Disclaimer: This is the 11th chapter in a story about an "other world" based on the Arrowverse, the CW shows that focus on DC superheroes. I am writing this as my way of paying homage to my fandom for the Arrowverse. The character names Supergirl, Green Arrow, The Flash, Canary and Brainiac are trademarks of DC Comics. These chapters are free to read, they will not be published in book format, nor will any revenue be generated from the chapters. If there are legal issues involved with the usage of these characters, please email me at bwmorris at mail dot com and I will cease with the writing. Critiquing of my writing is welcomed and may be left in the comments.
When I suggested that we all return to my headquarters in Star City, I figured the first thing we should do was order for pizza. Give us a chance to relax while we sorted everything out.
Little did I realize that something as simple as pizza would cause such a great debate among everyone.
Tara stands by a table and stares at the empty pizza box which lies there. "I can't believe one person had to eat nearly the whole thing." She gestures toward The Flash, who sits in a chair in the far corner, arms folded and legs crossed.
"I told you, I have a high metabolism," Flash grunts.
Canary -- he already introduced himself as Carl -- shakes his head. "I tried to warn you all."
Tara casts a finger toward Carl. "And what's with you picking at your food?" Her finger moves toward a small plate on the counter. There's slices of pepperoni and chunks of sausage, which Carl had pulled off his slice.
He leans back in his chair and shrugs. "I told you I'm not a meat eater."
"You said you were a vegetarian," Flash says. "Yet you eat cheese."
Carl casts a glance in Flash's direction. "The only vegetarians who avoid dairy products are vegans and I'm not a vegan, all right?"
I stand near the elevator, observing all of this. Though I would like nothing more than to get everyone focused on what's important, I had hoped that relaxing with good food and good company might be the way to start. So much for that idea.
Don't get me wrong -- I'm grateful that so many of us were there to prevent Intergang from harming a lot of people. If not for our combined efforts, it could have been worse. But while I see a hero in each member of this trio before me, the three couldn't be different in how they perceive what needs to be done.
I've been around Tara for several weeks now and it's not hard to figure out how much she wants to be known as Earth's protector. Getting her to understand how difficult it can be to separate a hero's life from a personal life, though, has been a challenge. Though it seems she's learning to accept it, the whole time we waited for Mark Gregory's speech to begin, she acted like she was looking for any reason to spring into action and become everyone's savior.
And then there's Carl -- he's the guy who has no problem letting everybody know that he's the Canary. On the way back to my bunker, he told me he never saw the point in wearing a mask. Never occurred to him that a hero's life and a personal life should be separated. I get the impression he thinks they are one and the same. On top of that, he's cocky and a bit reckless. In my work as the Green Arrow, I've been in a few tight jams but learned to be aware of my surroundings, whereas Carl says he never concerned himself with things like that.
The Flash is harder to get a read on -- she has refused to unmask, even as the rest of have revealed our real names and identities to one another. She sits in the corner, acting like she's only here because she's been forced. While I'm glad she agreed to join us, I don't understand what would cause her to be so reclusive. Perhaps she lost somebody close to her -- while Tara and I each lost an important person in our lives, I learned not to distance myself from other people and, while Tara spent yeras in isolation, I can tell she wants to get to know others. Flash, though, gives me the impression that she only cares about going solo.
The elevator doors open and the person I've been waitng for steps out -- my sister Cissie, who carries two more boxes of pizza. She stops beside me and casts a quick smile. "Figured I'd double up the order this time."
"Good idea." I take one of the pizza boxes. "Maybe everyone else will settle down if they get more to eat." Though I can't help but think to myself that, if Flash has a high metabolism, that two pizzas might not be enough.
We walk toward the table where the empty box sits. I push it aside and set the box I have down. My sister puts the other box beside it, then closes the empty one and pulls it away.
Carl rises from his seat and approaches the table, but points to Flash first. "This time, you let us get more than one slice." He reaches his hand toward the box my sister has opened and frowns at the deluxe pizza there. "No pineapple, I see."
Cissie rolls her eyes. "You do not put pineapple on pizza."
Carl grabs a slice. "They've been putting pineapple on pizza for years. I don't know why it's only recently become this big debate."
Flash scoffs. "What, like you not wanting meat on your pizza?"
Carl jerks a finger at Flash again. "I told you, I'm a vegetarian, but not a vegan." He goes back to his seat, but stops. Tara is standing beside his chair, helping herself to the pepperoni and sausage he left on his plate.
All Carl does is stare at Tara, like she invaded his personal space. "What, you want to eat my scraps?"
Tara tosses a slice of pepperoni into her mouth. "I don't think food should go to waste, okay?" She strides over to the boxes on the table.
I've already grabbed two slices and my sister takes one. My gaze shifts to the corner of the room where Flash sits. She hasn't moved from her seat. Her eyes meet mine. "What, it's not off limits to me now?"
"If you want more, there's plenty for everyone." I take a bite of pizza, then walk toward the giant flatscreen TV at the front of the room. Gesturing toward it, I say, "All right, now that we have the food debate out of the way, let's go over what happened and what we've all learned."
Tara has grabbed her plate, then a pizza slice, and takes a seat next to Carl. Flash hasn't moved from her seat in the corner. Cissie goes over to one of the computers lining the counter, sits in front of it and starts typing away.
I place my plate on a table near the flatscreen. Upon it flashes the video footage of what happened in Hub City -- the four of us intervening to stop members of Intergang who tried to attack Mark Gregory and Hub City officials.
I gesture toward the footage. "Now, I've heard a few things about Intergang but never encounted them before." I take a bite of pizza and gesture toward Carl. "What can you tell us about what they've been doing in Hub City?"
Carl pulls off pieces of meat from his slice before he takes a bite. "They've been dealing in weapons on the black market. Been going on for about two years. I show up at one of their operations and stop them, then it's like two more spring up to repalce the first."
I finish off another bite and motion to Flash in the back corner. "And you've been tracking Warren Hosills at Frontier Labs -- what have you learned about his operations?"
Flash tilts her head back. "I've been more concerned with locating Hosills than learning about whatever he does with his business."
"All right, I get that you have issues with him, but have you learned anything about what he's doing? Say, about this artificial intelligence he talks about?"
Flash takes a deep breath. "I managed to uncover technology I've never seen before. Took it from one of his underlings I met. It's been stashed at my home ever since."
I finish off my first pizza slice. "May I suggest you go get it and bring it back here?"
Flash cocks her head to the side. "Why?"
I am trying to be patient with the speedster. She seems uncertain about working with anybody in the room. But I believe what she has to share can be a great help to solving the matter at hand. "Because it might get some answers as to why Warren Hosills would be working for Intergang. And who knows -- maybe this tech is connected to his artificial intelligence project."
Tara wipes her mouth with a napkin and hooks a thumb toward Flash. "What's to stop her from taking off and never coming back?"
I grab another slice of pizza. "I'm going to trust that she will return." I take a deep breath. "Please, Flash. We need to know what this technology is that you have. Might even be a chance that it's connected to this Brainiac that Tara has talked about."
Flash studies Tara for a minute. "All right. Don't get impatient." She rushes out of her chair and out of the room, a gust kicking up as she departs.
Cissie blinks. "That's going to take getting used to."
While I have to agree, I want to keep the others focused on the discussion. "Now, we have Intergang somehow connected to Warren Hosills, who has been trying to convince Mark Gregory and myself to back his ideas for an artificial intelligence that can eliminate threats. I wonder if Warren arranged for this attack earlier today to convince Mark to back him."
Tara has walked back to the pizza box and takes another slice. "Well, when we spoke to Mark earlier, he didn't seem that convinced." She takes a bite. "Truth be told, he almost acted like what happened today wasn't a major concern. I've never seen somebody act like that when their life was threatened."
Carl swivels his chair about. "Perhaps he's trying to play it cool."
She walks back to her seat. "It wasn't like that. His tone of voice -- it was dull, monotone, never changed in pitch, tone or volume." She gestures toward me. "Did you friend ever act like that before?"
Carl's eyes widen. "The congressman is your friend?"
I nod. "He is. Haven't spoken to him for a while. He can be businesslike, but he is friendly."
"It just seemed to be odd behavior." Tara frowns. "On top of that, I don't understand, George, why you wouldn't unmask before him. You said he was your friend, so wouldn't you trust him with your secrets?"
I hold up my hands. "He is, but I'm trying to keep the circle of people who know that I'm the Green Arrow as small as possible."
Tara waves toward Carl. "Yes, but you revealed your identity to him and to Flash and today is the first time you've met them."
She does have a point, but I don't want to have this discussion about secret identities again. "I was trying to earn their trust, given that we were all involved in what happened in Hub City." I gesture back at the screen. "Besides, now everyone thinks we're all working together." The video footage playing shows us leaving city hall after our conversations with Mark and the mayor. The chyron at the bottom reads "Heroes Team Up To Stop Intergang."
Carl's eyes widen a bit, like he thinks we're already one big, happy family. "What, you mean we weren't working together?"
I shake my head. "What I mean is that people think we are a team. That we organized ourselves to stop what happened, rather than that we all happened to be in the area at the same time."
He takes a bite of pizza crust. "Oh, so you mean the people out there think we are a bunch of super friends."
Tara wrinkes her nose. "Super friends. You had to think of something even worse than Supergirl."
Cissie glances up from the computer, like she took that remark personally. "I thought that was a great name."
Carl slides his wheeled chair toward my sister. "You thought of that name? I like it, too." He slaps her on the shoulder. "It's as cool as the name Canary, you know."
Cissie brushes his hand away. "Actually, I'd have a better name for someone like you."
"Really?" He smirks. "I'd like to hear a better one."
First it was pizza, now it's superhero names. I need to get this discussion back under control. "As entertaining as this debate is, we need to stay on topic, which is what happened in Hub City. We do remember what Mark and the mayor told us, right?"
Tara clasps her hands in front of her. "Yes, Mark said he had no information about any sort of Kryptonian technology anywhere in Washington. But that he would agree to remain in protective custody in Hub City until we figured out what was happening. And the mayor said she'd have extra police protection on hand until the matter is resolved." She glances about the room. "Shouldn't Flash have returned by now?"
Carl casts a puzzled glance in her direction. "What, you know how long it would take to get from here to Central City and back at superspeed?"
She shakes her head. "I can fly at fast speeds and I would have been back by--"
That's when another gust kicks up, causing Tara to stop chattering. Flash is there, before everyone, a metal case in her hand. "All right, this is it."
Tara blinks. "Guess I can say I'm a little faster than The Flash."
Flash glances over her shoulder at Tara. I can make out enough of her eyes to see that hardened stare. "Did you want to see this tech or not?"
I stride toward Flash and touch her shoulder. "Yes, we would like to see it."
Flash looks at me for a moment, nods, then walks over to a counter and sets the case on top. She vibrates her hand to open the latch. Inside is a strange, black cube with yellow markings that glow. The markings are three dots with lines connecting them. It resembles a triangle. My sister has designed many devices before, but this resembles nothing like them.
Tara and Carl both stand up. She is the first one to approach the case. "I have seen this before." She pulls the cube out of the case and examines it. "This is Brainiac -- at least, a part of it."
Carl comes up beside her and points at the cube. "This is the artificial intelligence you were talking about?"
Tara nods. "On Krypton, we created technology that would monitor the planet's environment, the water supply, the resources we used, everything. It was meant to ensure that everything was balanced on our world."
"You said it was at least a piece of it," I say. "So it's bigger than this cube?"
"It was a computer system and this is, more or less, a piece of it. But I don't understand how it could have gotten to Earth."
Flash remains standing by the case. "You said your ship crash landed here. You don't suppose somebody else escaped?"
Tara shakes her head. "Not that I know of. When I did my scans at my fortress, all it detected was Brainiac, but no other Kryptonians."
Cissie swivels her chair around. "If it was just a computer system, how could it have gotten to Earth?"
Tara continues rotating the cube in her hands. "No idea." She presses a hand to her chin. "Though the man who designed it said Brainiac could evolve and adapt. Nobody on Krypton took him seriously, though."
"Evolve and adapt." Cissie says those words with a tone of skepticism. "If that's the case, why couldn't it have figured a way to save your planet?"
"That had less to do with Brainiac and more to do with the leaders of Krypton." Tara places the cube back into the case. "They thought Brainiac was foolproof -- that it could allow them to use anything for a resource and Braniac could compensate." She bites her lip. "So they thought they could tap into the planet's core without any consequences." She bows her head.
Carl touches Tara's shoulder. "Look, I'm sorry that happened to your world. I can't imagine what that's like, to lose an entire planet."
Tara manages a small smile. "Thank you."
I scratch my chin. "It would seem safe to assume that Warren Hosills acquired this Kryptonian technology and has been trying to develop for his own use."
Flash's flexes her fingers several times. "And it sounds like he wants to weaponize it."
"How did he get it, though?" Cissie asks.
"Good question." I walk toward the others. "But given that it sounds like Warren Hosills wants to weaponize this technology, we need to find out more. I know a couple of you are used to working by yourselves, and I know we aren't a team or anything like that." I clasp my hands. "But I suggest we keep working together, at least until we confirm what Warren Hosills is up to."
A grin forms on Carl's face. "Hey, I don't mind working with anybody. I just never thought any of you would show up in Hub City." He pats Tara on the shoulder. "Especially somebody like you."
Tara stares at Carl, like she's not sure whether to laugh or tell him off. After a moment, she turns her gaze to me. "I think you're right. We should work together. What do you have in mind?"
I press a hand against my chin. "I think it's time I pay Warren Hosills a personal visit."
Cissie gazes up at me. "You mean, you want to go visit Frontier Labs?"
Flash shakes her head. "If you are thinking of breaking into Frontier Labs, you won't have much luck. I've tried many times. Hosills has a host of security measures -- cameras, motion sensors, heat sensors, lasers that trip alarms when crossed, everything. I've cased the building and never found a way to get in at night without being detected."
I gesture to Flash. "I'm not suggesting we break in -- not yet, anyway. But Warren has been trying to convince me to work alongside him. Perhaps if I can arrange a meeting with him, we can find another way to investigate." I nudge Cissie. "You know those devices you were working on to disrupt security measures?"
She casts a knowing smile. "I take it you want some of them?"
"That and a few more of those communicators." I gesture to the others. "I want to make sure everybody has a communicator. We'll need them."
"So you're planning to go to Frontier Labs now?" Tara asks. "Let us come with you."
I hold up my hand. "No, only Flash will be coming with me. Tara, I need you to stay here with Cissie and Carl. See if you can examine that Brainiac technology and how Warren might be adapting it for his own use."
Tara folds her arms. "You know I don't want to keep hiding down here."
"You're not hiding," I say. "You're lending your expertise with that technology we found. Between you and Cissie, you should be able to deduce what Warren has been doing with it."
Carl gets that puzzled look again. "So what am I supposed to do?"
I gesture toward another computer. "You can tally up the locations you've found Intergang and figure out if there is a connection to Frontier Labs. Cissie will set you up so you can do that research."
His puzzled expression is replaced with a smile. "Research. Perfect." He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a smartphone. "I've got a contact who might give me more insights, too." That's when he glances at the phone. "And it looks like my partner wants to know if I'm all right."
Cissie has risen from her chair and gives Carl a light punch on his shoulder. "So I'm supposed to let somebody other than George go messing with all my computers."
I shake my head. "You'll manage fine. Now would you please go get what I need."
She approaches me nudges me with her elbow. "Always need me to make sure everythng goes according to plan." She winks at the others. "Sometimes I wonder what my brother would do without me." She heads off toward one of the cabinets and opens it.
I gesture toward Tara, then to the cube in the case. "Please -- I know you want to be out there, but you have the knowledge about Brainiac. It's where you can do your best work."
Tara sighs. "Fair enough. I just hope I'll find out why my own scanners detected Brainiac in Washington D.C."
Carl raises his eyebrows. "Scanners. What are you talking about?"
I walk past the two of them, ignoring their conversation, and approach Flash, who has drawn away from everyone else. She keeps starting at the floor. Looks like she wants to get out of here, the sooner, the better.
I clasp my hands before me and take a deep breath. "Listen, I don't know what happened between you and Warren Hosills, but we are going to get into Frontier Labs and find out what's going on. I just want you to trust me, that's all."
Flash raises her head and rolls it back. "It's been a while since I've trusted anyone."
"You trusted Carl earlier, didn't you?"
She looks away from me for a minute. "I just want to take down Hosills. That's all."
"I understand," I say. "And we're going to drive to Central City. I know you're used to running everywhere, but we need to keep a lower profile." I take another deep breath. "And I need you to be in civilian clothes, not your Flash outfit. I promise I will keep your identity a secret, and I'm sure everyone else here will, too."
Her gaze meets mine and she is quiet.
I extend my hand toward her. "I don't know what you want with Warren Hosills, but I promise we will find a way to address that, too."
She glances down at my hand. After a moment, she reaches up and pushes the mask away from her head, revealing a woman with brown eyes, softer than they appeared to be on first glance. Her lips remain stiff, but the rest of her facial expression suggests a gentle soul.
She whispers, "My name is Destiny Gardner." She takes my hand and grasps it.
The corners of my mouth turn upward. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Destiny." I gesture toward the back. "There's a dressing room that way where you can go change. I'll wait for you."
Destiny manages a nod, then walks in the direction I motioned. I clasp my hands again, hoping I can get her to open up more on the drive to Central City. The last thing I want is for her to be alone. And whatever may have happened to her, I hope I can find a way to help her.
That's when I overhear another conversation.
"You don't drink coffee?" Cissie asks. "That's supposed to be the one constant among all people."
"I like green tea better," Carl says. "Besides, I could never drink coffee without putting a ton of sugar in it."
"Why do they call it green tea?" Tara asks. "It doesn't look green to me."
I glance over my shoulder. On a nearby counter, I see that Cissie has already retrieved several small objects -- some are the communicators we place in our ears, the rest are those bugs to override security measures. Then I notice Carl busy at a computer, Cissie pointing out something to him and Tara beside her, examining that cube. All three have relaxed smiles.
Chuckling to myself, I realize maybe the silly debates are what's needed to get everybody to focus on the objective at hand.
To be continued in Chapter 12.