The sun hung low in the sky in its last efforts to cook the two boys crouched beside a tree in a futile attempt to avoid the heat they were unaccustomed to. Garrett’s jaw was tight as his mind raced to try and solve the problem that threatened more than just the captured girls. To say this was outside of his knowledge base was a massive understatement.
The boy blue wiped his brow with the sleeve of reflective material and looked to his reluctant partner.”I don’t suppose you know how to storm an intelligent gorilla stronghold?”
Ishmael stood and thought for a moment. He was not a strategist or a tactician. All he knew he had pretty much learnt through osmosis and through Jackson Hyde. And Jackson Hyde had taught the boy manners.
“Couldn’t we just ask them if we could come in?”
“You are kidding, right? I mean seriously if we just…” the young man paused for a minute as something deep and blanketing settled over his mind, his eyes reflecting the change.
“Tell me,” he said softly looking at the aquatic youth “do you know what a Trojan horse is?”
Two great sable beasts reclined atop of a vast boulder. They were the City Gate Guard, the gate in question being somewhere in the distance behind them. But being a gorilla means such a distance is not impractical, when you are travelling with the speed of a great ape.
Currently they were deep in discussion.
“The thing about Grodd,” the first continued “is that he gets things done. He does not sit on high and ignore the denizens of his glorious kingdom. He is a god who is present and interacts with his people. Gets his hands dirty, as it were.”
“Ah, yes,” responded the second “but let us not, to our own folly, forget that our dread lord be also a master of the mind. Not only does he possess the words and countenance to command the children of an entire continent, so attuned is he in the art of oration, but also he has mastery of the poetic, the didactic, over rhetoric and discursive. He is a grand master of the arts of literature and of thought. He himself wrote our new and current tongue and produced much of our greatest writings. Not forgetting the music and frescoes. He is a philosopher. It is only through his teachings that one shall ever find the deepest places of enlightenment.”
“I must say, Plato,” the first of the two began in response “Sometimes the manner of your speaking does disturb me somewhat. One could argue the way you describe our king is in terms that adhere to mortals. You speak of him as if he were a good teacher and little more.”
“Nay, Socrates, a great teacher!”
“But nothing else?”
“You are asking me if I believe our sovereign is divine, as you believe? That he is a living embodiment of the great spirits of the Beyond? I am afraid I cannot well give you an answer that you would wish to hear. I can only speak of the innumerable qualities I do see…”
“Plato, do not be a fool. He is omniscient and omnipresent, Praise Be His Name, and yet you speak like the fools in Acra who, after settling the land, have become atheists and take it upon themselves to declare that there is no Grodd.”
To this Plato did not reply at first and after some time he changed the topic.
“I hear our brothers, Aristotle and Nietzsche, amongst others, discovered intruders along the borderlands. Even now I hear they have been taken to the city dungeons.”
“I too hear this news. I hear also that should more be discovered they are to be bought to the same dungeons but to be left unharmed.”
“Indeed. Apparently Our Holy Grodd would…have an audience with them.”
“Well in that case…” at the sound of this new voice, Pluto spun around and, baring his fangs, bellowed and threw his arms over his head, only to be restrained by his comrade.
Before them stood a strange pale boy and a young man dressed primarily in blue. It was this one who grinned and finished his request “…take us to your leader.”
Redbird ran her hands over her cowl and down into her hair. This was maddening. There had to be a way out. She was failing Tim. She was failing Bruce.
Her gaze rose and she looked across the room to where Artemis sat on the stone floor. She hadn’t moved or spoken in hours, perhaps more. It was hard to tell in the timeless darkness of their cell.
Just then a noise drew her attention. It was the rattling of metal. Keys on a ring. She looked up and found a large gorilla standing at the bars, sliding a key into the lock. His arrival had been silent.”Up.” he said, those dark eyes on her. The gate swung open with a quiet sqeak. “Lord Grodd will have your presence.”
“I hope,” Artemis’s voice came dryly, “he’s not inviting us to dinner. Because that has “no thanks” written all over it, buddy.”
The guard snorted and bared his teeth. “On your feet, human.”
Redbird stood, the chains clinking against themselves. Her eyes latched onto the gorilla’s and then past him down the hall.
The gorilla guard unlocked the chains and pushed the two girls to walk in front of him.
“This oughta be fun.” Redbird whispered as they started their march down the corridor.
“You have a weird sense of fun, Batgirl.” Artemis managed a smirk as she whispered back.
“Let’s not start on that again, Arrowette.” Redbird had a hint of a smile crossed her lips.
“Quiet!” A heavy knuckled hand jabbed them both in the back forcefully. The two girls stumbled forward.
Di looked back over her shoulder with a scowl. She grumbled, “No need to tenderize us before hand, Aldo. Your sentries already did a bang up job.”
They made their way through the temple into a lavish and brightly lit open room. Across from them Grodd sat on a mighty throne of gold and silver. His cheek perched against his knuckles, those black eyes watched them as they entered his chamber.
“Nice place you have here.” Didn’t look at the lord of Gorilla City. She pretended to examine the room, but was mostly looking at the blonde girl at the ape’s side.
Casey was on her knees, head bent forward, and her eyes on the ground. Her slumped shoulders rose and fell with the subtle indication of labored breath. Her knuckles were wrapped loosely around a gilded chain that hung from her neck. The other end of it was draped across Grodd’s lap.
“You children attempt to invade my forested kingdom.” He picked his head up and straightened in his seat. “Why?”
“We were due for a vacation.” The dark haired teen’s shoulders shrugged. “We heard Gorilla City was lovely this time of year.”
“You have a sharp tongue.” His lip sneered and he pointed at the ground. “You risk losing it.”
The guard’s strong hands grabbed their shoulders. They were forcibly pushed down onto their knees. The girls struggled against the ape’s strength futilely. His grasp held them down in place.
“An unexpected event afforded this opportunity to reclaim what is rightfully mine, a strange happening that whisked my adversaries,” he paused a moment, “away.”
Grodd stood, the gold chain that bound to Power Girl now hanging from his fingers. “Every time I have risen to my rightful place, my kingdom is invaded by your kind. Interfering interlopers.” He took the few steps down to floor. “Even this time I have expected it, welcomed it even. But..” Thick yellowed fangs the size of one of the girls’ thumbs were bared in a twisted grin. He looked at them on their knees with those piercing eyes. “It is not like your betters to send babes to do their work.”
The Girl Wonder looked up at the massive gorilla king, “I guess they have that little respect for you.”
There was a flash of anger in Grodd’s beetle black eyes. A second later, and Redbird found herself flung across the room by the gorilla that stood behind her. She slammed hard against one of the large stone pillars and crumpled to the floor.
“I hope that you will have more sense than to disrespect me youngling.” He snarled at the Ebony Archer. “Now then little one,” he took a few steps towards her, taking her chin in his large black hands, “are you more forthcoming than your friend?”
He leaned in close, her face cradled in his powerful fingers. She the smell of his breath on her skin was thick, and it was all she could do not to retch. “Where is the Justice League. What are they planning?”
Diana Queen looked back at him. He could snap her neck like a twig, and her mind raced for a solid reply. “All around you, Grodd.” Those white lenses narrowed. “We’re not just a recon team. We’re a plant.” She struggled against the guard’s heavy arm that held her down on her knees. “And you’ve taken us right where they want us.”[/capin]
“Really?” Skepticism dripped from his tone.
Artemis held firm. [art]”Really.”
The Gorilla held her in his gaze for a long and quiet moment as he studied her battered face. He let it go. “Let me tell you what I think, my suspicion all along,” He strode back up the steps to his throne,”and the reason you came here yourselves.”
Grodd sat in his chair. He pulled the chain attached to Power Girl tight between his two fists. Its shiny links glittered before his eyes as he stared through it. “They’re gone.” There was a righteous and powerful anger in his voice. “Wiped from existence by the same forces that removed the thorn of Solovar and his useless allies from my side. And with them gone, the only thing that stands between myself and the expanse of my kingdome,” those thick yellow daggers bared themselves in a hungry grin, “is you.”
The mighty gorilla sat back. “Return them to their cells. Feed them.” He let the chain fall and instead reached over and stroked Casey’s hair back like a man with a treasured pet. “I want them strong for when they test their mettle against my new toy. Tonight my subjects will have a real show.”
His gaze turned to a chimpanzee who stood to the side, silent and obedient. “And ready the satellite feed.”
“Yes, my Lord.” The chimp held his fist to his chest as he bowed and backed out of the room.
“Tonight the world will see a taste of their own tomorrow.”
The gorilla nodded curtly. He pulled Artemis up by her shoulder and pushed her forward. He then picked up the limp body of Redbird and left the room.
Artemis trudged down the hall, the guard pushing her on. As they passed a particularly dark and deserted part of the corridor there was a flash of light and a slight sizzle of fur, then a fwump as the guard crashed to the ground.
“Come on!” The Teen Wonder called out to Artemis as she grabbed her by the arm and pulled her down a near by corridor.
“How?” The Ebony Archer questioned as she stumbled slightly from being pulled.
“Played dead when that big gorilla threw me against the wall and waited for them to take us out of the room. Then I used this,” she tapped the disk insignia on her chest. “Tazer disk. One use only. Kind of a last resort defense mechanism, but it seemed appropriate.”
“You bats and your toys.” Artemis shook her head.
Redbird gave a little bit of a smirk. She was starting to like Artemis, not that she was going to tell her though. She took in a deep breath and winced. Her gamble with Grodd had not done any favors to her broken ribs. “We need to find some weapons.”
Artemis nodded. She had almost the exact same thought. “Yeah,” she whispered through heaving breaths, “and then we need to figure out a way to get PG away from Magilla.”
“Right.” Redbird nodded. “Let’s just hope those boys are still alive and not doing something stupid.”
Casey awoke with a start. She was laying on a cold, hard floor of what she could only assume was some sort of holding cell. Pale light filtered down from the ceiling, though as she looked up, she couldn’t see any definite light source. She stood, albeit shakily, and took in her surroundings.
The cell was small, maybe six by six. Casey reached up to see if she could touch the ceiling, couldn’t, then tried to fly, and found that she couldn’t do that either. So the monkeys had found some way to sap her powers… Could it get any worse?
Ah… I see you have awakened. Grodd’s voice echoed through the chamber.
Apparently it could get worse.
“What have you done with my friends, Grodd?” Casey cast out to the walls around her.
The females are being well taken care of, there was a trace of humor in the primate’s voice. They will make excellent sport for my underlings. The males have just been brought before me… take a look.
A small opening, about the size of a brick suddenly appeared on the wall in front of Casey. The aperture was slightly above her eye level, causing her to have to stand on tip-toes to peer out. The sight before her, made the hair stand up on the back of her neck.
Her point of view was… her own. She could see past the massive furred form of Grodd to where Ishmael and Rett stood below. Casey’s jaw clenched in anger as he gaze drifted to the golden chain that the great ape held in his hand; the chain that led to her own neck. She pounded furiously on the walls of the cell, realizing only then that Grodd had her trapped within her own mind.
“You freakin’ monkey!” the blonde powerhouse raged, “You better hope I never get my hands on your or I’m gonna turn your filthy paws into ashtrays!”
Tut-tut, my little plaything. Such language. Such… savagery. What would your mother think?
Grodd’s chiding voice faded from Casey’s mind, as she was plunged once again into darkness…
“More children?” Grodd grumbled as he looked down from his throne at Garrett and Ishmael.”Apparently there is an abundance of them in my jungle.” The ape grumbled as he picked large incisors with a nail from one of his fingers. He looked at Casey who stood cowed behind him, the gold chain resting lightly in his hand. “Are you with the others younglings? Are you here to stop me too?”
“You have my friend.”. Ishmael said matter of factly as he pointed at Casey.
The giant gorilla snorted with anger. “You will address me as your highness or Lord Grodd.”
“You have my friend, Lord Grodd.” Ishmael repeated with the added words.
“Impertinent boy!” The rogue screamed. He pulled his massive body from the throne, and bared his fangs. Casey jerked forward slightly. “You arrogant children dare to make the lord of Gorilla City look foolish?”
All the other apes around Grodd chattered angrily.
“No offense meant,” Rett said, keeping his stance easy and relaxed. His normally stifled Irish accent bled in a little, just enough to give him the often assumed appearance of British gentility. What little he knew of Grodd was that the ape favored things with an air of nobility and every little bit helped.”the lad has the social graces of a well weathered rock.”
Despite his words and outward demeanor, Rett felt like he was sitting in quicksand and all his wading was futile. “Those damned heroes stuffed me in a suit and dragged me along.” He knew his charm was falling on deaf ears but he couldn’t stop talking. Maybe if he talked enough, something would happen. Talking bought time. “Girls are fallin’ all over themselves without someone to tell ’em what to do.” Now he wondered if he did make it out, would the girls kill him.
The evil ape studied the boy for several minutes. Finally his voice boomed through the throne room.”In celebration of our soon to be conquering of man’s world, we shall have games tonight.” The other apes chattered in happiness.
The blue clad boy’s half-worn smile turned from easy to forced. “You, uh, get Halo out here? I’m real good at Halo…”
“No,” A wooden stick, nearly an entire tree branch to the boys, shoved into their shoulders, forcing them back towards the dark portal. “not… Halo.” The way he spat that last word was all that was needed to indicate what sort of games the small group would be facing if they remained here.
The sound of plodding feet on the damp stones of Gorilla City’s capital building echoed as Ishmael and Rett were marched through the dimly lit hallway. With one gorilla guard behind them, it would be easy to take out the guard. Redbird looked over at Artemis, both of them had latched onto the lattice work in the ceiling and were hanging there waiting for the boys and their guard to pass.
They watched as Ishmael and Rett passed under them, then the guard, spear in hand. Artemis gave a slight jog of her head and both girls dropped, their full weight impacting on the head and shoulders of the gorilla and sending him crashing to the stone floor.
“Come on.” The Girl Wonder hissed as she and Artemis grabbed an arm a piece of the unconscious Simeon and dragged him into an adjacent unlocked room that held their guards as well, now bound and gagged tightly in the vines that wound around the castle.
In those quick seconds that the two had dispatched the ape, Rett had nearly suffered a heart attack. He was done with this primordial crap hole. “What the hell!?” To say he wasn’t used to this sort of activity would be a gross understatement. “What the entire hell?” He swept the sweat from his paler than usual forehead.
“We really don’t have time for you to fall to pieces Pajama Lad.” Redbird snapped as she trussed and gagged the third ape. “Right now we have bigger issues.” She said as she stood. “One. we need to figure out what Grodd’s plan is and stop it. Two. Figure out how to get Casey back on our side and not fall for Grodd’s mind games ourselves.” She looked around. “Any ideas on either of those?”
Artemis rubbed her shoulder a little. She was feeling sore and all the pains from earlier were starting to catch back up with her. “We’re not going to be much good at any of this flying blind. Too much to do, too little time.” She sighed. “We’re going to need to split up.”
She looked to Rett. “How smart is very very smart?”
Little cracks were showing in the edge of the boy’s attempts at remaining calm. “I’m DOCTORpajama boy, twice, who got into your little tree house while I was waiting for pizza” He rubbed his shoulder, stress showing in the pained way he slouched on one side. He took a breath and a moment to compose himself. “and I did it with an extremely modified x-box.”
“X-box.” The archer nodded. “I think that makes your nerdiness a sufficiently safe assumption. Grodd is a mad telepath. That’s how he’s gotten PeeGee under his thumb. If we’re going to even get near him again we need to keep him out of our noodles.” She reached up and put her hand on his shoulder. “You know how Magneto wears that helmet to keep Professor X out?”
He rolled his eyes and dipped his shoulder out from beneath her fingers. “Smart enough not to need examples, not smart enough to make something like that out of sticks and leaves.” His smile was almost pained in his attempt to return to his earlier bravado. “I think I’m gonna need you ladies to take some stuff off…”
She chuckled just a bit. “I think you’ll find a lot more than sticks and leaves in Gorilla City. The tech in town makes Metropolis look like Hubb City… Forty years ago.”
Rett looked at the walls doubtfully. “Uh huh… Well, if you can get to town then I can make us a giant mechanical spider to waltz us out of this damned jungle… or hats, I can make hats too.”
Artemis smiled. “Good. Lets start with hats. We’re not leaving with out Casey.”
She straightened, turning to Redbird and Ishmael. “Find our gear. And find out what the big stinky monkey has up his sleeve.”
“I think it would be better if I scouted alone,” Redbird shook her head, “not that I don’t like fishstick here, but it’ll be easier for me to maneuver alone.”
“Nobody goes it alone here. Everybody gets back up.” The Teen Huntress shook her head. “It’ll be easier for us to keep an eye each on the less seasoned members of our team here.”
Redbird’s face tightened a little, nostrils flareing a little. Though clearly displeased with the prospect, she didn’t take the argument further. “I don’t like the idea of running blind in Gorilla city.”
Di nodded. “Agreed.”
“I can launch a missile using a speak and spell…”[rett] He thumbed back towards the direction they came from. [rett]”I’m sure I saw a terminal I could do a lot more damage with.”
The teen quartet hurried back the corridor and found the screen in question. It was a simple security terminal but it only took a few moments before Garrett Daniels had it singing like a bird and displaying a rather impressively detailed map.
“Looks like your stuff is held here,” he tapped the screen. “Pretty close actually.”
“This looks like an central secure info hub, over here.” She cradled her chin in her glove. “Whatever designs Grodd has in mind, I bet we can find them there.”
“And you can bet you’ll find a whole lotta gorillas between you and it.”
“That shouldn’t be too much of a problem,” Redbird pulled her hood up over her head, “We should be back soon.” She reached down and picked up one of the apes’ spears. “Come on, Ishmael. Stay behind me and keep quiet.” She opened the door and her and Ishmael crept out.
“If it’s close, this’ll be easier if I can get my bow sooner than later.” She looked to Rett. “Got a lead for where we can start with getting the makings of your hats?”
The boy gestured to the terminal. “There’s something called the lab right here. Sounds pretty leadish to me”
A few moments later, the door swung open again and Redbird and Ishmael slipped back in. “You need these, Katniss?” Redbird handed the bow and arrows to Artemis.
“Well I’ll take it if that means I live through all of this,” Artemis strapped her quiver back onto her back, “then I’ll take it as a compliment.”
“Don’t,” Maddie smirked, “I like Peeta more.”
“What are they talking about?” Ishmael gave Rett a confused look.
He leaned to the side and spoke out to corner of his mouth. “A book…” He snorted a little bit. “and I had no idea the bird was such a girl”
“So,” Redbird said ignoring Rett, “I’ll take Lagoon Boy here and scout around to find out what exactly Grodd’s plan is and how to stop him.” Redbird patted Ishmael on the shoulder as she walked once again toward the door and stepped through leaving Rett and Artemis alone again.