personal attention. Excuse me."

    "Shuwer. Let me know how it goes."

    I raise my right hand to my forehead-

    14th March
    19:11 GMT


    -and appear in near-Earth space. Ring?

    Anomaly located.

    I transition closer, looking around for Guy as I do so. He's… On the Watchtower, okay. He was right about the glow. I can see it with my unaided eyes, and-.

    Anomaly growing.

    The size of a full stop on a page to the size of a penny. To the size of a fifty pence. To the size of an old fifty pence. It's like a hole in the fabric of space, except that it doesn't match any of the dozen or so phenomena I know of that can look like that. It's red with darker patches, though I can't tell whether it's emitting the light itself or something on the other side is.

    Fifty pence to hub cap and I'm backing up and armouring up.

    "Orange Lantern Illustres to Justice League, I didn’t do-"

    Hub cap to sunshade.

    "-anything. Should I retreat or attempt to contain?"

    Sunshade to-. No, that's.. it, it's not growing-.

    Something shoots out, the aperture wobbling and shrinking back in on itself. The object-. Woman, a blonde woman in a figure-hugging grey costume, which for-

    I put an environmental shield around her.

    -some reason covers her arms but leaves her legs bare. Her chest emblem is a red lightning bolt on a black triangle. Kryptonian? No, part kryptonian, badly burned and emitting a dozen different types of exotic radiation. Ring, drain.

    Compliance.

    "One injured human/kryptonian hybrid. Can I take her to the Fortress?"

    "Supes says 'go for it'."

    "On my way now."
     
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2019
  13. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    14th March
    14:27 GMT -5


    She's.. looking better.

    The burns are fading. Fortunately, the purple healing ray works as well on people from her parallel as it does on people from this one, and I'm sure that the synthesised sunlight is helping as well. I've taking the liberty of restoring her uniform… As much as I can. Her left arm was burned down to the muscle in a few places and I just guessed that it was the same as the right.

    "Jor-El? Anything else you need me to do?"

    "Physically, she is as healthy as I can easily make her. Has my niece been informed?"

    "Yes, but I asked her to stay away until I've been able to break the news to the patient. Seeing another kryptonian without context might cause.. problems."

    "I suppose that's reasonable. The process used to grant her partial kryptonian physiology was quite different from that used to create Kon-El and Match-El. I suspect that she was born entirely human before it was applied."

    I frown.

    "They rewrote the physiology of a complex organism? Are they more advanced than us, do you think?"

    "If they were able to do this reliably, then yes, they are. However, when Krypton experimented with augmented-."

    "You think they just tried a lot of times and she happened to survive."

    "It's possible. I can't tell for certain based on her current physiology." He pauses. "If it were done by kryptonians, awakening in a kryptonian facility might frighten her."

    "I don't think kryptonian scientists would dress her like that. Neither would human scientists. If she's wearing a uniform like that then they've clearly given her a job."

    "Or she escaped them."

    "I suppose." Hm. "I'll take a look at her emotional network. If I see anything that's cause for concern we can move her before she wakes up."

    "I think that would be wise."

    Okay, let's see…

    Fear of her environment. She's used to being able to tough out just about anything, and the burning frightened her. Not just the idea that she might die, but the idea that she might be crippled and unable to fulfil her duties to the state.

    State employed superhero? That could work, but given that it's always shown as a terrible idea in the comics I feel some instinctive nervousness. It goes against the whole deeply individualistic core of the superheroic ideal. Cooperation with the government, sure, that's part of being a good citizen. Servitude like the police or army? No. Ideals over orders. Oddly prescient, considering that the Second World War happened a little after the first superhero comics were published.

    Okay, so what else?

    Not seeing much in the way of hate, which means that she probably wasn't a test subject. Not recently, anyway. Anger isn't really part of her character either. Something about some creepy politician leering at her, but that's about it.

    I turn her shorts into leggings.

    Her wants are a confused mess. It feels like she's been taught to want certain things her entire life-.

    Oh.

    Oh my.

    That's… Going to be awkward.

    "What did you just see?"

    "She's a superhero on her world, but it's a little… Different to this one. She probably won't have a problem waking up here."

    Dealing with 'extreme' beliefs hasn't been a big part of my training, but it has come up in conversation with Harleen. Such beliefs are nonsensical, but a person holding them won't listen to rational challenges to those beliefs because they've already tagged you as an 'Enemy of the People', 'Suppressive Person', 'Subversive Element' or whatever the approved way of referring to people who haven't drunk the kool-aid is, and as such someone to ignore and mistrust. The way to talk them around is to find out what was going wrong in their lives which led them to those beliefs and help them fix that.

    But that probably wouldn't work here. That technique was intended for places where fascism is a dirty word, not for somewhere where it's the official state ideology and hammered into everyone from early childhood. I'd be worried, but it looks like I don't need to make her doubt. Something happened and she was doubting already. I've got to prevent her relapsing, convincing her that what she was used to isn't the only way to live. And… Keep careful tabs on her just in case she decides to go 'back to basics' on a planet full of people the Nazis would have considered fair game.

    "Nuhmm…"

    My light armour has a kinetic barrier and she's only part kryptonian… I haven't found a way to precisely judge how much solar power a kryptonian still has in their system.

    "But just in case… Please turn the sunlight off."

    The lights on the bier she's lying on dim slightly, and my ring notes that the lights in the entire fortress have changed frequency a little.

    Hm. Given that she's more or less dressed like a conventional superhero I imagine that my armour will pass muster, but… I walk around to her left side, making sure that I'm out of arm's reach. Not that that will help much if she's got kryptonian reactions. Fortunately, if her first language is German -and no offence intended to Germany but I think that's most likely- my ring will translate what I say into German for her. Which means that her instinctive reaction to hearing a strange language won't be an issue.

    "Miss? Are you back with us?"

    Her eyes snap open, her fingers scoring the crystals of the bier as she panic-clenches her hands into fists, sitting up with eyes glowing!

    I raise my hands in a placatory gesture.

    "Miss, you're safe here."

    Her eyes dim almost immediately and she sags, breathing hard as he heart races.

    "Where-?" She checks her left arm before returning her attention to me. "Where am I?"

    "I suspect that you're in a universe parallel to the one you came from. Are you feeling alright?"

    She takes a moment to regain her focus.

    "Yes. I am.. physically well. Is this..? Krypton?"

    "I'm afraid not. Are you..? From Krypton?"

    "No. No, it is simply that the design reminded me of pictures I have seen of Krypton." She looks me over. "You are a Lantern?"

    "I am the Illustres of the Orange Lantern Corps."

    "I do not know what that means."

    "I'm in charge of-."

    Would the Guardians deal with a Nazi Earth? Yes, yes they would. They've recruited people from some extremely vicious societies before, but they wouldn't recruit an individual who had personally participated in mass murder. And I'm not sure that someone raised as a dedicated National Socialist would want to serve in an organisation controlled by aliens.

    "I suppose the best way to describe the job is to say that I'm the most powerful Orange Lantern, but not necessarily the most intelligent."

    "I.. see."

    "And you?"

    One completely calm exhalation and she turns to adopt a sitting position with her legs over the side of the bier facing me.

    "I am Overgirl."
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2019
  14. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    14th March
    14:31 GMT -5

    She takes a moment to check herself over, her eyes hesitating on her left arm for a moment before dropping to her legs.

    "What happened to my shorts?"

    "Your clothing was somewhat damaged. If you don't like it I can get you something else?"

    "No, this is… Fine."

    "Look, if it's bothering you, I have full physiological scans of all of my allies and I've stuck bits of them back together on several occasions. Humanoid nudity-."

    "Oh, you're a doctor?"

    "No, I'm an unusually well-equipped medic. If I were a doctor I'd actually know medicine rather than having my ring's database feed me everything. But there aren't that many medically qualified superheroes so I've been subbing in."

    She nods. "Okay. Can I stand?"

    "As far as I can tell, you should be able to. Your solar batteries probably aren't fully charged, but your muscles, bones and nerves appear to be working properly. Though if you feel unsteady, sit back down and I'll take another look."

    "No, I meant, am I allowed to stand?" We look at each other for a moment. "Am I your prisoner?"

    "No-." Which isn't completely honest. "It's really more that we don't know anything about you and so we're being a little.. careful. You're free to stand and move around the facility, but if you want to go anywhere else I'll be tagging along."

    "Ah." She stands, testing her legs' ability to hold her weight. "I appear to be in good health."

    I smile. "I'm glad to hear-."

    "I am a National Socialist, from an Earth where Germany won the-. I don't know what you would call it. The Second Great War?"

    "Second World War. And.. yes, I knew, but I'm a little surprised that you're being so up front about it."

    "Ah." She touches her upper left arm with her right hand. "Did you remove my armband?"

    "No, it was burned to ash, but… I don't think that replacing it would be a good idea."

    "No, it would not. My-. Do you have an Overman here? A male kryptonian sent to Earth as a baby?"

    "Superman. He-."

    She lets out a bark of startled laughter. "You call him that?"

    "Not that many people read Nietzsche, and the crest of the House of El looks a lot like a 'S'."

    She nods. "Overman warned me that of all of the parallel universes he had seen, Germany under the National Socialists were only victorious in the.. Second World War, upon ours. He advised me that I should not conceal this part of our history."

    "That's.. jolly decent of him." Ah… "Sorry, you've rather wrong-footed me there. I was expecting to have to work up to that."

    "Did his pod land in the British Empire in this parallel?"

    "No." Sadly. "No. The British Empire sort of… Deflated in the decades following the end of World War Two. All that's left of it is a lot of tiny places that either couldn't function on their own or don't want to."

    "The technologies gained from Overman's pod should have given any nation the strength to take the world. If it was not Britain or Germany, where did he land?"

    "I'm sorry, your Overman landed in Germany before World War Two?"

    "Yes, in the Sudetenland in nineteen thirty eight."

    "Our Kal-El arrived on Earth in nineteen seventy eight. The Second World War played out based on the strength and skills of the nations involved, with no-" I perform a brief mental review the membership of the All-Star Squadron. "-alien involvement."

    "So who rules the world now?"

    "Um. I.. suppose that the simple answer would be that.. no one does. The United States of America is the most powerful country according to most metrics. Second is probably the People's Republic of-"

    The corners of her mouth turn down in distaste before she masters her expression.

    "-China. Then it sort of depends on whether you count the European Union as one country or not."

    Her eyes widen.

    "Europe is unified? If.. it was not due to warfare, did it happen peacefully?"

    "Sort of. The Second World War weakened the European powers to the point that they couldn't maintain their empires, but it also left them sharing a border with the Soviet Union." She.. sort of clenches, her hands balling into fists again. "That was a powerful incentive to cooperate, both economically and militarily."

    Her eyes are glowing again. Faintly this time, but I don't think it's intentional.

    "The Soviet Union. Does it still exist?"

    "No. It broke up about twenty years ago, and the Russian Federation is a nationalist nominal-democracy. It turns out that communism doesn't actually work." I frown. "So, are you Overman's daughter? I know that you're a human-kryptonian hybrid-."

    "No, I was born a human girl. My kryptonian traits were added by a retrovirus to incorporate parts of Overman's DNA."

    I scream internally, while maintaining a polite smile. Cadmus considered that, but decided against it because that sort of retrovirus is really unreliable. I remember reading about an incident back on Earth Prime where it was used to cure a genetic condition perfectly successfully, but also gave the patient another one that was just as bad and the doctors performing the procedure didn't know why.

    She notices my disquiet.

    "Yes. I was… Fortunate."

    For a moment I consider asking how many were less lucky. She's blonde, blue eyed-. They couldn't have risked a 'subhuman' getting that power, even a baby would have been a risk. But knowing that wouldn't help the situation, and I don't want anyone with Cadmus-like inclinations learning that the technique could work as desired.

    "How old were you? Did you-? Volunteer?"

    "I was eleven. And I did. Along with all of the others. Even I am not a complete success." I don't say anything. "You asked if I was his daughter. Does your Superman have children? With a human woman?"

    "Not a human woman, no."

    She blinks.

    "I beg your pardon?"
     
  15. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    14th March
    14:35 GMT -5


    "My friend Kon-El is composed of cloned tissues taken from Kal-El and a human man named Lex Luthor. With just a little metamorphic tissue added in to make the resulting life form functional. He was grown in a laboratory from foetushood."

    "He is.. like me, then? A kryptonian/human hybrid?"

    "Similar, though as they used a very different technique the results weren't quite the same. Are you the only one like you where you're from?"

    The slight aversion of her eyes combined with the hesitation suggests that she's about to lie.

    "Yes. I am the only living hybrid. But-. While I am sure that there are many things about the differences between our worlds we could discuss, we should focus on what brought me here. How did it look from your side?"

    I nod. "Jor-El? If you would?"

    "Jor-?"

    A hologram showing the red hole as it is now appears, along with a scale. Next to it a recording plays of me appearing next to it and it expanding and disgorging her. She watches the playthrough, then returns her attention to me.

    "Who is Jor-El?"

    "Kal-El's father?" She shakes her head. "The man who sent him to Earth in the first place, in order to get him off Krypton when it exploded? In this parallel he included a near-copy of his mind with Superman's pod."

    "I.. don't think that I ever knew his name. I.. don't even know that Overman knows it."

    "Well, you can let him know when you next see him. Assuming that's the same on your parallel. Do you know what the.. red thing is?"

    She shakes her head. "No. Something much like it appeared over the skies of Greater Germania. The New Statemen were investigating, when smaller portals began opening all across our world. One of them opened in front of a train. I attempted to stop the train safely, but I was pushed through myself. After that…" She shakes her head. "I do not clearly remember. Pain, burning, disorientation…" She shakes her head again. "I am sorry, I do not remember anything else until I awoke here."

    "You said that Overman gave you advice on how to behave. Does this sort of thing happen a lot where you're from?"

    "Not often, but he has travelled to parallel universes before." She smiles faintly. "He has been my world's greatest hero for sixty years. He has a large amount of experience to share with me."

    For a moment I see his face. His hair's a little shorter than Kal-El's, but otherwise they could be the same man. The memory I'm seeing… She was younger -and shorter- then, and his expression is a mixture of surprise and joy.

    I remember reading Red Son, and that version of Kal-El was still a good person. Just one with a radically different ideology than the one I'm used to. Stalin might have made extensive use of political executions and prisoner labour but he didn't. He awkwardly referred to it as being part of an earlier age.

    How would a Kal-El who grew up in Nazi Germany be a 'good' man?



    I'm coming up with nothing. Stalin's terror tactics aren't inherent to the Communist ideal; they were just his method for realising it without doing the 'universal raising of class consciousness' thing that Marx assumed would come first. But Nazi ideology is inherently genocidal. The idea that some people are lesser than others as a result of their genetic background is an intrinsic part of it. So… Maybe he'd just be less vicious about it? Exile rather than mass murder?

    I can ask Overgirl for the details later. But in her case, there's no way a 'good' Nazi would accept someone experimenting on Aryan children like that.

    I suspect that they didn't tell him what they were doing.

    Because they were worried that he'd stop them. Which means that whatever else he is, he isn't mindlessly obedient to the wishes of the Fuhrer-.

    "Do your people still have a Fuhrer, or did they reinstate the Reichstag?"

    "Neither the Reichstag nor the Reichsrat were ever abolished." I raise my eyebrows sceptically. I suppose that it's possible their history-. "While the Fuhrer's executive powers are unlimited, it is not practical for one man to be aware of everything in the country. The representatives of both parts of the legislature form a vital role in linking central government to the people of each part of Germania, bringing forth issues and challenges so that they may be solved and the Empire strengthened further!"

    "Al.. right. So we've got no idea what the portals are, where they're from or who might be creating them."

    "Could they be created by someone here?"

    "Certainly. And now that I know that you don't know anything about them, I'll start contacting the most likely culprits."

    She lights up her eyes again, but this time fully under control.

    "Do you require assistance?"

    "I prefer not to threaten people with violence."

    "Then what do you threaten them with?"

    "Mind control. Or at least, significant external mental influence." Her eyes dim once again and she blinks at me in surprise. "Most powerful Orange Lantern. I can nudge a person's desires in a variety of ways. And no, I haven't done that to you."

    Her face becomes carefully blank.

    "If I had, the idea wouldn't still bother you." Hm. "Alright, I need to report in, then you can either accompany me on my rounds or stay here and read up on our history. I assume that you want to be involved in the investigation?"

    She nods sharply. "Yes."

    "I will point out that with the Nazis'-"

    "National Socialists'."

    "-defeat, this world and its people are obviously rather different to what you're used to. Please defer to me before doing anything rash."

    She nods. "This is your world. I.. would prefer not to deal with.. certain people-."

    "I'm aware. Is now a good time to mention that one of my great grandfathers was a gypsy?"

    "One-" She shrugs. "-great grandfather is within acceptable bounds. You could never be Fuhrer, but few are afforded that opportunity."

    "How nice." I raise my left hand. "Orange Lantern to Watchtower. Our guest has woken up. I'm afraid she doesn't have an explanation as to exactly what happened. A great many portals opened on the parallel Earth she comes from and she accidentally went through one while protecting a train."

    John's face appears over my ring, prompting a quickly-suppressed frown from Overgirl.

    "Understood. What's her name?"

    "Overgirl."

    He nods. "The hole looks like it's settled down for now. We're feeding the information to Earth's best physics researchers to see if they can work out what's going on."

    "'Best' or 'best conventional'?"

    "Both. Though if you can get hold of someone we can't, be my guest."

    "Will do. I'll let you know if I find anything. Orange Lantern out."

    His head disappears-.

    "Was that a negro?"
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2019
  16. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    14th March
    14:39 GMT -5


    "Green Lantern John Stewart does indeed have dark brown skin."

    "I… See."

    "I assumed that you'd realised that whatever purges the Nazis-"

    "National Socialists."

    "-conducted on your Earth, they didn't happen here."

    "No, the negros were not purged. They were expelled from Europe-. I have not… Interacted with one before." She looks a little unsettled. "They are allowed to occupy positions of authority here?"

    "In a meritocratic society, if you can do the job then you can get the job. On this Earth, restricting someone on the grounds of their ethnic background is considered inappropriate."

    "They're just-. Allowed-." She shudders, swallowing, then nods. "I understand."

    I'm morbidly curious about how the Nazis put their racial policies into affect, but… Given that whatever I hear there's next to no chance that I'll head over to her Earth to remonstrate with the locals, I… There isn't much point in me enquiring.

    "The Justice League has several black members. Their foremost magic user is a multi-millennial African named Nommo Balewa, and if those portals are magical in nature he's your best hope of going home." She nods slowly in acknowledgement. "We don’t segregate. There's-."

    "Why not?" She frowns. "The British Empire segregated before the war. America had anti-miscegenation laws before the war…" She stills as she works it out. "The war."

    "There's nothing quite like liberating a death camp full of starving people to make a person reconsider their racial attitudes. And if you're a black man who's spent years fighting and killing in the service of your country and then they try to make you sit at the back of the bus or tell you that your marriage to the woman you met on campaign isn't valid…"

    I shrug.

    "Fascism is as unpopular here as.. I imagine Jews are where you're from."

    Her mouth opens slightly, then closes again.

    "I'm.. not Italian."

    Huh-?

    I shake my head.

    "Fascism has become a generic term for your particular brand of violent ethno-nationalism. There's basically nowhere on this Earth you can go where you can guarantee not to encounter black people. I'll ask again: can I trust you to keep yourself under control?"

    "I would rather not-." … "Yes."

    "Glad to hear it. Ring, please add Overgirl to the network."

    "Overgirl added as A Six One."

    "This way please."

    I lift myself off the floor and fly out of the medical ward. She follows-. She can fly. Interesting. Have to talk to Jor-El about what combination of human and kryptonian enables that ability, along with the heat vision.

    "Do you have teleporters?"

    "No, zeta tubes. The infrastructure requirements-" She's looking around very carefully, though these walls can switch between kryptonian-transparent and kryptonian-opaque and I know that Jor-El's set it to the latter. "-for the first few were less, and it was easier to keep building them than it was to get approval for the satellite network a teleportation system would require. I'm gradually persuading them to switch to a magic-based system. What do your people use?"

    "Assault transport ships."

    Hm. Well, if they've had kryptonian technology for sixty years… And cleared the air between their launch point and their destination, an atmospheric craft… It would be slower than a zeta tube in places that actually have tubes, but otherwise could give them a faster response time. I'd rather dismissed the idea because.. teleporters are just better, but perhaps I was wrong not to at least present a few prototypes to the League?

    I land just in front of the tube.

    "Just through here."

    I step-

    "Recognized, Orange Lantern, B Zero Six."

    14th March
    20:42 GMT +1


    -through to the outskirts of Budapest and take a moment to check our surroundings. Pretty sure that Batman has recording devices on these things…

    "Ring, sound baffle. And call the Sivanas."

    "Compliance."

    "Recognized, Overgirl, A Six One."

    Overgirl strides out of the tube-. No, marches out, and it's a mercy that she's not goose-stepping. At least she's not checking her body parts like I did. She stops and looks around for a moment as I rise into the air, then follows me as I ascend.

    "Ah. Budapest."

    "I hesitate to ask..?"

    "On my Earth this is all part of Germania. The older parts of the city are much the same. The Fuhrer was a great admirer of the civic architecture."

    "The Fatherland must be bigger. I take it that Germania is the part of the world that the Reich directly administers?"

    "Yes." She smiles. "It covers most of central and Eastern Europe, including what was once the western part of Russia. The Fatherland has never been bigger!"

    "And the former inhabitants have no further use for their territory?"

    "Those who were genetically pure had their property restored once the war in Europe was over."

    A million or so people living in Budapest at the start of the war. 'Genetically pure' meaning no more than one great grandparent who was a gypsy, Jew or Slav. Which.. means…

    No, I don't-. I've got no idea what genetic markers they were looking for, or whether or not the crazy Nazi eugenicists considered Hungarians to be Slavs or not.

    "Orange Lantern!" Ah. Papa Sivana. "Delighted to hear from you, my boy! Found something interesting for me?"

    Overgirl is looking down, using her enhanced vision to examine the city and its people.

    "A Nazi superhero from a parallel universe."

    "Earth Ten? Yes, I met my alter-ego from there once. He's a businessman. National Socialism was not good for the scientific community. And neither was cribbing all of their technology from alien databases."

    "We have a visitor from there. A portal opened in near-Earth space. Could you teleport us to you so we can discuss it?"

    "Certainly."

    Space… Cubes-.

    Notvomitingnotvomiting-.

    And I appear in Sivana's laboratory while Overgirl appears in a containment chamber, energy saws poised to dissect her!
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2019
  17. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    14th March
    20:43 GMT +1


    "Doctorstopwe'vetalkedaboutthis!"

    The closest energy blade spins into Overgirl's right arm. She doesn't react to the impact as it burns through her uniform, instead immediately sighting the top of the armature and firing her heat vision. The arm jumps as the point she hits doesn't merely melt but vaporises.

    "Dissectingsomeoneisthelastthingyoudotothem!"

    Overgirl jinks, avoiding a swinging blade and battering the armature with her right fist! It flies off its mount and goes careening into the force field containing the containment chamber.

    Dr Sivana looks away from his control panel.

    "Yes? Usually?"

    "Whyareyoudoingthis?"

    He blinks. "Oh! You didn't mean-?"

    An energy saw catches Overgirl in the back of her head, crimping her.

    "No!"

    "I really don't think that was clear from-" I gesture at the containment chamber, where two track-propelled combat robots have entered from portals along the interior wall and point their plasma blasters at Overgirl. "-your introduction."

    "Iapologiseandwillendeavourtobeclearerinfuture!"

    "Oh, very-" He reaches out with his right hand and pulls a lever. "-well."

    The combat robots lower their weapons and begin retreating-.

    Overgirl flies into the first, rips off its head and fires her heat vision down its neck hole and into its interior! Its joints glow as its more delicate components are melted from the inside! She then grabs the slagged hulk and hurls it at its partner, which ducks behind the exit just in time for her improvised projectile to bounce off.

    Then she turns towards Dr Sivana, eyes still glowing. Ah-.

    There's a gold flash and she's on the floor, Dr Sivana taking a moment to admire the gold kryptonite laser pistol he's holding in his left hand.

    "Superman would have been faster."

    "What-?" She tries to push herself up, clearly having no idea why she's suddenly so weak. "What did-?"

    I transition next to her, creating a barrier construct around her and firing a beam of sunlight at her. It won't reverse the effects immediately, but it should speed up her recovery.

    "Doctor, what are you doing?"

    He slips his pistol back into his lab coat.

    "Experimenting. Learning." He grins evilly and rubs his hands together. "Those heat beams were approximately two thirds of Superman's highest recorded output. You were giving it your all and I'm confident that he never has. Why would the Nazis, with their fixation on strength and blood purity, create a weaker knockoff?"

    "What was that gun?"

    "Gold kryptonite. Radiation on the right frequencies interferes with kryptonian physiology."

    "Orange Lantern usually enhances his kryptonian friends to prevent me doing that."

    "You are Thaddeus Sivana." Her eyes narrow. "The version of you from my Earth was executed for treason."

    "I don't think I'll miss him. And now that you don't have that frustrating force field scattering my scanners, I can try and work out how you got here."

    He pulls a couple of levers and a scanner array descends from the ceiling.

    "Hold still. You probably picked up all sorts of fascinating resonances on your.. way…" He frowns as he looks at the results. "Hm."

    "I removed those as part of healing her."

    "Yes, you did, didn't you? That's… Inconvenient. Did you at least keep a record of what you removed?"

    "Sorry. Orange ring consumption is fairly undiscriminating. Couldn't you just send a probe?"

    "I've already done that, but it's not as resilient as a kryptonian." He makes eye contact with Overgirl. "And you haven't answered my question. Why did they make you?"

    She glares at him, then turns to me.

    "Why did you bring me here?"

    "Because I'm afraid that despite his idiosyncrasies Doctor Sivana is the most intelligent human presently alive. When I have a problem that requires a scientific solution, I find myself increasingly turning to him and his family."

    "Fam-? That dwarf was allowed to breed?"

    "I'm not a dwarf; merely short. And unlike Nazis, I approach eugenics scientifically. My-."

    "Doctor?"

    He shrugs. "There's nothing to do until I get some useable data from my probes. If more portals open there are any number of things I could try in order to force their closure. But I don't imagine that you would be all that happy about the collateral damage that would be involved. So unless there's a reason to rush things, I may as well attempt to alleviate my own frustrations with someone I won't be working with ever again."

    "Doctor, it's not like you to get this distracted. What's going on?"

    "Hm." He thinks for a moment. "I think it's you. Since our first meeting I've been thinking about my rejections more."

    "The ones which led to you-?"

    "Becoming a supervillain, yes. Do you know how many times I was called a Nazi for trying to prevent the propagation of damaged genes?"

    "More than you should have been."

    "Tia and Magnificus are blonde and blue-eyed because their mother is blonde and blue-eyed and those were the genes I was working with."

    I raise my hands in a pacifying gesture.

    "You have no need to convince me."

    "The Nazis were terrible scientists. They dismissed atomic physics as 'Jewish science'."

    "I know they did, but Overgirl wasn't making policy-." I glance at her. "How old are you?"

    "Thirty nine."

    Huh. I've have guessed younger, but I suppose that's kryptonian physiology for you.

    "Wasn't making policy during that era. And I also doubt that she thinks that atomic science is nonsense."

    "Of course not. It was simply that the pool of physicists working in the area were predominantly Jewish and so politically unreliable. There was little point in the Empire expending resources without any chance of getting useful results."

    "Useful. Results."

    "Doctor, thank you for taking the time to investigate this phenomenon, but unless you need us here I think it best if we left."

    "Yes. I think so too." He presses a button. "This facility is now transparent to zeta rays. You can leave when you like."
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2019
  18. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    14th March
    20:55 GMT +1


    "I'm sorry about that. I didn't realise that he'd.. react that way."

    Overgirl's eyes are in magnification mode as she stares down at the streets of Berlin, saccading back and forth as she moves from one point of strangeness to another.

    "I know."

    "Would you..?" I point to the places where her uniform has been burned through. "Like me to repair that?"

    "… Yes. Yes, please."

    Orange light moves over her bare skin, leaving grey material in its wake.

    "There isn't really much we can do about… Getting you back right now. Is there anything you..? Particularly want to see? Anywhere you want to go?"

    "The Tempelhof Arc is missing."

    "It was never built. For.. obvious reasons."

    "I know you said that the subhumans are allowed into Europe, but why are there so many?"

    I wonder for a moment if I should call her on the use of the term 'subhuman', but I did just lead her into an ambush by an 'angry' scientist.

    "Improvements in transportation and communication technology and infrastructure, civil instability in Africa and the Middle East, and after the war West Germany had a shortage of low-skilled workers that they filled by-."

    "They brought in foreign workers."

    "They invited in foreign workers. There were economic migrants, not slaves."

    "How.. has the Empire-. Germany.. remained… Stable… With…"

    "Cultural assimilation, and less emphasis on monoculturalism. When you don't tell people it's essential that they only do things in a particular way, people stop objecting quite as strongly. Which is not to say that there weren't problems, especially in the short term. Just that they're manageable."

    "Where are the Jews?"

    "Around, probably." I shrug. "They aren't required to wear identification armbands or anything."

    "They look-?"

    "Just like anyone else? You did realise that Nazi propaganda-"

    "National-. Socialist."

    "-images were exaggerated at best, right?"

    "I.. assumed they were a.. little, but…" She blinks, her vision returning to normal focus. "They just-. And they don't… Control…"

    "No, Jews do not control European society. The vast majority of holders of high office in Germany are Christian. There are slightly disproportionately more Jews in banking when compared to their representation in society as a whole, but that's largely for reasons of tradition after a lot of European monarchs banned them from a lot of other trades rather than any concerted attempt to subvert the state. The only person who might be able to claim to control the world's economy is the head of the Greek Independent Authority for Public Revenue, Professor Demetrios Prokopios, and he's… Well, he's not Jewish."

    "I… Don’t think I.. believe it."

    "You're free to look at whatever records you want. History, crime statistics…"

    "Genealogies?"

    "I.. doubt that our records are as expansive as yours are, and they're certainly not available to the public at request. Is there something you particularly want to know?"

    "How the races have.. been bred together."

    "I'm sorry? Outside of a few.. very unusual criminal situations, no one makes anyone breed with anyone else. Certainly, having people from different cultures living and working together results in a greater number of interracial relationships than would happen if they were geographically separated, but there's no.. deliberate.. policy of encouraging it. Honestly, the very idea would make people quite uncomfortable."

    "I-. I mean-." She gurns. "How, how common.. is..?"

    "I don't have the statistics to hand, but general demographic information might be publically available. You'd only find out how many mixed race individuals there are, rather than how many mixed race couples… Other than the fact that you find the whole idea immensely disturbing-."

    "Are you-? In a relationship with a… Negress?"

    "Ah, no. My girlfriend's father is of mixed Anglo-Saxon and Skræling ancestry, while her mother is Vietnamese. She looks more like her mother."

    For a slightly awkward moment I remember Raquel kissing Kaldur on the Watchtower in the first moment of 2011. Maybe she just thought I was taken?

    "I realise that this is somewhat hard for you to take in-."

    "Yes! It's disgusting! Why would-? Anyone-!"

    She takes a few breaths to regain her composure.

    "Karl told me that he regretted… Regretted the purges."

    "Karl?"

    "Overman. Overman told me that he regretted the purges. I didn't-. I thought that he meant that he didn't think it was worth killing them."

    "That may well have been what he meant."

    "No, he's-" She turns to stare at me. "-seen other Earths! He's seen this result! And he'd.. rather have this than-than-."

    She's actually crying. Okay, I can see how having your idol-.

    I take a closer look at the violet strands.

    "You think of him as your father."

    "I was supposed to be-. They made me because they were trying to make someone who could bear his children, and he found out about it -about me- before they were ready. And he-. He is the world's greatest hero! He found out that my family was dead, and he.. took me out of the laboratory and into his home and treated me as if I was his natural daughter, not a half-alien who could never match him."

    "Alright. Um."

    "Why didn't he.. just… Tell me this is what it was like?" She turns back to the Berlin panorama, shaking her head. "I-. I'm more loyal to him than to the Fuhrer. He should have been Fuhrer after Adolf Hitler died. Why didn't he trust me with this?"

    "Because it would have been a total shock to your worldview, and interfered with you being a hero on a world that works like yours does." She gives her head a tiny shake. "You said that he regretted the purges. Did he ever talk to you about them?"

    "He was away from the Earth when the Great Cleansing occurred. He never likes to talk about it. He only spoke about it to me after he did a television interview where he admitted to wishing it hadn't happened, even after all of the good that the National Socialist party has done for our people. I-. I need to understand-."

    Her head jerks up.

    "This world. Are any of my family alive?"
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2019
  19. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    14th March
    20:59 GMT +1


    "Angelika Kant-." She frowns, wiping her eyes with her right hand. "No. Not Kant. Köhler."

    "Did your family change their name-?"

    "Overman's name is Karl Kant. I took his-. If they survived, they will be Köhler."

    "If they were born at all." Ring, get searching. "We're assuming that history is the same up to Kal-El's arrival, but that is an assumption."

    The ring shows me a list of Köhler. It's not a short list, and… There is a digitised list from the forties, but it's partial and I'm only allowed to access it legally because this is a Justice League operation. The Stasi really gave big data a bad name.

    "You were born in nineteen seventy three?"

    She nods. "Yes."

    "Parents' names? Including mother's maiden name, if you know it."

    "Peter and Gabriele Köhler. I.. don't remember my grandparents. Or what my mother's name was before her marriage."

    "Do you remember what part of Germany your family was from?"

    "Danzig."

    Because she was born after the Nazis were victorious. I suppose that I should be glad she didn't say 'Adolfburg' or something.

    "Do you remember their dates of birth, or if they lived anywhere before that?"

    She shakes her head, which… I only remember roughly when my parents' birthdays are. It's been twenty eight years for her. But…

    "Was the Versailles Treaty the same for you as it was for us, with East Prussia being separated from the rest of Germany by the Polish Corridor?"

    "The first Treaty, yes."

    "The first?"

    "The Fuhrer considered it appropriate for the treaty returning control of occupied France to Marshall Pétain to also be signed in Versailles. Technically, it would be the third treaty since the treaty establishing the French State was also signed there, but that was only an interim measure."

    An action that was just as mean-spirited as the original pre-signing train journey by the German delegation through the fields where the French had put German prisoners of war to work. Some people would rather twist the knife than stem the bleeding.

    Okay, so, family Köhler, living in East Prussia… They would have been born… In the fifties-.

    "How long did the war in Europe last on your Earth?"

    "Including Russia?"

    "Yes."

    "The Soviet Union lost cohesion after the Fall of Moscow in nineteen forty one. Major military purification operations carried on for another year. Britain was effectively removed from the war in Europe in nineteen forty three, after the Battle of Edinburgh. Even after Churchill died, they would not surrender. You should be proud; the British never needed to use blocking battalions or commissars."

    Yeah… Great…

    "I've got plenty of people called 'Köhler', but… Do you think you could draw one of them-?"

    She shakes her head.

    "Your parents were born when Germany was stabilising its control over the continent. Here, it would have been when Germany started losing, or just after it lost. The Soviet Army was extremely violent in its treatment of German civilians in the areas it overran. I can show you pictures, but if you won't recognise them…"

    I shrug, shaking my head.

    "No, of.. course. It was a vain hope; there is no 'Supergirl'."

    "No… Two, actually. There's a young woman who uses the name, though she's a magically-augmented human rather than a kryptonian. And there's Kara Zor-El, who's Kal-El's cousin. She doesn't use the name."

    "His.. cousin? Other people from Krypton survived here?"

    "A very small number. She had a pod like his, but it was damaged when Krypton exploded. She nearly starved to death in suspended animation before we recovered her."

    "Would-? Would she exist in my universe-? No, no." She shakes her head. "We have no way to know how different Krypton's history is."

    Hm. Karsta was already working on her farm in the nineteen thirties. The Kryptonian Navy had already been stood down… Though more recently. Jor-El might actually have found it easier to build the pods than he did here, since he could just buy parts from the recently-decommissioned ships rather than having to make them himself in secret. Or just requisition a ship outright, depending on exactly-.

    "She would be dead in my universe, wouldn't she?"

    "It's impossible to say. Our Zor-El wanted her to end up on Xudar, so she might just be there."

    No, she wouldn't. Zor-El might have been prepared to indulge his brother and not insist that Kara immediately fly to Earth to rescue his nephew, but she'd be just as eager to meet him as he was her. If she could, she'd have travelled to Earth 10 by now.

    "I have to get back. I must tell Overman that he might have a surviving blood-relative."

    "We weren't planning on keeping you here."

    But what to do with her now? The initial shock seems to have worn off, at least a little. If Doctor Sivana couldn't get a useful reading from her then no one can, so there isn't anything the League need her for.

    Back to the attempted denazification. Or… Denational socialismification.

    "I tried doing the same thing, you know."

    She's not really looking at me, but at least she's not looking at a peaceful street like it pooed on her mother's grave. "What do you mean?"

    "When I first arrived on this version of Earth. I tried going-. Well, not 'home'… It doesn't exist here. But to the nearest town. Then I tried tracing my genealogy. A man who might have been my Granddad was killed when Baron Reiter tore apart the ship he was serving on. Or it might just have been a man with the same name." I shake my head. "I wasn't able to track down anyone else."

    "You..? The.. portals have-."

    "No, no, I didn't come through one of those. We still don't know how I got here, though.. you did come through in the same place."

    "What… Was your world like?"

    "No superheroes or supervillains. History in general is.. surprisingly similar. Technology is about five years behind and there are a lot more people." I shrug. "But I'm familiar with the idea of superheroes, while I doubt that Nazis-"

    "National Socialists."

    "-bothered-." I frown. "Why do you keep doing that?"

    "Because we are not-." She sighs. "'Nazi' is an abbreviation of 'Ignatius'."

    "Okay?"

    "You're saying that we're a lot of ignorant Bavarian peasants. It used to mean that before our enemies started using it for National Socialists."

    And -to be fair- for all their anti-scientific habits they certainly aren't peasants.

    "Okay, well, I suspect that National Socialists haven't spent all that much time imagining what the world would be like if they lost."

    "We have. We just thought it would be…" She looks around. "Worse." She shrugs. "After all, how could it not?" She shakes her head. "I do not want to be here. It is too… Familiar. What part of the world do you live in?"
     
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2019
  20. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    14th March
    15:02 GMT -5


    I frown at Director Armstrong in genuine puzzlement.

    "I'm sorry, what?"

    Her jaw is somewhat tense, though less tense than it was a moment ago when she thought this mess might be of my instigation. "They're claiming Apokoliptian citizenship."

    "Yeees, that's the part I don't understand."

    A man whose identification tag marks him as coming from the organisation's legal branch shifts some notes on his holopad before returning his attention to me.

    "You said in front of the Senate committee that Apokolips claimed ownership of the Earth, with you as their… 'Suzerain'."

    I groan inwardly.

    "You can confirm that you haven't offered anyone Apokoliptian citizenship?"

    "I can indeed."

    "Is there anyone else on Earth who could?"

    "Apokolips doesn't even have citizenship. I'm not an Apokoliptian citizen in any legal sense. Knockout isn't an Apokoliptian citizen. Anyone claiming to be an Apokoliptian citizen clearly doesn't know anything about Apokoliptian society."

    "Is there an equivalent title or.. level of social standing?"

    "No." I shake my head. "The modern notion of 'citizenship' comes from the idea that the right to rule comes from the consent of the governed. That people have rights and responsibilities to the state as a whole derived from their participation in it. Apokolips… Doesn't have that."

    "So what does a person have to do to have rights on Apokolips?"

    I don't immediately respond. He looks up, and I try and communicate with expression alone exactly how mistaken he's been in his choice of barking tree.

    "There are no rights."

    "I thought Apokolips was feudal with super powers. Aristocrats have rights and responsibilities in feudal states."

    "Yes, because the monarch is usually first among equals, and a sufficiently large group of major nobles could overthrow them. That's where the Magna Carta comes from. That doesn't work on Apokolips-" Except briefly under Queen Heggra. "-because in an arena fight between Darkseid and everyone else -even allowing the 'everyone else' team to punch voodoo dolls so they didn't get in each other's way- Darkseid would still win. That makes for a very different social structure."

    "Is that how it works? There's Darkseid, then everyone else?"

    "No, there's… Four or five layers..? It sort of depends on how you look at it. If this… What was his name again?"

    "Lincoln Burns. He's a.. musician, with a history of, ah… Shall we say 'creative' tax dodges."

    "Right. If he somehow appeared on Apokolips, he'd be a Lowlie."

    "Is that the equivalent of being a blue collar worker?"

    "No. A blue collar worker, someone with an employer who valued their input and would miss them if they vanished, would be a level up. Lowlies are a step down from slaves."

    "A step d-. How does that work?"

    "Apokolips has the technology to become a traditionally post-scarcity civilisation. The only reason we're not is that we chose not to be. We don't need the labour of blue collar workers, or a working class, or semi-skilled labourers, or whatever you want to call them. Historically, in human civilisations, serfs have protection under the law, even if they have little freedom. Slaves had legal protection in some societies, and in those where they didn't they at least had financial value. Lowlies have no value. They're considered worthless, barely useful as a group for the power their misery provides to people like Darkseid. And I know that the moment he finds a better way to do it he'll have them all killed."

    I shrug.

    "Or just completely ignore them."

    "And… Up from them?"

    "Soldiers, mostly. A few Lowlies who survived long enough to become distinguishably useful to their betters. A group with useful applications. Occasionally, one even gains sufficient power to join the Elite… Canis Major is the only one I can immediately call to mind, but it does happen."

    "And then?"

    "The Elite. Awakened individuals like myself powerful enough to have specific uses. Darkseid's inner circle exists on a continuum with the rest of the class, but they have enough Elite under their command that you could count them as a separate group."

    "But they don't have rights either."

    "No. There are… Alliances, levels of favour… Open fighting is discouraged because it's distracting and tends to spread, but complete peace is discouraged as well. There are social conventions, but nothing as potent as 'rights' or 'laws'."

    "And the top level?"

    "The autocrat. Darkseid at the moment. Yuga Khan before him. Monstrously powerful individuals who define the purpose of our society."

    "Okay, and what sort of tax rates do these levels pay?"

    I lean back in my chair, my right hand covering my face.

    "None. There isn't-. There are tribute payments in some cases, but there's no standard rate of income that people are obliged to hand over. Most people don't have any income it would be possible to tax."

    "So there isn't a tax rate."

    "No, there isn't a tax rate. Lowlies don’t have-. No one on Apokolips has property rights."

    "But he can't be a legal citizen of Apokolips."

    "Correct."

    "Are there any Apokoliptians on Earth who might tell him or his lawyers otherwise?"

    "I know all the Apokoliptians on Earth. It wasn't Knockout; she works for me. My brother wouldn't, my sister-in-law wouldn't, then it's just Kanto -who wouldn't bother- and-."

    Uh.

    "What's his lawyer's name?"

    He checks his notes again.

    "Simon Leas."

    Oh for fuck's sake. The one Apokoliptian I decided to ignore because he was beneath my contempt.

    "And they want to make representations to me about intervening on their behalf with the IRS?"

    "That's about the size of it."

    "Okay, got a solution. Invite them for a discussion at Challenger Mountain and we'll handle this under Apokoliptian law."

    Director Armstrong scowls. "Why the hell should we do that?"

    14th March
    18:02 GMT -6


    "Shit! Shit! Shit!"

    I don't waste time looking at the autodefecating Mr Burns as Knockout holds him up by his shirt, instead focusing my attention on the cowering Sleez. As an Elite Apokoliptian himself, disciplining him myself is 'officially' worth my time. Mr Burns is a Lowlie who drew the attention of his betters.

    I grab Sleez around his chest and squeeze until his morphomagic generator fails and he's forcibly returned to his true, goblinoid form.

    "'Apokoliptian Citizenship'? Have you been gone so long that you've forgotten how we do things you vile worm?" Honesty. Integrity. Directness. Openness.

    "Hey! You can't-!"

    Knockout takes her right hand off his shirt and slaps him hard enough to send him flying into the wall. Though she's restrained enough to avoid doing lasting harm. "Silence before your betters, Lowlie."

    "You drew my attention, Sleez. And I am going to remind you why you shouldn't have done that."
     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2020
  21. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    14th March
    15:05 GMT -5


    "Recognized, Orange Lantern, B zero six."

    I walk out of the glaring light of the zeta tube with my fingers crossed. It's not that I think that she'll actually attack anyone, it's just… I don't think that further shocks to the system will help my case.

    So, what do we know? Overman, the most powerful and highly respected superhero on Earth 10, thinks that the holocaust was a really bad idea. He's playing his horror down, but the person closest to him spotted it. And since she really didn't-. Doesn't want to believe it, I don't think that she's merely mistaken. So okay, he was a teenager when the Second World War ended, and Angelika said that he didn't commit mass 'purging' himself. I wouldn't expect most teenagers to question the society they grew up in at that age, and…

    And I'm not sure that I can criticise him too harshly for not trying to topple the fascist status quo when I left the Crime Syndicate as a going concern. Okay, he's had sixty years and I had a couple of days, so… No, no, the Syndicate doesn't have a broad support base. By now fascism is just normal. The surviving groups who aren't considered 'acceptable' aren't going to have the economic or military power to form a separate support base. And at this point the more stupid parts of Naz-. Yes, Nazi political organisation must have reached some kind of resolution, otherwise the system just wouldn't be able to function.

    Overman openly said that he thought the purges were a mistake and they don't appear to have tried to purge him. Yes, kryptonians are tough but they're not invulnerable. If the current regime were that sensitive to criticism then they could probably have gotten rid of him. Ultimately, I just don't know enough-.

    "Recognized, Overgirl, A six one."

    I don't know what he's planning. And I don't know if I could come up with something better.

    Angelika looks around curiously. Her eyes alight on the bio-ship for a moment, but she appears familiar with the general design.

    "Is that Martian?"

    "Yes, it belongs to my colleague, M'gann M'orzz. What's Mars like in your parallel?"

    "It was dead. There's a Germanian colony there now, but the only member of the native species left is A'monn A'mokk."

    "What happened to them?"

    "I don't know him well. Some sort of weaponised disease. It killed the entire population over the course of a few days." She shrugs. "It does nothing to humans, so there was no reason not to colonise it."

    Hm. Don't remember an A'monn A'mokk from the comics.

    "Good news, then! Martian civilisation is alive and well here. The Justice League has a Martian member, as does my team. That's a Martian spaceship."

    She nods, and continues looking around.

    "I can't see through the rock."

    "Yes, it's a security measure. I reinforced it with super tough materials and arcane wards, and there's an enchanted grove inhabited by a dryad on top of it." I frown. "What does National Socialism say about dryads?"

    She shrugs. "Since they aren't human, our standards of racial purity don't apply. The National Church dislikes them, while the Ariosophists.. generally revere them. I have never dealt with one myself. Do you intend to introduce us?"

    "I think Euanthe's probably a bit tactile for you."

    "Tactile?"

    "She doesn't really have a concept of personal space. Oh, um… Should I introduce you as Overgirl, or Angelika? Actually, is it alright if I call you Angelika? Overgirl sounds a little.. odd in-." I wince. "Do you speak English?"

    "Yes, and Spanish and French. Though I am told that I have a strong accent."

    "I hadn't noticed."

    "Of course not, we are both speaking German."

    "No, I'm speaking English." I hold up my left hand. "My power ring includes a translation function."

    "It does?"

    "I got a 'C' at GCSE German, which means that I can't speak German. I didn't even get that far with any other language."

    "Sentinel's ring does not translate. Is that because his ring is green?"

    "Did he get it from an American superhero called Green Lantern?" She nods. "It's defective. Damaged during a remote shutdown when its previous owner stopped obeying the people who made it. It doesn't have a lot of the functions the rings in good working order have."

    "How would he repair it?"

    "Ta.. king our parallel as an example, find someone who understands the technology and ask them to do it. The Guardians of the Galaxy might do it, but… How National Socialist is Sentinel?"

    "They would refuse to aid a hero due to his political beliefs?"

    "If those political beliefs include the idea that mass murder of people who haven't committed a crime due to genetic characteristics is okay then yes, they probably would. If the Green Lantern Corps in your reality works like it does here then there are two Lanterns in your region of space already. If they haven't approached him -even just to find out how he got his ring- then it's probably because they don't want to."

    "Their own species has never cleansed itself? They do not have their own defectives?"

    "Yes, and I work for them. When Maltusian political factions can't agree with one another they just avoid one another, they don't kill each other. The last time there was Maltusian on Maltusian violence was when one of them came close to accidentally destroying the universe, and there wasn't any internal disagreement about how to handle that."

    "Other species, then. How do they handle-?"

    "Some species do sterilise people with genetic disorders… Those are actual disorders which make parts of their body not function properly, not for membership of a particular social group. More advanced places just fix them or use assisted reproduction techniques to ensure that the damaged genes aren't passed on. Political purges happen in a lot of places, but… Remember all of the centuries German Catholics spent killing German Protestants, and vice versa? Same thing, and about as sensible. Trying to kill a popular idea by killing people usually doesn't completely work, and trying to kill an unpopular one is pointless. Other places have caste systems, but even then… Flat out extermination of the sort Germania went in for is very unusual."

    I call up a holographic screen and connect it to my rings by a construct.

    "Feel free to review our database if you wish to confirm that for yourself."

    "Yes." She walks over to it and begins entering her search parameters. "I think that I will."
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2020
  22. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    14th March
    16:11 GMT -5


    "You did this?"

    Ah, she's located my brief fling with genocide, a reconstruction of the destruction of the Citadel Complex playing on the screen.

    "A few friends and I, yes."

    "You purged them."

    "I prefer precise descriptions. We didn't feed them laxatives after all. We exterminated them. And I'm slightly uncomfortable that it feels like you're going to imply there's no difference between what I did and what your forebears did."

    "What do you think the difference is?"

    "There was a story a Jew who escaped N-. National Socialist-" She nods appreciatively. "-Germany. He'd fought in the First World War and been awarded an Iron Cross. But the restrictions on Jews were getting worse and he didn't particularly want to get murdered. So he withdrew his money from his bank, packed his suitcase and headed for the border. The border guard wanted to examine the contents, because it was illegal to take more than a certain amount of money out. So he handed it over, the guard popped it open, took one look at the Iron Cross on top, heiled him, closed the suitcase without examining it and handed it back."

    "If a Jew had an Iron Cross then he stole it."

    "Eighteen thousand Jews won an Iron Cross during World War One." I point to the monitor. "Feel free to look it up. I can't promise that there are scans of the individual certificates attached, but unlike the National Socialist Party we haven't purged our archives. Heck, there were even a few Jews who won an Iron Cross during the Second World War, fighting for Finland."

    She's already accessing the archives of the German military, which has made a point of ensuring that the information is easy to locate. Truth isn't a perfect tool for keeping out National Socialist mind control efforts, but I suppose that you do what you can.

    "Jews in the World War One military served disproportionately in front line roles-."

    "There were no front line Jewish officers."

    "True, but that was because it was illegal for them to be given front line commands, not because they were ducking them. Honestly, it's like-."

    "Recognized, Superboy B zero four, Miss Martian, B zero five."

    The zeta tube lights dim, and Kon and M'gann stroll in. M'gann's in Megan mode, and neither of them notice Angelika at first. Kon glances my way-

    "Hey."

    -and then returns his full attention to M'gann.

    "Hi there. This is-"

    M'gann notices Angelika first, blinks in surprise and then smiles.

    "Hi! Um, who-?"

    "Overgirl." Since she didn't say I could call her Angelika. "She's a Supergirl-equivalent from a parallel universe. I'm minding her until the League can work out how to send her home."

    "Good-." Her eyes fix themselves on Kon's chest. No, Kon's red 'S' on black background emblem. "-afternoon."

    Kon gives her a small smile. "Another kryptonian, huh?"

    "That is not quite right. It would be more accurate to say that I am a combination of human and kryptonian."

    Kon's smile broadens slightly. "So you're more of a me-equivalent." He walks forward and holds out his right hand. "I'm Superboy."

    Angelika steps around the hologram and shakes his hand. "Overgirl. Though it sounds strange in English."

    "Oh!" M'gann grins. "Are you from a parallel universe where everyone's genders are reversed? Are you dating your Mister Martian?"

    "Ah-? No. No, I am not dating a martian."

    Though she doesn't appear to feel the same level of visceral disgust at the idea that she did at the idea of dating a 'subhuman'.

    "My Earth is not so similar to this one."

    Kon nods. "Oh? What's different?"

    "We have had access to kryptonian technology for sixty years. Earth technology is far more advanced as a result." She glances back at the screen. "Though this holographic interface is not too different from what I used at home."

    "So… Is that it? Did a Kryptonian ship crash-land on Earth or something?"

    "No, our.. Superman came to Earth at an earlier point in our history than yours. The people who found him analysed his pod, accessed its data stores and took information from there."

    Which… Means that Hitler shared more kryptonian technology with the world than our Kal-El. I… Don't think I want to think about that. Interesting that she's not mentioning the impact of the divergence regarding the Second World War. If she's trying to get someone else's perspective… Fine, that can only help my case. Though I hope she manages to be more subtle than just asking 'so how do you feel about Jews, Superboy?' or something.

    Kon nods sympathetically. "Yeah, Superman's not keen on doing that. I don't really get it. I mean, humans already have nuclear missiles and-" His eyes flick my way. "-death rays and stuff, so what difference does it make if they get kryptonian crystal-based construction technology as well? If anything, tougher buildings should make people safer."

    Har-Zod isn't in favour of sharing with humans. And Kal-El is the closest thing to legitimate kryptonian authority here. I've… Got a contingency plan for if the League needs to end its relationship with the UN for some reason. The Kryptonian database has all sorts of designs which could be easily marketed without threatening anyone's secret identity, enabling the League to be financially independent and entirely open about where the money was coming from.

    "Unfortunately, even kryptonian technology is not impervious to weapons which terrorists can bring to bear."

    I might wonder whether or not the Nazis-. The other Nazis would have killed her parents in order to get a test subject. But if there is an ongoing insurgency, they'd hardly need to. Particularly if they didn't have a special reason to think that she would be a success, and particularly given that a German couple who themselves would have grown up in an intensely Nazi-friendly environment would probably have been happy to allow their daughter to become superhuman.

    "Sure, but it's better at it than human stuff."

    I raise my eyebrows. "What's your armour made out of again?"

    "Okay, yeah, but we still can't make enough orichalcum for construction projects."

    Sad but true.

    "So, what can you do?"

    "Everything that Overman can, but to a lesser degree."

    Kon frowns. "You can fly?"

    "Yes." Overgirl rises into the air. "You cannot fly?"

    "No. Didn't have heat vision, either."

    "But you do now?"

    "Kinda." His eyes blaze with white light and M'gann backs away slightly. "But not from-."

    "Recognized, Aqualad, B zero two."

    Ohhhh….

    Fiddle.
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2020
  23. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    14th March
    16:15 GMT -5

    "Not from my kryptonian biology."

    Angelika looks around just long enough to confirm that someone is coming through, then returns her attention to the Overboy lookalike.

    "Then from where?"

    Kaldur sees Angelika, then looks at me and raises his eyebrows slightly. I transition over to him.

    "Batman informed me that you had taken custody of our guest. He did not say that you were bringing her here."

    "Bit of a complication, there. When I recovered her, I inadvertently scrubbed all of the residues that could have been used to locate her origin point."

    "I imagine that her friends and family will prefer that she be alive but separated from them than that we return her body to them."

    I nod. "Hopefully I'll be able to find out which types of exotic radiation were the cause of her injuries so that I can learn to just absorb those in future."

    "Have you arranged for accommodation?"

    "Not yet. I thought that would be a bit pessimistic. Plus, there's a slight… Problem that I probably need to make you.. and Batman, aware of."

    "What is it?"

    "On her Earth the Second World War went the other way."

    He glances past me. "I.. see."

    The Second World War wasn't really a big deal in Atlantis. With one brief exception they remained neutral throughout. It's not taught in their schools. As a result, it wasn't until the Kriegers made themselves known that Kaldur read up on the subject. It still clearly doesn't have the same resonance with him that it does the rest of us-.

    M'gann knew even less about it and Kon's telepathic education covered world history in such an even-handed manner that no one atrocity stood out.

    The rest of me, then.

    "She's having a bit of a hard time dealing with the differences, but I'm confident that I can eventually talk her around."

    "Should I be concerned?"

    "I imagine that she'd prefer not to interact with you socially, but unless-."

    Kaldur walks past me. "Overgirl. I am-"

    She's smiling as she turns away from Kon, then her expression sort of calcifies as she sees who is talking to her.

    "-Aqualad."

    "Hello."

    "I would like to welcome you into our home." He holds out his right hand.

    The flickers of emotional arousal I see are.. a little like what I imagine Kara sees when she looks at someone's brain and tries to work out what they're thinking. A lot of things are activating, but I'm not entirely sure-.

    Oh, she's gone for 'well-trained house negro'. That's… Disappointing, but at least she doesn't feel obliged to lash out.

    "Thank-. You."

    She takes his hand, holds it for about half a second longer than the minimum politeness would require and then lets go, straightening up slightly. Then she sees his gills.

    "You are Atlantean? I did not think-. Ah, the Atlanteans I have seen before had pale skin."

    Kaldur nods. "Most do. My father moved from America to Shayeris before I was born. Have you worked with Atlanteans before?"

    "Yes, Underseaman is a member of the New Statesmen. They are the equivalent to your Justice League."

    He's-? 'Underseaman'? I suppose it would sound better in German, but… Wallace is going to find that more than a little amusing. I'm using my ring not to smile myself. And well done to Angelika for not wiping her hand or anything. She's going for 'I am superior' rather than 'you are inferior'.

    **She's a Nazi!?**

    Kon and M'gann are staring at me, while Kaldur and Angelika don't react. Closed circuit it is, then. Kon and I are easier for M'gann to communicate with.

    **She's a work in progress. All of the genocide that resulted from their victory happened before she was born. It would be unreasonable for us to blame her for it in the same way that it would be unreasonable for anyone to blame me for the transatlantic slave trade or M'gann for the assassination of Prelate D'rett.**

    Kon blinks, then half-turns to M'gann. **Who?**

    **He was assassinated by white rights extremists. And I don't think it's the same. I don't go around with a t-shirt on saying 'the Hyperclan did nothing wrong'.**

    **But if you were born in a Hyperclan enclave surrounded by people who believed that the Hyperclan did nothing wrong, and you thought that as a result, should we blame you for it then?**

    **Nnnnnoo.**

    **Great! Because I might need your help in talking her around.**

    **Oh…** Kon and M'gann glance at each other. **Kay..?**

    **Tha-.**

    Donner, of course!

    Kon subtly shakes his head. **Who?**

    "Overgirl,-" I turn to where she's giving Kaldur's questions the briefest answers she can manage. "-I think I might have someone you'd know."

    She turns stiffly. "Who is that?"

    "Donner. Gerri Brauer? She-."

    Angelika jerks in surprise, and then beams. "Aunty Gerri?!"

    "So you know her?"

    "Yes, I know her." She appears to be genuinely happy. "She is a major hero on my Earth, and she was my combat instructor when Overman was busy." She restrains herself slightly. "I know that she is not the same woman, but I would still like to meet her."

    "Okay. I've only spoken to her a couple of times." Back when I was tracking Danner Formula enhanciles. I think she's been talking to Arnold, but I haven't kept in touch. I'm going to assume that the National Socialists didn't get that formula on Earth 10, though I'm not sure how they missed it. "I'll phone her and ask if she's willing to meet you."

    "Thank you."

    I raise my left hand to my ear.

    "Ring, phone Gerri Brauer."

    Compliance.
     
  24. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    14th March
    16:19 GMT -5


    "Hallo?"

    Ms Brauer doesn't have a secret identity, but sometimes using someone's nom de héroïque is appropriate anyway. It indicates that you treat their work seriously, rather than thinking of them as some kind of costumed lunatic.

    Who isn't also doing a decent job.

    But this is out of hours. She's not on the job, and calling her 'Donner' might make her think this is some sort of emergency

    Ah, just sidestep it.

    "Hi, Orange Lantern here. Are you busy?"

    "I can talk. Have you found another one of us?"

    Not in the way you're asking.

    "No, I… Actually need to ask a favour. We just had a hole to a parallel universe open in near-Earth orbit. A woman came through, and she's… Having a bit of culture shock. You're… She knows their version of you, and… Nearly no one else here has a direct equivalent. Are you willing to meet her?"

    "What sort of parallel universe?"

    I wince inwardly.

    "Your parents would probably have liked it."

    "My p-? You mean… The Nazis..?"

    "Yeah. So you know better than anyone what sort of environment she grew up in."

    "Is she dangerous? Violent?"

    "So far she's been.. about as reasonable as she could be. She's clearly not happy, but I've explained how things are different here and the worst she's done is use intemperate language to describe it."

    M'gann turns away from their ongoing conversation to frown at my use of the word 'intemperate'. Because M'gann knows how I use that word, and while Angelika is being a little standoffish, she's being polite. She isn't giving any overt sign of being angry or scared. I guess even Nazi's just a word, until they start calling your friends subhuman.

    "Why are you asking for her?"

    "Because you had a change of heart and I'd like you do help her do the same. Her existing relationship-" Angelika frowns at me. "-with your alter-ego means that she's more likely to listen to you than… Well…"

    "Everyone knows about the cake."

    "She.. doesn't."

    Angelika shakes her head and turns back to Kon. "Did Orange Lantern do something with a cake?"

    "Didn't, hurray for super hearing."

    "Hehaha. Yes, okay, I can see her. Have you been clear that I am not the other version of me?"

    "I'll reiterate-"

    "He what?!"

    I sigh quietly. "-it. Where are you?"

    "Val and I are in Inges Karotte in Munich. Can you find it?"

    Hotel? Bar? Doesn't matter.

    "Yes, no problem. Thank you. I'll see you shortly."

    I hang up.

    "Hah!"

    And there's a picture of the cake on the holographic display.

    "Overgirl, she's fine with meeting you-."

    "Of course she is." She presses a button and the hologram vanishes. "Where is she?"

    "Munich, so we're heading there. They don't have a zeta tube, so we'll head to Berlin and fly."

    She nods. "Okay." She returns her attention to my friends. "Kon-El, M'gann, Aqualad, it was nice to meet you all."

    "Yeah." Kon smiles and waves as we head towards the zeta tube. "Hope you get home soon!"

    "Now, I want to be sure that you understand that-"

    "Recognized, Orange Lantern, B zero six, Overgirl, A Six One."

    14th March
    22:22 GMT +1


    "-your Gerri Brauer and ours aren't-."

    "She isn't a National Socialist, I know. I heard everything both of you said." She taps her right ear with her right forefinger. "'Over hearing'."

    "She was brought up as a National Socialist, but stopped after-."

    "After she saw the wonders of your de-. Society. And you want her to convince me."

    I point upwards with my right forefinger. She nods, and we rapidly ascend above the Berlin streets and turn south south west.

    "If it helps, I'm happy to let you try and turn me into a National Socialist. If you have objective evidence, I'll examine it."

    "Hm, very gracious of you. But Aunty Gerri was not a very.. 'good' National Socialist on my Earth." She smiles. "Heh. She still jokes to me about being a sexual deviant."

    "Really? What particular deviation..?"

    "That she is attracted to women. The first time she did it I nearly telephoned the State Police. Even after she explained it to me I thought it was a shocking thing to joke about for years. But now it's just tiresome. 'Aunty Gerri, please, it's not funny anymore, you're not fooling anyone.'"



    "Seems.. like a bit of a risky joke."

    "We don't execute people for making jokes."



    Ring, what sort of place is Inges Karotte?



    Ah.

    Well I can't pretend

    "Theoretically, what would happen in your society if she wasn't joking, she just used that as a cover when you walked in on her with her girlfriend?"

    Angelika stops in the air and gives me an extremely disturbed look.

    "Why are you asking?"
     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2020
  25. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    14th March
    22:27 GMT +1


    "No."

    "I can s-."

    "No."

    "Overg-."

    "No."

    "Angelika-."

    "How is your society so degenerate that a good woman like Aunty Gerri is… Infected with these filthy habits?"

    "Simply put, we-" Mostly. "-don't regard them as filthy or degenerate. I mean, what logical-."

    "What djgkh-?" She shudders, taking a moment to compose herself. I really have to admire her presence of mind; she's had to do that a lot today, but even being confronted by the idea that the woman who's become her mother-substitute was homosexual all along she's trying to respond coherently and rationally. "Logical. Yes. How do they have children?"

    "In vitro fertilisation. Or they adopt." I shrug. "Come on, I know kryptonians had exo-wombs. I don’t believe for a moment that Earth Ten doesn't have technology for assisting reproduction."

    She shakes her head. "We could probably perform such procedures but we do not use the technology like that. If it cannot breed then it does not deserve to breed."

    "Oh."

    She glares at me. "What do you mean 'oh'?"

    "Kon hasn't.. exactly asked, but it.. seemed… He wouldn't be able to have children with M'gann anyway. I.. had wondered how you squared superheroing with… 'Children, church and kitchen'."

    "Women aren't that limited. Ariosophists like strong women. And the fact that I cannot have children does not unduly trouble me. We do not sterilise war veterans who lost limbs in honourable battle in the way we do people born without them due to genetic flaws. I lost the ability to bear children but my race gained knowledge of kryptonian genetics. Mine was an honourable sacrifice."

    "Your men-."

    "Karl could sire children on any healthy kryptonian woman. It does not apply."

    "And most lesbians could reproduce through conventional sex with a man if they wanted to. And I imagine that prior to the invention of assisted reproduction technology.. some did. I've personally helped thirty one lesbian couples have children or become pregnant-."

    "If they are having-" She frowns. "-sex with you then they are hardly lesbians."

    "Ah, no, sorry, I meant that I've used my ring to assist them, merging genetic material and triggering cell division."

    Which is not to say that I haven't had… Offers. Some of which included Jade. I'm pretty sure that she'd never go for it.

    "Besides, one man causing that many pregnancies amongst an isolated population would be terrible for genetic diversity."

    "Please repeat that?"

    I frown. "Besides… One man causing.. that many pregnancies amongst a isolated population would be.. terrible for genetic diversity?"

    "So perhaps you should add negroes and Jews to it? Have you been educated into believing that you need genes from degenerates in order to remain healthy?"

    "Ah-. Not exactly, but genetic errors tend to be expressed far less in diverse populations."

    "Just sterilise the people carrying them."

    "That seems a little extreme."

    "Does 'diversity' prevent genetic errors from being expressed, even when only unrelated people reproduce?"

    "Ah, no, not completely. We don't-."

    "Sterilisation does, when combined with mandatory genetic screening."

    "We don't have the technology to screen like that. But we're getting off the point, unless your Earth has discovered an underlying genetic basis for homosexuality."

    "What is the point?" She turns away. "In a few days, either your Justice League will send me back, or the New Statesmen will have come to recover me. You will not 'turn' me in that time, and I doubt that I will have turned you."

    "The.. point is that we told Mrs Brauer that we'd meet her, and we're going to be late."

    "So-. Wait, she is married? You told me that she is only interested in women!"

    I don't remember what Germany Prime's stance on gay marriage was, but here it's been legal since the noughties.

    "German law allows two people to marry. Whether they're a man and a woman or two of either is only significant if they want a church wedding."

    Angelika appears to be uncertain what to make of that. Either that, or she's about to vomit, but we're over countryside here so that won't matter too much.

    "Gay people are no more inherently liberal than straight people. If given the opportunity to form near-conventional romantic relationships, most will go for it. I mean, what do your schools teach about Ernst Röhm?"

    "Who?"

    "Member of the German Workers' Party? Commanded the Sturmabteilung? Took over the War Ministry during the Beer Hall Putsch? Got purged when the National Socialists went mainstream?"

    "Are you implying that he may have been homosexual?"

    "I'm not implying anything; I'm directly stating it. As I understand, he was pretty open about it. It was public knowledge at the time. And he was still a member of the National Socialist party because it didn't have a hard line on sexual orientation at the time and he agreed with everything else." Hm. "You know, you could take a copy of our archives back with you. Everything your Germania has chosen to forget. I mean… If you're sure that you're right, what's the harm in getting more primary sources?"

    "Sometimes the purity-. The purity of the state must be preserved by impure means."

    "Meaning?"

    "The criminal terrorists I fight often have friends and families. Some of whom knew nothing of their illegal activities. People who would mourn their loss, and beg for clemency. It would be 'nice' to be able to grant it, but all that would do is release a criminal to commit more crimes. So I don't dwell on it. I don't hear petitions. And I don't record that someone I tore in half was considered to be 'a friendly, regular sort of guy' in official reports, because people will read those and may reach the false conclusion that terrorism is what friendly, regular sorts of guy do."

    "And is having sex with other women something that national heroines do?"

    She gives her head a small shake. "No."

    "Then how do you intend to explain-?"

    "Overman-. I'm sure that he knows. And… If my Aunty Gerri is… Then I will not talk about it. I will not report it. And I will bear talking to your Mrs Brauer as I have borne everything else here."
     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2020
  26. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    14th March
    22:38 GMT +1


    Angelika pushes open the door and steps inside, visibly braced for whatever depravity she may find inside. And… Yes, as expected: a disappointment. It's a bar, not a club or 'love hotel'. People of all ages-. All ages who can legally order alcohol, are chatting and drinking and, yes, almost all of them are women and I can see the violet strands in a good number of cases, but nothing is happening that isn't comfortably PG.

    That doesn't seem to be helping Angelika. She's sort of stopped just inside the entrance, and she's getting a few puzzled glances. Sure, people come here in fancy dress sometimes, but-. Huh, I suppose that the single red 'S' isn't an obvious National Socialist symbol, if people can even see it in the low light of the bar.

    I step around her and approach the bar, a barmaid shrugging to the patron she was talking to before walking over.

    "Are you in the right place?"

    "I didn't realise that it was exclusive."

    "No, no." She shakes her head. "But sometimes tourists come in here without knowing who drinks here."

    "We're here to meet someone, but first…" I turn my head towards Angelika. "Angelika? Do you want something?"

    Overhearing or not, she doesn't appear to be listening.

    I turn back to the bar.

    "Liqueur, I think. I'll have an orange juice."

    "Are you driving?"

    "I'm on call. She's not."

    She turns away, opens the bar's fridge and pulls out an orange juice bottle. "Any particular liquor, or should I just pick one?"

    "Something local? And good?"

    "Okay. Nice Orange Lantern costume."

    "Thank you, I made it myself."

    "Who is she supposed to be?"

    "Some sort of dark and gritty Supergirl reboot." She passes me the orange juice and then pulls out a tumbler from behind the bar. "It's not really my sort of thing, but she's a big fan."

    The barmaid turns to an inverted bottle behind the bar with a picture of a beehive on it. "Single or double?"

    "Best make it a double, I think."

    She presses the glass upwards twice, golden liquid pouring into the glass. Then she turns back to me and puts it down next to my orange juice. I pay, using mild sleight of hand to disguise that I'm taking the euros out of subspace rather than my pocket, then pick up the glasses and turn back to Angelika.

    "Have you adapted?"

    Her eyes jerk back to me. "It's just a bar. These people are not a threat to me."

    "Not a physical threat, but okay. Let me know if you need to leave."

    Mrs and Dr Brauer have been watching us from the moment we entered, shuffling around their bench to make room as we thread our way through the crowd. I smile politely as we get to within talking distance.

    "Mrs Brauer, thank you for agreeing to meet us."

    Mrs Brauer and Angelika are regarding each other cautiously. One is a super-Nazi meeting the double degenerate doppelgänger of her aunt. The other is a medium-power superhero who knows how violent neo-Nazis can be and is fairly sure that she couldn't safely contain the woman opposite her because while she's about as strong and about as tough and heals faster she can't fly or shoot heat beams out of her eyes.

    "That's fine."

    I sit down opposite her wife. "Doctor Brauer."

    She looks surprised for a moment, then shakes her head with a chuckle. "No, I kept my name. And please; Val's fine."

    Angelika is standing next to the table, her eyes-. She's looking at the wedding rings, and Mrs Brauer stretches out her fingers to indicate that she's noticed the stare.

    "Are you going to sit down?"

    Angelika sits almost immediately. Perhaps due to the familiarity of the voice and the attitude of the speaker. They look at each other for a few moments, then Mrs Brauer nods.

    "I'm Gerri Brauer, also known as Donner."

    "Angelika Kant. Overgirl."

    They continue looking at each other for a moment, before Mrs Brauer apparently decides that it's her job to take the lead.

    "How long have you known the other me?"

    "Twenty five years. She had known Overman for decades, and it felt natural to him to ask her to train me."

    A lot of people don't realise that Mrs Brauer is in her seventies. I'd say that she looks less than half that, though obviously I wouldn't be so socially cack-handed as to make a technically accurate 'cradle robber' comment regarding her new wife. Another point on the Danner life expectancy graph. Maybe I should offer it to Paula? She hasn't asked…

    "And.. she's.. a..?"

    Angelika holds her head up proudly. "National Socialist. And you are… Not. Why not?"

    "I.. grew up in post-War Germany. My parents tried very hard to bring me up 'properly', but there were so many competing influences that they could not keep me away from all of them. And they could not keep me from discovering the truth of the parts of National Socialism that they themselves were not particularly fond of. Once I became aware of those, the idea that the Third Empire was defined by strength and unity was not something I could continue to believe. And once that certainty was undermined, I became more open to other points of view." She shakes her head, glancing at her wife. "But only gradually. My parents' lessons were a large part of how I viewed the world."

    "How did you..?" Angelika looks at Val for a moment. "…with women..?"

    "I did not recognise that I liked other women for a long time. My parents had taught me that theirs was the correct way for romantic relationships to be conducted." She shrugs. "And since they were happy together from when they met to when they died, it seemed to work for them. I.. had male friends, but none I felt attracted to in a romantic way. And I had female friends…" Another shrug. "Some of them, I liked the way they looked. Some were very close friends, but… I had nothing to compare what I felt for them to."

    Angelika nods, and I can practically feel her assembling the narrative in her head. Too much honesty and openness, a good and proper National Socialist woman is led astray by the degenerates all around her.

    "What about your version of me? I imagine that she would have married decades ago."

    "No. She did not. She… Did not think that she could justify leaving her role as a warrior heroine to have a family."

    "Still? Is your Germany still at war?"

    "… No. The Second World War finished in nineteen fifty eight, and we have maintained good relations with-" A glance at the half-Japanese Dr Kameya. "-the other world powers since then."

    "She has not found time for a family in fifty years?"

    "Terrorist attacks from surviving subhumans were common in the east. She had to move around a great deal."

    "Angelika, this isn't going to help if you-."

    "And she-. Had a girlfriend. Perhaps more than one, I only saw her with-."

    Mrs Brauer frowns. "You saw her-?"

    "She told me it was a prank!"

    Mrs Brauer smiles fondly. "You must have been a very trusting girl. But what do you think now?"
     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2020
  27. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    14th March
    22:42 GMT +1


    Angelika looks down at the table, and I slide the drink into her line of sight.

    "I think that she likes women."

    Mrs Brauer nods. "So: the Nazis control everything and some people are still homosexual."

    Angelika looks away, but this bar doesn't leave a lot of places for someone to look where they won't be confronted with gayness. "Yes."

    Mrs Brauer frowns. "Did Röhm kill Hitler on your Earth? Or did they just decide that sexual orientation didn’t matter?"

    Angelika squirms a little at the mention of Röhm. Perhaps she held out some hope that I'd made the man up?

    "No, it matters. Someone found to be behaving in such a way… If they are young, there are corrective measures, but otherwise they would be severely punished or killed."

    "You found your version of me with her girlfriend… Did the government decide to keep it quiet?"

    "Now I know, and I think that Overman knows. I don't think that anyone else does."

    "She can't be that good at hiding it if you walked in on her."

    "Kryptonian genetics have given me very good hearing. I was… Investigating a sound I did not recognise."

    Dr Kameya covers her mouth with her right fist just in time to muffle her guffaw. Angelika shifts awkwardly in her seat.

    Mrs Brauer nods. "We will have to bear in mind how inquisitive children can be if we have children."

    I raise my left hand slightly, rings glowing as a pale DNA strand construct appears above it. "I can create a zygote with DNA from two women. If you're ever interested, phone me."

    Mrs Brauer gives me a mildly reproachful look, though I think it's due to me interrupting her effort to connect with Angelika rather than my offer to help her become a mother while in her seventies.

    "Are you going to report her?"

    Angelika shakes her head. "No. I-. Need to speak to her about it, but I.. cannot report Aunty Gerri."

    "I'm glad for her. But what does that mean for you?"

    "It.. means that I am putting my personal relationships ahead of my duty to the state and people."

    "I meant: can you get into trouble for not reporting it?"

    "Perhaps. But I doubt it. I have a high enough status that I could simply say that I did not know, and that would be accepted." She shakes her head. "Unless there was video evidence, Aunty Gerri could probably shut down any investigation herself. It might be different if I spoke against her, but she is one of our most revered heroes. Her word would not be doubted lightly."

    "And how many others do you think there are like her?"

    "Ther-." Angelika takes a deep breath. "Few. She is old enough that she was born before the modern social controls became so pervasive. Most people don't even know that some people have such desires. It may be that some are confused as you were, but we can help them develop a healthy sexuality."

    "'Healthy'."

    "Yes."

    Mrs Brauer takes a moment. "I suppose in a Germany controlled by the Nazis-"

    "National Socialists."

    "-it probably is better for their health. Here, I am much happier now that I can express-" She and Dr Kameya make eye contact and clasp hands with a smile. "-my love openly."

    Angelika sits back, looking more sad than angry about it.

    "Why did you want to meet me?"

    "I used to feel very self conscious talking about.. some things with Overman. But I could always talk about anything with Aunty Gerri. I thought that.. talking to you might help with coping with all of this. And it hasn't, even a little bit, because you are the worst part of it."

    "Okay?"

    "I understand what Orange Lantern is trying to do: to show me that your civilisation works and is full of normal people who just do things a little bit differently. And you know all sorts of things we culled from our history because they would be a distraction. I've seen things like that before; I know how to ignore them. But I can't ignore you, or what I've learned about Aunty Gerri. And I hate that."

    Uh… Oh.

    Mrs Brauer nods sympathetically.

    "It's a lot to take in, isn't it? You know your beliefs are nonsense-."

    "They are not nonsense!"

    "But you can't just throw it away, because then what do you do?" And just for a moment she actually looks seventy. "The Justice League is trying to send you home?"

    Angelika nods.

    "I think you should stay here. Until you're sure how you feel about everything."

    "How would that help?"

    "Because 'why' finds no answer."

    She turns to look at me, clearly recognising the quote but not understanding its relevance.

    "The problem here is not that you need to suppress an inconvenient truth or two in order to let other people carry on doing their job. The problem is that the existence of this society proves that doing that job was unnecessary. With no purges at all two thirds of Germany became one of this Earth's largest economies. So it doesn't matter whether the Jews were trying to undermine German society or not; this Germany did fine without needing to scapegoat anyone. You're a fundamentally rational woman; if you were totally blinded by ideology you'd have attacked me as soon as you found out what this world was like. You're trying to see lies that aren't there behind the curtain that isn't there, and you're becoming increasingly distressed not because you're appalled but because you're not appalled and know that you should be."

    Mrs Brauer nods. "And that's why you should stay. If you went home now, what would you do?"

    "I would be embraced by my friends and team mates, and forget that this happened."

    "Could you forget it? If nothing else I'm sure that Overman would like to talk to you about it."

    Angelika's eyes unfocus slightly, and I don't think it's because she's staring through a wall.

    "Yes. I think that he would." A deep breath. "And whatever view I reach, what do you expect me to do?"

    "You might want to stay here permanently. Or you might want to go home and help your society start to reform."

    "Or you'll have your faith in National Socialism restored in full and will be able to go home with your head held high."

    Dr Kameya gives me a disgruntled glare.

    "But from a purely self-interested point of view, surely either outcome would be better than what you're feeling now."

    "I don't live for myself. I live for Germania."

    "Then doesn't Germania deserve to have you at your-"

    My ring blinks.

    "-best?" Urgh. "Excuse me."
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2020
  28. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    14th March
    22:47 GMT +1


    I step out through the bar's doorway and hold out my left hand.

    "Orange Lantern."

    Guy's head appears, and he looks less than amused. The German passers-by around me on the other hand look decidedly amused, beginning to form a rough circle around me.

    "You plannin' on tellin' us she was a Nazi?"

    Perhaps it would be best if I..? Yes.

    I fly directly upwards fifty metres, high enough that the crowd can't hear me but low enough not to trouble aircraft.

    "No. I felt that it would be prejudicial-"

    He bows his head slightly "Ahh."

    "-to her rehabilitation if everyone around her was reacting to that facet of her character."

    "Rehab."

    "Well, yes. What did you think I was going to do with her? She couldn't very well miss that we were a somewhat more diverse society than she was used to."

    "Coulda kept her in Supe's Fortress."

    "For an indefinite period of time?"

    "For a day or two, 'till we work somethin' else out."

    "I've got her sitting and talking peacefully with two gay women in a gay bar."

    "Huh?"

    "Denazification progress I wouldn't have made if she was still in the Fortress."

    "Come a long way since blowin' up the whole Citadel Empire there, Orange."

    "There wasn't anything to rehabilitate the Citadel to." I shake my head. "How's the research on the portal coming?"

    "What you askin' me for?" He looks away from his ring for a moment. "Only thing I've done is fetch some a' Overgirl's skin cells and blood from the-"

    Idiot! Of course there'd be-!

    "-place you picked her up. Dunno if they're actually gettin' anythin' useful off them."

    "Have you spoken to the Guardians?"

    "'bout this? No. This is just normal Earth crap, right? Why, you think I should?"

    "I don't know anyone else on Earth I could meaningfully ask for input. That means I'm down to asking either Dox, Kalmin-"

    "Hell no."

    "-or Hinon. I don't know enough about whatever that portal was to offer anything myself. Have you unlocked some sort of Bleed control construct from the archives?"

    "I could prob'ly shut it down if it opened up again, but that's it."

    "Really?"

    "Yeah, it's-. Kinda not relevant."

    "So what, you just called me to complain about me not taking the time out to tell you that Earth Ten is where Kal-El landed in Nazi Germany and the Nazis won the War with Kryptonian technology?"

    "Oh. That how it happened?"

    "I haven't asked for a moment by moment account, but that's what she told me."

    "All it woulda taken for the Nazis to win would be Supe's pa gettin' the landin' zone wrong."

    "And not putting any security on the ship's database. Them just getting to bring up Overman would have been bad but hardly catastrophic."

    He smiles. "Reckon Al coulda taken him, do yah?"

    Difficult to say. Alan would have had the edge in experience, but most of his early career involved him fighting mundane criminals rather than high-powered superpeople. If the Nazis had been prepared to take people off front line duties in order to train him…

    "Not sure. Alan died on their Earth, but if other things were a little different…"

    "An' what happened to their me?"

    "Unless you were conceived before nineteen thirty eight then I doubt that you were ever born."

    "Yeah? How 'bout you?"

    "I haven't asked, but she didn't appear to recognise me. And since I come from a parallel universe anyway, there probably aren't versions of me in other parallels-."

    In a sane multiverse. Blue-me does rather suggest that things don't work as I think they should. But... I mean, why would there be? We couldn't all come from Earth Prime, and even if there were multiple similar parallels the chance of multiple versions of me being transferred at the same time must be astronomically small. There wasn't a native version of me, after all. I could accept one instance of another me as chance, but if it turns out that I'm everywhere...

    "Ah, hey, Bats wants ta know if she's got someplace to stay tonight."

    "We haven't really got that far. I can book her into a hotel if someone hasn't cracked the portal by then."

    "You okay ta keep lookin' aftah her?"

    "Yes, though I'm not entirely sure that she'll be okay with me continuing to be her escort. She's not exactly happy about having to confront how non-Nazi our Earth is."

    "Sucks t' be her. Hey, they got any Lanterns ovah there?"

    "Some Nazi got Alan's ring after they killed him. Otherwise, their Earth doesn't have any Lanterns."

    "Think we could take 'em?"

    "I'm not sure why picking a fight with a planet of National Socialists would be a sensible thing to do. If you're talking about having the League fight the New Statesmen-"

    "That what they call themselves?"

    "-then I'd bet on you… You do have kryptonite on you, right?"

    "Seems like a crutch."

    "Their Overman has an extra fifty years' experience and is used to killing. In a fight he'd probably beat ours."

    "Hn. I'll tell Supes you said-"

    There's a blast of displaced air as Overgirl appears next to me.

    "-that."

    "As you will. Signing off."

    My ring fades as I lower my left hand.

    "Angelika, I think I've been pushing you harder than-."

    "I have not enjoyed this, but it has not exactly been a re-education centre."

    "True, but I've… Pretty much played my hand. How about you pick somewhere, and we go there?"

    She nod thoughtfully.

    "I think that I would like to see my home. Take me to Wewelsburg Castle."
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2020
  29. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    14th March
    22:59 GMT +1


    "Oh."

    I… Consider saying something, but I think it's better to let her work through this by herself for a moment.

    I think I remember that the Earth Prime version of Wewelsburg Castle was some sort of SS facility. The Earth 16 version was instead technically controlled by the SS, but was mostly used as the centre of operations for the Thule Society. Which I imagine Himmler was tickled pink about, being the giant magic fanboy that he was. They actually based the Spear of Destiny's aegis here rather than in Berlin, a decision which allowed the Thulist magicians to monitor it full time but left it a little exposed. Once the US 3rd Armoured Division captured it, their attached shaman was able to end the spell and render what was left of the Third Reich open to Allied superheroes.

    Of course, by that stage it probably only knocked a few weeks off the war…

    "That is… What is it used for?"

    "Part of it is a museum. Another is a youth hostel. And there's a fire station for the village."

    "The-. The village is underwater on my Earth. The area was cleared after the war."

    "Who owns it?"

    "It is a Protectorate training centre, where the next generation of heroes are taught to use their powers."

    "Not a Thulist chantry?"

    "Thulist? No. They had little impact on the war. Certainly, they had no need for a castle. Were things different here?"

    "Without a kryptonian or Kryptonian weapons, the National Socialists relied on magic to keep out Allied superheroes. And of course, with no Overman, Germany's greatest hero was Captain Nazi."

    "National Soc-." She frowns. "Unless he was actually from Bavaria, and his name was a joke? I don't think that he would call himself 'Nazi'."

    Huh. Obvious, when you think about it.

    "Albrecht Krieger?" She shakes her head. A fortunate escape for Lucky Hans, then. "He was pretty powerful, but he was created by magic and I.. guess that your Germany didn't get heavily enough into that."

    "No. The Fuhrer put a great deal of resources into understanding the technical data taken from Overman's pod. Since the returns were good, he would not have felt the need to continue working with such people. Germans were not comfortable with magic at the time."

    She shakes her head.

    "There is nothing for me here."

    "The.. hostel part is still open. We can probably go in-."

    "No, it… I should stop looking for points of similarity. That is a path only to disappointment." She turns away from the castle to look at me. "What happened to him?"

    "Albrecht?" She nods. "He survived the war and went underground with his brother Wolf. They turned up in various places, working with… We'd call them 'fascist' groups."

    "Italian expatriates?"

    "No, right-wing, anti-Semitic, militant nationalists. Even tried living in America for a while, at the height of the Cold War."

    "What is the 'Cold War'?"

    "After National Socialist Germany was defeated, Europe was split between America and Company in the West and the Soviet Union in the East. Nuclear weapons meant that direct warfare was considered to be too risky by both sides, but they both hated each other, so… A war that never saw them directly fighting one another." I exhale sharply through my nose. "The Americans wanted a powerful supersoldier badly enough that Albrecht nearly got a job." I shrug. "It didn't work out. They actually took part in an attack on the Watchtower in twenty ten, with help from National Socialist Russians."

    She frowns. "Russians?"

    "Yes."

    "Russians who live in Russia?"

    "Yes."

    "But they are not Slavic? They were from another ethnic group?"

    "No, no, mostly they were Slavs."

    "Were they there to die in the service of the Master Race?"

    "No." I think for a moment. "Well, they didn't think so. That might have been the Kriegers' plan. But I think they just tippexed what Hitler wrote about Slavs in their copies of Mein Kampf. But we won and they lost. The Kriegers escaped, and next time I ran into them was in Brazil."

    "Does Brazil have a National Socialist government? Or a.. fascist government?"

    "Not any more. They had an… Interest in a local man, but we were there first. We killed them, picked up a rather large bounty payment and I sent the Spear of Destiny to Atlantis for safe keeping."

    "His spear was really the Spear of Destiny?"

    "It's a very powerful magic spear. I don't know what its origin was, or whether it's the same spear mentioned in whatever arcane text you're thinking of."

    "What did he want with the man in Brazil?"

    "That's… Something I should probably check that he's okay with you knowing." I break eye contact, looking around the night time German countryside. "Since it doesn't look like the Justice League is going to be able to send you home this evening, have you given any thought to where you'd want to stay?"

    "Not Germany, please."

    "Yes, I guessed. And because -with all due-."

    "You want me where you can see me."

    "But you'd-."

    She nods. "But not in a location that you consider secure. So not your mountain or your Superman's fortress. Are you suggesting your home?"

    "I was going to suggest a hotel. You're welcome to my settee if you want it, but I think you might prefer a bed."

    "I am hardly likely to sleep. Is there really nowhere on the Earth where National Socialists are in the ascendancy?"

    "There… Are… A few isolated places inside some countries, but I don't know anyone in any of them. If you really want to meet them then I suppose that in the interests of balance I should let you, but they don't openly run hotels." She doesn't say anything for a few moments. "I can recommend a hotel-."

    "Yes, that will-. I was just thinking about what I could do with myself while I am here. I cannot help in reopening the portal, but I will not be work-shy."

    Um.

    15th March
    17:29 GMT -5


    Kaldur said yes.

    "Everyone, this is Overgirl."

    But…

    Canis looks curious. Wallace and Richard regard me with incredulity. Ghia'ta and Arisia look like they know they're missing something but aren't sure what it is. Raquel has skipped straight to glaring. And the rest of the team don't look all that happy.

    "She's going to be working with us for a little while."
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2020
  30. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    8th March 2002
    00:32 GMT -7


    Chloe accelerates the submersible towards the shoreline with nary a ripple. This really wasn’t what I wanted to do on my first journey on the Spear of Benthesikyme, but… Needs must. A man like Morgan Edge might well have been paranoid enough to have some sort of sonar built into the rocks around his private island, but that won't do anything to help against a submarine built with Atlantean technology.

    I'm not sure if King Orin knows that some of the people loyal to his late brother survived their final confrontation and are still around and just doesn't care, or if he assumed that with the issue of who owns the throne resolved they all went back over to him. But as so often in these cases, his loss is my gain.

    Chloe and a few of her friends were grateful to me for helping them start new lives on the surface. Not so grateful that they'd be willing to help me recreate the technology that the Atlanteans used to effortlessly see off the US Navy last year, but certainly grateful enough that they're willing to ferry me and mine around in the one vessel they still have under their control. As long as we don't get too close to Atlantis itself, which is a place I'm perfectly happy to leave well enough alone.

    "Thirty metres to shore now. Full stop."

    I nod and begin pulling myself up the ladder to the hatch.

    "Thank you. We'll signal when we're ready for extraction."

    "Understood. Good fortune."

    Of course, the dangerous parts of this job should have been taken care of already. Hanging around a lot of supervillains for most of the working week has encouraged me to spend time both exercising and training, and I'm armed and armoured. But I'm fully aware that I'd be the weak link in an actual combat situation, which is why I'm leaving that to the professionals whenever possible.

    I stop climbing, press the button to open the inner hatch and then climb up into the airlock. Another press closes the hatch below me, and a moment later the hatch out onto the dark, unstable, spray-blasted hull opens. I.. would.. hate to have to take a boat in this, let alone swim.

    Fortunately I have a better option, courtesy of my partnership with the late Dr Knight. I unclip the Gravity Rod from my harness and press the activator stub. Immediately, a very faint golden energy field envelops me, and as I hold it aloft and hold down the flight button I'm lifted into the air.

    It's not the most fun way to fly, even if my initial fear that I'd be hanging off the rod turned out to be unfounded. But it works and the energy shield keeps the worst of the wind and water off me, so I make good time to the shore. Mr Edge's mansion is surrounded by a high wall with a rather impressive electrified plasma field protecting it, but, assuming that things are going to plan-.

    A figure steps out of the shade of one of the guard towers and holds up an LED torch.

    ... .. - ..- .- - .. --- -. --. .-. . . -.

    Glad to hear it. I aim the Gravity Rod and swoop downwards, landing next to him.

    Roy Harper smiles confidently as I lower the rod.

    "How was your flight?"

    "Brief, thankfully. Any trouble here?"

    "Nothing we couldn't handle." He leads the way back into the guard tower, then onto the stairs leading to ground level. "Hey, what are you planning on doing with this place after we're done here?"

    "We'll be handing Mister Edge and his associates over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He has no legal heir." I shrug as we begin walking up to the main house. "It's not entirely clear if anyone owns it. No government claims it, which is why he set up here in the first place. And since no government owns it, no court has the authority to determine who the rightful owner is."

    "Huh. You don't want it?"

    "I… Don't think so. It might be convenient for some of my employees with outstanding warrants, but.. I.. think that being on an island base might encourage them to regress."

    He nods, smiling.

    "Heh, yeah. It does kinda shout 'supervillain', doesn't it?"

    I note the slumped and bound private security guards propped up against the exterior wall of the house. I can't see much bleeding…

    "Any trouble?"

    "Between me, Cheshire and Cheetah, we took them down before they knew what was happening. Cheshire even used those electrified baton things you gave her."

    I look at one man with two blackening eyes and a broken jaw. Then I look back to Roy and raise my left eyebrow.

    "Mostly as clubs, but hey, no one got stabbed."

    We walk in through the open front door.

    "There was one thing though."

    "Yes?"

    "When I saw how Cheetah dyed her fur I made a crack about black cats… Cheshire likes that sort of thing, but-."

    "Cheetah really doesn't."

    He regards me curiously.

    "How'd you find that out?"

    When I was kissing the fur covering her abdomen, discovered that her genetic splicing had given her supernumerary mammaries and remarked that she now had 'kitty titties', which... It turns out that they're a sore point for her.

    Not… Literally, they're actually quite-.

    Anyway.

    "Pretty much the same way you did. One offhand comment, and-" Months of progress on improving her self-image ruined. "-she was surprisingly upset."

    We proceed through the foyer and down one of the corridors. More guards are bound, but unlike outside there is visible damage. Bullet holes in the walls, blackened wood and carpet where explosives were used…

    "Please tell me those were flashbangs."

    "Hey, zero body count. Cheshire gets it."

    I'm not entirely happy about employing an assassin anyway. Sending her on a mission like this while two months pregnant made me unhappy in an entirely different way, but… She appears to have handled it just fine. And I certainly don't want her covering her maternity leave with money earned through her primary occupation. I don't think my contacts in the FBI will be willing to talk about a pardon at this stage, but it's something to work towards.

    Barbara's waiting just ahead, her right paw is twitching as she restrains her desire to lick the dye out of her fur. This is the first time she's been out as 'Cheetah' since we started working together and I think that the fighting is bringing her feline instincts to the fore. She freezes as we approach, her eyes fixing on my face. I… I've studied cheetah behaviour, but her body language is an odd combination of human and cheetah and I'm not entirely sure what that means. I can't see any wounds on her, which I'm happy about.

    "…in these things, anyway?"

    Cheshire's already opened the vault and is walking around the four red biohazard containers contained therein. Barbara falls in behind Roy and I as we join her and she regards me curiously.

    "This is why we're here? Did Morgan get his hands on something he wasn't supposed to? The last sample of a deadly disease that was never supposed to leave the laboratory? Oh, a bio-weapon the US government doesn't want people to know about?"

    "No." I raise the Gravity Rod. "Please step back."

    "What-?"

    She hurries aside as I press the 'energy pulse' button.
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2020
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