JUSTICE LEAGUE

11

The Social, Part One
 

"Well, then," said Rosma. "Apparently Studmuffin healed quickly."

Pinzz sat up from her bed, despite the fact that she had about 50 pounds of hoses and needles and blankets practically smothering her. "Hey...what happened?"

The other superheroes dashed over. "Pinzz! You're okay!" said X-Raytor with glee. Seeing how the dance had been postponed because of the Jarhead incident, Twisk had canceled on him, saying by the time the social was back on schedule she would find someone else. The other dateless superheroines had turned him down flat, so it seemed Pinzz was his last chance.

"Of course I'm okay! How could I not be okay with your handsome self at my side, lover?" asked Pinzz, with complete sincerity.

This, naturally, confused the Justice Leaguers. Including X-Raytor.

"Say what?"

"Have you already forgotten that special, wonderful week we spent together last fall, James?" She looked directly into X-Raytor's eyes.

"Isn't that X-Raytor's real middle name?" Raven asked Rosma. Rosma nodded, though how she knew was a mystery.

The other superheroes watched, first with skepticism, then with disbelief, and finally with bemusement as the conversation between Pinzz and X-Raytor continued.

"Pinzz?"

"Yes, darling?"

"You're joking, right? This is a big joke, isn't it? Any minute now, you're going to pull some evil stunt that will give you some kind of sick pleasure out of this, aren't you?"

"James, I would never do that to you. I have loved you far too long to pull some kind of cruel prank on you."

Now X-Raytor was starting to get a little freaked out. Especially since there was a time last fall where he knew he had completely blanked out for about a week. It had been right after he went on a self-destructive Oreo binge.

He knew, if nothing else, that Pinzz was in charge of the Justice League superhero background database. So she had access to stuff like his middle name.

Scarlett walked up. "Pinzz, do you remember anything between that week and now?"

"Well...actually, dear Miss Scarlett, I don't think that I do. It was such a lovely, romantic week, wasn't it, James darling?

Hmm…mused X-Raytor. That blow to Pinzz's head must have been more severe than we thought. She's got some kind of selective amnesia. X-Raytor grinned. He knew just how to use this to his advantage.

"You mean, Sweetie Pinzz that you don't remember asking me to the Justice League Superhero Toga Party Social?"

"I...no, I don't think I do, James darling, but it sounds like a wonderful idea. Will you go with me?"

"Yes!"

The other Justice Leaguers gasped. They all knew Pinzz would never have asked X-Raytor; who would have guessed he'd take advantage of Pinzz's apparent amnesia and current bad taste in guys?!

"I did," muttered Oreo.

"Yeah, me, too," said Scarlett.

"So...then...I guess the Toga Party is back on track?" asked Midnight Chatter. He glanced over at Scarlett with a shy grin.

"Yeah, let's do it!" said Oreo.

And so, with the party scheduled for Thursday and the entire Headquarters in a shambles, they decided they had to do one of two things: fix the headquarters in two days or find somewhere else to party.

"Well...I guess we could have it at my place. You know. The secluded cottage."

"The secluded cottage that used to be owned by the Magic Finger before his family sold it to you because they needed money and they thought he was lost at sea and so it's entirely possible that there's some kind of secret entrance or dungeon that we don't know about where a bunch of villains who are mad about not being invited to the party could break in and kidnap some of us and hold us for ransom?" asked Midnight Chatter.

"Yeah."

"Cool!"

***

"Yeah, just like that. Perfect!" X-Raytor said.

Pinzz was preparing her toga. Her sweetie wanted it to be the most revealing toga possible. The others seemed pretty shocked, but she didn’t know why. They were probably all jealous.

"Sweetie, can you come here?" she asked.

X Raytor answered.

"Help me with this toga pin, love." He did, and all was well.

Pinzz remembered nothing really. She knew she had a deep love for James, but that was it. Oh, and she was a superhero.

"Anything else, Neary?" He asked.

"No."

***

X-Raytor was almost too happy to walk. He had a date. Yes, he'd had a date before, but now he had a date with Pinzz- or Neary, as she preferred he call her- and not just that, she seemed to be madly in love with him. Then again, after that blanked out weekend... if only he could remember what had happened then! Dirty stuff? Maybe!

He walked- or pranced might have been a better word- into the kitchen. Oreo Avenger glanced at him. She was standing next to the Llama Formerly Known as Neomatrix, having fed him an experimental Oreo. He was now (supposedly) capable of taking on any form he wanted, but he didn’t seem to want anything. She was checking on him, but he just looked like an indistinct lump. She raised an eyebrow.

"You're happy."

"Of course I'm happy!" X-Raytor said. "I'm ecstatic! I'm delirious! My heart is combusting with joy!"

Oreo Avenger blinked. "'Combusting with joy'? Anyway, my point is, when you're happy, either a lot of people have lost their clothes, or Disney finally decided to restart So Weird."

"It's neither!" X-Raytor said, grabbing a drink from the fridge. "I've got a date with Pinzz!"

Oreo Avenger blinked. "Does anyone else find his joy a little... odd?"" She glanced at Neomatrix, but he was still an obscure lump. She looked at Xiao, sitting at the kitchen table, but her eyes were rolled up in her head, and she was muttering in Babylonian- Fred must have been angrier about the lack of cheddar than she thought...

Eric stuck his head around the door. "Did I hear that a lot of people are naked? Have my people finally come to take me home to Paradise?!"

Oreo Avenger stared. "No, it's just..."

"I've got a date with Pinzz!" X-Raytor announced.

Eric looked blankly at him. "May God have mercy on your soul..."

X-Raytor finished his drink and glared from underneath his tin foil eyepieces. "What is it with you people? You act as if she's some sort of man-hating Amazon!"

"Well... she's not an Amazon..." Eric said.

"I WILL HAVE YOUR SOULS!!!!!!!!!" Xiao exclaimed, although it was obviously Fred who was speaking.

X-Raytor scowled. "Well- well, you're all just jealous of me and Neary!"

Everyone was silent. Then Xiao/Fred said: "'Neary?"

X-Raytor stormed off, to his room, and dug into his closet until he found his toga. He'd need to get it washed, yes, but there was still time before the social. He put it on and walked down the hall to Pinzz's room.

"Neary, sweetie? I got my toga!"

Pinzz/Neary/Sweetie opened the door. "Oh, James, you look so handsome in a toga!"

"And you look radiant!"

"But... I'm not in my toga..."

"You look radiant anyway!"

Pinzz/Neary grinned. "We'll be the best super hero couple at the social, without a doubt!"

"And if we aren't we'll simply dump punch on the heads of our competition!"

They laughed a semi-evil laugh, and gazed deep into each other's eyes. And for some, strange reason, X-Raytor found himself more interested in her eyes than in looking through her clothes.

Suddenly, X-Raytor straightened. His plans- would any of this interfere with his plans for the social? No, no, of course not, why would it?

"James? Is something wrong?" P- no, Neary- asked.

"Nothing at all, sweetie, nothing at all..."

***

Although Midnight Chatter was still in a weird mood, contemplating his past that he couldn’t remember, he was still very excited about the social. And he was ecstatic that Scarlett had asked him. She was the only one he really wanted to go with. Everybody else didn’t get him the way she did.

Nevertheless, he had been in a dark place all week. He tried not to let it show much, always making sure to ramble when people were around and act stupid. What could he say? He had to play his part. He actually wasn’t like that all the time. He knew how to not ramble, but he had a feeling if he didn’t ramble, then everybody would think there was something wrong.

Lately, Midnight Chatter felt lonely. He had his new partners and friends, but he had no family. Well, he didn’t remember them at least. He wished he had some clue to find them. It seemed his only link to his past was the mysterious "Mob-man." But he was not any easier to find.

MC decided to go to a little coffee shop a few blocks away. It was one of those places with computer's to get on the Internet. It was called "Espresso Self." He liked to get on the Internet sometimes and talk to people online, or read articles, or play games, or whatever. When he arrived, he ordered a French vanilla cappuccino and took a place in front of an empty computer. He decided to check up on some news while he was there.

He went to a website which had all kinds of news stories from all over the world, and typed in his area. Several headlines popped up. He started randomly clicking on them, reading about a soccer mom who went crazy and beat up a soccer mom for the other team. He wasn’t surprised; those soccer moms could get pretty violent. He never really liked soccer, so he moved on to a different story. This was about a supposedly extinct plant that somebody found in the jungles of Africa. It was definitely interesting, but his cappuccino was ready, interrupting him from reading.

Midnight Chatter went up to the counter paid for his drink, and took it back to the computer he was on. He took a sip and looked up at the screen. He saw a headline that caught his attention.

"Mob gathering busted by police. One man escapes."

He clicked on it, and almost spilt his drink all over his lap from surprise. There on the screen was a picture of the "Mob-man" who tried to kill him two years ago. Under the picture it read, "Mob boss, Tony Del' Copa, escaped from the police when a gathering of infamous Crime Lords was busted. Police..."

That was all Midnight Chatter needed to read. Tony Del' Copa. That was the man's name. Now he had a lead. It wasn’t much, but it was better than nothing.

Seeing as the social was soon, Midnight Chatter decided not to worry about Tony Del' Copa until the dance was over with. He just wanted to have a good time for the moment. So he headed back to the Justice League HQ to make sure he had a toga. If not, he could always just tie some sheets around him and make a toga.

~FLASH~
...Topher, two girls, and three other guys were walking through a hotel hallway wearing toga's. The girls were laughing, and the guys were chanting "Toga, Toga, Toga." Topher looked to his side. Doors were opening up as people watched them stroll through with toga's on. They got on an elevator and...
~FLASH~


"Woah!" Midnight Chatter got dizzy and sat down. He was having a flashback. He remembered that night. He had gone on a theatre trip with his friends, and they decided to all have a toga party at the hotel. They went around the hotel in togas, and one of the women who worked at the hotel made them go back to their rooms. The rest was fuzzy, but it didn’t matter, he had remembered something, and that was a good sign.

MC smiled to himself, and a tear ran down his face. He had finally gotten some information about himself. He used to act. He was in theatre, and he had some good friends.

Midnight Chatter got back up and walked out of the coffee shop and trekked back to the headquarters with a bounce in his step. He was finally happy. Truly happy.

***

Scarlett ran throughout her house, checking out the decorations for each room. She was pleased not only with the party decorations, but with the interior-decorating Hamlet had done as well.

The party decorations, however, were truly incredible. Each room or area was a different theme, so walking throughout the house was a little like traveling the world:

The living room was done as though it was right out of Greece. Scarlett had to pinch herself briefly to make sure she wasn’t trapped in that Hercules movie. The study was done in an African theme, while the bathrooms were all in various Asian styles, ranging from Japanese to Siamese to Indian. The individual bedrooms were Native American, Australian, and German, respectively. The Australian room even had a small Jacuzzi with a fake crocodile lying inside. The guys would be crashing in the Native American room, while the girls, since there were more of them, would be sleeping in the Australian and German rooms.

Outside, in one part of the sprawling garden, Hamlet had grown hedges and trimmed them into a fancy maze in the shape of a fleur-de-lis, which was visible from the 2nd story windows of the cottage. The rest of the garden was beautiful, inspired by scenes from Alexandre Dumas’ books, including a spot for fencing or perhaps a duel. The pier on the river and the accompanying gondola were obviously Italian. The gondola man, Guido Ravioli, waved. She waved back, and then turned her thoughts back to the party plans.

At each of the respective areas, the food would be authentic to whichever region was represented. The kitchen, consequently, was decorated in a mish-mash of all the countries of the world. The dining room, however, was done like a 1950’s soda shop, and the main course the first night would be traditional American fare, including steak, hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza, and French fries. Seeing as the party was scheduled through Sunday, each meal would be a different theme, with the final meal composed of favorites from the other meals.

Scarlett found Hamlet lounging in the study, typing rapidly on the computer. “Great job, Hamlet. I love the decorations.”

“Meeroow,” Hamlet replied absentmindedly. Scarlett looked at the monitor to see what Hamlet was so engrossed in.

“Another RPG? Aren’t you already in a couple of those?”

“Mrrrrrrow.”

“Oh, right. This one’s different. I’ve heard that before. Hamlet, you spend too much time with those people in your RPG. Sometimes I worry about you. It’s not really very healthy to spend so much time in a make-believe world.”

“Meeooww?” Hamlet was not very pleased.

“If you want to do it, it’s fine. But just don’t get obsessed with it or anything, okay? When you start making websites and stuff, I want to know.”

“Meow,” Hamlet said with an affirmative nod. He turned back to the RPG and continued typing frantically.

Scarlett pulled the 7th book on the top shelf of the bookcase out, opening the secret passage to her bedroom: a fire pole, which went down a story or two, stopping at the beginning of a dark hallway. Scarlett slid down the pole.

She strode down the dark hallway to her Moulin Rouge decorated room, going through it to get to her walk-in closet, which was considerably larger than her bedroom, and at least three times as big as the walk-in closet she’d had at the Justice League. There was actually an entire clothing rod devoid of clothing.

“Gonna have to fix that next week after the party’s over,” she mused aloud. She looked over at the toga she had picked out, as well as the matching sexy red heels, and picked it all up to get dressed.

Just as she had finished her hair and began tying a strange, blindfold-length band of cloth around her wrist, she heard the doorbell ring. She glanced at the clock; it was two hours before the party was supposed to start. Who on earth could that be? She finished tying the cloth, then took the incognito shower elevator up to the kitchen pantry, and from there dashed over to the door.

She opened it, and on the other side was Midnight Chatter, dressed in a rather debonair toga. “I thought you might, um, I don’t know, need some help getting everything ready or something,” he said, somewhat nervous. No rambling. Scarlett had noticed his rambling had been less and less obvious, except for a couple of times where Midnight was obviously making an effort at it.

She invited him in, and as he stepped inside, he pulled his hand from behind his back, holding out a bouquet for her. Orange roses, gardenias, and daffodils. Absolutely gorgeous. Scarlett thought the most beautiful flowers in the world were daffodils, but they only bloomed for a few weeks in spring…

“Daffodils? In August? Where on earth did you find them? They’re gorgeous!” Scarlett exclaimed in delight.

“I’ve got connections I didn’t know I had, what can I say?” he said with a grin.

She rushed Midnight Chatter with her to the kitchen so she could find a vase to put the bouquet in. After placing the vase with the flowers in the most prominent place she could find, she gave Midnight the grand tour of the grounds, which were quite extensive and took nearly two hours to walk over. They had finally made it back to the living room when they heard a put…put…puuuuuuttt sound coming from far off in the distance. They ran to the front door to see what it was.

At first, it was just a speck on the horizon of the road leading to the secluded cottage, but as it neared, the faces of Pinzz and her now-darling X-Raytor became more and more discernable.

“What the heck are they riding on?” asked Midnight.

“I’m not sure…wait…I think it might be…” Scarlett trailed off, starting to giggle as Pinzz and X-Raytor put-putted closer. “Yep…it’s a moped, alright. A hot pink one.” X-Raytor and Pinzz reached the cottage, parked the hot pink moped, and walked over to the front door where Midnight and Scarlett were waiting for them.

“Since when do you own a hot pink moped, X-Raytor?”

X-Raytor ignored the question. “So, are we the first ones here?”

“Yeah.”

“Cool. Um, where is the couch?” asked Pinzz. Scarlett pointed over at the Grecian-style couch in the Greek living room. Pinzz and X-Raytor made their way over to the couch and began making out, in a rather disturbing, cuddle bunny kind of way.

Scarlett glanced over at Midnight.

He glanced back at her. “Do you-" Midnight started to say, but he was cut off by the doorbell.

***

Things looked so small when flying. Tiny ants scurrying along under streetlights, the apartment complexes like elaborate roach motels. Buildings became progressively shorter and smaller the closer Studmuffin came to the edge of the city. As he passed the city limits, he left his heart behind, and let it wait for his return.

The night air was warm. It seemed to be getting progressively warmer each night. Studmuffin enjoyed it, though. It felt good whipping across his body, through the various lacerations in his costume. That reminded him, he'd need to hire a seamstress. But how much did they charge? Perhaps he could get a rebate, being the charming superhero he was.

Studmuffin wasn't sure where, exactly, he was headed. He could only feel, deep within his gut, that he was headed in the right direction. He'd know he was there when he saw it. Though he wasn't completely sure what it was, just that it was far away, and to the south. It'd take him at least a day, if not two, to get there.

The stars twinkled unobstructed tonight; any clouds having dissipated from the heat. The moon was in full form, casting a distant sun's light on a slumbering city. The city at his back, Studmuffin was now over a dense forest, far away from the one he had annihilated. A national park, at that. He began to wonder if his fellow Justice Leaguers would think he had left to dodge the repercussions brought on by the federal government and their tree-hugger minions. Thinking on it harder, Studmuffin came to the conclusion that he would rather face an evil supervillain then any environmentalists. He already had the mental trauma and all-fur version of his costume stained with red paint from his last encounter with those savage beasts. Almost as bad as feminists. Studmuffin shuddered, despite the warm breeze.

The forest was beginning to thin out, grass peaking out from place to place. Studmuffin could see mountains in the distance. Already he was loosing track of how long he'd been in flight. Closing his eyes, the pale face flashed. Studmuffin opened his eyes. The vision haunted him still. Who was he? His skin was an unnatural, deathly white. His hair hung long, and was just as white. But those eyes…those eyes of blue flame, they cut into Studmuffin's very soul.

Studmuffin somberly soared over the mountains, their peaks capped with snow, an odd juxtaposition against the warm air. Deciding to take a slight detour, Studmuffin dived down between the mountains, racing mere feet above its rocky surface and dodging trees and large boulders. He needed to take his mind off the pale man, shake himself of the nagging sense of approaching chaos, and what he was about to face, whatever it may be.

He began to lose himself in his game, flying faster and faster, more and more trees coming up, visible only by moonlight, and the ones behind him bending in his wake. Swing a right, left, left, right, left, rightleftrightrightleftleftrightleftrightrightri-le-ri-ri-le-ri-le…everything became pure reaction, the moment he strafed past a tree, another one was right in his face. Something hit him, hard, inside his gut. He lost concentration, and smacked into a tree. Through the tree, and into another one. Straight through that one, and another, and another, until finally skidding into the ground. He slowly pushed himself up, the entire left side of his face scratched and bloody, burning. His costume was even more of a disaster than before. The pain hit him again in his gut. He crouched over, looking up into the sky. It was pulling at him. He was wasting time, and the pain came. Gradually, he raised himself into the air, and took flight, resuming his course.

Up in the air, the pain dulled away, though his face still burned. He'd need a good massage when he got back. Normally, he'd wonder more about the sudden pain that had hit him, but for some reason, he began to forget it ever happened. He had to continue to…wherever it was. That was all that concerned him now.

The mountains were soon at a distance, and prairie lands dominated the landscape. Perfectly square patches of corn, wheat, barley, and other assorted grains crisscrossed for hundreds of miles like one massive quilt. The beauty of its organization and neatness produced the first real smile on Studmuffin's face since that day.

Vegetation became sparse the further south he went. Eventually it gave way to a desert. The sun was beginning to peak out from clouds in the distance, casting the sky in a deep red in the immediate vicinity. Studmuffin looked down at the wasteland below, a sandstorm beginning to build across the dunes. Suddenly, everything went dark. Studmuffin opened his eyes and found he was over an ocean, still flying. The sun was at its climax in the sky. Studmuffin could feel he was much closer.

Passing over a multitude of small tropical islands, Studmuffin eventually spied a mainland up ahead. His stomach growled violently, reminding him that he hadn't eaten anything since Crystal's popcorn, who knows how many days ago. He hadn't given much time since he woke up in the clinic to ask how long he'd been out. Maybe a day? A week? He wasn't sure, but did know he hated needles, and was glad to get that IV out of him.

Studmuffin was over the mainland now, thick with tropical trees. He could see many huge rivers all around. Brazil, he reasoned, and the rivers were parts of the Amazon. His stomach reminded him again of its urgency, so he decided to take a brief lunch break. The sun was beginning to burn him anyway.

Setting down near the river, Studmuffin began scavenging for food. He knew that there was tropical fruit, like it said on yogurt containers, like bananas, pineapples, mangos, coconuts, and other delicious fruits, and that this was a tropical area. So there had to be some, somewhere. Beneath the canopy, the air abruptly became fiercely humid. Already Studmuffin's hair was soggy with moisture. He trotted down to the river and crouched down. His reflection showed a face half-covered with dirt. He scratched his head, wondering when, during all his flying, he had ever gotten the chance to get dirty. Cupping his hands in the icy river water and splashing his face clean, his wounds on the side of his face began to sting. The pain reminded him of his crash. Somehow, he had forgotten about that.

Standing up and looking around, Studmuffin couldn't see any of the fruits like on the picture of yogurt containers. He was a little disappointed, and then movement beneath the surface of the water caught his eye. Fish! He didn't have a fishing rod on him, so Studmuffin decided to do the next best thing. Concentrating, he pulled some of the energy of his body into a ball near his palm. The ball moved with his hand, and he aimed it at the river. Discharging it, the energy ball shot down into the water, and a few moments later impacted against the riverbed. The earth quaked and a huge geyser of water erupted where the ball hit. All around, fish popped up on the surface, stunned by the shockwave. Using his cape as a net, Studmuffin flew over the river, skimming the surface and gathering up all the fish. He brought in well over eighty fish, each more than three feet long.

The next problem was cooking them. Finding a long thin piece of jungle wood, he tossed his entire catch into the air, and at speeds beyond the normal human eye, caught them all by skewering them with the wooden rod. Next, he kicked over a decently large piece of timber, and with an energy blast along its side, set the entire thing on fire. Studmuffin held the rod over the line of fire and managed to cook all 80 of the fish at once. His stomach let out a yearning grumble at the mouthwatering smell of the sizzling fish.

An hour later, eighty fish skeletons littered the ground, and a satisfied Studmuffin relaxed against the base of a tree. A brief but heavy rain had come and gone not too long ago, and put out the tree he had set on fire. Everything was soaking wet, but Studmuffin regarded it as a much-needed shower. He wouldn't dare take a bath in the river, however. He had seen all the Hollywood horror movies with piranhas. If his movie-based knowledge served him right, they could also fly and shoot laser beams from their eyes. Studmuffin shuddered, and decided it'd be best to keep away from the river.

Even after all he ate, Studmuffin was still not quite full. Chi-blasts took a lot out of someone. He began wandering the rainforest looking for something to top off his lunch. Probably some kind of vegetable, as his mother always used to make him eat. She always told him if he wanted to be healthy, he better eat his veggies. On the ground, Studmuffin found some mushrooms. He remembered seeing Oreo use something like them in her Oreo recipe. And mushrooms were a vegetable, right? Studmuffin shrugged and reached down and grabbed a few. Brushing off some dirt, he popped them in his mouth. They had a bitter, almost metallic taste, with a slight sour twist. Swallowing, he continued on.

The various jungle noises he had begun to become accustomed to, from the squawks of parrots to the screeches of howler monkeys, seemed to all merge together and echo in one voice. Studmuffin stumbled, and caught the side of a tree for balance. He looked at his hand, and it seemed to sink into the bark. He yanked his hand back, and looked around. All the colors were different. Brighter, vivid, almost neon, as if they had a light source all their own. He looked down at his hands. They were huge! He reached out and touched the clouds. Bugs Bunny passed by and said hi. Studmuffin waved back with his massive hands, and then stared back at them for a bit longer. They were just so big!

The jungle noises started to sound distinct, like someone talking, but Studmuffin couldn't make out any of the words.

" Pralium facio, bellator decerte adversa. Incurro, invadoria!" it seemed to say.

Studmuffin shook himself of the strange language. He wondered where Bugs had gone to, and looked up to the path ahead. Bugs was nowhere to be seen, but a small child stood there, looking back at him. He wore some kind of silver outfit. Studmuffin couldn't make out much more; the boy was too far away.

The child stamped its foot down, and called out, "Pralium facio, bellator decerte adversa. Incurro, invadoria!" Then he waved, turned around, and took off into the jungle, out of view.

Studmuffin raced over to where the boy had stood, but found no trace. He levitated himself, and rose above the canopy, hoping to find some sign of him, but the trees covered up too much. He heard a laugh a few hundred yards away. Studmuffin flew to it as fast as he could, but found nothing. Another laugh, another couple hundred yards up ahead, in the same direction. As soon as Studmuffin made it to the scene, the child was gone. Studmuffin continued chasing the boy for over a thousand miles, but could never catch up to him. He was following something as formless as the laugh itself.

A sudden headache halted his chase. He hovered, clenching his forehead. A vision flashed before his eyes. He was now inside some kind of bunker. Around him, rows of children, expressionless, unmoving. It was cold, very cold. He heard a laugh up a ramp. It led outside, to…wherever the bunker was. Suddenly he was back above the jungle. The headache hit him at full force. He was becoming dizzy, disorientated. Everything seemed to be spinning. He couldn't keep himself level. He wobbled around in the air, flipped around, and started to fall. He crashed through the canopy, caught onto some vines, which immediately snapped from his weight, and continued falling. He blanked out before he hit.

-------------------------------
**Brief Intermission, filled by Jojo, the sword-juggling monkey!**

An obese monkey smoking a cigarette juggles three cutlasses for the next three hours.

**Now back to your regularly scheduled programming**
-------------------------------

Reality slowly began vacillating into focus. Studmuffin couldn't bring himself to open his eyes, and his hearing was muffled. But gradually he could make out two people speaking near him. Deep voices, men, but their language was strange to Studmuffin. Reminded him of the bizarre child. Was it real, a dream, a hallucination? Studmuffin wasn't sure he could tell the difference anymore.

"É este homem?"

"Achamo-lo lavou para cima pelo rio. O que devemos fazer com ele?"

"Você e seu está que caçando partido achou-o e o trouxe aqui. Usa roupa estranha."

"Essa é a razão pela qual nós trouxemo-lo a você, chefe."

"Pode tenta comer as crianças."

"Pensa é um demônio caído?"

"Não. Ele sangra como um homem. Ponha-o para baixo em um das barracas e conta um das mulheres tratar seuas ferida."

"Sim, chefe. Homens, ajudem-me carregaá-lo."

Studmuffin felt himself being lifted up and carried somewhere. He was angled ninety degrees and heard the sound of feet on wood. He was leveled out again as the sunlight breaching his eyelids were suddenly cut off. The temperature dropped by a few degrees as well. They set him down on something rough, and a little bumpy. Two sets of footsteps turned around and disappeared in the direction they had come. One of the men who had been talking earlier began talking again, but not to him. Studmuffin could tell by the voice that he was young, but experienced.

"O chefe diz a mend seuas ferida. Se acorda-se, recebe-me."

"Naturalmente. Nós o fazremos bem." The second voice was definitely female. Studmuffin was an expert at such things.

Another set of footsteps left, creaking down what sounded like stairs. As soon as the footsteps became inaudible, the woman began talking to someone else. Geeze, how many people were there in this hut? He felt as if there were a crowd of spectators watching his every move, and judging it. Well, at least, what little movement he did manage. Most just breathing. For now, that was enough.

"Olhe o que esses caçadores trouxeram-nos. Homens ridículos. Isto é um estranho, não?"

"Pensa realmente é homem? Talvez devemos verificar!" The second girl sounded young, a teenager.

"Tem maneiras tão maás! Parece-se pode tem uma febre."

The older woman felt his forehead, while the younger one poked his biceps.

The teenager started poking him in other places. "Sente-se forte."

The older one smacked the teenager's hand and said, "Pare isso! Está muito doente. Necessitarei ervas especiais para ele."

The older woman got up unsteadily and left, leaving him with the poker. Uh-oh Studmuffin thought, his body feeling too heavy to move. He prayed she'd have mercy on his poor, poor misguided soul..

***

Violet sat by herself on one of the chairs against the Grecian-decorated wall. Iso had refused to come, and was probably out "saving the world"...leaving Violet alone and without a date.

To put it simply, she was upset.

To be more descriptive, she was sitting on the chair with her legs pulled to her chest trying to hide the fact her eyes were slightly puffy as she blamed her sour behavior on the strange colored punch that was being served in the kitchen.

***

My blood runs cold!
My memories have just been sold!
Angel in the centerfold!
Angel in the centerfold!

My blood runs cold!
My memories have just been sold!
Angel in the centerfold!

Na na na na nana na na
Na na na na nana na na!
Na na na na nana na na
Na na na na nana na na!


"I love this song!" X-Raytor exclaimed. "Now if only I could find where the heck to download it!"

Neary gave him an odd look, but then laughed and kept dancing.

It was a natural high- good music, good food, good people. Everyone was having a good time, with the exception of Violet. She was certainly making up for the lack of brooding that was left from Iso's absence.

It was one of the few times that X-Raytor wasn't wearing his mask, exposing his dark brown hair. He was wearing a pair of tin foil sunglasses. Originally, he was going to wear a head piece- like Cyclops, or that Geordi guy on Star Trek, but Neary said that the sunglasses were sexier.

He had no problems with his toga, however- even if it was just a big, fancy diaper. On it he wore his corsage- a rose so dark red that it was almost black. Neary wore a similar blossom on her much more flattering- and revealing- toga.

"After the next slow song," Neary said. "We should go make out on the couch again!"

X-Raytor smiled. Party's rule!, he thought.

***

Raven glanced around at her fellow conspirators, daring any of them to challenge her. Oreo Avenger was busting with anticipation. Rosma was almost giggling. Crystal was giggling, and casting glances at their target- Midnight Chatter.

"Ok, we do it after the next song. Crystal, you distract Scarlett. Oreo, you distract Midnight Chatter. Me and Rosma will execute the plan."

"Are you sure we should do this?" Oreo Avenger asked, although it was clear that she had no doubts. "I mean, Scarlett really does Carrie- er, care about him."

"Well, tough noogies! He deserves this, after he blabbed about that bad score I got on PM2. Which I play sparingly! SPARINGLY!!!!!!!!!" She noticed that the others were looking at her oddly. She quickly pulled out the large Tupperware container, and revealed the strange, almost-meat product inside. "Spam for a spammer." She said.

The song ended, and they moved out. Raven watched as Crystal walked up to Scarlett and began complimenting her on the decorations. Oreo then ran up, crashed into Midnight Chatter, and said that there must have been ice on the floor- causing him to launch into a tirade about ice.

"It's time." Raven said.

Rosma grinned. "I live for this."

They snuck up, quickly, behind Midnight Chatter. Scarlett turned around just in time to see them tip the container.

"NO!"

Spam spilled out, all over Midnight Chatter. For a second he was silent, then rage twisted his face.

"HOW DARE YOU!!!!!" He bellowed, floating in the air. A chair lifted off of the ground, and flew across the room.

"Midnight, dear, you're going to ruin the decorations..." Scarlett said.

Midnight Chatter lost the enraged look on his face. "Oops. Sorry. You know, once at this school dance, this big guy named Kong threw a chair across the room, and it broke, and a piece of it got lodged in the thermostat and-" A large melon suddenly appeared in Midnight Chatter's mouth, silencing him.

"Plug it up! Plug it up!" Raven and her cohorts cheered.

Midnight Chatter spit the melon out and laughed along.

"What was the point of that?" Dragon Girl asked Twisk.

"We're having a social! How could there not be a Carrie reference?"

Dragon Girl nodded, and a slow song started.

"Almost time to make out again!" X-Raytor exclaimed, and everyone groaned, before joining his or her date to dance.

***

Xiao would be going without a date. Studmuffin wasn't there, so she wasn't stuck with him. Fred kept possessing her anyway, and she ended up pouring a whole bowl of sample punch over several people's heads before going outside to contemplate life. Yeah, that's it.

Pinzz/Neary's behavior was puzzling, whatever it was that had hit her on the head explained that away easily, and it wasn't impossible for X-Raytor/James to take advantage of that selective amnesia. Who could blame the guy?

Meanwhile Fred was ranting on. He was tired of not being taken seriously, and ready to sow some havoc on the town, and Xiao, in her half-possessed state, couldn't help but agree. Which explained why she was wandering around in a toga, ranting on in Hebrew whenever Fred took full possession of her. It was kind of interesting anyway, eyes rolling up in her head but still being able to see. And somehow she could understand what Fred was saying through her even when it was in African or Chinese.

"I will have your souls! YOU WILL SERVE ME!" Fred chanted in Irish. "BOW DOWN NOW, OR SUFFER THE CONSEQUENCES!!"

Suddenly, he retreated from her. Several police officers were approaching, one holding handcuffs. "It'll be okay, lady." One said. "Don't do anything, just calmmmm down."

Irritated by them, and also set off by the un-possession as she tried to figure out how to move again, Xiao shoved one away and drained another. If she had been in her right mind, this would've puzzled her since before she'd only been able to take "evil" beings. In her current state she merely reached for another policeman, and another, until they were gone. Then she wandered off, looking for more victims...

***

Twisk pulled Scarlett to the side along with the other superheroes, except for Oreo, who was in the kitchen, Midnight, who was off to take a quick shower, and Pinzz and X-Raytor, who'd disappeared somewhere. Probably exploring the grounds, Scarlett thought to herself.

"What's up?" she asked.

"You know, I've always wondered about Oreo's Oreos. She never eats them, does she?" asked Twisk.

"Actually, she does eat them when she needs to. She has them in labeled containers, so she knows which ones turn you into what," Scarlett told her.

"Hmm…what say we force-feed her a couple of them? After we mix the containers and stuff." The others laughed.

"Great idea!" So they had Dragon Girl and Rosma distract Oreo long enough for the others to run into the kitchen to swap the Oreos around. Then, once Oreo made her way back into the kitchen, Rosma and Raven held her while Twisk shoved a couple of Oreos down her throat.

Oreo hiccupped, and then promptly changed into a bottle of Diet Dr. Pepper, then into a Porsche, and finally, into Prince William in a toga.

The superheroes paused for a moment. "Why on earth would she make an Oreo to turn people into Prince William?" asked Scarlett.

"Actually, the label on that container just said random well-known people dressed in period costume," Violet explained. "It could just as easily have been Richard Simmons in a corset and ballroom gown."

"I think the real question here is whether it's still Oreo or if she really is Prince William now," said Crystal. "I mean, there is somewhat of a shortage of guys at this party."

With that, Oreo/Prince William spoke up. "Might I ask when tea will be served? I've made an appointment to have tea with my grandmother, the Queen of England, this afternoon."

Crystal, Rosma, and the other dateless superheroines moved in closer. "Oreo really is him!"

Scarlett was a bit disturbed by this, seeing as Prince William was, technically, still Oreo Avenger. She exited the kitchen, bumping into a now Spam-free Midnight Chatter, who actually smelled quite nice and was wearing a fresh toga. She took his hand.

"Come on, let's go explore the grounds," she said to him, leading him away from the living room.

"But, I thought we already--" he started to protest.

Scarlett raised her eyebrows suggestively.

"Ooohh," he said with a grin. "Right."

***
Another puddle splashed under Isomorphix's heavy black boots as he nimbly jumped across the ally. Seeing an opening across the red brick wall to his right, he slipped through the ground-level window, hit the floor, and crouched down, holding his breath.

He was being followed.

How did I get myself into this situation? Isomorphix thought as he looked across the dark room, dozens of man-sized boxes lit only by the faint moonlight filtering through the window.

It had started out all right. Studmuffin had flown off towards the south and Isomorphix decided to quickly head over to some "associates" of his where he could call in a few "favors." After all, there was no way he would be able to follow Studmuffin on foot. It seemed fate met him at the corner of St. Mary's, because Isomorphix had been avoiding his silent stalkers for the past hour since.

His left hand sliding down and grasping the smooth wood of his sheath, Isomorphix quietly placed his boots one after another, moving in a crouch across and around the boxes to the far wall.

Breathing slowly, his right hand running across the rough concrete on the floor, he moved... left, right, left... pause. Left, right, left... pause. Left, right, left... BOOM!

The wall behind him exploded!

BAMBAMBAMBAMBAMBAMBAM!

Machinegun fire! From the side??! Isomorphix thought, just as he rolled across behind a large box.

BAMBAMBAMBAMBAMBAMBAMBAM!

BAMBAMBAMBAMBAMBAMBAMBAMBAM - chink.

Large holes filled the drywall where the shots had come through from the other room, the swirling dust particles illuminated by the light pooling in.

It was suddenly quiet, with stifled voices of urgency on the other side. Isomorphix hesitated only for a second before he launched himself from behind the bullet-ridden box, boots thudding rapidly against the floor as he ran towards the wall.

It would only be a few moments till the machinegun would be reloaded... he had to make it before...

BA-BAM! chk-chk. BA-BAM! chk-chk. BA-BAM!

Someone was firing a pistol from the other side, reacting to the sound of Isomorphix's running. It was risky, but a single shot was far more likely to miss than a rapid-fire nonstop blaze of a hundred rounds.

Closer... closer... the wall was coming up right at him, almost as if it were going to hit him in the face. Just then, Isomorphix jumped up and put all his weight into a jump sidekick that went straight into the already weakened wall.

CRRREEEAAAAKKK - BAM.

The wall fell over, smashing a thug underneath it. The other six men, dressed in regular street wear with black ski masks gaped for a second. But just a second as the machine gunner quickly fumbled with his chain of rounds and the others pulled out their pistols.

But Isomorphix was too quick.

Quickly, he dashed at the closest man, unsheathing his katana and releasing the blade in a swipe of intense speed.

The swift cut went through the barrel of the man's gun... as well as his torso. Not noticing the gruesome sight of the severed man, Isomorphix quickly darted his head to the side, just in time to notice the second man raising his pistol.

He pulled the trigger too late as Isomorphix jabbed the gun with back of the hilt, never bothering to turn his sword around. The blow knocked the gun up, firing the round into the roof. Isomorphix kept following through, hitting the man in the chin.

Chk-chk.

Thug Number Three stood across the room, his weapon aimed straight at Isomorphix's head!

BAM!

Number 3 shot his own partner. Isomorphix had grabbed the thug he just uppercutted and pulled him in front of himself, letting him take the bullet. Throwing the now dead criminal at the firing maniac, Isomorphix ran fast behind the corpse and, reinforcing the back of the hilt with his opposite palm, stabbed clear through the body and into the other.

The revolver dropped with a heavy thud.

Isomorphix paused for a second, his katana still under the weight of both dead bodies...

SLICE!

The fourth man's footsteps betrayed him and his headless body fell back as Iso brought the blade around in a long arc.

"What the @#%$? What the @#%$?" cried the fifth guy, buried under number four who had fallen on top of him after being beheaded. He desperately tried to reach for the gun that he had dropped, making frantic scrabbling sounds against the concrete.

It had only been thirty seconds. Thirty seconds and four bodies littered the ground.

Isomorphix's black boot made contact with the pistol, sending it scurrying into a corner. He looked down at the thug, his eyes cold... devoid of emotion. He brought his katana up over his head, preparing to strike as the man's face etched into a grimace of fear.

CLINK!

"Now you're gonna die, you stupid @#%$! SUCK ON THIS!!"

Isomorphix jumped aside, the buried man forgotten.

The man who had been fumbling with the machinegun now opened fire.

BAMBAMBAMBAMBAMBAMBAMBAMBAMBAMBAMBAMBAMBAMBAMBAMBAM!

The first line of fire whizzed past Isomorphix, no further than a hair. Sheathing his blade, Isomorphix jumped, his boots hitting the wall and walking three steps along it.

The thug caught sight and quickly shifted his behemoth gun upwards.

"DIE @#%$!"

BAMBAMBAMBAMBAMBAMBAMBAMBAMBAMBAM!

Too close! It was going to be too close! But he had no choice.

"AAAAAUUUUUUGGGGGGGHHHHHAAAAA!!" Isomorphix let out a primal yell and leapt!

Jumping from the wall, he twisted in midair, pulling his katana from its sheath.

The man was right there... right in sight. Time seemed to slow down, but not entirely stop.

Closer... closer to the man, his eyes wide open, his mouth contorted into a sneer, vowing... willing Isomorphix to die.

And there was the line of bullets, coming right after one another at an impossible speed.

And... and...

THRKSPLRT!

Time snapped back like a rubber band!

Isomorphix fell to the floor, tumbling, a sharp pain in his upper left arm. He had been hit!

Slowly, Isomorphix gripped his katana shakily and used it to get back up on his feet. He touched his arm gingerly through his trenchcoat, and hardened his face at the fresh sharpness he felt.

It was alright... he could rest. The machine gunner was in worse shape than he was... he would never heal. Luckily the bullet had skimmed the surface of Iso's arm - nothing serious.

Isomorphix stood there for a moment, without thinking, without feeling. He held his katana limply with his right, the shininess of the metal obscured by the crimson.

Drip... drip... drip.

The crimson fell to the floor, a drop at a time, rejoining the puddle of similar liquid from which it came.

And Isomorphix stood there, his face obscured by the long black hair that had been wildly thrown around.

For the longest time, he did nothing. Then, suddenly, as if popping in his head, Isomorphix noticed that the man who he was about to kill earlier was missing along with accompanying footsteps fleeing outside.

Wiping his Katana with a piece of cloth he presented from his trenchcoat, Isomorphix resheathed the blade.

Follow the bird to the nest, Isomorphix thought emotionlessly.

Without a second glance backward, he left the carnage behind him... bodies still lying in pools of their own blood.