JUSTICE LEAGUE

18

Super Shibes, The Tri-Leader Prom, and the Second Battle of Albuquerque
 

“So tell me again what you’re doing here,” Rosma said.

“I told you, I had to come back here for a vacation.”

“A vacation from what?”

“I don’t know. The voices told me to.”

“Ah.”

Rosma followed Studmuffin down the hallway towards the living room. No one knew why he’d showed up the day before, but there he was, on the front steps, in all his glory. He wouldn’t say anything about where he’d been; he casually changed the subject when there was a question he didn’t feel like answering. Which, really, Rosma thought, wasn’t anything new.

***

“I should have just stayed in bed.” X-Raytor, full-time super hero, full-time pervert, part-time useful contribution to humanity, said.

“But then you’d miss all the fun!” One of his fellow Justice Leaguers, Oreo Avenger, said. She was sitting on the couch next to him, playing with one of her amazing, yet horrifying, shape altering Oreos.

“Lucky me.” X-Raytor groaned.

It was just another normal day at the Justice League- and that meant another argument that was bordering on violence.

“Oh, give me a break,” Oreo Avenger said. “What else were you going to do? Watch naughty videos? Play with your TiVo? Go and get more therapy for your ADD?”

“Well, maybe… to the first two, at least…”

“But think about this,” Violet Princess said from her chair over to the right. “This is a productive way of coping with your ADD… instead of using your x-ray vision to look through my clothes.” She glared.

“Huh? What?” X-Raytor replied. “Look through your clothes? Me? Why would you ever say that?”

Violet raised an eyebrow. “You’re talking to my chest.”

“You don’t know that!”

Violet whacked him. “I should use my power of magery to make it so you see something else when you do that. But then again, I’m not sure if you’d be able to look through that as well.”

“Shh!” Oreo Avenger said. “This is getting good!”

On one side of the argument was Scarlett Fyre, Crystal Freeze, Twisk, and Midnight Chatter.

On the other side was the newest member, the self proclaimed Super Shibes

“I can’t believe this!” Scarlett said. “Two days, two days, and you’ve already caused more trouble than any newcomer so far!”

“Ehhh, you’re just jealous!” Super Shibes said. He, like X-Raytor, also seemed to wear his costumes all the time- a dark blue tee shirt, baggy pants, and a ratty, worm eaten, dark blue cape. On his shirt, a double S insignia was drawn in a white fabric marker, under which the words: “Standing for Truth, Justice, and the Shady Way!” were scrawled. There was an excessive amount of stubble on his face.

“You don’t even have a super power!” Crystal exclaimed.

“Ehhh! Yes I do! I’m shady!” Super Shibes protested.

“And what does that mean?” Twisk asked.

Super Shibes seemed to consider this. “… It means I’m shady! You people aren’t shady enough to understand!”


“What was it that you tried to do in the fight last week?” Midnight Chatter asked. “Poke him?”

“EHHH! You don’t understand how powerful my pokes are!” Super Shibes darted forwards and poked Midnight Chatter in the ribs.

“This is why I say we should lock our doors,” Studmuffin said.

“We do lock the doors.” X-Raytor said. “You guys just keep letting new members in!”

“Oooooh, is poor wittle X-Waytor gwumpy?” Oreo Avenger asked.

X-Raytor’s eyes narrowed, even though nobody could see it. “It’s just… there’s so many of us, and what titanic, world saving things have we done? I mean, we must have taken in a dozen or so new members over the past year- I had to keep notes to keep track of them all!- and have we really saved the world yet? Hell no! There’s still war, there’s still saber-rattling nuclear powers, there’s still stupid teenagers who throw on cloaks, add a (Dum Dum Duuuuum!) to their names and try to take over the world, and what do we do about it? What do we do? We sit around and let even more worthless members join!” He panted.

“Are you done?” Violet Princess asked.

“I think so… yeah.”

“Okay, good, because I’m trying to watch the argument.”

“Ehhh! Morons! You just hate me because you don’t understand me!” Super Shibes raged. He jumped up onto the coffee table. “I came all the way from the rolling, backwoods farmlands of New Jersey to fight crime with my amazing abilities of: Shadiness! Crankiness! Hairiness! Dirtiness! And Uncleanness!” He struck a pose for each ability.

“Aren’t those last two the same…?” Midnight Chatter asked.

“NO! EHHH! Why are you all so STUPID?!”

“Why do you make that “Ehhh” noise?!” Scarlett yelled back. Her usually perfect chestnut hair was a mess from the frustration.

“It’s the noise of shadiness!”

“WHAT IS SHADINESS!!!!”

Super Shibes crossed his arms over his chest and stuck his nose up in the air. “It’s something you can’t understand. You’re not a shade-ball like me.”

“I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE!!” Scarlett screamed, and leapt on Super Shibes, trying to strangle him with her bare hands. Midnight Chatter and Crystal Freeze tried to pull her off, but her hands were in a death lock on the shady semi-super… hero’s… stubble-covered neck. Twisk tried spraying them both with a fire-hose blast of water, but to no avail.

“Do you think we should break it up?” Oreo Avenger asked.

“SHH!” X-Raytor said. “I’m into this now!”

Just then the phone rang. X-Raytor turned, mentally kicked his x-ray vision up a few notches, and fired twin, red laser beams from his eyes.

Studmuffin leapt and tackled the phone a second before it was destroyed.

“What are you doing?!” He demanded. “This could be my groupies!”

He picked up the phone. “Hello, Justice League Headquarters, the Indomitable Studmuffin speaking!” His face brightened. “Hey! Roseidous!” He covered the speaker and said to the others. “It’s my cousin Roseidous!”

“The Tri-Leader?” X-Raytor asked.

Studmuffin had returned to the phone. “How am I doing? Beautiful as always! Yeah, we always told them we got the good look genes in the family! What? Oh, really! Well, that sounds like fun! Well of course! When have I ever missed a chance to get my groove on? You might want to send your dates out of the room, though, because when Studmuffin turns on the charm, the ladies can’t resist! Ow!” Just then, his face got a bit more serious. “What? Oh, I see… well, it’s a small price. Yeah, you can count on us. We’ll have your letter back to you by tomorrow. Okay, bye!”

Studmuffin hung up. He stood and cleared his throat.

“Everyone! Everyone?”

Oreo Avenger looked up. “Will you shut it, Mudstuffin! I think she’s going to shave him!”

“NOT MY STUBBLE!” Super Shibes cried. “MY SHADINESS! NOOOOOOO!”

“PREPARE TO BE SHEARED!” Scarlett cried in glee, bringing the electric razor down. Midnight Chatter caught her arm and tried to hold on.

“Everyone?” Studmuffin said, a little louder.

“Poke her! Poke her!” X-Raytor cheered.

“EHHH!!!!!”

Studmuffin sighed, collected himself and said: “EVERYONE SHUT UP OR I’LL TURN ON THE “REBA” MARATHON!!!!!

Dead silence. Even the electric razor shut itself off and dropped from Scarlett’s hand. Super Shibes let out a (silent) sigh of relief.

“There, that’s better.” He walked over to the middle of the room. “My cousin Roseidous- yes, the Tri-Leader- just called. He has a job for us. Turns out he’s holding a prom, but that Lord of Darkness (Ding Dong Ding) or whatever the heck that kid’s name is, is trying to crash it. Now, it’s very exclusive, but he’ll allow us all to go… if we get back an invitation that someone, Roses, I think he said, accidentally sent that Lord of Darkness guy. Who’s game?”

“For a prom?” Scarlett asked, letting go of Super Shibes’ neck and standing up. “Count me in!”

“That Lord of Darkness kid tried to eat my dog!” Midnight Chatter said. “I’m in!”

“You have a dog?” Scarlett asked.

“No, but it gives me more of a reason.”

“Ah.”

“Why do we always do these sorts of things for the Tri-Leaders, anyway?” X-Raytor asked. “I mean, we’re super heroes, they’re super villains… shouldn’t we be mortal enemies?”

“But Roseidous is my cousin! We get girls together!” Studmuffin said.

“And Ann Chovi makes the same sort of Oreos I do!” Oreo Avenger said. “Can you imagine two opposing forces each with a weapon as powerful as the ‘special’ Oreo? It would be the Apocalypse!” She paused. “Besides, me and Ann share recipes. We’re going to try to stage a hostile takeover of Nabisco one of these days…”

X-Raytor sighed. “Fine, fine, but it still feels like we’re the Tri-Leaders’ pet super heroes…”

“Well, whatever, but I’m in.” Oreo Avenger said.

Violet Princess, Twisk and Crystal Freeze all agreed as well.

X-Raytor sighed. “Okay, fine, I’ll go too.”

“Ehhh, I’m coming to, if only to prove to you all the power of the Shady Side!” Super Shibes said.

“I’ll try to round up some of the others,” X-Raytor said. “We may need some help.”

“But all we’re doing is going up against a sixteen year old kid who lives in a cave!” Studmuffin said.

X-Raytor looked over his shoulder at him. “Exactly.”

* * *

“… So anyway, Silent Jim walks in and he sees us and he gets this look, like ‘Oh my God, what the hell are they putting in Dick Cheney’s cornflakes?!’, you know, that sort of horrified, disgusted, mostly horrified look? Anyway, he gets this look, and he stumbles back out the door… and that’s when the goat comes back. BAM! BOOM! CRASH! Noodles everywhere!”

Ian nodded proudly. “And that’s why we aren’t allowed in the movie theater anymore.”

Silent Jim buried his face in his hands.

Ili blinked. “Um, okay. I definitely didn’t need to hear that. Now I’ll never be able to look at Jan the same way again… you know, you could have spared me some sleepless nights and said ‘We’re not allowed in the Hoyt’s Theater anymore.’ I would have let it go at that, and we could have just gone to the Princess Theater instead.”

“The Princess?!” Ian demanded. “Man, all they’re showing there is #$%^ing Return to Snowy River and $#^%. I wanna see 8 Mile!”

Ili blinked. “Why?”

“Because I loved Cool As Ice! I love all white rapper movies! I’m a white rapper myself!”

Silent Jim gave him an odd look.

“No you’re not,” Ili said. “You’re just white.”

Ian frowned. “Aw, come on! Can’t I get any respect here? Do you believe this $#^%, Silent Jim? No one respects my place as mastah rappah anymore, you know?”


Silent Jim just moved a little further away.

“You can barely say your words in the right order,” Ili argued. “How are you supposed to rhyme them?”

“Well… um…” Ian looked around, just as Jan walked in from the tunnel leading down to the sleeping quarters. “Jan! Tell Ili that I’m the mastah rappah!”

Jan got a sly look. “I don’t know if you’re the master at that, but I know one thing you’re master at…”

“Cover my virgin ears!” Ili shrieked. Her pets immediately polymorphed into five pairs of ear muffs and crowded onto her head.

Jan leered. “I was going to say he’s the master at Pac Man…”

Ili uncovered her ears.

“Yeah, like that Pac Man action that got us kicked out of the Fashionable Male down at the mall!” Ian said.

Ili covered her ears again, and Silent Jim threw up.

Just then John, Lord of Darkness (Dum Dum Duuuuuum!) walked in.

“Hello, everyone! Isn’t it a wonderful morning? After this, only two more days before the Tri-Leaders have to surrender!”

“Do you really think they will?” Jan asked.

“How could they not? Either that or I ruin their precious prom! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAA!”

“I almost hope they don’t surrender,” Ili said. “If there’s anymore boring days like this…”

“Oh, come on! It’s not that bad! We’re on the road to victory!”

Ili rolled her eyes. “Yeah, fine, whatever, but what about right now? There is absolutely, positively, inarguably nothing, nothing to do right at this very moment!”

BOOM!

A hole appeared in one of the cave walls and a muscular figure appeared.

“Holy $#^%, Silent Jim! It’s Studmuffin!” Ian cried. “Let’s get his autograph!”

“Don’t worry,” Studmuffin said. “There will be plenty of time for autographs… after we hand your back sides to you!”

“Ha! You and what army, Chi boy?” John demanded, as he ran and hid behind Ili.

“Me and this army!” Studmuffin said, striking a pose.

Silence.

“Ahem, this army!”

“Go through the hole, moron!” Someone from outside said. “We can’t get through with you standing there!”

“Oops, sorry.” Studmuffin jumped down through the hole and landed on the dusty cave floor.

“I’m sure you’ve heard of my comrades:” Studmuffin said. “First, Scarlett Fyre, whose singing sets anything on fire!”

Scarlett dropped into the cave in a flash of red hair. Ian and Silent Jim applauded.

Studmuffin announced: “Next, Oreo Avenger, with her amazing… Oreos!”

Oreo Avenger flew into the cave and landed, curtsying as she did so and producing an Oreo.

“Rosma Galak, with her power of invisibility!”

Rosma, a girl in a simple, long black dress and a floor length, hooded, silver cloak appeared, standing next to Oreo Avenger. Ian and Silent Jim applauded some more.

“X-Raytor, with… whatever his power is!”

X-Raytor dropped through the hole, seemed to study Jan and Ili for a second, got whacked upside the head by Rosma, and awkwardly struck a pose.

“Raven, with her power to change the density of her molecules, thereby allowing her to… um, Raven, who can walk through stuff!”

Raven, one of the younger members of the Justice League, walked in through the solid stone cave wall.

Ian “ooh”d and “ahh”d.

“Midnight Chatter, who… talks a lot!”

Midnight Chatter fell through the hole, but Scarlett caught him and set him back on his feet.

“Hey, everyone, you know it’s really great to be here this morning, even if we are going to rip you all new ones, and you know we very rarely ever have morning missions, but today’s an exception because we all have plans to see 8 Mile tonight at the Hoyt’s Theater, by the way, didn’t I see you three on a poster outside? Yeah! Something about being permanently banned, how’d that come ab-”

“NEXT,” Studmuffin interrupted. “We have Violet Princess, with her power of magery!”

“What’s magery?” John asked.

Violet Princess came in through the hole and deftly hopped down onto the floor. “What’s magery? Why, magery is- OH MY GOD, THERE’S A GIANT COW OVER YOUR HEAD!”

John shrieked, looked up and, indeed, there was a giant, purple cow hovering over his head.

“EEEEE! SAVE ME! SOMEONE SAVE ME!”

Ili, Ian, Silent Jim and Jan exchanged looks. They, obviously couldn’t see the Giant Purple Cow from Hell.

“As I was saying, magery is the ability to make people think they see something they don’t…” Violet Princess grinned. “And make complete idiots out of themselves.”

The Giant Purple Cow from Hell disappeared in a violet colored puff of smoke, and Violet Princess assumed a pose.

“Um, yes, could we please try to not interrupt my introductions too much? Thank you.” Studmuffin cleared his throat. “Where were we? Oh, yes, Crystal Freeze, who freezes anything she touches!”

Crystal Freeze dropped through the hole, picked up a rock and let them all watch in awe as it turned into a chunk of ice. Crystal closed her fist around it and it shattered. Pieces of frozen rock fell to the floor.

“This isn’t looking good.” John whispered, trying to burrow deeper into Ili’s back. She raised her foot and back kicked him in the chest.

“Hide in your own clothes!” She hissed.

John pulled his black cloak up over his head.

“Coming up next, Xiao! She has no real super powers on her own, but, fortunately, she’s possessed by a power hungry demon named Fred!”

Xiao floated down from the hole, her head lolled back, muttering Babylonian. Then she seemed to smack herself, whisper something to the effect of “Bad Fred!” and posed.

“Next, Twisk, who has the power to control water- and turn into it!”

A tiny, but way too blue, waterfall seemed to sprout from the hole, and as it hit the ground, it solidified into Twisk.

“Netic, one of our newer members, who has the power to control metal!”

Netic rode in on a trash can lid and hopped off onto the floor.

Ian loudly coughed something that sounded like “Magneto” but Netic ignored him.

“And, working in close conjunction with her, another of our more recent members, Drew, who is… um… well, she’s our tech girl!”

Drew, who wore no costume, and had no actual super powers, climbed down the rock face and stood with Netic and Twisk.

“And, last, and certainly least, our newest member… Super Shibes.”

Super Shibes appeared at the hole and struck a pose. “Ehhh! Cower!”

“Aren’t there more of you?” Ian asked.

“The others are back at the Hall of Justice, protecting the city, of course!” Studmuffin said.

“Oh.”

John stuck his head out from under his cloak. “Okay, how about we do it like this- all of my allies fight Super Shibes, and if we win, you all give me money and leave!”

“Ehhh! Bring it!”

“No, no, that’s okay!” Rosma said. “We wouldn’t want to, uh, have Super Shibes show us all up with his amazing powers of shadiness!”

Super Shibes shrugged, and then fell down into the cave. He would have dusted himself off, but his costume was dirty and ragged enough anyway.

“Yes, we have a much better plan!” Studmuffin said. Then he seemed to think for a moment. “Um, get them!”

“Ian! Silent Jim! Ili! Jan! … Fight them while I run away!” John ordered, then turned and ran.

“Sounds good to me!” Ian said, reaching for his flamethrower. He came up empty handed. “Uh oh…”

“Crystal, Scarlett, Midnight Chatter, follow him!” Oreo Avenger snapped. “Rosma, Raven, X-Raytor, try to get him from the other direction! Twisk, Netic, Drew, find the letter! Super Shibes… stay out of everyone’s way!”

The Justice Leaguers branched off into their groups and attacked.

John reached the entrance of the tunnel that lead to the kitchens and where the supply room used to be, a moment before a blast from Crystal froze part of the lip of the tunnel.

“EEP!” John kept running and didn’t look back.

“Ooooh, just wait until I get close enough,” Scarlett said. “I’m going to set that cloak on fire so fast…”

“Hey, look at the way this cave is shaped!” Midnight Chatter said. “You know, these caves are formed by…”

They disappeared into the tunnel after John. Rosma followed, becoming invisible as she went, Raven ran into, and through, the wall, and X-Raytor just sort of… well, ran after them.

Twisk, Netic and Drew ran down the opposite tunnel.

That left Studmuffin, Oreo Avenger, Violet Princess and Xiao facing off against Ian, Silent Jim, Ili and Jan.

“I think maybe one of us should go hide with John…” Jan said.

Ili pulled out her HAMMER and twirled it. “Finally!” She cackled. “Something to do!”

“Ready, Silent Jim?” Ian asked.

Silent Jim nodded.

And they both immediately ran away.

“HEY!” Jan yelled after them. “Lousy boyfriend…” She turned back to the Justice Leaguers. “How, hey, come on, guys, we can all be friends! I mean, none of us really wants to fight, right?”

“YOU’RE MINE, DEMON GIRL!!!! DIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEE!!!!!!!” Ili screamed, leaping at Xiao with her HAMMER raised.

Xiao back flipped with inhuman grace and a HAMMER made of shadow appeared in her hand.

“Well, then, trial by HAMMER!” Ili growled. “This should be fun!”

She immediately swung and crushed Xiao’s big toe.

“OW! Hey, that wasn’t very nice!”

She brought her shadow HAMMER down on Ili’s big toe.

“HEY! Cheap shot!”

Ili bonked Xiao over the head with her HAMMER.

Xiao bonked Ili over the head with her HAMMER.

Jan, Studmuffin, Violet Princess and Oreo Avenger watched.

Violet Princess glanced over at her. “You spend all day with these people?”

Jan rolled her eyes. “I know, I know…”

* * *

The cave was getting very cold around John.

Mostly because Crystal Freeze kept turning everything around him into ice. Thankfully, she had lousy aim when she was running.

John saw a square of light up ahead, to one side of the tunnel- the door to the kitchen.

“Ha ha! Watch and weep, Justice Losers as I escape into the kitch-”

John ran into Leroy, who was carrying a bowl of grapes.

“What the- oh, um, my greatest apologies, my lei-”

“Leroy!” John cried. “Monkey attack! NOW!”

“ ‘Monkey atta-’”

John picked up Leroy and threw him at the three super heroes and ducked into the kitchen.

Leroy hit Midnight Chatter right in the face and clung for dear life.

“GAAAAAAH!!!! THERE’S A MONKEY ON MY FACE!!!!!! THERE’S A MONKEY ON MY FACE!!!!!” Midnight Chatter screamed, flailing around wildly.

“I’ll save you!” Crystal said, and pointed her fingers at Leroy.

“Wait! Don-”

Leroy froze- literally- and the ice traveled from him down onto Midnight Chatter, enveloping them both.

“Crystal!” Scarlett said. “You froze MC!”

“Yeah, but now we don’t have to listen to him, do we?”

Scarlett shrugged and they pursued John into the kitchen.

Scarlett cringed. Her kitchen in her cottage (her badly needed home away from Justice League HQ) was so nice and orderly. This was… well, a cave. There were a few refrigerators the size of cars against one wall, and some ovens, stoves, and an open fire on another. A single microwave sat in its own corner, with a sign taped on to it that said: “ILI’S” in red, underlined three times. There were culinary counters spread throughout, with chopping boards and rolling pins, and blenders spread clumsily over them. Scraps of food were all over the place.

“Heeeeeere, Johnny, Johnny, Johnny!” Crystal called. “Come out, come out, wherever you are!”

John was hiding behind one of the counters. He would have been using his lackeys as distractions, but they had all fled the moment they saw Leroy’s “Monkey Attack.”

“We’re going to find you, Johnny!” Crystal said. She was on the opposite side of a counter two counters away from him.

John tried to formulate some sort of quick plan. What would Roses do at a time like this?

Whip them!

No, wait, he didn’t have a whip… yet.

John looked around, and finally found a chain of link sausages. This would have to do.

“BWAHAHAHAHAAA! You’ll never take me alive, Justice Lowlifes!” John cried, standing up and swinging the link sausages. Crystal simply stuck out her hand and it froze. John dropped it before it reached his hand.

“Um, heh heh… never mind.”

John dropped a second before he became a John-cicle.

Think, think, think! There has to be some way out of this! Remember how you escaped from the Newlywed Game when Roseidous was about to kill you? Oh, wait, they arrested me and threw me in the Coal Mines… Ah! But how about how you escaped from the Coal Mines! No, wait, they kicked me out because I was causing trouble… I wonder if they’ll just let me go if I give up…

“Okay, Johnny, play time’s over!” Crystal roared.

“Crystal, maybe we should do this tog-” Scarlett started to say, but then there was a thump, foot steps, another thump, foot steps…

Crystal was jumping from counter to counter. She’d probably be here in… two seconds.

John looked up and saw the one thing that might save him. He was hiding right next to the walk-in fridge. Maybe if he hid in there they’d think he had frozen and go away! Yeah!

John reached up and yanked the door open.

Just then, Crystal reached the counter above him.

“Game over!” She crowed as she landed.

Her feet landed on the frozen sausage link. With a lurch, Crystal slid forwards, off the counter, and into the walk-in fridge.

John blinked, then reached up, slammed the door, and latched it.

Scarlett sighed. “I told you so…”

John scrambled away from where he had been hiding just as Scarlett reached the counter.

She sighed. “John, are you going to make me look for you? Come on now, Olly Olly Oxen Free!” She said in a sing song voice.

A tiny fire lit on the collar John’s cloak, and he quickly, frantically blew it out.

Scarlett looked around for the smoke and saw it, a tiny sliver of black rising up from behind the one counter.

“That was just a little one, John! Wait until I get my hands on you- what do you think I should sing for that moment, huh? ‘Disco Inferno?’ ‘Burning Love?’ What’s your preference?”

John shoved his hand in his cloak, shuffling through the many pieces of paper, notes he had written himself. He was sure he had something in here about the Justice League, he had to, right?

He pulled one that felt right out and read it:

In the Furst Seeson “So Weird” episode “Will O’ Wisp,” Molly is perforuming at the Marfa Lites Music Festivul. The next day she was opuning for Liberachi Manya in Branson, Missouri

And under it:

Molly is allergik to cats. No she’s not. Stoopid Thurd Seeson

And finally, under that:

Scarlettt Fire of the Justus Leege’s weekness is Scottish guys singing her romancetic songs

“Ha! Knew that would come in handy some day!” John said. But where would he find a Scottish guy?

Well, he could fake it. After all, he’d seen all of the “So Weird” episodes with the Will O’ Wisp, and he’d watched Shrek.

John stood up. “Um, before you kill me could I, um, sing you a song?”

Scarlett’s eyes narrowed. “Why?”

“Um… I’m Scottish?”

“REALLY?!”

“Er, yes.”

“Prove it!”

“Um… Ah cairtenly ahm Scottish, lassy!”

“YAY!” Scarlett clapped her hands together. “Sing! Sing! Sing!”

John tried to remember anything he knew that was Scottish. Ah! Of course!

In the refrigerator, Crystal faintly heard John say he was going to sing. “GAH! OH NO!” She froze her ears and threw herself onto the ground, in case anything exploded.

John opened his mouth… and a perfectly accented, perfectly in tune Scottish tenor voice came out. He sang:


By yon bonnie banks

And by yon bonnie braes

Where the sun shines bright

On Loch Lomond

Where me and my true love

Were ever wont to gae

On the bonnie, bonnie banks

Of Loch Lomond

T’was there that we parted

In yon shady glen

On the steep, steep side

Of Ben Lomond

Where in deep purple hue

The Highland hills we view

And the moon comin’ out

In the gloamin’

Ooooooooh

You’ll take the high road

And I’ll take the low road

And I’ll be in Scotland afore you

But me and my true love

Will never meet again

By the bonnie, bonnie banks

Of Loch Loooooooomooooooond.


John blinked. “Hey! That was pretty damn good!”

Scarlett swooned. “Ooooooh, Lachlan!” She said, and then fainted.

John blinked. “ ‘Lachlan?’” Then turned and ran.

* * *

“Oh yeah?”

BONK!

“Yeah!”

BONK!

“Oh yeah?”

BONK!

“Yeah!”

BONK!

“How much longer do you think they’re going to do that for?” Oreo Avenger asked.

“Knowing Ili, they may be at it for days.” Jan said.

“How do you keep your sanity?” Studmuffin asked.

“Well, you see, I’m one of the most normal people here,” Jan explained. “I’m just a nymphomaniac, and compared to the other people around here, that’s pretty bland.”

“So, you’re a, um, nympho, huh?” Studmuffin asked.

Jan saw her chance. “Well, yes, but usually only for big, strong super heroes with big… egos.” She gave him a sly look.

“Well, you know,” Studmuffin said, blushing.

“Hey! Stop that!” Violet Princess said, stepping between them. “You won’t beguile him with your charms, strumpet!”

Jan stepped back, aghast. “How dare you lie such an accusation on me! Come, why for this sudden rudeness?”

“A charge of villainy would be the least I could accuse you of! Aye, I know’s your kind! They who make their living twixt the sheets!”

“Now, sir, since thou hath offended me thus, me hopes you have metal to back thy tongue!”

“Aye! And it shall be plucked by th’ ears, so forth to whet itself with the blood of harlots!”

“My blade for you!” Jan cried, and then blinked. “Wait, what was that?”

Studmuffin blinked. “What was what?”

“All that Shakespearean stuff!”

Oreo Avenger raised an eyebrow. “…What Shakespearean stuff?”

Jan whirled on Violet Princess. “You! Stop doing that magery thing, you’re confusing me!”

Violet Princess stuck out her tongue. “It wouldn’t take much magery to confuse you.”

Jan glared. “Yeah, but it would take a lot to fix that face of yours!”

Violet Princess went ashen. Studmuffin and Oreo Avenger quickly backed away.

“Why you little…” Violet Princess restrained herself. “Well, let’s see how it looks on you!” She waved her hands, and Studmuffin’s eyes popped open.

“Whoa! Two Violet Princesses! If only X-Raytor were here to see this!”

Jan looked down and saw, in horror, that she was, indeed, an illusory duplicate of Violet Princess.

“How dare you!” Jan shrieked.

Violet Princess just laughed. “What’s wrong? Afraid that you might get some fashion sense from me?”

“Fashion this!” Jan growled, and tackled Violet Princess.

The two Violet Princesses rolled over each other, punching and kicking and scratching so much that Studmuffin and Oreo Avenger lost track of which was which.

Suddenly, one of the Violet Princesses jumped up and grabbed the other one by the hair.

“I’ve got her! Oreo Avenger, quick! Turn her into a worm or something!”

“Right away- JAN!” Oreo Avenger said, throwing an Oreo at the Violet Princess whom had given the order. It flew into her mouth and-

POOF!

A pig took her place. The other Violet Princess rolled away and stood up.

“Ha!” Oreo Avenger said, standing over the pig. “The real Violet Princess wouldn’t try to make me use my Oreos on someone!”

“Actually, she would.” Oreo Avenger turned around to see Jan- the Violet Princess allusion melting away- standing next to her. She was holding a HAMMER.

BONK!

Oreo Avenger fell like a sack of… well, Oreos.

Meanwhile, Ili decided to hurry up and end the fight. Her head hurt now- the fun was going away.

She stuck the HAMMER out and whacked the back of Xiao’s knee with it. Xiao tripped and fell on her back.

“There can be only one!” Ili said, sounding strangely like Christopher Lambert trying to play a Scotsman.

Imagine that.

She raised the HAMMER, brought it down in a swooping arc- and tapped Xiao lightly on the head. Xiao passed out, and the shadowy HAMMER vanished.

Ili moved in to help Jan corner Studmuffin.

“Who’s got the big ego now, Mischlin Muffler Man?” Ili demanded.

Jan gave her an odd look.

Studmuffin blinked. “Um, me!”

“And why is that?”

“Because I still have the awesome power of my Chi!”

Studmuffin closed his eyes and his whole body began to glow. The HAMMERS were torn from Jan and Ili’s hands, as if by some unseen fist, and were rammed violently into each other. There was a blinding flash… and a small downpour of sawdust was all that remained.

Studmuffin’s eyes flew open, and they were glowing white. “Now you will experience the true power of the Chi!” He said in a strangely vast voice.

“I knew it,” Jan said. “I knew that someday, the force of a guy’s love for himself would kill us all.”

“WHERE ARE MY STUPID PETS?!” Ili raged. She noticed five brightly colored cockroaches scurrying off into a corner. “HEY! HELP ME! SAVE ME YOU WORTHLESS IDIOTS!!!!!!”

“Time to DIIIIIIEEEEEEEE!!!”

“SNOOCH TO THE MOTHER%&^#ING NOOOOOOOCH!”

Ian and Silent Jim dropped from the ceiling, each landing on one of Studmuffin’s shoulders. Together the sat heavily on his head, forcing him onto his knees. Then they leapt to the ground, as if from a springboard, and simultaneously jammed their knees into Studmuffin’s face. He got a very dazed look on his face and collapsed.

Ian and Silent Jim pounded their fists together. “Yeah, snoogans, bee-yatch!”

Jan leapt on Ian and knocked him to the ground. “I knew you didn’t abandon me!” And they promptly began to make out.

Silent Jim looked hopefully at Ili, but she just shook his hand, and then stormed over into the corner to find her pets.

“Now what does it say on this bottle here? ‘RAID: KILLS ROACHES DEAD!’ MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA!!”

Ian and Jan stopped for a second to catch their breaths.

“By the way, did either of you hear ‘Loch Lomond’ a little while ago?” She asked.

* * *

Twisk, Netic, and Drew had no luck finding the letter. John’s room had been useless, Ili’s room had been useless, Silent Jim’s room had been organized, but useless, and Ian and Jan’s shared room… had been horrifying.

“This looks like some sort of lab…” Twisk said, as they walked into the last entrance in the tunnel. It was much further underground than the rest, and quite a bit chillier.

“OOOOOOH!” Drew cried.

“What?” Netic asked, almost dropping the machine that she had commanded to go up in the air (and, unfortunately, the letter was not hidden under it, no).

“A 9-640!” Drew practically squealed in delight as she stood over a sleek looking computer. “I wouldn’t mind having one of these!”

“Don’t we have something like that at head quarters?” Twisk asked.

Drew gave her a look.

“Sorry, sorry, I forgot- stay out of techie business!”
Netic came up behind Drew. “Do you think you could find out where the letter is on that?”

Drew shrugged. “I could try…”

She started to tap madly on the keyboard. The screen saver, which showed Jay and Silent Bob standing in front of the Quick Stop, quickly changed to a file listing.

“Hmm, now, let’s see… there’s a ton of files on here, they probably have some sort of internal search engine- ah! Good! And they’re running on Star-Dot-Star! Excellent! This will make my job a bit easier…”

Netic’s brow furrowed. “Star-Dot-Star?”

“Internet service provider and file operations assistance software,” Drew replied distractedly. “Founded by Tad Raxall, base of operations in Simplicity, Utah.”

“Okay.” Netic grinned. “And you rip on me for knowing everything about my favorite bands.”

“Hey, I don’t know what hand Tad Raxall brushes his teeth with.” She typed some more and then, “There! This file contains the keywords ‘secret,’ ‘letter,’ and it was last updated yesterday!
She double clicked on it. A file came up, displaying a diagram of a machine that looked sort of like a giant, iron, water jug.

“Hey, wait a second… that’s this thing!” Twisk said, jerking her thumb at the machine next to her.

“ ‘Bioengineering Reaction Chamber?’” Drew read off of the screen, half to herself.

“Does it have anything to do with the letter?”

“Hold on a second…” Drew scrolled down, then sighed and started reading. “ ‘Will run diagnostics to locate trout contribution tomorrow. John needs me to help with some plan about some stupid letter.’ Nope, just a little note.”

“So, what, do we keep searching?”

Drew bit her lip. “You know what? I want to find out what this bioengineering thing is all about. Twisk, can you open the machine for me?”
Twisk tried pulling on the hatch. “It’s locked. Hold on a second.” She pressed her hand to the keypad on the right of the hatch, and let water flow out. The keypad hissed, sparked, and with a firecracker pop, exploded outwards.

The hatch slid open.

Drew hopped out of her seat, and skipped over to the machine. “Okay, now let’s see exactly what they’re doing in there…”

And just then, a creature stepped from the darkness of the chamber.

“GAH!” Twisk screamed.

Netic jumped back and a wrench flew off of a table and into her hand. “Whoa, doggy!”

“What is that?!” Drew demanded.

The creature began to speak in a watery voice. “We-e-e-e are the Hot Dog Men! Wa-a-a-atch as we do the Fire Dance!”

The Hot Dog Man began to jiggle.

Twisk, Netic and Drew exchanged looks.

“Is this what they do in their spare time?” Netic asked.

“And I thought we were hopeless!” Twisk said.

The Hot Dog Man stopped dancing. “Ju-u-u-ustice Leaguers! We know a-a-a-all of your se-e-e-ecrets! We know that Netic’s re-e-e-e-eal name is Ca-a-a-amero-o-on Ke-e-eeg-”

“Okay, that’s enough out of you!” Netic yelled, leaping forwards and waving the wrench.

“ ‘Cameron?’” Drew asked.

“Okay, Oscar Meyer, time to become a cocktail weenie!”

The Hot Dog Man raised its right arm and aimed the high tech looking weapon at Netic.

CHOOF!
A blob of something almost white fired from it, caught Netic in the midsection and dragged her back into the opposite wall.

“Gah! What is this stuff?!” She struggled against it, but whatever it was, it held her tight to the wall.

The Hot Dog Man swiveled and got a shot off at Drew- CHOOF! -, catching her foot and gluing her to the floor.

“Hey!” Netic yelled. “This is trout! That thing is shooting trout at us!”

Twisk dodged the blobs that came for her with liquid (excuse the pun) grace. She was almost out the door-

CHOOF!

-When a final shot caught her, trapping her against the wall.

“Wait a second,” She said, closed her eyes, and seemed to melt away. She was turning into water, Netic knew, trying to escape that way.

Suddenly, the trout blob seemed to bloat out, and, with a muffled scream, Twisk reformed.

“Oh, EWW! EWW EWW EWW!!! That is just GROSS!!” She shrieked.

“What happened?” Netic demanded.

“I- it absorbed me, I think.” Twisk said. Her face was a masks of absolute disgust.

“So you can’t escape?”

Twisk tried to shrug, but the trout blob held her tight. “Doesn’t look like it.”

The Hot Dog Man started to walk back and forth, it’s weapon raised. It was guarding them.

“It was simple,” Drew muttered. “Get a letter, go to a prom. But how the hell did we end up getting trapped in trout blobs by a telepathic hot dog?”

* * *

John, Lord of Darkness (Dum Dum Duuuuuum!) was (still) running down the tunnel. He could hear footsteps behind him, but saw no one. They sounded awfully close, though… Maybe it was just an echo.

John saw the doorway to what had been the storage room a few yards ahead. If he could just make it there, there was a secret exit…

He felt someone hit him from behind and carry him to the dusty floor.

John twisted himself around and tried to kick his attacker, but he couldn’t see anyone. But there was clearly someone struggling with him, he could feel their hands trying to force his wrists down.

John took a blind kick and hit his mark. His foot pushed off invisible flesh, and he heard an “Oof!” that seemed to come from the air. There was a slight impact on the cave wall next to him, and Rosma Galak became visible. She shook her head clear, and then tackled John again. He had gotten up to his knees.

“Let go of me, Invisible Woman! I didn’t mutilate your Burger King figurine, that was Ian!”

Rosma growled and sat up (on John’s back). “When will you people learn? I am not Invisible Woman! I am not the Wife of Hollow Man! I’m Rosma Galak, a separate and distinct individual with the ability to become invisible! Do I need to publish brochures? Is that it?”

John wheezed.

“What was that?”

“You’re sitting on my lungs!” John managed.

“Well, serves you right or being an evil Lord of Darkness!”

“(Dum Dum- GACK!”

Rosma cocked her head. “ ‘(Dum Dum- GACK?’ What’s that supposed to be?”

“I-if you … get off of… me… I’ll tell… you!”

Rosma bit her lip. “Ah, well, I guess so…”

She promptly stood up and, because she stood on John’s back, bumped her head on the ceiling.

“Well, crap.” She said, and then collapsed onto her face.

John struggled out from under her, caught his breath and got up. He was halfway to the entrance when Raven stepped out of the rocky side of the tunnel.

“GAH!” John cried.

“GAH!” Raven replied.

“’Scuse me!” John yelled, pushing past her.

“HEY! Get back here!” Raven shouted.

John hopped down the short drop into the massive storage room, and found himself in a Crapomon graveyard. Pieces of plush figures and merchandise of all shapes and sizes jutted up everywhere, creating an imposing landscape of charred commercialism.

John scooted around a pile of half-destroyed Crapomon brand toasters, and dug into his coat for, you guessed it, more scraps of paper conveniently labeling the Justice Leaguers weaknesses. He finally pulled out the right one and read:



Raven’s weekness is adictive videyo games.



John looked around at the destroyed Crapomon stuff and frowned. “Crap.”

Raven’s head appeared out of a toaster next to him.

“Whatcha doin’?”

“EEEK!” John screamed in a very girl- er, glorious way.

John got up and ran. Where was that secret exit? Where was that stupid secret exit?!

Oh, wait.

He dug into his cloak again.



The seecret entranse is (Some scribbles and dark eraser marks, and then:) Fi’s burthday is September 2nd, 1985

“NO! Ooooh, why do I write all of this down?!”

John looked around desperately and finally his eyes landed on a steel door, somehow not destroyed in the explosion. He looked back, saw Raven walk casually through a twisted pile of melted iron, coming at him. John made a final, mad dash for the door, threw it open, jumped inside and slammed it shut.

Outside, Raven just shook her head. “He just doesn’t get my powers, does he?”

She took a step back and ran straight at the door, through it-

Halfway through, she heard John’s muffled voice saying: “Hey! This is a-”

Raven hit something, hard, and collapsed.

“-Closet.” John finished. “And a very small closet at that…” He looked down at Raven, slumped against the door, unconscious.

“You people really like running into stuff and getting knocked out, don’t you?” John said, and then opened the door, stepping triumphantly over the fallen heroine.

“Well! Looks like we know who wins the battles between good and evil around here!” John said, doing his Funky Victory Groove walk across the room. In the throes of the said Funky Victory Groove walk, he tripped over his own feet and landed face first on the floor.

“Ow.”

A pair of black clad feet appeared a few feet from John’s face. And no, it was not Santa Claus, as John first suspected. He looked up and saw that the black extended up the leg, waist, abdomen (spandex, he realized with a shudder from some supposedly long suppressed memory), and even up to the head. Black spandex from head to toe, broken only by the rectangular, tin foil eye holes in the mask and the white X that crossed the newcomer’s chest, from his shoulders to his thighs.

“You’re not Santa!” John cried.

“I’m not?!” The black clad newcomer exclaimed. “No, wait, you’re right. I’m X-Raytor, most integral (and loved) member of the Justice League! And you are under arrest!”
John got to his feet and dusted himself off. He and X-Raytor started to stalk circles around each other.

“X-Raytor. Yes, I’ve heard of you. You’re the one who mutated all of your family members because you were too stupid to realize that radiators were coming out of your eyes!”

“You mean radiation?”

“Whatever.”

X-Raytor sighed irratably. “That was a mistake! Geez, will people ever get off of that?!”

“Well, a lot of them did become super villains bent on killing you…”

“Two!” X-Raytor raged. “Two! The rest became… babbling sub-humans… but that’s not important! Grrrr, now you’ve just made me angrier. I am going to enjoy kicking your loser Lord of Darkness heiny.”

“(Dum Dum Duuuuum!)”

“Don’t you ever get sick of doing that?”

“No.”

They changed directions, still circling each other. After a moment of silence, John said.

“You know, we’re a lot alike, you and I.”

“Really?”

“No, that just felt like an appropriate thing to say.”

They stopped circling and stood, mere feet apart.

John glared. “All right. Let’s go.”

He whipped his arm back, snatched a gutted, plush Yoko Onomon figure from a pile and chucked it at X-Raytor’s face. The dismembered doll nailed the super hero, knocking his mask out of whack and causing it to cover his eyes.

By the time he had it straightened out, John was already scrambling up the nearest pile.

John heard something whistle through the air overhead and X-Raytor landed in front of him, with a crunch of crispy merchandise.

“DANCE, VILLAIN, DANCE!” X-Raytor crowed. His eye pieces glowed red- and twin laser beams fired from them, almost frying John’s feet.

“Hey! Stop that! I have to walk on these!”

X-Raytor shrugged. “Tough cookies. But don’t worry, the setting the beams are on won’t kill you- they want you alive, something about Coal Mines- but they will stun you and, in the process, put you through quite a bit of pain!”

“Oh. Now I understand.”

“Good!”

Another pair of crimson beams fired from his eyes, and John hopped back. He realized, suddenly, that since he was standing on a pile of debris, on an angle, there was nothing to hop back on. He fell, tucked his legs in, and landed on his back.

“Oooooooh, ow! That wasn’t supposed to happen!”

X-Raytor leapt off the pile and came down at John like a big, spandex wearing bird of prey.

On instinct, John coiled his legs and let them go, nailing X-Raytor in the stomach and sending him flying back into the trash pile, sinking into it and disappearing in the darkness of an X-Raytor shaped hole.

“Yeah! Booyah!” John said, climbing to his feet. “Who’s the Evil Overlord now?”

X-Raytor popped back out of the hole and fired his laser vision again. The low power blast caught John in the shoulder.

“OH! OW! OW OW OW OW!!!”

“Ha ha!” X-Raytor laughed. “Who’s the overly sexed super hero with x-ray vision now?”

“Um… Martian Man Hunter?”

X-Raytor thought about that for a moment and that was all John needed. He tackled the super hero and, although John’s tackles had the effect of a wilted tulip, X-Raytor was not the most buff super hero, and was easily carried to the ground.

“Hey! Get off of me!” X-Raytor raged, punching John in the arm.

“Ha! I’ve gotten harder birthday punches from Ili… well, and birthday kicks in the ribs and kidneys… but that’s not important!”

X-Raytor fired his lasers, over and over again, narrowly missing John’s face. John knew he needed a way to distract X-Raytor long enough to escape-

He reached into his coat and pulled out a fistful of notes, and crammed them into one of X-Raytor’s eyepieces, and then another fistful into the other.

“AGH! Hey! I can’t see!”

“Have fun!” John said, hopping off and running towards… wait, where was that secret exit?

Random bursts of laser fire lanced through the air, as X-Raytor cursed and screamed, trying to claw the notes out of his mask. He finally tore his mask off and dumped the notes out onto the floor. Shaking his head once, he slipped it back over his head.

“You are so freaking lucky that we’re supposed to bring you in alive!” X-Raytor raged. “I swear to God, if I was allowed to, your butt would be so much Kentucky fried chicken it wouldn’t even be freaking funny!!!”

John, who had burrowed into a pile of miscellaneous junk- stuff too mutilated or destroyed to be identified by the lackey clean up crews- couldn’t resist responding. “Ah, don’t pop a light bulb, Microwave Boy!”

X-Raytor mentally shifted his x-ray vision down a few notches, onto the purely penetration level. Immediately, the piles of trashed Crapomon stuff became slowly transparent, peeling away layer by layer until he could finally see through all of them. His eyes settled on one particular pile and he grinned.

Meanwhile, John continued to crouch, listening. He heard nothing- maybe X-Raytor had given up and gone away. Or blown up! No, wait, then he would have gone Boom!

And there had been no Boom!

There was a crash in the refuge behind him, and before he had time to turn around, something hit John in the back. Hard.

John smashed through the trash and landed on his face. A fist- X-Raytor’s fist- gripped the back of his collar and pulled him upright. John was spun around and found himself face to face with X-Raytor’s eyepieces.

“Game over.”

X-Raytor looked down and fired into John’s chest.

It was like having jumper cables attached to his skin. John jerked, arched his body in absolute pain and flew back. He hit the floor hard, and lay gasping, barely able to force air into his lungs. A wisp of smoke rose from his chest.

“Medium power,” X-Raytor said. “That should ache for a little, but as long as I’m not breaking the rules…”

John tried to squirm away, but made it only to the junk pile when a second laser blast caught him in the legs. John’s hamstrings were on fire- his knees bent in and out uncontrollably. His hand landed on a piece of debris- something metal, and only a bit shorter than his arm. What it was, though, he couldn’t tell.

“You know, I just don’t get you guys,” X-Raytor said. “You’re entire kind. You try to take over the world alone, with full knowledge that there are teams, yes, teams of people dedicated to your destruction, and yet you all think that you can carry out sucessful world conquest. And most of all, why? Power? Power for what? That’s not a motivation, it’s an answer you put on your job application because you don’t feel like admitting how much of a loser you are.” He crouched down near John, producing a pair of handcuffs. “Do you people even really know what you want?”

John managed to look up at him. “I know what I want.” He growled.

His arm flung out before X-Raytor could react, and the piece of trash he had grabbed smashed into the side of the super hero’s head. John could tell, just from the impact, that it had done some serious damage.

X-Raytor dropped onto his side. He fell onto his arms awkwardly, putting them in a sort of funny position, his head was craned back a bit too far, and a dark, wet stain was visible growing on his mask. But he was still breathing.

John coughed, massaged the backs of his legs and stood.

The rage was melting. Ooh, yes, he’d had one of those rare, purely evil moments. They came and went, and while they were so much fun at the time, they always just made him tired afterwards.

John stumbled back up the hall, past the unconscious Rosma, past the frozen Midnight Chatter/Leroy, up and into the throne room.

Ian and Jan were making out on the floor. Ili was berating her pets, who had resumed their dragon forms, and whimpered in the corner. Silent Jim was busy dragging an unconscious Studmuffin, Oreo Avenger, Xiao and some pig… whatever that was… over to the far wall. He waved as John walked in.

“I see you guys handled the rest of the Justice League,” John said. Ian gave him a thumbs up and went back to “work.”

“Um, could you two…”

“CUT IT THE FRICK OUT?!” Ili finished.

Ian and Jan begrudgingly got up.

It was then that Jan’s eyebrows narrowed and she started looking around. “Wait, where’s that other guy?”

“Huh?” Ian asked, already lost in… wherever.

“That guy, the one who they said didn’t have any powers. He was leaning against the wall a few seconds ago, and now-”

They all looked over at the wall, no one was there.

Ili brandished her HAMMER. “Yay! More bashing for Ili! Good time for all!”

Jan glanced at her. “Didn’t you and Xiao use up your HAMMER fun time for, like, ever?”

“It doesn’t count when it’s Justice League members!” Ili said. “And this one is going to get it good…”

It was then that Super Shibes appeared, right between Ili and Jan. Well, “appeared” isn’t the right word. More like… became noticeable. We’ll say he “de-shaded.”

“EHHH!” Super Shibes… grunted or whatever… and gave Ili and Jan simultaneous pokes in the ribs. The two collapsed onto the floor.

Ili’s pets shrieked and… hid. Damn them!

“Gah!” John cried. “Ian! Silent Jim! Kill him!”

But Super Shibes had disappeared- “re-shaded,” let’s say- and, besides, Ian still didn’t have his flame-thrower.

Silent Jim started to dig into every pocket of his overcoat, trying to find a gadget that would help him find Super Shibes- but he was too late. Super Shibes “de-shaded” behind him, smacked off his Mooby the Cow cap and then poked him in the back. Silent Jim fell to the ground and began twitching like… well, like a silent teenager who had just been poked by a self-proclaimed “shady” super hero.

Super Shibes turned his attention to Ian. The King of Unparalleled Nastiness gave him a weak wave and a smile, and then turned and ran-

Right into a wall.

John groaned. It was cool when super heroes ran into walls and got knocked out, but not when it happened to his own henchmen!

And suddenly, Super Shibes was in front of him.

“Ehhh! Surrender, villain, or face my Shady Wrath!”

John peered closely at him. “How do you survive with all of that stubble?”

Super Shibes’ usually grouchy face became even more so, and he put his finger up against John’s chest and pushed. John, of course, fell over like a blow-up doll in a tornado.

Super Shibes stood over him, triumphant. “And now, at the end, you finally understand the true power of the Shade Side!” He drew back his finger to poke, and gave his mighty battle cry: “EHHH!!!!”

A large rock dropped on Super Shibes’ head and he crumpled.

John looked up to see which of his allies had taken down Super Shibes and saw…

Katherine.

“So you switched sides again?” John asked once Katherine had finished telling the above story.

“Pretty much! I think I owe it to the memory of those who died in Chamberlain, Maine, to put an end to prom night!”

John cocked his head.

“Never mind.”


They were standing in the throne room, watching as the lackeys (including a thawed out Leroy, and a somewhat traumatized Goober) dragged the unconscious Justice Leaguers out of the lair, and dropping them out the hole they came in. Studmuffin made a very Chi-ish sound as a lackey chucked him outside.

“Oh, that reminds me,” Jan said. “Did you hear anyone singing ‘Loch Lomond’ earlier, J- er, ‘Lord.’”

John frowned briefly, but then brightened. “Oh, wait, yeah! That was me!”

His allies exchanged looks, but kept silent.

Katherine, however, went: “Wow! That’s the biggest load of $#^% I’ve heard since Kelly Clarkson released an album!”

“No, it’s true!” John said.

Ian snorted, and Ili looked like she was going to explode from trying so hard not to laugh.

“No, listen! I’ll prove it!” He cleared his throat and began to sing in a perfectly accented… croak.



“By yon bonniEEe ba-anks

And by yon bonniEEEe bra-eaeaea-es

Where the sun shines bright

On Loch LooOooOomoOon-”


“STOP! STOP!” His allies cried.

Silent Jim made a pained expression and covered his ears.

“But it was me! Honest! Listen, just, um,” He looked around and saw Scarlett, bring carried in by two lackeys. “Ah! Ask Scarlett! I serenaded her, after all!”

As the lackeys brought Scarlett by, John shook her shoulder. “Scarlett! Scarlett! Tell them it was me! Tell them I sang ‘Loch Lomond!’”

Scarlett gave him an incredulous look. “You?! Hell no! It was Lachlan!”

“ ‘Lachlan?’” Everyone (except Silent Jim, of course) repeated.

“Ooooooh, Lachlan!” Scarlett swooned and fainted again. The lackeys continued to carry her outside.

“Fine!” John pouted. “Don’t believe me!”

He stopped some passing lackeys, and jerked his thumb at the super hero they were carrying.

“No, guys, allow me.”

After enjoying the satisfying plop X-Raytor made when John threw him out of the cave, he returned to his allies. “I beat him single handedly too, you know. Him, Midnight Chatter, Crystal Freeze, Scarlett, Rosma and Raven!”

“I can believe that.” Katherine said. “I mean, your dumb luck is amazing.”

“No! Only Midnight Chatter, Crystal, Rosma and Raven were dumb luck! Scarlett was defeated by my EXCELLENT singing skills, and X-Raytor, well, to quote Silent Jim, I ‘opened up a can on his pansy- UH OH!-, y’all!’”

Silent Jim gave John a sideways look.

“Sure you did, Lordy, sure you did.” Ili said, smirking.

“I did!”

Katherine just shook her head. “How you guys defeated over half of the Justice League is beyond me.” She looked at the stubble-wearing super hero being carried by. “But who’s that? I mean, I know I dropped a rock on his head, but I don’t remember hearing about him in the news…”

“Don’t ask, man.” Ian said. “Just don’t ask.”

“Um, okay… dude.”

“Totally!” Ian exclaimed. Then his eyes glazed over. “Where am I?”

“You know what I want to know?” Jan said. “Where was Randall during all of this?”

Randall’s head poked up from a hole in the ground. “Er, hi, everyone.”

John glared down at him. “Randall. I here you were nowhere to be found when the Justice League showed up.”

Randall shifted uncomfortably, and pulled himself fully up, out of the ground. “Well, um, you see, I was finishing up my torture session with Goober, and, um, I didn’t hear them come in!”

John, not being the brightest bulb, was about to accept that, when Ian stepped up.

“Dude, Goober’s been, like, taking out our Justice League trash for the past twenty minutes! And when me and Silent Jim were preparing our Excellent One-Bad-Pair-of-Mofos Ambush thing, we saw him huddling in a corner talking to a rock! You must have let him out, like, at least an hour ago!”

“And why didn’t you come out then, huh?” Jan asked. “You do realize that I had to face off against three super heroes at once, right?”

“Yeah! And if you had been there, you could have witnessed my amazing singing talents!” John said.

Ili rapped Randall’s wooden chest with her knuckles. “You know, my pets haven’t lit anything on fire for a while…”

Randall quailed.

A lackey came up and bowed to John. John didn’t know his name, but he was acting Supreme Pee-On until Goober got through post-Randall therapy. Or maybe until Leroy got over his hypothermia. Even though Leroy was a bit annoying…

“We’ll talk about what you did by not doing anything later, Randall.” John said. “Now go… do whatever it was you were doing when you weren’t up here doing anything, because you were down there. Doing whatever.”

“Why do we let him talk?” Ili whispered to Ian. Katherine giggled (evilly, of course. She is John’s daughter after all, and you know how evil he is!)

The lackey said: “Sorry to disturb you, m’lord, but all of the Justice League members have been deposited outside.”

“Excellent! Now we can do something really important- like watch TV!”

The lackey coughed, and looked down. “There is one problem, though, m’lord. Three of the Justice Leaguers are unaccounted for- Twisk, Netic and Drew. They were last seen going down the right tunnel.”

John sighed. “Okay, fine, let’s go down there, if only so that I can show you all my super ultra ninja fighting skillz with a ‘z’!”

“Hey!” Katherine said. “You stole that from Ty-”

“No I didn’t! Tyrese has nothing to do with this!”

“No, I meant Tyrael… never mind.”

They headed down the right tunnel, and, after checking their quarters (or, in John’s case, yelling “HERE I COME!” and then throwing a lackey into the room), they found themselves outside of the entrance to Silent Jim’s lab.

“Okay, Ian, Silent Jim, you two go in first. Ili and Jan will cover you. Then, if anything bad happens, I’ll throw Katherine in after you and run away.”

His allies exchanged looks.

“What? Isn’t that agreeable?”

Ili rolled her eyes. “Oh, yeah, of course, Lordy. How could you ever make a stupid decision?”

Katherine stepped up. “You know, John,” (There was no way in hell she was calling him “Dad”) “The Tri-Leaders always go and inspect their labs first, and then send in the Junior Tri-Leaders, associates, etc. Don’t you want to do this right?”

John scoffed. “Scoff! The Tri-Leaders don’t know what they’re doing! I don’t need to follow in their lead! I’m my own man!”

Ili sniggered. “ ‘Man.’”

John gave her a stern look. “And so… I’m going to go into the lab first, and then send in the rest of you! I’ll show those Tri-Leaders!”

John immediately walked into the lab.

“HELP ME!” Twisk gasped from the wall next to him.

“AIIIIIEEEEEE!!!!!! SILENT JIM’S DECORATIONS ARE ALIVE!!!!!”

Katherine and the allies ran into the room, and saw Twisk, Netic and Drew, all subdued. The Hot Dog Man was walking back and forth, high-tech weapon thingy raised.

Silent Jim ran up to Twisk, produced something like a small spoon, and stuck it into the blob holding her, tearing off a tiny piece. He dropped it into a machine next to his computer, eyes scanning the results. Suddenly, he leapt up, grinning.

“What is it, Silent Jim?” Ian demanded, running over. “Did you finally find a way to get into ‘Naughty Celebs’ without paying?!” He looked at the monitor and frowned. “Oh.”

John walked over and stared at the screen. “What does this mean?”

Silent Jim gestured a bit, but John jusst got more confused.

“Let me see that,” Ili said, shoving Ian out of the way.

“Hey! I want to read it!” Jan said, climbing over John’s back and standing on his head to get a better view.

“Ow! Hey! Get off of my head!”

“Yo! Quit shoving!”

“You better hope I only shove you!”

Katherine calmly walked over, and turned the monitor around to face her. “Oooh. I see.”

“What is it?” John asked.

“That stuff is trout.” Katherine said.

“Trout?”

“So that’s where the trout went.” Ili said.

“But why does it stick to people?” Jan asked.

“It says here,” Katherine said, “That it has some of Ian’s DNA in it…”

“Oh, so whatever was on Ian’s hands when he dropped the hot dog must have mixed with the trout and made it adhesive!” Ili said, snapping her fingers. Then she made a face. "Ewwww…”

“What was on your hands anyway?” Jan asked.

Ian grinned. “I’ll never te-ell!”

“I don’t think I want you to.” Katherine said.

“So, Silent Jim, can you make an antidote so that we can remove these people from my walls?”

Silent Jim thought for a moment and then nodded.

“Good!” John walked over to the Hot Dog Man. “Good work, soldier. You get an extra leave furlough!”

The Hot Dog Man stared blankly at John, and then began to jiggle.

“The Fire Dance.” Ili explained to Katherine.

“What should we call it, anyway?” Jan asked. “The weapon I mean. Something better than the high-tech looking thing.”

John thought for a moment. “The Trout Launcher! And I have all royalties, because I threw the trout in there, so I’m the inventor! Nyah!”

Katherine blinked. “Well, you know, there have been variations on the Trout Launcher around for a while, under the same na-”

“No there aren’t!” John said. “I invented it!”

Katherine’s hand instinctively dropped to her knife, but she retracted it.

Must ruin prom… must not castrate… must… not… castrate!

“This is perfect!” John said, as Silent Jim went to work. “I have the Tri-Leaders on their knees, I’ve got an army with working weapons made of trout and Ian’s… whatever… and now, I have my favoritest daughter in the whole wide world as my ally again! I think this calls for a group hug!”

“I don’t.” Ili said, raising her HAMMER.

Ian and Jan immediately ran behind a large machine. To hug, I’m sure.

“Yes! Things are looking up! Today, the Justice League, tomorrow, the Tri-Leaders, and the day after that, the world! This calls for a group evil laugh… if that pleases everyone.”

Ili shrugged.

“Perfect! Now, BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA!”

“MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAA!”

Silent Jim looked up and gave them an annoyed look.

“CWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA!” Katherine joined in.

John and Ili stared at her.

“What?”

“Oh, um, nothing, that’s just sort of a, um, different, evil laugh.” John said.

“It makes me sort of uncomfortable, and you know how sensitive I am.” Ili said. One of her pets scurried by as a badger and she kicked him.

Katherine flashed her knife.

John whimpered. “Um, of course, who am I to insult your evil laugh! Go ahead! Proceed!”

“Thank you!” Katherine said, and immediately did so.

“CWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAA!”

“So now that we’ve defeated the Justice Wimps, you’re probably going to let them go back to their city so that they can come back one day and beat you, right?” Ili asked, when Katherine had finished.

“Sounds good to me!” John agreed.

“Idiot,” Ili muttered, gesturing for her pets to follow her back to her room.

***



PROM NIGHT

A large, black, futuristic/comic book-looking jet crashed into the West Pier, cleaving it in half. It sunk halfway into the water, and then popped out like a cork, landing on its belly and resting on the water like a boat. Two of the Squirrel Patrol, who had been keeping watch at the end, narrowly avoided getting crushed.

Roses winced. “Roser’s not going to like that.”

“AAAAAAAAGGGGGGHHH!!!!!!” A high-pitched scream erupted from one of the Fortress windows.

“Yep, I was right,” Roses said. “Go greet our new guests. I’ll go calm down Roseidous and get this prom started!” She hurried back into the Fortress.

Billy Jo and the two other squirrels on hand walked over to the broken end of the pier and chattered angrily at the occupants of the jet.

A door opened… and the Justice League emerged.

Ian groaned. “Aw, man, not again!”

However, the Justice League- bruised, battered, and a few in casts of some sort- didn’t seem to be in the mood for fighting.

“I didn’t know they were coming,” Ann said.

“Maybe Roser decided to compensate them.” Tails suggested.

The Justice League had found dates in each other, it seemed- Studmuffin with Rosma, Midnight Chatter with Scarlett, Oreo Avenger with X-Raytor (and yes, Oreo Avenger is named first because it was clear who was really in charge here), Xiao was alone, it seemed, although she and Fred seemed to be locked in internal struggle over who controlled her body, and the rest of the girls- Violet Princess, Raven, Crystal Freeze, Twisk, Netic and Drew- were all with Super Shibes.

Strange but true.

“Ehhh!” Super Shibes said, proudly. “The ladies love the stubble!”

“What are you doing here?” Oreo demanded, upon seeing John.

“The Tri-Leaders invited me. And uh,” John said. “Hope there’s no hard feeling about that whole handing your butts to you thing…”

“Oh, no, of course not!” X-Raytor, who was not wearing his costume, but a tux and tinfoil sunglasses to guard his eyes, said. “The doctor says I’ll have full control over my neck in about a week!”

Ili and Xiao eyed each other up, as did Jan and Violet Princess.

“Nice date,” Jan said, glancing at Super Shibes, who was, for some reason, talking to himself. Shadily. This caused his dates to swoon.

“I could say the same to you,” Violet said, looking at Ian. He quickly pulled his finger out of his nose and stuck his hands in his pocket.

“Uh, ‘sup?” He said, grinning innocently.

“Migraines going away yet?” Ili asked.

“Of course. Your’s?” Xiao returned.

“Fine.”

“Good.”

Ili thought for a second. “Um, good!”

Xiao’s head suddenly lolled back and she started raving in Babylonian.

“Try and show me up, will you?!” Ili raged, and immediately tossed her head back and began raving in Babylonian as well.

Silent Jim and Randall exchanged looks.

“I WILL HAVE YOUR SOULS!!!!” Xiao/Fred roared.

“I WILL HAVE YOUR CHEESE!!!!” Ili/Ili replied.

“Ehhh, when does this start? The great Super Shibes wants to get his groove on!” Super Shibes said.

X-Raytor

(stupid shadeball why does he get all the girls maybe if i were more shady and had some stubble you know isnt my costume shady enough i mean it should be hey i can see through everyones dresses nice that stupid john whyd he hit me so hard i should trip him or something on the dance floor ooh wait that might make oreo mad and that might hurt)

shrugged. “No idea. Studmuffin made the arrangements.”

“I want to fly! I want to wing my way out over the sea and CAW CAW with the gulls and fly off into the horizon!” Studmuffin shrieked, running around in circles with his arms out, simulating wings.

“First learn not to run into walls.” Rosma said.

Studmuffin tripped over himself and fell down.

X-Raytor glanced back at Super Shibes. “I think we’re on our own.”

Super Shibes

(ehhh I should ehhh)

nodded.

“Group picture!” Ann suddenly yelled, and everyone looked over.

Flash!

She got a picture full of dressed up people with stunned, stupefied expressions.

“Yay!” She said. “This one’s going in the calendar!”

It was then that Roses returned, and everyone fell silent.

“The First Annual Tri-Leader Prom will begin… in two hours.”

There were loud groans and a few boos. Holli looked like she wanted to snap someone’s neck.

Roses smirked. “Just kidding. Come on in, everyone!”

John

(born in lust turn to dust born in sin COME ON IN)

reunited with Holli

(almost time almost time and he doesnt even see it coming oh god this is going to be great)

and moved with the crowd into the Fortress.



* * *

The throne room of the Fortress of Doom had been decorated mere hours before, and as the prom attendants entered, they were struck by the sheer, dark grandeur of it all.

Banners of red and black hung from the ceiling, in a decreasing sequence of color, coming to its apex over the stage. On the far wall, a hug banner that Ann had hand painted loomed. It showed the Tri-Leader symbol on a black field, with a guy and a girl in prom attire- the guy vaguely resembling Roseidous, the girl vaguely resembling Roses. She wore a corsage made from an Oreo-shaped flower.

Underneath them, in wide, flowing script, were the words: EVIL PROM ’02

Red, green and gold crepe paper had been taped over the lights, dimming them and lighting the room in an eerie, yet somewhat soothing, mixed light. Black balloons hovered in stormy flocks in every corner, and many more lightly moving across the ceiling.

Over to one wall, round, red or black covered tables were set up, with four chairs each, two on each side, seating two couples. Although they couldn’t be seen from the door, each table also had a printed sign on it, with the names of the couples it was reserved for.

A long table was near them, and on it sat a large punch bowel, filled with red liquid, and a few hundred plastic cups stacked around it.

The Squirrel Patrol and Mod Squad chaperones were placed here and there- and, knowing this crowd, they might be needed once or twice. At least the Mod Squad would be able to overpower any of the boys simply by blinking.

And up ahead, right under the massive banner was the stage. It had definitely been built from scratch, but it was grand nonetheless. On the right side, the Associate Six- Murry at the mike, Bubba on drums, Al Broker on two guitars, Vic on bass, Stan on xylophone, and Vinnie on jaw harp- were assembled. On the left side, a large speaker system, which would be used to play music after the Associate Six’s one song, was set up, connected to amp towers all over the room.

Closer to the end of the stage, and over to the right a bit, was a microphone stand and, sitting behind it, three boxes labeled: BALLOTS. A small staircase was on the left side, leading directly up onto the stage.

And there, right there in the middle were the thrones for the King and Queen of the Prom. These were not like John’s- not painted cardboard- but grandiose, dark mahogany thrones, richly padded in crimson, studded with costume jewelry. On the King’s throne sat a golden crown, and on the Queen’s throne sat a golden tiara, with a large diamond set in the center. The diamond was real- produced by Cole Slaw- chief coal miner and a craftsman at converting them into diamonds on short notice.

And from all who entered, there was a collective

(wow)

John stopped right inside the door, caught underneath the glow of the EXIT sign, mouth agape.

“Pretty cool, huh?” Holli said. “We decorated it- me, Tails and Roses and Ann.”

“Wow.”

Holli smiled, and nodded up at the stage. “Like the thrones?”

John let out a half laugh of disbelief. “Yeah, I like it all. This is just incredible!” He gave her a sideways look. “Do you think we have any chance of winning?”

Holli gave him a wry smile. “We can try.”

“Viiiiiiiiibes!” Tyrael said. “I can feel the viiiiiiiiiibes!”

“The music hasn’t even started yet!” Tails said.

“I know.” He looked over at the Associate Six.

“Oh, wait, that’s right. It’s a good thing.”

“Hey! Skeletor!” Ian yelled at Murry. “Get your $#^% over with so we can listen to some real music!”

“You wouldn’t know music if it hit you in the $&*%ing face, you dumb $%*#!” Murry yelled back, and then turned to talk to the rest of the Associates. After a moment, the music started- fast, loud, and, well, awful. Some people, though, including Ian and Jan, went straight to the dance floor.

John tried to figure out what Murry was singing, but he couldn’t make out much through all of the cursing.

“Can we sit down for a little first?” John asked.

“Yeah, sure,” Holli pointed. “Our table’s over there, with Tails and Tyrael.”

They went over to the table, and John flopped down in his seat.

Then, after about thirty seconds, he remembered, hopped up, and held out Holli’s chair for her.

“Thank you,”

He sat down again.

(crap that wasnt good think john think)

“So, how do you like the prom so far?” Tyrael asked everyone in general.

“We’ve been in here for a minute and a half.” Tails said.

“Oh. Um, okay.” He waited a few seconds. “How about now?”

Tails just shook her head and turned to John. “So, John, what’s it like living in a cave all day?”

John looked up. “Huh? Oh, um, it’s fine, I guess. I mean, it gets a little cold, and it can be dirty, and there’s a lot of bat poop on the floor, and there’s these ungodly odors coming out of Ian’s room- things not of this Earth, I tell you!- but you get used to it eventually. Oh, yeah, and we get profiled a lot.”

“ ‘Profiled?’”

“Yeah, because we live in a cave and we’re evil and all of that… twice a week we get some Texan guy named ‘George’ down there telling us that we were going to be sorry once he routed us out of Iraq. He was passing out brochures, though. I think he wanted us to go there- something about tangible evidence of terrorist presence or something, I don’t know, I was watching TV while he was talking… but, yeah. That’s what it’s like.”

That’s sort of what the cabins are like at Camp,” Tyrael said. “I keep telling them that I should rent a room out over at Camp Porkchops and Apple Sauce, but noooo!”

“Our cabin is very nice.” Holli said, sticking out her tongue.

“Because only you two are in there!”

“And because we’re not monkeys.” Tails said.

“Well, neither am I!” Tyrael said.

“Yes you are.”

“No I’m not! I’m not a monkey!”

“A monkey would say that.” John said. Leroy often said it, insisting he was an ape.

Holli gave him a look

(what sort of a look is that)

but then grinned smugly at Tyrael. “See? John says you’re a monkey! And he employs one!”

“Yo! Look Silent Jim! I’m flying!” Ian yelled, sliding past on his socks. Silent Jim ran after him, waving a pair of shoes, with a very aggravated looking Jan behind him.

“…Or maybe three.” Holli amended.

The Associate Six was finishing up its song. Murry sang:

$*$&* it and *&$%&

With a $#*&% donkey

@#&*$&***% your mom

And BREAK!!!!


Then it was time for the big, final guitar solo, but as Al Broker started breaking it out Jimmy Hendrix style, Bubba decided he was lonely. With a massive QUACK! he smacked the drum set aside and leapt on Vic, hugging the poor, grouchy lawn gnome furiously.

“BUBBA BAD TOUCH!!” Stan screamed into the microphone. “BUBBA BAD TOUCH!!!”

Vinnie whipped out his tranquilizer gun and squeezed off a shot- but only succeeded in knocking Murry out of the air.

Bubba’s monstrous hug encompassed Al Broker too, but his large penguin feet slipped on Stan’s xylophone and all three fell over. Unfortunately, Bubba landed on top, and Vic and Al disappeared completely.

Vinnie fired the tranquilizer gun again, but this time found his mark. Bubba staggered off stage and fell, almost directly on top of X-Raytor.

“AIIIIIEEEEEE!!!!!” X-Raytor shrieked.

“Um, excuse him,” Oreo Avenger said. “He has sort of a complex about penguins. Nightmares, you know.”

“I do not!”

Oreo Avenger nodded patronizingly. “That’s right, dear, just like how you didn’t/don’t have Neary issues.”

“I don- er, didn’t!” X-Raytor exclaimed, his face turning beet red.

Neary- or Pinzz- had been the former unofficial leader of the Justice League and, during a brief stint of amnesia, had had a madcap, whirlwind affair with X-Raytor. But then it had gone away, and so had his Neary.

As Billy Jo and some squirrels carted Bubba off of the dance floor, and Roses chased all of the Associates off stage (except for Stan, since he was the DJ), some real music started playing. First, the Tri-Leader Theme Song, which John didn’t know, but listened to anyway. Then, some songs from To The Barricades, which John did know because he had written a few of them. He sang along to those. And then “I’m Like the Chickens…”

A half an hour passed before Holli lost her patience and asked, “Do you want to dance?”

John blinked.

(dancing dancing is sinful momma said so i)

“Um, sure!”

The song that Stan was playing was a fast one, so John had the chance to shake his groove thing. Sadly, this meant that everyone else was obliged to as well. And, in some cases, it was not a pretty sight.

Ian and Jan were acting like extras from a Nelly music video, while Ili, Silent Jim and Randall… well, I’m not sure how to describe what they were doing, but it was something like dancing. Not sure how the HAMMER got involved, but something like dancing, nonetheless.

Super Shibes, surrounded by female super heroines, began doing his fabled ‘Shibes Dance’ in which poked the air rapidly while attempting to break dance. His stubble played a large part in it as well.

Stan let the last notes of the song fade, and then switched over another disk.

This was a slow song. John knew it- “Desperado,” by the Eagles.

Ili, Silent Jim and Randall immediately gave up, and sat down to figure out some way to make a three person slow dance worked. Katherine seemed to be managing it well- by making TAS and Cait waltz while she watched and had Ann take pictures.

John, however, was not as lucky.

(oh crap what am i supposed to do oh crap oh crap oh CRAP)

Holli was looking at him expectantly.

“What do I do?” He hissed.

“Put your hands on my waist and sort of plod around in a circle,” Holli answered.

(crap)

He could do the plodding part, he could do the circle part (theoretically) but the waist?

“Uhhhhh…”

“What?” Holli sighed. “Listen, here, watch, I put my hands on your shoulders, you put your hands on my waist. See? Shoulders, waist. Got it?”

“Ohuh.”

“What?”

“Er, yeah, I think so.”

John clumsily put his hands on her waist, unaccustomed, and made a bit more nervous, by the presence of body warmth underneath his palms. He felt like he was going to wet himself.

(but why youve done this before remember back at the evil school prom with eb)

A sharp, familiar pain went through him.

(oh thats what it is suck it up just suck it up oh man i must look like such an idiot)

And Holli

(there not too bad at dancing finally coming out of your shell good)

making her own plodding circles- with a little less plodding- remembered

(the plan damn it this isnt fair no no no the plan is all important dont get hung up on it its just a joke its just a joke)

and frowned.

And a few inches from them, Tyrael and Tails danced.

“I want more fast music,” Tyrael said. “I liked getting my groove on!”

“Yeah…” Tails was looking at Holli and John. “They almost look cute together.”

Tyrael looked over, blinked, but made no comment.

“Of course, I guess The Plan will ruin that,” Tails said. There was the slightest hint of regret in her voice.

The Plan. Holli’s plan. Tyrael knew a bit about it, he was the inspiration after all, but not as much as Tails, and certainly not as much as Holli herself. Holli had become uber protective about the whole thing- acting really weird, too.

But Tyrael

(almost time almost time at nine thirty ill do it as long as stan remembers to put the cd on)

had his own secret plan to look forward to.

And across the dance floor:

“You know, I had my doubts about this thing, but it’s turning out okay.” Roseidous said.

Roses grinned. “Just wait a few more minutes. Knowing them they won’t disappoint us.”

It was eight forty-five.

At about nine o’ clock, X-Raytor and Oreo Avenger had returned to the table they shared with Scarlett and Midnight Chatter.

“You two finally taking a break?” Scarlett said.

Oreo Avenger jerked her thumb at X-Raytor. “Xy’s precious little feetsies are getting sore.”

“Well they are,” X-Raytor said. He was about to take off his shoes when Scarlett sent him a meaningful (meaningful meaning threatening) look.

“You know, my aunt used to get terrible blisters all the time,” Midnight Chatter said. “But mostly because she was always walking around out in the corn fields and stuff. She said something about reaching the Age of Favor and giving herself to He Who Walks Behind the Rows or something… She was sort of nuts.”

The others stared and Midnight Chatter shrugged.

“But anyway, I should be the one complaining about my feet hurting,” Oreo Avenger said. “You kept stepping on them during the slow songs.”

“See! Your feet hurt too! What’s the point of even dancing right now?”

Oreo Avenger sighed. “It’s the prom. It’s supposed to be fun.”

“This is fun!”
“No, it’s not.”

“Well, with that attitude…”

“You know what makes me angry,” Scarlett said. “That little weasel up there,”

“Ferret,” X-Raytor said.

“Ferret, whatever. Anyway, he doesn’t have the Moulin Rouge sound track. He’s got Annie. He’s got West Side Story.”

“He’s got To The Barricades!” Oreo Avenger added.

“Yeah, but he doesn’t have Moulin Rouge. He said something about it not being a real musical. I should go up there and show him a real musical, burn his little mink-”

“Ferret.” Oreo Avenger said.

Scarlett scowled. “Sorry, his little ferret tail off.”

(grrr ferret weasel mink stoat walrus what the hell ever he still doesnt know music thats the important thing bet hes just jealous because ewan has such a lovely voice)

“I want them to play ‘Centerfold,’” X-Raytor said. “If they played that, I’d get up and dance regardless.”

Oreo Avenger brightened. “Excuse me for a second,” and went over to talk to Stan.

X-Raytor

(doh oh well at least well get a good song playing)

sighed.

“So, how about Super Shibes,” Midnight Chatter said.

X-Raytor glanced up to see him doing his dance amid his many dates. “That is just sick and wrong.”

“His shadiness does have appeal,” Scarlett said. “If he were Scottish, I might have been tempted…”

Midnight Chatter frowned.

“Oh come on! Shadiness is not appealing!” X-Raytor said.

“Yeah!” Midnight Chatter agreed.

“Hold on a second,” Scarlett looked around and then stood up and walked over to another table. She returned with Tina and Umar.

“Tell them,” Scarlett said.

“Shadiness is definitely appealing,” Tina said. “Just look at Snape! He’s dark, brooding, obviously concealing some great internal pain… and he’s shady!”

“I agree,” Umar said. “But, sadly, I don’t think I’m shady enough to honor Snape by dressing as him, so-”

“What are you talking about?” Midnight Chatter interrupted. “You’re the shadiest guy here!”

Umar gave him a dirty look. “Well, what about Super Shibes?”

“He’s not really shady,” X-Raytor said. “I mean, look at him. If he were truly shady, he’d be sort of brooding the whole time, and definitely wearing something that everyone would give him off looks for- like you, Umar!”

Umar’s face split into a big crescent moon grin. He looked like a maniac. “I’m not brooding! I’m smiling! See! I’m happy! Happy happy happy!”

“Yeah, whatever you say, Droopy,” Midnight Chatter said.

Umar frowned, but shrugged it off. “Oh well. At least I get to carry a wand. Want to see it? I’ll whip it out for you…”

“NO!” X-Raytor and Midnight Chatter cried, covering their eyes.

Umar pulled a wooden wand out of his robes and smiled. “See?”

X-Raytor peeked between his fingers. “Oh, okay, that’s all it is.”

“Like looking at other guys’ wands, Xy?” Scarlett teased.

“I made it myself,” Tina said, taking the wand and whipping it through the air. “I wasn’t able to find a good description of Snape’s wand, so I just made it dark, mahogany. Ten inches, not all that swishy. Dragon heartstrings as the main core.

“Dragon heartstrings?” Midnight Chatter asked.

“Yeah, I got them from one of Ili’s pets as payment for giving John a tape of a So Weird episode he missed,” She twirled the wand between her fingers. “Apparently, they don’t need their heartstrings as much as we do.”

“I guess not…” Scarlett said.

Umar frowned

(how would that be possible maybe dragons do have a different cardiac system from humans but that different theyre reptiles i believe but that doesnt help much maybe because theyre magic)

but then Oreo Avenger returned.

Almost immediately, “Centerfold” by the J. Giels Band started playing.

“Whoo hoo! Dance time!” X-Raytor said, jumping out of his seat.

…Years go by

I’m lookin through

A girly magazine

And there’s my homeroom angel

On the pages in between!

My blood runs cold!

My memories have just been sold!

My angel is the centerfold!

Angel is the centerfold!


“There’s nothing I like more than a song about finding old school crushes in porn magazines!” X-Raytor said as he proceeded to ‘get his freak on.’

***

At nine fifteen, after a bit of fast music, another slow song began to play- Hero by some guy you’ve probably never heard of named Enrique.

Since it was one of Tina’s favorite songs, Umar gladly agreed to keep dancing, despite the fact that the Snape wig was becoming almost unbearable.

John and Holli decided to sit down again, and when they returned to their table, they found that Roses, Ann, Roseidous and Mr. Packard, as well as Tyrael and Tails, were there.

“Hey everyone,” John said, after holding out Holli’s seat

(ha remembered it this time go me)

and taking his own.

“Hey, John,” Came the response. But not simultaneously- this wasn’t a help group, mind you.

Roses looked around. “Well this is something I’d never though I’d see- all of the Tri-Leaders, Junior Tri-Leaders, John, Lord of Darkness (Dum Dum Duuuum!)… and Mr. Packard… all at the same table, with no explosions!”

John laughed. “Well, I want to thank you guys for inviting me. I mean, you know, after the whole La Resistance thing, and shooting Roses’ door, I’m surprised you didn’t throw me in the Coal Mines the moment I walked in!”

Roses

(MY DOOR no no stay calm be nice be polite have fun good)

smiled. “Maybe after this you won’t be as anti-Tri-Leaders any more?”

John shrugged. “It’s possible. You know, X-Raytor,”

(and ebony)

“X-Raytor,” John clarified to himself. “Told me… right before I beat the living cheese doodles out of him… that it’s idiotic to try to take over the world on your own. And at times like this, I can’t help but ag-”

“How did you guys beat the Justice League, anyway?” Holli asked quickly. Roseidous gave her an odd look, but she didn’t notice.

“Oh, well, you see, they had no idea what they were doing, and they just walked in and said ‘Hey, is anyone home that we can beat up?’ And I said ‘No, but how’s about I hand your super powered butts to you one at a time?’ and they all cowered with fear, and then my allies and Katherine tried to do some stuff, but they were pretty useless…”

“I need to go to the bathroom,” Tyrael said, standing up. He glanced at his watch as he left.

By the time John had finished his story, the Tri-Leaders (except Tyrael, who hadn’t returned from the bathroom yet), and Mr. Packard, were all staring, open mouthed.

“Wait,” Roseidous said. “So you set an ingenious trap for Rosma and Raven, beat X-Raytor senseless with nothing but your bare hands, and then used him as a club to knock out Studmuffin?”

“Exactly!” John said. “And don’t forget, I sang to Scarlett too, and because I’m such a wonderful singer, she started swooning and went, ‘Oh, John, you’re such an incredible simulation of a Scotsman!’ and fainted.”

“And you did it all by yourself?!” Roseidous pressed.

“Yep, but that’s the hazard of being so darn good,” John said, and leaned back in his chair.

(i fooled them)

Roseidous just sort of stared in awe, while the other Tri-Leaders, and Mr. Packard, thought

(bull)

John closed his eyes to relax a little, drank some punch. A new song started, somethiing by blink 182 with a nice, low bass. John tapped his foot along to the music, he knew this song.



I took her out

It was a Friday night

I wore cologne

To get the feeling right

We started making out

And she took off my pants

But then I turned on the TV…


Suddenly, the main door burst open and Tyrael ran onto the dance floor- completely, totally, one hundred and ten percent naked.

He was streaking!

And that’s about the time

She walked away from me!

Nobody likes you when you’re twenty three!

And are still more amused by TV shows

What the hell is ADD?

My friends say I should act my age

What’s my age again?

What’s my age again?


“WAAAAAAAAAAAAAHOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!” Tyrael cried, taking a victory lap around the dance floor, weaving in and out of the crowd, and bouncing off of everything he came in contact with.

“Go Ty! Go Ty!” Holli and Tails chanted.

“Don’t encourage him!” Randall shrieked, covering his eyes. “This is just wrong!!”

“YEAH!” Roseidous cheered, jumping onto the table. “EVERYBODY GET NEKKID!!!!”

He immediately tore off his clothes (with the exception of his socks) and started dancing.

John backpedaled faster than X-Raytor stuck in x-ray mode from a trucker convention. The girls, however, ran up and began to stuff money into the brims of his socks.

“This was my prank!” X-Raytor raged. “THIS WAS MY PRANK!!!”

“Aw, calm down and leave it to the professionals!” Ian said, jumping onto a table.

Katherine saw what was about to happen, her eyes widened and cried: “Sweet Jesus NO!!!”

Ian ditched his tuxedo for his birthday suit, causing quite an uproar with the female Justice Leaguers at the table.

Katherine dropped to the floor, convulsing. “MY EYES!!!!!” She screamed. “THEY BURN!!!!!!!”

“Oh… my… God…” Scarlett said, turning a strange shade of green.

“L-look at the the the the scars!” Twisk said in absolute horror.

Jan shrugged. “Nothing new.”

Oreo Avenger hurled.



And later on

On the drive home

I called her mom

From a pay phone

I said I was the cops

And your husband’s in jail

This state looks down on sodomy…

And that’s about the time

That bitch hung up on me!

Nobody likes you when you’re twenty three!

And are still more amused by prank phone calls

What the hell is caller ID?

My friends say I should act my age

What’s my age again?

What’s my age again?


The music changed to an instrumental solo, but the nakedness didn’t seem to dwindle at all.

“Okay, Ian, you’ve had your fun,” Jan said. “Now, for God’s sake, put your clothes back on and come down from that table!”

Ian pretended that he didn’t hear her. “Yeah! Check this out ladies! Ian’s in the house!”

“This is actually more fun than it should be!” Ann said, taking pictures of Roseidous (and Tyrael, whenever he passed close by).

“I know!” Roses said, laughing.

It was then that Tyrael climbed up on stage and said, into the microphone: “Time for naked Twister!!!!”

Roses frowned. “Okay, I guess we should put an end to this now.”

“I’ve got a plan,” Ann said, grinning. She pulled out an Oreo, jumped up and shoved it into Roseidous’ mouth. Roseidous let out a muffled yelp and- POOF!- was replaced by a large net, with weights attached to the ends.

As Jan, John and Silent Jim handled Ian (with some help from a HAMMER), Roses and Ann ran and tossed the net/Roseidous on top of Tyrael while he was still whooping and cheering on stage. With the help of a few Justice League members, they managed to get him back into his clothes, while John, Silent Jim and Jan did the same with Ian.

And that’s about the time

She walked away from me!

Nobody likes you when you’re twenty three!

And you still act like you’re in Freshman year!

What the hell is wrong with me?

My friends say I should act my age

What’s my age again?

What’s my age again?

And that’s about the time

That she broke up with me!

No one should take themselves so seriously!

With many years ahead to fall in line

Why would you wish that on me?

I never want to act my age!

What’s my age again?

What’s my age again?


The song ended as the three strippers were subdued.

It was nine thirty.

“Is the horror over yet?” Katherine moaned from the floor.

“Um, it looks like it,” TAS said.

“Then what are you two standing around for?! Pick me up!”

TAS and Cait scrambled to do what they were told.

“Boooooo!” Tails said, when Tyrael was fully clothed.

He made a wide, sweeping bow and sat down next to her.

Roseidous, after being transformed back into himself, shuddered. “EWWWWW!!!!! You made me touch him! EWWWWWWW!!!!!!”

“Oh, just shut up and put your clothes back on!” Roses said, playfully throwing his tux at him.

“Pure brilliance, Ty!” Holli said. “I didn’t think you had it in you!”

“Well, you know, I always have performed better naked,” Tyrael said. “Like that time in fifth grade, during the school play, when that mask was stuck on my face, it was-“

“We remember,” Tails said. “We were there!”

Roses had not returned to her seat, but had walked up onto the stage.

“Attention, everyone!” She said. “Can everyone quiet down?”

“Get off the stage!” Someone heckled.

“No, I like the view from up here, X-Raytor,” She said, and sent him a glare. “Anyway, it’s nine thirty and so now we will begin the voting for the King and Queen of the Prom!”

There was loud applause and John almost crushed his cup with excitement.

“In a few seconds, some of our friendly Super Model Clones will be distributing the ballots, and you will be able to choose one couple. Then the ballots will be collected, and after we count them we will announce it and have the coronation ceremony!”

As she spoke, three Super Model Clones walked up on stage and picked up the three boxes of ballots. They distributed them out among the tables, handing one to Roses onstage, and progressively moved towards the back of the room. John, Holli, Tyrael and Tails’ table was the fifth that the one Clone visited. She slid one to each of them, and then stalked away, nose high in the air.

John picked up his ballot and read:

~ Prom King and Queen Voting Ballot ~

Roses and Roseidous

Ann and Mr. Packard

Holli and John

John’s eyes popped open. There he was!

Tails and Tyrael

Katherine and Cait

Tina and Umar

Ili and Silent Jim

Jan and Ian

“Hmm, that’s a lot to choose from,” Tyrael said. “I think we should go about this as a group, systematically and-”

“I’m voting for us!” John said, and checked the box next to his and Holli’s names.

“Ili and Silent Jim?!” Randall raged. He shook his wooden fist at Roses. “What is this?!”

Roses shrugged. “Hey, you never do anything while we’re around, and Silent Jim does.”

Randall

(GRRRRRRRR im GRRRRRRR voting for john then GRRRRRR better him than GRRRRRR silent jim)

growled and sat down.

“Hey!” TAS said. “There’s been a typo! I’m not on here!”

Cait Sith sat back and shrugged. “I guess they wanted me and not my sidekick.”

“Why am I your sidekick?!”

“Because I always save the world in the end!”

“No you don’t!”

“… Well I don’t run into walls, at least!”
TAS shrugged. “Okay, fair enough,” and sat down.

Holli looked over at John. “Tonight you go in style.” She said, and checked the box next to their names.

(almost time almost time almost FREAKING TIME)

The Super Model Clones went around and collected the ballots, and brought them up to Roses.

“Okay, I’ll go count these and bring them out when I’m done! This shouldn’t take too long!”
She walked off of the stage and out of the room.

John was shaking with excitement. “Oh, man, it would be so cool if we won!” He said.

Holli gave a secretive smile. “Yes, yes it would.”

Tails gnawed on the soft part of her lower lip.

“I can’t believe none of us was on there!” X-Raytor said. “I mean, we’re the Justice League! We do so much and this is the credit we get?”

Super Shibes shrugged. “Ehhh, they knew that if I was chosen- which I would have been, for I am the great Super Shibes- my stage presence would be much too sexy and I would end up stealing everyone’s dates.”

“Go shave yourself,” Midnight Chatter muttered.

Studmuffin looked over at Super Shibes nervously.

(hmm it seems that his ego is large and might might some day compete with my own should he ever learn how to harness his chi i must make sure he never does NEVER ooh I must look really sexy now that im plotting against someone)

“Why weren’t we nominated?” Kari asked.

“Because of Fabio! After reading Remnants I realized that anyone with exceedingly good looks can get power and so I implanted in his DNA a code that, should he ever become a king of any kind, his head would explode. Oh, but his genitals would go first.”

Fabio! gulped.

Ann grinned.

(or maybe its because i want everyone to regard my date as the most irresistible entrant but no it couldnt be that)

It was then that Roses returned, just as the time became nine fifty-six.

The room fell silent, save for Roses’ footsteps up onto the stage. She reached the microphone, and pulled it over in front of her. A low, electrical hum ran through the speakers, but nothing more.

After a moment of silence, Roses began, quietly: “The King and Queen of the First Annual Tri-Leader Prom, 2002…”

Silence.

“HOLLI AND JOHN!!!”

Dead. Silence. Roses words bounced around the room.

John stood up. “You guys suck! You did not deserve to win you stupi- wait a second, say that again?”

Roses cleared her throat. “Ahem, HOLLI AND JOHN!!!”

“I won?!” John said.

“We won!” Holli said, standing up.

“I WON!!!”

“Ahem, we.”

“Oh, oops, sorry, WE WON!!!”

Tails started applauding, as did Roses and Ann and Tyrael and Roseidous. John’s allies joined in, Silent Jim and Ian first, then, once the shock wore off, Ili, and Jan and, secretly gleeful, Randall.

Holli took John’s hand and led him up onto the stage.

Everyone was applauding now, even the Justice League and the Mod Squad and the Associates and the Squirrel Patrol. Lights shone down

(so bright i cant see anything)

on the two as they reached center stage, and then stood in front of their thrones, as Roses picked up the crown and the tiara, and set them on their heads.

“Congratulations, you guys!” She whispered and then returned to the microphone.

“Everyone, I give you the KING AND QUEEN!”

More wild applause, with Ian occasionally whistling as loud as possible.

John

(this is it this is it i did it i won for once i am the king i am in power they are all clapping for ME this is my night this is my freaking NIGHT)

and Holli

(YES i knew it i knew all of that campaigning would work and now here we are we are royalty queen holli and king john almost time almost time for the king to get crowned)

mounted their thrones.

“Now, would the royal couple like to lead us in a dance?”

Holli raised her hand. “Um, could we just go to the son-”

“Actually,” John said, standing up. “I’ve got a little dance to do if nobody minds.”

Holli shrugged, and Roses nodded. “Go for it.”

John walked up and took the mike. “Okay, everyone, I think something like this calls for a special type of dance. A dance that has been handed down from generation to generation. The dance to end all dances.”

“The Dance of Eternal Happiness!” Ann cheered.

“Actually, no,” John said. “I’m talking about the VICTORY DANCE!!!”

John immediately started dancing around like a… a… an idiot! There we go! And as he did this, he sang:

“Whose house?

John’s house!

Whose house?

John’s house!

Whose house?

(Say what?)

John’s house!

Whose house?

John’s house!

(Say what?)

Martiiiiiiiiin!

Martiiiiiiiiin!


Thank you very much.”

He sat down, and there was a quiet applause from the confused, and somewhat disturbed, audience.

Stan worked the stereo system a little, and suddenly there was a blare of trumpets.

“The Death Army of Roseidous Theme.” Everyone was going to sing along to this, John remembered.

Holli stood up. “We need to go stand at the front of the stage,” She said. She had planned the ceremony.

“I don’t know the words,” John whispered, standing up.

“Don’t worry, we just have to look good.”

They walked almost to he edge of the stage, holding hands.

Holli’s foot carefully moved over a slightly raised part of the stage as everyone began to sing:

“Gloria

Honorifice

Pralium Facio,”


And from the audience Ann and Roseidous and Tails and Tyrael and Ian and Silent Jim and Ili and Jan and Randall all watched the King and Queen, gloriously illuminated by a pair of gold-tinted spotlights.



“Animus

Gradior Quo

Prodo,”


And they were all frozen in that moment: Holli,

(here it comes here it comes HERE IT COMES)

and Tails,

(please please oh please dont do it im sorry i ever helped with this things are different now please he looks so happy)

and John himself.

(this is it this is MY moment i did it I finally came out on top oh god this is great this is the best thing ever they love me they clap and sing and dance for ME and it feels so good)

But a moment is much too short.



“In Excelsis

Precedo

Bellator,”




(NOW)

Holli’s foot came down on the slightly raised board, and she immediately flung herself downwards. She had to get off of that stage.

The song faltered and faded out.

John looked over in confusion, mouth open to speak-

Somewhere on the side of the stage a rope suddenly pulled taut, and then another on the other side, and then one behind-

THUD!

Two sandbags hit the floor on either side of the stage like bombs, ropes trailing from them, and the ropes on the sides lurched.

The floor of the stage, right under the thrones, erupted in a blast of splintered wood and sawdust. The King’s throne took a glancing blow, flew and was dashed against the wall. The Queen’s chair fired off like a missile, and Roses barely avoided it, but ended up falling off of the stage, on top of Roseidous.

John’s back was turned to everyone else now, as he watched with wide eyes as the floor rended itself and something was forced up through the hole.

(what the)

With a final groan of wood, the thing exploded up, onto the stage, somehow resting itself over the hole. The ropes attached to the fallen sandbags went immediately limp.

It was a tree. A big, obviously fake, tree, with a spring-green dome of vinyl leaves on top.

John glanced back over his shoulder.

“I may live in a cave, so I really have no right to say this, but you people have some weird tastes in decorations.”

Suddenly, two tentacles, it seemed, sprang from the tree’s trunk, wrapping themselves around John and pulling him in, holding him to the tree. The tentacles made a knot over his chest and it was only then that John saw what they really were:

(rope)

And now more rope came, sprouting from unseen holes in the fake tree, wrapping themselves around him, tying themselves, holding him down.

And then, one of the branches reached down, and held something out in front of him.

A chicken.

(oh no not aga)

Tape fired from the trunk like gray streamers, and held themselves out, straight, as the branch held the chicken against John. Then the tape whipped around, securing the chicken. And then another branch lowered, with another chicken. More tape.

And it happened again, and again, until John had four flapping, clucking chickens taped down his body.

Two twigs sprouted from the tree, inserted themselves into the sides of John’s mouth, and forced him to open up.

A branch lowered, and in it-

John felt chocolate on his tongue, and then the twigs made his mouth open and close on the disc, chewing it up. Chocolate cookie and cream in the center. So sweet and bitter at the same time.

He swallowed, because there was nothing else to do, and with a lurch in his stomach, changed.

John’s hair exploded outwards, almost knocking his crown off and his over all appearance became just a bit more scarier as he assumed the form of- Richard Simmons!

“Okay now let’s WORK IT! And One! And Two! And Three!” John cried on an impulse.

Then he changed again

(must be a temporary oreo why are they doing)

back into himself, with a horrible taste in his mouth, and lingering impulses that told him to bend down and touch his toes WITHOUT bending his knees.

But he only had a second before another Oreo was crammed into his mouth, and this transformation was much more horrific.

John’s body began to change in ways he could barely comprehend, things shifted around and became new and different and strange. And in his brain, he could feel a sudden rush of common sense, logic and, with it all, an extreme, overbearing lust for power!!!!

(POWER)

That’s right, kids- John had been turned into a girl.

“GAAAAAAAH!!!!!” He screamed, a few octaves higher than usual. “NOT AGAIN!!!!!!”

And suddenly, with a much more sickening, and disgustingly squishy, lurch, he became his male self again. Or at least he hoped so. He’d check at some time when he wasn’t in public.

Or tied to a malevolent robot tree, with four chickens attached to him. You know, then.

The twigs retracted from his mouth, but immediately he felt a short, but acute, pain in his side. And then another, on the other side. He looked down to see two pointy sticks, taking turns poking him between the ribs, in the side.

(ooh no pointy sticks i do not like)

But they kept poking him until, finally, when he felt like he couldn’t take it anymore, and that he was going to reach down and eat the freaking sticks just to make them go away, they disappeared into the tree.

John was left hanging a moment, panting and grunting in pain and

(fear)

something else. Something like

(fear)

No, not like fear, not like fear! He was the Lord of Darkness (Dum Dum Duuuuuum!)! He feared nothing!

… Sort of.

And then the ropes fell away, and John collapsed. The tape pulled itself off, and dragged the chickens with it.

As he got himself up on his palms, the tree, with a magnificent creak, sank back under the stage again. The sandbags flew up, from the release of such large a force, and swung up and over the beams that held them.

They both landed on and, in effect, pulled, two ropes leading to an apex right above John’s head.

John stood up, not sure what to do but knowing he had to do something.

And he felt it.

And he looked up.

It had been hidden behind one of the black banners hanging from the ceiling, balanced haphazardly on a wooden beam. And now it fell, tumbling and flashing in the lights.

A bucket. A large, steel bucket, attached to a pair of ropes.

John saw the lip of the bucket tip over just enough, and the crest of something white coming out-

The bucket dumped a gallon of milk on John’s head. It splattered off, onto his shoulders, down his chest and back, a sheet of it running continuously off his forehead in front of his face.

And as the shock wore off, he felt it, the cold wetness, and his eyes popped open, milk rolling down around his lids, onto his cheeks.

(i… COVERED with it)

And then, the laughter started.

At first it was only Holli, a shrill titter of glee that developed into a full out laugh. And then, slowly, X-Raytor. And Ann

(wow wonder why nobody told me we were doing that)

and Roseidous

(thats not funny but watching whoever did that clean it up will be)

and Tyrael

(well there goes my fifteen minutes as head prankster)

and Katherine

(there you go dad there you go)

and even Tails.

(so wrong so wrong but wow that is spectacular)

And then, Ian and Randall joined in too. The Justice League, the Pizza Boys, everyone.

In truth, there were some people not laughing- Roses, who’s last grip on patience was gone, Ili who practically glowed rage, Jan whose face was blank, Tina whose expression was torn between horror and anger, and Silent Jim and Umar, who watched the crowd with utter disgust.

But John couldn’t see them. He could barely see anything, but the streams of milk and something far off and gray…

The hall seemed to shake with the laughter, breathe it in, feed on it.

They were laughing at him.

(they’re laughing at ME)

Ian

(finally been waiting for something good to happen)

stood on his chair, and chucked his plastic cup as hard as he could. It reached the stage, bounced off of John’s now wet forehead and rolled over the edge of the stage.

“GOOOOOOAAAAAAAAL!” Ian shouted. Jan, in a sudden, impulsive burst of rage, pulled his chair out from under him and Ian landed face first on the floor. Silent Jim stepped over him and started pushing his way through the laughing crowd towards the stage. Umar and Tina were doing the same.

John felt the cup hit him

(boink)

and came back to reality a little.

(im wet crap)

He saw Ian was on his face, not laughing anymore.

(fine then lets make sure none of them laugh anymore)

And he reached down into the hot, molten rage building inside of his chest and

Flex.

The main doors slammed shut… and then swung open again. It was a windy night after all.

John turned his attention the Stan’s sound system, envisioned it flying across the room, right into the crowd, knocking them down like bowling pins.

Flex.

John blinked, and then remembered that he didn’t have telekinetic powers.

(crap i should write that down)

Silent Jim reached the front of the stage, right under where John was, and started to heft himself over. Tina had reached the stairs and she and Umar were walking up them. Roses was on her feet and looked like she seriously wanted to hurt someone.

And John, right then, realized it was all too much.

(they tricked me they said they wanted to be friends and they tricked me and tricked me and tricked me)

He moved suddenly, stepping on Silent Jim’s head and using it as an easy way to get to the floor. He stumbled through the crowd- a crowd that was becoming more and more silent- half running, and barreled through the door, head down.

The laughter was all but gone now- only Randall, X-Raytor and, especially, Holli’s voices were distinctive now, among the more half hearted laughs of a few others.

Ann, Tails and Tyrael quickly went over to Roses and Roseidous.

“What was that?” Ann and Roseidous demanded simultaneously. Tyrael and Tails hung back a few inches, occasionally glancing over at Holli.

Tina and Umar had helped Silent Jim get back up after his head had been stepped on, and Kari and Fabio! joined them, trying to figure out what had happened.

“This was supposed to be fun,” Tyrael muttered. “This was supposed to be a fricking prom,”

“We need to get everyone quiet,” Ann said. Roses seemed beyond the ability of speaking.

Katherine appeared next to her. “Just say the word and X-Raytor will be laughing in an alto for the rest of the night.” Her knuckles were white around the knife.

“I thought it was part of the show or something,” Roseidous said. “I didn’t- I didn’t know it was…”

X-Raytor’s laugh suddenly stopped, as Oreo Avenger whacked him upside the head, and Super Shibes gave him a shift poke in the ribs. The background laughter was getting a bit fainter, but it was hard to hear over Holli and Randall’s intertwining alto and bass cackles.

Ili stormed up to the Tri-Leaders. “So that’s what this was all about, huh?! Invite us and then make us look like idiots, was that it? Got a bucket of milk to dump on me when I leave?!"

Roses stirred.

(shutup)

She brought her fist crashing down on the nearest table. “SHUT UP!”

The laughter petered out and died. Holli had a sharp, territorial gleam in her eyes.

“I want to know who did this,” Roses said. She jabbed her finger at the destroyed stage. “WHO DID IT RIGHT NOW!”

Ili

(like you dont know you all set us up should have known once a tri-leader always a tri-leader)

scowled.

After a moment of silence, Tails said. “I know.”

“Who.” Roses said. It was a command, not a question.

Tails looked up and now her eyes were hard. “Holli. Me and Holli set it up and Tyrael knew a bit about it but not as much as me, and certainly not as much as Holli. We built it together, we built THAT!”

Roses ignored Tails and rounded on Holli.

“Holli.”

Holli just looked up, darkly. “What? You want me to apologize?”

“Why did you do that?” Ann demanded. “I mean, it’s all right for you to pull pranks but that?”

“Oh, cry about it,” Holli snapped. “You know he deserved it. Besides, Tyrael suggested it.”

Tyrael blinked. “Whoa, hold on, no I didn’t!”
“Yeah you did! That whole ‘what set Carrie off’ thing?”

“I was talking about her being invited! I meant we should invite John!”

“That’s how I heard it.” Roseidous said.

“What are you talking about? The prank set her off!”

“But they couldn’t have done the prank if she wasn’t there!”

“You know what, never mind,” Holli said. She stalked up the stairs, onto the stage. “I don’t care what the rest of you think, that was my masterpiece. That was brilliant, that was sweet, and no one is going to ruin this moment for me!”

“Do you realize what you did?” Roses demanded. “Didn’t you hear him talking- he was practically ready to join us and stop messing with our plans! As much as he is, you know, not the brightest bulb, he could have made a good, um...”
“Owner of the grocery store?” Ann suggested.

“Well, maybe. He could probably be an Associate though. I mean, he’s got to be more talented than Bubba and Murry combin- anyway, that’s not the point! The point is, that was a lousy thing to do. It- you just ruined the prom for us, Holli.”

“Boo hoo, Roses. Why don’t you go tell someone who cares. I did what I did and I’m not taking back anything.”

Holli stood squarely on the stage, right in a large puddle of milk.

And above her, the rope loosened, pulled, and let go.

The bucket fell.

BONK!

Holli dropped like a stone, and Tails and Tyrael ran up on the stage to check on her.

“Holli, hey, hey, you there?” Tails said.

“Holli! Holli! Quick! Mr. Packard forgot his pants!” Tyrael said.

Holli stirred a little at that, then sat up, and massaged her head. “Oooh, ow, what happened?”

Tails sighed. “Oh, son of a- don’t tell me we’re doing the crappy amnesia plot!”

Holli looked down at the milk, at the ruined stage, at the fallen bucket.

“Oh no…” She rubbed her temples. “Oh no, please, please, please tell me that was all just a bad dream and all of this is here because Roser had another bachelor party…”

Roses frowned. “What’s going on?”

OMEGA stepped forwards, because he hadn’t done anything for a while. “I can sense her mind now- nothing’s changed, she wasn’t hypnotized or possessed or anything, but I think, I think that getting whacked over the head was a sort of… reality check.”

Roses blinked. “Um, oh. Thanks.”

“This is so much bull!” Ili snapped. “What next? You’re going to tell me she only did all of that because she was driven temporarily over the edge by the possibility of achieving some dark desire she never knew she had?”

“Well, actually…”

“Save it.” She said. “You people make me sick, you know? After all of this, after all of the trust we put in you,” She straightened. “This little truce is over. From now on we are nothing but enemies. Now, come on, let’s go.”

Randall came to her side. “I agree, that wa-”

Ili nailed him with the HAMMER and Randall fell over.

“I didn’t say you were in the clear, tiki boy. You don’t get to talk until we’re back at the cave.”

“At least let us give you a lift home,” Ann said.

Ili glared. “I’m sure we’ll find our own way.”

She turned and stalked away, and a dazed Randall after her. Silent Jim paused, gave the Tri-Leaders an apologetic shrug, and followed.

Jan and Ian were at the door.

“What is your problem, you little creep?” Jan snapped. “How could you do that- throwing that $*&%ing cup? John’s probably the only reason you aren’t living in a box right now, you know,”

“Come on! It was all in fun, it’s not my fault he flipped out about it.” Ian said.

Jan seethed, raised her hand to smack Ian but then restrained it. “It’s over.” She said.

Ian blinked. “It is? I thought it ended at eleven…”

“Not the prom you dumb $#^%, us. We are over. Go back to the cave and see if John doesn’t frickin lock you away for life, you little dirt ball. I’m staying here.”

Ian’s face contorted. “W-w-w- FINE! See if you ever have it better than this!”

“That shouldn’t be too hard to do. Goodbye, Ian.” Jan turned on her heel and walked back towards the Tri-Leaders.

Ian watched her go and Silent Jim paused next to him.

“I swear to God, if you tell me that gay Bambi story again I’ll %*^&ing cap you.”

Silent Jim just blinked and punched Ian in the face. Ian slumped to the floor, and Silent Jim slung him over his shoulder.

With a final glare from Ili, they left.

On stage, Holli looked like her head was splitting open- or like she wanted to split it open, either or.

“It- it wasn’t supposed to be that bad,” She managed. “I thought- Roses, I- I thought…”

“It’s okay,” Roses said, sighing. “Well, no, no, it’s not okay. But, you know what? It’s over for tonight. Everyone… the prom’s over. Sorry.”

There were some murmurs, eyes on the floor, and everyone shuffled out the doors. X-Raytor mumbled an apology to no one in particular before following the rest of the Justice League. Umar, Tina, Kari and Fabio! (who Ann changed back into AniChimp) lingered for a little longer, and then followed the others out.

Holli looked up, out into the room, not able to turn to look at the damage- damage that she had done for- what? For a rush that she didn’t even know she had needed.

She knew she was evil. She knew she liked torture and pranks. But this…

(at least i was right about one thing it was one hell of a prom night)

***

Roses, Ann and Roseidous stood in the center of the ex-ballroom, outlining their plan using a combination of strategies from To The Barricades, Princess Maker 2 and StarCraft.

“So to summarize, after the Prom incident, John went insane. He’s trying to take over Albuquerque with an army of Hot Dog men. We’ve called you here to help us stop him. The main force,” Roses said. “Will enter the city and try to break through the barricades. That will be made of the Justice League, the Associates and the Pizza Boys.”

“We actually prefer the Pizza Brigade,” Nothlit said.

Roses rolled her eyes. “Okay, fine- the Justice League, the Associates and the Pizza Brigade. Now, I’m sure you have something to travel in?”

“We can take the Justice Jet,” X-Raytor said.

“And don’t worry,” Oreo Avenger said. “He won’t drive. And neither will Super Shibes, we promise.”

Super Shibes growled. “Ehhh, you’ll all appreciate my skills as a superhero some day!”

Roses ignored the shadeball and continued. “The rest of us- Ann, Roseidous and myself, the Junior Tri-Leaders and Katherine will go directly after John. We don’t know exactly where he is yet, but he isn’t in the city. We will each be carrying standard issue rope and tape, as well as Oreos and a chicken, in the event of an emergency,”

“ ‘Standard issue?’” Roseidous whispered to Ann.

She shushed him. “We spent six hours watching cheesy war movies to get the dialogue right!”

“Why?”

“Because, apparently, cheesy war movie dialogue causes greater inspiration among the ‘troops.’”

Roseidous stuck out his tongue. “I bet you’re just saying that because you love cheese.”

Ann whacked his tongue and he pulled it back in.

“If we win, can we turn John into a statue again? Just for a little bit?” Tails asked.

Roses frowned. “No.”

Holli made her pouting face.

“GAH!” Tyrael and Roseidous screamed, covering their eyes lest they be mind washed by the Evil Pout.

“We decided that the safest place for him would be the Coal Mines.” Roses said.

“But didn’t we kick him out of the Coal Mines?” Tyrael asked. Holli and Tails were quietly putting spiders in his hair while he talked.

“Well, yes, but this time around he won’t be able to stir up rebellion! I mean, after La Resistance? The most they’ll manage to do will be to sing songs!” Roses said.

“So then it’s agreed?” Ann asked. “Everyone’s in on this, till the end?”

Nothlit stood. “The Pizza Brigade is always ready to evil for our own evil employers- in twenty minutes or we do it for free!”

The other members of the Pizza Brigade stood simultaneously and saluted. Holli and Tails clapped and whistled.

“As long as there’s no giants with containers for heads, the Justice League is ready and willing!” Studmuffin said. The rest of the Justice League applauded loudly.

“EEEE!!! THERE’S SPIDERS IN MY HAIR!!!!!” Tyrael shrieked.

Everyone in the room stood, applauding and cheering raucously as Tyrael ran around in circles, slapping at his head.

“Feel the rhythm, feel the rhyme! Get on up, it’s bobsled time! COOL RUNNINGS!!!!” Roseidous shouted, and everyone flooded from their seats, out of the Fortress, and towards battle.



* * *

And so, Roses and Ann Chovi and Roseidous and Holli and Tails and Tyrael and Katherine and Jan Chovy, all hurtling across the country in Ann’s spaceship, and X-Raytor and Studmuffin and Oreo Avenger and Scarlett Fyre and Crystal Freeze and Midnight Chatter and Rosma Galak and Raven and Violet Princess and Xiao and Fred and Twisk and Netic and Drew and Super Shibes, and Bubba and Vinnie and Stan and Al Broker and Vic and Murry and Billy Jo and Mr. Packard, and Nothlit and Yoda and Todd and TAS and Cait Sith, all crammed on the Justice Jet,

* * *

General Nothlit woke his men up at about seven in the morning.

“Rise and shine, ladies, we are almost in sight of the POA.”

Sergeant Yoda stood and saluted. “Sir, we will have our uniforms, hats, and pizza boxes ready and accounted for within the hour.”

“Make it within fifteen minutes and I might add another stripe to your uniform,” General Nothlit stalked through the bunks, with each of his men standing at attention next to them.

“Corporal Todd, perfect. Corporal Cait, keep up the good work. Private TAS- Private!”

Private TAS stiffened. “Yes, sir?”

“What do you call this, son?”

“A, um, a bunk, sir.”

“You know what I call it, Private?”

“Uncomfortable, sir?”

General Nothlit’s eyebrows narrowed. “I am not describing the back of a Volkswagon here, son, now tell me, what would I call it?”

“Um, I don’t know, sir.”

“I’d call it a disgrace!” The General roared. “With a bunk like that I’m not even sure you’re fit to serve in the Pizza Brigade! For all I know, you’ve been cheating on your on-time delivery scores as well! Have you, Private, have you?!”

X-Raytor stuck his head around the door. “Um, am I interrupting something?”

Nothlit glanced around. “Uh, no, of course not. We were, um, you see…”

“I told Drew we shouldn’t have ma de Full Metal Jacket the in-flight movie,” X-Raytor grumbled. “Anyway, we’re about an hour or so away from Albuquerque now, so, um, get ready or whatever it is you guys do.”

“Um, sure, we’ll get right on it.” Yoda said.

X-Raytor nodded and left.

Sergeant Yoda blinked. “Was I supposed to say ‘Officer on deck!’ for him?”

General Nothlit scratched his head. “I don’t know. The Starship Troopers show never went into that…”

“Why am I a Private?” Private TAS demanded. “I saved everyone from the alternate Clyattville and you all know it!”

It was then that Corporal Todd said. “By the way, how are we supposed to fight Hot Dog Men anyway.”

Silence.

“I had a plan involving angering them by messily eating a sausage pizza,” General Nothlit said. “But it ended up with us all getting killed. I don’t think it would have worked that well.”

“Don’t worry, guys, you’ve got me on your side!” Private TAS said. “”And you know I’ll find a way!”

There was an uneasy silence.

“Maybe I should write my mom and tell her I’m not coming back…” Corporal Cait mumbled.



* * *

A little after two-o-clock in the morning there had been a lull in the battle for Old Town, but as the sun peeked over the horizon, it began again in earnest.

The Hot Dog Men stood behind their barricades of Crapomon debris, and single-mindedly fired round after round of tuna at the dwindling troops outside. The surrounding buildings were dotted with trapped soldiers and police, struggling against their fishy (heh, fishy, get it?) confinements.

Those unfortunate enough to still be in Old Town when the barricades went up were held in the San Felipe de Neri church, their secrets being devoured and spit back out at them, in the horrifying… jiggling… of the Fire Dance.

* * *

Ili woke up and realized she had fallen asleep on the ledge. Oh well.

Down below, she could see the battle was starting up again, but it was harder to see now in the daylight.

She heard footsteps and saw Ian and Silent Jim, wandering groggily out into the morning sun.

“Looks like you two slept well.”

“Man, I stayed up all night, just in case I buy it, yo? I wanted to at least spend as much time as I could having fun,” Ian said, and then jerked his thumb at Silent Jim. “Besides, he snores. Just like I said.”

Silent Jim, who had had to endure Ian’s snoring all night, only had enough energy to give him a half-hearted whack upside the head.

Silent Jim looked out on the city, down on Albuquerque, and the drifted up into the blue sky. There were barely any clouds today…

Silent Jim’s eyes widened suddenly, and he tore a pair of binoculars out of his overcoat.

“What is it?” Ili asked, walking over. Silent Jim handed her the binoculars and she saw-

Two aircraft, one unmistakably the Justice Jet.

“The Tri-Leaders!” She hissed. “And it looks like they have the Justice League with them too.”

Ian rubbed the crust out of his eyes. “Where? I don’t see anything!”

Ili hurried back into the cave, and Silent Jim dragged Ian along behind them.

John was awake, still on his throne, still staring at the laptop. The crown was on his head.

“Hey, lordy,” Ili snapped. “The Tri-Leaders are coming, and it looks like they have some help.”

“The Justice League.” John said, and then pointed at one of the Hot Dog Men milling around the throne room. “Yes, they’re coming. Soon enough, soon enough…”

He fell silent and continued to stare, grinning, into the laptop.

“So, uh, what now?” Ian asked.

Ili shrugged. “I’m gonna go watch the fireworks!”

* * *

For some reason, they had let themselves be fooled into allowing X-Raytor to bring the ship down for a landing.

They were mere miles from Albuquerque now, the small army in the Justice Jet, and closing the distance fast. They could see the overbearing storage room/transport looming above the buildings.

“Okay, Xy, here’s what we want you to do,” Oreo Avenger explained, very carefully. “You are going to land the Jet gently, gently a little outside the city and then we’ll all disembark and enter from there. Clear?”

“But that gets rid of our element of surprise!” X-Raytor said, taking his eyes off of the controls and causing just about everyone to jump out of their skin. “They’ll be expecting that. We need something that will catch them off guard!”

Raven rolled her hand. “Like?”

“Does everyone have a parachutes?”

In fact, everyone who couldn’t fly did have a parachute- X-Raytor was driving after all.

“Then just wait until I give the word and then jump!” He said, and kicked in the accelerator.

The Justice Jet surged forwards, blowing past Ann’s space ship and hurtling towards Albuquerque like a meteorite towards Smallville.

“HOLY #$%&ING #&^$!!!!!” Murry screamed. “WE’RE ALL GOING TO #&$&ING DIE!!!!!!”

They reached the city, whipping past buildings and almost clipping just about all of them. X-Raytor had to jerk the controls to avoid ramming a Channel 6 helicopter.

And outside, the Jet screamed from the stress, explosions rolling off of it as it broke the sound barrier.

And suddenly, just as the barricades became visible, X-Raytor slammed on the brakes. Everyone, even the staunch Pizza Brigade, fell over.

They were still going extremely fast, but at least safe enough to jump out.

Oreo Avenger’s eyes popped open.

Fast enough to jum-

“NOW!” X-Raytor bellowed, and punched a button. Immediately, hatches opened on either side of the Justice Jet and everyone near the doors was sucked out, the others, without much choice, jumped after them.

X-Raytor had a brief, half-a-second glimpse of their parachutes blossoming open, one after another, and then he unbuckled himself from his seat, secured his own parachute straps and stood.

“I need you to do one last thing for me,” He said to the Justice Jet.

He grabbed the control stick and jerked it back hard.

X-Raytor made a running jump out of the Jet and immediately had the wind knocked out of him by the force of the passing vehicle. When he got himself straightened out again, though, he yanked the chord and his parachute fired up from behind him, opening up and jerking him back up a few feet.

He looked up just in time to see the Justice Jet collide into the side of the storage room/transport.

BABOOOM!

The storage room/transport was gutted by flames, and a liquid edge of red tore down the Crapomon logo, across Yoko Onomon’s painted face, and halfway up the opposite side. The craft floundered in air, like a dying bird, and then blossomed white.

The ten dozen Hot Dog Men inside it were flash-cooked immediately.

X-Raytor landed on his feet and tore the parachute off. He was inside the barricade, just as he had aimed for, and so were the others, albeit a few yards away from him.

It was then that the Hot Dog Men noticed him.

“We-e-e-e are the Hot Dog Men!” The said in their strange, watery voices.

“Good for you.” X-Raytor said. The Hot Dog Men said something about the “Fire Dance” and started jiggling.

“X-Ra-a-a-a-aytor! We know a-a-a-a-all of your se-e-e-ecrets! We know that the Gre-e-e-een Pe-e-e-enguin was re-e-eally your u-u-uncle who you muta-a-ated!”

“Yeah, who doesn’t by now,” X-Raytor snapped.

“And we kno-o-o-ow that you do, inde-e-e-eed have Ne-e-e-e-eary issu-u-u-u-ues!”

“I DO NOT!!!!” X-Raytor exploded, and kicked his x-ray vision up to zap mode. He fired two lasers into the “chest” of the nearest Hot Dog Man and then leap-frogged over him, trying to get to the others.

Things weren’t looking too good- the Justice Leaguers powers seemed to only be slowing the Hot Dog Men down, and not by much, the Pizza Brigade seemed to be at a loss as to what to do, and the Associates were causing more damage than the Hot Dog Men themselves.

“Anyone know how to destroy a hot dog?” X-Raytor asked, when he reached his fellow Justice Leaguers.

“Cooking them doesn’t work,” Scarlett said.

X-Raytor glanced over at the one he’d shot in the chest, which was still coming. “I know.”

“Freezing isn’t doing much either,” Crystal grunted.

A blob of trout hit the ground where X-Raytor had been standing. Another caught Murry as he was flying around, cursing and screaming. He fell in an angry, trout wrapped pile on the dusty ground.

Vinnie was firing madly with some sort of rifle, but his bullets had no effect. Mr. Packard was already glued to a wall.

Suddenly, with a might “QUACK!!!!” Bubba launched himself at the nearest group of Hot Dog Men and started handing out Bubbba Bad Touches left and right. That seemed to make the Hot Dog Men around him slow down a bit. Or at least concetrate mostly on him.

“We need to find some way to beat these things,” X-Raytor said, disarming one by zapping its Trout Launcher.

“No kidding,” Raven snapped.

Studmuffin, his whole body glowing, fired an enormous Chi blast from his palms at the nearest Hot Dog Man. The creature flew back, fell in two halves- two halves that got up and continued attacking.

We need to find some way to beat these things, X-Raytor thought, again. But it ain’t looking too good…

* * *

Ian and Silent Jim rushed into the throne room. John glanced up from his laptop.

“Yo, dude, bad news,” Ian panted. “The transport is gone.”

“What?!” John’s eyes flashed.

“They flew the Justice Jet into it, and, well- boom!”

John’s fists clenched. One third of his army- gone! That damned Justice League, they’d all pay, they’d-

They’d all. All.

A slow, manic smile spread across John’s face and he eyed Ian and Silent Jim. “I think it’s time that I explained the plan to you guys…”

* * *

Ann guided her spaceship over the Manzano mountains, dipping low enough to almost graze their reddish surfaces.

“There’s a lot of caves.” She said.

Roses yawned. “Don’t we have a better way of doing this?”

“Well, we could try it by sonar… but somebody was jumping on the control console and shorted it out.”

Tyrael hid.

“Do you think there’s anything we’d be able to see from the air?” Holli asked.

“I see lots of rocks,” Tails said.

“I see Albuquerque!” Tyrael chimed in helpfully.

“I see a Blade Ship!” Roseidous said. “Ooooh! Look! A cactus!”

“A Blade Ship?!” Roses snapped.

“Oh, yeah, it was over there somewhere. There was a big Crapomon sheet over it though, so it might just be a Blade Ship shaped box.” Roseidous nodded sagely.

It was then that Ann saw it, and maneuvered the ship over it. The Ebony Raptor (“hidden” beneath a giant Crapomon sheet) was in a crater of sorts, in the side of the mountain. There was a cave next to it.

“I bet that’s the back entrance.” Ann said.

“Why do you say that?”

“Roser, if you were hiding out, would you put your signature vehicle out front?”

“…Yes.”

Ann sighed. “Okay, because we don’t have the sonar, let me try to find another way to identify the front door…”

She flew around the mountain a few times before pointing at a ledge. “There! Blade Ship landing leg markings!”

“Okay,” Roses said. “Fly around the back again, and we’ll drop Katherine and Jan off. Then we can go in the front door. Good luck, everyone, and if you don’t come back we’re sending Bubba in to find you!”

Roseidous stood tall. “ ‘This story shall the good man teach his son;

And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,

From this day to the ending of the world,

But we in it shall be remember’d,

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;

For he to-day that sheds his blood with me

Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,

And genetlemen in England now a-bed

Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,

And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks

That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.’”

“Hey! I’m supposed to make that speech!” Roses said.

Roseidous stuck out his tongue. “You had your chance in To The Barricades! I’m doing it now!” He suddenly shrieked and jumped as he felt something cold go down the back of his pants.

Holli and Tails giggled.

* * *

“QUACK!!!!” Bubba roared as he tossed Hot Dog Men aside. But many clung to him, and even more were keeping him under the constant fire of their Trout Launchers.

“What do we do, General, what do we do?!” Sergeant Yoda cried.

“We, uh, well, we-“ He pulled his head down behind the building they were using as cover, as a blob of trout smacked into it.

“I want to go home!” Corporal Todd said. “I don’t want to be here anymore!”

Corporal Cait was singing lightly to himself: “The years move slowly byyyy, Lorena…”

“Stop it!” General Nothlit snapped. “That song made people desert in the War Between the States!”

“I know! That’s why I’m singing it!”

Private TAS stood up suddenly. “What are we?!” He demanded.

The others fell silent.

“Are we whiny little snots? Are scared little babies, waiting for the Hot Dog Men to come and get us?!”

“Yes.” The other said, simultaneously.

TAS put one foot up on a piece of debris. “Well you may all be, but I’m not. You know what I am? I’m a Pizza Boy! I deliver quality, Italian-style tomato pies in twenty minutes, guaranteed, or it’s free! I drive a cool station wagon with a big, plastic slice of pizza on top! I wear a uniform everywhere! I go to houses, late at night, with fifty pizzas and have to endure it when they insist it was just a prank call! I cater parties, dances and funerals! I deliver pizzas to large mansions, inhabited by hot, young trophy wives, whose creaky old millionaire husbands are out of town for the weekend, who want nothing more than to have some fun with a guy who smells like pepperoni! And if that makes me the dregs of society, then so be it, because I’m a Pizza Boy and I am DAMN PROUD OF IT!!!”

There was a brief, awed silence, and then Nothlit cried: “General TAS!”

“General TAS!” Sergeant Yoda agreed.

“General TAS! General TAS!” The others cheered.

TAS picked up a stick from the ground, took off his red Pizza Boy uniform, and hung it on top- a battle standard if there ever was one.

“Now let’s go show those over grown piles of pork what it means to mess with the Pizza Brigade!”

With a thunderous cheer, they charged out from around the building, into the fray.

A blob of trout caught Todd’s foot and dragged him to the ground.

Another pinned Nothlit to a wall, knocking his Pizza Boy cap clear off.

Cait took a hit to the stomach, Yoda was caught in the leg, kept moving, but was finally taken down by a shot from behind.

And then only TAS remained, waving the proud banner of the Pizza Brigade, charging madly into the Hot Dog ranks.

A blob of trout caught his left shoulder and spun him half around. Another hit his back, and side. TAS stumbled onto his knees, and with his last bit of strength, jabbed the Pizza Brigade flagpole as deep into the ground as possible. Another blob of trout glued his hands to the pole, and he passed out.

At this same time, Bubba fell under the weight of too much trout.

In a small circle, X-Raytor, Scarlett, Oreo Avenger, Raven, Super Shibes, and Studmuffin put up the final defense. Midnight Chatter, who had taken a blob of trout to his somewhat large mouth, gave them muffled encouragement from the ground.

“Well, this is it.” Raven said, becoming insubstantial as a blob of trout flew at her, causing it to sail right through.

“How were we supposed to win this?” X-Raytor demanded. “How were we supposed to fight Hot Dogs?”

“Ehhh, I only have one thing to say,” Super Shibes said.

“And what is that? That you went down shady?”

“No! What I want to say is: SUPER SHIBES IS HUNGRY!!!!”

In a fit of what must have been utter insanity, Super Shibes launched himself on the nearest Hot Dog Man- the ComMander, the first of them- and took a huge bite out of him. The ComMander thrashed, and then lay still. His body suddenly changed, turning into an average sized hot dog, with a Trout Launcher lying next to it. Super Shibes popped it into his mouth.

A shudder went through the Hot Dog Men, and they stopped jiggling, stopped chanting, stopped moving altogether.

They were afraid!

X-Raytor leapt forwards, stabbing his finger at them. “EAT THEM! EAT THEM ALL!!!!!”

He, Super Shibes, and Studmuffin rushed the Hot Dog ranks, taking bites here and there, causing regular-sized hot dogs to start dropping everywhere. Stan and Billy Jo and Vic joined in, and soon the Hot Dog Men were on the run, shrieking in their watery voices.

Oreo Avenger, Scarlett, and Raven all blinked at once.

“Now that’s just weird.” Scarlett said. The others nodded.

And over in that lonely, desolate, but glowing corner, where the martyrs lounged in robes of trout, one could hear the strong, undying tune of the Pizza Boys:

“Everybooooooody!

Rock your booooooody!

Everybooooooody!

Rock your body right!

Backstreet’s back

All right!”


… Just pretend it sounds heroic.

* * *



Ili watched the scene through Silent Jim’s binoculars. She couldn’t see the particulars, but she knew it wasn’t good.

Removing them from her eyes, and motioning for her pets to come along, she strode back into the throne room.

John, strangely enough, was not at his throne, and neither was the laptop. Ian and Silent Jim were there, though, sitting sullenly on a large rock. Randall paced around in the background, a few Hot Dog Men stood around, and the lackeys skittered here and there.

“Hey, what’s up guys.” She said. “Looks like the Hot Dogs aren’t doing too well down there.”

“Doesn’t really matter now,” Ian said, looking at the floor with aboslute hopelessness. “John has a plan.”

The hairs stood up on the back of Ili’s neck. “A plan? What sort of plan?”

Ian looked up, and for the first time, his eyes were something close to sad. “The Delete All Button.”

Ili’s jaw dropped.

“He had Silent Jim hack into Jeff’s account so he could get to it, but he didn’t tell us until right now. He says- apparently, Albuquerque is supposed to be, like, the focal point of the universe, and John thinks that by activating it here, with his laptop connected to the inner levels of the Earth’s crust here, he can negate all existence. Oh, except us. Apparently we’re all strong enough to survive.” Ian sighed and looked down again. “Which means, we’re all dead.”

Ili slapped her forehead. “That idiot! That weak, conceited idiot! I am not going to die here. I don’t know about negating existence, but anything here when that thing goes off is toast. The Ebony Raptor is parked outside of the back exit. Any of you coming?”

“I’m out of here.” Ian said gleefully, standing up. They were halfway to the tunnel when he realized Silent Jim wasn’t behind them.

“Yo, Silent Jim. Coming?”

Silent Jim looked up at Ian and his eyes were blank.

“No,” He said. “I chose my side a long time ago.”

“Suit yourself,” Ili said, grabbing Ian’s arm and dragging him down the tunnel.

A few seconds later, John entered and surveyed the depressed gathering.

“Ah, my friends!” He said. “So good to see you all here- so strong, so many. Today we reach our peak, our highest victory, our final victory in this long quest for world domination. Everything is prepared, and now, and now!”

He took a breath, and then looked up at them with eyes that couldn’t be described as anything less than insane.

“We will destroy the Tri-Leaders like this,” He snapped his fingers. “As ONE!”

* * *

Jan and Katherine had been dropped off near the Ebony Raptor, and now they ventured a little ways into the back exit of the cave.

“Do you think we should try and find our way to the throne room or whatever?” Katherine asked.

“Maybe we’re just supposed to guard the exit in case someone tries to escape,” Jan said.

Katherine laughed her addictive laugh. “Heh. Like anyone’s going to come around here.”

It was then that they heard the voices.

“Ow! Hey! I stubbed my toe!”

“Oh, cry about it. You wanted to have one, so now you’ve got it. You want me to take it back?”

“I’m keeping it, I’m keeping it…”

Two dark forms- Ili and Ian came around the corner.

“Now,” Katherine whispered. “Don’t do anything rash-”

“YAAAH!” Jan stood up and threw her rope into the darkness.

“Tri-Leaders!” Ili roared, bearing her HAMMER and charging.

Ian immediately opened up with his flamethrower, cutting a yellow light in the darkness. The flames hit the rock Katherine was crouching behind and she vaulted over it, explosive beetles in hand, ready to throw them.

Ili loomed up behind her and-

BONK!

Jan had tripped and was scrabbling away when Ili noticed her.

“Well, what do you know!” She said, grinning in savage recognition.

Jan scrabbled around on the ground for a weapon, grapped something that she thought was rope, and threw it.

A snake landed on Ili’s arm.

She had a sudden, horrific flash- the snakes from the Chamber!- and suddenly, the snake’s friends appeared, winding up her leg to save their brethren.

“AAAAAAGGGGGGHHHHH!!!!” Ili dropped the HAMMER and began smacking at herself madly.

“Ili?!” Ian said.

“Get them off me, Ian, get them off!!!”

Jan, halfway out of the cavern, stopped, and picked up Ili’s HAMMER. “Ian?”

Ian whipped around, bringing up his own HAMMER. “Jan?”
“This ends here.” Jan said, twirling the HAMMER.

Damn, Ian thought. She’s hot when she’s vindictive! Snoogans!

The HAMMERS clashed.

* * *

Ann’s spaceship landed almost exactly where the Ebony Raptor had the day before. Roses, Ann, Roseidous, Holli, Tails and Tyrael all disembarked.

“I guess this is it.” Roses said.

“You know, I should really guard the ship…” Roseidous said, but Roses grabbed his collar and pulled him along.

Suddenly, Silent Jim emerged from the cave, flanked by two Hot Dog Men, all with Trout Launchers.

“Is this the welcoming committee?” Ann asked.

Silent Jim just shrugged regretfully and jabbed his finger at the Tri-Leaders. The Hot Dog Men levelled their Trout Launchers.

“Anyone have anything to say that might be helpful?” Roses asked.

“Um… Silent Jim is hot?” Holli tried.

Silent Jim faltered, but then levelled his Trout Launcher again.

“The Hot Dog Men look tasty.” Roseidous said. Everyone stared at him.

And while they were doing this, the two Hot Dog Men slowly turned to look at each other.

“He wa-a-a-ants to eat u-u-u-us!!” One shrieked.

“Just like the Stu-u-u-ubbled One did to our bro-o-o-others!”

They immediately threw their arms up in the air and ran.

“RUN AWA-A-A-A-AY!” They cried. “RUN AWA-A-A-A-AY!!!”

They both ran straight off the ledge. Silent Jim winced.

“Okay, Silent Jim, fun’s over,” Ann said.

“Can we tie him to a cactus real quick?” Tails pleaded.

“No.”

Silent Jim sneered. “Go ahead, tie me up. Tape a chicken to me, feed me an Oreo, turn me into a statue for all I care! What John has planned for the rest of you is much worse!”

Roses frowned. “And what is that?”

“I’ll tell you, but you have to promise me one thing;” Silent Jim dropped his Trout Launcher. “That if you win, I don’t go to the Coal Mines.”

“Start talking.” Roses said.

Silent Jim wagged his finger. His grin was suicidal. “Promise me first!”

* * *

Ili pulled the last snake from her, and stood up. Ian and Jan were locked in some sort of HAMMER duel, parrying and blocking and just plain missing with two giant mallets.

“Ian!” Ili snapped. “Stop fooling around and finish her off! Let’s go!”


“Yeah, hurry up!” Jan mocked. Ian swung and she blocked. “You don’t have much control over your HAMMER, now, do you? You never did.”

“Yo, there’s a thousand girls who think I handle my HAMMER very well! You’re just jealous!” Ian said.

“Your HAMMER is sort of small, you know.”

“Shut up!”

Ili growled and started to make her way towards the cave exit.

“I hate you!” Ian shouted at Jan.

“I hate YOU!” Jan shouted back.

“Are you as turned on as I am right now?” Ian raged.

“Probably more!”

He dropped his HAMMER. “Wanna make out on the floor?”

“Why not!”

And that’s exactly what they did.

Ili groaned. “Suit yourself, I’m getting out of here.”

She staggered up into the light- and found Katherine, sitting on a rock.

“Didn’t I knock you-”

“I escaped from the nut house after getting an hour’s worth of sedatives,” She said. “It takes more than a bonk on the head to knock me out.”
Ili walked a bit closer. “Do you know what John is planning?”

Katherine sighed. “Yeah, Roses just called me up. Guess there’s not much we can do now. Albuquerque is the center of the universe, you know.”

Ili blinked. “Really? And no one knew?”

“Well, there’s no way to prove it, it’s just sort of by instinct.”

Ili sat down. “So I guess this means we are all toast.”

“Yeah.” Katherine sat back and looked up at the sky. “It can’t hurt, right? I mean, we’re all going to get wiped out anyway.”

Ili looked at her. “What?”

“I need to do something.” She pulled out her cell phone, and dialed a number. For a few seconds she held it up to her ear. Ili could hear the muffled ring.

Finally, Katherine said: “Hi, mom?”



* * *

The Tri-Leaders and Silent Jim marched grimly into the cave, leaving the last traces of daylight behind. They passed a few despondent lackeys, but nothing more.

Nothing, that is, until they reached the throne room.

John sat on the throne, leaning over his laptop, eyes hooded. The Prom King crown was on his head, and Holli winced at the sight of dry milk. He glanced up.

“Tri-Leaders. Welcome.”

“It’s time to surrender now, John. Time to shut down the computer and give Jeff back Morphz and then you’re coming with us to the Coal Mines.” Roses said.

“So confident, now, aren’t you Roses?” He tittered. “But then again, you always were. You two, right Ann? How about you Roseidous? Is there anything going on in your head? And Holli, I suppose you want to tie me to this throne right now, and how about you Tails? Tape? Thought so. And Tyrael… well, I’m not sure what to say to you, but I’m sure it would be mocking!”

Tyrael winced. “Ooh, he’s good.”

“Enough games, John.” Ann said. “Shut down the computer or we’ll do it for you.”

John sneered. “As if you would know how.”

“We wouldn’t,” Roses admitted. “But Silent Jim here would.”

Silent Jim stepped up and looked at John levelly.

“So, Silent Jim, decided to be a hero, huh? Well don’t worry, none of you will have to worry about the Cataclysm.” He grinned. “Don’t let it ever be said that I wasn’t merciful.”

He stood up, and the humor was gone. His blue eyes burned with uncontrollable hatred.

“Kill them, Randall! Kill every Oreo-eating one of them!”

It was only then that Roses saw Randall step out of the alcove over to the side of the cave. In one hand he held the biggest HAMMER she’d ever seen. In the other, a Squirt Gun. A drop fell from its barrel, and the ground it touched turned to gray stone.

“My life for you!” Randall bellowed. “My life for you!”

He charged.

Roses simply stuck her foot out and tripped the massive tiki, sending him flipping over himself, and ending up flat on his back. Roseidous snatched up the HAMMER, and tapped Randall over the head with it, knocking him out. Ann pulled out an Oreo, shoved it into his huge mouth and- POOF!- a wooden, angry looking poodle appeared in his place. It yapped a little and then ran away.

It had taken all of thirty seconds.

But it was enough.

Roses turned just as John pressed the Delete All button.

It was like someone had hit the “Slow” button. Roses tried to move, but it was laboriously hard, slow work. Reality warped around the laptop and a small, blindingly white ball seemed to be forming right in the center of it.

And above it, warped, slow and silent was John. He was laughing.

Silent Jim was the closest, having moved towards the throne when Randall attacked. Now his hand moved with painful slowness towards the laptop. The moment it got to near, it began to warp, turning inside out and reforming and going back and doing it all over again. Silent Jim’s face was a pained grimace, and he kept pushing forwards.

John’s face was enraged now, and he tried to pull the laptop away, slowly-

Silent Jim’s hand was over the keyboard now, finger out stretched. His skin trembled and pulled back, revealing muscle, revealing veins. They pulled back and all that was left was clean, white bone.

John’s mouth opened to shout something.

The tip of Silent Jim’s finger bone hit the Abort button.

And immediately, the warping, the slowness, it all seemed to be sucked back into the laptop, and then exploded outwards again in a gray blast. It only had enough force to make everyone stumbled back. Silent Jim grasped his hand, which was back to normal now.

“NO NO NO!” John raged. “I WON! I WON!!! YOU CHEATED!!! THAT’S NOT SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN!!!!! I SWEAR TO GOD YOU ARE ALL DEAD!!!!!”

Silent Jim, with a final surge of frustration and annoyance, grabbed the laptop and brought it crashing down on John’s head.

The Prom King crown flew off his head and shattered.

John got a dazed look and passed out.

And for a moment there was silence.

“Wow.” Tyrael said.

“We did it!” Roseidous cheered, jumping up and hugging Roses. “We did it!”

“Yes we did, Roser! Now stop trying to crush my ribs!”

“That was fun!” Holli elated.

“That was more fun than setting off those fireworks in the boys’ shower!” Tails agreed.

Ann could think of only one thing to say that would be appopriate: “BWAH!”

Silent Jim stood a bit apart, nudging John with his foot. Finally, John stirred.

“Huh, what?” He looked up. “Did it work? Are we in Paradise?”

Silent Jim shook his head.

John stuck out his lower lip. “You guys always ruin all of my fun!”

“Look! John’s immature and oblivious and not all that evil again!” Holli cheered.

“I am evil! Just wait! I’ll- I’ll-” He looked around, and then grabbed Silent Jim’s leg. “I’ll throw Silent Jim at you!”

“Yay! The old John is back!” Roses cheered.

“That’s John, Lord of Darkness (Dum Dum Duuuuuuum!) to all of you!”

Ili, Katherine, Ian and Jan came in from the back tunnel. Ian and Jan were oddly close.

“You did it!” Katherine cheered.

“We did it!” Ann responded.

“Tough luck, Lordy.” Ili said.

John pouted.

“Oh, by the way, John,” Katherine said. “I thought it was the end of existence, so I called mom!”

John straightened. “Really?! Did she say anything about me?!” He coughed. “Not that I care.”

“She said you should try calling her again and you can have a nice conversation like last time. What happened last time?”

John frowned. “I’d repeat it, but it might damage your virgin ears. Your mother knows a lot of curses.”

Katherine giggled. “That’s where I get it.”

“Well, isn’t this nice!” Ili said. “You know what would just make all of this so much better?”

She snapped her fingers and the cave disappeared. They were in a large theater of some sort, with a big crowd, and everyone- the Associates, the Justice League, the Pizza Boys- everyone, was there. There were some instruments set up on stage and a giant pair of amps.

John turned to Roses but she shrugged.

“Um, are you guys going to throw me in the Coal Mines after this?”

Roses and Ann exchanged sly looks. “We’ll see, John, we’ll see.”

“Whooooooo HOOO!” Roseidous cried. “PARTAY!”

Holli and Tails didn’t even trip him.

“Well, all turned out for the best, it seems,” Goober said.

Leroy shrugged. “In a way. I just want you to know that I will be Supreme Pee-On some day.”

“Aim high, Leroy, aim high.” Goober said. It was then that he hard something yapping at his feet. A wooden poodle. Randall.

“Oh my!” Goober said. “Looks like someone has lost their dog!”

“Deary me!” Leroy said. “Do you think we should try to find the owner?”

“Don’t you know anything about poodles?” Goober asked slyly. “Don’t you know they can fly?”

Randall the Poodle yelped.

“Why, yes, I have heard that!” Leroy said.

They both picked Randall up and-

“One, two, THREE!”

Sent him flying across the crowd. Another crowd of lackeys caught him and soon there was a nice big game of “Throw the Poodle” going around.

GRRRRRRR! Randall thought. They’ll pay for this! OW!

The crowd quieted down a bit as Ili, Ian, Silent Jim, and Ili’s polymorphed pets appeared on stage. Ian went to a microphone and picked up a guitar. Silent Jim sat down behind the drum set. Ili’s pets gathered around another microphone, on the opposite side of the stage from Ian. Ili went right up the center, and yanked the microphone off of its stand.

“HELLO ALBUQUERQUE!” She shouted. There was wild applause, and once it had settled down, she said, “I know it’s been a long, hard couple of days. A long hard couple of months, in fact! But you know what, that’s what makes it all worth it- the hard times, the good times, the just plain disturbing times. These are the things that make life worth living, and there’s no where else I’d rather be.” She waited for the applause to settle down once again. “Now, we’d like to sing you all a little song, about this place, the only place in the world where any of this could happen! Ladies and gentlemen, give it up for ‘ALBUQUERQUE!’”

And as the music started, everyone- John, Roses, Ann, Roseidous, Holli, Tails, Tyrael, Katherine, the Pizza Boys, the Associates, the lackeys, the Justice Leaguers- even Super Shibes and X-Raytor- jumped up and began to dance and just have an overall good time.

***

The next morning, back at the Hall of Justice, Rosma was attempting to talk to Studmuffin.

“Can you believe Super Shibes just left like that? He gets all the attention from the press, thinks he’s the hero of the Second Battle of Albuquerque, and goes off on his own to fight evil with shadiness? What is he thinking? At least he’s not hanging around here anymore.”

He tilted his head to the side and didn’t respond. It seemed almost as if he was listening to someone else.

“Are you paying attention to me?” she demanded.

“What? No-they say I have to go,” he turned and ran down the hall.

“What?!” Rosma chased after him, but it was too late.

Once Studmuffin reached the backyard, he lifted into the air and flew away.