JUSTICE LEAGUE

37

Reborn
 

“An incredible blend of herbs and spices! Really, it was the best tea I ever had! You should have tried some!”

Midnight Chatter was rambling on and on about some sort of herbal tea he had tasted back on the yacht and now he wouldn’t shut up about the beverage.

“So, wait. Isn’t that green tea?” Oreo Avenger asked.

“No, no… some other type, I’m pretty sure of it. I forgot the name. But I did manage to get the recipe from the captain,” MC continued with a sly grin.

“I wonder what could have possibly persuaded him to reveal it…” came a sarcastic tone from Raven, who was sitting far in the back.

“The poor guy was probably begging to give it away after having to listen to him for that long,” Xiao agreed, seeming to have gotten back into the flow of things after the shock of losing Fred.

“Not that Seabiscuit doesn’t deserve to listen to Midnight all night long after abandoning us like that,” Raven continued sourly.

“Well, he did give me the recipe, and let me tell you…”

The sail home wasn’t very eventful, and everyone had arrived at the docks without incident. Captain Davy Seabiscuit had apologized profusely, and to his credit, almost everyone had forgiven him. After all, who could stand being boarded by the hostile cast of Gilligan’s Island?

The Leaguers were now riding home in the Van of Justice, an old 70’s style wagon from the very first days of the Justice League. All it needed was a tie-dye paintjob and it might as well have been the Hippiemobile. In fact, it once was, but the original team had convinced Studmuffin to give it a much-needed makeover. Now it was jet-black, adorning a JL emblem across the rear double-doors. Studmuffin had insisted on keeping the fuzzy dice, though. The interior volume was quite spacious. However, fitting all the League members inside had been a… daunting… effort.

“Man, I so told you all we shoulda taken the Jet! But some brainless retards have to get all technical.”

Drew managed a scathing look towards Pinzz.

“And some brainless retards can’t tell that the Jet can’t fly while its computer core is being reprogrammed!”

Just when things were beginning to get heated between the two…

“AIIIEEE!!!”

“Eric, I swear to God, if you try taking those off again, I WILL BURN YOU!”

Scarlett had a look of abject horror/rage while crammed next to a boxer-clad Eric. Eric sheepishly pulled his hand away from the waistband.

“Far out! You gnarly dudes have a jet?” spoke up Jo Surf, the latest addition to the Justice League.

He had ‘saved’ them from the Evil TV Producer and a life of filming on the remote island. Well, his role as a savior was questionable, as when the League decided enough was enough, they would have just gone home anyway.

Studmuffin and Rosma occupied the passenger-side seat and were silent for the most part. Studmuffin looked distracted and detached, peering through the window into the darkness. It was not uncommon behavior for him since the battle with the Seekers. Rosma sat next to Studmuffin, giving concerned glances - undoubtedly worrying about him.

Sitting behind the wheel of the rickety vehicle, Isomorphix had tuned out most of the voices coming from the back. His mind was transfixed on the events that had transpired on the yacht with the Jinni. He had disappeared. With no evidence of the wish working.

It simply failed. That’s all, Iso thought dismissively.

But if that were all there was to it, then why was there that uncertain feeling in the pit of his stomach?

Indigestion, he grumbled the excuse mentally.

***

20 Minutes Later, at the Hall of Justice…

It was half past 4 o’clock and the morning sun had not yet begun to touch the darkened sky when the engine died and headlights switched off.

The rear door hatch clicked open… immediately followed by the sound of tumbling, crashing, and cursing as the occupants promptly fell out of the van.

“Netic, your elbow is in my face!” Crystal complained.

“Yo dawg, this is crampin my style, knamean?” Typho said with is usual peculiar finesse.

“If it’s not too much to ask, can you all GET OFF ME?” Raven demanded from the bottom of the pile. Fortunately for her, the metallic armor she wore saved the young girl from being completely smothered.

“I dunno, I kind of like it where I am,” X-Raytor commented.

There was a pause.

“EW! Gross! Get OFF me!” Twisk squealed, realizing her predicament.

Isomorphix calmly opened the driver side door and jumped out, shutting it with a clear thud. Rosma and Studmuffin took their time.

“Hey, genius? Maybe you could turn off the lights after we got out?!”

Pinzz, no doubt.

In the dark, before the non-fluorescent lighting came on, no one noticed a figure adorned in gold chains and with a laptop in hand sneaking out of the garage. Typho was gone.

It didn’t take too long for the others to get themselves untangled and off of the concrete floor once the garage lights had been turned on, though. After flipping the switch, Iso made his way inside with the others following, a series of half-audible conversations trailing along with the group. Except for Midnight Chatter. You could hear him a mile away.

“I mean, wow, what a buzz! It must have been the parsley. Or maybe it was the rosemary? You know, I had an aunt named Rosemary. She really liked tea. In fact - “

MC’s rant was cut short as he ran into Isomorphix, who had stopped at the entrance to the main hall. In fact, everyone else had stopped, too. Wondering why everybody suddenly became so hushed, he peered through the gap between Iso and X-Raytor.

Portions of the Hall had been severely damaged during the fight with the Seekers. The main lounge had not been too thoroughly smashed up, despite being located below the fractured, unstable dome. There were a few cracks running up and down the drywall and some disheveled furniture, but it looked relatively okay for a place that had survived such a chaotic battle. The battle-damage, however, was not the center of attention.

Impossible. Iso thought.

But it wasn’t impossible. Why should he be so surprised? The Jinni said this is what he would do.

The purple-haired young woman lying on the couch began to stir, her hands instinctively attempting to rub the sleep from her eyes. Slowly, she sat up, looking around as if to ascertain her surroundings. She looked lost and confused, her behavior resembling that of someone coming out of a deep slumber. All of a sudden the light of recognition sparked in her, and she stood to her full height.

She was wearing a long, lavender, sleeveless dress. A thin, silver necklace adorned her neck. Violet hair had been pulled back into an elegant bun, a slight wisp escaping to fall down the side of her face. Her delicate silver crown fit in perfect symmetry on top.

Her look shifted from the unruly décor of the main hall to the silent crowd that had gathered at one of the doorways, viewing each one. Her stare abruptly stopped over Iso.

Slowly, Isomorphix moved out from the rest of the group towards the Violet Princess. For that is who she unmistakably was.

Was she okay? Was she even real? Perhaps an impersonation, like Saph?

It was these innocent questions that brought Iso to about arms length from Violet, looking at her intently.

Violet looked back, but this time there was some other sort of awareness in her eyes. Maybe it was some sort of imprint that the Jinni had left on her mind after fusing to become her life-essence. Maybe there was some sort of memory that the Jinni had taken from Iso’s consciousness that was now a part of hers. Whatever it was, she stepped forward, now directly in front of him. Her pale gray eyes were sparsely flecked with tiny shards of blue, looking up into Iso’s own dark chocolate. He blinked once or twice, looking back into hers.

Without warning, she wrapped her arms around Iso’s neck and - before the entire Justice League - kissed him in a deep embrace. Before he could even register the action, or possibly postulate what was happening, he had clasped her waist between his hands and was kissing her back. The moment of passion ran deep, their lips brazenly locked.

The scenery about the room began to change, the very reality appearing to alter as Violet’s subconscious responded to her pleasure. The surroundings seemed to swiftly transform and rearrange themselves to become a beautiful grove in an awesome display of illusionary power. A multitude of trees overhead filtered the sunlight that came down in streams and lit up patches of soft green grass underneath. Birds sang sweet melodious tunes as a cool, gentle breeze ruffled through the leaves and through their hair and across the bare skin of their faces. Even the smell of the water from the nearby pond was so real.

And in the middle of this imaginary haven, the two figures stood, holding each other close amidst the awestruck expressions of their comrades.

Abruptly, Iso pulled away, breaking the mirage. Pasture reverted to hardwood, trees to walls, and the sunlight to comparatively dim bulbs in an instant. He stepped back, breathing heavily and looking into those mesmerizing eyes. Her countenance could not have been more beautiful, looking at him with a thoughtful expression, her hands held behind her back.

Everything that was rational seemed to fall apart in that one kiss. And for all his deduction, logic, and reasoning… he could not explain what had just happened.

Wha…? I…

Then, it struck him. Thoughts put on hiatus viciously lashed back like the recoil of a rubber band. Iso’s brow furrowed and his eyes frantically darted from left to right, as if examining the floor. A lump started to form in his throat.

Looking back up again, their gazes touched. And for the first time that he could remember, a look of vulnerability had overcome his visage.

Balling his fists and taking a deep breath, he closed his eyes. Ten seconds seemed to be an eternity, with the eerie silence only magnifying the effect. However, ten seconds later when his eyelids unfurled, Isomorphix had regained his typically cold demeanor. But there seemed to be a hint of something else in his eyes, as well. Anger. No, not anger. Fear?

Not bothering to contemplate the situation further, Isomorphix abruptly turned about, trenchcoat billowing behind him. Summarily stalking past a still shocked and speechless audience, he stormed out of the hall.

A long moment passed before Midnight finally broke the quiet.

“So… uh, anyone want some tea?”

***

“Violet!” Oreo shouted, pushing past MC. Violet’s knees had given out and she crumpled to the floor.

“Are you all right?” Raven asked, helping Oreo pull Violet to her feet.

“Of course she’s not alright, she was dead!” Pinzz.

Violet’s head snapped up, her eyes wide. “Dead?” Her voice was strange, raspy. She looked around the room. So many faces she didn’t recognize. Violet tore the crown from her hair and let the bun tumble into a mess of curls. She moved to run, but her legs gave out once more. Oreo caught her, groaning slightly as she lifted her up.

“Maybe you should lie back down,” Oreo said. Violet nodded and let her guide her to the couch.

“How long have I been dead?”

Oreo looked up at her teammates, hoping for help with an answer.

***

There was an uncomfortable silence. X-Raytor squirmed, and was about to answer, but stopped himself. As much as he would have liked for Violet Princess to be alive, he'd learned better.

"Hold up," he said. "Violet. What did I say the first time we met?"

Violet gave him a look. " 'In this League, clothes are optional.'"

"Okay," X-Raytor said.

"You said that?!" Netic asked.

"Well, how about this," X-Raytor said. "You have a cousin. Or had. You only mentioned her once. What was her name?"

Violet frowned. "You mean Jessica?"

"That's not the name you used," X-Raytor said.

"Oh, well, she also went by the Violent Princess," Violet said. "She ripped off my name, taught herself magic, and tried too blow up the mall when they wouldn’t let her return a blouse. Stopping her was the first thing I did as a super heroine."

"And where is she now?" X-Raytor asked.

"I don't know," Violet said. "She disappeared afterwards. What's with the interrogation, X-y?"

"I need to be sure it's actually you," X-Raytor said.

Violet looked at him blankly, and then pointed at her face.

"Well, sure, you look like... you. Her. Whatever," X-Raytor said. "But Saph looked like Scarlett."

"Who?" Violet asked.

"And-" he cut off. He had been about to say that the Head Honcho looked exactly like Brad Pitt, but he didn't feel like getting into the Oscars until after this. "Well, it's easy to look like someone else."

"He's got a point," Scarlett said.

"Oh, come on!" Oreo said. "Why would someone impersonate Violet? I mean, she's dead. Or was, sorry. If someone really wanted to get in here, they could impersonate any of us. Well, except me. I don't think it would be possible to impersonate me."

Why's that? X-Raytor wondered.

The answer: for irony.

"Okay, here's the ten million dollar question," X-Raytor said. "What was your screen saver through the first half of 2002?"

Violet's face went pale. "You can't!"

"Can't what?"

"You're just trying to make me say it outloud!"

"Of c- er, I mean, of course... not!" X-Raytor said. "This is integral to the questioning process."

Violet glared. "I hate you."

"What else is new? Your answer?"

Violet looked down and mumbled, " 'Oh X-y, You're So Sexy.'"

Silence.

"Violet..." Rosma said. "Were you taking any, uh, mind-altering substances at the time?"

"It was a dare," Violet grumbled.

"Okay, I'm satisfied," X-Raytor said, his mask stretching from his grin. "Sorry about that, Violet. Just needed to be sure."

"Lock your doors, X-y." She exhaled. "Now, come on, can someone tell me what's been going on?"

"Well, what's the last thing that you remember?" Oreo asked.

Violet frowned. "We were going... we were at the Oscars."

"Uh huh," Oreo said.

"And- we were at the Oscars." Violet said. "What happened?"

"Think Brad Pitt," Oreo said.

And Violet, assumedly, did. Her face fell, then flashed darkly with rage, and then fell again.

"Oh." She said. "Oh God."

"You saved us," Rosma offered. "You stopped him from detonating the bomb."

"What happened after that?" Violet asked. "What happened to him?"

"Bo Powers shot him." Raven said.

"Bo Powers?" Violet repeated.

"Surprisingly enough."

"But his body disappeared," X-Raytor said. "I saw some paramedics take it out, and then it's like it just vanished."

"Meaning that he's still alive," Violet said.

"Yeah."

"Huh." Violet frowned. "That was in March. When is it now?"

"January," X-Raytor said.

"2004?"

"2004. It's the thirty-first, in fact. Uh... Super Bowl's tomorrow!"

"Oh." Violet was quiet for a few moments, and then asked. "Well, does anyone know how this happened?"

Rosma shook her head. "We were hoping you could tell us."

"I don't know," Violet said. "There's something- I can't remember. Maybe later. What's happened since... you know."

"Quick recap," Pinzz said. "DragonGirl, Superdude, and OMEGA are dead,"

"Knew that," Violet said. "Paper Kut too. How about after the Oscars?"

"Well," Pinzz said. "X-y's Uncle Big Bird came back, Scarlett's twin sister messed with us, we got sent to Antarctica, we fought pizza boys, Oreo turned some dude into a tree, Mudstuffin got mixed up with some Seekers who, incidentally, kicked all of our asses, and we just took a cruise, had a social, and were almost on the worst reality TV show since 'The Simple Life.' Oh, and we got two new members, including Typho the Amazing Idiot Man-child, and Surfer Boy."

"Jo Surf," Jo Surf, who was thoroughly confused, said.

"Wow." Violet said.

"I've also joined," said Right Wing Man, from the back. Violet raised an eyebrow.

"We can do a full recap later," X-Raytor said, a little shaken by the mention of "Uncle Big Bird."

"Why not now?" Violet asked.

"Because we've got some stuff to do," X-Raytor said. "I'm calling a meeting. Now."

Violet looked at the others. "What happened to him?"

"I think he got neutered, personally," Pinzz said.

"Listen, I'm serious," X-Raytor said. "We've got some seriously bad stuff going down now."

"Like that Seppanen guy," Midnight Chatter said. "He's suing us, right?"

"Someone's suing us?" Violet asked. "Man, what have you guys been doing?"

"Squat," X-Raytor said. "Which is the problem."

"How much is he suing us for?" Violet asked.

"Eighty thousand," Rosma said.

"That doesn't sound like too much."

"I think he figures that that's all he can get. Though, he could probably get a bit more... anyway, it isn't really about the money. This guy's dad got killed around a place where we patrol a lot, and we were on a cruise at the time. So he's suing us for neglect, I think."

"Wait, you guys were on a cruise?" Violet asked.

"In the Justice Yacht," Raven said.

"We have a yacht?!"

"I say, who cares about the lawsuit?" Pinzz asked. "Just send in MC. He got Scarlett out of that one trial, right? Just have him talk for a few hours, until the judge and the jury can't take it anymore."

"I don't think we should dodge this one," X-Raytor said quietly. "I- I think we should pay."

Pinzz looked at him incredulously. "You just want to pay this guy? Why? We don't owe him anything."

"Well, it just seems like it's kind of our fault," X-Raytor said.

"F*** that." Pinzz said.

"I think what Pinzz means is, there's no way to prove that it wouldn't have happened if we were here," Crystal Freeze said. "I mean, how do we know that we would have been outside that store at the exact moment that it happened?"

"That doesn't matter, though," X-Raytor said. "Bottom line is, we're supposed to be protecting this city, and we left it to go on a cruise. And while we were off partying and all, some guy got killed. We might be able to win in court, but I don't see how we're right, here."

"Who cares?!" Pinzz demanded. "There is no reason why we should pay for this! Not like it's going to bring that dude back."

"That's not what it's about," X-Raytor said. "It's about punishing us, pretty much. And, well, I guess that the money will be put to some good use. Listen, I don't know about you guys, but when something is my fault… then, like, the only one who can really fix it is me, you know? So I think that when something's our fault, we should be the ones who take responsibility."

"Heavy," Jo Surf said.

"Yeah, you know what," Rosma said. "We'll pay. We've got enough money from me and Oreo, and the merchandise and all. Everybody okay with that?"

Pinzz didn't say anything. Everyone else nodded.

"When we have to meet with him and his lawyer, we can make the deal," Rosma told X-Raytor.

"I wish there was more we could do," X-Raytor said.

"Well, there is," Scarlett said. "We can do our jobs."

"Sounds good," X-Raytor said.

After a pause, Violet said, "Wow. I am really, really lost."

"Okay, come on, we'll fill you in over some dinner," Oreo said.

"Where do you think Iso went?" Violet asked.

X-Raytor resisted the urge to say, "To wax his katana, if you know what I mean."

"Probably off brooding somewhere," Pinzz said.

Violet nodded.

"Nice tongue tango there, by the way," X-Raytor said. He probably would have felt slightly jealous, if not for the relative shock of seeing Violet alive.

"Good to see you haven't changed too much, X-y," Violet said.

Beneath his mask, X-Raytor grimaced.

***

Later that night, Rosma knocked on Oreo's door and, without waiting for an answer, went inside. She was carrying a plate of chocolate chip cookies. Oreo was already in bed, reading something, but she put it down when Rosma came in.

"At least you knocked," she complained.

Rosma didn't seem to notice. "Want a cookie? I don't know who made these, but they're really good."

"Actually, no. I was just going to bed. I haven't had a full night's sleep since before the social."

"You didn't sleep any before all the crazy stuff happened? That was what? Four? Five in the morning?"

"No, I didn't sleep any! I wasn't going in Eric's cabin. You know he snores. And his neon pink bunny slippers scare me."

"But why would you have to go in Eric's.......oh."

"Yeah, oh. Rosma, you need a signal or something. Tape an Oreo to the door next time! I mean, seeing that once in my life was too much, and now I've seen it twice!"

"Sorry."

"You should be." Oreo grumbled, fluffing her pillows behind her.

Rosma narrowed her eyes. "No. Wait. I'm not sorry. And no, I shouldn't be. I mean, just because you're having trouble finding a boyfriend doesn't mean I can't have a good time."

Oreo turned back around. "Get out of my room. I'm tired."

"Well, fine! Goodnight!" Rosma flung the door open.

"Goodnight!" Oreo yelled after her, as the door slammed.

Out in the hallway, Rosma almost ran into X-Raytor. She glared at him, but he didn't seem to be guilty. Maybe he was just walking by and not eavesdropping. But you never could tell sometimes.

"Um...hi?" he said.

"What did you hear?" Rosma demanded.

"I heard the door slamming. What's your problem? And don't tell me the two of you are fighting. Do I need to make another speech?"

"No," she sighed. "You don't need to give us a speech. We'll get over it."

"Good," he looked down the hall, towards the safety of his room. Unfortunately, Rosma was in the way and she didn't seem to be moving. She looked at him expectantly, almost as if she wanted him to ask the question. "So...what are you fighting about?"

Rosma hesitated, and then shrugged. "I'm sure you'll hear about it eventually, if you haven't already."

She leaned in closer and whispered something.

"What?!" he shouted. "Again?"

"Yes, yes, again. But don't let it get around to too many people." Rosma nodded, and then seemed to remember something. Without so much as a goodnight, she handed him the cookies and walked off in the direction of her own room.

X-Raytor stared at the empty hallway and then at the plate in his hand. "What is going on in this house?"

***

Absently, Violet made her way to her room. She had finally convinced her friends that she was well enough to move around the mansion on her own, and she was glad of it. Violet needed some time to think.

Hah. Since when. She laughed cruelly at herself. I never think. I’m such an idiot. He-it was a fluke. He was just-F-ck it.

Violet covered her mouth. Realizing she hadn’t actually cursed out loud, she let her hands drop. One reached out to open her bedroom door.

“Excuse me?” Violet looked into the room, finding a boy sitting at her desk patting away at a keyboard. He looked up, confused. Violet’s eyes fell. “Sorry,” she muttered and turned around.

I might as well. I did before. He won’t be there, anyway. He never was.

Violet made her way to the other end of the corridor. She walked into Iso’s room and found a shirt and a pair of slacks. Slipping into them, she laughed at how little she felt like a superhero. I’m Ophelia, and he’s Hamlet. Only Ophelia never came back. And perhaps it was better that way. She didn’t have to see him d-

Violet pulled the covers over her head. They listed my weakness as “hot men” once. A tabloid profiled me-it said-it said a lot of things. But my weakness, it was never really that, not really. I think, maybe, I used that as-it was him, really. It always was. He knows me more tha-he’d never say it. I only wish I knew why.

Violet’s sleep that night was plagued with nightmares.

***

He had fought armed professionals and thugs alike. He had cut through entire mobs of organized criminals. He had faced dangerous, psychotic villains. He had even gone head to head with unimaginable monstrosities such as the Seekers. Even when death seemed inevitable, he remained without an inkling of fear, doubt, or hesitation. He was an instrument of cold, calculated precision.

So why was it that this small, comparatively fragile young woman had left him so shaken?

The air around Isomorphix whipped by, throwing back his long black hair into the breeze. The wind had a similar effect on his trenchcoat, the fabric fluttering about and behind him. Everything was a blur of greens, browns, and black as Iso sped through a narrow, woodland road on the Moped of Justice. He clutched the handles tightly, his grip rigid. It was all he could do to keep his hands from trembling.

This was ridiculous! He was a warrior. A man who had vowed to live and, if necessary, to die by the sword. Such behavior was unbecoming of him. Not in a hundred lifetimes would he have let slip what he did only a few hours before.

But I kissed her!

There were some times when, despite his icy and apathetic personality, women had shown an interest in him. Half the time he didn’t even notice. The other half, he could have given less of a damn. The cold shoulder was almost second nature to him.

But this time, not only had he let Violet kiss him, he had kissed her back.

Why? Had he lost his mind?

Relationships were useless wastes of time and more often than not resulted in the decadence of one’s honor and dignity. As for love… even if love could ever be accomplished, it was not a thing for his kind.

In a world where evil thrived… a world full of deception, ruthlessness, and cruelty… a world where one swam through pools of their enemies’ blood… a world where the only law was that of survival - in such a world where Isomorphix dwelled, to love was to be weak. And to be weak was to die.

It was unacceptable. He could not care for her! He did not care for her! Yet, as much as he would have liked to plead temporary insanity, somewhere in the deep recesses of his mind Iso knew something was different than before. It was the same thing he had felt when he had kissed Violet, when all of his thoughts had been shunted aside. It was probably the same thing the Jinni saw in him while smiling in that smug, knowing way.

Curse you, you deceiving apparition. I cannot. I will not.

It was the same thing as… the same thing as… as…

Iso’s thoughts began to wander to a time and place long forgotten, the vestiges of a broken memory threatening to bubble to the surface of his consciousness.

Never again…

The median strip blazed by in a flurry of yellow, outlined brightly against the asphalt. He had no clue where he was going. It didn’t matter. He just had to get away from her.

***

Ari ran into Eric in the hallway. "Gah!"

"Gah!" He said. "Watch where you're going; delicate equipment coming through."

"Uh....sure.." Ari nodded, backing away. "Hey, have you seen Typho anywhere?"

"Nope. Of course, I don't see anyone very often. I think my superpower overwhelms them."

"Riiiiight. Well. I'll just be getting out of your way here-" She sidestepped Eric and squeezed past him.

The appearance of Violet Princess had caused a weird calm to wash over everyone- or so it seemed. It was like, after the whole Yacht incident, no one was surprised anymore. Then again, lack of sleep, punch, and Evil TV Producers will do that to you. Or maybe it was just her- but seeing Violet just wasn't as big a shock as it probably should have been. And now she couldn't find Typho, which was weird. She decided to see how Jo Surfer was settling in to the Hall.

He was scrounging through the fridge, which was basically empty or filled with weird, nearly-alive spoiled food. "Yo, check out this bodacious casserole!" He shoved a bowl in her face.

Ari gasped, and pushed it away. "I think that started off as soup." She made a face when Jo tried it with a spoon.

"Mmmm. Gnarly cooking," He said, nodding. "Well, catch ya later, I'm going to watch some TiVo- I saw one in that room near the other one with the thing."

"Uh...sure!" Ari said, amazed the casserole of doom hadn't killed him yet. Maybe it was a slow-acting toxin. "Yeah. TiVo. I'm going to go..catch some Z's. Right. Well."

Jo wandered off, and Ari decided the best thing to do was to take a nap. Or something. She headed off to her own room.

***

She was alone. Terribly alone. It was dark out, save the light of the stars. Violet was floating in the inky blackness.

Flash

A figure, tall and muscular. His back arched in pain as lightning tore through his body. His eyes were black. No. They were the stars. And he was gone.

Violet was on the ground. It was cold and wet. She felt heat behind her. Turning around, Violet was overcome by noise. Screams. Shouts. Machine gunfire ricocheted off the walls. Off her mind. She covered her ears, but it was no use. She was in the middle of a desperate struggle.

Violet hugged the ground. Her eyes were red from the smoke of the fire. Her throat was dry. She wanted so badly to cry, but-no. She couldn’t cry here.

Find a place to hide. A body fell down beside her. It was a little girl. Her eyes were open. So was the rest of her body. Violet felt herself throw up, her throat burned from the sour bile. She was disgusted with herself. Coward.

Thick material! It was stained with blood. Violet crawled beneath it. The sounds dimmed. Shouting, commands, cries. Violet pushed herself against the wall and hugged her knees to her chest. She was breathing too loud. They’d hear her.

Through the material, dim shadows. Men running. More gunfire. Buildings exploded in flame. People screamed from inside them. Soldiers traversed the road. Waves of choking sobs wracked Violet’s body.

Footsteps. She covered her mouth. A man’s voice shouted something in a language she couldn’t understand. Violet slid against the wall back to the curtain. She pressed her face against the hardwood and peered through a crack. She saw the piles of bodies in the streets. Their mouths gaped at her, silently crying in her mind. Violet turned away.

Something tugged on her shirt. It pulled her from behind the curtain. She tried to get away but-the hand was too strong. She was tugged to her feet. The faceless soldier laughed and pushed her roughly against the wall. Violet tried to scream, but he grabbed her by her cheeks with his calloused hand.

A snap. Violet felt her jaw break. The soldier held a gun to her head. His faceless head grinned.


Violet woke up on the floor. She scrambled up and banged her head on the edge of the cot. Crying, she lay back down on the floor and covered her eyes with her hands.

She heard footsteps outside the room and forced herself to get up. Two knocks.

“They told me to come get you. It’s getting late.”

“I’m-I’m coming!” Violet pushed her hair back into a ponytail and wiped her cheeks. She opened the door to find Raven waiting for her.

“You look like crap.”

Violet bit her lip. She needed a lie. “I had coffee before I went to bed, I didn’t sleep very well. Guess I learned my lesson?” She forced herself to laugh. Raven looked strangely at her.

“Are you coming to breakfast?”

“Yea.” She followed Raven down the corridor. “I kinda need my stuff, if it’s still here. I can’t very well wear men’s clothes.”

“Um, ask Scarlett. I don’t really know what we did with it.”

“Yea, okay.”

***

"Radical digs," Jo thought aloud as he wandered around acquainting himself with the Hall of Justice. Certain parts were still under heavy reconstruction, but even with large chunks of it gone or still just in dry wall, he could see how awesome it had been prior to that last battle. The Justice Leaguers seemed to have it pretty good...or had. What could they have fought for so much rebuilding to be needed?

And that X-Raytor dude had been complaining about the workers stealing his "collection" again, so this wasn't the first time, either.

Jo began to wonder just what he had let Hamlet talk him into.

******One Month Ago******

"Briing! Briiing!"

Jo opened his eyes, hazy from sleep. Where was the phone? He noticed the nightlight plugged into the wall, still shining.

"Briiing! Briiiing!"

Ah, right. The phone was on the other nightstand. Jo started to roll over onto the other side of the bed, but was stopped by the body sleeping next to him.

Had...yeah. Brown hair, highlights, so that meant...Jean. Or Jaime. Maybe Taylor. It didn't matter. He reached over whoever it was and took the phone, then got up from the bed. Walking into the kitchen, he shut the bedroom door softly behind him.

"Hello?"

"Mrow."

"Hamlet! Dude, I haven't heard from you aside from the RPGs since that Nile River crazyness back in '99! What's hanging?"

"Meeow."

"You're kidding. All that? And you're tracking who?"

"Meoow."

"You want me to do what, dude? And Scarlett?"

"Meow."

"I know I don't have anything better to do, but the Justice League? They get into some gnarly stuff. Haven't you seen the news?"

"Mrow."

"I'll do it man, you can count on me, but keep your money. I--just help me find Lylah. I need her, dude," he said, glancing at the bedroom door.

"Meooow?"

"She's...she's the only one who can save me from this. You know."

There was a pause. "So yeah, Hamlet dude. I'll do it."

******Now, Somewhere in Europe******

Hamlet knew he was close. Maybe less that a week behind, if that concierge had really described Horatio to him. Everything was starting to fall into place. Saph had checked out of the hotel he was staying in only a few days agos. He would find her, and force her to tell him how to find Ewan. It would be easy after that, and when things were taken care of, he'd find that Lylah girl who had broken Jo's heart and driven him to...what he had been before Hamlet convinced him to join the Justice League and watch over Scarlett.

Not that Scarlett couldn't take care of herself. There were just those rare times when her emotions took over...and from what he'd seen on TV about the Justice League's recent endeavors, Hamlet felt better knoing someone else would be looking out for her. Jo would keep her mind off of the Midnight Chatter ordeal.

It would be good for Jo, too.

Hamlet just hoped that considering the past year, he wasn't making things worse. And something irked him about that girl's name, but he couldn't quite put a claw on what the problem was...

*******At the Hall of Justice******

"Scarlett?" The door to the Justice League Walk-In Closet opened slightly.

Scarlett turned from the window she had been looking out of.

"Violet?"

"I..." Violet hesitated.

"You look...are those the same clothes from yesterday?"

"Well, yeah. But Raven said you know where my stuff is?"

Scarlett shook her head. "I wasn't here after..." she looked back at Violet.

"After...?" Violet trailed off.

That was when Scarlett realized it. "Oh. You don't know, do you?"

"Know what?"

Scarlett looked down at her feet. She would actually have to say it aloud to someone. "Before the Oscars, I..." she swallowed. "I killed myself."

"What?"

"It wasn’t really me, though,” Scarlett laughed. "They...the bad guys, I guess, they captured me. And had my twin sister pretend to kill herself."

Violet stared back at Scarlett, who kept talking to fill the silence.

"I guess they thought if I was going to kill myself I was beyond caring what happened to ya'll...but they had their cause and effect a little messed up there." Scarlett smiled faintly. "Everyone but Hamlet thought I was dead," she said, turning away.

She turned back around after taking a couple of seconds to compose herself. "It's a little different for you, Violet. But I know what it's like to come back from the dead."

Silence as they both thought over what she'd said. Finally, Scarlett spoke up again. "I bet your stuff is around where they put my stuff up in the Garret of Justice. Come on. I'll show you."