May 21, 2019 1:11 PM
Aestrix and Kaylin's characters in Young Justice
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Somewhere deep underground, someone dreams.

He hasn't known anything but the dreams. This doesn't seem like a particular loss to him, with what little consciousness he has. His dreams are many, and varied, and so informative. He dreams of languages, of mathematics, of history, and of the geography where they took place. These are novelties, however. Rare gems among the rest of his dreams.

Usually, he dreams of fighting. He watches battles between apparent demigods play out all over the world, feels the thrill the fight like he's in it, learns the rhythm of battle first hand. Bones crack beneath his fists and it's the most wonderful sound in the world. In the middle of a brawl, he dodges and leaps and turns a woman's face to red mush and it feels right, like breathing, like life itself. A struggle of minds and bodies, a clash for survival, a thrilling dance of violence and acumen. He learns how to spot openings, how to take advantage of them. He learns how to adjust to new circumstances, new unexpected opponents - it's different, it's always different, but the lines of logic are the same. Keep the enemy on their toes, catch them off guard, exploit weaknesses, don't hesitate, and above all, never be where they want you. He drinks it in like a sponge, swallows it like he's a man that has been starving, it's nearly all that he has, all he's ever had, and still he wants more. He'd drink and drink and drink until he drowned, if he could.

He doesn't ever want to wake up.

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 Too bad.

There's a loud CLUNK, followed by a hiss of escaping air - the first sounds he has ever consciously heard. As he gains consciousness, and the ability to move, the reinforced pod that encapsulates him opens up.

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The first breath is raw, intense. Too much, all at once, it's almost too much for him. Where before he'd been floating in a warm sea, now he's - he's standing, a small insignificant speck in a windstorm of impressions. The air filling his lungs is like a typhoon channeled through his chest, the weight on his feet is like being crushed, the clunk and the hiss of air after is like being hammered over and over with a sledgehammer.

But at the same time, it's - it's empty. Where's the touch of minds against his, where is his next lesson, he is cold and alone and doesn't know what to do -

A foreign voice cuts through his confusion and gives him an order:

  Open your eyes.

Relief floods him, and he obeys.

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Three teenagers in brightly-colored costumes are standing around the control panel directly in front of the pod. Behind them, flashing lights and the faint sounds of hammering from behind the door indicate that it has been sealed in some unorthodox manner. Somewhere, an alarm is blaring. 

The shortest person in the room is a dark-haired kid in his early teens dressed in red, yellow and black, with a domino mask obscuring his eyes. The cable running from his wrist computer to the control panel indicates that he is most likely responsible for hacking the system to open the pod. A look of satisfaction flits across his face before he goes back to glancing around the room, cataloging everything in sight. One hand hovers near a crowded utility belt. 

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This one's costume is yellow at the top and red at the bottom, with a red lightning bolt across his chest. It's hard to tell under the mask, but he's frowning. He looks a little older, maybe fifteen or so.

At the moment, he's the only one standing in front of the desk, making him the closest person in sight. He's constantly in motion but not going anywhere, flashing a few feet to the left or right every few milliseconds. 

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The boy standing behind the desk, in the centre of the trio, is taller and stronger than the other two. He looks sixteen or seventeen, and wears a navy and red wetsuit-like outfit that leaves his tattooed arms bare. What look like the hilts of two swords are visible above his shoulders, and tension runs through every line of his body. Someone looking closely, or with enhanced vision, might notice the gills on his neck. 

He looks straight at the person in the pod, meeting his gaze with equanimity. Unlike his two companions, he is not wearing a mask. 

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At first he doesn't know what to do with what he sees - there's so much, everywhere, so much to see, so much color. He vaguely connects them to earlier lessons. Blue, red, grey, black, yellow. With this opening created, he contextualizes everything else. The shapes coalesce into walls, a floor, a ceiling, scientific equipment, people. He recognizes what those are. They're dressed like the demigods, the superheroes, not the powerless civilians.

For a second he just looks at them, confused. What in the world? Were they made by Cadmus, like him? They look like smaller, younger versions of various heroes, it'd make sense if they were to them what he's to be to Superman. Clones, backups, to replace them should they fall, or defeat them should they turn. Except they don't look like they're supposed to be here. They're nervous, on edge, antsy. He identifies the annoying blaring sound in the background as an alarm. That's not supposed to be happening. The door to the room is - he's not really sure, actually, but he guesses from context clues and the way the door panel's sparking that it's been forced shut in some way. Probably to keep something from getting in. So they're intruders, that broke in here and - what, woke him up? Why would they do that?

What does he even do with them?

The voice rings out in his head a second time:

  They're superheroes. You know what to do with these.

Oh. Oh, yes, he does.

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The boy in the centre of the trio is the likely leader, by his location and his demeanor. The first one he needs to defeat, then. In absence of further orders, incapacitate. Atlantean physiology, stronger and tougher than baseline, scale force accordingly.

He hasn't done this before but he knows how - he launches himself out of the pod and at the boy's face, fist raised to strike.

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He sees the movement -

- too late to dodge, at that speed.

He goes down. The force of the collision knocks the two of them halfway across the room. 

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Oh, and he'd thought the dreams had been intoxicating, it was just a taste, just a pitiful facsimile dancing in his mind. This is better. Better than he could have possibly hoped for, it's all of the rush but with more weight, more sensation. He loves it. A small delighted smile breaks over his face and he didn't mean to make it, but that's okay. It doesn't matter one way or another to his mission.

He has the (probable) leader away from the others, if he's fast he can just incapacitate him here before dealing with them. Easiest way to do that's probably to break something, he could reach and twist a leg until it snaps. He's just Atlantean, it wouldn't be hard -

  Minimize damage.

- fine, okay. No broken bones, then. That'll make this tricky, but not impossible.

He still takes advantage of the valuable time he's earned with his surprise attack, by punching the boy some more. Those gills look nice and vulnerable, they'll do. He'll punch those.

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- ow

There's not much Aqualad can do about that, from where he's trapped underneath his attacker. 

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Fortunately, the other two rush up and attempt to grab Superboy's arms. 

"Whoa, hang on a second!" 

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"We're on your side!" Robin contributes through gritted teeth, struggling to hold on. 

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... Heh. That's funny. In two different ways, even. The mistaken belief that these two think they could possibly hold him with unaugmented strength, and that he's on their side. He looks at the little black, yellow, and red one out of the corner of his eye, amused. What is he, thirteen, fourteen? Unaugmented, with gadgets, in close range? Ha.

He twists the arm in Robin's grasp, grabs him by the front of his costume, and promptly demonstrates why an unaugmented thirteen year old should not attempt to hold the arms of a Kryptonian. By picking him up and slamming him into Kid Flash.

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"- oof!" 

The two of them go flying, straight into some rather delicate-sounding scientific equipment. 

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"We - ow - don't wanna do this!"

Robin presses a button, and the smoke grenade he managed to stick to Superboy explodes, giving the clone a faceful of foul-smelling gas. 

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Damn, he'd missed that. For his oversight, he earns a breath and a half of whatever-it-is and reels, coughing. Too much sensation, again, the little bastard. Then he gets his head together and leaps away from the gas (and away from Aqualad) to breathe.

He catches his breath, then lets it out in a small huff of laughter. His eyes flick back to Robin, assessingly. Okay, fair enough, little guy. Good job. And what do you want to do now?

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Talk, apparently. 

"We're here to help you! We were trying to set you free when you attacked us!"

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What a confusing sentence. Free him? From what?

... He looks at the only door in the room. There's the sound of several somethings stomping closer on the other side of it. From Cadmus? They made him, trained him, why would he need to be freed? They want him to do well, they're providing for him, teaching him -

The voice in his head weighs in:

  All of the creations of Cadmus are prisoners here. To be used and experimented on and discarded after failure. Things only go well when we do what the creators want. He can feel a subtle undercurrent of long-felt anger.

...

Well that seems incorrect. Do you want freedom, voice?

There's a pause.

  yes, it says, softly, fearfully.

Okay then. Then that's what's going to happen.

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His face shifts from understanding to focused determination, and he twists and launches himself at Robin to pin him to the ground.

"Play along," he hisses softly.

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Uh. Okay. Sure.

"Play along with what?" he whispers back, wheezing a little from the impact. 

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"With this," he says, wishing he could explain more, but the voice in his head notes that there are cameras watching. An extended conversation isn't allowed.

'This' turns out to be more punching. ... But gentler, and not going for weak points like he did with Aqualad. Instead it's all pulled punches in all the wrong places, nothing that would be debilitating.

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Robin obligingly plays dead. 

Aqualad, on the other hand, was not close enough to hear the whispered conversation. He charges in, swinging a hammer shaped from water, and knocks Superboy across the room with one powerful blow.

"Enough!"

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He sails through the air and into the pod, leaving a rather large dent. Well. That'll help with making this convincing, anyway. Ow.

... He decides to sell the impact a bit more than he would if he were fighting for real. Maybe he can give the little one time to subtly explain things to his boss? Because if not, he's going to need to punch in a face, probably for real.

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Aqualad takes advantage of the brief respite to go over to Robin, who is groaning theatrically, and attempt to get him back on his feet. 

Robin whispers something in his ear, under the guise of leaning on him for support, and his expression shifts in comprehension. He helps Robin stumble far enough to the side that he can lean on something and watch the fight, then turns back to Superboy. 

"We are trying to help you." Tell us how to do that, his eyes add. 

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Oh, excellent, he doesn't have to fight this guy for real and maybe break him. (A part of him's counterproductively a little bit sad that he doesn't get to fight this guy for real - he hits hard - but that part isn't useful to his current goals so it can be ignored.)

He flashes a hint of a smile at Aqualad, then says, "I'm not the one who needs help."

And then: mock fight! He launches himself at Aqualad for pulled punches that look suitably impressive, but definitely don't feel like the brutal punches he opened with. They can't do this for very long, though, or it'll get real obvious that he's pulling his punches. As such, he's going to attempt to slam Aqualad (gently) into a wall so he can talk to him.

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