“I have good news and I have bad news,” Redbird’s voice crackled to life, “the good news is we have an ally.”
“Casey?” Artemis said hopefully.
“No,” the Girl Wonder said flatly. “One of the gorillas – the prince actually. He’s going to help us deactivate the gorilla bomb.”
“Gorilla bomb?” The archer’s brow rose and with it her eyes which looked at Rett. Her expression bordered somewhere between curiosity and concern. “Something tells me that’s not strapping a load of C-4 to a silverback and giving them the old heave ho out of an airplane.”
“Let me put it this way,” Redbird said sarcastically into the ear piece, “This thing goes off your bikini wax will cost the gross national product of Paraguay.”
That wry smile rising, Garrett Daniels opened his mouth to speak, but the archer pointed a finger at him. “Don’t even think about saying it.”
Di jogged her head toward the door, indicating that they were leaving. “We’re done here,” she said both to Rett and the Girl Wonder. “Let’s regroup and plan our attack.” Checking the coast was clear the blue and black pair stepped back into the hall. The door hissed as it shut behind the two of them. “The sooner we can put this city behind us and get back to finding Connor and the others, the better.”
“I’m all for it,” Maddie agreed, “Solovar says you all are just a few clicks north of me and the Zoo Crew. We’ll wait here and we can fill you in on everything. Please tell me the perv got his part of the mission handled?”
Rett frowned at the voice of the temperamental blonde. “Tell the shrew to be nice or I’ll make hers pick up the polka station the entire time she wears it.”
Artemis shook her head, “My kingdom for an adult.” she muttered to herself before replying. “It’s handled. Booster Blue has pulled off quite the feat, now it’s up to us to pull ours.” She took the device from her head and thumbed across its touch screen. “Ping me your coordinates. We’ll be there directly.”
There was a pause.
“Coming through now. Redbird out.”
Looking at the screen the satellite image she had zoomed in on shifted and red dot appeared across the city. “Walking through Gorrila Town.” She looked up at Rett and smiled. “What could go wrong?”
“We must hurry,” the ape prince said nervously, “Grodd and his scientists will be done soon. Dr. Zaius may have it ready by now.”
“Wait,” Redbird’s head cocked to one side, she had to supress a laugh, “Grodd’s chief scientist is named Dr. Zaius?”
“Yes.” Solovar said plainly.
“This just keeps getting better and better.” The Girl Wonder shook her head.
“Do you know this Dr. Zaius?” Ishmael said quizzically, his face full of concern.
Lord give me strength. She said to herself. “No,” she said as she calmed herself, “just sounded familiar. Right now we’re just waiting for the other two to show then we can launch our assault on Grodd.”
Redbird did a silent inventory of what was left in her utility belt. Starting the night in Gotham, then New York, then the heart of Africa made it damn hard to to keep up supplies. She had already used the taser charge one of her tonfa, and had just the one left. She was down to her last half dozen batarangs.
She sighed as she clicked the compartment closed. This was going to be tough.
“Are you well?” Solavar said, snapping her back to reality.
“What?” She said at first, but then shook her head. “I’m fine. Just preparing.”
The gorilla prince nodded silently. “This will not be easy. Grodd is older, but it has only made him that much more powerful in his mental faculties. We shall need a miracle to get past.”
“You called?” That familiar grinning face popped out from around a corner along with her teammate.”Miracle Delivery Service, at your, uh, service.” Rett laughed and rubbed the back of his head. “Hey, they can’t all be perfect prose!”
“I don’t understand.” Ishmael looked quizzically at Rhett.
“Nevermind.” Redbird snapped. “We’re ready?”
Artemis nodded. “If you are.”
“Yeah.” Redbird pulled her cowl back. “So where’s this miracle, Frosty tips?”
Tossing a device of wires and components carefully in the air and catching it back into his palm, he held up the little bit of mechanical magic between his thumb and forefinger for her to see. “Right here, Frosty Lips. One miracle, as requested.” He gently lobbed the device to her.
She gave him an incredibly dirty look and then slipped the device under her cowl. “So how are we planning on getting one of these into Cassie’s ear?”
“That’ll be the tricky part of all this.” Artemis reached back into her quiver and drew one arrow. “I plant this on her and she’s free from Grodd’s control, but to do that…” she looked at the three other teen would-be-heroes, “you all have to keep her distracted.”
“I can do that.” Redbird nodded. She looked at Ishmael “It will be up to you to keep the apes of their,” she pointed at Solovar and Rett, “backs till they can deactivate the gorilla bomb.”
Ishmael nodded with conviction as he clipped his own protection around his neck.
“Are you sure this force will be enough?” Solovar gave Redbird and Artemis a worried look.
“Once we get Power Girl,” Redbird cracked her knuckles, “we’ll have more than enough.”
“Somebody want to give a little more insight into this bomb we’re up against?” She carefully put the arrow back in its cache and gave a glance in Rett’s direction. “We should know what sort of fire we’re getting into before we jump in the kitchen.”
“We all turn into apes.” She said flatly. “Was that not clear?”
“I think she was inquiring more the how; chemical, biological, uh, magical? The intonation on his last word showed just how much doubt he had in the existence of such things.
The teen huntress nodded. “He tells it true. Smart as our Rett here seems to be, this doesn’t sound like something we wanna run headlong into.” She turned her gaze on the young prince. “Am I wrong?”
“I’m pretty talented at breaking things, too.” Rett drew the lab back to his mind and searched the machines, chemicals, and documents he saw scattered about the room. It wasn’t the first thing on his mind, there were blank spots and holes he wished he had taken the time to fill. His words came slowly, the look on his face saying he was still thinking, even as he spoke. “The… machines… and diagrams… in the lab…” He paused a moment, once again touching his lower lip. “It looked… mutagenic? Either radiation or a biological method, it looked like he was researching both. I’m not sure how this would become pandemic though.” He looked genuinely irritated with himself for not knowing exactly what.
Solovar nodded. “I am not sure. My information tells me is that this may be a test run in order to prove the updated gorilla bomb is now operational before launching a full scale assault.”
Di folded her arms across her chest and leaned back against the wall, thinking. She looked out the window.
Grodd hadn’t been behind whatever happened to the others, to The League. He was just another villain looking to capitalize on this moment. “A gift…” she said quietly to herself.
The world would be crawling with others like him. Cold. Jokers. Countless others. And they were here sparring with Grodd.
The archer brought herself back to the group. “Grodd wasn’t ready for this. He’s trying to take advantage of the moment he’s been given, but he’s going to rush it in case it’s a fluke. That’s our advantage, but it’s a small one.”
She gave a serious look to the brains in the room. “You need to make that advantage work. No room for maybes.” She allowed herself a small smile. “There is no try…”
Rett patted the girl in green on the shoulder. “I teleported into a superhero space station I didn’t even know was there using encoded directions I stole from triple locked computer vaults. How hard can defusing a mystery ape bomb while you try to shoot a Kryptonian out of the air before she makes bird stew out of Miss Congeniality over here? Cake. Ice cream cake. Which we will have after this. My treat.” He gave it a little squeeze before letting go.
“You pull this off, little boy blue,” The Girl Wonder actually cracked a smile, “and I may even give you a kiss.” She patted him on the shoulder as she walked past him.
“Talk about mixed signals.” He held up a finger to stop her. “What about our follicled friend here? I didn’t anticipate an additional member. I only have five Interrupters.”
“I do not require one.” Solovar said, “I, like Grodd also have telepathic abilities. My telepathy, however, is not on the same level as his. It will require all my powers to protect myself from him.”
“Then you hang back for the first throw down. We need you focused on the Hair Bomb when you’re on it, not blocking banana-breath from getting into your beat.” She drew her hood up. “But once PG is free of Grodd,” that small smile turned up into an almost cruel grin, “she’s going to give him anawful lot to think about, I think. He won’t have time for you then.”
“Let’s do this then,” Redbird twirled her tonfa in her hand, “as they say, I think we’ve done enough talking.”
“Hurry fools,” Grodd roared at his subordinates as he stood on a raised platform overlooking them,”we do not know what kind of window we have, and we must take advantage it.”
“Lord Grodd,” a blond gorilla in a lab coat and goggles carrying some kind of data pad cowered next to him, “we are almost there. Ten more minutes.”
Grodd fingered the golden chain that held Power Girl. He smiled baring his fangs, “Excellent, Zaius. Make me happy.”
No sooner did the words come out of his mouth, then the doors to the lab exploded. The concussion sent the doors flying, knocking a handful of the gorilla guards away from the entrance.
Redbird and Artemis led the way through the smoke of the explosion with Ishmael and Rett right behind.
“I was wondering where you were,” Grodd growled, “You are weaker than my pet here, but I will take you all the same as lab rats for my bomb.
The kids continued to press their assault, clearly not affected.
Grodd’s eyes narrowed in anger, he knew now that they found a means to nullify his telepathy.”Destroy them!”
Several of the guards snapped to attack, but the young teens were quicker. Artemis loosed three arrows from her bowstring. each planted with a quiet sound in thick muscle, followed by a roar of pain.
She took her opening and scanned the room quickly, planning her strategy. Stay moving. Keep back. Wait for Casey to open up. She loaded her bow with another trio, and hopping onto a table. She spun around and let them fly.
The large, black ape barreling for Garrett crumpled with a painful whine as the flathead’s sharp blade sliced clean through the tendons of his ankle, the second shot landing in his other calf.
“Save those for me! Limited supply, you know!” She yelled across the room as the beast skidded across the ground. She gave a wink and dashed around the room’s edge.
“You children have been a thorn in my side for long enough.” He let go of the chain and pointed down at Redbird and Artemis. “Pull the flesh from their bones.”
Casey threw herself off of the platform and raced toward the two girls. At the last moment, Redbird jumped into the air and landed as hard as she could boots first against the small of Casey’s back.
This move wouldn’t have worked if Casey wasn’t controlled and Maddie knew it, but she could see Cassie’s responses were sluggish. While it didn’t knock her to the ground, it did knock her off course from hitting Artemis and that was the plan. Keep Casey occupied long enough for the archer to have her shot.
Casey rolled to her right and grabbed Maddie’s foot and threw her off of her.
Maddie slammed hard against a low metal wall. She felt her back scream with pain, along with the still broken ribs.
Grinding his teeth to try and drown out the sound of the girls fighting behind him, Garrett crept as quickly as he could just outside the view of the fray. His eyes were already trying to disassemble this bomb before he even laid his hands on it. He thought a silent prayer to the Gods of science he had the presence of mind to swipe a few basic tools and stuck them in his boot before abandoning the lab.
The bomb consisted of two canisters. His brow furrowed as he worked the puzzle apart. Bonding agent? Activating agent? Floral fresh scent? He did his best to move as quietly as he could towards his singular goal.
Redbird moaned slightly as she pulled herself up. She knew she wouldn’t be able to stand up to too much more like that. Unfortunately she was going to have to. Casey sped at her again, and she had to keep her attention keenly on the blonde powerhouse.
As Casey closed in, the Girl Wonder waited. Mechanically, Casey threw a punch at Maddie’s head that Maddie was just barely able to dodge. Casey’s fist slammed hard into the wall, cratering the side of it. At the same time, Redbird planted a small explosive onto Casey’s forearm which exploded knocking her back through the air and cutting a large groove into the floor.
Opposite the battling teens Artemis had a singular arrow drawn. She ducked between a pair of Grodd’s personal guards and jabbed them hard in the soft flesh under their jaws. She kneecapped them as they choked.
The fletching found the string and the archer pulled it taut. She watched Power Girl slam to a halt, limbs akimbo. “Bingo.”
The arrow hissed through the air. She didn’t even feel its impact. The adhesive expanded against her chest, dead center. Casey reached down and snapped the shaft like a twig, but the glue and its package stuck fast.
Casey looked up at the two girls with anger burning in her eyes. Then that fiery gaze turned to Gorilla Grodd.
The newly familiar thud drew Rett’s attention from the threat he was to deal with, his head turning and eyes looking for the super powered girl. The biggest grin he’d cracked all day swept across his face. “Man, I wish I could watch this…” He grudgingly turned back to his task, moving quicker now that he knew all attention was focused on the blonde weapon in white.
He freed a flat head screwdriver from his boot and twirled it around his middle finger artfully as he began humming like he had been back in the lab. Removing the front plating was quick work and he immediately began deducing the exact methods by which this thing was powered and what it was supposed to do. “Oh… awesome…” He palmed his mouth as he thought for a moment. “Biologicaland radiation…” He paused and looked down a moment before shrugging and sighing. “I never was good with kids anyway.”
It started low – a guttural growl that wouldn’t be all that uncommon in Gorilla City, save for the fact that it was coming from a human female – and rose to a crescendo that shook the dust from the vaulted ceiling of Grodd’s throneroom. “GRRROOOOOOODDDDDD!”
Casey’s form became little more than a white streak as she rocketed towards her captor. Such was the speed of her attack that the normally nimble Grodd was unable to evade. The impact, which would have rendered a lesser opponent to little more than a bloody smear, echoed around the chamber like a bomb blast and obliterated the primate’s throne.
As the dust began to settle, the scene it revealed caused a momentary pause in the fighting. Casey sat astride Grodd’s broad chest, “I. Told. You. That. I. Would. Make. Your. Paws. Into,” she snarled, punctuating each word with a bone-shattering blow to the villainous ape’s head, “A. Set. Of. Ashtrays!”
The Girl Wonder pulled herself shakily back to her feet and watched Powergirl launch herself into Grodd. A small smile grew on her lips before she felt her spine buckle from an attack from behind. Maddie screamed in pain as she dropped to her knees, her hood falling back. She then felt the blond hair that snaked out of the back of her cowl roughly pulled up as one of the gorillas raised her into the air so that she can be face to face with him.
“I will enjoy sucking the marrow from your bones.”
His fetid breath washed over her face, giving her an intense wish to vomit all over him. Her fingers groped blindly for her utility belt and the gas pellets inside. Her hand closed on a handful of small round objects, and when the gorilla roared again before going for the kill, she threw the pellets into his mouth where they exploded sending smoke billowing from the monsters mouth and nostrils. His hand slackened on her hair, and she landed hard on the ground. Dipping her hand one more time into her utility belt, she threw her last cryo grenade at the ape who was instantly frozen solid.
Ishmael’s eyes narrowed as a group of apes leveled spears of bronze and charged howling. The Hy-Brazilian stood his ground as they charged. A grayish-yellow haze, barely able to be seen in the chaos of the melee. The two bronze spears mere inches from Ishmael when he reached out and grabbed the shafts of the spears just behind their tips. There was a crackle of electricity a powerful smell of ozone as his bio electric current flowed through the two gorillas, sending them smoking to the floor.
His black eyes looked up at the former doorway and Solovar who peered cautiously from its side. He gave a quick jerk of the head for him to follow them to the bomb.
Solovar snuck his way through the destruction toward the bomb and Rett. The young gorilla came up beside Rett and peered into the bomb that Rett had opened. “What have you found?” He placed his furry hand on Rett’s shoulder and moved in closer. “Spirits of my ancestors,” Solovar’s mouth gaped in shock, “biological and radiation. This is not good at all.”
“Child’s play.” Any doubt in his voice was muffled as he spoke around the screwdriver held in his teeth, fingers busy unlacing the knitted throw rug of wires. “Like hot wiring a Buick.” He wasn’t sure who he was trying to convince, the ape or himself. “You might wanna scoot back. One sneeze out of me and you will be the last of your lineage.”
Artemis wove through a trio of more of Grodd’s guards and let them crash against each other. She was running on instinct, with both eyes on the furious blonde yards away. “Power Girl!” The teen powerhouse was drawing her fist back. Dark blood dripped from her knuckles. She didn’t even pause before striking her prey again. “POWER GIRL!”
She heard the roar of the ape and already head the bolt loaded and ready. “Choke.” The heavy, lead tip slammed hard into the soft flesh at the back of the beast’s open mouth. His head snapped back with a thick gagging sound, and she barreled over him.
“Casey!” She shouted, getting closer with every step.
Grodd had stopped struggling. His massive frame had gone limp beneath the girl, his arms fallen flat around him.
The archer reached back into her quiver for another arrow. Nothing she had would have done much to hurt her friend more than a scrape or a bruise, if that, but she didn’t want to have to. “Casey, you’re going to kill him!”
Casey drew her fist back. Her chest heaved with rapid breath as the clouds of rage parted. Grodd’s face was swollen, his fur matted with blood. She cast a dark look over her shoulder to where Artemis crouched with her bow drawn. Slowly, her arm lowered. She grasped the gorilla by the shoulders and rolled him over on his side. “There,” she spat, “he won’t choke on his own blood.”
As she wiped spattered blood from her face with the back of her hand, Casey found herself unable to meet Diana’s eyes. “You know, sometimes it sucks to be the hero.”
There was a small pile of components building behind the quickly working boy. Nearly a third of his body was now bent between the dangerous looking cylinders as he burrowed his way through, tossing screws and plates out over his shoulder. “What I wouldn’t do for a package of Twizzlits and some Rush right about now…”
Twisting over, he faced up and began carefully disassembling the mechanism that connected the biological contaminant with its radioactive partner. From what he could tell by being in the belly of the beast and from his mind having not stopped working on the puzzle pieces he had picked up from the lab, the radiation would break down human DNA to allow the retro-mutagenic bacteria to alter those few chains that separate man from apes. He only hoped he was being careful enough not to break the seals on either vessel or he, and likely all the rest of the humans in the surrounding area, would be in a world of hurt.
“I’m glad they didn’t think there would be a possibility of someone doing precisely what I am doing. There really aren’t any safeguards against tamp-” He was cut off by an electrical beep as the bomb became live all around him. “Scratch that, someone get me a young priest and an old priest.”
Artemis looked around the room. She could feel her heart pounding against her chest as that fear welled up around every ache in her body. She let it have her but only for two seconds. In those two seconds she saw every face around her. She saw every body and every pool of blood. She saw the bomb. And the two seconds were up.
“PeeGee,” she said, gripping the larger girl by the shoulder. “That thing is gonna do god knows what when it goes off. You gotta space the damn thing! NOW!”
“This thing was too unstable to move before I started taking it apart!” The boy’s voice had a tinny echo to it from inside the sphere. “If I can get these puppies unhooked, you can can take the stuff that I can’t handle and I can concentrate on the electrical parts.” There was a metal on metal sound and a thud. “Ow…” He wrapped his hands carefully around the blue glass container and twisted slowly until it released. “Okay, get this one, quickly.”
There was still work to be done. Casey carefully took the blue orb from the boy’s hand and, after a string of muffled cursing, a similar green orb. A window set high in the vaulted ceiling provided a convenient exit. “I’ll be back in a second… Try not to go boom before I get back.” With that, she leaped into the air and out of the fortress.
Another handful of metal excess came catapulting out of the hole Rett had dug himself into. “Does she mean we are free to go boom once she returns? Is she a watcher?” The machine gave an angry sounding buzz. “This thing is more temperamental than my sister.”
Redbird’s breathing made her lungs scream with pain. As she shook the cobwebs out of her head another gorilla attacked. She ducked the first swing from his spear, but then he threw the butt end of it into her stomach, sending the painfully won air back out of her lungs and the girl back down to her knees. The Gorilla reared up to strike again, but then there was a loud crack as opalescent knuckles were sent hard into the gorilla’s jaw immediately breaking the jaw and the gorilla flew backwards onto the ground.
“T-thanks.” Redbird shuddered as Ishmael held out a hand and helped the girl to her feet.
“You seem injured.” Ishmael’s head cocked to the side.
“M’fine,” she said holding her side, “how are we on the bomb.”
Ishmael threw his arm around Redbird’s shoulder to help her walk. “Not well, I believe.”
As suddenly as it had come to life, the beast around Rett fell silent. “And I’m spent.” With a jerk, he pulled the explosive from its nest and wriggled out of the hole. “Apparently apes don’t adhere to thered wire principle,” He tossed the now harmless chunk of metal to Artemis. “or any other bomb defusing techniques that make any damned sense.”
“Well, they are slightly more technologically advanced than your typical bomb-makers.” Casey remarked as she floated back down to the floor. “Both bottles of naughtiness are on a trip to the sun.”
The ghost of a smile appeared on her face. “Since this place wasn’t reduced to a smoking pile,”Casey reached out and punched Rett in the shoulder, “good job, Boy Blue.”
The boy blanched to the point his face almost went past white and into blue, matching his suit. “Like I said… Ice-cream cake…”
“We still have one big problem,” Redbird said from under Ishmael’s arm, “Grodd was clearly not the cause of what happened. We still need to find the League.”
“Thank you, Redbird, for the obvious report of the day.”
“Obvious or not…” Diana took a deep breath, turning the piece of metal in her hand. “This is just one city and look at the ringer we’ve been through.” Tugging her hood back, she raised her eyes to the others. “I mean, what’ll happen to this joint when we walk away?” That look turned to the young Solavar. “You going to be able to keep the peace here?”
“The Rogues. The Assassins. Gotham. Metropolis.” She ticked off each on a finger. “I’m good. You’re strong,” she said pointing to Casey, then Garrett, “He’s smart. Lagoon Lad over there is full of surprises, and she’s…” Di looked at Redbird. “Well, she’s an annoying pain in the ass, but she’s she’s a Bat to the bone.” Unceremoniously she dropped the bomb piece to the ground, “But if we don’t find out what happened to the League this whole planet is going to burn. And fast.”
It was then that Solovar joined them. “My friends, thank you for all that you have done. I have several of our military academy students that were loyal to my father rounding up the rest of Grodd’s soldiers.” He placed his hand on Redbird’s shoulder. “I am in your debt.”
Redbird winced in pain.
“Are you injured, my friend?” Solovar gave her a look of concern on his face.
“Yeah,” she breathed shallowly.
“I believe we can correct that,” the gorilla lead her and the others down a hallway and into another room. Most of the room was covered in medical equipment. “Lay down on the table please.”
Redbird did as he asked. Painfully, she slid herself on the cold metal and laid down.
“This will not take long.” He flipped a few switches on the computer console. Silvery blue light covered the girl. She could feel her ribs begin to tingle and ache as the mended. After about five minutes, the light dimmed again and Redbird sat up.
“How do you feel?” Solovar stepped forward.
“Much better,” she grinned, “one hundred percent.”
“Did…did she just grin?” Powergirl cocked her head to one side.
“I think she did.” Artemis folded her arms across her chest “And now I know the world is coming to an end.”
Rett’s eyes widened. He quickly made the sign of the cross, and pulled a silver pendant out from behind his shirt and kissed it.
“Shut it.” Redbird pulled her hood over her head. “Anyone else need a jolt?”