JUSTICE LEAGUE

22

Saph Fyre, a Prisoner, and a Vacation on Ice
 

Ding Ding Dong, Ding Ding Dong, Ding Ding Ding, Ding Dong!

“Okay, who changed the doorbell to play Jingle Bells?” asked Twisk as she went to answer the door. No one replied, most likely because the only other person in the living room of the Justice League headquarters was X-Raytor, and he was engrossed with yet another So Weird marathon on Disney (the frequency of these So Weird marathons was starting to concern the others-after all, the people at Disney just might be diabolical enough to use subliminal messages in their programs-if so, X-Raytor was definitely at risk).

Twisk peeped through the little hole in the door (a new addition to their defenses, sort of a prevention tactic to keep as many villains and wannabe Justice Leaguers from entering the headquarters as possible). She spoke into the intercom (another new installation) “Yes, who are you and what do you want?” she asked curtly.

The blonde girl on the other side of the door replied very simply. “I’m Saph Fyre, Scarlett’s twin sister, and I’ve recently made a vow to take her place fighting crime with the Justice League…this is the Justice League headquarters, right?”

“Who is it?” X-Raytor asked now that a commercial break had started.

“Some girl says she’s Scarlett’s twin sister and wants to take her place. Should I let her in?”

“Might as well. If she’s half as stubborn as Scarlett was, she won’t leave us alone. Besides, in all likelihood she’s probably just trying to fulfill some stereotypical familial vendetta against her sister’s murderers.”

“Ah. That does make sense.”

“I always make sense.”

Twisk snorted. Then, “Okay, Saph, I guess you might as well meet everyone at the very least. Come on in.” She opened the door and Saph Fyre stepped inside. There was a gasp as she entered, a gasp originating from Midnight Chatter, who had just ascended from the basement.

“Scarl…Scarlett?” he stammered, his eyes growing wide as he stared at Saph Fyre. She did look in almost every way just like her twin, with only a couple of differences. The most obvious was that she had blonde hair instead of chestnut (obviously one of them dyed their hair, but no one knew who). And while Scarlett had a natural tendency toward warmer colors-red in particular-Saph Fyre preferred the cooler shades, especially blue. But aside from this, she looked strikingly similar to Scarlett, though this was not to be unexpected, as she had said that they were identical twins.

Midnight Chatter’s mouth was frozen in confusion, and he was, for one of the few times in his life, speechless at the sight of Saph Fyre.

“Not Scarlett,” Saph Fyre replied coolly, though not without emotion. “Her twin sister.”

Midnight’s face instantly drooped, and the other two even noticed a quivering in his voice as he excused himself from the room. “I’ll, uh, go get the others. They’ll want to meet you I’m sure,” he said, hastily exiting what was for him her disturbing presence.

Saph glanced over at the TV, which had recaptured X-Raytor’s attention now that the commercials had ended. “You watch So Weird?” she asked, incredulous.

“Of course. It’s only the best TV show in the whole world. And don’t knock it ‘til you try it,” he added in defense. Twisk snorted again.

“I wouldn’t dare. I love this show! I’ve seen every episode with Fi in it,” Saph told him.

“Wha…what did you say?”

“I happen to like So Weird. It’s such a great show! I’m totally jealous of Cara Deliza’s acting abilities-I can’t believe they replaced her with SatAnnie.”

Now X-Raytor was about to have a coronary. “You’re kidding me.” One thought began to race through his mind. I’m not the only one. I was right. I knew I wasn’t crazy to love this show to the point of unhealthy obsession. He hit the save button on the TiVo; it wasn’t every day that he ran into a fan of So Weird-so many fans were still in the closet, fearful of persecution. Besides, he had seen that particular episode no fewer than 54 times in the past month.

But the other Justice Leaguers arrived before he could question her further.

The newer Justice Leaguers had fewer questions as they’d known Scarlett the least. However, after a sort of general introduction, the questions started flying. Where had she been all this time? Studying in France. Who was born first? Scarlett, by 17 minutes. Did she have a boyfriend (this from Eric)? No, but she always had her eye open.

As X-Raytor watched her speaking with the others, he realized something-he’d seen her before. And not just because she looked like Scarlett. Where had he seen her..?

“So,” Pinzz drawled. “What kind of powers have you got?”

“Yeah, you know you can’t join unless you’ve got some kind of skill,” said Crystal.

Saph raised her eyebrows. “Oh, I’ve got skill alright. And not just crime-fighting,” she added, looking directly at Midnight Chatter.

“How do we know for sure you’re really Scarlett’s sister?” demanded Oreo.

Saph smiled.

“Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.”

The simple recital of those few poetic lines was enough to light the fireplace and all the candles in the surrounding area with intense blue flames, as well as melt the ice sculpture of Tom Cruise that Crystal had been working on in the adjoining kitchen.

“Hey, what’d you do that for?” Crystal protested.

“Oh, come on. Tom Cruise? Can’t you pick some other guy to idolize, someone who didn’t cheat on Nicole Kidman with Penelope Cruz? ..What about a sculpture of Ewan McGregor?” Saph suggested.

“Okay, she’s definitely related to Scarlett,” Oreo declared affirmatively.

“And she’s got the same powers Scarlett had!” Rosma interjected.

“Close, but not the same. I’ve got more control over my powers, and the flames are much hotter. Plus, it’s poetry that triggers mine, not singing.”

“I don’t care what does it so long as it always works. Welcome to the Justice League. You can have Scarlett’s old spot; we left everything the way she left it, but since you’re her sister-“

“Twin sister.”

“Her twin sister, I guess it’s okay for you to move her stuff,” Pinzz told her. “Oreo will show you around her room, and then Midnight’ll give you the grand tour of the headquarters.”

Midnight Chatter paled visibly at this. Seeing Saph Fyre was almost like seeing Scarlett’s ghost. It reminded him of her too much.

“What about pets?” Saph asked, eyeing a mournful Hamlet moping in a windowsill.

“Always welcome, but you clean up after it.”

“Never a problem with Horatio. He practically takes care of me,” she said, opening her large purse to let out a large grey tabby cat. Hamlet glanced over at Horatio and bared his teeth, hissing before jumping outside from the window.

“I think he’s used to being the only cat around here,” Twisk

***

“And that’s…that was Scarlett’s portion of the Justice League Walk-In Closet,” Midnight said, gesturing toward the largest empty space in the entire headquarters. “She had just finished moving her clothes and shoes out so we could install a spa and massage therapy lounge before, uh…” he trailed off, his eyes glistening slightly. Saph was starting to get frustrated with him. It had been month since…and yet even the slightest memory of Scarlett was enough to make him tearful.

“You okay?”

“Oh, it’s nothing. Just my…contacts. Yeah.”

“But you’re not wearing cont-“ Saph was interrupted as Oreo entered the closet. “Pinzz, X-Raytor, and I are gonna go see X-Men 2. Anyone care to join us?”

“ME!” Midnight exclaimed, visibly relieved at an excuse to remove himself from Saph’s company. “I’ll just run and get my wallet.” He practically flew out of the Justice League Walk-In Closet.

“Saph? Wanna come? It should be fun. And we’ll try to keep X-Raytor from looking through your clothes as much as possible; it’s generally easier to hang out with him when there’s a movie to occupy that portion of his attention.”

“Nah, I think I’ll hang out and get better acquainted with everything.”

“Cool. See ya later then,” Oreo said, departing, but rushed back a few seconds later. “And whatever you do, don’t eat the Oreos in the kitchen or you’ll end up as either a pink flamingo lawn ornament or a porn star. I’ve been working on a recipe for clothes hangers, but for some reason I keep getting either flamingos or porn stars.”

“What if I just avoid all Oreos in the future?”

“That might be a wise idea.”

***

Ding ding dong, ding ding dong, ding ding ding, ding DONG!

“Why has no one fixed the doorbell yet?” Twisk complained as she opened the door, not thinking to check the peephole or even use the intercom. Old, potentially fatal habits die hard.

There was a pizza boy with a nametag labeled “Yoda” standing at the doorstep. “Delivery for the Justice League,” he said in a bored voice. “Free gift from the pizza place.”

“There is no such thing as a free gift! Or is it no free lunch? Either way-“

“It’s dinner, not lunch.”

“Oh. Well, then, uh, thanks. Wanna come in?” Twisk asked, noticing that this delivery man was not at all uncute.

“Sure.”

“Free pizza, everyone!” Twisk yelled, and within ten seconds, all the Justice Leaguers were in the kitchen(except for X-Raytor, Pinzz, Oreo, and Midnight, who wouldn’t be back from the movies for another ten minutes or so). The pizza boxes were opened, and everyone dug in.

“Hey, where’d Crystal go?” asked Rosma.

“Not hungry?” Saph suggested, picking up a slice of pizza. “Say, who ordered this?” she asked as she closed her eyes and took a bite. She quickly opened her eyes when she was knocked over by a cold rush of wind. She scrambled to her feet and looked around. To her surprise, she saw only an expanse of white.

“Saph! What happened?” Crystal called out from behind her.

“I have no idea,” Saph Fyre replied, thoroughly puzzled. Stuff like this was not supposed to happen to her. And it never had before now, before she had joined the Justice League. “Where are we?”

“I think Antarctica. I saw some penguins walk by just before you popped in out of nowhere. One of them was green, I think, but I could have just been in shock.”

Lovely. Antarctica, Saph thought to herself. Just the kind of interference she feared. Her first day with the Justice League, and already things were starting to go wrong.

***

“Honestly, of all the times we forget to grab the keys, it would be the day when we come back at naptime,” Pinzz moaned. “Why don’t they hear the doorbell? Are they deaf?”

“It’s okay,” Oreo said, rummaging through her purse and pulling out a sac of Oreos.

“One of you eat one of these and you’ll turn into a key so we can open the door.”

X-Raytor looked at Pinzz. “I did it last time.”

“It’s Midnight’s turn,” she replied.

“How come Oreo never eats the Oreos?” Midnight whined.

“Because then she might get stuck, and if that happened we’d really be screwed.”

“Okay, fine,” he said, taking the proffered Oreo and swallowing it in one bite.

***

“ANTARCTICA?!” Raven shrieked. “How the freak did we end up in Antarctica?!”

Xiao looked around at the others. Everyone was here except for the movie-goers. “You know, it might have something to do with that free pizza we ate.”

“The delivery guy…that pizza boy…he was a bad guy?”

“But he was so cute!”

“So was Brad Pitt,” Drew pointed out. Even the howling wind quieted as the others reflected once more on the night of the Oscars.

Finally, Eric broke the silence. “I’m FREEZING!” he hollered. The others looked at him.

“Gee, I wonder why?” asked Netic.

“Let me see what I can do about that,” Saph said, launching straight away into a French poem.

Nothing happened.

The other members of the Justice League exchanged glances, varying from “Sucks to be Eric,” to “I told you she didn’t really have powers,” and “Could we be more screwed?”

“Well, if we can’t have a fire, I can at least build us an igloo to get us out of this wind,” Crystal said.

But nothing worked for her, either.

“Ahhh! I fear I have been cut off from my limitless source of all-knowingness and all but infinite power!” Neomatrix suddenly exclaimed, horrified at the thought of possibly being relegated to the confining realms of humanity and non-supremacy.

One by one, the remaining Justice Leaguers realized that they too had been stripped of their powers. They had been neutralized somehow.

Saph Fyre was among the most upset, naturally. Not only was she the newest addition, she had a power that would normally be perfect in this situation. She had wanted to show them what she could do. She needed their confidence. Their trust. Why did she eat that pizza? She wanted to kick herself for not having seen the now obvious signs of a trap. “It’s not supposed to happen this way,” she muttered to herself.

“Welcome to the Justice League, dear,” said Xiao.

***

Elsewhere, that is to say on a ragged but rather large shard of a now-destroyed moon base decoy floating through space in a crooked orbit around Earth, a possibly sinister figure grinned with glee. The fun had only just begun…

***

“Okay, try this one,” Oreo said, offering Midnight Chatter his forty-seventh Oreo. He had already turned into an assortment of keys and key chains, none of which had turned out to be the key for any of the outside doors.

“This is the last Oreo I’m going to eat,” he told her. “I read an article online the other day about how dangerous Oreo consumption can be for your health because of the trans-fat and-“ he got no further because Oreo shoved the 47th Oreo into his mouth, quickly turning him into yet another key.

This time it worked.

“About time,” Pinzz said as they entered.

“I wonder where the rest of them went?”

“Hey, look, they ordered pizza while we were gone!” X-Raytor pointed at the pizza box.

“Why do all these slices only have one bite taken out of them?” wondered Oreo Avenger.

“Hey, guys, there’s a note attached to this box!” Midnight Chatter waved the note around wildly before handing it over to Pinzz, who read it aloud.

“Remaining members of the Justice League-that’d be us-if you want to find the others, give us the recipe for Oreo Avenger’s Oreos and we will give you their coordinates. Don’t call us, we’ll call on you.”

“Let me see that note,” Oreo said, snatching the note from Pinzz long enough to look at it for a couple of seconds and then turn very, very pale. “Oh, sh..”

“What’s wrong?”

“I know who sent this.”

“Who?”

“HOLY MOTHER OF MARY AND SAINT JUMPING JEHOSAPHAT!” yelled X-Raytor from the living room.

“Wha-“ Pinzz started to ask, but X-Raytor was shrieking.

“They’re gone. GONE! All GONE! Noooooo!!!!” He sank to his knees in utter despair.
“We’ll find the others, X-Raytor. We’re superheroes, after all. It’s our job.”

“No, no, no. Not them. They’re big superheroes, they can take care of themselves. But my…my videos. My TiVo. My library of So Weird related multimedia…it’s…all…gone…”

And so it was. A further search of the Justice League headquarters revealed that, in addition to X-Raytor’s substantial losses, Oreo’s special electric mixer for Oreo-making, the Justice Jet, and all their copies of “The Idiot’s Guide to Fighting Villains” were missing as well.

“You know, we should really look into getting some kind of insurance once we finish this next confrontation,” Oreo commented.

***

“Where are the others? You’d think the movie would have been over by now.”

“Yeah, it can’t take that long to fire up the Justice League and track us down,” Raven said through chattering teeth. She was trying to help Rosma start a fire-they were the only two who’d ever been Girl Scouts, but despite their experience, no sparks were springing forth no matter how many times they hit the ice-covered rocks together.

Eric, who had somehow actually made it all the way to Eagle in the Boy Scouts, would have pointed out the futility of what they were trying to do, but he was entirely too preoccupied with freezing. “And to think I swore years ago that I would never want to wear clothes again.” He would have given his right arm for a pair of boxers.

***

“Okay, with the Justice Jet missing and pretty much everything else in the shop for repairs after Eric and X-Raytor’s little escape at the monster truck rally last weekend, we’re left with the Justice League Moped and my supply of Oreos for transportation,” Oreo pointed out after a search of the Justice League garage.

“X-Raytor and I will take the Justice League Moped and look for the others. Oreo, can you turn Midnight into some form of transportation and go looking for the perpetrators, seeing as you said you recognized the style of the ransom note?” Pinzz asked.

“No problem.”

Midnight groaned. “Why does it have to be me again? I thought next time X-Raytor was going to-“ Oreo shut him up by stuffing an Oreo into his mouth. He promptly turned into a Lamborghini.

“I like to travel in style when I can,” she said before revving up the engine and squealing out of the Justice League garage in the direction she thought the Delivery Men (as she knew them to be called) would be found.

“Come on,” said Pinzz, motioning for X-Raytor to get on the moped behind her.

Apparently she had forgotten what X-Raytor hadn’t.

Neary Issues.

X-Raytor got on the moped with the utmost of care…and discovered something incredible once he had his arms around her waist and they rode off.

He no longer had Neary Issues.

Where they had gone, he had no idea. But he was a free man once more (well, as free a man as he could be, considering his pledge to life-long Justice League membership, his intense, most likely unhealthy worship of all things So Weird, and the fact that he was unknowingly still being hunted down by an old member of his pre-Justice League family). He was free to enjoy the ride, though, and now he could turn his mind to more important things, like finding the TiVo, his immense video collection which was very dear to him and possibly self-incriminating if put in the wrong hands (it wasn’t JUST So Weird episodes that he had on those tapes…he had his own weaknesses like anyone else…well, maybe not like everyone else, but nonetheless..). And something else. Oh, right. Finding the other Justice Leaguers. That was important, too.

***

So many...dead, gone, they were no more...

After finally being rescued from the remains of the amphitheater and brought back to JLHQ, Neo had been informed of the four members killed at the Oscars. These deaths were horrible, but none compared to the loss of Scarlett, not because she was a very close friend, nor because he admired her a great deal, but because she had taken her own life because of....because of him. This filled him with glaact, or as the humans called it, guilt. He would never forget her or the others who had fallen, fallen in his place; he should have been the one killed, not them. But no, it was all finished now; the only thing he could do was look ahead and try to avenge them.

Neo was still weak, horribly weak, just as an infant, and the shock of seeing Saph filled him with chills. He managed to utter a few words to her, hoping to break the ice, but to no avail, it would take a long time, if ever, for him to talk to her regularly.

The transportation to Antarctica was a complete shock, to say the least. How could he not have known the danger? Why did he not recognize it? Maybe he wasn't so all powerful after all....

After Saph's and Crystal's failed attempts at getting some warmth, Neo reached out with all his power, straining to telekinetically build a shelter, but it was to no avail; suddenly everything went pitch black, and he felt myself collapse.

When he awoke, Neo noticed everyone still standing, just keeping watch. Suddenly he realized that he couldn’t move. He couldn’t do anything, he had no powers, and he was useless. He was going to die in this godforsaken land of ice.

***

"This sucks!" Xiao plopped down onto the ground, and promptly stood up again as the snow began to soak through her clothing. In the distance she could see several penguins running around and playing penguin games, like, "Catch the Fish" and "Ring-around-the-Iceberg". Xiao took a deep breath. "I HATE THIS PLACE!"

The echo died away quickly, and the Justice Leaguers huddled together for warmth. Eric was slightly farther from the others, as no one really wanted to share warmth with him. Or clothes. Or anything else.

"We're gonna die! We're gonna freeze, and THEN we're gonna die!" Someone wailed. No one was sure if it was one of them, or just a general, unspoken lament.

"Of course we won't! As soon as the others get back and fire up the Justice Jet, they'll get over here, find us, and we'll go home. To heating, and blankets, and warm fires, and hot chocolate, and s'mores, and hot showers and..." Crystal began to list all of the things involving warmth that she would do when she got back.

"You're making me cold," Eric finally said.

"I think lack of clothing is to thank for that," Saph Fyre rolled her eyes. Despite the cold, which was starting to gently freeze everyone in place. Xiao cracked an icicle off her arm, and blew onto her hands. In a cartoon-esqe way, she watched her breath freeze solid in the air and drop to the ground.

"Boy, I ALWAYS wanted to spend summer vacation in ANTARTICA!" Twisk complained.

"It's not really summer, though, is it?" Crystal wondered. "I mean, technically. Isn't the first day of summer June 21?"

"No, it's the twentieth!" Twisk said.

"Twenty-first!"

"Twentieth!"

"TWENTY-FIRST!"

"TWENTIETH!"

"You're both wrong! It's the twenty-fifth!" Xiao laughed giddily. The ice was creeping to her brain......

"I could go with a nice nap," Eric suddenly said. His skin was blue. His eyes were wide and staring, small icicles were forming on his skin.

"The cold is....starting to..." Drew began, but whatever the cold was starting to do, the others never found out-- Drew passed out on the snow in a heap with Eric.

"This...really....sucks..." Xiao muttered. "I don't even technically have a super-power, but demons don't come when you WANT them around..."

"Why bother being a demon, then?" Fred asked. "Anyway, it'd be a bit anti-climatic if I saved you all, and, I have to admit, it's great fun watching you all. Besides, in the end, you'll be begging for me to save you, so if I wait around, I'm bound to get some souls out of this!" There was an evil laugh, and Fred faded away.

"Bugger," Xiao said as she collapsed.

***

Justice League: Come one, come all! Leave your blurbs and PM2
Turn off the computer and AIM chats, too!
Come one, come all!
Close the churches and the schools,
It’s the day for breaking rules
Come and join the feast of

Phabio: FOOLS! (he then tries to sing the rest of the song, but a crowd of people dash forth and begin to strangle him, not wanting their ears to be tortured anymore, because Phabio just cannot sing, and so his song is cut short)
See the finest girl outside of France
Make an entrance to entrance,
Dance Scarlett Fyre….DANCE!

*Scarlett Dances*

*Eli Woods, the captain of the guards is mesmerized, as is pretty much everyone else*

Phabio: And now it’s time to crown the king of fools! You all remember last years’ king?

X-Raytor: It was rigged!

*HSG is chosen, as he has secretly snuck away from the Deli Area of the grocery store to attend the Feast of Fools*

Phabio: A Scot! How perfectly hideous!

*The crowd cheers, but then, mysteriously-and of course in no way connected to the fact that Bo Powers has displayed his obvious disgust at the choice-begins booing and hurling vegetables and insults at the HSG; at some point, someone ties the HSG to a wheel thing and begins torturing him, and the rest of the crowd follows. The HSG then cries for help; Scarlett runs up and cuts him loose, and Bo Powers grows angry.*

Bo: Seize the Justice League!

*The other Justice Leaguers safely exit the area and make it back to the Justice League Headquarters, but Scarlett is unable to get away quick enough*


“Whoa. I think that tops the chart for my weirdest Disney movie crossover dream ever,” Scarlett Fyre said as she woke up from the dreary haze she had been in for the past couple of months. She looked around the dungeon she was being kept in. Everything in sight was non-flammable, as she figured the rest of the contents of the building were, and she couldn’t actually see anything outside of the cell she was locked in. She sighed.

She couldn’t even try to do anything, because if she did, three men from various countries would run into the dungeon singing at the top of their lungs. And while that had kept her amused for the first couple of days of her captivity, singing just to get them to run out, then as soon as they’d gone back in, starting up again, over and over until they had to swap singers on an hourly basis. But that had grown old rather quickly.

“How long are you going to keep me here? Huh? How LONG?!” she screamed suddenly, jumping from her bed and ramming the door to her cell. She fell back, now with new bruises to add to the ones she’d had for a month. She’d been trying to escape since she’d been brought here, knowing that she could only rely on herself to get out.

The others thought she was dead.

If they’re even still alive, she thought darkly. To make things worse, she didn’t even know who her real captors were. Oh, she had known everything had gone to hell (ironically, just where she'd feared she'd end up, just not still alive) the minute she saw Tony Norgate and the Hot Scottish Guy when she opened her eyes instead of Ewan McGregor or St. Peter, but that didn’t tell her much.

I never should have trusted them. Hamlet told me something was wrong, but I was too caught up in the excitement of everything to listen to him.

She reviewed everything that had happened for the thousandth time, trying to glean some clue, something she’d missed that would tell her who had orchestrated this, that would tell her who would have made her do what she’d been forced to do already.

Anything to explain why she was still alive.

Scarlett opened her eyes. “Well, I guess this is it. The afterlife sure looks a heck of a lot like my hotel roo-wait a sec,” she’d trailed off, recognizing Tony Norgate and the Hot Scottish Guy standing over her. The Hot Scottish Guy had given her a look of pity before he launched into a soft lullaby, rendering Scarlett unable to use her powers.

Scarlett had wanted, right then, before she knew anything, to slap that look of pity off of the Hot Scottish Guy’s face. She’d trusted him…loved him, even…and she knew now something was up. She was supposed to be dead.

“Well, Miss Fyre…I bet you’re wondering what this is about,” Tony Norgate said, stepping inside with the Hot Scottish Guy and shutting the door behind them.”

“What happened? I thought I killed myself!?”

“Oh, you're perfectly safe. No, Miss Fyre, you are definitely not dead.”

"They'll realize I'm missing. And they'll find me. The Justice League will find me."

"Oh, just because we know you're alive doesn't mean they will." Tony Norgate turned on tv which apparently was feeding live from the hotel room. There in the bed lay...not Scarlett. But someone who could have been her identical twin.

Saph! Her sister--her identical twin sister!

But no. She'd never dye her hair. And Saph was still in Europe. Besides. Saph flirted with danger, but she'd never...

Would she?

“What. Do. You. Want?” Scarlett said through clenched teeth, silently cursing herself at the same time for having ever trusted Mr. Norgate. Was she such a screw up she couldn't even kill herself properly?

“Oh, there’s more. A few minutes from now, as you well know, the majority of the other Justice League members will enter the Norton Amphitheater, where they are certain to meet their eventual doom, thanks to an ingenious plan I had a great role in devising.”

"Why?"

"Do you really think I'll tell you?"

Scarlett spat something that sounded a lot like “Ewe vucking pastard,” but not quite.


Scarlett didn’t want to think about what had happened next, but she forced herself to. Somewhere there had to be a clue.

But no. Nothing. Scarlett was still alive, months later, and for all she knew, the Justice League was no more.

Because she had emailed the Oscars people and mentioned how lax the security had been in previous years. Because she had gotten all buddy-buddy with Tony so she could hang out with Ewan McGregor. She'd fallen right in with everything.

Scarlett had realized then, as she lay strapped to a hospital bed and looking Tony Norgate in the eye that whoever was behind this had serious connections. To have orchestrated everything, to have done all this to set them up...revive her...because of course whoever took the body to the morgue would find out it wasn't Scarlett. Her stomach lurched deeply as she thought about the rest of the Justice League. How can I warn them? How can I-“

And why hadn't they just let her die?


From there, she remembered nothing until she had awakened in the dungeon, where she was taunted by the Hot Scottish Guy’s occasional visits and her constant worries about the rest of the Justice Leaguers. She looked at the tiny circle of sunlight pouring forth from a tiny window across the dungeon.

What was going on out there?

And why was she still around to worry about it?

***

Who is behind all of this insanity? Rosma wondered to herself as she rubbed her hands together in a vain attempt to keep warm.

“Guys, we have a problem,” Crystal announced to the crowd of superheroes. They’d given up on doing anything but huddling together to stay warm.

“Really? How’d you figure that one out?” Saph asked sarcastically.

“No, really. Things are going to get worse within the hour. The sun’s going to set…” she pointed out.

“Oh. Crap. It does do that every few hours, doesn’t it?”

“If we’re not found or we can’t figure out some better way to keep warm…I don’t know how many of us will make it to morning,” Crystal said grimly. “I’m fine…but the rest of you probably aren’t.” A chorus of grumbles affirmed her thoughts.

“What can we do?” asked an already near-frozen Eric.

“Wait.”

“Well, thanks, that’s what we’re already doing.”

“No, I mean, hold on. I think I see something in the distance.”

“It’s a mirage,” Xiao said dismissively.

“No…it’s coming closer…I think…yes! We’re saved!”

“What is it?”

“The Justice Jet!”


***

Meanwhile, on the Justice League Moped…

“Hey! Watch where those hands are going, buddy!” Pinzz said, slapping X-Raytor.

He’d been slapped a lot since he and Pinzz had left on the Justice League Moped. It wasn’t entirely his fault, either, if his hands went up or down more than they were supposed to when they hit a bump in the road.

“That’s one flaksjfalsd, two dfkadfkadfasdf and dfasdfdf fries, right?” the voice coming from the Burger King drive-thru speaker asked.

“Uh..yeah.”

“Would you like fries with that?”

“Yes…I mean, wait, I already ordered fries!”

“So that’s one flaksjifalsd, two dfkadfk, and two orders of fries, correct?”

“No! Just one order of fries.”

“Okay, one, flaksjifasdasdfasdfsf, and three orders of fries.”

Pinzz rolled her eyes heavenward and gave up. “Sure, whatever.”

“Would you like fries with that?”


***


Near the Delivery Men’s super-ultra-top secret hideout…

Oreo Avenger quickly opened the door of her Lamborghini (AKA: Midnight Chatter) and got out, shutting the door behind her. Three seconds later, Midnight Chatter appeared in place of the Lamborghini.

“That,” he said with finality, “was a weird experience.”

“Thanks for the ride…wait…that didn’t sound quite right. I meant thanks for giving me a lift.”

Midnight raised his eyebrows.

“Oh, screw it, you know what I mean…no, don’t screw it...ah, crap. I give up. Let’s go,” Oreo said, flustered. She grabbed Midnight Chatter by the arm and pulled him in the direction of where she thought the Delivery Men ought to be, and promptly stumbled over a flat stretch of sidewalk. She quickly picked herself up and began walking diagonally in the direction of the nearest wall. Midnight ran to catch her before she collided with it.

“Have you been drinking?” asked Midnight Chatter. “You know you’re not supposed to drink and drive. Didn’t you take health class? Or Driver’s Ed? Or-“

“Of course not! There is quite a difference between drinking and chugging. Hic--”

Pause.

“Like I said, you shouldn’t be consuming alcohol in large quantities, I don’t care how old you are. You’re a superhero, and we’re on a mission. We have to find the others, and your being drunk will not help that. Besides,” Midnight said thoughtfully, “you’re much...uh…prettier when you’re sober.”

“I am?” she leaned into him.

“You are,” he said. “Now, where is this super-ultra-top secret hideout we’re looking for? And how do you know where it is?”

“It’s just another block or so…I think. And I know about it-“ here Oreo stopped and pitched forward. Midnight caught her just before her head hit the pavement, and stood her back up. “I know about it…because…because…because of the wonderful things he does!” she began to sing. “We’re offffffff to see the wizard, the wonderful wizard of OZ!!!”

“Oreo?”

“Cheeeeeeeeese?”

“Okay, then. You’re definitely drunk.”

“I am…not. I am sotally tober, Chidnight Matter,” she protested.

“Gah. Where’d you even GET alcohol, anyways?”

Oreo pulled out a half-empty bottle of Schnapps, and another of scotch from her Oreo satchel. “Juss wait ‘til I use this stuff in those Oreos of mine,” she said.


***

“You filthy little…this is so..”

“Weird, isn’t it? Strange for ye, of all people, to be trapped, kep’ under lock and key when ye’ve been running around with no one to keep ye or yer powers under control excep’ yer pet cat, isn’t it?” The Hot Scottish Guy sneered at Scarlett. “Ye flaunt your freedom, mock everything aye ever dreamed a’ havin’, and ye honestly thought aye was in love with ye?”

“You’ve got to be kidding me with this. Cut the crap, Hot Scottish Guy, you and I both know you didn’t spend your life trapped behind that deli counter. You left whenever you wanted to!”

“Aye was always watched. Still am! And besides, ye didn’t answer me question. Ye thought aye was in love with ye, didn’t ye?”

“I might have thought you were in love with me, but I was NEVER in love with you,” Scarlett lied.

“So ye just played me, then, huh? How is tha any worse than wha ye’re accusing me of?”

“Well, for one, I didn’t seek out your twin, talk them into helping me fake your death, or render you powerless at any point of our relationship.”

“So ye’re a bad judge of character. Tha’s not my fault.”

“Wanna let me in on why you’re keeping me here? You know I’ll escape eventually.”

“Yeah. Don’t worry. Ye’re not gonna bae around much longer.” The Hot Scottish Guy pulled a gun from his overcoat. “But first aye need some information.”

“You know better than to ask for my help. I don’t care what you do to me. The others already think I’m dead. If you kill me, it will only make me more powerful than you could ever dream,” she said, paraphrasing Obi-Wan Kenobi. She couldn’t think of anything else to do.

“Right.” The Hot Scottish Guy rolled his eyes. Scarlett could hear a clanking sound as someone entered the dungeon. “But I bet ye care what happens tae them,” he said as two of the serenaders carried two prisoners past her cell.

The prisoners were Eli Woods and Ewan McGregor!

They looked pretty terrible. Their clothes were in rags (that was actually something of a good thing, Scarlett noted, then smacked herself inwardly for even thinking of that at a time like this), their faces had several days’ worth of stubble, and they were covered in bruises and cuts.

Ewan saw her first. “Scarlett!”

“Ewan! Eli!” she started to run toward the bars separating her from them, but stopped at the glint of the Hot Scottish Guy’s gun. He was pointing it at her 2nd and 3rd love interests as the serenaders put them in manacles opposite her cell. The Hot Scottish Guy exited Scarlett’s cell and walked over, keeping his gun trained on the two of them the entire time. Finally, he turned to face Scarlett.

“I bet ye’ll talk now, won’t ye?”

***

The Justice Jet neared the vast, empty white space surrounding Justice Leaguers. Its approach was smooth and quick.

“I wonder who’s behind the wheel?” Xiao asked.

“Certainly not X-Raytor. Or Midnight. Or Pinzz. Or Oreo,” Rosma commented. “Whoever’s with them flies like they know what they’re doing.”

The Justice Jet touched down, and the stairs to enter came out automatically. The superheroes-turned-popsicles quickly made their way toward the stairs, but Isomorphix frowned and caught Rosma by the arm, pulling her close to him. “Something’s not right.”

“What?”

“I don’t know, but I’ve got a very bad feeling about this. I mean, I’ve got faith in the others, but do you really think they’re capable of locating us here, this quickly?”

“Good point.”

“Let’s stick close together, okay?” he said as they went up the stairs, the last of the Justice Leaguers to exit the cold Antarctic desert.

***

“So that’s one fakkjlkls, two diodjkjd, and six hundred sixty-six orders of fries?”

“No! No fries! I give up!”

***

“Here it is!” Oreo said brightly, no longer drunk. Midnight had made her drink a lot of water, and then they’d sat at a café for a while, drinking coffee and talking (well, Midnight did most of the talking, but then again Oreo was drank most of the coffee, so they called it even) until Oreo’s vision wasn’t blurry any more and she’d quit making suggestive comments to all the men in her general vicinity, Midnight Chatter included.

Midnight looked at the building. “Oh. I guess it should have been obvious, what with the banner they’ve hung over their door…I don’t suppose ‘Screw You, Justice League’ is some kind of compliment from them, do you? Because my cousin once told me that different groups of people have different ways of showing appreciation, and it’s hard to know just what is good and what isn’t, unless it’s something that is universally bad, like murder or theft or X-Raytor streaking at the Justice League social last-“

“Trust me, any time someone hangs a banner saying ‘Screw You,’ it’s gonna be one of those universally bad things.”

They looked at the building trying to figure out how to get inside. It looked abandoned. “I’ve got grappling hooks in my Oreo satchel. And some rope. We could scale the building.” Oreo looked at the setting sun. “But it’s not dark enough yet. We’ll have to wait until the sun’s down.”

“I could talk until the windows bust open, and we could go in that way. After all, once I really get going, I can reach a decibel level that-“

“Or…we could try the front door and see if it’s open.”

“That might work.”

***

Scarlett was sobbing. She couldn’t answer the questions. Couldn’t betray the others. People could…would die. But if she didn’t, two gorgeous-uh, innocent people would die. Two people she cared about, one to the point of obsession.

“Sucks tae bae a superhero, doesn’t it?” the Hot Scottish Guy said with an evil…no, an evil laugh.

“You..you…” she stammered angrily.

“Alright then. Not gonna answer me just yet, are ye? What if aye do this?” he said, and promptly shot Eli Woods.

“ELI!” she screamed, running full force at her prison door. “You KILLED him!”

“He’s not dead yet. But aye will let him bleed tae death if ye don’t answer me queries. And if ye don’t, Mr. Handsome over here will get it next.” A look of fear flashed over Ewan’s face.

“I…” Scarlett stared at Eli’s pale face; even from across the room, she could see he was unconscious. “Okay. What do you need to know to let them loose?”

The Hot Scottish Guy smiled. “Now tha’s more like it, lassie.” And, imperceptibly to Scarlett, Ewan smiled as well.

***

"No." Pinzz said.

X-Raytor looked away from the passing buildings. The engine of the Justice Mo-Ped created a constant buzzing in the background. "What?"

"You've been quiet for a long time, I know you're getting bored and you're going to ask if you can drive. The answer is 'no.'"

"I didn't say anything yet!"

"You were going to. I know you."

"Hmm, I guess you do, Neary." X-Raytor leered beneath his mask.

"Don't even go there!" Pinzz snapped. "And if you think I'm still the least bit interested in you..."

"No, no, I'm sure you're not," X-Raytor said. "I mean, I'm sure you want me on a purely carnal level, but I can deal with the fact that you're over your little amnesia thing."

"I want you on no level."

"Keep telling yourself that!" X-Raytor said.

"On no level. Except maybe the 'the hell off my back' level."

"Ah, you know you love me," X-Raytor said. He paused. "I am bored, incidentally."

"Cry about it."

"No, I mean, seriously- most of the Justice League is missing and we're driving around city streets. I mean, what, are they gonna be standing around on the street corner?"

"Listen, every time something like this happens, it means someone's been kidnapped," Pinzz said. "Way I see it, we drive around and look for someone we know is connected to a supervillain. Or a supervillain himself... one of the more public ones, like the Silencer and his sidekick... or that cross-dresser dude..."

"They're all in jail, though," X-Raytor said. All of the supervillains who had been at the Oscars (with the exception, of course, of Bo Powers and the supposedly-dead Head Honcho) had been moved to a maximum security prison on an island miles away from the coast. Even the Super Model Clones were there.

"Haven't we ever faced any plain old thugs?" Pinzz said.

"Of course, but I wouldn't recognize any of them. Would you?"

"No."

"Wait..." X-Raytor said. "I remember Iso telling me something once, a contact of his. Owned an antiques store or something down in the South Side."

"The South Side?" Pinzz said. "Wouldn't we be, like, killed if we just drove down the street there? It's a freaking Underworld hub!"

"When we get too close, we can try sneaking around on foot or whatever."

"This would be much easier if you weren't afraid of blurbs."

"I'm not afraid of blurbs." X-Raytor said.

"Riiiiight."

"I'm not," X-Raytor insisted, as Pinzz turned the Justice Mo-Ped in the direction of the South Side.

"So... notice anything about last Monday?" X-Raytor asked after a while. "Monday, June thirtieth?"

"Your birthday." Pinzz muttered.

"Aw, you remembered!" X-Raytor said.

"Only because you've been mentioning it every chance you get..."

X-Raytor didn't hear her. "Yep, it was my birthday alright. I'm officially twenty-two."

"Hm, and oddly enough, you still act like you're twelve." Pinzz said.

"So, what did you get me?"

"Nothing."

X-Raytor laughed. "No, really, what did you get me?"

"Um, nothing."

"Oh, I see! It's a surprise!" X-Raytor said. "You guys are planning a surprise party!"

"Uh, yeah, that's it. You caught me."

"Ha! Knew it! But I'll pretend I didn't."

"You do that."

A few blocks from the official "borders" of South Side, X-Raytor and Pinzz ditched the Justice Mo-Ped and got a lot more serious. They scaled a fire escape and made their way towards the antiques shop from rooftop to rooftop. They were deep within the heart of South Side when X-Raytor finally saw it- a light-up sign reading "Phil's Antiques and More!" Pinzz checked the streets, and X-Raytor peered quickly through the antique shop's walls.

"There's one guy in there," X-Raytor said. "Who I'm assuming is Phil. He's not downstairs, though- there seems to be some sort of an office upstairs."

"Great. Is he armed?"

"I can't tell from here. But seeing how he lives in South Side? It's a good bet."

Pinzz sighed, and (using her suit) crawled down the side of the building. X-Raytor glanced down and opted for the fire escape instead. They dashed across the street, and paused outside of the antique shop's door. X-Raytor used his x-ray vision to see between the door and the wall.

"Locked."

"Sorta figured that..." Pinzz said. She stepped back, turned-

WHAM!

And kicked the door inwards. It clattered to the floor, and X-Raytor and Pinzz stood poised, waiting for an attack or an alarm. But there was nothing. After a moment, they stepped in.

X-Raytor glanced around at the piles of antiques in the darkness. Pinzz frowned, and ran her hand over a knee-high ceramic horse. She showed X-Raytor the coating of gray dust on her blue fingers. "I don't think the antiques get much attention here."

X-Raytor shrugged, and continued to walk gingerly through the shop. Eventually, Pinzz found a doorway, leading to an aging staircase. They started up it, treading softly on the worm-eaten carpet.

At the top of the staircase was another door. Pinzz reached-

"Wait, let me check it..." X-Raytor said, tuning in to his x-ray vision.

"You always whine about me not acknowledging the combat uses of your powers," Pinzz whispered. "But then you expect me to know when you want to just use your-"

"You do realize we're on the other side of a door, right?"

"Hmm, like that time you wouldn't stop bitching at me when we were supposed to be breaking in on Magic Finger that one time? Well this is payback, X-y."

"Eh, it doesn't matter anyway," X-Raytor said. "The door's lined with lead. I can't see through it at all."

"What sorta antique dealer lines his office door with lead?"

"One that doesn't want visitors?"

"I guess..."

Pinzz slowly reached over and turned the knob.

"JUSTICE LEAGUE!" She snapped, throwing the door open and hopping into the office. "DON'T-"

There was a small BANG! and a bullet thudded into the doorway over Pinzz's head.

"There's an entrance from the roof, you know," He said. "And it's unlocked. You didn't have to break my door."

X-Raytor stepped into the room after Pinzz. "Uh... you're Phil?"

"Yeah," Phil said, standing up, but keeping his pistol ready. "I guess Isomorphix sent you. I told him I wanted the rest of you to stay out of my business."

"Er, no, Iso didn't send us," X-Raytor said. "He mentioned you, and we wondered-"

"Over half the Justice League's been kidnapped," Pinzz snapped. "Where the hell are they?"

Phil shrugged. "Why should I know."

"What, don't you guys have some sort of criminal news network that tells you whenever we're out of commission?" X-Raytor asked.

"Well, sorta, but I'm not high up enough to get a direct call."

"Oh, enough of this," Pinzz said. "Do you know anything or not?"

"I might," Phil said. "But, you know, I really don't like you people. A little fee might be nice."

Pinzz's finger shot out- five blue bullwhips- and wrapped themselves around Phil. One knocked his pistol across the room. She lifted him up and pulled him over to her. X-Raytor reached over and grabbed Phil's collar.

"Listen, sparky, you know what happened at the Oscars, so you know that we are not exactly in the best mood with your kind right now! Five of us are dead, and now a ton of us are missing, and if you think I'm not just a little upset with this, you’re f***ing wrong! You see these?! I can shoot a pair of super f***ing heated lasers out of these eyes, and fry you in a second, so do not f*** with me, mister! Do! Not! F***! With! Me!"

Pinzz blinked. "What he said."

Phil frowned, and didn't look the least bit disturbed. "You think this is going to make me talk?"

X-Raytor stepped back. "Er, yeah?"

"Hm. Okay then, I'll tell you what I know- which isn't much. Someone from high up is really pissed off, and they've gotten a third party to remove your friends for them. I'm guessing you were supposed to go too, but someone screwed up."

"Who?" Pinzz demanded.

"I don't have names, but I have heard rumors. The third party is someone relatively low-level. And whoever's in charge is extremely high-level. But there's other people involved too, I hear- people who leant support just to have you gone for a while, some people who might just be lackeys for the big guy- I don't know. I heard- and this is just a rumor- but I heard that one guy, the dude in the cloak, the one who screwed over that- that Lord kid, I heard he was some sorta silent partner on this. But there's always side people in these things- they aren't important, they just show up and agree with whatever the big guy's plan is, just to show support or whatever."

"So... what are you saying, exactly?" Pinzz asked.

Phil shrugged. "Your friends were disposed of, that's all I know. They're not dead- I would definitely know if that had happened. And they might not be captured- I would probably know that, too."

"So... you pretty much know nothing."

"Yeah, pretty much. Could you please put me down?"

Pinzz set Phil down on his feet. "There. Now, if you'll kindly get out of my office..."

"No problem," Pinzz growled.

"And next time you come, make some sort of appointment." Phil said. "Or I'll shoot you."

X-Raytor turned away and followed Pinzz down the stairs. They darted back across the street, and climbed back up onto the roof. Eventually, they got back to where the Justice Mo-Ped was, and boarded it once again.

"Well," Pinzz said, as they went down Lewis Street. "That was pointless."

"Not really. At least we know they were kidnapped or whatever for sure now..."

"Yeah, but we already guessed that."

Silence. After a moment, X-Raytor said. "Hey, a friend of mine, Marvin Cringle, he owns a bar on this street, maybe he knows something..."

"Crystal told me about him," Pinzz said. "She says he's dumb as a rock."

X-Raytor shrugged. "Well, when you're right you're right. But if you want to go get drunk and horny- OW!"

Pinzz returned her hand to the handlebars as X-Raytor rubbed his cheek. "Leave me out of your pornographic fantasies, X-y."

X-Raytor frowned beneath his mask, and tried to ignore the feelings of guilt and self-revulsion that welled up inside of him. He tried to think of Cara...

The Justice Mo-Ped sped down Lewis Street, turned the corner at St. Mary's, and continued on its search.