Billy rears back, pain shooting through his arm but he manages to plant a solid kick in the nearest Kobra thug. He's not sure if Jay or the others told Ted how old he really was, but the older man had hunted him down while he's Billy Batson and had taught him how to fight. He hadn't been sure if he'd need it at the time, after all he does most of his fighting as Captain Marvel, but it's sure coming in handy now.
He manages to knock him away, grabbing for what used to be a coat rack in the corner of the research Lab manager's office but now is a handy club to keep them off him and the others as they get to safety. Please let one of the others had gotten the emergency signal he'd managed to set off before he'd been jumped.
"Easy Billy," A familiar voice says as he whirls at a sound behind him. Pieter comes into the room, looking at the moaning figures in a circle around Billy. "It's just u . . sit down!"
Billy blinks at him, only then feeling the blood dripping down his arm. He's pushed down into a chair as his sleeve is ripped up to the shoulder so Pieter can get a better look at the injury. Billy looks down at his arm and blinks. "Huh, didn't even feel it. Who told Ted how old I really am?"
"I believe it was Jay." Pieter says absently as he scans Billy's arm. "It's not deep, but you've lost a bit of blood." He catches Billy when he loses the battle to stay awake, laying him out on the desk.
"How is he?" The Flash asks as he comes into the office, the others fighting off the last of the Kobra agents or getting the civilians to safety.
"Unconscious, combination of the adrenaline from the fight wearing off and blood loss." Pieter is busy wrapping a dressing around his arm. "That will do until I can get him to the Brownstone, can you come up with a cover story to get him away from his coworkers?"
"Yeah, I'll tell them that we want to talk to him about anything Kobra might have said when he attacked the lab. Did he say anything before he passed out?"
"Only asked who'd told Wildcat how old he really was." Pieter listens for a moment. "The others wrapping things up?"
"Yes, thankfully we were nearby when Billy triggered his emergency button. Any idea why they attacked this lab?"
"They were already unconscious when I came in, I'll ask Billy when he recovers but I suspect he was too busy fighting them off to ask for an interview."
"Ted will be glad to see he was paying attention to the 'grab whatever you can and kick their asses' advice he gave him." Jay turns as Power Girl calls his name and Pieter picks Billy up, wrapping him in his cloak as he walks out the front of the building.
"Do you need a emergency flight to the Brownstone?" Green Lantern asks.
"No, he's stable," Pieter says. "I'll put him in the jet, then come take care of any injuries."
"He's the only injury we have." Green Lantern says, walking with him to the jet. "Any idea what happened in there?"
"From what I can figure out, Kobra agents attacked and Billy pushed the alert button, leaving the communicator on in his pocket so we could hear what was going on. When I arrived in the office, he was swinging a coat rack as a weapon, running on pure adrenaline." Pieter settles Billy in one of the seats, fastening him in with the straps they use on unconscious passengers rather than the regular seat belts in case of turbulence, brushing the hair out of his eyes before heading back outside.
A few minutes later Billy begins blinking and goes to rub his eyes when he realizes he can't move. He starts to freak for a moment until he realizes where he is and sighs, settling back against the seat. What the hell is everybody going to think of him that he faints the first time he's attacked?
"How do you feel Billy?" Rick asks, settling in the seat next to him, a cold pack held against the side of his face.
"Embarrassed." he mumbles. Rick smirks.
"Please, who hasn't collapsed after a fight, and you have the excuse of you weren't able to change into Captain Marvel. Hell, you've seen Ted collapse after some fights, and you don't have over sixty years of experience to fall back on."
"True." Billy finally says.
"And you're walking wounded." Rick looks down at Billy's arm. Billy looks down too at the tiny dot of blood on the pristine white bandage tied around his arm.
"Are you okay?"
"A hold out in a lab got a lucky punch in before Kara took care of him." Rick takes away the cold pack, showing the side of his face already beginning to swell. "I'll be fine in a few days, when we get back I'll get a couple of aspirin and lay down with the cold pack for a while."
Rick squeaks when he's trussed up just like Billy before the jet lifts off, Courtney snickering in her seat behind them.
"So how'd you manage to be in the right place at the wrong time?" she leans against the back of the seats when they start back to headquarters.
"I was part of a crew called out for a science blurb for the news." Billy leans back against the seat. "We were wrapping up the story when Kobra's goons attacked. Luckily the manager's office had an outside exit, I was able to slam the door in their face and start shoving people towards the exit, they broke in the door before I could change into Captain Marvel. Any idea what they were after?" He asks Jay and Green Lantern at the front of the jet.
"No idea, the police are going to be going over the lab with the manager to see if anything is missing since it looked like some of them got away. You were smart to keep your communicator turned on so we could track your signal." Green Lantern says as they park the plane at the Brownstone.
Rick and Billy are finally let out of their harnesses since they can't unfasten the latches themselves and led into the Brownstone, where a stunned Ted is staring at a man across the room in shock.
"Charles?" Green Lantern and Flash ask as the first Dr. Mid-Nite turns to look at them. Rick whimpers, he's known that man most of his life, it's definitely Charles McNider, but . . .
"Aren't you supposed to be dead?" Courtney asks.
"Courtney!" Everybody turns to glare at her, missing the smile Charles and Pieter share.
"Let me get Rick and Billy patched up and we can figure out what happened." Pieter puts his hands on their shoulders and leads them into the infirmary, leaving the others to figure out what happened.
Rick walks over to the small freezer in the corner, tossing the no longer cold cold pack inside before pulling away the hood of his costume, allowing Pieter to check out his eye and cheek before he grabs a new icepack and heads upstairs to his room to change out of his costume.
Billy is helped up onto the exam table by Pieter and the bandage wrapped around his arm cut away when the door across the room opens and Charles comes into the room.
"How can I help?"
"Can you grab a suture kit from the cabinet and bring it over here?" Pieter says. "Jay, can you pull out a bag of saline and glucose, I want to start Billy on an iv after I've stitched him up. And yes," he says as Billy begins to complain. "You are staying, at least overnight. I want to make sure there was nothing on that blade."
Billy sighs but nods. Pieter grins and ruffles his hair before pulling on a pair of gloves, seeing Charles do the same and turning his attention to Billy's arm. Billy won't admit it, but he's feeling a little faint by the time the two doctors get his arm stitched up.
"And that," Pieter says, fingers pressed against his neck, and when had he moved? Wasn't he just working on his arm a second ago? Then he realizes he's lying on the exam table looking up at the ceiling. "Is why you're spending the night."
"Crap." he mumbles. Pieter laughs and even Jay chuckles, though he'd had the daylights scared out of him when Billy had suddenly folded on them. Even as fast as he is, if Pieter and Charles hadn't been there, he couldn't have caught him in time from his spot across the room.
Pieter and Charles refuse to let Billy up, he ends up carried down the hall to the recovery room. To make sure Billy actually rests, Pieter injects a sedative into the iv before they leave the room, ending up in the meeting room as Ted, Alan, and Jay ask Charles how he survived Extant.
They talk long into the night, Pieter offering him the other bed in his room when the talk finally breaks up. Pieter leaves to check on Billy before going upstairs to where Charles is waiting at the door.
The door shuts behind them and Charles presses Pieter against the door, kissing him. "Tell me about the youngsters on the team."
"Billy is Captain Marvel, normally I only see him for checkups or minor injuries since the magic lightning that transforms him heals all his injuries. Today was an exception since he couldn't transform during the attack on the lab. I've got him on extra nutrition while he's here since he's technically homeless, he's gaining a little height and weight, but he's still smaller than a boy his age."
"He turned fifteen a couple of weeks ago." Pieter moans quietly as Charles begins to nibble on his neck.
"He's technically homeless?"
"He lives in an abandoned subway tunnel, has it set up all nice and cozy. His parents were murdered nearly eight years ago by criminals. He's attending an alternative school a couple days a week to catch up with his schoolwork, we found out how old he really was a few months ago when the aliens invaded, Billy took us into the tunnel to hide."
"I was so worried when I realized you and the others were missing."
"Billy had been having dreams telling him what was needed, so when we had to leave the Brownstone, he had everything we needed at the tunnel when we arrived. Since we knew it was only a few days until they had to leave the planet, we stayed put until then. Billy tried to keep his normal schedule but when the Aliens declared curfews, Jay ordered him to stay inside with the rest of us."
"Courtney, Pat Dugan's eldest."
"I didn't realize his children were that old." Charles frowns.
"Step-daughter, she's been a super-hero for a couple of years now, much to his distress. He ended up coming out of retirement to help her, he's 'officially' semi-retired again, but he'll dig out the old armored suit if she needs him. He works for us now as our mechanic."
"And how's Rick doing?"
"Good, the leukemia is officially in remission, we can't say 'cured' for another few years, but the Hourman from the future assured us he's completely cured of both that and the other illness that made him send him to Timepoint to save his life . He's eating well, sleeping most of the night now, and he and Rex are well, working on a father-son relationship."
"They're both stubborn." Charles sighs. "Anybody else?"
"There's Jakeem, he's technically a reserve member of the JSA. He's around Billy's age, he lives with his aunt after his mother died. He's got Johnny Thunder's old thunderbolt after he died. The thunderbolt's magic is a little. . .erratic so we keep him on the sidelines so Jakeem has a normal life."
"We've lost so many of the old members." Charles shakes his head. "Black Canary to cancer while we were trapped in limbo, Sylvester, Kent and Inza, Sandman, Atom, and now Johnny Thunder."
"At least we have you back, you and Rex." Pieter shudders as Charles sinks his fangs into his neck, drinking from his mate.
"Anybody else I need to know about?"
"Mr. Terrific is off for a few days, he should be getting back soon." He shudders as Charles licks the wound in his neck, the two punctures healing almost instantly.
"Michael's in Eureka right now working on something for Nathan, he'll be back in a few days." Charles chuckles. "I suggest we get some sleep. . .in separate beds."
"Yes, at least for now, give the others some time to have you back before they find out we're together." Pieter agrees, straightening up from the wall. "I'm sure the others will want to take you shopping tomorrow since you've only got the clothes on your back."
Rick knocks softly on the door the next morning, peeking around the doorframe at a silent 'come in.' He smiles as he sees Charles sitting up in bed while Pieter stands in the bathroom doorway.
"Jay called Dad, he brought you a change of clothes to wear until we can get you some more things." Rick comes in with a bundle of clothes. "We had to guess on some of your sizes."
"Thank you Rick, how are you feeling?" Charles asks as Rick hands him the clothes. "You're looking well." Like Pieter had said, Rick had gained some of the weight back he'd lost due to the chemotherapy and his hair was coming back in as thick as ever. He tugs on his hand to make him sit on the edge of the bed as Pieter returns to the bathroom to finish getting cleaned up after checking on Billy earlier.
"I'm doing. . .better." Rick finally says, looking towards the wall for a moment. "Like alcoholics, you take it one day at a time." He suddenly grins and wraps his arms around Charles. "It's good to have you back, Dr. McNider." Standing up he heads for the door, "Gotta go, Dad drug Mom along and she's been sobbing about my getting hit yesterday for the last ten minutes, Dad just reminds me that I need to remember to duck."
"Are you coming shopping with us?"
"Yeah, it was either me or Courtney and I figured I'd save you from a teenage girl clothes shopping. The mall isn't that far from my school so I can duck out and get my books for next semester while we're there."
"Good, I was hoping you were back in school." Charles says, throwing back the covers to get up as a bellowed 'Rick' can be heard from downstairs.
Rick looks up at the ceiling and sighs, then laughs as he heads for the door. Charles laughs too after Rick shuts the door behind him, getting up and heading into the bathroom to shower and dress.
Coming downstairs about twenty minutes later, Charles finds Rex leaning against a wall talking with Jay. Rex breaks off the conversation and envelops Charles in a manly hug. "Good to have you back Charles."
"It's good to be back Rex, though it's going to take getting used to having so much time pass in what only seemed a couple of minutes."
"Yeah, I went through the same thing when I realized how long it had been since we battled Extant." Rex rubs a hand over his graying hair.
A hour or so later everybody has headed their separate ways, Rick taking the team credit card from Ted while Courtney grins and makes elaborate hand rubbing gestures before heading to the hanger where Pat is waiting to take her home.
Rick drops the two older men off at the mall before heading to sign up for his classes next semester and get his books at the same time. Locking the bags in his trunk, he gets out of the car at the mall and walks inside, finding the two doctors sitting in the food court waiting on him.
"Get everything you needed for school?" Charles asks.
"Yeah, I signed up for the rest of the classes I needed to graduate, got my books. . .everything."
They head to the chain store at the end of the mall, one of those super stores that has everything under one roof. Charles and Pieter are trying on clothes in the dressing room while Rick tries on a new pair of boots, his old winter boots had finally given up the ghost when the sole actually separated from the body, thankfully winter had nearly been over with so he didn't need them before now.
The next stop is an upscale men's shop, Rick shuddering at the salespeople's faces but the two older men quickly make their purchases and put everything in the car before taking a quick lunch in the food court.
"Rick?" Pieter asks when Rick suddenly looks around.
"I don't know, but I feel like something's going to happen." Rick says. "Maybe I just need to eat, it's been a few hours since breakfast."
They take their meals to eat at the outside tables since the weather's nice, they've eaten and Rick's cleaning the table up when suddenly the sky around them turns dark. Rick has his arms across the back of the two older men as he pushes them inside, everybody is looking outside as the darkness seems to grow. Rick ducks into a corner and Pieter can see him quietly talking into his cell phone.
"The others are looking into what's going on, what a time for Terrific to be out of town." Rick says as he joins them. "Do you want to try to make it back to the Brownstone or wait until somebody figures out what's going on?"
"We'll stay here, for the time being anyway." Charles says as the lights go out in the mall. "Shouldn't the mall have a backup generator?" Rick asks after a couple of minutes pass.
"Yes, it seems the darkness is blocking electrical devices." Pieter says. He grabs Rick by the elbow, "Let's get away from the windows in case this is an attack."
Rick's absolutely blind but he trusts the two older men and tries to keep his feet under him as they lead him further into the mall. They're the only people who are calm, everybody else seems to be panicking.
"Do you have any miraclo with you?" Pieter asks quietly as he and Charles settle Rick against a wall. . .somewhere.
"Yeah, I keep an emergency patch in my wallet in case I'm not in costume, let's hope we don't need it." Rick shudders. "Is anybody else suddenly cold?"
"It's not just you." Charles says, he can feel the chill through his clothes now, it must be even worse for the other two. "Is your cell phone or communicator still working, the others need to know what's going on."
Rick reaches into his pocket, fumbling for his cell phone. He holds it out blindly, a hand taking it from him as he reaches into his pocket again. "I triggered the alert on the communicator, I don't know if it's working or not."
"Your cell phone isn't, the phone isn't even turning on." Pieter says, Rick can feel the phone being put back in his pocket. "I don't know if the darkness is absorbing the energy or just blocking it, or how far the blackness has spread."
Meanwhile outside, the rest of the JSA still in town is hovering over the dark dome of blackness. Ted is at headquarters, relaying what the others are seeing to Mister Terrific who's trying to get back to New York as quickly as possible.
Captain Marvel is the first to try to fly into the blackness, a rope from Green Lantern's ring wrapped around his waist to pull him to safety if needed. He's got on a pair of nightvision goggles and is only gone less than a minute before a tugging on the rope has Green Lantern reeling him in.
"Even with the nightvision goggles I couldn't see anything." Captain Marvel says, sitting up and pulling the goggles off. "I don't know if either of the Doctors can see in there, but Hourman definitely wouldn't be able to."
"Is the affect growing?" Flash asks into a radio.
"Not that we can tell," a voice says over the radio, they'd contacted other superhero groups when they'd realized what was going on and the Justice League is monitoring the situation from their space station, calling in any member who can lend a hand with the situation. "We can't tell anything from the area, it's like it doesn't exist. Have you been able to contact your members inside?"
"No, not since the initial call." Flash says. "We haven't been able to reestablish contact. Marvel, take an emergency lamp in with you and see if you can see anything."
Transporters start bringing in various members of the Justice League, talking quietly with the satellite has Mister Terrific arriving a minute or so later. Captain Marvel is handed an emergency lantern and instructed to turn it on when he's inside before he flies back into the darkness.
Marvel can feel the lantern in his hand and he pushes the button to turn it on, but nothing happens. Tugging on the rope he's pulled back outside, the lantern on as soon as he is out of the darkness.
"Anybody have a torch? I turned the lantern on inside the field but there wasn't any light."
"And the lantern is obviously working." Terrific says. He reaches into the jet emerging with a road flare. "Here, try this, it's not electronic so it should work."
Captain Marvel walks to the edge of the field, setting the flare off in his hand before sticking first his arm and then his head into the field.
"We didn't see any light from this side." Batman says.
"I didn't see anything inside the field either."
"No functioning electronics, no visible sources of light, natural or electronic. . .the night vision goggles didn't work either?"
"No, those were the first things we tried."
"What about your team members who can see in the dark?" Superman asks.
"Unfortunately, they're in there and we can't contact them to find out whether it affects their vision or not."
"What about your visions?" Batman asks Superman.
"I can't see anything, even with the infra-red vision." Power Girl nods her agreement when she lands next to them. The Martian Manhunter lands by her a few minutes later, Batman looking at him. "The Flash, ours that is, is monitoring things from the satellite since his injuries keep him from joining us."
"Wally's hurt?" Jay asks quietly, looking at the two Justice League members. "What happened?"
"Our last battle, he has two broken legs, a few cracked ribs, and a concussion. He was just released from our medical unit, if he somebody to take care of him while he's in the wheelchair he can come back down. Thankfully we were able to get a leave of absence for him from his job, it helps that the police lab is undergoing construction, but he's going to need help for about a month until the casts come off."
"Bring him down, Joan and I can take care of him. We know how to deal with injured speedsters. And if he's down here, he can finally take the time to work on that paper he's been complaining about for a while."
"We will bring him down after we ascertain what has happened." Martian Manhunter says.
"J'onn, is there any way you could contact the Society members inside the field? Maybe get an update from them and tell them what we're doing out here? We did work with both Hourman and Dr. Mid-Nite recently."
"Yes, but I have not had a chance to contact them mentally like I have with most of the original League members."
"Can you try?"
"If I had a general location of where to look?"
"They were at the Windsor Mall when Hourman called us." Flash says. "He, Dr. Mid-Nite, and the original Dr. Mid-Nite were having lunch when the darkness started to fall. Hourman got them inside, then called."
"The original Dr. Mid-Nite, I thought he was dead?" Martian Manhunter asks.
"Somehow he was returned to us last night." Flash says.
"Could he be behind this?"
"No, he'd never put Hourman in danger, the new generation is sacred to us." Flash looks over at Captain Marvel who's talking quietly into a communicator. Tilting his head, he can hear Pat Dugan's voice on the other end.
"No, you stay where you are, we'll call if things turn for the worse. Right now the field seems to stop all electronics, we don't know what it would do to your suit."
"Good thinking." Terrific pats Marvel on the shoulder. "If we can't figure out what's going on in a couple of hours, we'll call you back."
Martian Manhunter closes his eyes as he settles into a meditation pose, his mind searching through the blackness for the two men he'd worked with briefly a few months ago.
/Hourman, Dr. Mid-Nite?/
A sound of surprise. "Manhunter?"
"Yes." in the mall Charles is wondering what is going on, Rick is shivering in his arms, he's trying to keep him warm and now it looks like Pieter is getting hypothermic also.
"It's the Martian Manhunter from the Justice League, we worked with them a few months ago. Are you outside the darkness?"
/Yes, with the Justice League and the Justice Society. Are you injured?/
"It's getting real cold in here, Hourman might be hypothermic, he's not responsive."
"I have contacted Dr. Mid-Nite, it is cold in there, Hourman is unresponsive, he believes he might be hypothermic." /Can your vision see inside the darkness? So far any forms of light we've tried to bring into the zone has not worked./
"Yes, the darkness doesn't affect me or Dr. Mid-Nite." Pieter says calmly. "The others are outside the zone of darkness, they've tried bringing light into the area but they haven't been successful. Is the darkness spreading?"
/Not that we have been able to tell, now that I have located you though, we can get the three of you out./
"What about everybody else?"
Pieter feels the mental contact move away for a moment than come back. /They seem to be in a metabolic state of hibernation, the three of you are the only ones responsive./
"Green Lantern, allow me to guide you in retrieving the two Dr. Mid-Nites and Hourman, they are the only ones responsive, the others seem to be in a metabolic freeze state."
Captain Marvel turns suddenly and stares at Martian Manhunter, then at the Flash. "Yesterday at the lab, that's one of the things they were working on."
"Go to the lab and see if they still have that research, it might have been what Kobra was after." Jay orders. Marvel takes to the sky. "Kobra?" Batman asks.
"Marvel was at a research laboratory yesterday in his civilian job when Kobra attacked. He managed to hold off the attackers to give the others time to get away, but was injured. At the time we weren't aware of a reason for Kobra to have struck the building but. . ." Jay looks at the dome of darkness. . ."I think we know what they were after now."
Martian Manhunter takes John Stewart's hand and they talk, a beam of green light moving through the darkness. Inside the mall Charles and Pieter look up from where they're tending to Rick when the green bubble wraps around them, moving swiftly once they're outside.
Everybody sighs when the bubble comes out of the blackness, Rick unconscious in Pieter's arms. A quick word with the Martian Manhunter has Alan taking over the bubble from John and flying them back to the brownstone for medical treatment as Marvel comes in for a landing, a man wearing a lab coat under one arm.
"Flash, this is Dr. Bernard Arthur, he's the head of the lab Kobra attacked yesterday, he also worked on the metabolic freeze process that we think Kobra was after."
"Captain Marvel told me a little of what is going on, and the 'frozen' people inside the blackout zone sounds very similar to what we were working on."