Justice League Xander:
Choices We Make
Disclaimer: I do not own any of these characters, nor do I claim to. No copyright infringement is intended so please don't sue, I don't have any money anyway.
Spoilers: “Double Date” (JLU)
Summary: “When your world view changes and you start questioning everything, how long before you start questioning yourself as well?” Xander finds himself pondering this, with some old friends and some new enemies along for the ride.
Author's note: This story is part of the Justice League Xander series, and a direct sequel to “No Answers, Just Questions” (http://members.tripod.com/~parabeast1761/NAJQ.htm) so that story should be read before you read this one. The rest of the series, along with all my other stories, can be found at my website (link above). Enjoy :) Special thanks to Torbin Pace, Tenhawk, Rob Clark, nutjobb82, Hatten, Robert Jackson, Vlad the Impish, Dennis Sicz, Garg oyl, Bill, Riana1 and Bobboky for all the feedback and support. It's greatly appreciated.
The driver of the first car slapped a clip into his gun and pulled back the slide. “All right guys, let's make this fast and...” His sentence was cut off by the sound of two loud thuds and a pop, followed by a long hissing noise. He looked out of his window and down to see two crossbow bolts sticking out of his door and another one sticking out from the front tire, which was quickly going flat. He opened the door and stepped out. “What the...” Again, his sentence was interrupted but this time is was by a kick to the face. A flurry of punches and kicks rained down on him as all he saw was a blur of purple and black that seemed to come out of nowhere. He tried to raise his gun to fire it, only to be spun around and slammed against the back door of the SUV just as the man seated there was trying to open it. The door slammed shut on his hand and he screamed out in pain. The driver's head was swimming, but he raised his hand again and fired twice, blindly into the night. He heard another pop and the sound of glass breaking. When his vision finally cleared he saw that he had hit the back tire of his own truck, and the back window as well. He had just enough time to register this before another punch rocked his face and sent his head crashing through the window to the backseat.
All of this happened in a matter of seconds. Question rocketed toward the SUV's, moving as fast as his legs would carry him. Assessing the situation along the way, he could see that there were three men in the first SUV, two in the second, and another two in the third. Huntress was already taking care of the thugs in the first truck, and Question could see the driver of the second, a man with a shaved head, look up as he heard the shot ring out. He opened his door and raised his gun just as the Question made it to the truck and barreled into him, tackling him back onto the driver's seat. He pinned his gun hand against the dash board with one hand and delivered a fierce right cross with the other. The gun went off, putting a hole through the windshield as Question continued to pummel the man. The goon in the passenger seat just looked on in shock for a second, until Question looked up and met his gaze.
“It's the Question, and that bitch from the bar the other night!” the man yelled out.
Question reached up and grabbed the man's collar. Lowering his own head, he yanked the man forward and slammed it into his face, knocking his hat off and breaking the thug's nose in the process. Blood gushed out of the man's nose and he clutched his face and cried out in pain. That's when Question heard shots coming from the direction of the safe house. He knew the commotion would attract the Feds' attention sooner or later. In fact, he was counting on it. He grabbed his hat and dove out of the open passenger side window. Hitting the ground, he tumbled and pushed himself back up against the car for cover. The Feds were trading rounds with the men from the third SUV now, and when Question turned to look at the first truck he saw the blond haired man that had been sitting in the passenger seat with his gun out, using the vehicle for cover while Huntress was still grappling with the other two men.
“Huntress, get down!” Question yelled. If she heard him, she gave no indication.
That's when the man with the broken nose put his arm through the car window and pointed his gun at Huntress. Whether he had forgotten about Question or just didn't realize he was so close was unclear, but what was clear was that he had just made his last mistake for the night. Question reached up and grabbed his his arm, wrenching it back until he heard the bone snap and the gun clattered to the pavement. He stood up and kicked the gun under the truck, then used his free hand to grab the back of the man's neck and slam his face into the dashboard a few times until he finally slumped over, unconscious.
Question turned his attention back to the first SUV, where the blond haired man with the gun still stood with it trained on Huntress. He was about to shout out another warning when suddenly the man she was fighting with was vaulted over the hood of the car, colliding with the other man and sending them both crashing to the ground.
That's when the front door of the safe house flew open, and 450 pounds of albino flesh waddled out. Using his shear girth, Mandragora bowled over the FBI agents on the porch, knocking two of them over the railing and one down the stairs. He made his way down the stairs himself and headed for the second SUV. The gunfire was silent now, and an almost eerie calm seemed to settle over everything. Question watched as Huntress and Mandragora locked eyes, almost like it was happening in slow motion. He could see the smug satisfaction on the rotund mob leader's face, and the hatred that boiled just behind Huntress's eyes. She pulled her crossbow out from her belt and in that exact moment, all he could think was, 'I failed. It's over.'
And then the silence was broken by the sound of a gun cocking. It was the man with the shaved head, he had recovered from the Question's earlier attack, and now had his gun trained on the vengeful slayer. Again, time seemed to almost stop. To her credit, Huntress didn't do anything stupid. She just stood there, her fists clenched with rage.
“Sorry my dear, perhaps another time,” Mandragora oozed as he got into the back seat of the SUV. “I have an appointment to keep.” The driver got in slowly, keeping his gun on Huntress the whole time. The engine roared to life and the truck took off down the street. The third SUV pulled forward, stopping just long enough for the walking wounded to drag the unconscious into the back seat, and then it was gone too. Around the corner with a screech of their tires and a puff of exhaust.
“Damn it!” Huntress cried out, her crossbow still in her hand. “I had him! I HAD HIM!!” she half yelled and half cried.
“Ma'am, put the crossbow down please. And hands on your head, both of you.”
The two vigilantes turned to see three FBI agents standing there with their guns pointed at them. “You have got to be kidding me!” Huntress exclaimed.
“There's gratitude for you,” Question quipped, putting his hands on his head.
“How the hell did he get out of the kitchen?!” Faraday bellowed. A room full of FBI agents looked sheepishly at their shoes.
“I was securing the room, when...”
“Let me guess, you turned your back on him.” The junior agent just hung his head. “You're lucky he didn't get your weapon.” If Faraday noticed one of his agents entering the room with two costumed vigilantes in tow, he gave no indication. “Bunch of goldbrickin' yahoos. I don't suppose anyone caught the license plates on those SUV's, did they?”
“The plates had been removed,” Question spoke up. All eyes turned to him. “The cars were probably stolen anyway, and they're sure to have changed vehicles by now, and dropped their wounded off someplace safe.” The silence in the room stretched for a few seconds while everyone continued to stare. “Not for any altruistic reason, to keep from slowing them down. I wouldn't bother checking the hospitals though, at least not tonight. They were careful not to leave anyone behind, that can only mean Mandragora is afraid of them being interrogated and revealing his plan.” Again, silence.
“Right,” Faraday said after a moment, seemingly considering what Question had said. “All the same, someone get a hold of the local PD and give them a description, have them put out an APB.” One of his men nodded and scurried out of the room.
Faraday turned his attention back to the Question. “I'm guessing I have you to thank for that ruckus out there. Why did I have a feeling that I was going to see you again today after our earlier conversation?”
“Because you're a smart man Agent Faraday, you knew as well as I did that Mandragora was planning something.”
“Still, your timing is interesting.”
“We were just in the neighborhood, I assure you.”
“Do you want me to take them into custody, Sir?” the agent who led the pair into the room asked.
“And charge them with what, Agent? If it wasn't for them, we would have been ambushed here tonight, and we'd be looking at a lot more casualties than a few sprained ankles and bruised egos.” Faraday paused, thinking. “Don't you all have work to do?! Or did you join the FBI so you could stand around in a safe house kitchen and stare at the floor?! Let's go, let's go, we've got a witness to find!”
The room emptied quickly, leaving just the senior FBI agent and the two vigilantes. “I made some calls after our conversation today,” Faraday said after a moment. “Did some research you could say. And everyone I talked to said the same thing. They might not approve of your methods necessarily, but they all said that you're a straight shooter. So I want you to be straight with me now. Did you know what was going to happen here tonight?”
“I had a feeling that Mandragora would make his move soon, but I didn't know it would be tonight,” Question answered.
Faraday nodded. “They also tell me that nobody knows Hub City like you. And if I have any chance of getting Mandragora back before he disappears for good...I guess I'm going to have to trust you. But if you find him, you call me, understand? He's still a government witness, and that puts him under my jurisdiction.”
Question nodded. “I still have the number you gave me earlier,” he said.
“All right, get out of here before I change my mind.”
Question tipped his hat, and the two vigilantes turned and left.
Huntress waited until they were on the front lawn of the safe house before she let him have it. “What the hell was that about?! You talked to him today?!”
“I told you I was here,” Question replied. “How else do you think I planted that bug?”
“What did you tell him?!”
“You want to keep your voice down,” Question advised, leading her further away from the house. “Do you honestly think that if I told him what you were planning to do that he would have let us go?” Huntress had to admit, he was right. “All I told him was that I thought Mandragora was up to something. His response was basically, 'No shit.' I wanted to see if he knew anything that we didn't.”
“And did he?”
“Not that he told me. But still, it never hurts to make friends with the enemy of your enemy. If I hadn't, then he wouldn't have done his homework on me and he probably wouldn't have let us go so quickly.”
“So what do we do now?” Huntress asked.
“Well, thanks to you, Mandragora inadvertently left us a clue,” Question said, indicating the SUV with the two flat tires that was parked in front of them.
“Does that mean that you're still helping me?” Huntress asked.
“I may not want to see you kill him, but that doesn't mean that I want to see him get away with whatever scheme he's trying to pull here any more than you do. Besides, I told you I'd find him for you, and that's exactly what I intend to do. Come on, we'd better do this quickly before the Feds remember that this thing is still out here.”
The pair walked over to the SUV and started rummaging through it. “What are we looking for exactly?” Huntress asked.
“Anything that can tell us where they've been or where they're going. No nav system,” Question observed. “I guess that would have been too easy.”
“Come on, you can't just expect clues to just fall out of the sky,” Huntress said, flipping down the passenger side sun visor. A piece of paper fell out and landed on the seat.
“Or maybe we can,” Question said, picking it up.
“What is it?”
“It's a shipping schedule,” Question said as he continued to read. “Interesting.”
“According to this, there's one ship coming in tonight at 11:30, slip 17. It's a cargo ship, country of origin: Austria. Isn't that where Mandragora is from?
“You think he's trying to leave the country? Why a container ship, why not a plane?”
“The Feds would be expecting that, they'd be watching the airports.”
“That's got to be it then, that's where he's going, the marina. Well come on then, let's go!”
“Huntress, wait,” Question called out. She turned and he tossed her a set of keys. “Why don't you go get the car and come back here and pick me up, it'll be faster.”
Huntress looked down at the keys and then back up. “You trust me to come back for you?”
“I've trusted you with my life, I think I can trust you with my car,” Question answered. Huntress just smiled before turning and taking off in a full run to get the car.
Question waited until she was out of sight before reaching into his coat pocket and pulling out his cell phone. He scrolled though the address list quickly before hitting send and placing the phone against his ear. “Hey, it's me. Tonight, 11:30, the marina, slip 17. I'm going to need your help.”