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Chapter 16: Stepping into the Shadows

Mount Justice

July 8, 12:30 EDT

Once the teens made their acquaintances with Miss Martian, both the teens and the adults either returned home or continued work within the cave. Ben had left the mountain to get supplies before he returned to the teleporter.

Recognized: X C010

Ben exited the yellow light carrying a few boxes. Just as he thought about what to set up, his eyes came across the room in front of him. There were several holes in the wall with broken furniture strewn around. At the center of the destruction was a crater. Superboy stood there breathing heavily while glaring at a small gray creature held in his hand. Miss Martian came running into the room not long after. "Uh. I have many questions on what the hell just happened, but let me just say I am not cleaning this up."

July 8, 13:11 EDT

After making a call, Red Tornado finally returned to the mountain, and as caretaker, he was busy cleaning up the mess.

On the sidelines, X, Superboy, and Miss Martian sat around the table with the little gray creature sitting on it while munching on a celery stick. The clone had given them the general explanation for his outburst. It was a G-Gnome, a small, four legged white creature with black stripes on its head, and short horns with red eyes. This creature caused him to experience the previous attack on the mountain by the Joker.

Megan cooed at the little guy. "Aw. Aren't you cute." She handed the little one a carrot which it took appreciatively.

Ben examined the creature while Azmuth did his own studies. "So, this is a genomorph?"

Superboy took a sip of water as he glared at the little monster. "Yes."

Ben shook his head. "I know that I wasn't privy to what happened at Cadmus besides you, but this is pretty concerning. They created new species, and their top priority was to make an army of these guys."

Azmuth grumbled within the Omnitrix. "While the overall feat is impressive for this Earth's humans, as expected, they did a shoddy job with the DNA structure. It's no wonder they had to splice your friend Superman's genes just to get this stable clone."

Ben filed that information for later, hoping to get a better understanding of what Cadmus created.

The clone sighed. "There were classes of them, each with a different purpose. As much as I am annoyed, this is the same G-Gnome that helped with my flash learning."

Megan patted the creature on the head as its horns glowed for a moment. "I can tell he missed you."

"Yeah, well I don't. That thing was controlling me almost all the time," scoffed Superboy.

Ben crossed his arms. "I can't imagine why it would follow you here and make you see the psychic residue."

Megan agreed. "Even on Mars, cases such as this happen rarely. It must have been very traumatic to the victim of the previous break in to leave such an imprint after all these years. Even though it was all in your head, because your connection was so strong, all of it felt real, even the pain."

Finished with most of the work, Red Tornado walks over to them and takes hold of the G-Gnome. "It would appear that the mountain's security still needs improvements." He turned to the clone. "Considering recent developments, I would recommend that you get some rest."

"Yes. Such mental feedback can cause significant fatigue," added Megan.

"I'm fine," argued Superboy. "If Superman wasn't bothered by it at the time, then neither am I."

X's expression softened. "Has Superman gotten a chance to speak to you since the fourth?" Receiving only a scowl that desired heat-vision, Ben swore under his breath. 'When are they gonna talk to Supes, on his deathbed?'

Tornado nodded. "I will report this to the others and begin procedures to return the G-Gnome to Cadmus."

Seeing the opportunity, X stood up to follow him. "I hope you don't mind if I come along. What happened at that facility sounds like slavery with extra steps."

"So long as you don't touch anything, I have no concerns." With that, Tornado and X left with the G-Gnome.

Miss Martian took a bite of her carrot. "Since your friend came all the way here to show you something, did you happen to learn anything about yourself?"

Superboy huffed. "Yeah, I hate monkeys."

"Huh, I was expecting you to say clowns." Find authorized novels in Webnovel, faster updates, better experience, Please click <a href="https://www.webnovel.com/book/ben-10-justice-incarnate_17934757606757805/stepping-into-the-shadows_48577651622857112">www.webnovel.com/book/ben-10-justice-incarnate_17934757606757805/stepping-into-the-shadows_48577651622857112</a> for visiting.

Infinity Island

July 8, 22:18 EDT

An old, light-skinned man with white hair and dark brown eyes stood before a group of people. He has a large scar across his chest, and a smaller scar extending from his forehead to just under his left milky eye. "Our employers are ending their relationships with certain corporations they were previously doing business with. Cutting ties, so to speak because of the fiasco with Cadmus. They are being cautious. They do not want anything traced back to them. This is the reason we are called into action." He held out a photo of their target. "We are the solution to the problem. We are the League of Shadows. Do not fail me!"

Mount Justice, Aqualad's Room

July 9, 13:28 CDT

Kid Flash raised a brow. "So, who am I looking at a picture of?"

Next to him, Robin answered. "Her name is Gonzalez, Selena Gonzalez."

"And we care why? Other than the fact she's a hottie?"

Robin shook his head. "She lives in Central City and is being targeted for a hit. There's a reason. I just don't know what it is yet, but I think I found something that might be related to her."

On his bed, Aqualad crossed his arms. "Related how?"

The Boy Wonder sighed. "Looking through some of Batman's files, I found that there have been a few targets, seemingly unrelated. However, I've cross-referenced tons of data, and I think I found a pattern."

"Looking through?" KF scoffed. "You mean you hacked into Batman's files."

Robin didn't answer the question. "Anyway, I think this CEO might be next. All of the other hits have been made to look like accidents, random muggings gone wrong, things like that. Anyway, I figured we could look into this."

Aqualad nodded. "And what brought this to your attention in the first place?"

"I've been looking into Cadmus the last couple of days: corporate holdings, who they do business with, and such. I noticed a few people they've done business with seem to meet with untimely accidents."

Kid Flash chuckled. "You want us to look into a possible CEO assassination in Central?" A grin crept onto his face. "Cool!"

"What's this about an assassination?"

The trio quickly turned around to see the bedroom door open, revealing X. Robin and Aqualad looked at the last of them to enter the room. Kid rubbed his neck in embarrassment. "Hehe. Forgot to lock the door." Attempting to salvage the situation, Wally started talking. "Assassination? No. We were just talking about... asses… in the nation. We hate politics?" The second those words came out of his mouth, the regret permeated the room along with silence.

Cringing, Ben crossed his arms in and broke it with sarcastic skepticism. "Uhuh," His eyes drifted to the nightstand. "If that's the case, then I guess you wouldn't mind handing me that headshot photo still out in the open." The teens internally swore. "First off, Kid, if you've got nothing, let someone else handle it. Two, I was preparing some stuff for our first training session, but this is obviously more important. So, who's getting killed, and by who?"

KF groaned in defeat. "Okay, we're investigating someone. Come on man, please don't rat us out."

X waved his hands in defense. "Woah. I'm not gonna tell Batman or whatever. Can I see what you guys have so far?"

Robin looked to the others before relenting, bringing up his gauntlet and several documents and articles.

From within the mask, Azmuth started doing his own cross-referencing. "Hm. It would appear that there is a 70% chance that Ms. Gonzalez would be targeted. Considering her advances in CRISPR, I can see how she was associated with the developments at Cadmus."

Ben nodded as he read along. "I understand why you couldn't report this to the DOJ."

Robin relaxed. "There isn't an active criminal investigation against Cadmus for her to be taken in by Witness Protection, and the evidence I'm using is circumstantial in court."

"If that's the case, I want to help out."

The trio exchanged looks before replying. "You do?"

"Why not? I would rather check it out and nothing happens than to do nothing and hear about her death afterward. Besides, my impression is that you three would end up going on your own anyways."

Robin smirked. "You say that like it's a bad thing."

"If I recall, the last time you guys went out on your own without telling anyone lead to getting locked in the basement with Doctor Stranger Danger."

Robin and Kid Flash gave an embarrassed laugh.

"He's not wrong about the risks. In fact, should we not include Superboy and Miss Martian?" asked Aqualad.

"Yeah," X said aloud. "Where are those two? I would have thought that you all would want to do this together."

Robin shook his head. "I asked Megan to take Superboy shopping. He can't just have the same clothes for missions as . As I said, I'm working on limited evidence. Besides, they're still new to the gig compared to us. We don't want to get them in trouble before the team.

X raised a brow. "I take it that this isn't your first group mission besides Cadmus?"

KF gave a thumbs up. "You know it. Bats and Rob teamed up with me and Flash when one of our rouges tried something in Gotham."

"What about you, Aqualad?" asked X.

"While I have limited experience on the surface, I have been trained for years in the Atlantean Military and under my King."

"See, X. We got the skills. Let's do it!" The speedster patted the Atlantean on the shoulder. "C'mon Aqualad. This could be fun."

Kaldur hesitated. "I am not sure about this."

"Well, I am! Count me in." Kid Flash looked at the photo again. "You think Selena likes younger guys?"

"If she liked guys your age, we would be taking her to jail instead," answered X.

The speedster stuck his tongue out in response.

Robin turned to the alien hero. "If you're willing to help us, then you can treat this as a training session. We're always doing our own crime-fighting thing with our own partners. It would be a chance for us to clear the cobwebs before we get into full team mode."

"Cobwebs?" Kid Flash laughed. "You've been hanging out in dark caves way too much."

X shook his head. "I see. It's clear that you did your homework on the matter. So, did Cadmus hire a middle man, or are we gonna be fighting more of those Genomorphs?"

Kid sighed. "Please don't let it be that."

Rob shook his head. "It's hard to tell. It could be Cadmus, but none of the evidence points to them. However, I think I know the likely candidate taking the job: The League of Shadows."

KF's eyes widened. "Whoa! Really?"

"Yeah," answered the pre-teen hero. "I think these accidents were executed by them."

"Executed?" The red-head leaned back. "That seems like an appropriate word."

Both X and Kaldur blinked at the name. "Who?

"What? You've never heard of the League of Shadows?" The speedster blinked. "Have you two been living in a cave or something?"

"More like underwater," replied Aqualad.

"And off-world," added X.

"Oh, yeah…"

Robin pulled up several articles mentioning the group."The League of Shadows is an organization with connections all over the world. Bats theorized they were involved in numerous political conspiracies throughout the years. Assassinations are only part of their business."

Wally crossed his arms. "I'm still suspicious that they were involved with JFK."

The Boy Wonder continued. "You wouldn't be the first. Only a few people have met the actual organization in person, and they have their ways of avoiding public attention. No hero or government has been able to gather enough evidence to expose them to the public. Those suspected or captured have either claimed allegiance to other organizations or suffered medical complications before interrogations."

X narrowed his eyes. "Well, it seems we're just gonna have to blow the whistle one member at a time."

Aqualad stood up. "Just to reiterate, we are going to look into what may or may not be a sanctioned assassination attempt, carried out by a covert organization called the League of Shadows, with a reserve member but without authorization from Batman or the rest of the Justice League?"

"Since it is all circumstantial, we wouldn't have anything to show them," offered X. "We'll check it out and radio for support if we can find something more solid."

"We don't need a Cadmus repeat. Besides, if no one dies, we should be in the clear," defended Robin.

"Yeah, pretty much," shrugged Kid Flash.


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