The Justice Leaguer and a Meta
A/N: This is a sequel to “The League of Extraordinary Women”. It will make a lot more sense if you read that first.
Disclaimer: None of these characters belong to me. If you want details on ownership and all that jazz, you’ll want to read the appropriate intros in “The League of Extraordinary Women”.
Batman wasn’t happy about meeting in the middle of a deserted junkyard. It was too easy to set up a trap there. He had Robin along with him, but positioned atop one of the walls of junked cars. He had one of his Batmobiles just out of sight behind another wall of junkers, and he had the remote control for it in a compartment of the utility belt. He had Oracle monitoring the meeting through the Batmobile’s computer. He suspected she was trying to keep watch on him using at least one of the CIA’s KH-12 spy satellites, even if they couldn’t be positioned in a stationary orbit overhead. And he had Clark on alert.
Granted, he appreciated the paranoia that had led the Macks to ask for a secret meeting like this. If he were the father of a teenaged girl who had just evinced metahuman powers, he would have been even more cautious about meeting anyone and possibly exposing his daughter to all sorts of threats. There were people who would want to kidnap Alex for a host of nefarious purposes, starting with experimentation and leading up past brainwashing or mind control. There were people who would want to kill Alex just for being a meta. There were government agencies who wanted their own metas to control, and some of those agencies were hardly reputable. And there were plenty of other threats out there, too.
They were meeting at an abandoned site over an hour outside of Paradise Valley. Mr. Mack knew about the place, because he was a chemist, and this was an old chemical spill site that had yet to be cleaned up under the EPA’s Superfund program, and couldn’t be turned into an active rebuilding site until then.
Batman knew about this site, because Wayne Tech was currently considering this site – among several hundred around the world – as a possible test site for new hazardous waste clean-up technologies. That meant that Bruce Wayne had legitimate access not only to survey maps of the site and surrounding area, but detailed maps of chemical sampling, ground penetrating radar, and water tables. He knew more about what was under this ground than he knew about what was under the foundations of the building where he had his downtown penthouse.
He decided he needed to remedy that oversight as soon as possible.
Robin’s voice chirped in his earbud. “Mack family SUV turning into the access road. They’re driving over the packages you had me plant in the gravel. You got the readings yet?”
He waited a moment. Oracle spoke into the comms, “I’ve got it. No bugs. No tracking devices. They have satnav in the car, but it’s the standard for commercial vehicles. Four occupants. Four cell phones, all of them turned on but not in use. There’s no cell towers in range, so the phones won’t be of much help out there. No chemical traces of anything explosive, but a bomb inside the car could be hermetically sealed. Sound detection suggests a normal family conversation, and also the car needs a tune-up.”
He watched carefully as the family pulled up to the sign he had positioned. It said ‘please park here’ in large bolded capital letters. It was amazing how people would follow little bits of normalcy even in the midst of activities like meeting a member of the Justice League to talk about their superpowered child.
All four family members stepped out of the van. The father, George Mack, M.S., Ph.D., was driving. The mother, Barbara Mack, B.A. and working on a Masters degree, was in the front right seat. The older daughter Annie, a biochemistry major at M.I.T., was seated behind the father. And there was Alex. Alexandra Louise Mack, seventeen years old and struggling to keep her newly-awakened meta powers under wraps.
It was like looking back in time, in one sense, and looking at a photograph in another sense. This Alex Mack was physically so much like the Alex Mack he had met that it was eerie. But this Alex Mack had none of the skill and experience that the other Alex had. She didn’t move like the other Alex. She moved like she didn’t know what to do next. Like she was afraid.
She probably was
afraid. Of herself. Of her powers. Meta abilities could be pretty scary. And if what Selina told him applied here, even in generalities, then this world’s Alex Mack might be struggling to control several different powers all at the same time.
He had considered thirty-two different ways to initiate the meeting, and he was opting for a low-key, minimal entrance that wouldn’t intimidate the Macks and hopefully wouldn’t cause Alex to see his movements as a threat. He had seen far too many of the ‘hero attacks another hero by mistake’ incidents. No real hero enjoyed that.
All right, Guy Gardner probably did. But Gardner had his own unique personality. That was why Batman had once punched him in the face in the middle of the Watchtower.
So his current opening was simple. He strode around a corner so they would see him from a distance, marched straight toward them, and then used his grapple – the Bat-grapple as Selina and Dick liked to call it when they thought he was being too serious – to fly a hundred feet closer to them, just to prove that he really was the Batman.
He landed a good hundred feet away from them, so they would still feel safe. Then he walked until he was only twenty feet from George Mack. “Mister Mack. Would you please tell me the codephrase I gave you, just for verification?”
George Mack cleared his throat and said, “I believe that Danielle Atron is a scurrilous viper.” He paused and said, “That is right, isn’t it? We couldn’t find any Danielle Atron when we tried to look up her name.”
He said, “That’s correct. And I don’t believe Danielle Atron exists in this dimension. Certainly not with that name. I already investigated.”
George tried not to sound nervous as he said, “And I think you should give us the codephrase that I sent to you. Just so we know it’s you. Nothing personal, you know.”
He nodded, “Good. I’m glad you’re being careful. This is your younger daughter we’re talking about. Your codephrase is ‘the viscosity of a non-Newtonian fluid is dependent on the shear rate or the shear rate history.’ Are you satisfied?”
George glanced over at his wife and then said, “For the moment. But I’m not letting Alex go off with you. I’m here to find out what you have to say, so we can make a decision as a family.”
Mrs. Mack glanced back at Alex and said, “We’d really be a lot happier if Alex could just pretend to be normal. You know, finish high school, and then go off to college, and not have to worry about things like getting attacked by supervillains.”
Batman carefully said, “But if she can’t control her powers perfectly, she’ll always be at risk of exposure. Your entire family will be at risk.”
Annie Mack loyally took Alex’s hand and said, “We’ll take that risk. She’s my sister.”
He insisted, “But you don’t have to take the risk at all. If she’s like most metahumans, she just needs enough training and enough practice that she won’t give herself away every time she gets surprised.”
George Mack asked, “But does she get to come home again afterward? I’ve heard stories about some of these super-teams.”
Batman said, “If she joins one of the groups affiliated with the Justice League, then yes, she can leave when she wants, and take time off when she wants. Also, any activities she engages in would be in costume, so she wouldn’t be recognized when she’s home with you. We would help her lead a normal life. But – let’s be honest here – we would also encourage her to use her powers to fight for what’s right.”
“And who decides that?” asked Mrs. Mack rather sharply.
“She does.” He insisted, “Ultimately, every metahuman has to decide for him or herself what’s the right thing to do, and how much of their life they want to devote to the cause. Some have chosen to devote all of their life. Some have chosen to devote none of their life. Most opt for something in between.”
Annie asked, “But aren’t there lots and lots of metahumans out there?”
He smiled slightly. Someone had done their research, which in this family was utterly unsurprising. “Yes. We current believe the number is in the millions, but all but about one in two hundred has so little power that it looks like random chance. Like the kid who’s amazingly good at sliding a skateboard down a stair railing, or the little old lady who wins regularly at video poker every time she goes to Las Vegas. But it’s that one in two hundred who concerns most people.”
Annie Mack said, “I found a website that said pretty much what you just said, but also said there are ‘alpha, beta, and gamma threats’.”
He nodded. “Right. I don’t like the categorization or the implication that metahumans have to be threats, but it’s workable. An alpha threat is a metahuman so powerful that he or she could destroy an entire city with very little that ordinary humans could do about it.”
“Like Superman?” asked Mrs. Mack.
He replied, “Yes, although Superman has devoted his life to protecting this planet, instead of attacking it. But Doomsday is certainly an alpha threat. Most of the core of the Justice League is considered an alpha threat on that scale, even though people like Green Lantern are really galactic police officers. There are lots of what some people might call beta threats in the Justice League as well. Metamorpho is a good example. And then someone like The Question is more in the category of a gamma threat.”
“And what’s that mean for us?” Mrs. Mack wondered.
“That’s a good question,” Batman replied. “Alex is already at least a gamma threat, or you wouldn’t have needed to set up this meeting. Right? But she may have the potential to be much more than that.”
“Why do you say that?” asked Mrs. Mack.
He decided to go with honesty. “Because I had the opportunity to meet the Alex Mack of another universe. That Alex is the same age as your Alex, and is already possibly the greatest superhero of her planet.”
“Wow,” muttered Annie.
He noticed that Alex flinched a little. So he directed his next words at her. “That Alex has been mastering her powers for five or six years, because she got her powers on the first day she was in seventh grade.”
“Seventh grade?” Alex wondered.
“Yes. And after you have practiced for five years, I think you can be a powerful superhero too.”
He nodded gravely. “Yes. Why don’t you show me what you can do, just using the things around here?”
She gulped and said, “I… I didn’t know there was an audition.”
He realized that a large, intimidating, dark figure was probably the last choice for a superhero who should be in this meeting. He could tell he was intimidating her. Stargirl would have been a much better choice, even if he was the one with the inside knowledge. Even Flash would have been a better choice. He said, “Why don’t I let you meet someone more your age?”
He signaled Robin over the communication system, and Robin came swinging in on a line from the top of one of the taller stacks of junked cars. He landed gracefully about thirty feet behind Batman and strolled over to the meeting.
Alex looked surprised. “Wow, do you have super-hearing?”
Robin grinned, “Nope. We have a comm link. One of the things we do on super-teams is learn how to communicate and help each other. A well-trained team is always a lot better than the original people just working separately.”
She asked, “So you’re in Young Justice?”
Robin agreed, “Yeah, and Nightwing is in the Teen Titans. Plus Huntress does some stuff with one of the Justice League auxiliary teams. It’s good. You get to meet other kids your age who are a lot like you, you make friends, some of us even find significant others. And when you’re all stressed out about trying to do the right thing, or you’re worrying about how being a superhero meshes with being a teenager who has curfew and acne and homework, you have someone to talk to, and people like Superman or the Flash who went through the same thing years ago, and understand.”
Alex nervously winced. “But… what if I’m not any good?”
Robin said, “Just remember. I’m not a metahuman. I have no
superpowers. I’m just smart, and I’ve trained for years with an expert. And I’m not the only one who isn’t a meta. You can
do this. You just have to try.”
Alex looked nervously at her parents, who gave her encouraging nods. She took a deep breath and said, “Okay. So it seems like there’s a couple things I can do. So I can shapeshift into a puddle, which is really lame.” She transformed into a silver semi-liquid which then ran around the SUV, up one of the stacks of cars, and back over to where she stood before. She re-formed and shrugged, “See? Not much.”
Robin asked, “Can you go underwater like that?”
“Can you get hurt when you’re like that?”
“Umm, I don’t think so. I mean, I haven’t gotten hurt yet.”
“And if you have an injury, does it heal up when you do this morph?”
She shrugged. “I have no idea.”
Batman asked, “Can we try with something minor, like a papercut?”
Alex frowned but said, “Oh, sure. I guess.”
Mrs. Mack asked, “What are you getting at?”
Robin said, “Maybe you haven’t realized it, but if she heals automatically when she’s silvery, she already has one of the most useful powers out there. And if she can’t be hurt while she’s silvery, she’s basically invulnerable
“Wow,” Annie whistled.
George Mack stammered, “Y-you mean…”
Batman said, “She should test this out. Lots of metahumans have weaknesses to some known aspect. But this alone is a really impressive power.”
Robin said, “Let’s try something else. What else can you do?”
Alex timidly said, “I can shoot lightning bolts out of my fingers. But they’re hard to control.”
Robin said, “Hey, we’re in a junkyard. No harm, no foul.”
She stepped away from her family and said, “Okay, if you say so…” She pointed at a distant stack of junked cars, and a bolt of lightning zipped across the distance to hit right where she was pointing, sending up a spray of sparks and blasting one side of one of the junkers to burnt pieces. She said, “See? It’s not real safe.”
Robin said, “This is awesome
. This is like Static’s powers. Maybe you’d feel better if you had a place to practice with this power, but this is great. What else?”
Alex said, “Umm, well, telekinesis.”
Annie said, “She can put a sort of telekinetic field around herself so she’s stronger and tougher, and she can use her telekinesis to pick really heavy stuff up with her hands, and she can use it to pick stuff up at a distance.”
Alex said, “Yeah. That. Annie’s been helping me out and keeping me from busting up our room. Much. It’s kind of a huge pain when it gets away from me.”
Mrs. Mack said, “We didn’t dare have a repairman come in to fix the door she ripped out of the wall.”
Dr. Mack said, “And once she smashed the kitchen table just putting her plate down on it.”
Alex was turning a bright red. Robin intervened, “That’s nothing, compared to some of the stories I’ve heard. You just need to practice using your powers and getting used to them.”
Batman said, “Perhaps you could show us what you can do.”
He stood aside while Robin talked Alex through a series of simple exercises, and Alex showed the things she had realized she could do. She had lightning blasts, but they weren’t as powerful as Static. She had shapeshifting, but it wasn’t as powerful as Miss Martian. She had telekinesis, but it wasn’t as powerful as Superboy, even if it could turn out to be more versatile in the long run. She had telekinetic super-strength, but not as powerful as Superboy. And she hadn’t yet figured out that she could fly. But all those powers together made her a powerful meta. A very
powerful meta. Maybe even someone who someday would be in the same league as Superboy or Artemis.
He nodded to himself. With training, she could be… She could be Alex Mack. The other Alex Mack. Or at least this universe’s version of Alex Mack, who would probably be more powerful, simply because the physics of this universe allowed it.
He could tell that Alex’s family wanted to protect her more than anything else. Even more than their own safety. In some ways, they reminded him of Clark’s parents. That sort of moral foundation and loving family would stand a hero in good stead when things went horribly wrong, as they inevitably would some day.
He stepped over to Dr. and Mrs. Mack. “I think that Alex needs a chance to learn how to use her powers before she outs herself, or does a great deal of damage. She’s already what they call a beta threat, and one day she might be an alpha threat. She needs to learn control. If she accidentally knocks over a gasoline truck on her way to school, or she accidentally releases a lightning burst that fries a restaurant full of people, it’ll be too late. Now is the time to get her that help.”
Mrs. Mack nearly burst into tears, but she still said, “But what about school? And her friends? And we don’t want to lose her!”
He said, “You won’t lose her. You have to understand. This is to keep from losing her. You simply tell the school and her friends that on this little family trip she keeled over, and you rushed her to a hospital, and you don’t know what’s wrong, but you’re very worried about her. Then one of you can go with her to Titans Tower or Young Justice headquarters so you can see that we’re helping her and taking good care of her.”
George Mack frowned, “We just wanted her to have a normal life.”
He patiently said, “She can still have a normal life. But the only way she can do that is if she can keep from revealing that she’s a meta. She needs training with her powers, and training in how not to expose her secret. And I can see that she has a solid moral foundation from you two, so she’s going to want
to stop criminals and help people. That means that she needs to learn how to have a secret identity, and how to preserve it. We can help with all of that.”
Alex pointed at Robin and asked, “But… umm… I don’t have to wear a costume like that, do I? Because… seriously?”
Robin laughed and explained, “If you join the team and get to know us, some day I’ll tell you why I chose these colors and this style of uniform. But you can design your own uniform, if you want. It’s not like we all dress alike. All you have to do is look at the Justice League. No two members have even slightly similar costumes. Aquaman doesn’t even wear a costume, and Green Lantern wears the uniform of the intergalactic Green Lantern Corps.”
Batman said, “And we have people who can help you design an effective uniform that will conceal your identity and also help you in your role as a superheroine.”
Robin slapped his own chest and said, “Yeah. Right here? Top of the line body armor that makes Kevlar look like kleenex. You may want something like that in your uniform. Superboy doesn’t bother, but he’s Superboy.”
Alex finally said, “I wish I could be like that… but I’m not.”
Batman said, “Right now this all feels overwhelming. It seems like too much. Like you’ll never be up to the challenge. But that’s because you haven’t had the chance to learn what you can do. To learn what you can do as part of a team like Young Justice. The self-confidence that Robin has? He learned how to do the things he can do. He earned it. He didn’t start out like this. So don’t worry that you’re feeling nervous and worried. Anyone normal ought to be feeling that way. As you learn to use your powers, and you mature, you’ll gain that self-confidence. And more importantly, you’ll be the kind of person who deserves
to have that kind of confidence.”
He could see by the expression on her face that he had won. She didn’t believe in herself, but she wanted to. And the fact that someone like Batman believed was what she needed right now.
He could see that Alex could get that kind of confidence if she had a team around her to help her mature. Maybe that was what the other world’s Alex had really needed. That, and the chance to see that she had what it took to be a real superheroine.
He wondered if the real Alex Mack was taking his advice, off in her own universe. He hoped so. He was willing to admit to himself that he wasn’t contented or well-adjusted, even with Selina in his life, and Dick back in his life. It would be nice if someone, somewhere could be doing what needed to be done, and yet be happy.
A/N: There is a reason that there are no scenes with Alex Mack seeking out people in her universe. That’s because the next story in this series is called “The Secret Return of Alex Mack.”
A/N: I appreciate all the reviews and recommendations, for this story and for my others on this site. If there's a chapter or arc in this story you particularly enjoyed, I would appreciate getting a recommendation (and a review - I love hearing about what you liked, and where you think I can improve). If you really liked one of my other stories, I'd appreciate getting a recommendation there, too (or at least a constructive review). Remember, without encouragement, our favorite authors may decide to stop writing; I've seen it happen all too often. And without constructive (but polite) criticism, authors are not going to improve, because they won't see what we have noticed. Thanks, everyone.