JUSTICE LEAGUE

19

A New Mission
 

Scarlett was blow-drying her long chestnut hair when the power went out.

"Well, this is great. The perfect end to a wretched day," she muttered to herself sarcastically. She went over to the window and peered outside, but oddly enough, the rest of the city still had power.

Something had happened to the fuses, or the circuit breaker, or something. Possibly the headquarters were about to be demolished again.

"Well, heck, I'm not about to go find out what's wrong with my hair looking like this," Scarlett said to her reflection.

Doot, doot, doot, Doot! Doot, doot, doot, Doot! her cell phone rang to the tune of Mission Impossible. She picked it up.

It was the Hot Scottish Guy. "Hey, what's up?"

"Not much really. I hadn't heard from you in a while, I was wonderin' if you might want to go and grab a cup 'a coffee or chai or hot chocolate or somethin'."

"Sounds great."

"I'll pick you up in twenty minutes then, Scarlett," he said, hanging up before she could say she needed more time.

"Crap!" she said. "My hair's going to be all frizzy and kinky if I don't blow-dry it." She decided to make do and get the rest of herself ready; after all, the power should come back on in a couple more minutes. It usually did.

Fifteen minutes later, looking gorgeous save for her still-fairly-moist hair, she ventured into the Justice League living room to see if any progress had been made on getting the power restored. The other superheroes were gathered around Neomatrix.

Most of them looked rather cross, to put it mildly.

"What's going on?"

"NeoMattress over here used up our power--broke the circuits and everything while he was at it, too," X-Raytor explained. “He’s building some kind of restoration chamber for himself.”

Midnight Chatter looked at him oddly. "You do realize nicknaming him "NeoMattress" isn't in any way funny or witty, right?"

"Yeah. But I like the sound of NeoMattress better than Neomatrix. Plus, you could say it has an interesting connotation, considering my superhero weakness."

"Oh. Okay, whatever..." Midnight said, edging away from the both of them.

"So you're the reason I can't blow-dry my hair? You?!" Scarlett said as she walked over to Neomatrix. She looked at the others.

"I'm sorry guys, but I can't deal with this any longer. The long hours with absolutely zero pay, the constant threat of accidentally eating something Oreo's made and turning into some sort of freak version of goodness-only-knows-what, the unending stares from X-Raytor, not to mention the fact that overall, as superheroes, we kinda suck. And now this. Llama-boy is back with a vengeance."

She gazed directly at him. "And don't think I don't know that you don't like me. I wouldn't like me either if I had turned me into a llama."

"I've had some great times, guys, but I think, for the moment, I need some time away. Otherwise ex-llama boy just might end up as a pony or something...I've always wanted a pony, you know...Anyways, send my wardrobe and my shoes to my cottage. That's where I'll be."

Perfectly on cue, the doorbell rang. As Scarlett walked out the door, she looked back at the rest of the Justice League. "Just know that if you ever do really need me, you'll be able to find me. Thanks, guys."

And on that note, Scarlett left with the Hot Scottish Guy.

***

Isomorphix was running out of breath. He was almost there... the JL HQ was right in front of him, and closing.

Too late!

SLAM!

With a monstrous landing, Keghead landed right in front of Isomorphix.

I don't think I'm going to make it out of this alive, Isomorphix thought. I've expended too much energy.

Reluctantly, he drew his sword.

The last stand.

Apparently Keghead was thinking the same thing as he let out a sinister laugh. Bringing his fist high in the air, Keghead prepared to slam Isomorphix into pudding when...

he stopped. Keghead's fist lay in midair and his head was cocked to the side, as if listening to something. The beast stayed in that posture for a moment and Iso continued to watch, daring not to move.

I saw Jarhead do the same thing with Studmuffin, Isomorphix recalled, keeping absolutely still.

Finally, with a frustrating grunt, Keghead stood to his full height.

"You live for today... human."

And with that, he ran off and disappeared into the forest.

Overcome by exhaustion and the adrenaline depleting in his veins, Isomorphix collapsed.

Laying in the grass - unable to move - Isomorphix looked up at the clouds pass through the sky.

***

There was a knock on the Justice League HQ's door.

Eric stood up and opened his mouth, but X-Raytor cut him off.

"I swear to God, if I hear ONE MORE Girl Scout joke in this freaking RPG..."

Eric frowned. "I was going to make a Jehovah's Witness joke."

"Can't you two even open the door?" Raven sighed, stalking past them and up to the door. Her quality PM2 time was being interrupted- and after her time in Lansky-land, she definitely wanted plenty of quality PM2 time.

She opened the door to find a somewhat nervous looking young man in a business suit, and dark, fidgety eyes beneath his glasses.

"Oh, um, hey," Raven said. "Let me guess- you either want to join, or you're one of Scarlett's dates. If you're the latter, please go to her secluded cottage,"

"If you're the former, please go soak your head! We have too many newbies already!" X-Raytor called. Raven gave him a stern look.

"Um, actually, I'm neither," The man said. "May I, uh, come in?"

Raven glanced back at Eric, who rolled his eyes, and begrudgingly put his pants on.

"Yes, please," She said, and stepped aside. The man walked in, and looked around, eyes darting everywhere, like he was expecting an attack. He clutched his suit case to his chest.

"Take a seat," Raven said. "I'll go get the others."

The man sat nervously down in one of the straight-backed chairs, sending a nervous smile at X-Raytor. X-Raytor, beneath his mask, raised an eyebrow.

Raven stopped at the bottom of the stairs, and said: "HEY! SLACKERS! WAKE UP AND GET DOWN HERE! WE'VE GOT COMPANY!!!!!!"

Midnight Chatter stumbled out of the kitchen, holding his head.

"Oops, sorry," Raven said. "Didn't know you were in there."

Midnight Chatter sat down in an easy chair, and X-Raytor noticed he looked sort of sullen.

"Hey, why the long face?"

"Nothing," Midnight Chatter sighed. "I'm just feeling sort of Scarlett, that's all."

X-Raytor blinked. "What?"

"I said I'm just feeling sort of tired."

"No you didn't! You said you were feeling sort of Scarlett!"

"Uh..."

"You have Scarlett issues!"

"I do not!"

Raven looked over. "He really doesn't, you know."

X-Raytor frowned, and then looked over at Eric.

Eric snorted. "Scarlett issues? Him? What are you thinking?!"

X-Raytor's jaw dropped, he looked over at the man in the business suit, who shrugged unhelpfully. X-Raytor slouched and angrily folded his arms over his chest.

Oreo Avenger flew down the stairs and landed on the couch next to him, causing him to jump a few inches.

"Hey, Xy! Why the long face?"

"You can't see my fa-"

"He has Neary issues." Midnight Chatter said.

Oreo Avenger sighed. "Do I have to call Dr. Lansky again?"

"I DO NOT HAVE-" X-Raytor began and then, with a warning glance from Oreo Avenger, stopped. He sighed. " 'I admit and accept the fact that I do, indeed, have Neary issues, because acceptance is the first step towards recovery.'"

"Good!" Oreo Avenger said. Then she noticed the guest. "Um, hi."

"Hi." He said. He looked like he had just realized he was in a nut house.

Which, X-Raytor thought. He probably is.

When the rest of the Justice League arrived, the man stood up to begin speaking. "I, um, hello. My, uh, my name is Tony. Um, Tony Norgate, and-ah- I work for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences."

There was a brief silence, and his eyes flitted around the room expectantly.

"Ah, as in the organization that hosts the Academy Awards."

"OOOOH! THE OSCARS!!!!!" SuperDude cried, jumping up.

Tony started back, face contorting with fear and shock- but then he composed himself. SuperDude sat down.

"Um, yes, the Oscars. I am, ah, I am the head of, uh, protocol for this year's, ah, show, and that is why I must, um, speak to you today."

He waited for any questions, and when none came, he fidgeted with his hands and began.

"We received an unusually high number of, ah, anonymous threats. Nothing serious-er, fatal I should say."

"What was the nature of the threats?" Rosma asked.

"Well, ah, it seems that whoever, um, sent it was planning to um, kidnap some of the attendees, and send in, um, imposters in order to steal their Oscars. They do, ah, carry a hefty price on the Movie Geek black market."

"That's the stupidest plan I've ever heard!" X-Raytor exclaimed.

"Almost as bad as standing on a roof when a giant penguin wants you dead!" Violet said. X-Raytor hung his head in shame.

"We, uh, we do realize that the plot as it was presented does seem a bit, um, far-fetched. But we have reason to, ah, believe that there may be more to it than we know- a more, um, dangerous aspect, perhaps. And that is, ah, where my offer comes in."

He cleared his throat and said: "We want to employ you to provide security for the 2003 Academy Awards show."

Silence.

It was then that the newly-recovered NeoMatrix, who insisted on wearing a black cloak and keeping people from seeing his new form, said: "SCORE!!!!!!!"

"Go to the Academy Awards?!" Xiao exclaimed. "YES!"

The others made similar, and progressively louder, agreements.

Only X-Raytor remained silent.

"Security? At an award show?" He said.

Tony shrugged, and twitched. "Yes, it would be very, ah, simple and I-"

"You're right, it would be simple. And we shouldn't be doing simple stuff!" He stood up and Tony quailed. "We're super heroes for crying out loud! We shouldn't be doing this stupid scrub work! This is police crap work! This is, even better, security guard crap work!"

"But, we, ah, we don't know what to expect," Tony said. "We are holding the awards in this city this year and it has been rather, ah, plagued by super villains as of late. We, um, we don't know what to expect."

"And you want us to baby-sit your little celebrities, just because you got some anonymous threats from some Star Wars watching, J Lo worshipping, Hobbit-costume wearing loser with a lot of spare time, no doubt? Well I say screw it. What about the rest of you?"

There was silence. A few crickets chirped. Everyone stared at X-Raytor.

He sighed. "I guess this means you don't agree?"

"We're in," Oreo Avenger said. "Even grumpy boy."

Tony smiled, a look of exaggerated relief. "Well, um, thank you! I, um, my employer will be pleased! Now, ah, I'll be going. We'll, um, call you and work out the, uh, details! Yes!" He scurried out the door.

"I still say this is stupid." X-Raytor said.

"Oh, cry about it." Raven said.'

"He's finally gone! Time to go back to normal!" Eric said, pulling on the zipper of his fly.

Everyone fled the room faster than Liam from a cow barn.

***

Scarlett picked up her cell phone and called Hamlet. She had news for him.

"Hamlet?"

"Mrrow?"

"Yeah, I know, I've been gone awhile. Sorry to have skipped out in such a hurry, but you know what a sucker I am for a Hot Scottish Guy who sings to me."

"Meow," Hamlet replied knowingly. He shook his head. "Mrrreow?"

"What happened? Oh, well, he got strep throat. His voice is shot, and frankly, I'm rather bored with him; I found someone much, much better. I'm flying back with him as we speak. And I've got exciting news--I'm going to helping host the Oscars."

"MEOW?!" Hamlet was stunned.

"Yeah, that's right. Don't worry, I got you a seat up front and everything, so you won't miss out on anything, unless you'd rather hang out backstage."

"Meow?"

"Oh, it's really simple. You know how I said I met this guy? Well, it's Ewan. Ewan McGregor. They're giving him a special award this year, a new award. He doesn't know about it though. One of the head honchos for the Academy Awards called me up and told me the whole story, about how they accidentally lost his nomination for Best Actor last year for Moulin Rouge, and we all know if he'd been nominated, he totally would have won instead of Denzel. I mean, Denzel is great, but you just can't beat out that gorgeous Scottish voice Ewan's got. Anyway, so the dude called me up and basically set me up to hang out with Ewan until and after he gets his award, plus I get to give it to him. Isn't that great?"

"Mee-yow," Hamlet concurred.

"The only thing is, they've been getting these crazy threats from some guy talking about doing really weird things at the Oscars, plus the usual freaks who plan on stealing stuff and whatnot. So I told the dude to get the Justice League on the case. Won't hurt to see everyone again, I figure. I did leave in kind of a hurry."

"Mew," Hamlet replied.

"Well, I gotta go. Talk to ya later, Hamlet!" Scarlett said, hanging up her cell phone as Ewan returned from a light saber duel he had been participating in back in the coach section of the plane.

***

Oreo Avenger placed herself in front of Rosma, who was watching TV. "I have nothing to wear to the Oscars," she announced.

X-Raytor, from the other side of the couch, snorted. "What does it matter? Who cares what security guards wear?"

"We need to go shopping right now," Oreo Avenger continued, glaring at X-Raytor, "because if we should happen to be interviewed by someone, or see Brad Pitt on the red carpet, we need to be prepared."

Rosma arose from the couch and struck a superhero pose. "It is our sworn duty to buy new clothes! Let's go!"

And so the two heroes went to the mall. Five hours later, they came back to the Hall of Justice, laden with packages.

"...and he wouldn't leave us alone!" Rosma said, laughing as they entered. Oreo Avenger could barely breathe, she was laughing so hard.

"What did you get me?" Eric yelled from the kitchen.

"A brand new bow tie!" Oreo Avenger yelled back. She and Rosma set down their packages. "In fact, we got everyone new stuff to wear to the Oscars! And now, I must go to sleep."

***

Xiao took her few articles of clothing from the bags, went to her room, and tried some on. They were all colors that would be complimenting to Fred (if he chose to make an appearance)- black, navy blue, and red. After deciding the red dress would look best at the Oscars, she changed back into regular clothing and thanked Rosma (Oreo was fast asleep).

"This is my chance, slave!" Fred had suddenly appeared, and laid a dark hand on her shoulder. "At the Oscars, I can unleash my diabolical plan to take over the world!!!!! Bwhahahahahahahha!"

"Umm...aren't you...uh...forgetting something?" Xiao asked, torn between amusement and interest.

"What?" His hand dropped from her shoulder.

"Like...an evil army? Or the fact your malicious powers have…uh...evaporated? And the fact that the other JL members would pummel you (or me) into a small, shapeless mass of…well...whatever you’re made of?"

Fred's eyes narrowed, and he disappeared.

***

Scarlett got off the plane, dragging Ewan behind her. She'd had to pull him away from yet another lightsaber duel that he had been challenged to, and by this time it was getting a little annoying...not the lightsaber dueling itself (that was actually quite cool, 'cause Ewan could seriously kick butt), but the fact that there were actually people running around with their own lightsabers, as well as the fact that no one seemed to recognize Ewan as also being the guy from Moulin Rouge instead of just Obi-Wan, and she knew that the only reason for them not recognizing him would be for them to have never seen the movie, and the thought that that many people had never seen Moulin Rouge, the best movie of all time, made Scarlett sick.

What on earth was wrong with people nowadays?

At any rate, the two of them were whisked away to their own rooms at the finest hotel The City had to offer to reside there until the Academy Awards were over. Ewan had to meet with his agent and some other people for the next week, so Scarlett had plenty of free time, and, thanks to the people in charge of the Oscars, plenty of spending money as well.

So naturally, she went shopping. However, instead of boring everyone with the details of every single item of clothing and every pair of shoes she tried on and eventually purchased, it will just be said that she pretty much doubled the size of her wardrobe, and that she found the perfect dress to wear at the Academy Awards:
A red dress JUST LIKE the one Satine in Moulin Rouge wears when she sings One Day I'll Fly Away and the Elephant Love Song Medley.

After a couple of days of shopping sprees, she made a phone call to a certain person she had, surprisingly enough, kept in contact with over the past weeks.

"Hey, did the guy come?" she asked.

"Yeah, but I think we freaked him out a little bit," the voice on the other end of the line informed her. "But everything seems to be going according to our plans."

"Good."

"And what about you-know-who?"

"She'll be there. I had to pull a lot of strings, but she'll be there."

***

"Here is your coffee, sir."

The old man jumped a little. He'd been lost in the past, thinking of the old days again. A low chuckle escaped his mouth. In the old days, zoning out like that would have got him killed. He thanked the cashier and turned to find a table in the almost empty coffee shop.

Remembering the past must have affected his eyesight. The man at the window table looked exactly like-

"Joe!" the man said, waving. Joe made his way through the maze of tables. He was a little bit older, with more wrinkles and less hair.

"Xylophor, Lord of the Underworld," Joe said sitting down.

"I go by the name of Bob now," he replied. Both old men took a sip of coffee.

"So," Joe started, "last time I saw you, you were lowering me into your Pit of Despair. Whatever happened to that thing?"

Bob ran his hand over his bald head. "I had to dismantle it. When my lair exploded, it was too dangerous to keep up. Some kid could fall in it and there would be no end to those lawsuits. Anyway, I got out of the business after that. It's changed, and not in a good way."

"You've got that right!" Joe said, slapping his palm to the table for emphasis. The cashier glared at him and he made an apologetic gesture. "Why, when I was a superhero, we used to fight for things like Truth, Justice, and the American Way! None of this being glorified security guards for some insipid awards ceremony!" He took an emphatic drink of coffee.

"So...you still got the old Spandex?"

Joe nodded. "The wife likes to take it out and show the grandkids what a hero their Poppy used to be. I put it on sometimes, but it doesn't fit like it used to. I think the wife shrunk it in the wash."

"Ha!" Bob laughed. "Or you grew a little more in the middle. I bet you can't even leap a building in a single bound!"

Joe crumpled his coffee cup. "Buildings are taller nowadays! Besides, you can't run even an incompetent evil empire."

Bob crumpled his coffee cup and sighed. "You know, if we teamed up, we should show these young heroes a thing or two."

"I'll think about it." Joe got up and left the shop. "I'll definitely think about it."

Oreo Avenger woke up and looked outside. Good, daylight. She didn't want to have any more dreams like that again.

***

"Bwhahahaha!" Fred laughed evilly, as the small mortal quivered with fear.

"Ummm...okay Fred, I think that's enough." Xiao said, bringing him back to reality. "I mean, you had me go to the mall just so you could break into hysterical fits of evil laughter? We could've done that at the JL headquarters."

"Well! I was just thinking about how this demonstration of my evil power would go!" Fred glanced around for a worthy target. "All you have to do is get close enough to someone so I can influence their soul!"

"Whoa, hold the phone. Just how close is close enough?" Xiao said, thinking about what would happen if Fred chose someone icky as a victim.

"Close! As in, intimate hugging positions!" Fred gestured. "C'mon slave, double time here."

"Wait a second! When I allowed you to join with my shadow I didn't realize I'd have to intimately hug skanks just for you to test out your 'evil power'. I mean, there's got to be a line drawn somewhere."

"I won't have this...this... attitude coming from you, slave!" Fred gave a disgusted noise.

"Well, hey, evil emperor chancellor czar," Xiao said, trying to comfort him. Seeing Fred upset made her feel upset. It must be the joined shadow thing. "I mean, at the Awards show there will be plenty of hot guys that you can test out your power on."

"I guess." Fred disappeared, leaving Xiao in the mall alone.

Later...

"I mean, it couldn't hurt to try it out on any of them. It probably won't even work!" Xiao said, trying to reason with herself. After all, even though most of the actors there would be extremely good looking, they probably wouldn't have much going for them in the brains department. They were just egos with nice bodies, right? What harm could it do to have Fred take over their souls...and have them help him conquer the world?

"Okay...this isn't working..." Xiao said to herself. "Maybe some Utada Hikaru will help."

She put on her headphones and flopped onto her bed with Simple and Clean droning in her head.

'The daily things (like this and that and that) that keep us all busy are confusing me.'

"This is so not going well with my conscience." Xiao sat up on her bed. "I mean, I joined the Justice League to have them watch Fred, but also because I wanted to keep the world a safe place. How can I allow Fred such free reign over myself and try to compromise my beliefs in return? How did I get into this situation in the first place?"

'Regardless of warnings, the future doesn't scare me at all- nothing's like before.'

"What am I going to do?" Xiao asked herself out loud, taking off her headphones.

***

X-Raytor was alone in the rec room. Everyone else was somewhere else- probably getting ready for the Oscars, or whatever. They were tonight, after all. X-Raytor didn't get why they all thought they needed to dress up just to see a bunch of no-talent hacks receiving honors and attention that not even, say, super heroes got. X-Raytor had just clipped a bow tie onto his suit and- voila!

The whole deal made him sick, really. He had always said that the Justice League was moving far away from what being super heroes was supposed to be- and doing security for the Oscars, the freaking Oscars? That was like taking an express train to... uh... Not-Like-Super-Heroesville... yeah...

Nothing was going to make him happy about this whole thing. Nothing.

The doorbell rang. "I've got it!" X-Raytor yelled, and dragged himself over to the door. If it's another newbie, I swear to God I'm gonna kill someone...

X-Raytor opened the door and found two people- a man and a woman, both in black trench coats and practically opaque sun glasses.

"Um, hi, can I help you?" X-Raytor asked.

The woman looked at him. "You're X-Raytor, correct?"

X-Raytor was starting to feel uneasy. "Er, yeah."

The woman produced a badge. "Agent Morgan-Wall, M.O.R.P.H.Z."

" 'M.O.R.P.H.Z.?'" X-Raytor repeated.

"Agent Ruskey and myself would like to ask you a few questions," Agent Morgan-Wall said.

"Questions?" X-Raytor's hand unconsciously moved towards the door. Agent Ruskey noticed, and started to reach under his coat, but Agent Morgan-Wall stopped him.

"Questions about the Green Penguin incident." She said.

X-Raytor froze up. "Come inside."

X-Raytor lead the two agents up to his room, then closed and bolted the door.

"Hey! TiVo!" Agent Ruskey said.

"Could you not touch that?" X-Raytor said. "And who are you people? How do you- I mean, what do you know about the Green Penguin."

"As I told you," Agent Morgan-Wall said. "We are agents from M.O.R.P.H.Z."

"Which is..."

"Military Organization Representing the Powers-that-be and Have Zap-guns."

"Oh." He frowned, under his mask. "Zap-guns?"

"Zap-guns!" Agent Ruskey said, and whipped a strange looking gun out from his trench coat. Before Agent Morgan-Wall could stop him, he spun, and fired a super-heated laser blast into X-Raytor's window.

"GAH!" X-Raytor cried. "I just cleaned that!"

Agent Morgan-Wall whacked Ruskey upside the head, and he put the zap-gun away. "Forgive Agent Ruskey, he gets a little over enthusiastic about the zap-guns sometimes."

"They're cool." Agent Ruskey pouted.

"Now, what about the Green Penguin?" X-Raytor said.

"Yes, the Green Penguin. Well, for starters, we know that he was your uncle... what was his name?"

"Bubba." Agent Ruskey said.

"Bubba." Agent Morgan-Wall repeated.

X-Raytor jerked back. "How do you know that?!" He snapped.

"Well, the government ran the facility where he, and the other members of your family, and that girl, were moved after, ah, they came into contact with the radiation. And we, you understand, are the government."

X-Raytor sat down on the edge of his bed and massaged his temples. "What do you need to know?"

"First off," Agent Ruskey said, stepping forwards. "Did you see the Green Penguin die?"

X-Raytor thought for a moment. "I saw him get shot. Twice- two high powered Oreo barrages. He was bleeding, and then he came after me and, well," X-Raytor exhaled. "He fell off the top of the Richard Simmons bridge, hit the water and didn't come back up."

"But you didn't actually see him die?" Agent Ruskey said.

"Well, I thought that had done him in pretty nicely." X-Raytor snapped.

"Please, answer the question." Agent Morgan-Wall said.

"No. No, I didn't see him die. But the police didn't turn up anything- they searched the river all the way out to the coast."

"That's all we needed to know." Agent Ruskey said. "We think that, as you said, Bubba, the Green Penguin, is dead, but Colonel Sampson has some suspicions..."

"What sort of suspicions?" X-Raytor asked, looking up.

Agent Ruskey shrugged. "Well, penguins are aqua-"

"You don't have the clearance for that information," Agent Morgan-Wall said, cutting him off. "We have one more matter to address with you, and then you can be on your way. We understand you'll be protecting the Oscars tonight."

"Yeah."

"Colonel Sampson made a specific request for you- any of the Justice League- to report to him anything you hear about Bo Powers."

X-Raytor snorted. "What? He didn't bribe you guys already?"

"Colonel Sampson is aware of Mr. Power's numerous, ah, illegitimate operations," Agent Ruskey said. "What we lack is proof. You can't spy on Americans on American soil."

X-Raytor thought for a moment. "All I can think of, recently, was that dedication he did for the new Norton Amphitheater downtown." Suddenly, X-Raytor straightened up. "Wait... that's where the Oscars are going to be tonight. You think he has something to do with the threats?"

"Not him, specifically," Agent Morgan-Wall said. "As much as he hates to admit it, there are some much more powerful than Mr. Powers- we think that, at the very least, he is providing someone with the link to get in."

"Do you people have some idea of who?" X-Raytor asked.

There was a knock on the door, and Oreo Avenger said: "Hey! X-y! The limo's here- time to go!"

"Okay! I'm coming! Just, uh, straightening my bow tie!"

After her footsteps had faded, Agent Morgan-Wall said. "We're not allowed to disclose that information. Just keep an eye out, okay?"

"Sure," X-Raytor stood up. "If you guys don't want the others to see you, you could take the back way out."

They followed him into the hallway.

"Remember- contact us if you hear anything about Powers or the Green Penguin, understood?" Agent Morgan-Wall said.

"How do I-"

"We'll be in touch." Agent Ruskey said. The two turned and walked down the hall, towards the back exit.

X-Raytor lingered in the hallway for a moment, biting his lower lip, and then turned and walked down the stairs, out the door, and into the limo.

The others were crammed in there, with Tony Norgate sitting nervously between SuperDude and OMEGA.

"About time!" Raven snapped.

"Well sooooorry!" X-Raytor said. "You don't pull off style like this in two seconds, you know!"

"Can I eat your bow tie?" Midnight Chatter asked.

"No!"

"Everyone shut up!" Oreo Avenger snapped. "Okay, driver, we're ready!"

"Whoo hoo!" Twisk cheered. "We're off to the Oscars!"

***

Drew sat, rather bored, humming the X-files theme. X-Raytor elbowed her, whispering something about improper conduct. The Justice League had arrived at the amphitheatre hours ago. Unfortunately, they were told to wait in the limo until they could be let in.

"We must be really important if they don't want anyone to see us! Think about it, they must be afraid of the fear we strike on passersby and want no one to see us until we are inside and in position. It will be just like the surprise birthday party we had for Grandma that one year when--" The Oreo Avenger quickly clamped hr hand over Chatter's mouth.

"Actually, I think they are just embarrassed of us." Drew offered. "I went to Washington on a school field trip and the hotel made us wait for twenty minutes before we had to enter through the back entrance."

"We've been waiting for two hours," Rosma sighed.

"Do you think they'll let us walk down the red carpet?" X-Raytor wondered aloud. On one side of him sat Drew, on the other sat Eric, who had been forced to wear a suit this evening. He was pouting.

"I don't kn---"

"Alright guys, we're ready for you." A huge, bulky, security guard interrupted the JL's conversation. He gracefully opened the limo door...

***

.....and from behind the door jumped Pinzz.

"Yo yo yo yo!"

X-Raytor waved. "Hey Pinzz."

"Hey guys. I'm back for good."

Silence. Crickets chirp.

"So, let’s go, guys!”

***

Neomatrix was still hiding behind his cloak. That was simply because he hadn’t fixed his face yet. Clearly, he shouldn’t be out in public, at the Oscars. Instead, he followed the limousine and snuck into the basement of the auditorium. The perfect place to be, in case of trouble.

***

Scarlett sat in her hotel room and looked out the window into the city below once she got off the phone with Hamlet.

It had come to this. She was tired of it all. Sick of being a super heroine, sick of collecting red shoes and red dresses, sick of EVERYTHING. Not to mention EVERYONE.

Nothing had gone as she'd hoped. It never did. And never would.

She had the window open, but had always been a little scared, not of heights, but of falling from them. And she was a good twenty stories up. But there were other options.

She went into the bathroom and found her bottle of medicine that she carried with her. Dumped all the contents down her throat, and washed it all down with Scotch from the now-busted open mini-bar in her room, as well as the whiskey, vodka, and every other sort of hard liquor she could get out of it.

She had never drunk anything before, so the effect was swift. She stumbled over to her bed, got under the covers, and closed her eyes, waiting for the now-inevitable. At one point, her body started convulsing uncontrollably, but she was already unconscious by then. And so, just a couple of hours after her last talk with Hamlet, she died.