Diana kept close to the wall, crouching as she scurried along it’s cool steel plating. She was following the map in her head from the terminal. Left. Straight. Straight. Left. Right. Every so often she would glance back over her shoulder and check that the boy genius was still with her.
He stayed close, and smiled that almost goofy smile each time she looked at him from under her dark hood.
Artemis looked down. The bow felt good in her hands, reassuring. She flexed the arrow’s fletching against its string. It was like having her arm back. After this whole day she was itching to plant its steel tip in Grodd. Deep.
The archer heard footsteps ahead. She held up a fist, stopping them both. These halls were too bright for her tastes, not enough places to hide. The pair ducked into the narrow hollow of a doorway, huddling for cover as a pair of the city’s guard passed.
When they were gone she expelled her breath with a tired sigh.
“Still glad you hacked your way into the Watchtower?” She asked, peeking out to see if the coast was clear.
His weary tone gave away his easy words. “Tropical paradise getaway surrounded by beautiful girls?” He laughed dryly. “It’s growing on me. Ask again when we get out of here alive.” The boy had begun to grow used to the stinging ache in his chest and he wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing. “Remind me to become a medical doctor when we get back.”
“I never promised we’d get out alive. Don’t make promises I can’t keep.”
She could see the strain. He’d been hiding it well, but Di knew people too well. The sweat across his brow. The way his molars clenched. “Are you alright?”
Rett straightened his spine a little. “Yeah, of course.” He put on a charming smile, brushing away as much of his weakness he could. It wouldn’t help to keep any of them alive if she had to worry about him. He needed her keeping her mind on the job at hand.
She paused, regarding him carefully. “Alright,” she replied, letting it go in spite of the nagging in her gut. “Let’s go.”
The pair hurried on their way, sneaking right to the lab. The archer saddled up to the door, flattening beside the tall window that sat in it. She peeked in, surveying the scene inside. “Two of them, about a room apart.” she relayed in a whisper. “Don’t look like security. Probably just lab jockeys.”
“As a full time lab jockey, they shouldn’t be too hard to go past or through. Which are you thinking of doing?” He wasn’t really excited about the idea of confronting again but he’d be damned if he let this girl go alone, superhero or not.
She closed her eyes, thinking. She started really feeling tired. “Getting past them isn’t really an option if what we need is in that lab.” She took another look. “We trust them and are wrong, things will go south really fast for us.” Her keen eyes scanned the room higher up, plotting. “It’ll be easier to knock them out.”
“I’d trust my sister on her period with a chocolate cupcake before I’ll ever trust an ape again, and my sister is crazy about chocolate cupcakes when she isn’t menstruating.” He slowly peeked up over the edge of the window to quickly take stock of the adjacent room. “If those lab monkeys are half the nerds their lab indicates, I might be able to distract them so you can take them out.” He glanced over her a bit and smiled wearily. “You would be way more distracting but I wouldn’t trust me to knock out anything stronger than a capuchin.”
Artemis stifled a laugh, something she felt like she hadn’t done in so long. “I’m good, but my right cross isn’t going to lay out a gorilla. And don’t sell yourself short.” She tapped him on the sheer metallic blue that covered his chest. “That’s not any jumpsuit you’re got on, remember? In truth you’re the toughest one of us.”
She lifted a finger and pointed through the window to the ceiling. A long light fixture hung from a set of cables. “I can knock that first cable,” she moved her finger, in line along the glass, “it’ll swing down and knock into that…” she paused a moment, “big thing there and the impact will knock it down and take out big stinky monkey number one.” She looked back at him. “And that commotion should be plenty to surprise the hell out of big stinky monkey number two.”
Following her finger with his eyes, Rett winced a little. “That is expensive. Yeah, it will probably startle the hell out of him. That’s a mass spectrometer, probably with gas chromatography. Very CSI.” He sat back against the wall and looked over at her. “He’ll be super ticked off when he gets his sense back. I don’t think we will have enough stunned ape time to find chloroform.” He thought for a second, and only a second. “If you get the cord just right, we could taze him with the live wire.”
Her lip curled up in the shadows of her hood. “I can get that cord anywhere I want to.”
Looking at the light in relation to the machine, the boy did some quick trigonometry and calculated the best way to incapacitate their opponents. “If you hit it a foot and a half down on the left side, it will hit Cheetah on its way into the mass spec.” He pointed to a set of beakers full of liquid between the two scientists. “If you can send another arrow into those and break them, you’ll make the floor conduct the electricity to knock out Bobo.”
She looked at him, then looked into the window and back again. A smirk grew under the shadow of that dark hood as the archer eased all the tension out of her bowstring, holding the arrow in place with two fingers at the grip. She reached back, drawing a second arrow out by its fletching. Unlike the first, this one had a heavy, blunt head.
Setting the second arrow into the string, she gave him a nod, and Rett pulled the door open, quiet as cats.
Artemis slipped into the narrow space, leveling her bow up. As she gauged the two targets, the two shafts set into the bowstring at a larger angle, the broadhead higher and the blunt more straight for its lower target.
She took her breath and held it as the string pulled back in her fingers. She exhaled slowly. “Fwip,”she whispered. Her fingers let go. The string softly mimicked her voice, and the two arrows cut for their marks.
His eyes took a moment to pull from the archer to her targets but the crash and shatter was more than enough to put him back on task. His math had been as perfect as her aim. The rectangular lighting fixture that had been suspended at either end had crashed into the first ape as her arrow severed one side of it’s support, knocking him unconscious before throwing itself into the expensive machinery.
Wires from both the light and the ruined machines spread across the ground in the liquid mess that crackled with electric danger. Her second arrow had landed perfectly in the middle of a collection of glass beakers. He had guessed correctly that they had been filled with water for cooling and diluting. Water and electricity sent the second ape twitching at the far end of the puddle.
Quickly another arrow severed the power flow to the ground. The sparks arcing off the water died out. The ape’s body went motionless.
Diana hurried into the room, going straight for the large body in the puddle. She crouched over him, pulling off a glove and feeling against his neck. She hadn’t been sure how strong the shock would have been. Even through the thick musculature she could feel a strong pulse. Upon drawing back one of his thick, leathery lids, his pupil contracted in the light.
She stood up, looking across the room to her patner. “He’ll be fine,” she told him, adding as an afterthought, “after a good long sleep. Nice work.”
“I just did the math. You applied it. Yours is way more impressive than mine. Anyone can learn to do what I did. Yours takes… talent.” The boy looked obviously impressed. “I can see your mentor’s influence.”
“I grew up with a bow in my hand.” The girl shrugged her shoulders, though her smile belied the pride beneath. “It may be the family business, but it’s still a learned talent.” She laughed then, though there was a hint of grimness in the lines it formed on her face. “My natural talent on the other hand, much less pretty.”
His brows jerked towards his hairline and one side of his mouth curved a bit. “What would that be?”He knew he probably didn’t want to know, but his mind wasn’t going to let a bait like that go.
She had inherited her the sonic scream from her mother. Unfortunately where Dinah Lance had wielded it with the same precise elegance she had her own fists, Diana Queen’s screams had been far more disastrous. One particular occurrence had been almost fatal, making it a subject she rarely liked to elaborate on. “Loud.”
She turned away from him, focusing on the room. “Kinda makes you laugh at Planet of the Apes.”The complex and advanced technology of Gorilla City was no more apparent than it was here. The lab was wall to wall and shelf to shelf full of shiny, complex technologies that simply looking at made the girl’s head swim. Just like every visit she had ever managed to the League’s Watchtower, it was like they had stepped into some sci-fi future. “I bet they hate that movie.”
“And Proteus brought the upright beast into the garden and chained him to a tree and the children did make sport of him.”
Artemis cocked a brow up. “Huh?”
“A quote,” He winked at her and adjusted the gold goggles he had yet to pull down from his bleach and blue mussed hair. “from The Planet of the Apes.” He nodded to the sleeping giants. “They may have chained us, but I’d say we were the ones that made sport of them.”
“Yeah.” She retrieved her blunt arrow, and slipped it back into her quiver. “But if there’s anybody I wanna make sport of it’s Grodd.”
She picked something up off of one of the shelves. It was square and nearly seamlessly smooth. Lights began to dance around its sides when she touched it. It looked almost like a Simon Says meets a Rubix Cube. “But to do that we need to get close to him.” Artemis looked over at the teen.”So you’re up, Mr. Wizard. What do we do?”
“Well, I think we are gonna need something a little more advanced than tin foil hats…” He looked around the room, his eyes picking out possible components and assembling, discarding the bits that became replaced with better units. His mind was working in duality, building a machine while simultaneously figuring out how to stop the mind control from penetrating their thoughts, the two processes both dependent on each other. He touched his lower lip, holding his breath for a moment and closed his eyes.
The archer shifted her weight and watched him. The quiet in the room started to settle a little too heavily for her tastes. “So… No tin foil, then. That’s a start.”
“Shh.” His brows crinkled a little, her voice quivering the images in his head a little. Normally he would enjoy her distraction but this was important… and it wouldn’t hurt to be the impressive one for a change. The pieces in his head finally fit together like one big puzzle and his eyes opened as a grin crept across his face. “Bingo.”
Working as if he had done the motions a hundred times before, the boy pointed to the left, his finger aimed directly at a small jewelry grade soldering iron. “Can you get me that?” Without waiting for an answer, he walked across the room, collecting wires, capacitors, thin copper plating, diodes and resistors, all the while humming cheerily to himself.
“That I can do.” The girl chuckled as she picked the tool up and brought it over to him. “Here.”
Diana looked over all the pieces he had spread over the table. “Definitely not a tin foil hat.” She smiled. “More Tron meets Magneto, maybe?” She picked up one of the diodes and held it up to the light. “Are we going to have enough for the 5 of us?”
He wasted no time in assembling the unit, having also retrieved a small circuit board and a button battery. “It is easier for me to make one and replicate it four times than to make five all at once.” As he spoke, the silver core solder melted smoothly, connecting piece to piece.
Before long, he held a unit about the size of a stick of gum up. “This will create an small electrical field around the head that will interrupt any other electrical signal from penetrating it.” He laid it back on the table and wiped his slightly singed fingers on the lab coat he had commandeered but not put on. “Give me fifteen minutes and I will make four more.”
Artemis picked it up. She held hit gingerly between her fingers, as if examining a something as fragile as it was precious. “It’s smaller than I was expecting.” She smirked and pulled the com from her belt, holding it up. “Is it BlooTooth enabled?”
“BlooTooth is only for transfer of information, like audio from your phone to your ear or music from your computer to your portable device.” He handed her a second completed device. “This is designed to stop the transfer of information so… more like a RedEar or something.” He raised his head only long enough to give her a wink before starting the assemble on the third unit.
She chuckled, smiling a little at the teen. “I was hoping there was some way we could run the coms through it. They run with electricity too, yeah?” She slipped the first device around her ear. “Not letting Grodd in is paramount. But being able to talk is mighty handy. We need every advantage we can keep.”
She paused a beat, then pondered aloud, “Does Lagoon Lad have ears?”
“Well,” His nose crinkled a little as he had to force the ear piece onto the device. “RedEye sounds like something you need to call the doctor about.” The plastic gave in to his will and he made a grunt of victory. “They are just earpieces because that is the easiest way to affix them to the middle of the head, I Am going to make a more powerful one for our little amphibian and make it into a collar.”
“Red eye’s a flight. You’re thinking pink eye.”
She took off her earpiece and gave it another look, a closer one. Impressive didn’t begin to describe his handiwork. The detail was so intricate. It was like a piece of art. A tiny piece of art that, god willing, would save their lives. Or at least give them the fighting chance to save their own and Gorilla City too, maybe more.
Of course they still had to get past Casey. “I’m gonna love getting close enough to PeeGee to slip this on her ear.” She put it back on. “maybe if I ask really nicely?”
“Do you have a sticky arrow?” He didn’t look up as he traced lines of silver over the green plastic.
“I do.” She pulled an arrow from her quiver. “Surprisingly handy.”
“I can make a stronger one for her too. If you’re half as good as I know you are, you can tie one to the shaft and stick it somewhere to her upper body. It should kick immediately so she wouldn’t be have a chance to pull it off. We would just have to make sure she is distracted so she doesn’t dodge.” He slid another completed unit into the small pile. Grabbing the copper band and a larger battery, Rett began working on the collar unit.
“Our ragtag band?” She laughed. “I’m sure we can manage a distraction of some sort.”
She paused, watching him at work for a moment. “Thanks for coming back, Rett.” She smiled with a small curl of her lips. “Even if I did tell you to run. If we manage this at all it’ll be because of you.”
His fingers slowed and paused and he looked up at her. “I couldn’t very well leave a pretty girl in danger now could I?” He pointed to the counter behind her. “There’s a bin of 9 volt batteries over there. We’ll need one for the arial interrupter. Grab another one to get the feel of it so you know how to shoot it with your usual flawless accuracy.”
Artemis pulled out a pair of the batteries. She tossed him one. The other she held in her palm, rolling it around then lobbing it up in the air and catching it. The weight was mild, and the sticky arrow was already a bit head heavy. It was more the lean that she would have to compensate for. “Shouldn’t be a problem.” The girl chuckled with almost a hint of a giggle. “The Power Girls offer an ample target in the upper body.”
He snorted and hissed as his laughter caused him to burn his fingertip. “Probably best to shoot at her from behind to increase the likelihood of it not getting dodged or swatted.” Shaking his finger, he started laughing harder. “Unless you are saying she has a big butt.” He instinctively stuck his finger in his mouth.
Diana let out a loud laugh, one she hadn’t in a good long while. “Please,”[art] she said, wiping away a tear, [Art]”I wouldn’t say that even if it was true!” She joined him back at the table. “You saw her swing that tree, right? There’s brave and there’s stupid.”
He pulled his finger out of his mouth to tap the side of his head. “One of those I have been accused of far more often than the other.” He grabbed a screwdriver to affix the device to the collar. “I thought insanely hot body was one of her superpowers anyway.”
“Works well enough like one, but that’s boys for you.”
“And some girls too.” He paused his work and took a moment to just grin before ducking an anticipated blow and handing her the last device. “All done,” He clipped one of his little disruptors securely to the strap of the still decorative goggles, just beside his ear.
Laying the glue arrow down on the table, Artemis carefully set the piece to the cylinder at the tip. “I hope this works,”? she said, affixing it with some electrical tape. She picked it up and twirled it, slipping it back into her quiver. She flashed him a smirk. “Or this will be the shortest offensive of all time.”
“Oh it will, unless he is using magic, and I don’t believe in magic.” He winked at her.
The girl chuckled. “One man’s science…”
She pulled the comm from her belt and thumbed open a channel open to their teammates. “Tweet Tweet, Redbird. Sit rep.”