Breed Book 3, Part 53

“I take it Anita won,” Rox said, raising an eyebrow at Mai.

“If by ‘won’ you mean shot me repeatedly through the spine, then yes,” Mai said, leaned against a file cabinet to try to stay upright.

“I thought you could heal.”

“I am,” Mai said. “Minute ago I couldn’t wiggle my toes. 90 seconds ago I couldn’t breathe. Two minutes ago I was bleeding out. You have any idea how difficult it is regrowing nerve tissue while you’re going into shock and trying to pass out from blood loss?” Rox helped her stand, and leaned her against a nearby desk.

“So why’d she shoot you?”

“Well, if she’d stuck around I might have assumed it was to stop me from doing something I’d regret. Since she locked herself on the other side of that door, other thoughts spring to mind.”

“She’s going to kill Garrity.”

“That may be the best case scenario,” Mai said, and Rox frowned. “When we both used to work here, she developed a… habit. Started carving up targets like a Christmas goose- but one that definitely slept with your sister and diddled your favorite pet. We all thought she was losing her mind, which apparently was not as big a liability as you’d assume given the fucked up nature of what we were being tasked with. I thought it was only a matter of time before one of us was going to have to put her down, frankly, until a mission in Kabul. We were separated from the rest of our team, and our first evac got shot down. So we were hunkered for days while they figured out alternate arrangements. I don’t know if it was sleep deprivation, lack of food and water, or if she just needed to talk… but she broke down and told me. She was trying to get discharged. She thought if she was awful enough, scary enough, that they’d have to bounce her from the program. I… wasn’t terribly supportive of her decision.”

“You fought.”

“Probably would have been to the death, but she was sharper then, in a fight; she could counter almost any move you made, in real time.  And you could read the betrayal on her face… she wanted me to understand, and support her, and instead- I tried to kill her. She kept me alive while we waited for evac. Alive, but only just. At the time it felt like the opposite of mercy; but in retrospect I think maybe she was trying to be kind.”

“So how did you still blame her after all of that?”

“Because my memory is a pile of moldering Swiss cheese. Some days I barely remember me. And because, on some level, I think I felt betrayed. Because she could have looped me into her plan, and together we might have been able to do something about it. But instead she was willing to abandon me- really the rest of us, to this hell. I’m not saying it’s rational, but I promise you, this… program didn’t leave you the faculties to be rational. The intentionally undermined our rationality, so we’d substitute their judgment for our own.”   

Rox tried the locked door, and then leaned against the wall beside it with a sigh. As she did, she heard a jingling in her jacket pocket. She removed the keys. “Really?” Mai asked.

“Really,” Rox said, and the first key she tried opened the door. Inside was an office, decorated with full military pomp. The wall behind the desk was covered in blood spray, and laying on the floor was a severed hand.

“I remember him being taller,” Mai said. “I’ll tell you he won’t last long with that kind of blood loss.”

Rox found a panel similar to the blast doors in the lobby in the rear of the room. “This is going to take a little more doing.”

“Hey, without your luck, we’d have been separated from them by two doors. We just to work the problem.” A gunshot rang out from inside the panic room. “And hope she doesn’t kill him before we can get in there.”

Rox stopped, and gave her a questioning look. “But does it really matter? Even if he spent the last decade planting trees, building a habitat for humanity and club-proofing baby seals… I don’t think he could make up for everything he’d done. So… who cares if she shoots him? I know I’m supposed to, but even I really don’t.”

“I’m not worried about him,” Mai said. “I’m telling you he drove both of us nearly past the breaking point. I would throw a parade if that son of a bitch died. But I’m worried about Anita- about what facing down this evil alone might do to her. You’ve seen what living with that past has done to her. I’m not sure she can survive revisiting it.”

Breed Book 3, Part 52

“Don’t react,” Kara said flatly. Most of the bush they were standing behind wasn’t actually there. It was a fabrication she embroidered with telepathy to make them more difficult to spot from the road.

“Hi,” Drake said, appearing behind them.

“Did a dude just appear behind us, or am I stressed out enough I’m hallucinating?” Simon asked.

“He’s real. His name’s Drake. Drake, Simon- Simon, Drake. He teleports, and he’s our ride out of here if we draw too much attention.”

“Uh, she’s right about that,” Drake said nervously. “And I’m going to assume that this is an extenuating enough circumstance that I shouldn’t be irked by you rifling through my head.”

Kara cracked her knuckles, smiling wickedly, “Rifling, you say…”

“Not a challenge,” he said.

“I was kidding. And I knew you’d feel that way, and agreed. Normally it’s very uncool to tell someone what’s in somebody else’s head.”

“I thought telepaths didn’t read thoughts as a matter of politeness,” Drake said.

“For those who can control it, that’s true. But there’s no such thing as a typical telepath. We’re all different, some wildly so. For me, not hearing thoughts is, well, like trying not to hear my roommate with her vibrator. I mean, I try to tune it out, but I can’t not hear. Believe me I’ve tried. I put in industrial grade hearing protection, under noise cancelling headphones. With death metal on. I don’t even like death metal. Still, any moment that isn’t filled with percussion and screamed German profanity I can hear her…”

“The way you describe it I think I hear it.”

“Yeah, uh…” she blushed, “I was oversharing. Some telepaths do that, too. It’s subtle, with me; you might not even know it, even now, but I was likely broadcasting elements of the experience directly into your mind.”

“You’re sure you’re not just a vivid storyteller?” Drake asked.  

“She isn’t,” Simon said, and she punched him in the meat of his upper arm. “Ow. I mean, that isn’t it. We tried it, once. Put me in her noise-cancelling headpones. I couldn’t hear a word she was saying- but I could still see what she was describing. She hit me, then, too.”

“You were being a perv,” she protested.

You told the pervy story. Biology was why I reacted the way I did.”

“No more details, or I’m going to hit you, too,” Drake said.

“It can be mildly embarrassing for me,” Kara redirected. “Some of us, though, especially telepaths on the spectrum- some of them can’t filter it out. They have to learn other coping techniques, like meditating. It is not easy meditating while talking to someone.”

“I had no idea.”

“Some telepaths don’t like to talk about it. Some don’t feel it’s their place to. Personally, I don’t like the idea of contributing to a stigma. We’ve all had issues with our abilities.” Drake was about to deny, but stopped himself. “You want to tell him, or should I?”

Drake rolled his eyes. “I went through a phase, in high school. I’d seen just enough movies to be titillated about the girl’s locker room, but wasn’t yet mature enough to realize it was just a room filled with stinky girls pressed too close together- and pretty much not in a hot way.”

“That’s accurate,” Kara said.

“Anyway, if I wasn’t careful, and let the fantasy become too active in my brain… I’d accidentally teleport there. I nearly got expelled, because it kept happening. The only reason I didn’t was the administration couldn’t figure out how I did it- and just as crucially, couldn’t prove that I wasn’t being shoved in by bullies.”

“Yeah,” Simon said. “Gave myself frostbite one of the places you least want frostbite.” Kara laughed.

“I’m not sure it’s funny,” Drake said seriously.

“It gets funnier,” she said, continuing.

“Dad was on a business trip. So I had to tell my mom to take me to the emergency room. Where my aunt worked as a nurse, and was inexplicably working a weekend shift. And my grandmother met her for lunch. They were surprisingly mean about it.”

“To be fair,” Kara said, stifling still more laughter, “they waited to be mean until they were sure you hadn’t done any permanent damage. At which point they became truly savage- like the Geneva Conventions against torture were violated- and I’m not sure I’m exaggerating for comedic effect.”

“She is not. It was a weird way to learn that the matriarchs in my family were Olympic-level practitioners of cool, cruel, dry wit.”

“You seem more zen about this than… I can understand,” Drake said.

“Thankfully, I got my dad’s disaffected nature. I was laughing with them by the end of it. But it was a trial by fire.”

“Speaking of,” Kara said, nodding in the direction of the sound of boots.    

“You did that on purpose,” Drake said. “Distracting us.”

“Didn’t take a psychic to see we were all a little too tense; and it didn’t take telepathy to know a little humor would puncture that tension. But you’re up, Si.”

He sighed deeply, and as he exhaled, Drake could feel the air get colder. “Jeez,” he said, shivering. Drake noticed patches of frost in the street spider-webbing, growing wider and denser as they swallowed up moisture from the air.

“And they just want snow?” Simon asked, closing his eyes as he concentrated.

“Snow to start. The next corner is going to hit them with freezing rain.”

“So I’m trying to drop their temperatures- at least of their clothes- get them as close to freezing as possible to supercool the rain as it hits. That’s kind of evil. I love it.” He exhaled again, and this time Drake couldn’t stop shivering, even under his ski coat.

“I can feel the temperature drop when he does that,” he said.

“Not as much as they can,” Simon said, as the first of the ICE agents crested the hill. There were a few dozen of them, marching brokenly as the cold made it harder for them to move. “Believe it or not, you’re just feeling the ripples of cold I’m directing at them- they’re getting it full-on. One of the agents exhaled, and his breath crystalized in the air, and fell to the road, where it shattered.

“Shit,” Kara said. Drake saw it an instant after her. One of the agents was staring right at them, whispering to the agent next to him. “We need to get out of here. There’s a few seconds before they all notice us.”

“On it,” Drake said, putting a hand to each of their shoulders. An instant later and they were inside the student center back at the campus.

“Wow, that warm air,” Kara said, unzipping her jacket.

“They rotating you back in?” Drake asked.

“Not if they can help it. Since the name of the game is deniability, the idea was to never have them see the same person twice. You know, until you decided you should be on the front line their entire trek.”

“Yeah,” he said, squinting. “Maybe not the best time to call an audible.”

“No, I think you were right. Given the choice, I’d rather have to divide some of my attention masking you than worry about trying to get you to us in a hurry. One panicked, confused thought and the whole damn thing could fall apart. Plus, us telepaths are pretty good about reinforcing each other, even over a distance.” She smiled, pushing an image into his mind. It was a block and a half from where they’d been, looking through the eyes of another telepath. “You should go, before they’re in ‘view’ of the march. It’s always easier to hide someone who’s already there, than to try and intercept someone who just pops up out of thin air. And thanks for the help. We felt safer having you with us.”

“I did?” Simon asked.

“He has some trouble admitting it- even to himself; toxic masculinity’s a real bitch- but he did.” “Anytime,” Drake said, and disappeared.

Pitchgiving 2020 Part 3: Justice League International

I would probably go with something akin to the “Formerly Known” series for this, give it a comedic slant. Though first, to get us to an international feel, I’m probably going to have to make some changes so it isn’t so overwhelmingly white and America-centric. As an example Ted Kord would still be around, but we’d also bring in Jaime Reyes as his in the field protégé from Latin America due to his heart condition (think Pym from the Ant Man movies, only in his fifties and pudgy). We’d eventually bring in the heroic version of Dr. Light, from Japan. We’d bring in the new Atom, Ryan Choi, after Ray decides to stick to teaching. Ice would still be alive (and not evil- though we could use that storyline in a sequel if the mood strikes). I think we’d bring in Vixen, too. We also have Booster Gold, Captain Atom, Mary Marvel, Fire (from Brazil), and finally the Dibnys. I’d tweak Sue Dibny in particular to have been Ralph’s research partner in his experiments, gaining powers alongside him as the Elongated Woman, and being of Australian/Pacific Islander descent- I’d also endorse race-bending Ralph, too, for that matter (though I’d probably save her having powers for the climax or an end credits scene). That gets us our international team.

I seem to recall DC threatened several times to make a Booster Gold movie. That would either serve as a prequel, if that went well; this would be a reboot if it went poorly, or, probably more likely, would supplant it entirely (I refuse to believe anyone was serious about a Booster Gold movie- which does sound like some kind of medicated powder). But Booster is our viewpoint character. He drives the plot, which is essentially that he comes from the future, knows of a calamity that requires this team to exist to deal with it, and so once again assembles them. Some of them he leverages personal affection. Some of them he leverages knowledge of their not proud moments. Some he bribes with future knowledge/fortune. We should play all of it light and breezy, because ultimately he’s one of the good guys and we want this team to work together and succeed- though it is ripe for a late reveal that someone isn’t as on board as they’ve pretended and there’s a nugget of personal drama to be mined.


We start in, zoomed, on a futuristic-looking chair with the Superman symbol engraved on it as the Superman theme music swells. The table is round, surrounded by more chairs, half occupied. We fade the music out, and fade quarreling in as we pan across Booster Gold, in a similar seat. Probably, because these characters are largely unfamiliar, we put either placards in front of them or white text overlaid at the bottom of the screen.

“Superman was a soft maybe,” Booster says, looking a little embarrassed.

Fire, seated next to him, raises an eyebrow skeptically.

We pan past an empty seat with Wonder Woman’s symbol on it, as Booster continues. “Ambassador Wonder Woman is in the building.” He adds, quieter, “She just isn’t answering my calls.”

Pan across Blue Beetle, in his classic Ted Kord incarnation/suit. Subtly, Jaime Reyes in his armored scarab suit stands behind him, looking kind of ominous. “Batman was never coming, though,” Ted says, as we pan over an empty chair with the bat symbol on it.

“No,” Booster admits. “But I thought the symbol would look cool on a chair.” During this exchange, we pan across the remaining members of the team: Captain Atom, Ice, Elongated Man (with a civilian-clothed Sue standing beside him).

“Oh, it does,” he agrees.

Elongated Man asks, “Did we ever hear back from that Big Red Cheese?” stretching into frame as we linger on Captain Marvel’s lightning bolt engraved on an empty chair and pointing to it.

The idea is simple. They were an attempt to build out an international, UN sanctioned Justice League. They ran a few missions globally, but, much like the ICC, never got American backing. Eventually, the US used its Security Council veto to neuter the team in its entirety, leading to it being disbanded. They’re viewed in the superhuman community as has-beens, but they only ever wanted to do good by their world. Might be fun to do a VH1 Behind the Music type intro for the team, pulling back to reveal once the characters are established that Booster is asleep in front of the TV. He’s visited by Old Booster. OB throws him around a little, explaining that the disaster he came back to prevent is still going to happen, and he can’t rest on his keister playing gigolo to the Desperate Housewives. “Gigoloing is harder work than it looks,” he retorts. OB tells him it isn’t funny. That if he doesn’t get his act together, everyone he’s ever cared about is going to die, and that includes his team.

We cut to Blue Beetle’s workshop. Ted Kord is wearing a blue jump suit reminiscent of his costume, working on his beetle ship (the Bug) while talking. “I promised myself after we disbanded that I was done wearing shape-wear, BG.”

“You know I hate when you call me that.”

“But I can tell by the way you use your walk-”

“Don’t start.”

“You’re a woman’s man, no time for talk.”

“I’m asking nicely.” He stops, and they stare at each other a moment, before in unison breaking into the shrill chorus, “Staying aliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiive.” “I hate you.”

“You love me.”

“But I need you.”

“You need me? Our friendship always had a tinge of codependence about it, but need-“

“I need Blue Beetle. The… catastrophe I came back to stop, it’s still coming.”

“You sure? I thought we prevented it just by forming the JLI in the first place- a deterrent.”

“So did I. Until… another me came back. Apparently we need to roll up our ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner and get back to work.”

“You said you need Blue Beetle. You don’t need me- at least not in the field. But you remember Scarab?”

“Your sidekick?”

“I think we both preferred assistant. He was in all of the press material anyway, so we weren’t a wall of white saviors. He’s been helping me refine my tech. And he doesn’t even have a heart condition.”

CUT To a Brazilian market. Booster is struggling under the weight of a comical amount of bags and boxes. Fire and Ice are leaving him largely in their dust as he tries his sales pitch. Finally, the tilting tower of commercial decadence topples, and a demure Ice says she can’t torture him any more. They were in from the moment he called. Fire pouts; she had a whole gauntlet of a day planned for him. But she perks up when Ice reminds her they get to be superheroes again.

Now Booster’s in a classroom. “I was always a background player. I may have designed the shrinking tech- hell, I got it through the first few years of field testing, and so far no cancers- but at heart, I’m an educator. I don’t like punching. Which isn’t to say I agree with an anti-violent premise- some problems, like fascism, have to be countered through violent resistance. But I can do the most good, and have the largest impact by far, from behind a lectern. Besides, spandex are a young man’s sport- and not just because I don’t have the glutes to fill them out anymore. Ryan? You can stop eavesdropping- because he’s really here to ask you the question.” Ryan Choi, the new Atom, grows out of a petri dish.

“I wasn’t eavesdropping. I was testing the modifications to the equipment. It wasn’t my fault you happened to be having a conversation nearby. And yes. You’ve got yourself an Atom.”

“Another 28 octillion of those and you’ve got yourself a team,” Ray says. Pause a beat, and both Atoms burst out laughing, as Booster stares in dumbfounded silence.

Booster grimaces, and we cut away to the sky midline as he says, “That’s one Atom down, one big, shiny, self-important Atom to go.” A US fighter jet flies by, an instant later pursued by a chromatic silver man with an atom on his chest. He catches up to the jet, knocks on the cockpit, and waves goodbye. The pilot inside calls over the radio that he’s confirmed killed, that Captain Atom is 3-0, and thank God he’s on their side. Over the radio comes the message that there’s an unknown flying object in their theater of operations, and requests they scout it. We cut to Captain Atom, answering through a headset, that he’s on it. He bursts ahead, leaving several fighter jets in his wake. He blows past Booster, flying in the opposite direction, then calls over the radio that it’s a known unknown, and they can stand down- that he’ll handle it.

They land together, Booster’s flight a lot more tentative and awkward, compared to the Captain’s. Captain Atom is overly straight-laced, still very much ingrained in the military culture and mode of conduct. He tells Booster he could have been shot down, that it’s restricted air space. Booster tells him they’re getting the band back together. Captain Atom explains that he’s not a free agent- he’s still a commissioned officer, and can’t go anywhere without dispensation from the military brass- which he isn’t going to get without someone more connected than Booster Gold asking. Booster doesn’t take that answer well- Captain Atom’s by far their strongest member, and the team is in serious trouble without him. Captain Atom tells him that he’s heard about someone else- someone who might be able to close that gap, says that he’s in Fawcett City, but he doesn’t know his identity.

The Elongated Man is doing a bit. He’s narrating himself as a hard-boiled, Chandleresque Detective in a seedy looking office late at night. Then Sue walks in, done up in something slinky, playing the femme fatale. Booster walks in, and EM continues narrating, with Booster becoming increasingly confused, until, “Clearly I’ve interrupted kinky date night- or at least bored and goofing around night. But we need you.”

“You mean him,” Sue says, crossing her arms.

“Everybody knows you’re the brains of this operation, Sue,” Booster tells her. “Without you, Ralph is brainless.”

“Hey,” he protests.

”I’m not sure that reply pleads your case all that well, dear,” Sue says.

Booster asks if they’re into anything heavy. Ralph starts to narrate a very noir sounding story, which Sue undercuts, admitting there’s a couple infidelity gigs, and a stolen bike, one with sentimental value- nothing they can’t give to someone else in a pinch. He says he needs their help tracking down a superhuman in Fawcett City. She asks if it’s a one-time gig, or if there’s a place on the team for them- he says there couldn’t be a team without her. And he adds that if he didn’t invite Ralph, then he’d be the team Butt Monkey- better if they split that role. “Because your butt can only stand so much monkeying?” Ralph asks. They refuse to acknowledge.

We cut to the sidewalk outside the Marvel household. The Dibnys explain how they tracked him down, first getting the neighborhood after Marvel did an appearance with Superman at a local school. From there it was just canvassing enough neighbors to find out that Marvels flying in and out of the residence is a largely open secret. Booster knocks on the door. Billy answers, and Booster tells him that they need Marvel for a new Justice League team; he tells Booster he is Captain Marvel. Booster is skeptical “I was led to believe he was taller. Wider. More formidable. Otnay an ipsqueakpay.”

“Wow,” Billy says. “You’re a jackass.” Sue agrees. “And I can tell you, as someone who’s at least met Captain Marvel, he’d have absolutely no interest in… whatever it is you’re doing.”

“But we’re talking fate of the world kind of stakes.”

“Nope.” Billy closes the door.

“Who was that?” Mary asks him.

“Someone looking to exploit Captain Marvel.”

“Exploit? It sounded like they needed help.”

“Yeah. Them. The Justice League. The Suicide Squad. The, what was it, Justice Society? I’ve lost track of all the people who’ve tried to recruit one or all of us. And we’re kids. I can barely pass algebra. Oh, crap. I have algebra homework.” He runs up the stairs. Mary glances furtively at the door.

Booster and the Dibny’s are still standing on the porch. Sue asks what the plan is, and Booser claims to be formulating a plan very slowly, making it obvious even to non-detectives that he’s stalling. Ralph says he should have brought a book of crosswords. Maybe some needploint. Sue teases him that he sounds like someone’s great aunt. There’s the sound of distant thunder, and the door opens, revealing Mary Marvel. “So, you said you needed some help.”

Mary and Booster are flying. “I’ve never been to Africa,” she says.

“It’s more modern than you’d think from movies and TV. I mean, the whole world is one stone tool’s throw away from cave people compared to my time, but it’s not like the continent is permanently stuck in the 16th century. Western media has some serious colonialist issues to unpack.”  

“I see what you mean,” Mary says as they descend on Ghana’s capital city of Accra. “This could be anywhere.”

“Accra’s a modern city, with 5 million people. Though there’s one in particular we’re looking for-there.” Booster points them towards the port, where there’s an explosion. “The Dibny’s were able to find out about a drug shipment coming through the port- the kind of shipment likely to attract her attention.” We cut over to Vixen. A rhino of light overlays her before she charges a car shielding gunmen firing at her, and knocks it over. She tramples on the men then, knocking the fight right out of them. One of them manages to crawl to the gun she knocked away from him, and rolls to aim it at her. Booster’s forcefield deflects the shot, and Mary punches him, knocking him out. Vixen thanks him for the assist, and calls him, “Buster.” It is what she will always call him. He says they need her- and just as importantly, wants the team to continue to reflect the vision of a world united against all threats.

“What kind of threats are we talking?” she asks, obviously interested.

If we can borrow Luther, he’s on an expedition into the heart of the Congo. They unearth a black diamond, which Luther is very careful not to touch without some heavy duty sci fi gloves. One of the workers, however, is not, and reaches out to it, perhaps called to it. Luther tries to stop her, but when she makes contact with it she’s transformed- and just as quickly, transported. I think ‘Eclipso’ is two characters, the worker who touched the black diamond, but also a more comic-booky looking version (an elf by way of the 80s He Man cartoon) she speaks to him in her mirror, which can magically show her things. She uses this to discuss finding a champion to test her power; she says she needs someone strong, but with a soul filled with rage and a desire for vengeance vulnerable to her manipulation. The mirror first shows Superman and Wonder Woman. “Plenty of power, but neither of them are angry enough- we’d have to work to build up their frustrations. And who has the time?” The mirror flicks instead to Batman. “Ooh. Never seen a soul crying for so much vengeance, but what’s this? He’s human. Call me when he finds a Green Lantern ring.” The mirror flicks past several metahumans (just use some b-roll from the various franchises), before settling on Captain Atom. “Hmm. Now this I can work with.”

We cut to the barracks at Captain Atom’s base. He’s talking with a fellow captain, an attractive young woman who is clearly interested. He slams his locker shut. “Everything okay?” she asks.

“I’m just frustrated. Booster showing up… I wanted to go with him. There’s good I could be doing, instead of playing tag with obsolete fighter jets.” She balks at that description. “Hey, I came up as a fighter pilot. I wish it weren’t true. But manned planes were already on their way out, even before the next real threats became Superman class aliens and metahumans. I jumped at the chance to serve on that UN team, even if half the reason they let me join up was to report back on it. And I wish I could have joined back up again- so some good could come out of this.” He’s gesturing at his silver containment suit.

She strokes his chest. “Doesn’t seem all bad to me. You’re fast. Strong. Can fly without a plane. You have abs I could grate cheese on, and I’m not sure you have to do sit ups to maintain them. Half of your brothers and sisters in the Air Force would kill to switch places with you- and the other half would kill to make time with you.”

“I’m not even sure if I could, since the accident,” he says, pushing her away. “No offense. You’re- well, obviously you’re gorgeous, and smart, and you’ve even been really sweet to me. But I’m upset- I’m just not in the mood to even try, right-” his eyes narrow as he stares. “Can you hear that?”

“Hear what?”

He traces a high-pitched hum into a half-open locker. There’s an earie purple glow emanating from inside. “Strange energy,” he mutters, almost to himself, reaching towards it. We see his face, as his eyes go wide, and his face is half-covered by a purple-hued circle. Cut to the sky above the military base, as a large explosion blows a hole in the facility. Subtly, Captain Atom flies through the hole and away.

Montage, of the various phones of the JLI members going off. The last we see is Mary’s, and it’s picked up by Rosa Vasquez, who says, “You know the house rules. No calls after 9 PM. I’m taking this.”

“If this is a drill, I will burn you alive,” Fire says sleepily into her phone. We pan to see she isn’t alone- Ice is with her.

“Sorry, ladies,” Booster says. “Something’s happened to Captain Atom.” We flash back, with ten minutes ago on the bottom of the screen. Amanda Waller walks into Booster’s place, tells him the President asked her to have the Suicide Squad take CA out. She owes them one from their JLI days, so she’s bought them a couple hours to sort it out before she has to sanction a kill order. Ray Palmer informs them from a screen that at the current rate of destruction, CA will destroy 70% of the city in the next two hours- to say nothing about the potential for destruction if his nuclear containment suit is breached.

They attack him at first willy nilly, with all of them fairly easily beaten back by the superior Captain Atom. The two remote elder heroes, Palmer and Kord, suggest combining their assault, having Elongated Man tie Captain Atom up while the rest keep him occupied on the ground. That works, to a point, getting CA reeling. But it isn’t quite enough. He’s still standing. Booster makes an impassioned plea for him to help them, to fight against the control, as the timer on his watch goes off. That if he doesn’t, Wallers thugs will find a way to kill him. They hear distant thunder, and Mary comes crashing out of the sky, landing on CA. She’s a force of nature, and her presence, and the fact that she’s able to single-handedly knock him on his back foot, rallies them to her side. Working together, they’re able to subdue him. Waller shows, calling it in, with her authorization, stating that Task Force X is recalled, that the situation is in hand. If Margot Robbie’s available, she tells a disappointed Harley Quinn, wielding the world’s largest, most ludicrous sniper rifle, to stand down (we can really use whichever squad member makes sense). Booster uses his forcefield to pick up the black diamond and put it in a briefcase, which Waller takes. He objects, and Harley aims the gun at him. Waller tells him either she can still owe him one, or they can be even and she’ll take it anyway. He shrugs, and lets her leave with it.

JLI have a party, celebrating living to fight another day. They’re running low on chips, and Booster volunteers to get more from the back room. He’s confronted there by OB. “Yeah, yeah, yuck it up, moron.”

“You know I’m you, right? You’re calling yourself a moron.”

“I was a moron. I got over it. I’m still not so certain you will. And yeah, you survived your first test. But that wasn’t the fight for all the marbles, kid. That was just the warm-up act. And I wouldn’t get too cozied up to the idea that Eclipso’s gone for good. You ain’t seen the last of her, not by a long shot.” 

Credits. Cut to black. Close on a candle as it’s lit. “Burning the midnight oil again, Dr. Hoshi?” We pull back, to see Dr. Arthur Lumen entering their lab with two coffees, one with a red X on it. “Is that why they call you Dr. Light?” He’s speaking to Kimiyo Hoshi, who goes back to examining a flattened cloth.

She sighs patiently. “You never get tired of that joke, do you, Arthur?” He seems to be in good spirits, and gives her the red X coffee, but says the one thing he is tired of is waiting. They’ve been on the verge of a scientific breakthrough that could revolutionize communications technology, with implications for space travel, flight, maybe even combat. “If it works,” she says.

“You’re brilliant,” he says, staring at her a little too greedily in the candlelight. “Of course it will work.” She absent-mindedly sets her coffee on the edge of a console, and it teeters before spilling out on the floor. Arthur is noticeably let down by that, but tries to tell her it’s okay. “Ready to run another test?” She bites her lip. She’s been up all night tweaking the photovoltaics. She puts on one of the gloves, and stands on the opposite side of a large room. He fires a big industrial laser at her- which she catches. She’s joyful. He stares at her greedily, his eyes hungrier and hungrier as we zoom in, before cutting back to credits.  

Inside baseball, because it’s an important clarification: I would not white-wash Arthur’s history as a rapist. But I also don’t intend to let him succeed on film. In the sequel, I’d probably have him fail in the big spectacular fight against the JLI, in part as the real Doctor Light (Hoshi) intervenes, then he runs away, intending to assault Sue as he did in the comics… only to be blindsided by her having the stretchy abilities I discussed earlier. I’d probably even soft-sell the nature of the assault; even if this series got an R rating there would be younger people who saw it regardless, but especially since I’d expect a PG-13 I’d probably want it subtle how he planned to take that revenge. Also, DC, why the hell are two of your most prominent Teen Titans villains rapists? That’s kind of messed up.

Breed Book 3, Part 51

Rox grabbed a white coat off a hook beside the door into the lobby. She heard the jangling of keys, and felt inside the pocket. There were moments, often lost amid the chaos, where it was good to be her.

Then she saw something, a picture, one she’d seen before. In the lobby. Behind the receptionist. She stared at his old face, his military buzzcut; his nameplate at the bottom of the frame seemed almost incidental: Garrity. That’s when it fell into place. He was in charge of their program, the one that had mutilated and traumatized Anita and Mai for years. One of them must have seen the picture, maybe both of them, and in that moment, decided to make a run for it. And now they were loose in this base, the three of them, rushing to reach Garrity or that poor kid first.

She closed her eyes and stared walking. She’d tried this once before, trying to let her ability guide her. She ended up bumping into several walls, ending up with a fat lip and a cut through her eyebrow. There was a car accident on her usual route; a car hit the coffee stand she stopped at for a mocha every morning. She could never tell if that was her ability saving her, or if it was her ability reaching out and killing so it looked like it had.

Right now she didn’t have a lot of choice, so she started walking.

With her eyes shut, she had plenty of space to focus on screwing up. They may not have been the most powerful Breed, but they were, between them, two of the most destructive.

She tried playing the moment over again in her mind. Had it been Mai who started the run for the door? Or was it Anita shooting out the camera? Or maybe they’d both been playing her from the beginning, using her luck and her connections to get them inside, where they had always planned to ditch her.

No. She rejected that. Whatever her faults, Rox’d spent too much time with Anita to think she would manipulate her like that. She must have chased Mai, using her ability to flip through drafts on the fly to try and figure out where the little murder machine was headed- and just as crucially, if there was any way to stop her if she managed to catch her.

She was walking for too long. Up inclines, and down winding, twisting turning descents. She never encountered a patrol, or so much as bumped into a wall. She was beginning to wonder if she’d somehow wandered into the gym and found the world’s smoothest treadmill when she realized she could hear breathing, and had the sensation of someone being close. There was someone there, low to the ground, but definitely absorbing ambient noise in a distinctly human shape. “Well?” a voice she recognized asked. “You going to open your eyes and help me?” she asked.

It was Mai.

Breed Book 3, Part 50

“I don’t get why I’m here,” Drake said, shivering against the cold.

“In case one of ours gets spotted,” Izel said. “The meteoropaths have to be pretty close, along the route the ICE gestapo are takin, to keep the weather pattern relatively contained; if we froze the whole city we’d cause a lot of accidents- especially with that kind of a freak storm- no pun intended. But that means a certain degree of vulnerability. We’ve got them linked up with telepaths, who can push the agents away with some mental suggestions, but probably not if a whole group of them at once decide to pay attention.”

Drake frowned. “’Mind control’ is a misnomer,” Tucker explained. “Most of the time, in most senses of the word, we don’t really do that. It’s more about… influence, and misdirection. You get enough telepaths together, and you can force your will on someone. But the mind isn’t really designed for that sort of… flexibility. You push someone too hard and they’ll break. Maybe they just experience it as trauma- it is essentially a mental assault. But that’s kind of the best-case scenario. You can break entire thought processes, brain structures- you can lobotomize someone for all intents and purposes without trying if you aren’t cautious. So mostly we stick to a gentle push. Suggestion. Not dissimilar to hypnosis, really. Convincing someone that what you want from them is what they wanted to do in the first place.”

“Which isn’t to say telepathy isn’t one of the more scary powerful abilities out there,” Izel said. “I can link your memories such that your knees stop working every time you hear the word ‘purple.’ I can convince your neurons to link up in new ways- either to make you a lot dumber or a lot smarter.”

“But it’s a lot like programming, or maybe hacking,” Tucker interjected. “There are a lot of ways that the human brain takes shortcuts. Most of our minds and our memories are about linkages, connections. It’s functionally a whole different language. But once you learn to speak it, there’s a lot you can do with it.”

“But not always quickly,” Izel added.

“Look, over there!” Tucker pointed over Drake’s shoulder, and he turned to look. “See, trying to convince you to do that telepathically would require me to connect with some portion of you that would want to see something over there, then convince your mind that that something might be over there, and feed that suspicion until it was worth the effort to look.”

“I think I got it. Having telepaths run interference is like having a deflector shield- it’ll maybe save you from a little indirect attention, but not from a hail of gunfire.”


“I really hope there isn’t a hail of gunfire,” he said.

“Us, too. But you’re here, in part, to make sure that can’t become a possibility- or at least remove our people from the line of fire if it becomes one.”

“So I’m their exfiltration option. K.” He disappeared, and reappeared an instant later, sliding on a heavier coat. “Much better. I swear, I’m going to spend a week in a warm bath. And meteoropaths?”

“Nothing to do with meteors; well, a little, I guess,” Tucker said with a shrug. “It technically means they control things high in the atmosphere. Though I don’t know of anyone who controls both- it’s just a quirk of the language.”

“You two are central command, right?”

“Sure,” Tucker said.

“I should be at the front. Wherever they’re most likely to get spotted.”

“That will make them a lot easier to spot,” Izel said.

“Right. But if I’m there, then I can pull everybody ought quickly as possible. If I’m here… then we’ve got a whole other pair of brains involved in the decision tree, when seconds- even microseconds- may be the difference. Point me to the tip of the spear.” Tucker closed his eyes, and shared an image from the mind of the telepath nearest the approaching ICE line. “Got it,” he said, and was gone.

Breec Book 3, Part 49

Rox threw a stone as far into the sky as she could. “You have any idea what you’re doing?” Mai asked.

“Nope,” she said with a shrug. “Which is half the fun.”

The guard outside the facility heard the clattering of pebbles from overhead, grunted and looked up. A hailstorm of stones bounded off the rock face onto him- one with the force of a softball, sending him crumpling to the ground.

“You’re lucky you didn’t kill him,” Mai said. “Not that I’d have lost any sleep over it.”

Rox checked his pulse. “Strong and steady. Lucky he was wearing a helmet.” She ejected the magazine from his rifle and hurled it into the darkness. Then she clipped his radio to her belt.

“Whatever we find in here,” Mai said, “we keep going until we find the kid. That’s non-negotiable.”

“Fine,” Rox said. Mai opened the door, and flattened against the wall to the right. Anita was behind her by a fraction of a second, flattening to the left. Rox stood, flat-footed. Inside was a reception area. “This was not what I expected.”

“Don’t,” Anita said, pointing a gun at a receptionist who was holding the receiver of her desk phone to her ear. “Everything’s fine,” she mouthed.

“I have to go,” the woman said, hanging up the phone.

Rox held up her hand, and approached the reception desk. “We have an appointment.”

“No,” the woman said. “You don’t.”

“Ah,” Anita said, circling around the desk. She pulled a pistol out from a holster beneath the desk.

“So it’s that kind of ‘reception,’ then,” Rox said. “Cool. Then I don’t have to sugar coat this. My friends are former deep cover black operatives whose service broke the parts of the human mind that prevent them from tearing appendages off their fellow human beings. We’re looking for a young boy, brought through here, because they’re concerned what happened to them might happen to him, and I don’t have to tell you that the thought does not make my friends terribly happy- or sociable.”

“I think you’ve made a mistake,” the woman said. “We’re… well, from your accent you’re from the States, yes? We’re comparable to your NSA. This site is servers and data analysts. We don’t have a child kidnapping department onsite. Or offsite, for that matter.”

“I’d suggest you not lie to us. My Asian friend can hear your heartbeat quicken, smell the slight change in pheromones signaling fear; I even imagine she could alter her eyes to perceive the electrical impulses in your brain to tell when you’re engaging the parts of the brain that lie. She’s also really good at mutilating people, and paranoid. My other friend can see the drafts of reality. On a good day, that means she could probably get the information out of you without having to hurt you at all. But she’s having a hell of a bad day; I think in this case she might just use her ability to figure out how to hurt you the worst, for the same reason a sad, scared little kid will rip the wings off a fly.

“Now, our intel suggests you are indeed a government run operation. Which likely means there’s a binder with pictures of my friends, and a description of a handful of the awful things they’ve done in the name of country- but you’ll also know that list only includes the official record, and none of the off the books shit no one would dare commit to paper. If it was written by people with your best interests at heart, it would tell you to shoot them on sight, and failing that, yourself. Bottom line, we’re not leaving without the kid. Personally, I’d like to maim as few people along the way as possible, but-“

It happened too fast. Anita fired a round into a security camera overhead, as the receptionist went for a button on the desk. Mai and Anita bolted for the interior door, which was covered an instant later by a heavy blast door, locking Rox in the lobby. “Sonofabitchsonofabitchsonofabitch,” she muttered. “I don’t think it’s an accident they both ended up on the other side of the blast door. Can you get it open?”

The blast doors slid back up, and Rox walked silently towards them. A guard strode through. “Everything okay? Or you drop your bagel on the lockdown button again?” he asked.

“Watch,” the receptionist began, before her throat seized in a fit of coughing.

“You okay?” the guard asked, stepping towards her. Rox slammed her elbow into his throat, took his keycard and slid back through the blast door as it descended.

Alarms were blaring inside, and civilians were prepping for evacuation. “Shit,” Rox muttered. “Needle in a burning haystack.”

Pitchgiving 2020 Part 2: Green Arrow and the Outsiders

Green Arrow & the Outsiders (Green Arrow fronted team, gathering together a lot of legacy characters like Kyle Rayner, otherwise a generally more street-level team); Black Canary will end up in this orbit, eventually, though maybe she splits her time with the Birds of Prey. Nightwing. We can add more, depending on exactly how big we want the fireworks at the end of this movie to be, but we might be better off adding them in the sequels, instead: Tempest. Donna Troy. Wally West. Plastic Man. Kyle Rayner. Black Lightning.

Opening montage, Oliver Queen partying hard as a wealthy d-bag as he narrates, with a Bruce Wayne cameo, spilling drinks on Oliver. “I grew up with more money than I knew what to do with. Literally. I burned through money so fast even Bruce Wayne once told me to slow up; he was four martinis deep- so he was one to talk. The only thing I ever earned for myself was this.” Cut to a young Ollie, hitting a target with a bow. Cut again, he’s at the Olympics as a young man, drawing back. “My parents paid to have me taught self-defense; if they’d been as interested in self-preservation they’d have gone into rehab- instead of into the Pacific Ocean.” Quicker cuts, as Oliver spars in a martial arts outfit, and we see his parents’ car go over a cliff, tumbling towards the Ocean. “I slid seamlessly into their lives,” we see him in a suit attending meetings, drinking too much at social gatherings, generally being a feckless socialite.

“Then my life changed.” He gets mugged by a teen, obviously living on the street. She’s going to be his Speedy, eventually. He reacts on instinct, bloodying her and getting the knife away, knocking her into the light enough to realize, “She was a kid, so desperate for a meal that she attacked someone bigger, stronger, better connected. I gave her my wallet. I gave her my keys. She offered to give me a ride home.”

Back at his apartment. “I won’t sleep with you,” she says, anxious.

“I think you misunderstand me.”

“I have HIV.”

“God,” he whispers, and moves to comfort her. Narrating again: “I got her the help she needed. Meds. A place of her own. And a job.” We cut to his work, where she’s interning (paid). But he can’t focus- he’s daydreaming. (insert statistics on homelessness, poverty, etc.). “I left Queen Industries shortly thereafter. I couldn’t keep trying to amass more wealth, when I knew how many people were struggling just to put food on their tables, or afford the meds they need to survive. I plowed most of my fortune into charity, only to find that a lot of charities are run like a business- by which I mean corrupt. Half the ‘charities’ the wealthy ran were just glorified slush funds to buy politicians to advance their interests, the worst run by a real estate developer with mob connections named Mandragora.” I haven’t figured out the mechanism, but Mandragora’s ‘charity’ stands in the way of some work Queen wants to do, or maybe steals money from one of his charities, something that puts them on a collision course. 

This version of Mandragora is going to riff on Trump, while also giving us a logical reason to loop in both Huntress and Black Canary (accompanying an out of her depth Huntress); Question has discovered that he was the power behind the hit on her family- or maybe he was their inside man who set her family up to take the fall, whatever fits. Ollie confronts Mandragora, assuming he can talk sense to him, man to man. Instead Mandragora kicks the crap out of him, and throws him out on the street, where he’s found by Black Canary and Huntress. “You should see the other guy,” he says, as they help him to his feet.

“From the look of you, I’d say the other guy was 97 flights of stairs,” Canary says.

“No such luck, I’m afraid. Would you ladies be so kind as to help me to my” he sighs, “right, I didn’t drive here.”

“How about we help you to a seat, and you can wait for a car, there?” Canary asks, gesturing to a diner down the street.

They eat, and talk, with Canary subtly interrogating him (and Huntress not-so-subtly interrogating him because she is adorably socially awkward). Ollie is entranced by Canary, and I think I want to set up a pattern of him asking her to go out with him, and her rebuffing him, because at a glance he’s a soft, entitled oligarch. “You should get a bite to eat with me, sometime.”

“Isn’t that what we’re doing?” Huntress asks.

Suddenly Dick Grayson slides into the booth beside him, and flashes a wide grin. He’s friendly, breezy, effortless. “Don’t worry about introductions. We all have a stake in dealing with Mandragora.”

Canary responds: “I don’t know what you’re”

The camera pans around the table on Ollie, Huntress and finally Canary. “He defrauded your charity. Betrayed your family, which lead to their execution, and I don’t know if you know this yet, but he sold the information that got your mother, the first Black Canary, killed.”

Canary gets up, fast, angry, ready to belt him. He stands, too, his body language saying nonconfrontational, but subtly preparing to handle a fight as he puts up his hands. “Just the messenger. Please, sit.” They do. “Mandragora is not what he seems. If he were just some two-bit hood, even one with some degree of superhuman ability, then any one of us could take him. Except Ollie.”

“Hey,” Olliver protests, before realizing that the protest hurts his bruised face.

“I would have given you the benefit of the doubt, but you can’t even protest without pain. But the reason Mandragora’s been successful is two-fold. One, he’s been using low-level supercriminals as enforcers. That’s not that uncommon, but where he’s innovated, is he doesn’t leave any evidence behind. No witnesses, nothing. You three are, sadly, just some of his latest victims. I’d like to make sure you’re some of his last.”

“Then you just have to get me close enough to take a shot,” Huntress says, her hand tightening around her crossbow.

Nightwing puts up a finger. “No killing.”

“Why not?” Canary asks.

“On the one hand, it’s a slippery slope, where vigilantes justify to themselves increasingly extreme methods of execution, until inevitably they become as bad as the villains they sought to counter.”

“And on the other,” Ollie interrupts, “he knows where all the money’s gone. He’s been preying on charities for decades. We can get that money back, and to the people who really need it.”

Nightwing points a thumb towards him in agreement. “He also knows where the bodies are. I don’t think I have to tell anyone at this table what that kind of closure is worth.”

They arrive at Nightwing’s lair, where he introduces the other member of the team. “Some of us have personal reasons to be in this fight, Black Lightning’s neighborhood was decimated by the gentrification Mangragora pushed with bribes,” he squeezes Black Lightning’s shoulder. “I trust all of you with my life. And that’s what this is. Mandragora doesn’t take prisoners. He doesn’t leave witnesses. We win, or they never find the beautiful corpses we leave behind. If anyone has any reservations, now’s the time to sort them out.”

Nightwing heads for the door. “Where are you going?” Huntress asks, grabbing his arm.

“I want to give people some time to think, without me pressuring them. I want to swing by Mandragora’s safe house one last time, make sure he hasn’t made any last-minute changes to his security. I’ll be right back. Don’t worry.” He exits. She waits a moment, before slipping off after him.

We follow Nightwing, swinging across the rooftops. The city is his trapeze. Subtly, Huntress is following from below, maybe on her bike. NIghtwing lands gracefully on a rooftop opposite Mandragora’s place, and checks it out through binoculars. He hears noise behind him, and Huntress steps out of the shadow. “You followed me. You shouldn’t have.” She doesn’t speak, doesn’t make eye contact, but continues towards him. “Look, I know I have magnetic charisma, but I haven’t showered in about 36 hours, and could really use the personal space.” Huntress’ face is wrong, shifting subtly as she closes in on him. “You aren’t Helena,” he says, as she turns to a puddle of clay crashing against him like a wave. The real Huntress, watching from a neighboring rooftop, flees.

She’s winded by the time she gets back to the safehouse. “They caught Nightwing. If we have any hope of saving him, we have to go. Now.”

“I don’t think the plan was just to rush them,” Black Lightning complains.

“Yeah, all due respect to Night Wing, was it, but I didn’t sign up for a suicide mission,” Canary says.

The merry band is disbanding, until Oliver says, “Wait. We’re all Outsiders, which isn’t a position that comes naturally to me. But I gave up most of my wealth, most of my access, and a lot of my privilege. People like Mandragora corrupt the system, so that change and reform aren’t just difficult- they’re impossible. If we want to fix things- and we’re here because we’ve all seen what happens with a system this broken and corrupt- we have to do it from the outside. This is our chance to fix something broken- maybe even some of the things broken inside of us. I’m going to help Nightwing. I don’t think I can do it alone, but I’m going.”

“Yeah,” Huntress says. “Us medieval weapon users have to stick together.”

“You’re my ride,” Canary says, annoyed. “She’s my ride,” she repeats, to Black Lightning, sighing heavily. “Guess I’m coming with.”

“Hell,” Black Lightning says, “compared to the rest of you I’m Superman. Can’t exactly chicken out, now.”

The Outsiders take on a handful of second string henchers, and Clayface. Oliver sneaks away and finds Nightwing in Mandragora’s room, a little beaten up, but on his feet.  We’ll be cutting back and forth between both fights for the climax, with Canary’s cry and BL’s L enough to make Clayface run away. Ollie gets his bow knocked away at the start of the fight.

“I half expected to find you here chained up in a Leia bikini,” Oliver says.

“Expected, or hoped?” Nightwing asks.

“I knew I should have left you here to die.”

The pair of them, already beaten pretty badly, take on Mandragora together, eventually overcoming him in a brutal, Old Boy-esque battle of attrition, with Ollie finally getting his bow back. This is when Mandragora starts monologuing. Obviously, Mandragora had a hand in killing the Queens, too, after defrauding their charity. This comes out at a pivotal moment, as Mandragora, looking to extract a small victory, goads Ollie. Who shoots him off screen. And again. And again.

“Jesus!” Nightwing yells.

“He’ll live,” Ollie says. We show enough to see that he’s been sticking arrows in limbs, but nothing vital yet. “If we get him to a doctor fast enough. Might walk with a limp. And those injuries are going to hurt. All but guaranteed to lead to arthritis.”


“Shut up, boy scout. He’s hurt a lot of people. Justice means he doesn’t walk away from that without hurting himself.”

“I wasn’t going to lecture you, just… we should hurry, so he doesn’t bleed out.”

“Right.” Ollie spins, firing another arrow. This one slices through the string on Huntress’ crossbow.

“Oh, come on, man,” she says. “You have any idea how hard it is to restring a crossbow?” She drops the bow, running towards Mandragora while producing a knife. Olliver intercepts her. “He took everything from me,” she rages, trying to break free.

“No,” he says, rolling her onto her back. “He didn’t. He can’t. Because you still get to decide who you’re going to be- whether or not you let him turn you into someone monstrous.”

“Yeah, well, I decide to stab him in his heart,” she says, standing with the knife. He rolls her onto her back again.

“Not today. Today is about more than your vengeance.” She stands up again, shoulder checking him, and throws the knife into the his boot, sticking him to the floor, before leaving angrily.

“Miss the toes?” Nightwing asks.

“Mostly? My sock is wet, so not a clean miss.”

“That was a brave, if stupid thing,” Canary says. “Ask me again.”

“You want to get dinner sometime?”

“Maybe,” she says, and slinks out.

“I hate to interrupt,” Nightwing says. “But you do realize we have to carry him out of here, right?”

“We can barely stand,” he protests.

“Don’t tell me. I wasn’t the guy who chose to shoot him in the legs.”

“I have more arrows. We could put one in each eye. Then we wouldn’t have to carry him anywhere.”

“Huntress would be so angry with you. Remember, lift with your legs.” They get him up, and Mandragora removes the arrow from his arm and tries to stab Nightwing with it. He drops Mandragora on Oliver while he wrestles for control off the arrow, eventually plunging it into Mandragora’s last uninjured limb, which goes limp.

“Little help?” Oliver asks from beneath Mandragora.

“Jeez… I think I’m going to have to wait for the paramedics.”

Credits. Mid-credits scene: A beaten Oliver is taking off his costume in his secret Arrow Lair. His intern walks in. Played a bit comedically, it seems like she’s now interested in sleeping with him- but what she’s actually interested in, which we find out when she gets hold of his bow and bullseyes his target, is learning from him.

 More credits, and then a post-credits scene: Wally West and Donna Troy are talking with Nightwing.

“So like the Titans?” Donna asks. For the uninitiated, this is Wonder Woman’s one-time sidekick.

“But we’re not teenagers,” Wally says, devouring his food and whipping through to the buffet for seconds.

“We’re not calling ourselves Titans, either. I think the kids are doing something with the name.”

Wally burns through another plate, and gets thirds.

“Ah. That’s cute,” Donna says. Then she turns to Wally. “We all know you just keep getting more so you can blow that poor girl’s skirt up.”

“Hey, I burn calories same as you- I just do it several hundred times faster. If a Flash doesn’t carbo-load pretty much constantly we waste away. It isn’t pretty.”

“I’m pretty sure she was just teasing you,” Nightwing says.

“You know, for one of the fastest men alive, Wally, you really are slow,” she teases.

“But there is one thing you should know. There’s this guy. Who seems to think he’s in charge. Dresses like Robin Hood. Uses a bow. It’s adorable.”

“And you want us to humor him?” Donna surmises.

“He is fronting the money for the team. Well, most of it.”

“What is it with you and soothing the ego of underachieving billionaires?” she asks.

“Wait. What rich dude do you humor? Does Dick know somebody famous?”

She sighs. “You really are slow, Wally.”

Breed Book 3, Part 48

“We’re sure this is safe?” Izel asked, watching CCTV footage on her phone.

“The technopaths have got it locked down. Demi left the one camera alive, so we could see if- crap.”

Agents in riot gear started to pour out of the front of their office building. “It’s okay,” Izel said. “We knew it was a long shot we could dissuade them entirely- if only because their fragile egos wouldn’t be able to take loses so completely without at least a whimper. We’ve got plans in place for this… though…” agents continued to stream out of the building, “I don’t know if we accounted for quite so many of them. Damn. That’s a lot more brownshirts than I was expecting.”

“Yeah,” Tucker said solemnly. “There always seem to be too many of the worst kinds of people.”

“I don’t know,” Izel said. “It’s kind of clarifying. These aren’t just cogs in a racist machine. These are the hardcore- the ones who it isn’t enough they got to legally prosecute some dodgy cases against immigrants. They’re breaking the law, because their bigotry is that controlling. I mean, no Nazis marching through the streets is preferable. But if there have to be Nazis, I’d prefer them in the street. At least then we can march against them.”

Breed Book 3, Part 47

“So…” Rox said, leaving the word to dangle.

“We’re going in,” Mai said.

“What she said,” Anita said, emerging from behind a bush.

“Why am I not surprised you were eavesdropping?” Rox asked.

“Something about the hyperaggressive, hypercompetent nearly unkillable death machine still having half a girl-boner for my early demise feels like it warrants a little TLC.”

“She does have a point.”

“Yeah. But never driven deep enough to pierce anything vital. Yet.”

“Fine,” Rox said. “But we do this my way, or not at all.”

“Because you could stop us?” Mai asked, bemused.

“Actually,” Anita said with a smile, “all she really has to do is stamp her foot and our own rotten luck will stop us.”

“Besides,” Rox soothed, “my way makes more sense. I get that the two of you are my elders- and I mean that in the you have my respect for all you’ve done and lived through meaning of the word. But I also know what this place put the both of you through. Given half a chance, one or both of you would blow the whole damn place up- maybe without even checking to make sure there aren’t others like the boy we’re here to find inside.”

“Shit,” Anita said. “I hadn’t even considered that.”

“I had,” Mai said coldly, and the both of them stared at her. “What? That’s why I decided against blowing the place up- unless or until we could make sure there aren’t going to be any unexpected casualties.”

“Point being,” Rox reasserted herself, “you two are compromised in a way I am not. So it makes sense for all of us to get on the same page now, and let me Jiminy Cricket you both through this. Sound fair?”

“Sure,” Anita said. “You do kind of look like Ukulele Ike in this lighting.”

“That’s probably preferable to you saying I look like a cricket.”



“No promises,” she said crisply. “You take point. I’ll try and keep things under wraps. But frankly… if we walk into an abattoir… I’m not sure how cool I can keep.” “Okay. Most important ground rule is this: we don’t kill anybody we don’t have to. Until we know exactly what’s going on here, we use minimum force necessary to do the job- and not an ounce more. If either of you can’t live with that, you might as well stay out here.”

Breed Book 3, Part 46

Tucker didn’t spend much time in the computer labs. Mostly, that was because there were several computers in the apartment he shared with his brother and Drake. Also the technopaths were a cliquish bunch- though to be fair, so were the telepaths.

He could feel the way their minds were linked up across their devices; it was in a lot of ways analogous to telepathy, but also similar to any computer network. He could see thousands of operations being performed every second, though he couldn’t follow what was going on.

“You’re lucky I recognized you,” Ryan said without turning his wheelchair to face Tucker as he entered the room. “Otherwise I might have hit you with one of our countermeasures. I’m not sure what they’d do to a brain; they’re more designed to attack an electronic infiltrator. But a human mind also isn’t so different from a computer that I’d want to invite a viral process into one- other than scientific curiosity.”

“Aside from your trigger finger getting itchy, how are things going?” Tucker asked.

“We’ve got our hooks in the phone grid. We’re waiting until the last possible second to take it down; the fewer people have to be impacted the better, and it’ll make it harder for them to work around the issues. We’ve also taken over every radio transmitter in a mile radius around their offices, the apartment building, and their likely route. We can fill the airwaves with so much radio traffic they won’t be able to hear themselves monolog.

“We’ve tanked their internet. The plan had been to take it down completely; probably tie up an agent roaming the hell that is broadband customer service phone trees. But we came up with something more clever this morning: we crashed them down to dial-up speeds. Since they’re still technically getting internet, it’s a different problem- one with a hundred different issues to chase down. All the while their emails and intel load like it’s 1999. Doing the same thing to their cell phones was trickier, but we took over the cell towers nearby and route all of their traffic- phone and data- through us.

“Demi fried everything plugged in at their offices, too, so they’d already been thrown back into the dark ages- but we’re keeping them from making any progress.”

“And you think it’ll hold?”

He grinned. “I’ll put it this way. The NSA poked some feelers in this morning, probing for infiltration. We’ve sent them on a goose chase that will send them on a time-release quest around the globe. First it’ll look like a Chinese infiltration, then the Russians spoofing the Chinese, then the Israelis spoofing the Russians spoofing the Chinese as revenge for backing Iran… anyway, it ping-pongs over the next five weeks before tracing back to an NSA terminal using Edward Snowden’s somehow resurrected credentials. The only conclusions available at that point are that it was an inside job of terrifying proportions, or that they got so thoroughly outclassed that letting the public know they’re basically a failed security agency is their only other option besides covering it up. Which is irrelevant, because all of the relevant intel will by that point have been erased.

“And because we had more volunteers than we needed, I’ve got a B-team running counter-int. They do background checks on Feds, but there are limits to the amount of time, effort, or invasiveness the government is willing to do, all of which pales in comparison to what Google and Facebook know about each and every one of us, to say nothing about international hackers or other online ne’er-do-wells. Current figures look like we can probably clear a third of these agents out just shining a light on their actual nefarity- a little tax-cheating here, a kiddie porn collection there. One of these freaks writes immigrant snuff fantasies; maybe that’s not enough to get him canned, but they sure as hell can’t leave him in the field once that comes to light. And becomes a trending topic on social media.”

“This is all terrifying,” Tucker said.

“It is. It’s also the same basic toolset used by social media companies and the NSA. We’re just better at it. And we’re using it to defeat bigots- so we’re doing it for a good cause, and not for capitalism. Besides, ICE weaponized social media first. They called down this thunder- it’s a little late for them to get squeamish about getting electrocuted.”