She gagged for air as he held her tightly around her throat, her feet dangling nearly a foot off the floor. The only thing she could do is look at him, confusion running amok in her eyes. What was happening; why was he attacking her? His red eyes glared at her, angry at her feeble attempt to escape. For the first time since meeting one another, she was truly terrified of him.
“I am not the Martian Manhunter you have grown accustomed to… and for your defiance, you will pay with your life!” he growled at her. Before Tabitha could register what he meant, she felt a sharp, excruciating pain go through her abdomen. As she went through shock from the pain, she willed herself to look down; the Martian slowly retracted his hand away from her stomach, blood dripping to the floor and seeping down his arm. It was… her own blood. She felt her body trying to shut everything down as her vision slowly blurred; the last thing she saw was a cruel smile painted on the Martian’s face. As darkness formed around her, the only thing she could hear was her faint, shallow breathing.
She popped up and gasped, trying desperately to catch her breath. She blinked until her vision adjusted to the dark, her body trembling and her limbs burning. A dream, she tried to calm herself down. She turned and saw that she was alone in her bed, a familiar charred smell entering her nostrils. Panicked, her shaky hands reached for the lamp and she saw what had burned; her sheets.
“Shit…” she held her head in her hands. She needed to calm down before she could think of anything else. Once her breathing went back to normal, she took a deep breath and willed herself to gather the tattered sheets.
Walking to the laundry room, she recalled her dream: she knew that she was in Watchtower but something was eerie about it. She had been approached by J’onn… or so she thought it was J’onn; he was dressed differently in an all-black suit garnished with a thin blue belt with two blue bands across his forearms and shins. His massive blue cape draped across the width of his shoulders and was held in place by a red orb (she figured it represented Mars). She was about to ask why he had changed his outfit until he roughly grabbed her and put her inside a containment cell. There, she met a man who offered to help her escape from who he called the “Justice Lords”. It was his demeanor that made her trust him; his green eyes showed sympathy for her confusion.
She threw the charred sheets away and looked for a new set, still thinking about the green-eyed, bald stranger that was more than willing to help her in her dreams. She blushed slightly as she remembered his touch as well as his willingness to put himself in danger so that she was able to escape. A chill traveled throughout her spine as she remembered what happened when the Justice Lord J’onn caught her. It all felt so real to her; the terror returned as she tried to close her eyes and forget about the dream.
He wondered what she was doing up so late and why she had found her way inside the laundry room. It wasn’t off limits to any of the League members; however, it was the civilians’ job to launder, not theirs. The Martian didn’t think that he would startle her so he was taken by surprise when she jumped and gasped as he touched her. She quickly turned and tried to back away from him, running into the folding table. Her eyes were overwhelmed with terror, her body began to quiver and her breathing became ragged; the sight was enough for J’onn to back away from her.
“Tabitha…” he tried and was completely taken off guard as a sob suddenly escaped her mouth. Tears ran down to her cheeks as she covered her mouth and collapsed into a ball on the floor. He didn’t care if anyone saw; she needed to be comforted. J’onn gathered her up and held her as tight as he could, “What’s wrong; what happened?” he didn’t like that she sobbed uncontrollably… and was stiff in his arms. The terror slowly left her and she realized who was holding her, waiting patiently as she calmed down. Tears still streaked down to her chin as she looked into his confused eyes.
“J-J’onn…” her voice quivered. He slightly sighed for relief as her body finally relaxed and she held on tightly to his arms, “I’m… I’m so sorry. I had… a bad dream…”
“There’s nothing to worry about. I’m right here. Was it that terrifying?” he half whispered, attempting to wipe the tears from her eyes. She gave him a weak nod.
“Y-You… killed me…” she started to tremble yet again.
“What…? I would never hurt you…”
“I know, I know. It just… felt so real. I felt everything! The way you… looked at me… like I was… disgusting…” she trailed off.
“Tabitha… it was only a nightmare… trust me; I would never look at you in that way…”
“It scared me to death…” her voice finally became normal, “You had joined this… ‘Justice Lords’ group and…”
“The Justice Lords? You had a dream about the Justice Lord version of myself?” the urgency in his voice was very noticeable to her.
“Black attire… blue bands…”
“You… h-he’s real?!”
“In a manner of speaking. Come.” he tried to pull her up with him however she was frozen with fear, “It’s okay. There’s something I want to show you.” he reassured. Still tense, Tabitha followed him back to the control room. With a few keystrokes, an image appeared on one of the monitors. She swallowed hard as the image from her dream was glaring at her from the screen; she didn’t take notice of the others, “The Justice Lords. A cruel version of the founding members from another dimension, an alternate universe. They trapped us in their world in order to take over ours. They’ve long become incarcerated… although in their dimension…” he pulled up an article that was published in The Daily Planet newspaper for Tabitha to read.
“What does he want from me…?” she whispered as she read. The Martian shook his head.
“It may be too early to jump to conclusions… even though I wouldn’t put it past them to do something like that.”
“Wait… who is that…?” she pointed to another picture on the page, “The bald man. He was there, in my dream…”
“… Lex Luthor was there as well?”
“That’s Lex Luthor?!”
“Yes. Was he helping out the Justice Lords?”
“No. He was helping… me.” the thought made her slightly blush, “He was… really nice.”
“He’s a master manipulator.”
“So I’ve heard…” she mumbled. She studied the picture of him; he didn’t appear to look like the bad guy that Clark and the others painted him out to be. However, she knew all too well that looks could be deceiving, “What does this all mean…” she couldn’t help but to wonder. J’onn put a loving arm around her shoulder.
“It could mean nothing. Just a simple… bad dream…” he had really hoped. The chances were slight that any of the Justice Lords would tamper with someone’s mind, especially one who had no connection to them or the incident. He couldn’t explain why Luthor was there, posing as a “good guy”; it was something that he would do, J’onn reasoned. However, Tabitha had met neither the Justice Lords nor Lex Luthor; he had doubts that her nightmare meant anything, “If it will make you feel better, I’ll sleep with you…”
“No… I don’t think I’m gonna go back to sleep any time soon…” she made the decision. She knew that she couldn’t; the dream was still too fresh in her mind.
“You’re on light duty until you get some decent sleep.”
“Tabitha… I will do all that it takes to keep you safe. There is no way that I will allow the Justice Lords or Lex Luthor… or anyone hurt you… not if I can control it.” he declared. She could only look at him, more tears threatening to cloud her vision. Without warning, she gave him a loving kiss.
The nightmares did not stop for her. Every night, a different founding member attempted to seriously injure or kill her altogether. In every one, Lex Luthor was there to help her in some form or fashion; if not to help, he was there to sacrifice himself so that she could escape the wrath. She couldn’t tell J’onn about every single one; she didn’t want to worry him more than he already was. She knew that they were nightmares however she knew that it wasn’t purely coincidental that the criminal mastermind was present in every single one; she knew that he had a hand in manipulating her dreams somehow. The breaking point was when she realized that she hadn’t slept in a week to avoid the nightmares. She had enough by that point; she needed to settle it with the supposedly source.
She didn’t have a real plan; she didn’t even think that it would take long to figure things out. Tabitha assumed that she would be back at least in a day so she told no one when she left Watchtower. The only place she knew to start looking for Luthor was in Metropolis; even though Clark and J’onn were adamant about the inability to trust him, she did see that he didn’t hide from the public.
She was surprised at how little he hid, as she stared at the large building, LexCorp proudly displayed on the front for everyone to see. She shook her head as she walked inside.
“You gotta be kidding me; it can’t be this easy…” she mumbled as she walked towards the receptionist desk. The lobby was immaculate with pure white marble floors and pristine matching walls. The redheaded receptionist gave her a warm smile, despite of how Tabitha looked.
“Welcome to LexCorp; do you have an appointment?” she cheerfully asked. If anything, Tabitha was impressed at the customer service skills; that told her that the mastermind only employed the best. The question, however, made her bite her lip. She had no real plan, she realized yet again; she had figured that her search would take at least a day and that would give her time to formulate one. Was she really bold enough to just demand to see the man?
“Uh… actually… I don’t…” she stumbled. The redhead’s hazel eyes gleamed as she smiled even more.
“Your accent… you wouldn’t happen to be Tabitha Lyght, would you?” she surprised her. Tabitha just blinked at the lady.
“Uh… yeah; yes…”
“Mr. Luthor’s been expecting you for quite some time, now!” she immediately got on the phone, “Sir, your appointment is here. Miss Lyght. Yes, sir. He wants me to personally escort you. This way, please…” she kept her perfect smile as she led her towards the elevators. She had to admit that she would’ve been more comfortable if she had crashed into the lobby, threatening people until the man showed his face! However, seeing that he was expecting her made Tabitha realize that the nightmares were not merely coincidental.
Inside the elevator, the petite receptionist looked Tabitha over, still with a smile plastered on her face. Tabitha looked at her.
“I’m sorry. I’ve just been really curious for a couple of weeks now; what business do you have with Mr. Luthor?” she simply asked.
“If… if I told you… you won’t believe me…” Tabitha left it at that. The woman simply nodded.
“I see. I was just curious; you’re all he’s talked about for weeks! I’ve never seen him so animated over anyone… well, not a woman, anyways…” she finished. It was enough for Tabitha to shoot her a look.
“Wait… you saying that Mr. Luthor’s… you know…” she raised her eyebrows and snapped her fingers in a zig-zag motion. It was enough to make the woman laugh heartily.
“Oh; no! Mr. Luthor’s had eight wives…”
“Yeah; unlucky in love but very successful. It’s the only relationship he can really count on…” she noted as the elevator doors opened. Tabitha looked in awe at what laid beyond the open mahogany doors; a massive office with plush cream carpet. The walls had the same mahogany paneling, adorned with various art pieces. In the middle of the room was an all glass desk with none other than Lex Luthor sitting behind it. He swiveled towards the two, busy on the phone. He gave his receptionist a plain look however when his eyes landed on Tabitha, his green eyes shone and a slow smile appeared across his lips.
“My appointment is here.” he simply said and immediately hung up the phone. As he stood, so did the woman who was sitting on the loveseat adjacent to the desk. She reminded Tabitha of a vampire; her v-cut black dress hugged her slim figure tightly and flowed down to the carpet, exposing the majority of her right leg. Her purple hair hung past her hips, her eyes seemed milky, almost translucent and the cross-like brooch that laid perfectly over her jugular notch put more emphasis on the v-cut in the dress.
As the receptionist got back on the elevator, Luthor approached the lightning woman, his smile never leaving. She blushed as she looked him over, admitting that he was more dynamic in person than in her dreams. His tailor-made suit almost envied those of Bruce’s, putting emphasis on his broad shoulders. It definitely said “power” and “success”, Tabitha thought. The little steps that he took towards her immediately emanated charisma, elegance and confidence… nothing criminal or cynical at all. His smile alone warmed her, making her cheeks ache even more, and his green eyes became brighter as he neared her. She was close to becoming totally mesmerized by his presence had she not remembered suddenly the reason she was there in the first place; she quickly narrowed her eyes at him.
“Miss Lyght. This is Tala, my personal assistant.” he coolly and quickly introduced, “You are more… beautiful than I had imagined…” his words surprised both women in the room, “It is definitely an absolute pleasure to finally meet you.” he tried to grab her hand. She reluctantly backed away, remembering her goal.
“C-Cut off the charm! I just wanna know why… and how you’ve been haunting my dreams!” she glared at him. Luthor chuckled slightly.
“No beating around the bush for you, I see! I really like that…” his green eyes became sultry, “My dear, it was the only way to guarantee a meeting with you. I’m pretty sure that those…‘friends’ of yours have filled your head with some pretty mean things about me…” he said. Her eyebrows lifted slightly; she knew by his tone that he was speaking about the Justice League, “I’m sorry, Miss Lyght; was I not supposed to know that you’re a part of the Justice League? Or, would you rather be called Miss Strykher…?” when she heard that name, she couldn’t hide her surprise.
“You know way too much…”
“Do I? It wasn’t like you were trying to keep it all a secret! I will admit that I am pleased to see how you look without the mask…” the sultry look returned in his eyes, making her blush furiously, “Well, seeing as how you’re cooped up in space, I figured there was no need to hide your identity. Tell me; don’t you feel… underappreciated up there?”
“… N-No. Every member has their purpose…” she defended.
“No? Why is it that I don’t see you on the front cover of every newspaper?”
“… I’m no Superman. We all can’t save the day…”
“Ha! ‘Save the day’?! You honestly think that your group can do what civilians have done longer than them? Do you think that they truly have good intentions? With their ungodly-like powers, who’s to say when they’ll eventually turn against us?!”
“You’re wrong. Superman and Batman… they would never turn their back on the people they’ve vowed to protect! And I’m a part of ‘em; you think I’d do something like that?!”
“Of course not. You? Why, you’re different. I believe that you’re better than they are. Your powers were… forced on you.”
“You know way too fucking much…” she mumbled, shaking her head. Lex smiled and approached her yet again, walking around her.
“It’s nothing against you, my dear; I make it my business to know a lot of things. Miss Lyght… why are you not being praised along with Superman, Wonder Woman and the Martian Manhunter? When you fight… you’re the one fighting the good fight. You didn’t come here from another planet; this is your home planet! It should be you fighting for the 99%, taking credit!”
“I’m a team player, Mr. Luthor…”
“And, why should you be, especially when they try to hide you from the public? You know what they are? Glory hogs. How did you feel when you were with Spider-Man, Miss Lyght? Didn’t you feel… liberated? The only ones that tried to stop you… were the villains.” he had smoothly closed in the gap between the two, “The Justice League… they’re your villains, Tabitha. They hinder you. If you were with me… I would never hinder you. We could form a partnership and I would make sure you’re given credit where credit is due. You wouldn’t have to hide your identity behind some… mask. You would be able to do whoever…” he slyly chuckled; he was so close to her, he could feel her heart racing, “I meant… whatever you wanted to do. Doesn’t that sound better than being cooped up in space, being a glorified super electrician?” he asked. Another word to describe him popped into her head; magnetic. She had never been seduced before and had to admit that he was doing an excellent job; she hadn’t stopped blushing since she walked inside the room. She quickly saw why there had been eight women who had the pleasure of calling themselves Mrs. Luthor; the man was charismatic, powerful, alluring, confident…
She couldn’t move as he began to lean in closer to her, preparing her for a kiss. It alarmed her that he knew so much about her; he knew that she was Peter’s sidekick, he knew all about the experiment gone wrong that turned her into a Metahuman, he knew her second super heroine alias… he knew that she was aboard Watchtower, handling its electrical and electronic affairs. It was then when she realized the other words she could use to describe him: manipulative, egotistical… criminal mastermind. She did the only thing she could think of; as his green eyes became hooded, she placed her hand on his chest (she had to add “toned” to the list of words as well) and gave him a shock that was enough to make him quickly jump away from her, giving her a surprised look. She smiled slightly.
“Alright, first off… my personal space: clearly you invaded the hell out of! Second; I’m spoken for…” she almost took delight at his expression; something he didn’t know, “And, I don’t think my boyfriend or your personal assistant would take kindly to you trying to molest me!” she nodded towards Tala; she had seen the sneers and disdained looks she had given the two, “Call me what you want but I know a shitful of people up there that don’t mind me being a ‘super electrician’… and I would never desert them. They’re my friends. I’d rather spend the rest of my life up in space by myself than another second in here with you! Now… if you don’t wanna feel what you just felt a hundred times over… I suggest you stay out my head… however the hell you’re doing it! Goodbye, Mr. Luthor.” she glared at him before turning to leave. Before she could reach the mahogany doors, she felt a piercing pain that traveled up her spine and quickly to her head, making her drop to the ground, unconscious. Tala retracted her magic and watched, slightly seething as Lex went over to pick up the lightning woman, a small smile on his lips.
“Oh, Miss Lyght; I really did want to do things the easy way with you…” he shook his head solemnly as he placed her closer to Tala. He was never without a backup plan; he really did hope that he would be able to simply talk Tabitha into siding with him, playing on the theory that she was being suppressed by the Justice League. For the first time in a while, he didn’t fully lie; he did feel that she would be better off with him. His political career would see drastic gains introducing her as the new face of the people; he knew that the public would eat up the fact that she was former military, alone.
He nodded at Tala and she began a magical chant; his backup plan, had Tabitha declined would be to magically brainwash her into siding with him. He knew that she would be no match against Superman and probably the majority rest of the Justice League; that was what Cadmus would be there for: to enhance her powers so that she would be on par with the Man of Steel.
As Tala started her chant, she was glad that Luthor had no idea that the “plans” had changed. For as long as she worked for Cadmus in what they simply deemed as their “mystical department”, she had vied for Lex’s affection. She knew that he was somewhat coldhearted in the love department however the little attention he had shown her made her fall more in love with him. She had figured if she simply did as he requested of her, he would eventually see how loyal she was to him.
Those hopes and dreams were quickly dashed as she could do nothing but watch as he tried to seduce the lightning woman. A wicked smile crept on her face as she finished her chant and a portal appeared above the unconscious woman. Luthor raised an eyebrow and drew his attention immediately to Tala.
“What is this?” he demanded. It was too late, Tala knew as a black shadow appeared from the portal. The dark figure let out an ear piercing screech as it became transparent and entered Tabitha’s body. Luthor grabbed Tala painfully by her arm, “What did you just do?! This wasn’t part of the plan!” he snarled at her. As the demon completed its possession, Tabitha’s eyes popped open. She screamed out in pain, curling into a ball, convulsing. Despite the pressure on her arm, Tala continued to smile.
“Let’s see how attractive she is with a demon inside of her!” she spat.
“You ungrateful…” he raised his hand to hit her; she had ruined everything that he had planned. Or, had she? He had a sudden change of heart as he roughly pushed her away from him and watched as Tabitha stopped convulsing, struggling to stand. He went over to help but stopped in his tracks as she let out a painful moan that slowly converted into an amplified, almost inhuman growl. She finally stood fully upright and slowly stretched. When she turned and looked at the two, they both noticed that her whiskey brown eyes were no more; she glared at them with ominous, jet black eyes.
“Miss Lyght…” Luthor tried, he had a feeling in vain. She gave him a malicious grin, approaching him slowly.
“Is that the human’s name?” she chuckled, a somewhat mix of her former voice and the demon’s, “She is no longer with us; trapped inside of this body…” the hybrid did a quick look over of its new body, an approving sound escaping its lips, “This will have to do. Mmm… the power contained in this body; this built up… rage!”
“I may be of some assistance, helping you… release some of that rage…” Luthor tried. The possessed woman eyed him and smiled wider.
“You? What could you possibly do for me besides becoming my servant? What could you offer me, human?”
“My services… as your number one servant…” it slightly pained him to take a backseat however he realized that it was a demon he was trying to strike a deal with, “It’s come to my attention that we both want something… and can benefit from each other’s help. We have something in common, I presume: world domination. I can guarantee it…”
“How can a lone human promise me this?”
“By doing things my way. I’m pretty sure that you’ve tapped into the woman’s abilities. But… there are others who are much more powerful than she is; causing chaos now will guarantee your downfall. My company can enhance those powers, making her… you stronger than the ones who are about to oppose you. Once those individuals are out of the way… there will be no stopping you…” he smiled. She returned the smile, tracing his jawline slowly.
“I sense that you could be of some use to me…” she lowly growled. Irritated, Tala gathered all of her mystical powers, preparing to attack the possessed woman. However, without looking, the hybrid raised her arm and sent a stream of lightning her way, shocking her unconscious. Luthor gave Tala an amused look.
“Looks like your plan backfired…”
“Enough taunting; you will show me that you deserve to be my main servant!” the hybrid demanded. He couldn’t hide his smile even if he wanted to.
“As you wish…”
He couldn’t understand why no one else seemed as worried as he was or that they hadn’t paid any attention; his girlfriend was definitely missing. Watchtower was indeed large enough for quite a few superheroes to go unnoticed for days. However, this was his girlfriend as well as the unofficial electrician of the space station; she had to report to him on a daily basis. J’onn tried to put the thought in the back of his mind; maybe she went down on Earth to visit the professor and her family. The Martian would have believed this theory… had she responded to any of his telepathic messages. He knew that she had all but mastered making her mind blank whenever she thought he would go through it but this was a different circumstance; he was being blocked.
“Dr. Lindsey…” he was glad that he had given her a communicator.
“J’onn! Really? Do I go around calling you ‘Mr. Manhunter’?” he could hear the laughter in her voice.
“I’m sorry; I hope I’m not intruding.”
“Between classes right now. I got a few minutes; what’s up?”
“… Is Tabitha with you…?”
“Tabs? No… I ain’t seen her since Vegas. Wait… you can’t find her? She’s gone missing…?”
“I… I don’t know for sure. I don’t want to jump to conclusions, especially if she’s simply visiting family.” he lied. He knew that she was missing and that something was definitely wrong; he didn’t want to worry her best friend.
“Is her communicator broken? Isn’t there a way to track her down through it?”
“I have tried that. It’s either turned off or out of range… which, there aren’t many places where it would go out of range…”
“Which means, regardless, she may be in some trouble. Unless… a secret mission, maybe?”
“… Maybe… I need to check around…” he admitted that he didn’t think of that option. He didn’t approve of secret missions; they were usually the most dangerous ones. To think that Tabitha would risk her safety just to say that she went on a major mission bothered him almost as much as her being missing.
“Keep me posted; I’ll do the same if she shows up here.”
“Thank you, Jamila…”
He had checked with almost everyone in the League and found that no one recruited her for a classified mission. The Martian realized that she had two other friends who were superheroes and checked with Tony and Peter; neither had seen her in a while as well. J’onn even resorted to talking to Nick Fury and was actually thankful that he heard no word from her. He had decided to check her room and hoped that he would find some type of clue in there.
The first thing that he clearly noticed was her bed; it wasn’t made up. The one thing he knew about his girlfriend was that she was strict on keeping things tidy and orderly; her bed being the main thing. The second thing that grabbed his attention was the slight pungent smell coming from her nightstand. When she first received the scented oils, he just assumed that his senses were just really over sensitive; he had smelt the odor faintly then. As he approached the small dresser, grabbing the vials and the warmer jar, it was clear that there was something wrong with the oils. He left her room immediately with the items, heading towards the first lab he would run into.
Bruce had noticed that the Martian left Tabitha’s room with a sense of urgency and knew that something was wrong. He almost had to run to catch up to him.
“J’onn… everything okay?” he saw that the Martian hadn’t stopped walking.
“No. Tabitha is missing… and I need these oils analyzed.” he rushed, quickly showing the three small bottles to him. He was confused; what was wrong with the oils that Ethan had given her? He shrugged in his mind and continued to follow J’onn to the nearest lab; he knew that the Martian had advanced senses: if he felt that something wasn’t right… it usually wasn’t.
He then realized the first part that J’onn mentioned: Tabitha was missing. Without thinking, he grabbed the vials and started to prep them for analysis.
“What do you mean, missing?”
“I have tried everything in my power to get in contact with her; nothing is working. No one’s seen her in days.” his words alarmed Bruce. He gave him a worried look.
“Do you think…” he couldn’t finish his sentence; there was no way, he quickly thought. Bruce was glad that J’onn slowly shook his head.
“No…” he answered and closed his eyes, “I can still sense her.”
It took Bruce only thirty minutes to analyze all of the oils. As he looked at the results, he gave them a puzzled look.
“All three of the oils… they’re… neurotoxins…” he announced, looking at the Martian, “It’s not enough to kill anyone… but…”
“… Enough to affect brain behavior…” J’onn made the sudden realization. Her sudden nightmares; they hadn’t occurred until after her birthday.
“This doesn’t make sense; Ethan would never hurt her intentionally. He still cares for her…” Bruce defended his friend.
“He was being used. Someone knew that she wouldn’t reject anything that he gives her; they knew that she would trust him.”
“I need to talk to him; find out who gave him the oils…”
“No need… I already know…” J’onn thought about her dreams. In every one, a Justice League member was attacking her. The only other constant was who else was there, “… Luthor…”
“Luthor? But… why? What does he want with her?”
“I can only speculate. Turn her against the rest of us, maybe. She was having nightmares about us attacking her; Luthor always came to her rescue.” he explained. Bruce sighed and looked at him.
“J’onn…” he thought twice about mentioning that he knew about the two dating. The only reason why he wanted to mention it was because he knew how the Martian was feeling at the moment. The same as he did; beyond worried about the whereabouts of his friend. He knew that J’onn would want to go looking for her by himself, something that he had no problem with; it would be what he would do.
However, the plan to get to Tabitha had been almost extremely intricate; the mere idea that Luthor had went through such lengths had sickened Bruce. If he was evil enough to slowly poison her, to manipulate her dreams in such a crude way, there was no telling what else he had planned for the lightning woman. This would be the one time that Bruce had to admit more than one person would have to search for her.
“If Luthor went through this much trouble to get to Tabitha… some backup may be needed to get her back.” he finished his thought aloud; he would have another chance to mention about their secret relationship. J’onn sighed and nodded; he knew that the man was right. His emotions were high and fighting with one another; he would definitely need someone else there with him to keep things calm or at least orderly.
“I don’t want the entire League involved; only the people that she really cares about…” he decided. Bruce nodded at him and got up.
“I’ll get Wally; Diana’s already on a mission.”
“Get Dr. Lin… Jamila on the communicator; her brother’s wife may be helpful. Contact Stark as well.” J’onn ordered. He wasted no time teleporting himself to New York, using his Martian senses to track down Peter.
“J’onn! Found Tabby yet?”
“No. She’s… in trouble.”
“I usually don’t go outside the League for help but I’m willing to make an exception. I have a feeling that we’re going to need some help from the ones she considers her friends.”
“Of course, you can count me in; whatever it takes to save her. How… how bad off is she?” Peter needed to know. The Martian slightly sighed and shook his head.
“Pretty bad if something’s actually blocking my telepathy to get in contact with her…”
“Holy… let’s go save her!”
“J’onn… I think I found something…” Bruce raced through the streets of Metropolis, “There’s an investigation going on at a hotel; people have been hurt by electrical mishaps.” he started to explain through his communicator.
“My thoughts exactly. Guess who owns the building: Luthor.”
“Give me the coordinates to the hotel and then go talk to the people who’ve been hurt.”
“… They’re all in serious condition.” the silence was deafening eerie between the two. The thought made the Martian cringe; something was definitely not right with Tabitha: she wouldn’t hurt innocent people. He glanced at her closest friends who had been on standby.
“We’ll meet you at the hotel…”
The five debriefed the hotel manager and was allowed to look around the premises. For a prestigious, five-star hotel, it was nearly abandoned all thanks to the “mishaps” with the electrical components.
“So… how do we know that dawling is behind all of this?”
“It’s too much of a coincidence; Luthor owns the hotel where electrical accidents happen?” Ashley looked at Tony. He shrugged.
“Doesn’t sound like her… at all…”
“… I think she’s been seriously brainwashed…” Wally piped in quietly. He didn’t want to let the others know his true instincts; it would only have them come to terms with the inevitable if it was true, “You know that if that’s the case… we’re going to have to fight her. She won’t come with us quietly…” the idea made the Martian lose his quick pace. That was something he hadn’t prepared for; the only thing on his mind was tracking down and saving the one he loved. Would he find the heart to physically fight her?
“Then, that’s what we’ll have to do to get her back…” Bruce mentally shook his head at the thought. He knew that he was right; they would have to show no mercy if need be. He quickly glanced at J’onn, whose expression didn’t change and knew that the idea was hurting him as well.
As the group rounded the corner, J’onn stopped dead in his tracks, looking at the closed double doors leading into the hotel’s convention center.
“… J’onn…?” Peter looked at the doors as well when his spider senses kicked in.
“… She’s in there…” any other time, he would’ve simply burst through the door and grabbed her. However, not only was he feeling her presence… but someone, or something else.
“Something else is in there with her…” Peter confirmed. Tony looked at the doors with a thoughtful look and then turned to the Martian.
“Well… it’s now or never. Are we going to do things nicely… or go all hard-assed?”
“I’m really not in the mood to play nice…” J’onn narrowed his eyes at the doors; whatever was in there was more than likely the reason his telepathy was being blocked… and had Tabitha.
“Yes; my thoughts exactly!” Tony aimed his arm at the doors, quickly blasting them with a proton beam. As the group moved in, they were immediately met with a surge of lightning, knocking all of them aside. Tony looked around at everyone else, making sure that they were okay, “Was not expecting that!” he looked towards where the surge came from. In the back of the room, he spotted his friend, waves of currents covering her entire body. She glared at the group with an evil smile as she made her way towards them.
“You were right; they fell for the trap too easily!” the group noticed the change in her voice.
“… Tabby…?” Wally weakly asked as he gathered enough strength to stand. She did a Lightning Cloud towards him, becoming face-to-face with him. She glared at him.
“Try again…” she confirmed, putting her hands around his neck. She released a powerful wave that made him immediately drop to the ground.
“No…” J’onn made his way over to the two. He sadly admitted that Wally was right; they were going to fight her. He grabbed her by the arm, only to be met by a powerful shock. She turned and glared at him; that was when he noticed the change in her eye color, “You… you’re not Tabitha…” was the last thing she allowed him to say; she delivered a quick and fierce punch to his stomach, taking the Martian by complete surprise. He was taken off guard yet again as he felt the side of her foot to his face, lightning applied at its max capacity; the blow was enough to put him to his knees.
“I thought you said the Martian was a tough opponent. Why isn’t he fighting back?” she looked up. Luthor appeared from the back of the room, chuckling slightly.
“I have no idea, my dear…” he responded. She continued to glare at J’onn as she slowly approached him.
“Oh… I see, now. The human has a special bond with him…” she crouched down, roughly grabbing his chin so that he was looking at her, “Since you won’t fight back… I’m going to let her watch as I slowly torture you…” her eyes lightened up slightly as she continued to glare at him, charging up. She flinched slightly and chuckled, “She’s begging me to leave you alone… how pathetic!” the hybrid let loose all of the contained energy, pushing the Martian several feet away.
“J’onn!” Ashley quickly went to her canteen. As she released some of her water and made it form into a ball, she looked over sadly at what used to be Tabitha, “Sorry…” she apologized as she pushed the ball towards her. It engulfed the lightning woman and before she could fight it off, Ashley turned it into ice. She glared over at Luthor, gathering more water to throw at him as he tried to make his way towards the ball of ice. However, she was stopped short as an orb of purple formed around her hands; Tala appeared beside Lex, controlling the magically induced circle. Peter threw a web at one of the chairs and swung it over to hit Luthor, throwing him towards the wall. He immediately threw webs towards his wrists, pinning him firmly on the wall. Bruce threw a Batarang towards Tala, making her retract her magic from Ashley’s hands. She glared at Tala as she threw a powerful stream of water towards her, knocking her into the wall besides Luthor. Before she could use her magic, Ashley threw her hand out, controlling Tala’s hand, “Talk before I give you an aneurism…”
“You… can’t… do that…” Tala struggled to move.
“I own your blood, now; don’t try me…” with another flick of the wrist, she made Tala drop to her knees, “What’s wrong with our friend?”
“Possessed…” without a word, she produced more water from her canteen and froze Luthor’s wrists to the wall, “Why would you do that to her?!”
“She’s prone to jealousy…” Lex glanced towards Tala, “I’ve done nothing but help her, which is less than I can say about your group…” he spat out. Before she could respond, the cracking sound of the ice barrier she created was heard. Everyone put their attention towards the bubble as it shattered, releasing its prisoner. The possessed woman glared at the others who were surrounding her, obviously angry about being put in an ice orb. She immediately charged up and filled the area with lightning. Ashley quickly put up an ice shield and gave Lex a warning stare.
“‘Help’ her? Look at her! That isn’t Tabitha!”
“You made her hold all of that power inside of her! The woman you see before you is Miss Lyght!” Luthor looked on as the possessed woman fought her friends with ease. Wally looked over at Peter and Bruce.
“What do we do; she’s obviously stronger than us…”
“… We gang up on her… and show no mercy…” Bruce actually eyed the Martian, who hadn’t thrown a punch her way; he couldn’t. He knew that she wasn’t her normal self; she had been possessed. However, looking at her… he didn’t want to hurt her.
Ashley put her attention back to the two that she held captive.
“No… that’s not the Tabitha we know. Fix her…” she glared at the man. Luthor shrugged but returned the glare.
“I can’t… she was the one who summoned the demon…” he nodded towards Tala.
“… Don’t make me show how powerful I am; do something…” she released her hold of the woman.
“… I can do a reverse chant and place the demon in a container with the Seal of Solomon.” Tala started a chant that drew the attention of the hybrid.
“No you don’t…” it said and threw lightning towards the woman, knocking her unconscious.
“Damnit…” Ashley jumped out the way before the stream of lightning hit her as well. She narrowed her eyes, debating on controlling her friend’s body. She finally saw the dilemma, as well as how J’onn felt; she couldn’t. She only used the ability when it was truly necessary… and she didn’t like to use it then.
Luthor saw that Ashley was thinking of something and his eyes widened.
“My dear, she’s planning something!” his voice made the hybrid immediately put its attention towards Ashley, throwing a powerful surge her way. It was enough to knock her unconscious as well, making J’onn narrow his eyes.
“Are you going to fight now, Martian? Or, do I have to hit someone else?” before he could respond, it threw lightning towards Bruce, rendering him helpless, “What will it take to make you fight? Oh… I know…” the hybrid did a Lightning Cloud towards the Martian and gave him a sadistic smile, “Don’t you wish you could go into my mind… to hear that human scream in pain…? She’s watching me destroy the ones she love, slowly, one by one… and when I’m done, I will destroy her soul!” it hissed. It was finally enough to make the Martian snap. He growled as he wrapped his hand around her neck, slamming her into the wall.
“If you hurt her…” he angrily grumbled but the hybrid only laughed.
“She’s already suffering! And there isn’t anything you can do about it…” it released another powerful surge, knocking J’onn away a few feet, “I expected the others to be weak but not you! Your weakness alone will be the very thing that kills this human!” it said. Before J’onn could make a move, Tony jumped in between the two. The hybrid gave him a shock but was taken by surprise when he laughed.
“Glad dawling didn’t tell you about that advantage…” he mentioned and released his proton beam. The power sent the hybrid across the room, nearly going through the wall. J’onn gave Tony a bewildered look as he shrugged, “I can absorb her powers, she should be able to absorb mine…”
“Which means, you’ve done nothing but piss her off…” Wally confirmed as the group went over to her. They prepared to strike as her body slightly convulsed. The Martian held his arm up, mentally telling the group to stand their ground. He carefully knelt down and studied the woman who looked right back at him, still convulsing. His red eyes softened as he took her into his arms; her eyes had flashed from the ominous black back to her whiskey brown: she was back to normal.
His joy was short-lived as he noticed that she was taking short breaths and continued to tremble. Her eyes misted over; he knew that she was in some serious pain.
“J-J-J-J’onn… it-it-it w-w-won’t s-s-s-stop… hurt-hurting me…” she confirmed sadly. He held her tighter, not caring who was looking.
“We’re going to get rid of that demon; I promise…” he half whispered, wiping the tears that formed in her eyes away. More tears appeared as she started to shake her head.
“I-I-It’s not… w-w-worth it. It’s… t-t-try-trying…” she swallowed hard and let out a sob, “J’onn……… k-k-k-kill me…” her words made him widen his eyes. The demon was putting her through too much pain trying to take control back over her body; she just wanted it all to end. She was holding on just long enough to let J’onn know what she felt.
“N-No; I won’t kill you! That’s not an option!” he glared down at her, the only emotion that he was going to let out. He couldn’t bear the thought of ending her life voluntarily; how would he live with himself?
“I-I-It’s… the only… w-w-way…”
“It’s not!” he held her even tighter. Tony put a gentle hand on J’onn’s shoulder.
“She’s suffering pretty bad, man. Maybe…”
“I am not going to kill her; no one is going to kill her!!” he gave Tony a menacing stare. He looked down at his girlfriend, continuing to wipe at her tears. He held his own tears in as he gently and lovingly kissed her on the forehead. The Martian didn’t know what to do. He knew that killing her was not something he wanted to do. However, he couldn’t deny the fact that she was suffering. He couldn’t think of any other way to get rid of the demon, especially seeing that Tala was unconscious. No sooner had he thought about it, the idea came to him. J’onn gently raised her head so that she was looking at him, “Tabitha… listen to me. I will not let that demon kill you… I’m taking that demon out of you, myself.” his words shocked everyone, “… This is going to hurt… a lot. Brace yourself…” he looked deep into her eyes. He waited until she nodded her head, giving him the go ahead before taking a deep breath. He became transparent and transferred himself inside of her body, becoming one with her. The group watched as she continued to tremble and sob, finally curling into a ball.
“What… what is he doing…?” Luthor asked no one in particular. Suddenly, Tabitha let out a long gasp before releasing a terrifying wail, thrashing around on the ground, “He’s… he’s killing her; stop him!!” he struggled against his restraints. Ashley finally came to and noticed a copper container beside Tala.
“… Seal of Solomon…” she grunted as she picked it up and went over towards the group. They all watched in horror as Tabitha continued to thrash violently, filling the room with deafening and shrill screams.
“There isn’t anything we can do for her… can we?” Peter asked.
“It just has to run its course; whatever John boy is doing to her. Trust me; this is hurting him more than it’s hurting her…” Tony noticed. Just as the others started to regain consciousness, her horrific screams ceased as she began to levitate a couple of feet from the ground. Her body was racked with even more violent shakes as her eyes grew wide. Moments later, J’onn separated himself from her body slowly, bringing a transparent dark figure along with him. It shrieked as he removed it from her body fully, holding it firmly by its head. No sooner had the two left her body, she grew limp and landed on the ground with a loud thud. Ashley ran up to the two, opening the container, letting the Martian place the demon inside, sealing it tightly. He glared at the box, trying to catch his breath; the emergency exorcism had taken a lot out of him.
“Oh… Tabby!” Wally’s worried voice grabbed his attention. He turned and saw that she was lying on the ground… and wasn’t moving.
“She’s… she’s not breathing. J’onn, she’s not breathing…” Ashley panicked. He could do nothing but stare in disbelief as Bruce tried to check her vitals. When he started to shake his head, the Martian’s heart simply dropped. It couldn’t be; she wasn’t gone. He was trying to save her; he thought that he was doing the right thing. The last thing he had wanted to do was watch her die.
“No…” J’onn immediately kneeled down beside her, gathering her in his arms, “Tabitha…” he started to apologize but came to his senses and began CPR. After a few moments of no response, Bruce tried to pull J’onn away.
“Stop… she’s gone…” he tried to reason with him however the heat radiating from the Martian’s body was enough to make him back away and let him continue his resuscitation.
“Tabitha, please; get up! I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. I never meant for this to happen! I was trying to save you! Breathe, breathe, breathe! You cannot leave me!! I… I l…” his frantic thoughts were interrupted as he finally sensed that she was breathing. As he rose up, she gasped and opened her eyes, coughing at the sudden welcome of air. She blinked the cloudiness away and fully focused on the people looking down at her, all had a look of relief on their faces. She looked at them in a confused manner at first however when her eyes met the red eyes of the Martian’s, they widened in fear. Tabitha let out a terrified scream and tried her best to scramble to her feet, scooting away from the crowd of people. Currents of electricity flowed around her body as she looked at everyone in panic.
“What’s wrong with her? What did you do?” Bruce looked at J’onn, who shook his head slowly, still looking at the confused and frightened woman.
“All I did was try to resuscitate her…”
“Tabby…” Peter approached her. He quickly moved out of the way as her hand reached out, releasing uncontrollable streams of lightning his way.
“What’s the matter?” J’onn tried however his appearance only made her scream out.
“No, no, no, no; go away, go away!!” she tried to cover herself, tears jumping out of her eyes.
“Tabitha… it’s us…” Wally tried to put a hand on her shoulder only for it to be jerked away. The constant flow of lightning started to shock her, jumping whenever they hit her.
“Who’s… Tabitha? What… w-w-why do I keep… shocking myself…? M-Make it stop!” she panicked even more, curling herself into a tighter ball.
“I hate to change subjects but… they’re getting away…” Ashley pointed over towards Tala and Luthor, the woman using her magic to free him from the wall.
“We have a far more important problem…” J’onn continued to stare at Tabitha.