Disclaimer: Young Justice is the property of DC Comic although DC doesn’t seem to deserve them. All characters are used without permission, and no profit is being made from this story.
Author's note: This takes place about five years ahead of current continuity. For the purposes of this fic, Superboy, Wonder Girl, Empress and Robin are about 16 in current continuity, with Impulse and Arrowette a year younger and Secret two years younger than the rest. This separates from canon before the events of Young Justice #46.
Great big HUGE thanks to Domenika Marzione for beta reading.
Feedback at: Curly_jo_the_1st@yahoo.com
/\/\/\/\/\ -- flashback scene -- /\/\/\/\/\/\
It didn't start out that badly, but then it almost never does.
It was a normal day at the headquarters of Young Justice. The team was just hanging out, having finished their meeting a few hours earlier. Impulse was on monitor duty and it was, as usual, driving him nuts. He peered at the monitors showing local and global news stations, and the police scanners.
"Hmm, nope. Still nothing happening. This kind of boring is good, but it's, well, boring," he muttered. Bart's eyes flitted around the room looking for something to do. He had matured from the personification of ADHD that he had been a few years ago, but he still got bored very easily. Bart's gaze fell on the yo-yo he'd been playing with earlier; the string had broken. Apparently, some toys weren’t suited for super-speed. Suddenly, one of the panels on the console emitted a loud beeping. Bart hit the button on the console, the yo-yo forgotten.
“Impulse, here. Go ahead.”
The computer-generated image of Oracle filled the screen. “Impulse, you’ll want to get the rest of the team. This one looks pretty bad.”
Once Robin, Superboy, Wonder Girl, Empress, Lobo, and Secret had assembled in the comm room, Oracle began again.
“There is a meta attacking a chemical plant outside of Baltimore. I’ve been able to get a satellite picture.” A picture of the attacker came up on the screen. There was almost complete silence in the comm room, except for Secret’s soft gasp. “I assume you know who this is?” Oracle’s synthesized voice asked.
Robin glanced at Secret who was trying to hide a look of horror. “Yes,” he said grimly, “He calls himself Harm. We’ve gone up against him before.”
“Good,” Oracle continued, “Because he says he wants Young Justice.”
Secret floated along a short distance behind her teammates, who were either riding the Super-Cycle or flying alongside it. She needed a few minutes with her thoughts and she thought her friends might want to be away from her as well. Secret had been distancing herself from her friends more and more recently. The fact that Greta didn’t age, because she wasn’t really alive anymore, hadn’t mattered that much when they were all around the same age. But now that they were all adults and Secret still appeared to be fourteen she thought she could sense a difference in her teammates’ attitudes towards her. One teammate’s opinion especially mattered to her. Greta gazed over at Robin, sighed and looked away again.
Meanwhile, Robin was thinking about the current mission as he piloted the Super-Cycle. He glanced back at Secret. He’d noticed that she’d been more withdrawn lately. Which was made worse by who was up ahead waiting for them. Harm was one of the worst villains they had gone up against, both for his skills, and for the fact that he was Secret’s older brother. They had apprehended him before, but none of the containment facilities the DEO had could hold him for long. The reason that it was so hard to incarcerate him was due to the fact that, like Secret; Harm was neither really alive nor dead, but somehow in between. Robin was drawn back out of his thoughts as they approached the chemical plant. The team could see smoke was rising from several buildings on fire around the complex, and workers could be seen fleeing from emergency exits and windows and any other way out they could find. Robin tapped his comm link. "Be on your guard, people. You know the kind of damage Harm is capable of."
Robin landed the Super-Cycle near a group of firemen and plant officials. One official with a badge indicating that he was the plant manager separated from the rest and approached the group of young heroes.
"I'm glad you're here. We've got almost everyone evacuated and accounted for, but we've got some workers trapped by fire up on the north side of the plant." The plant manager indicated the area on a map he had unrolled. "And the meta... er, Harm... has some people as hostages over on the west side."
Robin looked at the team, then back at the map. "All right, Impulse and Empress. You go to the north side and rescue the people there. Then rendezvous with us on the west side. Wonder Girl, Lobo, Superboy: you're going to deal with Harm while Secret and I get those hostages to safety. Let's go."
Wonder Girl and Superboy flew to the building that the plant manager had said that Harm was in, Wonder Girl carrying Lobo. There seemed to be the most damage to that building. One wall was collapsed and an adjacent one was halfway fallen.
Kon-El shook his head. "Jeez, you think he's in there?" he asked sarcastically.
Wonder Girl shot him an annoyed look. "Not funny," she muttered. Cassie peered through a crack in one of the walls. "It looks like Harm's got the hostages lined up against the far wall," she noted, "Kon, if you loop around behind him and Lobo and I hit him from this side, we can get him away from the hostages so that Robin and Secret can get to them."
Superboy paused. "Cass..." he trailed off. Cassie gave him a questioning look. "Just... be careful, okay?" Cassie's expression softened and she nodded. A crash from inside the building caught their attention.
"So, are we going after this guy today or tomorrow?" Lobo asked them wryly.
"Right. Let's get this started," Kon said. He flew around to the opposite side of the building and a moment later his voice came over the commlinks, "I'm in position."
Wonder Girl exchanged a look with Lobo and tapped her communicator. "We're ready to go, Robin."
She waited for his signal, and then took off carrying Lobo towards what was left of the building. "Let's see if we can't mess with Harm's plans. You ready?"
"I've *been* ready,” the Czarnian grunted.
Wonder Girl dropped Lobo onto Harm and turned to attack from a different angle as Superboy hit him from behind. While their teammates were keeping Harm distracted, Robin and Secret quietly made their way to the plant workers being held captive. Most of the hostages were watching the fight going on and did not see their rescuers, but one woman noticed Secret and gasped. Robin gently put one gloved hand over her mouth. "It's all right, Ma'am. Come this way, we'll get you out of here."
As Robin stealthily led a group of workers out of the building, Secret stole a worried glance at the fight still raging on. Was there any good left at all in the villain that her brother had become?
Secret looked up into the hooded face of her mentor. “Hal, you told me before that everyone has some good in them. Even if...” She hesitated, “Even if they’ve done a lot of bad things?”
The Spectre thought about his own past for a moment. “It is true that everyone has the capacity for good and for evil; it’s the choices they make that matter.” The former Green Lantern swept back the hood of his robes and sat down beside the young girl. “What brought this on, Greta?”
Greta stared at her hands and laced her fingers together, looking far younger than her true age. “I... I was thinking about my brother. I know that he‘s done a lot of bad things, but he wasn’t always bad.” She sighed and her shoulders slumped.
Hal laid a hand on the wraith-like girl’s shoulder. “Bad people can do good things, and good people can do bad things. Even villains can be redeemed, if they are repentant. Your brother has made a choice to do the things he does.” he said gently. “He has to make the choice to turn himself around.”
Greta bit her lip and nodded.” It’s strange. I don’t even know why I feel this way. I still can’t forgive what he did to me, but I don’t want anything bad to happen to him either. I’m just so confused.”
“It could be that as you’re learning more about good and evil, that your perceptions are changing. Even if you don’t consciously realize it.” Hal mused. “There may come a time when you will be able to forgive him, or that Billy will be more open to turning his life around. We just don’t know these things yet.“
A flash and a puff of blue-green smoke interrupted Secret’s memories as her teammate Empress arrived. Empress looked at the hostages, then at her teammate. “Robin said that the evacuation is going to take too long,” she told Secret in a low tone, “I’m going to start teleporting them out two or three at a time.”
“Good idea,” Secret agreed, “They’ve got Harm distracted for now, but it won’t last long.”
Empress pointed at two of the workers. “Stay close to me. We’ll be out of here in a minute,” she told them. With another puff of smoke, they were gone.
The hostages that were left started whispering. Secret looked over her shoulder nervously. “Please try to be quiet,” she said, “We’ll have you all out of here very soon.”
Empress teleported back in. “Impulse is outside running the hostages to safety,” she reported, “I can get the people out faster if I don’t have to teleport as far. So, I--”
There was a noise and a flash of motion above them, and Secret gasped. “Move!” Empress pulled two of the hostages out of the way as Wonder Girl hurtled past them and crashed into a stack of canisters.
While Secret made a smokescreen to conceal them, Empress and one of the plant workers helped a slightly dazed Wonder Girl up. The worker took a closer look at the broken and leaking canisters and his eyes widened. “We have to get out of here! Now!” he hissed to Empress.
“We’re working as fast as we can, while not attracting Harm’s attention to us,” Empress told him. Wonder Girl was leaning on Empress, still trying to clear her head.
“No, you don’t understand!” the man said urgently, “The chemical that was in these canisters reacts to heat. If the fumes reach the flames, this whole building will explode!”
Wonder Girl and Empress looked at him wide-eyed. “Holy Hera...” Wonder Girl breathed. She tapped her commlink. “Robin, we’ve got a problem. We need to get these hostages out of here now! There’s a chemical leaking and one of the workers says that the fumes are highly explosive.”
“Damn,” Robin muttered. “I’m almost back to your location. Get Superboy and start flying the people out of there. Lobo can keep Harm distracted while we get the last of the hostages evacuated.”
“Got it.” Wonder Girl turned to Secret and Empress. “Secret, keep the smokescreen up to hide the evac. It’s about to get a lot more conspicuous. Empress, start teleporting people out again. Take as many as you can safely take in one trip.” She flew over to where Superboy and Lobo were fighting Harm, and signaled for Superboy to come to her. “We need to start flying hostages out of here. This place could explode any minute,” she told him. Cassie turned toward Lobo. “Lobo!” she called. She flew in closer. “We need you to keep Harm here while we get the rest of the hostages out. Can you--?”
“I can handle this bastich,” the obstinate Czarnian interrupted her brusquely. “Just get out of here!” Lobo picked up a large piece of concrete and threw it at Harm, who ducked it easily.
Harm laughed. “You would do better to keep your attention focused if you think you can ‘handle’ me,” he boasted.
Wonder Girl took one last glance back at Lobo. He was nearly invulnerable, so if anyone could take the kind of beating Harm could give, it was Lobo. He’d be okay. She flew to where the last few workers were being shielded from sight by Secret’s smokescreen. Cassie picked up two men and told them to hold on, and flew them up over the shortest wall.
Robin looked up at the deputy leader of the team. “How many more?” he asked wearily.
“Only five more,” Cassie replied. “Should take one more trip.”
“Right. I’ll go with you.”
Wonder Girl carried Robin back into the partially demolished building. The two young heroes landed in the area where the last few hostages huddled barely out of Harm’s sight. “All right, you three follow Robin through there.” the young heroine pointed to the cleared path out of the building, “And I’ll carry you two out. Secret, keep the smokescreen up until we get clear, then you and Lobo get out of here. We’ll regroup outside once all of the workers are out of harm’s way.”
Secret nodded and made the smoke cloud as opaque as she could, glancing back at Lobo and Harm. Lobo was one of the toughest people Secret knew, but he was more used to a purely physical fight. Harm just didn’t fight that way. He had learned far more ways to fight. He had studied all the heroes that he could find any information about, and he had studied many forms of dark magic, even killing his sister for the power her sacrifice would bring. He was likely to use anything against Lobo.
Suddenly, Harm got an opening and sprayed Lobo with the sleeping gas that he carried in his sword. The gas did not have its intended effect, but while the Czarnian was coughing, Harm hit him in the head with the pommel of his sword, momentarily stunning him. “You were not a worthy adversary after all,” Harm sneered at his fallen opponent. Harm raised his sword to finish Lobo off.
Secret gasped. She flung herself in front of Harm and shielded Lobo. “Billy, no!”
Harm lowered his sword and smirked. “Somehow it always comes down to you and me. I would say that it is good to see you again, Greta,” he hissed, his eyes narrowed, “but you should have been dead long ago. It’s past time that I tried again, don‘t you think? And then I think I‘ll move on to your friends. Starting with, oh, Robin perhaps?”
Secret clenched her fists and took a deep breath. She was not going to let Billy win this time. “Something’s got to stop him now,“ she murmured. “Lobo,” she whispered a little louder. “I can distract him while you get out of here.”
Lobo was starting to get to his feet unsteadily. “I don’t run away from a fight,” he grumbled, glaring at Harm.
“Just go! This isn’t your fight,” Secret insisted, “It’s mine.” Lobo looked at her, and saw something in the determined look in her eyes. He nodded and started to make his way out.
“Running won‘t do him any good. I will eliminate them all sooner or later.” Harm taunted. “This ends now.”
He started to chant in some unearthly, eerie tongue and raised his hands into the air. A strange glow surrounded his hands as the chanting grew louder and louder.
“You’re right,” Secret said in a voice that was both sad and determined at once. “It does.”
She glanced behind her. Lobo had almost gotten out. She had to act now; there was no time to wait. Secret solidified her hands enough to scoop up two of the canisters that were left and throw them at the young villain. *I’m sorry.* She thought, tears running down her face.
Harm’s chanting reached its crescendo and he brought his hands down to point them at Secret, just as the two canisters hit him. The dark magic mixed violently with the chemical fumes in the air. There was a bright flash of light. Secret flinched away and the world went black.
Wonder Girl put the two plant workers she carried on the ground. They stood next to the makeshift bunker that Superboy and the remaining team members had built a safe distance away from the building. Wonder Girl sat down heavily next to where Superboy was bracing up the wall nearest the building. He looked over at her, concerned.
“That’s the last of them, right?”
Cassie nodded tiredly.
“Good. You can spare a few minutes to rest,” he told her, “We reported back to the rescue crews, and told them not to get any closer in case the building explodes. Impulse is ferrying the workers out a few at a time. Where are Secret and Lobo?”
Cassie leaned her head back against the wall and closed her eyes. “They should be right behind us. I told Secret to cover our exit then get Lobo and herself out of there,” she said tiredly. “Lobo can handle Harm until--”
Wonder Girl was interrupted by a blinding flash of light and an explosion. Empress and several of the workers were knocked off their feet. Superboy grunted with the exertion, but managed to use his tactile telekinesis to keep the shelter up. Robin looked sharply at the man who had alerted them that the building might explode. “Was the chemical that explosive?” he asked the man. The man just shook his head, openmouthed with shock.
Meanwhile, Empress was scrambling out of the bunker, looking around frantically. “Where is he?” she muttered.
She spotted Lobo lying facedown on the ground outside of the smoking remains of the building. She ran to him, and rolled him over onto his back. He groaned.
Lobo opened his eyes and blinked a few times, focusing on Empress. “Heh,” he said weakly, “Well, I can’t be dead, ’cause there ain’t angels where I’m goin’.”
Empress smiled and shook her head. She helped him sit up as the rest of the team hurried over. Robin managed to get to them first. “Where is Secret?” he demanded. “She was supposed to be with you!”
“Huh?” Lobo turned and saw the burning building behind him. “Frell! She was fighting that bastich Harm. He started some kind of mystical mumbo jumbo, then the place exploded.”
“You left her alone in there with him?” Robin asked incredulously. “Never mind.” He turned to Superboy and Wonder Girl. “I need you two to go see how badly the building is burning. We can‘t determine what happened to Secret if there‘s still a fire blazing away.”
“Right,” Superboy said and the two young heroes flew off.
Robin tapped his commlink. “Impulse, I need you here--”
Impulse popped up right in front of Robin. “Yes, Fearless Leader?”
Robin sighed. “When Wonder Girl and Superboy get back from surveying the building, I’ll need you to clear some of the smoke away so we can look for Secret.”
Impulse nodded and a moment later, they returned.
“What did you find?” Robin asked.
Wonder Girl and Super boy glanced at each other. “There’s no fire at all,” Wonder Girl spoke up after a moment. “There’s quite a bit of smoke, but no sign of Secret.”
Robin frowned. That was odd. Robin nodded to Impulse. Impulse ran around the outer perimeter of the building to disperse most of the smoke.
Lobo led the team to the area where Secret had faced off against Harm. Everyone got very quiet as they saw a rather large blasted area.
“They were here?” Impulse asked. Lobo nodded. Empress shivered.
Robin looked at the team, then at the burned out hulk of the building. He took a deep breath. “Okay, everybody fan out and look for any sign of Secret or Harm. And be careful. We don’t know if Harm left any tricks for us.”
The team looked for a few minutes, an uneasy silence falling over the group. Suddenly, Empress stopped, and cocked her head to one side, listening. “Guys, stop for a minute. I thought I heard something!”
Everyone stopped. Even Impulse stood perfectly still.
Wonder Girl gasped. “I heard it, too! There was a moan.” She flew over to an area near where Empress had been searching and listened carefully. “Here!”
The team began digging carefully in the spot that they had heard the moaning. Everyone was holding their breath. Superboy lifted up one last piece of rubble and tossed it away. Wonder Girl gasped. There was a young woman of about eighteen lying there. She was bruised and battered, but looked to be otherwise unharmed. She also looked very familiar.
“It’s Greta,” Wonder Girl whispered in disbelief, “But she’s... completely solid.”
“Yes. She is whole again. More or less.” The team whirled around. The Spectre stood behind them. He walked through the group towards Secret. “She chose to remain here, while allowing her friends to get to safety.”
He knelt down next to Secret and pushed a lock of hair back off of her forehead. Stirring, she groaned and blinked at the light streaming in where the roof of the building would have normally been. She turned her head, saw her mentor and friend, and smiled.
“Hal!” Greta started to get up, but froze. “What happened? I feel weird.” The Spectre helped her get up, and she looked down at herself. “How did this happen?” Greta asked.
The Spectre gently kept one arm around her, helping her to sit down on a piece of rubble.
“You unselfishly put yourself in deadly peril, so your friends would be safe. The Presence deemed that worthy of reward, and gave you your life back.”
Robin shook his head to try to make sense of things. Between the rather intimidating presence of the Spectre and the shock of seeing Greta flesh and blood again, most of the team was still overwhelmed, but Robin tried to regain control of things. “But... if Greta is here like this, what happened to...”
“Harm? The Presence felt that it would be fitting for him to take Greta’s place as Warder of the Abyss. It was as a result of Billy’s actions that Greta came to be in that position in the first place,” the Spectre explained. “Harm won’t be a problem anymore. Perhaps with a little time on his hands he’ll even learn something good for a change.”
Greta looked up at her mentor. “So I’m normal again?” she asked doubtfully, but with a note of hope creeping into her voice.
“Mostly,” he answered cryptically.
Greta blinked in confusion. “What do you mean ‘mostly’?” she asked.
The Spectre paused a moment and seemed to be searching for the right words. “The Presence knew that you had grown used to the... extra abilities that you had before. He is allowing you to keep a portion of those abilities.“ The Spectre cast a concerned look at Greta. “I could take them away and you can be completely normal if you wish.”
Greta looked down at her hands. She thought about the good that she had done over the last several years with Young Justice, and she looked around at her friends. No, her family. She smiled up at her mentor. “No. You don’t need to take them away. They are a part of who I am now.”
The Spectre smiled warmly down at her and nodded. “I expected that to be your answer.” He started to fade away. “I will talk to you again soon.”
Greta looked at her friends, and they looked back. Nobody seemed to know what to say. The moment was starting to get painfully awkward when Wonder Girl suddenly grinned and ran over to hug Greta. “Wow! It’s a lot easier to do that now,” she told her friend, with a twinkle in her eye. That broke the tension and suddenly everyone was around Greta hugging her.
Robin stood back from the group a bit. He cleared his throat. “I think the rescue crews can take it from here.” Greta looked up and he caught her eye and smiled. “Let’s go home.”
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