Alternate ATF Universe: Pantheon
Character Focus: Vin, Chris, JD
Disclaimer: Donít own any of them, written purely for enjoyment. Mog created the ATF universe.
Betas: Geris (Grammar and Spelling), Michelle (Comprehension)
Summary: A breakout sends the superheroes amongst them into battle and they end up having to face an unusual situation
Prologue: Déjà Vu
'OK, this is getting old,' the Silver Archer thought to himself as he rolled to his feet after being thrown into the wall. A small breakout of the Super Villain holding area had resulted in Static and Jotun being free again. They'd teamed up with a spear wielder calling himself Sparta, to make things even more interesting.
Dark Thunder and the Silver Archer had set out to capture them, having been responsible for the two's first capture. Jotun apparently had more brains than he appeared to, though, as he remembered how effective throwing the silver clad man into a wall was.
He straightened up and instantly had to try to dodge as he glimpsed Sparta's spear flying towards him. He wasn't entirely successful. The spear caught him in the stomach, driving through and pinning him to the wall he had just been tossed against.
Dark Thunder's attack prevented Sparta from finishing off the other hero. The Silver Archer pulled ineffectively at the spear, trying to get it loose, then closed his eyes with a gasp in response to the pain. He must have blacked out for a few moments because the next thing he was aware of was Dark Thunder's hand on his cheek.
"You with me, hot shot?" His friend's deepened voice implored him.
He panted against the pain but managed to move his hand to brush the top of the voice modulation box.
#Where else would I be?# The artificial voice hid the pain like his real voice never could.
"Well hang in there; I gotta get this out of you."
The silver hero tried to relax but it still wrung a gasp out of him when the black clad man pulled the offending piece of weaponry out of his body. Everything went grey around him and the next thing he knew he was being held in his friend's strong arms.
"Let's get you looked at," Dark Thunder stated, settling the smaller hero more comfortably in his arms before taking off in the direction of a Hero Authority transport point.
Many people thought the heroes had some form of teleportation device, but it was nothing so fantastical that kept them linked together and allowed Dark Thunder to speed his friend to treatment.
Chapter 1: Cover Up
Vin groaned as he fought his way back to consciousness. As soon as he opened his eyes he recognised the room as a Hero Medical Authority treatment room, complete with three medics, which also explained why Chris wasn't at his side. Often even heroes who teamed up together were unaware of each other's civilian identities and as such the black clad hero had not been allowed in.
He swallowed dryly and the medic next to him gave him some water. Most injuries amongst the superheroes could be treated using nanites attuned to the recipient, as was obviously the case this time.
"You are going to need to take it easy the next few days." Unspoken was the need to find a plausible reason in his civilian life.
"That might be difficult," Vin replied, sounding stronger than most people would have a right to after getting impaled by a spear. "Could you bring Dark Thunder in here?" Adding, when they hesitated, "He knows who I am."
With a nod one slipped out of the room, returning a few moments later with the black clad hero.
"Hey, how're you feeling?" Chris asked, dropping the deepened voice he used while in costume.
"Been better, been worse too," Vin answered. "They say I need to take it easy the next few days."
Chris made a face. As ATF agents taking it easy was not an easy thing to do. Probably why most heroes chose professions like librarians or business careers where 'taking it easy' was an everyday occurrence. A car crash to cover the real reason was a non-option. That would most likely land the sharpshooter in a hospital where there was an outside chance that doctors would come across the nanites in his system. Particularly as his powered system reacted badly to many medications, though the doctors had yet to catch on to exactly what caused the difficulties.
"Think a bout of a stomach bug might do the trick," Vin commented. He didn't have to cover for injuries all that often, and never this serious before, but his sensitive system was well known amongst the team and they wouldn't give it a second thought.
Chris sighed. He hated the idea but they did need a cover. "That would do it."
The medics nodded reluctantly. "We can do that. But there will need to be an injection to bring it back under control and you mightn't be capable of it."
"Give it to me; I'll give it to him when the time comes," Chris stated.
"I'll call Nathan when it starts, he'll inevitably call Chris at some point," Vin added.
The medics nodded and one prepped the injection while another retrieved the tiny portable injector that could be hidden in a hand. Once everything was ready and the injector handed to Chris they injected Vin.
"You will have a few hours before it kicks in."
Vin nodded, feeling dread at what he knew was coming.
Slipping his newly repaired costume back on he joined Dark Thunder and the two of them returned as quickly as they could to their separate bases and from there to their homes.
Chapter 2: Night Time Call
The sound of a phone ringing woke Nathan from a sound sleep. He rubbed his eyes to make himself more alert as he snatched up the hand piece.
"Nathan?" The shaky voice on the other end he nearly didn't recognise.
"Vin? What's the matter?" Even as he asked the question he fumbled for the light. If Vin was calling it meant the man felt truly awful.
Nathan jumped slightly as the phone was dropped. A few moments later he could hear his friend violently throwing up in the background. He hurriedly pulled on clothes while he waited for the sharpshooter to come back to the phone.
"N...Nathan? Still there?"
"Yeah Vin, I'm on my way. Just hang in there." He put the phone down after hearing the barely audible response from the sharpshooter, grabbed the spare key for the apartment that Vin had entrusted him with because of his position as team medic and raced over to his friend's place as quick as he could.
Arriving he let himself in rather than try to get his sick friend to answer the door. He found the miserable looking man in the bathroom hunched over the toilet. Moving quickly to his friend's side he pulled his hair back from his face and rubbed his back soothingly.
"How long have you been like this?"
Vin just shook his head, which Nathan took to mean the lean man had been puking his guts out for most of the night.
"What did you have for dinner?" This looked like food poisoning and the timing was right for it to have been something he ate at that time.
"Pizza," came the shaky answer and Nathan stiffened; the sniper had a particular liking for chicken pizza.
"What type?" The medic pressed.
Vin had enough presence of mind to know that if he said 'chicken' Nathan would have him in hospital quicker than a flash and only call Chris afterwards.
Nathan pursed his lips; that wasn't as bad, but bad enough.
The long haired man's nausea seemed to have calmed somewhat so the medic got him a glass of water but he was only able to convince the ill man to take a few sips. They reappeared bare moments later, leaving Vin even shakier.
"You got a headache?" Vin shook his head. "Think you'll be ok on your own for a few moments?"
Vin nodded without looking up.
Nathan frowned even more before he slipped out of the room and punched Chris' number into his mobile. He heard his boss fumble the phone and swear before finally answering.
"Yeah?" He sounded half asleep.
"Chris, it's Nathan."
"What's wrong?" Chris sounded much more alert and distinctly alarmed now.
"I'm at Vin's, he's real sick." Unspoken was the request for him to come, if they needed to move the ill sharpshooter to hospital they would need Chris there to keep him calm.
"Damn, I'll be right there. How bad is he?"
"Sick as a dog, looks like food poisoning right now. Not from chicken, thank heavens."
In the dead of night the travel time between their places was significantly less than at other times. Chris let himself in and hurried into the bathroom where Nathan was trying to ease Vin's discomfort as he hunched over the toilet again. Seeing his boss arrive the medic moved over to let the blond take over for the most part.
"How are you going, cowboy?" Chris asked with true sympathy, his voice masking the faint hiss of the injector as he pressed it against his friend.
"Been better, been worse too," came the shaky reply.
"I'd like to move him to the hospital," Nathan stated, even though he dreaded having to deal with the sharpshooter's extreme reactions to medications on top of the illness.
"No hospital, please, I'll be fine," Vin pleaded, looking up at his friend. Both of them could understand his reluctance given his unusual reactions, but the fear he had held for that type of medical institution since before they'd met they couldn't fathom the cause of.
Chris rubbed his back soothingly as the sniper's body appeared to refute to statement.
"Easy, Vin. If you need to it'll be the best place for you. Is it absolutely necessary, Nathan? You know how he hates that place."
Nathan hesitated. "Not yet. But if it doesn't come under control soon he'll need to go regardless."
Vin leant back on Chris after he was done with the most violent bout so far. Nathan gently wiped his face.
"How you feeling, Vin?" Chris pressed gently; he'd been alarmed at how it had seemed to increase. The Hero Medical Authority didn't make many mistakes where Vin's system was concerned but even they could make mistakes sometimes.
"Like crap, but better," Vin answered, sounding utterly drained but not as shaky as bare moments before.
Nathan crouched down near him and felt his forehead. "Still feel nauseous?"
"Yeah, but not so bad. Could sleep."
"Ok, let's get you into bed," Chris said gently after getting a relieved nod from Nathan.
After getting him into his bed and watching him fall asleep the two of them retreated to the kitchen.
"I'll stay with him the rest of today," Nathan stated.
Chris nodded in acceptance. "Ok, I'll stay until it's time to head into work. Call if you need help or a breather during the day." The medic nodded.
Chapter 3: Work Life
"I thought Mr Tanner was always the first one here," Ezra stated as he put his stuff down on his desk.
"Neither he, Nathan or Chris are in yet," Buck answered, taking a breather from his attempts to garner some sort of reaction from JD.
The young computer expert had been subdued since he'd watched the news that morning, which had shown in full colour the battle the previous night. Including the serious injury to the archer.
Ezra frowned in concern; that Nathan was also absent spoke of trouble.
"Nathan and Vin won't be in today," Chris stated as he came through the door just then. "Vin's got food poisoning or something, been up half the night puking his guts out."
"He going to be ok?" Buck asked in concern and JD snapped out of his thoughts to stare worriedly at the blond.
"Yeah, just worn out now. Nathan's staying with him to make sure."
Chris stopped at Buck's desk on his way to his office. "What's wrong with JD?"
"He watched the news this morning."
"Something happen?" Chris had avoided the news deliberately and it had never crossed Nathan's mind that morning.
"The Silver Archer got injured last night. Took a lance or something to the belly. Dark Thunder grabbed him and got the hell out even before special force could arrive to secure the baddies they'd subdued. Their disks were handed over by the Hero Authority and there's been no word on his condition."
"They never release word on a Hero's condition while they're recovering; too dangerous," Chris pointed out.
"I know that, but try explaining that to JD," Buck replied in frustration.
Chris had his own theories as to what was bothering the youngster, he and Vin had had many a talk about what they'd observed. A small amount of research had revealed that there had been a teenaged speedster operating in Boston but had abruptly stopped. A few more questions revealed that it had occurred at the same time JD's mother had been diagnosed with cancer. It hadn't taken much to figure out the reasons after that.
"I'm sure that costumed hero will be fine."
"Yeah, but JD's worried."
"I'll try to keep him busy."
It was a wan looking Vin Tanner who returned to work the next day, though he barely managed to put up with Nathan's fussing. Around lunch time the rest of them saw why the medic was fussing so much. The sharpshooter had lost what little colour he had had that morning and Chris eventually dragged him into his office to rest.
"Damn it, Vin," Chris whispered to the man once he'd got him lying down. It was the still repairing abdominal wound rather than the bout of nausea doing this to his friend. "You know you gotta take it easy."
"I am," Vin replied, just as softly, frustrated.
"Coulda fooled me," Chris retorted. "Now get some sleep; I'll wake you when it's time to go home."
Vin grumbled but complied and soon he was sleeping soundly.
Glancing out of the window Chris sighed then went out into the main part of the office to corner Nathan.
"Go home." When the medic tried to protest Chris cut him off, "You're exhausted. And don't try to tell me you didn't sit up with him again last night."
Nathan gave in grudgingly. "Alright. But I think someone should watch him tonight as well."
Chris frowned, "He was still sick last night?"
Nathan shook his head. "No, that had settled down yesterday. But his system is still unsettled, I don't think he should be on his own for a bit."
Chris nodded in understanding. "Ok, I'll take him home with me tonight. Now go get some rest, you won't help anyone if you get sick yourself."
Nathan nodded in relief before grabbing his stuff and leaving for the day.
"Brother Nathan sure has a way of defining 'self sacrifice'," Josiah commented, looking up from his computer.
"Yeah, takes it a bit overboard sometimes," Chris agreed before slipping back into his office to finish off his day.
He waited until long after the rest of the team had gone home before waking Vin.
"Why'd you let me sleep so long?" The Texan complained.
"You needed it. Now grab your stuff, I promised Nathan I'd take you home with me tonight."
"What? Why'd you do that? I'm perfectly capable of looking after myself!"
"To get him to go home and rest. And because he's worried about you."
Vin grumbled but complied reluctantly.
Arriving at his ranch Chris showed his friend to the room he always had available for him.
"I need to go out though," the blond stated. "JD's worried enough about what happened to the Silver Archer, don't need to add to it by having Dark Thunder not show up."
Vin nodded, knowing full well Chris wouldn't let him go out even for a short time. "I'll be fine. They'll be monitoring me anyway."
He waited until Vin was settled before slipping into his control room, changing and heading out onto the streets of Denver.
Chapter 4: Street Encounter
A bellow of rage was the first thing that alerted Dark Thunder to a super powered maniac being on the loose.
Arriving he saw Minotaur taking swings at a pint sized blur.
Dark Thunder winced as he saw the fluorescent colours on the costume, at one point they would have been useful; when he was a teenaged hero restricted to working with an adult. But now they just helped the thug he was facing figure out where he actually was.
A well placed swipe sent the small hero tumbling and Dark Thunder decided it was time to intervene.
His first blast threw Minotaur away from the other hero. It took several more blasts before he subdued the villain, barely managing to stay out of the thug's reach as he did so.
"You ok, kid?" Dark Thunder demanded.
"I'm not a kid!" Aerotik retorted, barely managing to remember to alter his voice.
The black clad hero's mouth quirked up into a smile.
"You got a recording of that battle?" He asked, remembering that the last outing of the tiny hero had been as a teen and his adult partner would have taken responsibility of that. The perplexed expression on what he could see of Aerotik's face gave him the answer and he chuckled. "Welcome to the world of adult heroes. You'll need to give a statement to special force when they arrive. Oh...and change the costume, it has no advantage anymore."
The smaller hero glared at him as well as he could with the mask covering his eyes but special force arrived to contain Minotaur before he could retort.
Dark Thunder handed them his disk and left Aerotik to the joys of giving a statement.
Vin woke up as Chris came back into the house.
"So how did it go?" He asked with a yawn, making Chris chuckle.
"Minotaur and Aerotik," Chris stated with amusement. Vin looked up in surprise.
"Yer kidding me."
"Guess the Silver Archer's injury pushed him into action again. Needs to learn a bit about the adult requirements, and change that eyesore of a costume."
Vin chuckled; teens were introduced to the adult requirements slowly so that by the time they turned 18 and entered the world of the adult superheroes they didn't run into any problems. Vin himself had been a teen hero, under the leader of United Heroes, and knew of what happened. New adult heroes had lengthy starting lessons to ensure they knew all the requirements. However Aerotik had left the game while still a teen and hadn't learnt much of what was taught. As he wasn't new he hadn't been required to do the lessons so he'd need to do a bit of catching up.
Running over the night's incident Chris frowned. "Minotaur sent him for a tumble; if he is who we think he is he'll be feeling that tomorrow and he won't have got anything for it."
Vin winced, "What was he thinking anyway? He's never been on his own before. It's a whole different kettle of fish to being the sidekick of an already established hero."
Chris shrugged, "Get some more sleep; we'll deal with that tomorrow."
Vin nodded and settled down to sleep some more, freeing Chris to seek his own bed.
Chapter 5: Identities Revealed
Vin carefully watched JD the next day at work, seeing how the young man artfully avoided the back slaps and bear hugs Buck was known for. He also avoided the usual lunch invitation from the ladies' man, appearing to be waiting for the office to empty before leaving for lunch.
With a significant look at Chris Vin got up and sauntered over to JD. He already had a question thought up that he could ask the computer wiz if their suspicions proved un-foundered. Reaching him he squeezed his arm slightly as if to get his attention.
"Hey JD..." he said at the same time, he cut off his train of speech as their youngest flinched away from him and hissed in pain. "What's the matter?"
"Nothing," JD insisted hastily, "I slept wrong on it."
One thing the kid was bad at was lying and Vin saw straight through that one.
His voice dropped to a soft murmur as he continued. "Ya do know that they give ya stuff to help, right?"
"What?" JD looked up at him surprised.
Vin smirked at him as Chris appeared on the other side of the computer expert to hand him a couple of tablets.
"Some advice," Chris stated, just as softly as Vin. "Change the costume; it's acting like a target. And don't hesitate to ask for help."
JD looked from one to the other a couple of times before a slow smile stretched across his face. "So that's why you were so sick."
"Part cover, part his system being thrown off kilter," Chris added. Nathan had been pleased with the sharpshooter's improvement overnight and the nanites' actions were slowing down. The Silver Archer wouldn't be out until the following night to play it safe though.
JD nodded thoughtfully, then glared at Vin. "You really worried Nathan you know."
"Wasn't a picnic for me either," Vin defended himself; it had been torture on his healing stomach.
"He'd have been sick anyway," Chris added; he'd checked with the Medical Authority after being disturbed by how violently Vin had been ill. The verdict was that it hadn't been all the injection and it had actually helped by giving them a measure of control over it. "Now swallow that before any of the others come back."
With one last glare at the long haired sniper JD downed the tablets.
Nathan came back just as Vin was dragging the younger man off for lunch.
"No meat!" The medic called in warning to the sharpshooter before heading in to Chris' office to badger the blond into going and having lunch.
The Silver Archer melted out of the shadows and smiled in approval of the new costume of muted green and blue the small hero was wearing, along with new armament.
Aerotik flashed him a brilliant smile.
Moments later Dark Thunder joined them. With a shared look they headed off over the rooftops of Denver.
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