It's a Zoo Out There

August 01, 2017:

Seizing control of the animals great and small in the Central Park Zoo, the Brain and Monsieur Mallah of the Brotherhood of Evil wreak havoc until their rampage is stopped… By the (new) Titans!

Central Park Zoo, NYC

It's a zoo, it's in central park. Look how cute those seals are, d'aww.

Characters

NPCs: The Brain, Monsieur Mallah, various unfortunate civilians

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

NEW YORK CITY

CENTRAL PARK ZOO

5:15 PM

Whatever else might be going on in the world, from high-profile court cases to rampaging possibly fake Amazons to the tribulations of ancient gods, the lives of most people in the world keep on much as they always do. After all, in a world where the likes of Superman exist, it takes something around the level of 'alien army literally on the doorstep' to get folks to hide in the basement.

The Central Park Zoo sees its usual summertime crowds, families and other groups watching the animals, getting to interact with the more placid and less meat-eating ones. All in all, a pretty normal late July day.

At least, until the animals start rampaging, as though they'd suddenly gone berserk.

"HA HA HA HA HA!" cackles an electronically-generated voice with a distinctly French accent. "This test of my new mind-control devices is but the first step! With all the so-called 'heroes' preoccupied with that ridiculous farce of a trial, there will be no one here to interfere!"

The speaker is, of course, a weirdly missile-shaped cylinder with a skull face on it, carried under one arm by… Well, by a gorilla in a flak vest and a red beret.

The gorilla's other arm cradles an extremely large machine gun.

You know, like you would expect.

  • * *

At Titans Tower, the operations center is patched in to the various emergency services bands used in the region, and so once panicked cellphone calls start coming in about people being attacked by suddenly furious bonobos, and someone's baby being carried off by a giraffe, the Titans hear about it right away.

"That's… Different," Red Robin, on duty in the ops center, says. Still, it's probably as good of an opportunity as any to put on a strong showing. Immediately, he puts out the call to the other Titans, both those currently in the Tower and those not: Some live in New York anyway, of course, and those who don't have some pretty speedy ways of getting around.

Red Robin, in his new, more lightweight costume, is already headed to the elevator, down to the hangar, to gather those present aboard the T-Jet, which takes off through the cave just above the waterline of the East River, headed towards Central Park.

"First priority is containment and rescuing civilians," the former Boy Wonder says as the T-Jet hovers over the chaos in the Zoo, the back of the advanced vehicle opening for easy egress. "Then we figure out just what's causing this, and stop it. Everybody ready?"

It's their first real time operating as a team, there might be some nervousness. And Superboy and Wonder Girl still haven't turned up, much less Starfire, but…

"Let's go!" Red Robin says. "TITANS TOGETHER!"

Caitlin pouts a little for the first leg of the trip. Why? Because Red Robin had just climbed right into the pilot's seat and zoomed towards the zoo. Without even offering to let someone else fly! Someone who is TOTALLY CERTIFIED to operate one of the few vehicles with a seat adjuster that can accomodate her supersized proportions.

Still, she's a professional, and she gets her game face on when they pull into the eagress zone; a wide-open courtyard currently abandoned by humans and occupied by gibbering gibbons.

"I wanna go on record that if any monkeys fling anything at me, I will not be held responsible for my actions," Caitlin says, making sure her ear-vox communicator is embedded deep in her ear canal. She gets out of the copilots seat and moves to the rear of the craft carefully (jogging would be bad) and eyes the drop, then with a 'Hup!' leaps out of the vehicle and lands heavily on the asphalt underfoot, denting it slightly and flexing her legs to absorb the brunt of the impact.

She makes a big and bold figure, perfect for attracting gunfire away from her squishier comrades, and walks a few strides from the vehicle's blasting dowmthrust. "Do we have any new intel yet, Robin?" she asks, raising her voice over the whirring of the impulse driver system.

Central Park is just a handful of seconds away from Manchester, Alabama. Which is of course where Bart Allen is at the time he receives the call. All too happy to be excused from washing the dishes, he'd departed after throwing a quick explanation and good-bye to Max before tearing out the door.

"'Titans together'? Is that like. Going to really be our thing? It sounds so lame!" Of course that would be the first thing he says when he checks in via their comms. "Almost there. What's your ETA? -always wanted to say that."

Somewhere between Tennessee and West Virginia he'd changed, and by New York's city limits he's snapped his goggles into place. Containment and rescue. Okay, that sounds easy enough. There's a red and white blur already dashing through the zoo's front gates and through the main pathways to get a better idea of the situation. "Y'know, I'm getting a weird case of…of…that word when you have a feeling you've done something like this before?"

New York, typically, is a bastion of all things food-related; Michelin-starred restaurants stand door-to-door with trendy gastropubs and Mom-and-Pop panini places. It remains one of the greatest cities for food pretty much anywhere. But sometimes, a starving college student needs one thing and one thing only.

Zatanna Zatara slides a five dollar bill through the waiting window of a festively painted food truck, complete with a large sombrero on top.

"Two fish tacos, please."

Her 'bookbag spell' (coined by Jane and Jessica as the STUFF app) has pretty much rendered carrying her books anywhere a nonexistent burden, so long as she has her smartphone with her at all times. Under the sweltering heat of the afternoon sun (and New York's temperatures were /brutal/ this time of year), her outfit is definitely influenced more by the weather than any actual aesthetic preference, clad in a black tanktop and a pair of matching shorts, with sandals on her feet and pale skin slathered liberally with enough sunblock to protect the King of Vampires during the day.

With a can of very cold orange soda in hand, she thanks Paco in impeccable Spanish before moving away to make room for other customers. She's about to take a bite from the contents of her little cardboard boat when a distinctive ringtone emanates from her backpocket:

(It sounds like this - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1jgE-lrfZ3k)

Her expression flattens immediately.

"Really? Now?" She fishes for her phone and takes a look at the message.

"…..a gorilla with a what?"

The other taco truck customers turn to look at her. She grins at the collective sheepishly.

"Just a friend," she offers as an explanation. "He's uh…really into Animal Planet."

With that, she tries to shove as much of the first taco in her mouth as she starts running down the street.

~*~

It is /too hot/ to wear anything more covering than this, but she does pull out her black and violet domino mask to wear on her face. She knows that at the moment she looks /tremendously ridiculous/, but at the moment, her comfort comes first - she can't be expected to deal with gorillas with machine guns sweating like a geyser underneath a button down shirt, pants and a black trenchcoat. Seriously, she has absolutely no idea how the Phantom Stranger lives his life the way he does.

She comes out of nowhere - in the Princess of Prestidigitation's case, this is literal, not there one moment and there the next, flashing Red Robin a look from where she stands. "Well," she tells him. "At least this cant be as ridiculous as The Boner last week."

The what?

She says this just in time for Bart to appear. She wiggles her fingers cheerfully at him as a hello.

"MRPHLE!!"

"I know, right? This is like — bananas. Is bananas a thing people say still? Can I say that?"

"HRGGG!!"

"Huh. Okay. Noted. Anyway, I'm just saying like — I'm feeling kinda conflicted right now, y'know? So I'm just — really glad I have someone to talk to. Thanks, dude."

"HRRGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHEEEEEE!!"

"Yeah okay like super appreciative but — shhh, it's on!!"

This is the sound of Spider-Man and his new friend, Mugger #350, as they both hang out and watch the Winter Soldier trial from his smartphone. Hang out literally, because they are both dangling from lines of webbing off a light fixture — one of them just also happens to be wrapped up like a cuccoon.

Three guesses which is which.

"See, like — y'know, it's not his fault, right, so I should — I shouldn't hold that against him, should I? But he did a lotta bad things and, man, it's just a tricky situation, y'know? What should I do?"

"FUHHH"

"Yeah I mean I could do that, but it'd probably do more harm than good! 'Here's masked menace Spider-Man, most wanted and dangerously handsomest superhero in New York, to speak for the defense before he terrorizes the court!' Imagine the field day the Bugle'd have with that? C'mon dude. I mean… c'mon, let's at least get on the same page here."

"MUHJJUH FUHGGUH"

"Okay sure you've got a point but maybe without the potty mouth next time, huh? I—"

And this is about when, by the good grace of God, the sensors of Spider-Man's customized Starkphone start to go off to the tunes of Anna Kendrick's 'Cups.' Lenses shutter in a blink as the words 'TITANS (MY SUPERHERO TEAM (THAT I'M APART OF!!))' scroll across his field of vision.

"Whoa. Whoa! Seriously? Really? Holy crap! I'm going on my first team mission! Wow! This is amazing! I— oh."

Spider-Man pauses. Blinks. Squints at the man hanging upside down, looking both relieved and infuriated.

"Uhhh. Sorry dude, but this is like — we talked about this, right? The whole team thing and-"

"UHH MUH GUH"

"-yeah okay right you get it, sorry, I don't wanna leave you here by your lonesome but just — wait there for a sec, I'm sure the police'll be by before the webbing dissolves and drops you on your head."

"WHUGH??"

"So just hang out! Ha ha, get it, because, ohhhhkay you're glaring at me really hard so I'm just gonnaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa-"

LATER!

"TITANS TOGETHER!" Spider-Man says, completely out of synch with everyone else.

"Oh uh, that's just — that's y'know — first time. Sorry. Usually I'm not that fast- … wait is that a sex joke, did I just — oh you guys are getting ready to deploy from the jet okay wait up!"

And so, there is a Spider-Man, sort of sitting awkwardly in one of the chairs on the T-Jet, taking a solid fifteen seconds to figure out how to unbuckle himself before he clears his throat and starts to get ready.

"So did we like — I mean, I don't think we've discussed it as a team, and maybe now's not the best time to bring it up, but I was thinking — don't we need a theme song? Y'know, like, a team theme, because, I've been listening to Anna Kendrick lately, and-"

It's been like this.

… Prrrretty much the whole way through.

"… By the way, Zee, one day we need to, as a group, have a serious discussion about whether you're a dracula, because all that? It's not… it's not normal. It's — okay I'll shut up for now, but, seriously. Not."

Yep.

"Wait, the Whatner?"

Is that like. Going to really be our thing? It sounds so lame!

"I didn't come up with it," Red Robin protests; in addition to his Titans costume's lack of a cowl (he has a black domino mask on instead, with a jagged design markedly similar to Nightwing's) it also doesn't have the voice modulator he so often uses in his caped and cowled suit. Still, the voice he uses - low, focused, confident - sounds notably different from that of any of the adopted sons of Gotham's richest man, so there's that at least. "The Titans are a legacy team, you know. 'Titans Together!' was their rallying cry back in the stone ages when it was, like, the first Robin, and Speedy, and they had flip phones and rode into battle on dinosaurs."

Which, admittedly, probably happened. Not all the time, no, but at least once.

"And it's called deja vu, Impulse."

Once the remaining Titans are off of the T-Jet, the vehicle automatically retreats to a safe distance, while people run around in a milling chaos. The animals seem to have gone berserk, but there's also a strange element of coordination, as some of them have worked to break others out of their enclosures, and none of the animals are attacking each other.

"Impulse, set up a perimeter," Red Robin instructs. "Don't let anything get out of the zoo. Spider-Man, get up on the high ground… Such as it is." The zoo structures are, admittedly not exactly towering, but there's still plenty to web-sling from. "Zatanna, Fairchild, focus on getting the civilians out of danger. There's a lot of kids here." Red Robin himself crouches down, holding his left arm out in front of him - and a holographic screen appears suspended over it, a matching keyboard projected from the same gauntlet. "If those reports about 'a big ape with a machine gun' are right, we're probably dealing with the Brotherhood of Evil. That sounds like Monsieur Mallah, a hyperintelligent gorilla… And where Mallah is, his creator is gonna be there too: The Brain."

"So really," the Gotham vigilante adds, "pretty much the opposite of the Boner."

Caitlin does the much more prosaic task of checking a nearby map, which is decorated with smiling, happy lions, tigers, bears, and penguins. The zoo /is/ mostly for kids, after all, and she finds the 'You are Here!' arrow fairly quickly.

"Zee, it looks like the main exits are on the east and south sides of the park," Caitlin tells the dark-haired magician. "If I start shouting, I'll give our position away. What about like, um, some giant EXIT signs?" she asks, pantomiming an image in the sky. "I'll head to the gates and make sure that we don't end up with a human logjam," she suggests, before checking her directions once again and running eastwards with a heavy thudding stride of her boots hitting the ground.

As everyone boards the T-Jet, Zatanna falls a step somewhere to the side and behind Red Robin and next to Spider-Man. "Look, I can't keep hanging out with teenaged ninjas without some tricks of my own," she points out conversationally. "So you gotta let me have this one thing, Spidey. Taco?" She offers her last one to the webslinger as they go up the ramp.

The Whatner?

"This guy who controls bone and bone protrusions tried to hit an armored car last week while Red and I were testing his new wingsuit," she explains. "So basically the entire highway knew he was the Boner, because he made sure he was loud enough for everybody to hear. It was my first outing as a Titan, so I tried to be professional, but once he started ranting about his name, I lost it like…immediately. So I laughed and laughed, and he became more and more incensed, started screaming something like…" She takes a deep breath, and pitches her voice low. "THE BONER IS A POWERFUL NAME. FOR A POWERFUL MAN. THAT CONTROLS BONES. I swear to God, if they hadn't started turning into clams because of the spell I put in the car, I probably would have died, because at that point, I couldn't do anything but laugh. There were tears, Spidey. Tears."

She takes a seat in one of the T-Jet's chairs.

"And then I lost it again when we had to deliver the perps to NYPD in a fishtank. Red was just 'they're gonna turn back to normal right? Right??' and then one of the detectives asked us if they said anything about the botched heist because the armored car carried nothing but documents, and Red, in his super serious business voice, just goes: 'No idea, detective. They just clammed up.' "

And on and on until they get to Central Park.

Orders dispensed when they hit the ground, Zatanna flashes the Bat-protege a thumbs up, though when she turns to take care of business, her expression flattens again. " 'Monsieur Mallah? The Brain? Maybe John's right and nobody takes you seriously in the community if you don't have some kind of ridiculous moniiker…" Before turning to Caitlin. "Sure, that sounds like a plan," she says, putting her palms straight up and murmuring a few words quietly.

EXIT signs, luminous and visible for yards, pop up in the designated areas Caitlin has pointed out. The raven-haired witch pauses and other signs come up:

RARE POKEMON SPOTTED, along with directional arrows.

"…that's what kids are into these days, right?" she wonders hesitantly.

"Haha, flip phones, yeah, who uses those………………"

Spider-Man awkwardly rubs the back of his head and looks aside.

"ANYWAY, got it, high ground, if they come after me they're as toast as Hayden Christensen's career." Encouraging thumbs up right…. here.

He's listening, though, for as much as his attention seems flighty as some sort of variety of insect, scratching the side of his head as Zatanna relates her story. Lenses whirr into a slow squint. "The Boner. Is a powerful name. For a powerful man. Who controls bones." He repeats. Slow…ly.

"You know, there's this guy who shows up every once in a while in my part of town and his name is, I'm like — this is totally serious, okay? — his name is the Shocker."

"Like, unironically. He's just — because he shocks people, right? But I can't — it's just… how am I supposed to not laugh at that?? I'm just one man!!"

The trevails of the superhero.

But assignments are doled out, and as Zee works her magic, Spider-Man makes his way towards the exit of the T-Jet to hop out of it. He gets ready. And pauses. And squints at Zee.

'… that's what kids are into these days, right?'

"… How old do you think you are, like, mentally? Eighty?"

It bears asking.

"Brotherhood of Evil, that's not, like, super obvious or anything. Okay," utters the vigilante shortly thereafter, rolling one shoulder and then the other. "Also — does anyone think the Gothamites would have a much better public image if they used more wordplay and puns, because now Zee's got me thinking about it, and, y'know-"

He looks at Red Robin.

And whispers "think about it" before he just strings up a web to yank himself skywards towards the coordinated chaos.

"Wow, it's a zoo out here! … no, that one's not good, sorry, sorry everyone, I'll try harder I swear-!!"


"Deja vu- right! That. -and if it's such an old rally, why do we gotta use it? We're new and oh hey- but wouldn't it be cool to ride to battle on a t-rex or what?"

Impulse does come back to meet up with the others after he's had a look around- which isn't anything new, really. It's okay, they'd just landed. He grins and waves at Zee and the others before squinting through his yellow-tinted lenses at Spider-Man. "Spider-Dude. Right?"

Well, they can always do a meet n' greet after they take are of business. Robin's already giving instructions, so Impulse salutes. "Ain't nothin' getting past me!" he promises, and in another *fwoosh* and blur of red and white, he's gone and on it.

"See, this is why I wanted you on the team," Red Robin tells Zatanna. "Everyone else you hang out with is, like, thirty… Or a hundred. You're nineteen, Zatanna, you are kids these days."

Helping the Princess of Prestidigitation make friends her own age - friends who are themselves a little bit different from the rest of the world, like her - is at most fifteen percent of why he decided to start up the Titans again. Maybe twenty if you really want to push it.

"And he's called the Brain because he's a brain in a jar," the vigilante explains. "I don't know why he named the gorilla Mallah, the Monsieur is because they're both French."

With Impulse making a one-man perimeter thanks to his Speed Force abilities, they can at least hope that none of the animals actually get out. Since they don't know what's actually happened to the zoo residents, there's no way of telling if an escaped animal could spread it to the rest of the wildlife in NYC… Just imagine all those rats suddenly working together, for the Brotherhood of Evil!

Fortunately, Zatanna's signage seems to be working, as people try to get towards the lit up exits, and the loose children - and also a bunch of the adults, actually - start heading towards the RARE POKEMON signs.

As Fairchild heads towards the east exit, it's not hard for her to navigate the panicking people… Especially as something else seems to spook them, and now there's a crush of bodies trying to get away from the east gate. Standing a head taller than even most of the men in the crowd, it's not hard for the redhead to see why: There's an angry (and possibly hungry hungry) hippopotamus charging RIGHT AT THEM.

Zatanna's calmness in the midst of the chaos, as she casts her spells, has the Mistress of Mysticism singled out as well. There's the rustle of a nearby bush, before something leaps out of it after her. A couple of somethings, in fact: Small, adorable somethings, with fluffy ringed tails.

Two of the zoo's red pandas, looking incredibly cute as they try to claw and bite at the witch's bare skin.

The webslinger's perch gives him an angle on the apparent cause of all of this: Standing on top of one of the zoo buildings, the towering figure of Monsieur Mallah and the rather less intimidating Brain. But he'd also see, below him, a group of children who aren't involved in all the running, screaming and crying. Instead, they're standing in a circle, playing a clapping game and singing in French.

  • * *

"Brain," says Mallah, his low, menacing voice carrying a warning tone as he unlimbers his machine gun. "There's meddlers here."

There's a sound roughly approximating a snort from the Brain, which is weird because he doesn't have a nose. Or a mouth. Or lungs.

"Worry not, Mallah my love," the Brain says in emotionless, electronic tones. Even his maniacal laughter was flat and robotic. It's weird. "Phase two of my plan is already in motion. Do-gooders like these will be completely helpless to stop it. Still, we should do something about that fast one."

"I bet he's not faster than—"

"He is clearly faster than a bullet, Mallah," the Brain interjects. "I should've built you a laser gun."

<Zee is NINETEEN?!> Caitlin's voice cuts over the radio system, and she starts pushing through the crowd fairly easily; she's considerate enough to catch people who bounce off of her and set them back on her feet, as the crowd flows around her like minnows avoiding a rock in the middle of a fast-moving stream.

<I thought you were like…> she trails off. <I don't know! More than nineteen!> she exclaims. <I know I'm older than Impulse, and Robin's too short to be—> there's a silence as Caitlin counts on her fingers, breaking into a jog as she moves to intercept the hippo.

The hippo, snorting and bellowing, rushes at the big ginger, and Caitlin charges right for the big beast. They slam hard into each other, and physics takes over and drives Caitlin back a few feet as her boots cut deep gouges into the asphalt behind her while the hippo pushes her back. She gets her hands in between the big beast's jaws and grabs for those thick, blunted teeth, forcing the critter's jaws apart and making it hork and honk in pained protest. Phew! The smell alone makes Caitlin blanch and gasp for air, turning her face away from the hippo's cavernous throat.

<Am I the oldest person on the team?!> she demands, aghast.

…his name is the Shocker.

Pale cheeks puff out like a chipmunk. Zatanna falls back helplessly on her chair, laughing all over again. "Wait, he actually exists??" she gasps. "I thought the Boner was just exaggerating! I swear, I'm not kidding, I can't make anything like this up - when the guy's coworker started ragging on him about his name, he started ranting about how he bets that the Shocker didn't have to deal with that kind of mockery and…"

Turns out, the Shocker has probably encountered a similar spate of laughter from Spider-Man.

Perhaps there really isn't such a thing as coincidence anymore.

An explanation about the gorilla and the brain in the jar has her staring at Red briefly, before she lifts her shoulders in a shrug, by now a veteran of some very strange happenings that the most she does these days when she hears of a new one is a double take, concentrating on her spells. With the signs doing their work, there's a small eyebrow twitch when Spider-Man and Red Robin rightly point out that she is kids these days, to which she throws up her hands. "I don't know!" she cries. "I read about the Pokemon thing on Facebook, I don't actually know what they are! Look, it's been a really long time since I did magician shows in birthday parties, I— "

Zee is nineteen?? Caitlin asks through the com.

"Age is just a number!!" the raven-haired magician cries. Any more and she might actually stomp her foot and flail her arms in a dramatic fit worthy of a seasoned stage presence were it not for the sudden attack of Red Pandas. There's a shriek when she's bowled over by the two adorable, but vicious bundles of fur.

"This isn't— ow! — fair how— ugh!! - am I supposed to - hhrgh! — fight these things when they're too cute to murder!"

'Spider-Dude.'

"Spider-… y'know what, sure, that's close enough, we'll just table that for later okay gonna go save the world… zoo… whatever now, bye-"

And off swings Spider-Man. /Man./

At least it wasn't something like Spider-Lad. Or Spider-Girl. He gets that some times, too. It's just…

… just such a low blow.

And so, off Spider-Man swings, finding a convenient perch to land handily on in the form of one of the high fences to one of the many broken exhibits. Hitting the metal-runged surface in a low crouch, those white lenses widen with a slow whirl, expanding his visual field as he takes in the sights and sounds and - ugh - smells surrounding him. Yep. His Spider-Sense is going crazy here. This is great. This is good.

'Am I the oldest person on the team?!'

<You're not… not the oldest,> ventures Spider-Man, slowly, tentatively, before he quickly appends, <But uh, it's fine! I mean, older women are — I mean, not that you're -old-, just old-er-, and I think that's totally — uh…?> There's no way out of this that doesn't make you look like an ass, Peter Parker, <… tubular? … nevermind forget that I'm just gonna — hero ->

Yep.

And so, catching sight of those children, Spider-Man tilts his head, lenses shuttering in a blink. <Hey, uh, I got like — Krang and his furry version of the Bangerang on visual, and… some kids, like — not running away? Are you guys seeing this? That's not normal, right? They've gotta get outta here, I'm gonna just, real quick->

And with that, he'll drop quickly from the fence, flipping through the air before he lands near the children. He looks at them. Clapping and singing. His head tilts.

"Hey, that's a real cool game, huh? I know I loved it when I was like, two, which was a really long time ago despite what some people like to say — but you know what's really cool? Doing all that, like, really far away." He looks to one side of the chaos, where there are angry geese flapping their wings threatening, and then to the other, where a gorilla is just… sitting there, pointing at him. Threateningly.

"Rrrreeeally far away. So why don't you go — be that? C'mon, we'll make it a race-"

Maybe he should stop to think about how weird this is for a moment. Just a moment.

To be fair, everyone's probably older than Bart. Except maybe Conner. <How old're you, Cait?> he asks, because for everything that Max has managed to drill into his head, he's probably missed the one about asking a woman's age. But what's the big D about ages anyway? <-anyway, who cares, we're all Titans, right? Yeah? Hey Double R- can't we just shove these animals back into cages?>

Because it beats trying to herd them away from any exit points. Although if they're aggressive, well, that might be a bit of a problem. Well. He'll give it his best shot.

Oblivious about any extra attention he might be gaining from the gorilla and the pickled brain, Impulse stops briefly to consult the zoo's map so he can remember where everything is. Photographic memory is such a handy thing! While he can't guarantee getting animals in the right cages, he can at least try getting some of them locked up so everyone's got less to worry about.

Am I the oldest person on the team?!

"Yes," is the distracted, and typically direct, response from Red Robin - undoing all of Spider-Man's careful work to try and mollify Fairchild's despair at the sudden revelation that she's the old maid of the Titans, a rickety twenty three. "And I'm six feet tall, thanks."

He doesn't even think about keeping Bart from causing further trouble by following up all of this conversation by actually asking how old Fairchild really is, partially because the speedster can take care of himself, and partially because he's feeling a bit vindictive that the redhead keeps suggesting he's shorter - and, presumably, younger - than he actually is, and also calling him by his old codename.

Though it would be funny if she called him that around Damian. The little shit would flip out.

"How is the Brain actually exerting influence on them, though…" Red Robin muses out loud. "I'm not detecting any unusual electromagnetic activity, maybe it's some kind of tailored pathogen, but then…"

Can't we just shove these animals back into cages?

"Right now, they might just break right out, we need to know what's making them do this. Maybe if we can capture one…" Behind him, Zatanna is bowled over by a couple of red pandas, a sight that makes the Gotham vigilante's eyes widen behind the featureless white lenses of his domino mask. "…Don't kill them, can't you just knock them out…?"

The hippo struggles against Caitlin despite the pain, but it seems like it's not the only large animal that's been drawn by her attempts to corral the fleeing civilians: Now she has an angry rhino charging at her as well, even while her hands are tied up in keeping the hippo restrained, in a sort of angry animal version of a rock and a hard place.

  • * *

"Ah, he's stopped," Monsieur Mallah says, setting down the Brain in his ominous skull-emblazoned tube. "You are quite right though, Brain," the ape adds, extremely articulate despite the low, threatening nature of his voice. He shoulders his machine gun, and instead turns to a nearby pack - pulling out a rocket launcher.

"You keep controlling the animals, I will deal with these interlopers in my own way."

By which, of course, he means shooting a heat-seeking rocket at Impulse while he's checking out the map.

  • * *

The children all turn to look at Spider-Man, their heads moving in unison. Their eyes look clouded, distant, blank… And then they're all grabbing at his red and blue costumed form. A group of six ten year olds is probably not a lot for the webslinger to deal with - as long as he doesn't mind risking hurting them.

"You know, I was hoping to just pick up a halfway decent body in all the chaos of the test," one of the children says, in a French accent.

"But one mustn't overlook it when fortune drops something in your lap, oui?" continues another. "I've heard about you, Spider-Man."

The children are trying to restrain him. Another one is holding up a small device, a metallic crescent with a skull logo emblazoned on the back. They kids all have similar ones on, Spidey would likely notice now, hidden by the collars of their shirts.

"Think what I could do with your body," adds a third, "and the brain of… THE BRAIN!"

"Yes, I know that's redundant," finishes a fourth, the one holding the device, trying to attach it to the base of Spider-Man's spider-neck.

"That doesn't sound right," Caitlin grunts at Robin's terse response. "But everyone kinda looks short to me, anyway." She's grunting because the hippo is fighting and tossing her; strong as she is, she doesn't have any superpowers that allow her to just cheat and ignore physics.

COUGH. ZATANNA. COUGH. IMPULSE.

"I'm not old! I'm only twenty-three!" Caitlin rebuts Impulse. "I only JUST turned twenty-three!" she protests— and then her green eyes go wide at the sound of charging, pounding feet, and she turns just in time to catch the rhino's horn in her palm. The force of impact whips her around the hippo and jerking the beast's head sideways as she grabs the hippo's jaw— it bites her, but Caitlin only yelps as if she's smacked her thumb with a hammer.

"Ow! Stoppit!" she barks— then she takes a deep breath.

"SIT!" she shouts at the two big beasts, for lack of any other brilliant ideas. At least she tones it down enough to now blow out the windows nearby.

Can't you just knock them out?

"What, like punch them?" Zatanna cries, aghast even as she puts a palm right in one of the Red Pandas' faces. "What kind of monster do you think I am?! I'm vegetarian, for God's— OW!"

One of the adorable fuzzy-wuzzies chomps on her fingers, and it actually enrages her enough to bark out a single word: "PEELS!!"

It isn't much of a warcry, but it is effective. Reality once more caves to her demands when the Red Pandas blink their big, dark eyes and slowly topple off her sprawled form in a sleeping cuddlepile. Thin red gouges from bite and claw marks are left visible on her legs and arms.

"….taking a shower today is gonna hurt like a bastard," she mutters, dragging a branch with her and transmuting it into a cage, before stuffing the Red Pandas within. "Red!" she calls from her short distance. "You said you wanted to capture one of the affected animals to see what exactly's controlling them, right?"

She lifts up the cage with the two sleeping Red Pandas.

"Now that they're not trying to turn me into a chew toy, they're actually kind of sweet."

"It's okay, I'm pretty sure that Zee is like, secretly old. Like, really old. Like… Nick at Nite old. Like 'she can name all of the friends from Friends' old. Like — okay hold on I've got more funny jokes after I help out these kids, okay?"

And just like that, Spider-Man turns his attention to the children — just in time to see all their heads moving in unison. And their eyes looking clouded. Blank. Like they've been brainwashed. Or…

"Uhhhhhhhh hiiiii Children of the Corn, guys, I'm getting a real Lord of the Flies vibe here — did anyone else have to read that because I just did and it is -harrowing- — wait, test? Body? Halfway decent?" Somehow, Spider-Man manages to look offended. Somehow.

"Hey! My body is really cool, you jer — wh-whoa hey why are you all grabbing me with your snotty hands lay off c'mon oh what the hell is that thing?!"

So, his Spider-Sense is blaring; that device is approaching, and his extra-sensory perception is warning him louder and louder the closer it is that this thing is BAD FOREVER. The children are wearing them, too. "Oh. That's good. That's great. You're all Krang, aren't you? Dammit, Krang!"

They're trying to restrain him; of course, he's got SPIDER-STRENGTH, but they're also children. But that device is getting reeeally close to his neck and, and —

"Have you ever — considered — how you might avoid redundancy problems — by not having such a really boring name-??"

*thwip*

This is the sound of Spider-Man trying his best to angle his right hand down to web the approaching child's ankles together — to try to restrain them as best as possible without hurting them and hopefully buy him a bit more time.

"Like — and I'm just spitballing here — maybe Krang-? Hey guys I've got a real Creepy Kid Situation over here-!!"

"You make everything so difficult, Rob." But of course it won't be so simple as putting things back into cages. Looks like he'll just have to keep running defense. He's about to do so when he catches the reflection of something off the glass of the map. Squint. "What's that..?"

…oh.

Times like these when that Single Synapse business is a good thing. Faster than a blink and Impulse is gone, likely with a rocket on his tail.

"Aw man, not again," Impulse mutters over the comms as he tears down the paths. He's not sure how fast the rocket is or how well it tracks, but he figures that it'd be bad to lose it with all the other things running around. No killing the animals. Well, at least Zee seems to have things handled, whatever it was she was handling. And…was Cait battling dogs or something? As for Spider-Dude…

"Creepy kids how? Where are you anyway? I kind of have a rocket chasing me at the moment-" He could at least sound a little panicked?

"It'd be boring if I didn't," Red Robin retorts to Impulse's complaint. "But they broke out to begin with, I'm not sure we're equipped to lock them up if they're going to put in a coordinated effort to get loose. We just need to keep them contained and keep them from hurting anyone, until we can figure out how they're being controlled."

  • * *

Probably nobody was expecting Fairchild to stop a charging rhino with her hand, and at this point the panic of the crowd has melted away somewhat, into a kind of awed silence and the sound of cameraphones clicking as the towering redhead strains between the two mighty animals. The hippo's relative hungry hungriness drives it to actually try chewing on Caitlin's arm, while the rhino futilely tries to push her into the other creature, but it is for the moment stymied by her tremendous strength.

And then, with a loud, angry trumpeting, an elephant joins the fray, rushing at the whole hippo-woman-rhino situation.

  • * *

Zatanna's magic manages to turn her adorable attackers into just a pair of sleeping critters - who do cuddle up to each other by reflex, the red panda possessing superior cuteness instincts - easily put in the transmuted cage. Red Robin moves quickly towards the package the gothic magician is holding, squinting behind the lenses of his mask as he starts to scan the previously vicious little guys for any anomalies…

  • * *

There's the distinctive sound of a gorilla swearing in French as Impulse races off, deliberately not moving too fast lest the rocket go wild and cause unnecessary havoc, though of course the speedster seems awfully casual about the fact that there's a heat-seeking missile chasing him. It's only got so much fuel, of course… It's possible that Impulse could simply lead it on a chase until it runs out of gas. But that wouldn't leave him able to help the others, would it?

  • * *

"There's some kinda device in its fur," Red Robin says, frowning. "Near its spine. A control unit? But it's not sending or receiving any signals I can detect. Not like a conventional remote control, maybe some kind of psionic amplifier…? There must be some kind of central unit, did anybody see anything weird?" He pauses. "I mean despite the obvious stuff. Is anyone near Mallah and the Brain?"

  • * *

*thwip*

Spider-Man's webbing catch the child carrying the device by the ankles, securing them together… And making the ten year old fall forward, his body still obeying the commands relayed to it by the Brain through the device on his own neck. So this kid, an adorable little moppet if ever there was one, smashes facefirst onto the asphalt, the force of the impact dislodging the control unit on the back of his neck… Which leaves Spider-Man being Spider-Manhandled by five controlled preteens, while the sixth rolls over and starts crying, red running down his face from a bleeding nose.

"I am not a ninja turtles villain!" the Brain says through one of the other children. "And look at you, you made that child cry!"

She peers at the Red Pandas, frowning when Red Robin's gloved hands part some fur to reveal the small device wedged in its spine. "Tech is your expertise, Red, not mine," she says - and it's true, Zatanna has absolutely no idea what she's looking at. "And I don't want to fiddle around with it with my powers without knowing what it is, I don't want to hurt the little guys."

She glances across the distance. "If there's nobody near the brain in the jar, maybe I can get close, but I need to focus on something."

Pause.

"….ugh I'm going to regret asking this, but do you have pictures of the guys responsible for this?" She's already making a face, picturing the brain in a jar, in particular, though in Zatanna's imagination, the jar has a Kosher Pickles label in the center.

"It's not gonna look like that weird boss in the Ninja Turtles cartoons, is it?"

"Oh COME ON!" Caitlin cries in frustration as the elphant bears down on her. The hippo gnaws on her arm about as effectively as a baby horse gumming on a carrot, and with her other hand she forces the rhino to whip around and gallop away, kicking it in the rump for good measure.

Someone once told her about punching sharks in the snout, so she gives the hippo the old four-knuckled boop to the snoot, sending it scurrying off with a *hork* and a *bleat* noise.

Which leaves her hands free when the elephant gets in range. She pales a little— elephants are big and the dogtrot of the massive land whale makes the ground shake as it gets closer and closer. She doesn't want to punch it… but it looks /pissed/, too.

The elephant rushes close and swings its trunk, and Caitlin's indecision earns her a pair of ivory tusks across the ribs. She goes flying sideways, smashing through a booth selling cheap souveniers.

"Anyone got any helpful hints for dealing with elephants?" she asks over the comms, a bit haggardly. "Asking for a friend."

"DON'T BRING THE MISSILE NEAR THE CHILDREN I REPEAT DON'T EXPLODE CHILDREN"

Spider-Man(-Dude?) cannot emphasize this point strongly enough.

He's already got enough problems as it is, to whit a bunch of little kids trying to wrestle him (come on!) a ninja turtles wannabe harassing him (come on!!) and another little kid crying like he just broke his n— oh. …se. oh.

Oops.

(… come /on/!!)

"You don't get to pin this on me, Krang, I've got enough problems as it is!" protests Spider-Man wearily. "Don't you have some turtle soup to make?? Hey, what's Shredder like in real life? I bet he's totally — augh c'mon Krang Kid stop — stop tugging so hard-!!"

And this is the sound of Spider-Man being wrestled to the ground by children. Oh, the humanity. The truth is, he's just kind of going with the flow a bit here — trying to jostle an arm free so that he might attempt to pluck that strange, skull-like device from another of the children, even as he tries to communicate with the others.

"I'm by a — a building, I think Krang and Magilla Gorilla are on the roof like, whispering sweet nothings to each other or something — hey, also I think Krang might be — augh not there that's sensitive, show some respect, seriously!! — I think he might be, like, brainjacking things or — or — I dunno! KRANG WHAT'S YOUR MASTER PLAN WHILE I'VE GOT YOU HERE, ARE YOU GONNA MAKE AN ARMY OF KIDS AND ANIMALS TO REBUILD THE TECHNODROME AND ESCAPE FROM DIMENSION X??"

It bears asking.

"Ugh, right," comes the grumbled response to Red Robin. "Lemmee know when you figure that out. In the mean time…"

Impulse is getting pretty bored of having a rocket on his six. He's dealt with worse, and he knows the best way to get rid of one is to get it to hit something else. In his head, a mental checklist. He can't go helping Spider-Man when the guys got kids around him, creepy or not, he supposes- and as emphasized per the guy's frantic shouting (ow), so Spidey's head gets ex'd out. And he can't hurt the animals so going to find Cait's out. "-an elephant? Really? They like peanuts, right? Or is that a cartoon thing… Can you ride it?" That's Imp tracking back to the whole riding dinosaurs into battle thing.

Bringing a hand up to his earpiece, he frowns a bit, his eyes skimming the otherwise blurred scenery. "Mind control devices? Creepy. -think I know what direction to look though. I just gotta- HOT DOG STAND!"

That's not an exclamation in fear either. That poor hot dog stand. Impulse vibrates clear through it, hoping the rocket will keep on him if not retarget the food cart. Either way, those dogs are about to be past well-done. The sound of the actual explosion is brief since he doesn't stop to watch the fireworks. With a quick snack in hand, Impulse is off back in the direction he'd come- and the direction that rocket had first been fired from. "Got it. Heading your way, Spider-Guy."

"They haven't moved from there, though, right? Maybe the device is inside the building. Whatever it is, it would probably be large," Red Robin thinks out loud, presumably for the benefit of everyone else. "Too big to just be built into the Brain's tank, if he's able to control all these animals and… Children?" That part is pretty weird too. But the Brotherhood of Evil was always a very cackling-over-the-top-conquer-the-world-with-crazy-plans kind of group.

Zatanna's question gets a curious look from the former Boy Wonder, before he is in fact bringing up holographic images of the two Brotherhood of Evil leaders: Monsieur Mallah would look like a pretty regular (if very large) gorilla, were it not for the vest and the red beret. The Brain looks like a missile with a skull face on it, and the tip is a clear dome that, quite blatantly, covers an actual brain.

  • * *

The elephant that's menacing Fairchild trumpets in what can only be interpreted as triumph, a concept which would normally be alien to an elephant, but currently it's psionically linked to a megalomaniacal super brain. It does not really appear to want peanuts: Its primary goal at the moment, while the rhino and the hippo regroup from their painful encounter with Caitlin Fairchild, is trying to trample the young woman and the crappy souvenir stand that she's already partially pulverized with her towering frame.

  • * *

"Why do you need their pictures, anyway? I'd be careful about what you're doing to the Brain while he's connected to the animals," Red Robin suggests to Zatanna, his brow furrowing over his mask at the commentary from Spider-Man, and from Impulse, who apparently really wants a hot dog.

The explosion briefly makes the vigilante worry about the speedster, but fortunately Impulse sounds off, heading back towards Spider-Man, and the building where the villains are hanging out.

  • * *

"He's very annoying," Monsieur Mallah says about the webhead, having put away the rocket launcher and retrieved his machine gun, which he's currently pointing right at Spidey. "Can I shoot him?"

"He really is," the Brain agrees. "But no, we could still get control of him, and—"

The children are now crawling all over Spider-Man, in the way only a bunch of ten year olds under the control of an evil brain could, though Spider-Man manages to wrench the device off of one of them, leading to the child falling off of him and landing right on her butt, looking like she just woke up from a nightmare.

Almost immediately, she joins the other kid in crying.

"I need their pictures so I can zap to their location and maybe eavesdrop. Maybe they'll say something about how they're controlling the animals," Zatanna tells him, squinting at the holographic images he presents to her. "Unless you have a better idea, or if you can figure it out within the next few minutes." And she is being serious at the last part; Red was a genius, if there was anyone who would be able to figure out how the strange device works, it would be him.

After committing the images to memory, she takes a few steps back. "Alright, last call to talk me out of this," she tells him. "No? Okay, I'll see what I can find out."

She, of course, has absolutely no idea that the giant gorilla is shooting rockets at Impulse.

If Red doesn't protest, she'll do what she has indicated - she vanishes without a trace, fading away into the background until she's no longer there. The teleportation trick, unless there is any interference, will drop her close to where the gorilla and the brain in the jar would be.

Brain in a jar.

"At least it's not Nixon's brain in a jar…" Zatanna murmurs, taking a quiet peek around her surroundings. She's only had a modicum of training in sneaking around - Red was helpful in giving her a few hints, but she will, if she finds some, get to the nearest cover she can find and start moving closer.

"SPIDER-MAN! Oh — ohmigosh, I'm SO sorry, please don't cry, I wasn't yelling at you, I was yelling at Mini-Flash — no no please — ugh, just… go…sh darnit."

This would be the sound of Spider-Man trying to coax children out of crying — largely in vain — while a horde of creepy possessed children try to climb all over him in that way creepy possessed children do. It's an awkward situation. After all, they're just kids, and he can bench press a minivan. On the other hand, they're just kids, and he can bench press a minivan.

So.

It's tough.

For right now, though, Spider-Man is slipping that device away into his utility belt as best he can because yes he has a utility belt, it's got his spider-signal on it and -everything- (and -yes- the spider-signal is -super useful-). The other thing he's doing is trying to use that preposterously limber body of his to get the other children into position atop him such that they're all relatively within the approaching Impulse's line of fire with their backs to him.

"Kid Flash! It's the device on the back of their necks! If you grab 'em they're all like — de-Krangified! No longer a member of the Foot! Whatever! Seriously, who names an evil organization after an appendage? That's just — nonsensical. Maybe Krang knows. Krang, do you know?"

Meanwhile, the children are crying. Just. Sobbing. It's awkward.

"That was a really funny joke!! You kids shouldn't be crying, I saved your life, you should be laughing and also running away and" crying intensifies "OH GOD I'M SORRY DON'T BE CRY"

Impulse makes a face at being called 'Kid Flash,' but it's hardly the worse thing to be called. Common mistake. He can deal. Besides, Spidey needs his help, and helping each other's the whole point of a team, right? Even with vague directions it doesn't take him long to find the building where the Webbed Wonder is near, being assaulted by children. It's a babysitting nightmare, to be sure.

"Un-device the kiddies, stop the alien brain control, got it."

At least Spider-Man's keeping them distracted, or…is it the other way around? Either way, Impulse uses it to his advantage as he zips in, seconds before Zatanna makes her own little tele-jump. There's not much to herald his arrival save for a gust of wind and, if one were looking in the right direction, a brief blur. If they aren't too difficult to be removed from Spidey's personage, they'll seem to levitate as they're plucked and pried, set down and quick hands snatch at the control devices.

"Oh good," Red Robin says, facetiously. "I was worried your plan was gonna be crazy."

Admittedly, it's not too far off from what he would do in this situation, except he wouldn't teleport. Because he can't, and because he finds teleportation a deeply unpleasant experience. He'd sooner have Cassie or Conner carry him by the scruff of the neck while they flew, or have Bart do that weird thing the Flash does where he can extend the Speed Force to another person, and honestly there is a very long list of things he'd rather do than either of those, so.

So.

"Just be careful," the vigilante tells Zatanna, instead of actually talking her down, because this is basically the time for crazy plans. She might've hoped that he would talk her down, but unfortunately for her he sees the logic in this course of action. In the meantime, he continues to work, analysing the small device on the adorable, caged, unconscious red pandas.

  • * *

The chaos in the zoo continues to spread, as near the entrance Fairchild battles with the rampaging elephant, and to the south the burned-out remains of an innocent hot dog stand can be seen strewn about, where a rocket callously destroyed it. The T-Jet, parked a short distance away in the treeline of Central Park, is still broadcasting its signal to the other Titans, just in case Wonder Girl or Superboy or Starfire flew into the area late, relaying them to where the rest of their teammates are currently struggling with what is, frankly, a bizarre terrorist attack.

  • * *

"The fast one, too," Monsieur Mallah rumbles in his French-accented, terrifying giant gorilla voice, glowering down at where Impulse emerges to help the beleaguered Spider-Man. "I really wish you'd made that laser gun," the hyperintelligent ape adds… Sulking?

"I'll build you a laser gun next time," the Brain says, his voice emotionless, electronically synthesized, and yet clearly trying to mollify the gorilla. Neither of them seems to have noticed Zatanna as of yet - it turns out that Spider-Man and Impulse both make excellent distractions - and where the witch is lurking, she would see some kind of cabling stretching from the Brain's cylinder into the building below. "We'll test it out on Wall Street, once I've perfected the psionic amplifier. Won't that be fun? Maybe some antimatter grenades, too."

Mallah mutters something, his expression twitching.

"Was that a smile I saw?" the Brain wonders, sinisterly playful.

  • * *

"I DON'T UNDERSTAND THAT REFERENCE!!" the child without a broken nose wails, despite Spider-Man's best efforts to bring some levity into the terrifying situation the group of ten year olds have been subjected to. One of the ones climbing him is currently trying to actually bite him, but really that costume gives no traction at all. At least, until the remaining kids are wrenched off of the webhead, the skull-emblazoned devices that were attached to the backs of their necks hitting the ground in a clatter thanks to Impulse's frankly alarming speed.

The freed children have a long, bewildered moment of silence.

Then they also start crying.

Naturally, this is roundabout when the hippo and the rhino, previously driven off by Fairchild, come bursting through a nearby food cart, spraying cheap popcorn everywhere.

She peers out from around her cover once she's close enough to eavesdrop, Zatanna's brows scrunching at the middle. Psionic amplifier? Antimatter grenades? She wonders, privately, if this is what others feel like whenever she tries to explain magic to them. Part of her already knows on some level that everyone else in the Titans know what these are except for her.

Ice-blue eyes fall on the Brain and all the cabling threaded from his tank. It's talking. It's being playful. Her nose wrinkles in disgust. At least it doesn't have a mouth to talk with, from what she can see, otherwise that would just be really weird. Or so she hopes anyway, for all she knows here is one and she just can't see it.

Eugh.

Elbisivni, she traces on the ground, the cloaking spell tossed over herself. She'll then proceed to move as quietly as she can, to follow the lines she sees into the building below. She doesn't dare report in, not yet - the mention of testing these instruments on Wall Street is particularly worrisome, but she can't blow her cover just yet.

This.. Isn't too unfamiliar a situation for Wonder Girl as she's found herself in the middle of some zoo hijinx back in San Fran. And let me tell you, with that kind of experience, a girl learns a few things. Some one would wish they never learned, but others far more useful.

Such as now, when Wonder Girl finally makes her way into view thanks to the signal. The first thing she sees is Fairchild and.. Well. That's a thing.

She'll be fine.

Then there are the villains. ".. Yikes."

And of course, there are the poor kids- Cassie can't help but find herself completely unsurprised by the fact that Spidey can't handle some brats. SIGH. Prioritiizng by her heart, she drops down from above on all adorn in a set of headband cat ears and tiger-print scarf- It clashes horribly with her outfit but whatever. "Need a hand there, Spidey?" She gets to her feet, hand on her hip, opposite in a v-sign over her eyes. "No need to worry, cubs, WONDER TIGRESS is here to get you to safety!"

"Who wants to PROWL with Wonder Tigress?"

"Wh — how do y — oh my god!"

This is the sound, and sight, of Spider-Man, throwing his hands up in absolute dismay the -exact- seconds the gush of superfast wind that is Impulse swipes past, yanking the children off him and freeing them of the Brain's brainjacking bonanza.

"I can't even talk to you right now. Look, just, do yourself a favor, okay? Nickelodeon, Sunday, nine in the morning. Educate yourself. Turtle power will totally change your life."

See? He's -so- heroic. And now the headlines are just going to be 'SPIDER-MAN BREAKS OUT FELLOW ANIMALS FROM ZOO TO TERRORIZE CHILDREN!' He just knows it. Just watch. Maybe a bit of a snappier headline, though. 'SPIDER-MAN SPIDER-SCARS CHILDREN FOR LIFE!'?

Why is he even thinking about this!

And so, just rubbing his head with a long-suffering groan, slowly dragging himself back up as all the children bawl around him. "Okay. Fine. Cry. See if I care. As long as we can get you to safety that's fine, just — wow, were one of you trying to -bite- me — this suit is really expensive guys, c'mon, that's not cool, first the Krang thing and now this?! I-"

He'd finish, but then there's a girl there. In headband cat ears. And a tiger-print scarf.

'Who wants to PROWL with Wonder Tigress?'

"…

"… …

"… … …"

It takes all of five seconds before Spider-Man just clutches his gut and starts laughing. Like so:

"Ahahahahahaha hooaaa — oh my god my lungs are burning — aaahahahaha — wonder what? Wonder WHAT? You look like a — one of those — cafes in Japan — ohhhhhh my sides, I can't breathe, someone save-"

And that's about when the rhino and the hippo come barreling in.

"-me. Uh."

One second passes. Spider-Man looks to the children.

"See? THIS is when you should've been crying!!"

He doesn't think. He just acts. A swift movement puts him between those animals and the children. His hands snap up.

"Impulse!" Hey he got it right! "Wonder Tigress!" Hey he didn't laugh! "Get the kids outta here, pronto! That means fast!" And with that, he points palms towards the massive mammals, and presses fingers into them. Webbing sprays in rapidly hardening adhesive lines, looking to stick not to their eyes, not to their bodies — but to their left and right front legs, respectively. You know when people tie two kids shoelaces together as a prank, to get them to topple over each other (Peter sure knows (oh boy does he))?

Yeah.

It's like that.

"… who wants to PROWL with the… hhnnggfffahahahapfff…!!"

Impulse comes to an abrupt halt once the kids have been de-bugged. He juggles a couple of the devices in his hands before letting them drop to the ground as he glances around at the ring of crying children. "Um. Should we do something about that?" How do you turn them off?

When Cassie makes her entrance, he blinks, glancing up at her, or down, as she lands. And then he blinks again. "Did you change your name? I thought it was Wonder Girl." Is changing names a thing now? Aw, but he doesn't want to be Kid Flash!

And then suddenly it's raining popcorn. Oh. And hippo and rhino, guess those are important to note.

By the time Spider-Man is trying to clarify what 'pronto' means, Impulse is showing him by visual definition as he darts into action, there one second, gone the next. He scoops up a couple of kids to carry well away from the splatter zone. "Hang on, 'kay? We're going for a ride," he tries to reassure them with, running just a touch less quicker than usual, but by all means still a blur. If there are any police by the main exit of the zoo he'll drop them off there.

"Heya. You help these guys find their parental units? I'll help get the rest." Aaaand he's off again. Cycle. Rinse. Repeat.

Who wants to PROWL with Wonder Tigress?

"Oh, Red Robin, you're too isolated," the masked vigilante mutters to himself, his right hand flying over the holographic keyboard generated by his suit's left-hand gauntlet, scanning the small devices as quickly as he can. With Zatanna wearing the mask he'd built for her, as well, there's an additional data feed - he had warned her, back when he gave it to her, that it tied into his suit's computer. "Starting up a team is a great idea, Wonder Girl definitely won't show up in a cat ear headband while Spider-Man traumatises children."

"This would never happen to Batman," he continues to himself. "The Justice League wouldn't… Wait, they've got like three Green Lanterns, nevermind."

Jordan alone probably raises the shenanigans level significantly. He would totally turn up in a cat ear headband.

"Focus up," Red Robin says over the comms. "All the animals have small devices attached to the backs of their necks, over their spines. They're letting the Brain hijack the critters' motor cortexes and other voluntary neurological functions… There's no electromagnetic signal being broadcast, so it's probably some kind of psionic thing, since he's just… You know, an evil brain in a jar."

  • * *

The elephant fighting Fairchild is actually trying to damage the entranceway itself now, to make it harder for the civilians to leave the park uninjured - it's clearly trying to cause fear and panic and harm, rather than outright kill anyone. Like the elephant wants people to know. It wants the story to spread. It wants them to remember, because an elephant never forgets.

  • * *

"Whatever the amplifier is," Red Robin continues, "it'll be directly connected to the Brain's jar, and able to process and distribute an enormous amount of information. There's no time to go running around subduing every animal in the zoo and taking the slave units off while the Brain is controlling them… We need to shut the amplifier down."

  • * *

The kids grabbed by Impulse go from crying to loud calls of WHEEEE as the speedster rushes off with them, before they get dumped with some very bewildered cops, who are still trying to figure out what to do with the situation in the Zoo - are they supposed to call Animal Control, or the Avengers? - but with the growing number of flashing lights and sirens, it seems that the city's emergency services are getting ready to try and restore the peace… With no idea about the chaos they'd be throwing themselves into.

Spider-Man's webslinging tangles up the hippo and the rhino, the large animals' own size and momentum leaving them to bowl each other over, skidding to a stop just in front of the blue and red clad hero in a pile of wrinkly grey skin and angry rhino-hippo noises - it's not clear just how long that'll hold them, with the Brain's influence working against their natural self-preservation instincts and pain thresholds.

  • * *

"Tigress?" the Brain says. He'd almost sound confused, if he was capable of emotion. "Wasn't she a villain?"

"There were a couple Tigresses," Monsieur Mallah allows, raising his machine gun. "One of them fought some wizard I think. Z-something. In any case, we'll see how this one likes… BULLETS!!"

The roar of the gun - too large to be carried by any human - is tremendous, especially up on the roof where Zatanna lurks invisibly. Belt-fed, it spits a stream of lead down from Monsieur Mallah's current high perch… Directly at Wonder Girl and Spider-Man both!

With the heavy hitters attempting to control the other environmental factors in the Park, Zatanna manages to slip inside the building, simply following the cable connecting the Brain to the psionic amplifier - or at least, Red Robin is sure that's what it is. Finally letting go of the cloaking spell, she surveys the dark interior, illuminated now and then by the glow of multiple machinery. With the large gorilla and the talking brain somewhere above her, and busy from the sound of it, Zatanna finally finds the room to use her comm, broadcasting to the rest of her team.

"So I found it, the amplifier," she says. "I'm gonna shut it down, and see if I can…I don't know. Steal it, or something. They want to test it on Wall Street, though for what, I don't know. And the Brain mentioned something about antimatter grenades, that's bad, right? So I figured if I take the device, you geniuses can take it apart so even if they do manage to escape and use whatever designs they have to test it on humans, we'll be able to counterattack more efficiently."

She pauses.

"That's good, right? I did good? Look, I haven't really done a lot of superheroing. I'm mostly a paranormal investigator type, and investigator's really pushing the term…."

She squints at the controls.

"Anyway, I'm shutting it down and them I'm taking it. If anyone protests, say now or forever hold your peace."

And with that she jams her finger on the power button.

Caitlin clambers out of the wreckage of the souvenier cart, shaking her head and massaging one rib where a tusk had smacked her. It was far from the hardest hit she'd ever taken, but it still /smarts/ to get smacked by an elephant.

She eyes the elephant, wracking her brain for an idea— she really hated the idea of hurting such a rare and majestic animal, but… someone was going to get hurt. Or killed, if she didn't act decisively and soon.

And then there's the sound of machine gun fire, which is DEFINITELY the sort of thing Caitlin's supposed to be handling. She makes up her mind and dashes for the elephant, whipping around on one ivory tusk; she grabs the other, sets her shoulders, and /heaves/ as hard as she can in a twisting motion, pulling and rotating around the beast's thick, shaggy-skinned neck and, somehow, managing to flip it on one side with a tremendous /whumpf/ of ten tons of muscle and bone hitting the ground. Something that massive can't fall gracefully; even a few feet of collapse is a bone-bruising injury for it.

Caitlin manages to get a shoulder under the collapsed animal's ribs, enough to lift it; this is a strange feeling for the elephant, who panics and kicks with legs that are nowhere near long enough now that Caitlin's holding the ten ton beast over her head on both palms.

"I've had.. about… enough of you!" she grunts— and she bodily shoves the elephant down the gentle slope leading into the seal enclosure. The seals all dive into the water, and the elephant's effectively landlocked on the island by the slippery wet slope of the containment area.

"Okay! Got the big guys handled!" Caitlin says, breaking into a run towards Mallah and The Brain— she's not Impulse, but Caitlin sprints like a ginger juggernaut, tearing up asphalt as she uses her super-muscled legs to propel herself along at high velocity. Not exactly low on the propety damage scale; BUT, she gets around fast enough.

There was one thing Cassie was not expecting and that was becoming an almost life-threatening level of amusement for Spider-Man. She stands there for a moment with a shocked expression while her cheeks flush a bright shade of red, "Ugh; *Fine*! And only temporarily, Impules." she notes after Spidey nearly dies. Stupid Spider-Man. She'll show him. She'll lead the kids to safety like the expert tiger-striped babysitter she- Oh, Impulse already got the job done.

Fudge.

But before she can truly sulk, she finds herself under an assault of bullets, in which point she realizes she never asked Red Robin if her wristbands can deflect bullets. Only one way to find out, she supposes, but lacking the skills of a certain amazon, Wonder Girl finds herself skipping backward to make the task of parrying the projectiles easier. And if she's really expert mode maybe she covers Spidey's path!

"Woohoo! Take that, endangered animals! That'll teach you to get captured and enslaved by humans for our amusement! … wow, zoos are really messed up, huh? Man. Jeez. Wow. My childhood, just, ruiohhh nope wait there goes my spider-sense."

CRACKCRACKCRACKCRACKCRACK

Little Known Fact: Spiders are not bullet proof! Therefor, when one says they have the proportional bulletproofness of a spider, what they mean is

"OH MY GOD WHY CAN'T YOU THROW BARRELS LIKE A NORMAL GORILLA YOU'RE THE ABSOLUTE WORST"

that. What they mean is that.

And so Spider-Man, relying entirely on that superhuman agility and danger sense and Cassie 'Wonder Tigress' Sandsmark's possibly-bulletproof-wristbands (oh god he hopes they are that would be -so- -messy- if they're not) to start flipping his way past the hail of bullet fire, stringing a line of webbing to both those massive animals as he goes to try to find and yank their control devices free from their spinal column.

"You know" hop "I'm really" flip "surprised" spin "that Gorilla Grodd" rollrollroll "hasn't sued you yet" leap "for blatantly stealing his schtick" duck "exclamation points indicating sincere surprise!"

And, as the others go about trying to figure out how to shut down the Brain's brainery shenanigans from afar, Spider-Man leaps through the air between those staccato cries of gunfire, trying to get close enough - and get the absolute right moment - to fire a glob of webbing off at Monsieur Mallah, aiming for the perfect timing between machinegun bursts to lodge into the barrel of that large gun, hopefully gooping it up so that the next time the gorilla pulls that trigger it'll backfire — right in time to, with any luck, create an ideal opening for Caitlin's Crazy Crashlanding Carnage.

"Seriously though, what's it like being the B-Lister of the Gorilla Supervillain world??"

"Kiddies evacuated and- okay who's getting shot at now?" The speedster in red and white jerks his head back towards the center of the zoo where he'd last left the others. Monkey and the Brain were over there too, weren't they? Well, unless Red Rob has any other instructions for him, Impulse will head back where the main party's at.

"-antimatter? Pretty bad," he confirms Zee-wards as he rockets along. He goes in a roundabout direction, however, rather than straight up the main path. Not like it makes much of a difference for someone with his speed. Besides, it allows him to corral and herd any straggling beasties that might start to stray towards the direction of his friends or the outer reaches of the zoo.

His path ends up being a gradual (??) spiral to take him to the building where Spidey and Caitlin are converging, and pushing himself a bit more, Impulse vibrates through the building to tear up the stairs to the top.

The device that Zatanna finds inside the building, sitting on a table, has a definite Mad Science look to it. Lots of bits and doodads that might not even do anything, but to even a casual observer just scream 'this is some kind of high tech device that does something incredible'. This may be a completely intentional design choice.

Especially considering it was built by an evil brain in a jar with a skull face on it, who leads something called the 'Brotherhood of Evil'. On purpose. It's not even ironic!

Worst of all, especially for somebody like Zatanna, it has a Big Red Button. The Big Red Button is the half-twist kind, like you'd see on equipment that needs a safety lock: The Big Red Button pushes in as Zatanna jams her pale finger onto it, turning and unlocking, popping out with an audible click once she releases it.

And throughout the park, all the animals with slave units on them go insane.

This includes the elephant, which ultimately leaves Fairchild with no option but to lift the mighty beast over her head and trap it in the middle of the seal enclosure, as it trumpets and blares furiously. Weirdly, the seals don't seem to be under the Brain's control.

  • * *

Monsieur Mallah's machine gun roars furiously, though after that first burst of bullets the superintelligent gorilla settles down enough to fire in more controlled bursts as he puts in a good effort at killing Spider-Man and Wonder Girl, though the former's dodging and quipping is clearly having a deleterious effect on the big ape's temper.

It turns out that the armbands Red Robin gave the demigoddess are indeed at least roughly bullet-deflecting - the rest of the costume is a kevlar weave, and at least bullet resistant, but then the vigilante was pretty sure that Wonder Girl herself was, too. The sharp whine of richochets cuts through the air, as the bullets bounce off of Wonder Girl's bracers and hopefully not into anything important. Luckily most of them hit the ground. One or two might go Spider-Man-wards, but that's surely by accident.

The rhino and the hippo had joined the cacaphony of maddened animals, though Spidey removes their slave units with some deft webbing, causing them to settle down into only mildly paniced bleating, before he webs up that big gun.

Mallah, being hyperintelligent, is smart enough to not shoot the webbed up gun. Instead, he throws it, hard, at Spider-Man before he starts rooting around in his bag for another weapon.

"Mallah!" the brain exclaims in that cold, electronic voice. "Mallah! Someone's meddling with the amplifier! One of these little brats snuck past us!" He'd almost sound panicked, if his vocal synthesizer was capable of it.

Mallah turns a horrified look to the Brain, flat out ignoring Spider-Man's vicious insults, and currently unaware of the oncoming Fairchild, or the way Impulse phases through the wall and heads up towards the roof himself.

  • * *

"Uh… That's weird," Red Robin says over the comms. "There's some kind of feedback through the control chips, and I'm detecting a big buildup of power over where you guys are."

He pauses, consideringly. Judiciously.

"I think it's gonna blow up."

Click.

Silence.

"Did it work?" Zatanna wonders.

Camera pans out to the rest of the zoo where all the animals go insane.

At the transmission from Red, she stares flatly at the circuitry in front of her. "Well, you told me to shut it down and it said Power on it, it's supposed to turn it off, right? Why aren't any of you engineer-types over here?!"

She is absolutely unaware that a large, firearm-toting gorilla is heading for her direction.

"Oh my god, I knew I should've paid more attention to Jane's gadgets," she says, finally just slamming her palms flat on the console. "NWOD TUHS!"

Her experience in magically manipulating electronics doesn't particularly fill up too much of her resume of magical workings, but she has had practice - notably at the HYDRA base where they had managed to steal Bucky Barnes' brainwashing apparatus. A psionic amplifier is an entirely different device from an iris-and-palm scanner, but if she can manage to do that much in an extremely stressful situation, she can do the same here.

It should disturb her, by all rights, how she doesn't seem to have all too many limitations save for the mechanism inside her specifically built to keep a lid on her endless soul-well of power. That whatever she wills becomes reality, no matter how absurd.

But today, wildly out of her element with all this tech stuff, she will freaking take it.

"HEY! MONKEYFACE!"

For those of you keeping score at home, Caitlin can currently be found at the apex of a long jump with a hundred and fifty foot span, and soaring roughly sixty feet through the air. Her red hair flickers and whips in the wind; she wears it mostly loose, save for her favorite black headband, and the air buffering the ginger locks behind her somewhat dramatically. She's at the height of her raw, metahuman athleticism; bare legs coiled, arms overhead, her green leotard making her look like she's suspended in motion for one of those Sports Illustrated Body shoots.

And she is holding a three-hundred pound concrete planter over her head with an effortless flexion of her mighty thews.

"Catch the barrel, Donkey Kong!" she calls with a gleeful, cackling laugh— and she flings the planter down at Mallah and Brain like she's throwing a fastball. The momentum is so terrific that in fact it checks her horizontal travel, stalling her in midair. Arms pinwheeling, Caitlin plummets to Earth like a bag of rocks. She flexes her legs at the last moment, crashing through a tree canopy and smashing clear through a heavy park bench, splintering wood and warping steel with the force of three-hundred-plus-pounds of ginger superheroine falling sixty feet to the ground below.

She bounces off some concrete, rolls, and dusts herself off. Worth it!

"… Whew." Mental note for Cassie to up her training on that front; that was quite a bit of mental pressure for her. Also mental note to thank Spidey for the assist. Later.. Ish. In fact after the verbal assault he lays upon Mallah, she ends up deciding she got off quite lightly compared to him, to the point where she almost feels kind of bad. ".. Ouch."

And with Cait bursting into the scene, a bright smile forms as she resists the urge to cheer the big woman on! It isn't difficult to resist since she suddenly stands straight and cringes following the sudden uptick of noise coming from the other animals. SHe isn't sure what she can do about it, though, so she opts to back up Caitlin with pugilistic violence if necessary.. As if she'd need it!

"-whoaaa, you seriously are a brain. In a jar. Weird."

That statement heralds the Speedster's entrance, or rather his arrival, seeing as how he's just suddenly standing there, taking in the chaos that's erupted on the roof. He takes a moment to appreciate the awesome that is Caitlin as she flings something that's probably super heavy at the gorilla- and indeed it is a gorilla toting weapons- and did he know that Cait could leap that high?

Red Robin's voice cuts in on the comms again, and Impulse slaps a hand over an ear. "Wait, wait- power build-up? What's blowing up? We're blowing up? What about Brainy and the Beast?" Oh wait, was he supposed to be doing something?

"I didn't know it was going to do that!" Red Robin insists, a bit defensively, as Zatanna gets (understandably) a bit peeved about the possibility of having accidentally triggered some kind of self-destruct. "Why would something blow up when you turn it off? Unless it was some kind of weird fakeout button, I mean it's not like the Brain has hands to push an off switch with. Or maybe he hooked it up wrong. Or Mallah did, it's not like a huge gorilla has good hands for delicate operations…"

  • * *

Impulse is there, on the roof, while Monsieur Mallah is checking his duffel bag for a suitable gun to keep trying to kill Spider-Man and Wonder Girl with - the webslinger, avoiding the thrown machine gun, is no doubt hard at work making sure there's nobody else likely to get caught in the radius of the presumed explosion - and there's a low growl from the hyperintelligent ape as he pulls a grenade out of the bag, pulling the pin and tossing it at the speedster. It's okay though - it's just a 'stun' grenade, primed to go off with a brilliant flash of light and sound. A simple explosive probably wouldn't be much threat to Impulse, after all, but it's hard to outrun light.

It was part of an escape plan, really. Mallah was ready to cut their losses and run, but Fairchild hurls a heavy object on high at the peak of her leap, shouting for him to catch it, and…

Well, he does.

It's a tremendous effort, but the powerful, enhanced musculature of a giant gorilla created by mad science bulges and strains as Monsieur Mallah catches the hurled cement planter, cracks appearing in the roof under his feet.

Behind him, unless Impulse got fancy, the grenade goes off, highlighting the figures of Mallah and the Brain in brilliance, for a good two seconds.

Then he throws the planter back, a heavy overarm throw that sends the massive weight rocketing lengthwise at the heroes.

Throughout, the Brain has been trying to wrest control over the amplifier, to override the accidental overload caused by Zatanna's reckless pushing of the Big Red Button that said off on it: Almost, he's sure he's got it. Almost.

And then, reality bends in obedience to Zatanna Zatara's will. The machine simply… Shuts down.

"Ah?!" the Brain exclaims. "What… How…?!"

"WHAT?" Mallah asks; unlike the Brain, his hearing was affected by the flashbang.

"WE NEED TO GET OUT OF HERE, MALLAH," the Brain shouts.

"WHAT???"

"Oh, for…" the skull-faced jar is suddenly grabbing at Monsieur Mallah and his duffel bag of weapons with prehensile manipulators, before the gorilla gets the hint and grabs on likewise: A tremendous burst of dark puple smoke extrudes from the underside of the Brain's container as the connectors that hook it up to the amplifier release, and then, of all things, a jet engine fires out from the bottom of the cylinder, lifting the Brain and Mallah in a sudden, ridiculous, and weirdly effective retreat.

"WE'LL GET YOU NEXT TIME, WHOEVER YOU ARE," the Brain exclaims, villainously, as they rocket up and… Away?

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