JUSTICE LEAGUE

33

The Yacht of Justice
 

“So which dock is it?” Scarlett asked, as the entire Justice League walked along the riverfront. She, Rosma, Raven, and Oreo were in the lead, followed by the rest of the girls. The guys, pushing all of the luggage on some rolling carts, were somewhat slower. Iso reluctantly trailed along at the very end. Boats of every shape and size were parked at the different piers.

“It’s two more,” Rosma consulted her clipboard.

“We have a yacht!” Twisk grinned at Netic, a few yards back.

“Yeah. Yay. Great,” Netic responded.

“What’s your problem?” Pinzz demanded.

“You know I have severe hydrophobia!” Netic was walking as far away from the edge of the water as possible.

“Really? And you’re going on this cruise, why? What if the boat sinks? Can you even swim?”

“My boat is not sinking! We’ve had enough bad luck lately,” Rosma had stopped. She waited for everyone to catch up, and then gestured at the new Justice Yacht. “There she is.”

“Um…wow,” Raven said.

The yacht was really a small, privately-owned cruise ship. Its four decks, plus captain’s bridge and quarters on a smaller upper level, gleamed white in the sun. Brightly colored flags flew from various places.

“It’s really big,” Typho stared up at it.

“Can we go look around?” Drew asked excitedly. “I want to see the computer system! Then I’ll tell you if will sink or not.”

“I want to choose my room first!” Oreo nodded. “The bed is the most important part.”

“There will be no rushing off,” Rosma stopped them. “We will proceed orderly to the top deck and I will give the orientation.”

Half of the League groaned.

Rosma glared. “What?”

“Can’t we just orient ourselves?” X-Raytor suggested. “Do we have to have a meeting?”

“No. You can’t. And yes. You do. And I have to introduce you to someone.” Rosma headed up to the yacht, and everyone followed.

“What’s so bad about orientation?” Right Wing Man asked Studmuffin.

Studmuffin ignored him and headed up the ramp.

MC answered for him. “Are you familiar with Rosma’s organizational skills?”

“No. Can’t say that I am.”

“Then you’ll see.”

Up on the top deck, Rosma gathered everyone into a circle of lounge chairs.

“Ah, now this is the life,” Scarlett reclined back in hers and put on a pair of sunglasses.

“It’s kind of bright,” Eric said, sitting down. Then he shrieked and jumped up again. “And that chair is hot!”

“You are going to get so sunburned,” Pinzz told him. Eric looked worried.

“Is everyone ready?” Rosma re-arranged the papers on her clipboard and looked around. One person was missing. “Netic, get up here.”

“Yeah, would you come on?” Crystal stared down at Netic. “You are not going to drown. You won’t even have to get wet, except in the shower. It’s like a house.”

“Yeah, a house surrounded by water,” Netic muttered to herself. Then she took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and stepped onto the boarding ramp. When she didn’t die, she opened her eyes, saw mostly water under her feet, and ran the rest of the way. Crystal sighed.

“Okay,” Rosma began. “First topic is the layout of the yacht. Since it is like a cruise ship, we will be sleeping in the crew cabins on the bottom deck. We have to share the showers, but there are eight cabins and each has bunk beds. We do have to double-up in the rooms. Before you ask, I have already assigned roommates and there will be no discussion about it.”

“But-“ X-Raytor started.

“No. On the second deck, we have the kitchen and dining area. There’s also a dance floor because you have to have parties on a cruise. Above that, the third deck has the living room and master suite area. According to this, there’s a TV, large screen, I’d imagine. And yes, there is a TiVo.”

“Are we done yet?” Pinzz complained.

“No. We are currently on the fourth deck. You can see the swimming pool in front of you and the hot tub. Up that ladder behind you are the captain’s private quarters. On the other side of them, we have shuffleboard and the lifeboats.”

“Finished?” Twisk asked.

“No. We don’t have a full crew because we take up all of the room. But we do have a captain. I want to introduce you to Captain Davy Seabiscuit.” Rosma pointed upwards.

“Hey, everyone!” Captain Seabiscuit waved. “Are we ready to go?”

“No.” Rosma said.

“What now?” Crystal said.

“Your roommates. I’ll hand out the keys when I call your names. Let’s do the guys first. Typho and Right Wing Man. You share a room at the Hall anyway. You’ll be fine in cabin number 101.”

“Forshizzle!” Typho took the key. “Our crib is gonna be bangin’ off the heezy! Right, yo?”

“Um…sure?” Right Wing Man shrugged.

“What did he just say?” Twisk asked Oreo, who shrugged.

“Next, room 102, Eric and Studmuffin.”

Studmuffin didn’t seem interested, so Eric went to get the key. He and Rosma had a whispered conversation, she nodded, and he looked relieved.

“And, room 103, MC and X-Raytor. Oh, and 104, Iso, you get all to yourself for being our security on this trip. Or so you say,” Rosma tried not to smile and handed over the key an un-amused Iso.

“Can we hurry this up?” Drew was growing impatient.

“Okay, okay. Scarlett and Raven, room 105.”

“I’m not getting up,” Scarlett said from her chair.

“Me either,” Raven said, then “Ouch! You didn’t have to throw it, Rosma.”

“106, Drew and Netic. 107, Crystal and Pinzz. 108, Xiao and Twisk.” Rosma quickly handed out the last keys.

“Hey, what about you?” MC asked.

“Oh. Oreo and I will be in the master suite. Let us know if you need us!”

“Hey! That’s not fair!” X-Raytor protested. “Some of us just got out of the hospital, you know! We need the comfortable room!”

“You’ll be fine,” Oreo told him.

“What about my luggage?” Scarlett sat up, suddenly worried. “Will it fit in my cabin?”

“Um…well…if not, just throw the extra stuff in Iso’s room. It’ll be okay,” Rosma said. “And now I’m done. Captain Seabiscuit? Let’s go!”

***

"Netic, can you take our stuff to the room? I'll find it later. Right now, I want to go do something," Drew said. Netic nodded, sighing at the same time. "What's that for?"

"Could you survive even one week without touching a computer?"

"Yes," Drew said stiffly.

"Then do it."

"Why?"

"Because you're too proud to lose a bet." Netic laughed and turned to the stairwell, dragging her suitcases behind her.

"Am not!" Drew called after her. Biting her lip, Drew grabbed the shoulder of the nearest JLer. "It's only a week, right? I can live without computers for a week?"

Pinzz, who was the said closet member, laughed. She pushed Drew's hand off her shoulder. "Yeah, right."

***

That was the third fire extinguisher on this floor. Deck Oreo Avenger corrected herself. On ships they were called decks. Starboard was right, port was left, stern in back and stem in front. It was all coming back.

Oreo Avenger was exploring the yacht, finding all its secrets. She didn’t feel comfortable sleeping in a place where she didn’t know all possible escape routes. Plus, and this was the most important part, Rosma was using her almost super-human organizational abilities to put everything away in their room. Oreo had just dumped her single large suitcase on the bed and left. When Rosma wanted to organize, it was best to leave her alone.

And there was the cockpit, where the captain steered the ship where he wished. He could take them to the middle of the ocean and abandon them, or deliver them into the hands of one of their many enemies. What kind of a name was Davy Seabiscuit, anyway?

Oreo Avenger strode into the cockpit, ready to confront Captain Seabiscuit (if that was his real name) about his evil plot. The cockpit was empty. Well, she’d just have to wait, then. He’d have to come back sometime.

A few minutes later he did come back, zipping up his pants as he walked in. He whistled a happy tune as he walked, oblivious to Oreo Avenger’s presence.

“Hello!” she said, stepping out of her shadowed corner.

“Ack! I didn’t see you!”

“I have a few questions for you Captain…Seabiscuit.”

“Would you like to know how the ship works?” he asked, hopefully.

“Did you ever shoot a man in Reno just to watch him die?”

“What kind of a question is…no, I have never shot anyone.”

“Hmmm…” Oreo Avenger raised an eyebrow. He was going to be tricky about it. “Tell the truth; who do you work for?”

“Miss Galek hired me to-“

“No, I mean who do you really work for?”

Captain Seabiscuit just looked confused. “Um, I really work for Miss Galek.”

“Bikkit! I’m going to ask you straight out, and you should answer honestly. Are you evil?”

“No.”

“Are you sure?”

“I’m sure I’m not evil.”

“It’s just that sometimes we get people around here who pretend to be good but turn out to be really evil.”

“Ah.”

“But you’re not one of them,” Oreo Avenger said. “Or are you?”

“I’m, um, not?” Captain Seabiscuit rubbed his eyes with his fists, and when he stopped, Oreo Avenger was still there. She looked at him closely.

“Okay,” she said. “But if you turn out to be evil I am personally kicking your butt.”

She waved at the Captain as she left, confident in a job well done.

***

Sitting back against the bulkhead with his katana firmly in hand, Isomorphix peered out the portside window of cabin 104. Through the circular glass, he could see the greater part of the docks and the riverfront. People milling about, personal ships, fishing vessels, and other small boats on what would seem to be an ordinary summers day.

It was almost difficult to believe that it was the same harbor he had been at not so many nights ago, investigating the ‘voices’ that had played with his mind. It was even more absurd that the events surrounding the destruction of the Hall of Justice and the Jackson Prison were even closer in proximity. The vacation the Justice League was now taking on Rosma’s new yacht was most likely a defensive reflex. An attempt to forget about all that had happened.

All that had happened…

It was through glass not too different than the one Iso peered through now that he had witnessed what little he knew. Studmuffin, hovering above a glacial wasteland. His skin pale as death… his long hair drained of color, falling in silver strands… and his eyes glowing with an eerie blue flame. Rosma down below. Shivering. Pleading with him. Begging him to stop whatever he was going to do.

Blow up the Antarctic. Yes, that much was apparent. But it didn’t make any sense. In fact, not much of what he could piece together did. He had found Studmuffin barely alive in the snow, and the hero had all but torn out of the Justice Jet as soon as he regained consciousness. Isomorphix had to pull a few aerial maneuvers to prevent the aircraft from crashing from the chi-driven man’s supersonic wake.

He knew. He knew what was going to happen.

What did happen, Iso knew even less of. He had come to find the Hall of Justice in ruins and good number of its members motionless forms sprawled across the ground. Not to mention the bodies of three headless Seekers. They hadn’t been decapitated - no, that wouldn’t work as Iso was well aware of. Their heads had been popped. Just like the one he had found lying next to Studmuffin when he had rescued him.

Studmuffin had killed them. Just like he had destroyed Jackson prison. There was no bomb or explosive that could have obliterated not only the penitentiary, but also sent concentric shockwaves of destruction from the epicenter in the way that it did. The police were still investigating the matter and would most likely pin the blame on some terrorist group.

The scenery beyond the window having long been forgotten, Iso’s head turned away from the porthole and gazed across the empty space between himself and the far wall.

He’s changed, Isomorphix thought rhetorically.

He had attempted to talk to Studmuffin earlier, but all he got was a sullen stare. Since he returned with the rest of the JL, he was always distant, detached, and brooding. A polar opposite of his usual self.

Iso had not gotten a chance to talk with the other League members regarding what they saw during the fight. Which is why he had allowed Rosma to drag him along on the vacation cruise in the first place. He planned on taking the opportunity to do so now. And to provide ‘security,’ of course.

TOOOT! TOOOT TOOOOT!!

The swordsman felt a soft rumble underneath him as the yacht’s engine room began powering up. Clearing his mind of the jumbled thoughts that occupied it, Iso began to stand up - just when he heard a distinct sound against the backdrop of the ship’s engines:

The sharp clicking of sexy red heels.

The door to his cabin suddenly flew open, and an overloaded Right-Wing Man followed by Typho practically fell in with a heap of luggage.

“Thanks you guys, but I can take it from here,” came a feminine voice from the hallway.

“Always a pleasure to serve a lady in need,” RWM said in a chivalrous tone, picking himself up from the mound of suitcases.

“Man, that was so lame. You don’t know nothin ‘bout cruisin for chicks! Here, let the masta teach you a thing or two…”

The voices began to fade as the two left, presumably arguing about how to land a date properly.

“Weirdoes…” Scarlett Fyre muttered as she turned around the corner and into the room.

“Oh, hey, I didn’t know you were here already!”

Iso raised an eyebrow, “It is my room.”

“Right. Well, don’t let me bother you,” she said, wasting no time in unzipping the first of the suitcases.

“Actually, I was about to leave.”

When Iso made no movement to do so, Scarlett looked back at him expectantly.

“But not before I talk to you.”

This time it was Scarlett’s turn to raise an eyebrow, a quizzical look coming over her face.

“What about?” she asked slowly.

“The fight. Back at the Hall. With the Seekers. I wasn’t there when it all went down.”

“Oh…”

Her features suddenly became grim, the reminder of the incident bringing back unpleasant memories.

“Well, what is there to tell? They almost killed us.”

She repressed a shiver before continuing.

“They… I don’t know what they were. It was like they were invincible. I mean, I know you know about the first one and all… the one who fought Studmuffin like a year ago. But… but actually fighting them… I don’t know how we survived. If it hadn’t been for Studmuffin…”

Iso’s eyes narrowed at the mentioning of his name. “What did he do?”

“He… killed them. It was strange, though… the other two, they held the third one captive and let him… let him pop his head. I think it was the same one that Fred possessed after leaving Xiao. He started to go crazy after that.”

“Crazy? Crazy how?”

“Well… he got all… pale. He started screaming and grabbing at his ears. I think I remember him yelling ‘What’s happening to me?’ It was really scary.”

Isomorphix paused. That was certainly a lot to digest at once.

“What about…”

“Listen - “ Scarlett interjected.

“I just… we just got over this thing. Look, everyone’s okay, that’s what matters, right? Can we not talk about this anymore? We’re supposed to be having fun.”

Iso remained silent for a moment, looking down at her. Finally, he spoke.

“As you wish. Sorry to have troubled you.”

With that, he left his room for the upper decks, leaving Scarlett to rearrange the cabin into her own, personal Walk-In Closet away from home.

***

“Marley was dead to begin with,” Scarlett said, looking back at Raven.

“Not Bob!”

“Yes.”

“Did you have to throw my secret Bob Marley stash overboard, though?”

“Raven, if you want to keep up that whole PM2 addict facade up, Bob Marley is not going to help you.”

“But-“

“And you know, if you refer to it as a ‘secret Bob Marley stash,’ people are going to think it was more than just a bunch of CDs, posters, and random brightly colored knit items.”

Raven glared.

She’s really good at that, Scarlett thought to herself. “Raven, I’m only trying to help you. Bob Marley is not for you. He’s far too laidback for your image. Iso would be a far better closet Bob Marley fan. He needs to loosen up or something. I swear. The boy cannot take a joke.”

Raven continued to glare.

Scarlett sighed. “Besides, if we have to share cabins, I can’t have that crap playing while I’m trying to mope about in quiet self-accusing angst. Why can’t you have a secret stash of Moulin Rou-“ Scarlett stopped mid-sentence.

“Look, I’m going to shut this curtain on my half of the cabin and mope in quiet self-accusing angst now, okay? You go…do something. I don't know what. Play that “Hey Ya” song Iso's always talking about or something.”

Raven rolled her eyes and left the cabin without arguing the point further.

Scarlett pulled back the curtain. “Hah! Now I can get rid of that secret Severus Snape stash of hers, too. The stuff you learn about people when you have to move their stuff out of the way to make room for your luggage…”

***

A little while later…

“So you’re the captain, I guess, Captain Seeeeeeeeeeabiscuit?”

“Uh…yes.”

“Am I saying that right?”

“Well…normally it’s just ‘Seabiscuit,’ but I suppose it could be the other, too. Just don’t say ‘bikkit’ or ‘Seabikkit, or I’ll go Pirates of the Caribbean on you.”

“Pirates of the Caribbean in what way? Will Turner? Captain Jack Sparrow? Psychotic Undead Monkey?”

“The last.”

“I’ll keep that in mind, Captain Seeeeeeeeeabikkit.”

Captain Davy Seeeeeeeeeabiscuit glared at her. “So why are you here again, Miss Fyre?”

“Is there an intercom system on this yacht?”

“Yes.”

“Good. I need to use it,” Scarlett told Captain Seeeeeeeeabiscuit. He pointed to where the intercom was.

“There you go.”

“Thanks!” She walked over and switched it on. “Hey! Everyone who’s interested, there’s going to be a meeting to discuss preparations for the 2nd Semi Annual Justice League Sadie Hawkins Social. Meet at the pool right after dinner. See ya’ll there.”

Scarlett switched it off and started to make her way back to Iso’s cabin-slash-Scarlett’s-temporary-Walk-In-Closet, but stopped halfway there when she saw a figure running around with piles of papers and food scraps in her arms.

“Rosma? What are you doing?”

“This place is a wreck! Don’t people know the trashcans are strategically placed for a reason?”

“Uh…”

“I mean, I found a pile of Severus Snape junk shoved under a stairwell! And Bob Marley crap under another stairwell!”

“You mean those windows don’t open directly to the ocean? Gah!”

“To the ocean?!? You were going to pollute the sea with that stuff?”

“…no, of course not!”

Rosma glared.

“Sheesh, people. What is it with all the glaring today?”

***

Drew looked across the deck, shielding her eyes from the sun. Most of the JLers were still getting unpacked, but she was sure--

"Eric!" A head popped up from a lounge chair. Drew walked over and took a seat on the chair next to it.

"Hmm?" Eric answered and turned the page in his magazine. Fortunately, Rosma had gotten a hold of him before he went sunbathing and managed to get him into a pair of swimming trunks and about three layers of sunscreen. Unfortunately, the aroma of sunscreen had formed a cloud around him. Drew coughed slightly.

"I need your help."

"With what?"

"Well, you're a naturist, right?"

"Um, sure?"

"Great." Drew explained her situation to Eric, who nodded occasionally. When she was finished, she leaned back in her chair and exhaled.

"Why don't you find something else to do? We are on a cruise ship."

"Like what?"

"Well, ever play skeeball?"

***

Xiao dragged her bags to her cabin, and left them by one of the beds. She didn't care which one she had, or where her stuff went. She didn't feel like unpacking, or really doing anything. She felt....empty. Drained. Like she'd just run a couple miles on an empty stomach. A used pair of batteries.

It was strange, being alone. Even though Fred hadn't been around for that long, she couldn't remember him not being around. Yes, he was a nuisance, and yes he was bent on world domination and was willing to crush and kill and maim all who stood in his way, but she felt as though she had lost an arm, or an organ. He was like an annoying sibling- you hated them and they bothered you, but when they were gone you missed them.

Xiao knew she probably shouldn't care, she should be glad that Fred was gone, that she was free.....but....

After waking up in the hospital, not long after X-Raytor, she was fine. She didn't have a gaping hole in her, and she wasn't leaking bodily fluids, and she didn't have any disturbing visions in her mind while she was asleep. She didn't see spots. It didn't hurt to move, although she was a bit stiff. The only physical thing wrong with her was tired. That was it.

That made her feel worse- her friends and fellow--. She stopped, suddenly. She wasn't a fellow Justice Leaguer, not really. She had no superpowers to begin with, and without Fred, she had no special abilities or helpers. She wasn't special. She was normal. A plain, ordinary, lost girl, who tagged along with superheroes. She wasn't even a sidekick, for crying out loud! Just plain Ari, that's all she was. There was no point in having a superhero name if she didn't have the power...

Ari would have cried, but she was too tired.

***

"Maaaah!"

"Could someone please tell me why we've got a llama on board?" Captain Davy Seeeeeabiscuit demanded, tugging a familiar llama with green eyes behind him on a rope.

"Oh! So that's what NeoMatrix has been up to!" Xiao/Ari took hold of the rope. After the Seeker fight, Neo had decided to become a llama permanently. Said life was easier. Or something.

The captain rolled his eyes. What a bunch of lunatics. He was really starting to wonder if the pay was worth it...

"Maaaaah!"

"This yacht is not a petting zoo, Miss," he told her.

"Since when does one llama constitute an entire zoo?"

"I. Do. Not. Like. Animals. On. Board. My. Ship."

"Trust me, you'll like him much better as a llama than anything else," Scarlett said, walking up to the captain and Xiao/Ari. The captain walked away in disgust.

"How'd he end up back like this anyways, Scarlett?" Xiao/Ari asked, suspicious.

"You think Oreo's the only one who can bake around here?"

Xiao/Ari stared back. "You don't mean yo--"

Scarlett laughed. "Of course I didn't. Oreo's the only one with the Oreo recipe and the Oreo-conjuring powers. But I can morph. And that's technology, not magic."

"So he's...a nothlit?"

"Yep...voluntarily, of course," Scarlett assured her.

"But...why? And why doesn't he talk?"

"I have no idea why, but I think maybe because we all liked him better as a llama. And this no talking thing...I guess maybe thought-speak doesn't work for his species in morph or something."

"And how--"

"Some kid found the box and was selling it on the Internet, not knowing what it was. I bought it off of him. But it's dismantled now into tiny bits and scattered everywhere, including the bottom of the sea. So no. No more morphing."

"Oh. But couldn't we have used it to make more Justice Leaguers?"

"Xiao. Listen to yourself."

"What?"

"I mean, just look at Typho for goodness' sake."

"What about him?"

Scarlett rolled her eyes. "Oh. Right. You two have that thing...speaking of which, don't forget about the planning meeting at the pool for the social, okay?"

"Do I have to go?"

"You should go."

"But I don't have to?"

Scarlett sighed. "No, you don't have to."

"Whoo!"

"But you have to go to the social! Everyone does!"

"Gaaah..."

"Oh, hush. At least you know who you're going to ask."

"Tell me again then, why are you putting yourself through this if you don't have anyone to ask?"

"I didn't say that. I just don't know who I'm going to ask yet."

"Oh."

"Anyways, see you at the meeting!" Scarlett ran off in her heels to go do whatever it was she had been up to.

Xiao/Ari looked back at NeoMatrix. He was nothing like Fred, but he was going to have to work as a substitute for now.

***

Twisk was not going to be happy that there was a third occupant in their room. Especially since it was a llama. And NeoMatrix, to boot. But..... Well, he was pretty dern cute. Except for the whole nothlit-NeoMatrix thing. And he didn't seem to do anything but eat stuff (Ari had dragged a bunch of Bob Marley and Snivelus stuff into the room that the Captain had been complaining about) and bleat. Ari still wasn't sure what she'd do with his, um, waste.

"Well, I guess Fred never was one for conversation either. Except when he was angry. Or when he was excited. Or when he had a new diabolical scheme and didn't want to tell anyone but wanted to brag about it to someone so he'd go on about its evilness and unstoppableness for hours on end. So I guess he was actually quite the chatterbox, unlike you." Ari had been rambling on like this to a llama for nearly two hours, trying to avoid everything else. She didn't want anyone to, well, mention Fred while she was around, because she still wasn't sure how she felt. But LlamaMatrix wasn't really helping either.

"I'm going to give you a name," Ari decided. "Because LlamaMatrix is too long and Llama isn't a good name for a Llama. So I'm going to call you....uh..." She wracked her brain for a couple of minutes but came up blank. "Well, you certainly like Bob Marley...I guess I could call you Bob...er..no? Snivellous? Snape? Ummm.."

She looked at the llama for awhile. "O.K., I christen thee Fred Junior! You are the honorary Fred until...um... well, you're replacing Fred, okay?"

Llama-Fred bleated, and then spat. He continued chewing on a poster of Snape.

"Er. Okay, I'll take that as a yes." Ari smiled. "Right, Fred. So. What's it like being a llama?"

The llama spat again, and continued chewing. It showed no reaction or emotion to the question.

".....Yeah. I would've thought so." Ari nodded. She sat on the bed she had chosen and watched the llama chew for awhile, then glanced at her watch.

"Uh-oh. Looks like it's about time for that meeting thing. C'mon Fred Jr." She grabbed the rope around his neck and dragged him away from the food.

***

After dinner was a vague time to meet, but Oreo headed out to the pool after she was done eating. The other person there was Typho. He lay on a deck chair, a look of intense concentration on his face, typing something into a laptop. The laptop had “TYPHO” written on it in gold paint. Every so often he’d trace something in the air, as if trying to solidify a thought.

“Hey,” she said, craning her neck to look at his screen. “What are you doing?”

Typho jumped at the sound of her voice and slammed the laptop shut. “Um, nothing.”

Oreo blinked at him. He said actual words. And fidgeting, he was fidgeting, too, like he’d been caught doing something he shouldn’t. And, oh dear, he was blushing.

“Never mind,” she said. “On second thought, I don’t want to know what you’re doing.”

She sat down a few seats away from Typho. Sheer morbid curiosity was her motivation. The laptop might hold horrors beyond imagining, but she really, really, wanted to know. Anything that got Typho so flustered had to be interesting.

Unfortunately, Typho just kept shooting guilty glances at Oreo and left the computer closed in his lap.

Xiao walked across the deck dragging a llama behind her. She took a seat next to Oreo.

“Does anyone else think the captain’s a little shady?” she asked.

“Forshizzle!”

“Captain Seabiscuit is not evil,” Oreo Avenger said. “I went to the cockpit and asked him.”

“Bridge,” a voice behind her said.

Oreo turned around and there was Iso, still in his customary black despite the sun. “What?”

Taking the chair on the other side of Oreo, he dragged it back so that he sat behind the others.

“On a ship, it’s called a bridge,” he said.

“Forshizzle!”

“However,” Oreo said, turning to face Iso. “On a small decked vessel it can be called a cockpit.”

“But a cockpit implies aircraft, while a bridge is on a ship,” Iso pointed out.

“Yes, but-“

“Attention everyone!”

Oreo turned around and saw Scarlett standing in the middle of a loose circle of seated people. The meeting was staring. The members of the Justice League that decided to show up must have come while Oreo was talking with Iso. Raven, X-Raytor, Netic, and Twisk were all listening to what Scarlett had to say. Surprisingly, Rosma wasn’t there. She lived for planning things like this.

"Why is the llama here?" Scarlett asked.

"This is Fred Jr." Xiao said.

"Oh." Scarlett cleared her throat. "We're having this dance, and ya'll're all going to come, whether you want to or not."

"Oh, good, then I'm done here!" X-Raytor stood up and immediately pulled back down by Raven.

“Next, we need to decide on a theme.” Scarlett said. “Last time was toga, and I think this year should be-“

“A costume party!” Oreo Avenger interrupted. Her head was already buzzing with ideas. She knew exactly what her costume would be.

“Actually, I was thinking more of-“

“Forshizzle!” Typho yelled.

“Yeah,” Netic said.

“Can I be a Power Ranger?” Twisk asked.

“A more formal thing,” Scarlett said. No one paid attention.

“There has to be a rule that no one,” Raven looked pointedly at X-Raytor, “should be allowed to streak.”

X-Raytor pouted under his mask.

“Okay!” Oreo said. “Since we’re doing the costume theme, we need to decide-“

“Formal!” Scarlett glared at Oreo. “I want a formal!”

“Costumes make much more sense,” Oreo said, glaring back. “Who wants to be formal on a cruise?”

“Fine,” Scarlett said. “Let’s vote. Anyone who wants a formal, raise their hands.” Scarlett raised her hand high. She glared around the circle but everyone avoided her eyes.

“Costumes?” Oreo asked.

Scarlett snapped her arm down, but the rest all raised theirs. Xiao even made Fred Jr. raise a foot.

“Costumes it is,” Scarlett snapped. “We’re decorating tomorrow after dinner, for anyone who wants to help.” Her tone implied that anyone who didn’t want to help had better have a good excuse as well as their own way back to shore. Scarlett stalked off, her sexy red sandals flip-flopping.

Oreo Avenger let out a breath. Lately, something about Scarlett always made her want to scratch the other girl’s eyes out. It wasn’t Midnight Chatter, though. Scarlett didn’t like him, and Oreo most certainly didn’t like him. Not one bit.

The meeting broke up, but Oreo stayed in her seat, thinking. She and Scarlett had to stop fighting over stupid things. They’d been friends once, if not close ones, before Scarlett had become so irritating. Oreo resolved not to argue with Scarlett while decorating tomorrow.

Now, to find a date. Her date for the last social had been Superdude, and she obviously couldn’t ask him. He died because she asked him to the social. Oreo pushed that thought away. She’d just go by herself. She didn’t need a date anyway.

***

Ari followed Typho at a discreet distance, and when they neared Typho's room she whispered "Stay here, Fred." and grabbed Typho's shoulder before he opened the door.

"Ahh!" He gave a little jerk, and nearly dropped the laptop he was carrying, and then relaxed. "Oh, it's you Xiao."

Ari didn't bother to correct him. "I was, uh, wondering if you'd go to the, er, social with me. You know. As, like, my, er,..."

Typho was frozen for a second, and then blinked. "Forshizzle! Da party'll be bangin!" He pumped his fist in the air, right when the door opened, and Right Wing Man nearly plowed into Typho.

"Hey! Don't be hatin'!" Typho pinwheeled his arms to regain his balance.

"I didn't realize you were there," RWM said stiffly. He gave a curt nod to Ari, and squeezed past the two. Typho shrugged, and Ari shrugged back.

"Well, I, uh, guess I'll, um, see you...at the thing." Ari said, feeling a lot more awkward and self-conscious now.

Typho nodded, then went into his room, shutting the door.

***

When Ari had departed, Typho shouted down the hallway: "Yo homes! Lookime, I already gots a bitch for the dance!" adding, for good measure, "foshizzle!" All of which irked Ari, whose being-within-hearing-distance of him he had not taken into consideration.

Mattias' interest was piqued and he started back to Typho's person, a dumb grin slapped on top of lazy but respectably muscular meat.

"See, what did I tell you? You necessarily have to go forward - it's nice to think, of course, that she herself will approach you, but that's not the essence of femininity, and any girl who does ask a guy out is, I'd wager, a lesbian. It's like the concept of Ying and Yang - the male has to be the active element. And I wager you were?"

Typho pondered this.

"Yeah, I was like, 'hey girl, you lookin' so fine, I'd sure like to take you to the social with me, you cool with that?'"

Mattias smirked. He was always right, that was the beautiful thing.

And yet he was dateless, mateless...

Almost to change the subject from the self-pity he feared Typho would sense, he put on an instant chipper smile and mock expression of surprise and struck himself on the forehead (more like patted. He had learned not too long after gaining his superpowers not to actually move with any force against himself. There were still horrible stretch marks down in his... well, that purpose, not accident! - but anyway). "I forgot to update my blog! And I have yet to get through Last of the Nuba..."

"Kewl. I was gonna come in and look at my Carznbabes monthly, you wanna check out the new issue, homes?"

The lower culture will be wiped away, Mattias tried to reassure himself. The lower culture will be wiped away, the lower culture will be wiped away.

***

"Hey, Scarlett?"

Scarlett was on her side of the curtain, reveling in the angst of Moulin Rouge. "What?"

"This social...it's going to be fun, right?"

"Yeah...yeah, of course. I mean, last year's was great. Well, until the supervillians showed up and crashed it and all."

"Yeah...sorry about that." Raven paused. "Do you know who you're going as or with or anything?"

Scarlett sighed and gave up on enjoying the angst for a while yet. "I don't know...I was planning on a formal."

"See, that's the trouble with yachts...fewer supervillians, but also fewer malls." With that astute thought, Raven returned to her book.

***

"Hey, Right-Wing Man...."

"What, fair woman?"

"I don't have a date for the costume social, and I was hoping you'd take me."

Mattias was speechless. On the one hand, her boldness in asking him clearly indicated she was a lesbian, an unfit date. On the other hand, her desire to be escorted by him clearly marked her adherence to traditional values.

"Uh-I...uh...."

Did she wish to gain femininity by asking him out? No, else she would simply place her self in a position to be asked. Or would she?

"I...um...I..."

She viewed him with some amusement. "I'll take that as a yes. See you at the decorating thing!"

***

"Drew?" Netic called form the doorway of the arcade. Because all yachts have arcades.

"What?" Drew answered. Her attention was focused on the game in front of her.

"You missed the meeting. We're having a masquerade."

"Oh." Drew scored another 100 points.

"Scarlett wants to know if you'll DJ." Netic leaned against the doorframe.

Drew paused, a smirk forming across her lips. "But that would require my use of a computer," she said over her shoulder.

"I know. I'm temporary canceling the bet between 6 p.m. to midnight that night so you can DJ."

"Do I have to dress up?"

"You should. I am."

"Let me guess: Trinity, from the Matrix."

"No--yes."

***

"So, Scarlett, have you asked anyone yet?" Raven asked as she waltzed back into the cabin she and Scarlett shared. Scarlett hadn't moved two inches since Raven had left an hour ago; she was still staring up at the same spot on the ceiling.

"No...but I take it you have," Scarlett said with a grin. "So who's the lucky guy you're setting your PM2 obsession aside for during the night of the social?"

"Right Wing Man."

"Oh?" That had not been what Scarlett had been expecting to hear, even though, upon reflection, the only other obviously available guys were Eric, X-Raytor, and NeoMatrix, if as a llama he still counted. Studmuffin and Typho were all but spoken for, and Iso refused to have anything to do with the social. So just the four available guys.

Oh, and Midnight Chatter. That is, if Oreo was still on that kick about the two of them just being friends. But still, Raven and Right Wing Man seemed kind of...an odd combination. Except for the nice alliterative R's.

Not that Scarlett even liked Right Wing Man, nor had she ever even remotely considered asking him. Heeeeeck no. Scarlett hadn't had to restrain herself from singing this much since the destruction of NeoMatrix's ship...wait a second...oops. Okay, maybe restraint wasn't quite the right word for it seeing how the ship was destroyed...but that only spoke for just how well she was holding back now. Yeah.

Who are you gonna ask, by the way? Scarlett frowned as she tried not to think about the last social.

"Yep," Raven said, continuing. "Knocked him speechless and everything. I wonder if anyone told him it's a Sadie Hawkin's dance?"

"It's always a Sadie Hawkin's dance...but I guess it's possible he missed the memo. So what, your forwardness sent him into a state of shock or something?" Scarlett laughed.

"Yeah. So, come on, spill. Who are you going to ask? Midnight Chatter?"

"NO. Besides, I bet Oreo's already asked him."

"Uh...Eric?"

"The guy wears no clothes."

"He's got socks!"

"No way."

"Iso?"

"He wouldn't go. And even if he did, I'm not going with a closet Bob Marley fan."

"Iso's a Bob Marley fan? A closet Bob Marley fan?"

"Well, I don't have proof, but he seems like the type, you know?"

"What have you got against Bob Marley?!" Raven looked at Scarlett suspiciously. Where did my secret Bob Marley stash go?

"Nothing, I just don't think it's very healthy to hide something like that."

"Oh...NeoMatrix?"

"He's a llama for crying out loud. How do I dance with a llama?"

"Studmuffin?"

"Isn't Rosma asking him?"

"Typho?"

"Yeah, right."

"Well, who's left then?"

"I don't know." Scarlett sighed. "And I've got to come up with a freaking costume on top of everything else, too."

"Why don't you want a costume party?"

"It's not that I don't want one--it'll be fun, I'm sure. I just hadn't planned on it."

"Yeah. Well, I'm going to go get something to snack on. Say, have you met the captain yet?"

"You mean the SeaBiscuit guy?"

"Yeah. Is it just me, or does he give off this vibe of evil?"

"You know, I was getting the same vibe, but I asked him about it and he swears he's not evil." Scarlett shrugged.

"Huh. That's odd."

"Yeah."

"Well, bye!" Raven left, and Scarlett went to the drawer she had some of her stuff packed into and yanked it open angrily, pawing through the clothing.

"Damn Oreo! Damn her and her genius costume party. I told her I wanted it to be a formal, dammit. I told her before the meeting ever began, and she went and pretended she thought I had such a great freaking idea, then when the meeting started, she pulls this crap out?

Scarlett slammed the drawer shut. Of course a costume party is more fun than a formal. It wasn't really even that Oreo had had a better idea than Scarlett. It was...gah.

Scarlett had finally thought she was over the Midnight Chatter thing, or at least over being angry with Oreo about the part she had played, seeing how they had all thought Scarlett was dead. Discussing the plans for the social with Oreo before the meeting began had sort of been a way for Scarlett to apologize, or start apologizing. It had been the first real conversation the two of them had had since Scarlett came back. And then Oreo had gone and upstaged her like that.

Scarlett looked at her reflection in the mirror. She was the oldest member of the Justice League, and had been ever since it started, but that had never bothered her before. She had always liked being the oldest; even if no one went to her for advice for much outside of fashion and music, Scarlett liked to think maybe she could offer some insight if someone really needed it.

But suddenly, the startling age difference felt like maybe it was starting to matter. At 25, Scarlett wasn't old by any stretch of the imagination, but...still. There was almost a decade between herself and several of the Justice Leaguers. A scary thought. And naturally, the guys were going to be drawn to girls a little closer to their age. That made sense, even if this whole Oreo-love fest was starting to make Scarlett realize just how much she had kind of secretly liked getting hit on by all the guys. You don't know what you've got until it's gone.

"But I'm not old. Far from it! And I am going to that costume party Sadie Hawkin's social. I will find a costume. And I am going to look f*cking spectacular even if it kills me," Scarlett said resolutely. "Of course, first I've got to find myself a date. There's got to be someone I've overlooked as a possibility..."

And then it dawned on her. And why not? We can go as friends, right?

Besides, he was going to look through her clothes whether she wanted him to or not.

***

Quickly checking her reflection in a window, Netic suddenly felt like she was in school again. Her stomach flip-flopped with every step.

This is insane, she thought to herself. I’m a superhero. I look danger in the eye and laugh at it. I-

Suddenly, Midnight Chatter appeared from around a corner.

Am a wuss.

“Hi, um…”

Midnight looked at her, expectantly. “Are you okay? You look pale. Are you seasick? Once I had a friend who got seasick. We were on this tour around an island and he turned real pale like you and he rocked back and forth and-“

“Willyougowithmetothesocial?”

Meanwhile...

Drew meandered to the top deck with a deck of cards in her hand. Iso stood at the bow, staring out at the sea.

"Do you want something?"

"Oh," startled, Drew took the spot next to him leaning against the guardrail. "See, I can't touch computers for mostly the entire cruise, and I was wondering if you want to playa game of Go Fish? Seems appropriate, being on a boat and all."

"I'd rather not." He answered simply and walked away.

Slightly disheartened, Drew went to search for Netic.

***

Ari was knee deep in junk, searching for a plausible costume idea. So far, anything would do- Fred....Junior.....wasn't much help, in fact, she'd had to remove him- not just because of her roommates complaints but because he was eating all the costume ideas.

"Well I guess if all else fails I could go as a ghost with a sheet on my head..." Ari said to herself, collapsing amidst the heap of clothing and odds and ends. "Nooooo. It's a costume party, but it's not Halloween."

She shook her head dismally. Then suddenly, an idea struck her. Checking quickly to make sure she had the material, she grinned. "This'll be perfect. I just need to find Typho now...."

A few minutes later she found Typho wandering around the deck, trying to figure out how to play shuffleboard.

"So....this shizzle......an' this hizzle...." He muttered to himself, deep in concentration, "bangs on da heezy..."

"Typho!" Ari said when she was close enough. "I just had the greatest idea for our costumes. All you need is a tuxedo! I can get the rest of the costume..."

"Errrr..." Typho was about to speak, when she interrupted him.

"Great! We'll have the best costumes! So. Just get a black tux. Oh! And a top hat! And everything will be okay, okay? Good." Ari surprised herself by giving him a quick hug, but stopped before he hugged back. "Umm.. I have to check on Fred Junior. If I leave him alone too long, that Captain Seabikkit threatened to throw him overboard!"