Balancing the Equation

by ElenaRoan

Alternate ATF Universe: Pantheon

Character Focus: Vin, Chris, JD, Nathan, Josiah, Ezra

Disclaimer: Donít own any of them, written purely for enjoyment. Mog created the ATF universe.

Betas: Geris (Grammar and Spelling), Michelle (Comprehension)

Summary: Nathan stumbles across something, at the same time the heroes run into trouble.

Chapter 1: Discoveries

Nathan sighed as he walked into his house; he had several hours before bed to continue his research. He was determined to find a solution to Vin's allergies. When the sharpshooter had taken a bullet in a recent bust they had nearly lost him. Not due to the bullet but instead due to his reactions to the medications used in the hospital. The medic was starting to think that there were more medications on his 'allergic to' list than not.

An hour into his research he finally hit pay dirt. His eyes went wide as he reread the passage that was the ray of hope, or something more.

'If a patient has a powered system, usually only found among the super powered community but can occur elsewhere, even if there are no manifested powers it can result in unusual and unique reactions to routine medications. This can range from the medication having no discernable effect to even the most basic medications producing life threatening reactions.'

'How did I miss that?' Nathan chastised himself. He'd even been friends with a superhero, though admittedly not one with a system sensitive in that way, and was familiar with the problems involved in treating them. As the new information sunk in several things clicked into place and he realised that while he could still count the number of superheroes he knew on one hand, it was only just.

With a slight smile he wondered if Josiah had figured it out. The gray haired agent had been retired from the super powered game for many years now but that didn't mean he didn't still have his contacts.

With a glance at the clock he grabbed his coat and headed out into the night on his way to Josiah's.

The big man looked at him curiously as he let him in once he arrived there. His adventuring days might be long over but he still maintained a silent house, a necessity to prevent slips revealing identities best kept unlinked for many heroes.

"What is the matter, brother?" He rumbled.

"You still keep up with the super powered mob?"

"Somewhat," Josiah replied. "Why?"

"Notice anything about the Denver three?"

"Been following them in the news like everyone else."

"Notice anything in particular about them?"

A slow smile spread across the profiler's face. "So you finally figured that out did you?"

Nathan looked at him exasperated. "When did you figure it out?"

"When the Silver 'I work alone' Archer teamed up with Dark Thunder."

"And you didn't tell me!?"

"You should have been able to figure it out for yourself given Vin's allergies," Josiah returned, sounding mildly reproving.

"But you didn't figure it out until..." Nathan protested, only to have Josiah cut him off.

"That just confirmed it, I had suspected from about a month after he joined. When he had his first bad reaction. I had seen that before..." his voice drifted off melancholically. Nathan winced as he realised that that was exactly how the seasoned hero had lost the first teen he had taken under his wing.

Nathan fished around for a topic to change the subject to then frowned as something occurred to him.

"That food poisoning of Vin's; it was a cover up." He wasn't sure whether to feel angry or not, he well knew the need for such things.

"Would you have acted any differently if you'd known?"

Nathan paused for a moment then sighed and shook his head. The whole aim of a cover like that was to give a reason for weakness and if he'd acted differently it could tip someone off to there being something different about the illness. He couldn't even feel angry at being left out of the loop as knowing both identities of a hero could put him in danger, something neither would risk. Josiah was a special case in that regard; he knew because he'd saved the big man's life.

"There's your answer," Josiah commented. "I think a lot of it was also due to his injury; Vin's body doesn't take kindly to invaders, as you well know."

Before Nathan could reply there was a short beep from somewhere.

"I have an alert for if there is anything on TV about heroes, especially those three," Josiah explained as he reached for the TV remote and switched it on.

"...nk you Steve. This is Cassandra White, live at the scene where just moments ago a super powered battle took place. One can only describe this scene as disastrous."

The camera panned away from her to show a fire, with several fire fighters trying to douse it apparently ineffectively, and the unmistakable shape of a body lying still just beyond it; separated from any rescue effort by the flames and the solid building beyond him. The flickering flames made it impossible to see many more details beyond that it was costumed.

"One hero is down and there is no way to ascertain his condition, two more are missing and are unlikely to have left voluntarily with their companion in this situation. There has been no word from either the Hero Authority or Hero Medical Authority but one can safely assume that they wouldn't be sitting on their hands over this."

"Can you tell us what happened, Cassandra?"

"Well, Steve, according to witnesses the Silver Archer, Dark Thunder and Aerotik engaged Rock Flow. The results you can see behind me. Exactly who it is trapped behind the fire we have yet to establish..."

Josiah flicked the TV off and looked gravely at Nathan.

"I think it is time for Ajax to make a comeback."

Nathan nodded, his face troubled...and something more.

"You want to join me?" Josiah offered, guessing accurately what was bothering his friend.

"Isn't it a bit more complex than that?" Nathan asked.

"Not when I already spoke to them about it, and you already know the ins and outs. I put together an identity for you; it's just waiting for you to be ready."

"Then what are we waiting for?"

Josiah smiled and triggered his secret door. The two of them stepped through.

Chapter 2: Rescues

The fire-fighters were still trying to put the fire out but it seemed as though the very concrete itself was burning and the flames kept inching closer to the downed hero. A small number of Hero Medical Authority medics clustered together behind them talking urgently with each other. There still had been no response from the hero lying so still on the other side of the flames.

Their attention was quickly grabbed as a hole in the wall behind him suddenly appeared in a shower of rubble. A large superhero, one thought retired for many years, appeared with another that had never been seen before.

While Ajax stood protectively over them, the smaller armoured one dashed to the side of the all too still hero. Quickly confirming the hero was still alive he pulled an injector out of a leg compartment and injected him. For several long moments nothing seemed to happen, then the Silver Archer groaned and tried to curl up in a ball to ride out the pain suffusing his body.

"Easy there."

The Silver Archer started and looked up at the strange hero bending over him.

#Who the hell are you?#

"Medical Marvel," he replied, sending an irritated look towards his giant companion.

"You needed a name," came the placid reply. "Now let's get out of here before those flames get any closer."

The silver clad hero looked from one to the other, his eyes narrowing behind his lenses.

#Where's my bow?# was all he asked though.

"Haven't seen it, sorry," Ajax replied. "I hope you have a spare."

#Back at my base.#

Medical Marvel pulled the Silver Archer to his feet, steading him as he gasped and swayed in pain.

Ajax frowned. "We'd better drop you off there before doing anything else."

The archer looked up as several things fell into place as his mind cleared.

#Where's Dark Thunder and Aerotik?#

"Missing. We'll be going to find them next."

The Silver Archer drew himself up and pulled himself out of Medical Marvel's support.

#Not without me.#

"I don't think..."

#I don't care what you think, I've never seen you before and you,# he rounded on Ajax, #I thought were retired. I'm going after them; they're my friends!#

Ajax nodded. "Very well then, let's get going." He gestured towards the hole and the three of them moved quickly through it.

First stop was at the Silver Archer's base to pick up his spare bow. With reluctance he let them in while he collected it; he couldn't very well ask them to hang around on the streets.

"You have a silent base?" Ajax asked once they were inside.

#No bugs except mine,# was the wary reply.

"How are you, Vin?" Medical Marvel asked then, prompting the lean hero to snap his head around to stare at him.


The tall hero pulled his helmet off his head to reveal who he was.

The Silver Archer gaped at him for a few moments before deliberately pulling his hand away from the voice modulation box.

"Nathan? What the hell?" He then shot an incredulous look at Ajax. "Josiah?"

The big hero nodded. "Maybe you should sit this bit out, we'll go find them."

The lean hero shook his head. "You got any idea where to start looking?"

"Do you?"

"Got a sense of where Dark Thunder is, more than what you have I'd say."

"Your body is still repairing, and you know as well as any that'll take a while to finish," Nathan added, he really didn't want to think about how close it had come.

"No way in hell I'm stayin' behind, you know...damn..." Anything else the silver clad man had to say was cut off as he turned and bolted for the bathroom facilities. Nathan followed more slowly, already knowing what he would find. As Josiah had pointed out earlier that night, a lifetime ago it now felt like, the young Texan's body didn't take kindly to invaders. And nanites, no matter how beneficial, were invaders.

He found him hunched over the toilet retching violently. Nathan put his hand on his back and rubbed soothingly. He could literally feel the nanites at work repairing one of his ribs that had been busted.

"Got anything in that arsenal of yours to get this under control?" The Silver Archer asked shakily.

Nathan frowned. "Yes, but I think you really should rest."

"Just inject it. I ain't resting 'till we've found Dark Thunder and Aerotik."

Nathan sighed and pulled out the injector, thanking Josiah silently at the same time that the big man had thought to provide a link to the medical database so he knew what worked and what didn't on his friend.

They waited a few moments for it to kick in before returning to Ajax.

The big man looked at the lean hero in concern as they came back in.

"I'm going so don't even think it," The Silver Archer growled at him.

"Ok," he returned. "Then we'd best get going."

Nathan sighed and put his helmet back on. Moments later the three left the hidden base to look for their missing friends.

Chapter 3: Despair and Hope

'Dark Thunder is certainly living up to his name,' Aerotik thought to himself as he gazed at the black clad hero across the room from him.

They were both restrained with special manacles to cancel out their powers. Their captor had taken much glee in telling them that if their companion hadn't been dead when he took them he'd have been dead soon after. Since then the blond hero had been in a black mood to match his name.

Aerotik looked up as the sound of fighting reached their ears and he redoubled his efforts to get free.

He shot an irritated look at Dark Thunder. "Aren't you even going to try? He wouldn't want you to give up!" The powerfully built man didn't respond.

Bare moments later a form materialised out of the shadows and moved quickly over to them. Working quickly he soon had the manacles off them.

"The three who are here to rescue you are unaware of my aid," the cultured English accent of the man stated in the darkness. "You may also wish to know that the Silver Archer is not dead like Rock Flow obviously intended. He's one of the three."

Behind his lenses Dark Thunder's eyes widened.

"Shall we?" The hero asked, opening the door that he'd just unlocked. The light from outside illuminated him and Dark Thunder recognised him as Shadow Mirage; a hero who had stopped operating in Georgia around the time Ezra had been betrayed.

Aerotik was out the door in a flash, ready to join in the battle. Dark Thunder followed as quickly as he could with Shadow Mirage bringing up the rear.

Reaching the battle he was surprised to see the Silver Archer fighting alongside an older hero he thought had retired many years before and a complete unknown.

Dark Thunder saw the Silver Archer react to the blur that was Aerotik entering the fray and decided it was time to announce his presence as well.

The battle was quickly over; and easier than their last tussle with the villain with the three extra heroes making the difference. The Silver Archer came over to Dark Thunder and Aerotik, giving them both a fierce hug.

#You guys worried me for a bit there.#

"Same here," Dark Thunder returned, frowning as he could feel his friend trembling. "He told us you were dead."

"He nearly was," the complete unknown stated as he came up to them.

"And you are?"

"Medical Marvel," he replied, throwing yet another irritated glance in Ajax's direction.

Special force arrived just then and the six heroes were occupied with handing over the relevant recordings and assisting with securing Rock Flow.

"Shall we reconvene to elsewhere?" Shadow Mirage suggested.

Dark Thunder nodded. "My base would be best."

A short while later they were inside the slowly expanding base. The three heroes had been making plans to centralise there, so it wasn't as small as it used to be. Even so it barely fit the six men, though there were only four in the main area at the moment. Once they'd arrived and he'd relaxed from the strain of battle the Silver Archer had needed to relocate to the bathroom once more, with a worried Medical Marvel following him.

Leaving his best friend in the care of the hero who'd already saved his life once, and also realising that there would be no room for him in the cramped facilities, Dark Thunder pulled Shadow Mirage over to the side.

"I don't believe in coincidences," he stated.

"Neither do I, Mr Larabee," Shadow Mirage returned, the English accent gone to be replaced by a Southern one.

The Silver Archer reappeared just then, looking rather shaky but determinedly ignoring Medical Marvel.

#You ok?# he asked, coming up to Dark Thunder and Shadow Mirage.

"And how are you, Mr Tanner?" Shadow Mirage asked, an amused smile spreading across his face.

#Ez?# His surprise came across even in the artificial voice. #Guess Buck's the only odd one out now.#

Dark Thunder blinked underneath his lenses then glanced over at Ajax and Medical Marvel, who were talking to Aerotik.

"Josiah and Nathan?" He asked, smiling with amusement when the silver clad man nodded.

The Silver Archer chuckled, then walked across to the chairs, flung himself into one and pushed his mask off.

Aerotik made a strangled noise as he saw him do that and Vin smiled across at him. "Relax, nothing we need to hide with these fellas."

Shadow Mirage, Medical Marvel and Ajax all pulled off their masks. The young hero gaped at them for a few minutes before slowly unmasking himself.

"Did you know?" he asked of Chris, who'd also unmasked and sat down near Vin.

"Nope," Chris returned before turning to Vin.

"I'm fine," Vin growled at him before he could say a word.

"Yep, that's why you bolted for the bathroom the second you got here," Chris replied calmly.

A glare was his reward from the Texan.

"Our brother's body does not take kindly to intruders," Josiah commented.

"Thank you, Josiah, I did actually know that," Vin replied sarcastically.

Nathan came out from the small kitchenette area with made up drinks of the 'all nighter' formula given out to night-time heroes by the Hero Authority to help with sleep loss.

"It's dawn," Nathan commented. "And we'll need to be at work in just a few hours."

Each hero accepted the drink. The medic paused as he handed Vin's to him.

"I don't know whether you'll be able to keep this down. Maybe you shouldn't be even thinking of going into work today."

"That's probably a good idea, Vin," Chris added his support to the idea.

"I'll be fine," Vin growled, causing the medic to sigh.

Epilogue: Coming Together

Chris rolled his eyes as Buck tried again, unsuccessfully, to get out of JD what he'd been doing all night. The ladies' man was convinced that their youngest had had a hot date and that was why he hadn't come home the previous night. He didn't want to think about what the computer genius had told him to cover their regular partial nights out, or even if he had done anything more than leave after the big man was asleep or out for the evening.

Buck's teasing was interrupted suddenly as Vin grabbed his bin and thoroughly threw up into it.

"Oh, Vin," Chris murmured as he put down what he had in his hands and went out into the main office. Buck and Nathan had instantly converged on the ill sharpshooter so the blond detoured by the water cooler to wet a paper towel and grab a cup of water.

He gave the wet towel to Nathan, who wiped the sniper's face despite his protests. Once Nathan was done Chris handed the cup to Vin to sip.

"What the hell did you have for breakfast, Junior?" Buck demanded, looking worried.

"Energy drink," Vin mumbled.

'Well, that's one name for it,' Chris thought to himself before speaking. "Go lie down on my couch, Vin. You look like you need it."

"Chris!" Vin protested.

"Stop arguing, Junior, you obviously need it. You didn't look too crash hot when you arrived, this the first time you been sick?" Buck interjected.

Vin sighed, confirming the ladies' man's guess.

"Come on," Buck stated, slipping the sharpshooter's arm over his shoulders, refusing to listen to his protests, and took him into Chris' office while JD tied a knot in the bag so it didn't stink the place out. Chris followed and helped his oldest friend settle his best friend on the couch. The lean man dropped off to sleep nearly instantly, even before Chris had put his bin beside him in case of more upsets. The blond shook his head in mild amusement before indicating to Buck for them both to go outside.

"Want to help me take him to my place later?"

Buck nodded, not realising that his boss' request had little to do with the sharpshooter and everything to do with Buck being the only one who didn't know about the nightly escapades.


#If you don't stop fussing, Medical Marvel, I will put an arrow in you!# Even in the artificial voice it came out growled and Dark Thunder chuckled before pushing open the door and leading the latest addition to the Denver Protectors, Joculator, into the much expanded base.

"Well it's about time you joined us!" Aerotik stated, nearly materialising out of thin air as he came to a stop in front of them. The rest of the assorted heroes in the base looked over at them and smiled. Now they were complete.


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