JUSTICE LEAGUE

48

Unexpected Meetings
 

They had stopped. The nightmares. Scarlet had found her crying in the corner of Iso's old room, ravaged by another dream. Only days after the incident in Chinatown. Without speaking, she grabbed Violet by the arm and dragged her from the room. "It's unhealthy," she said. "You're moving in with me." And the nightmares stopped.

Iso's room was stripped. His stuff packed away. One of the new kids would use it. They didn't know where he was. When he'd come back. It used to hurt. But Violet stopped worrying. He was a big boy. He could take care of himself. It wasn't her fault. Damnit! It wasn't her fault!

The nightmares stopped. But why did it still haunt her?

"Scarlet--" Violet glanced around the bedroom. An old Animorphs book, the spine ribbed with white lines, lie on the bed. Scarlet was nowhere in sight.

"Nevermind..." she mumbled to no one in particular. She took the book and stuck it back on the shelf with its brothers. Fearing the wrath of her friend, she thought the better and put it back on Scarlet's bed before leaving the room to head to the kitchen for something to eat. Last night's escapade had left her exhausted, and she had missed breakfast.

"Pinzz," Violet said as she entered the rec room. "How old is the pizza in the fridge?"

"It's from lunch," Pinzz answered-- which was much more than Violet expected.

"Are you okay?"

Pinzz laughed, shutting down the laptop she was using. "So asks the girl who's been moping around for months and freaking out at stuff only she sees..."

"Thanks, Pinzz."

"Happy to be of service. There's a list of phone messages, by the way. The answering machine is blinking like crazy."

***

Ari sat on the singed (and slightly damp) couch, attempting to read a book, but unable to do so because Midnight Chatter was ALSO on the sofa, and was attempting to talk to her. Ari had yet to figure out what the topic of discussion was.

"So yeah, then Auron's like "This is your story now!" and like, he disappears because Yuna sends him, and then Tidus is like, "Yeah, my story!" and then it shows Sin blowing up and like all the aeons are disappearing because Yuna destroyed them, and so then it shows all the peoples of Spira rejoicing and it's pretty cool, although I must admit I had some tears in my eyes at the end there, when Tidus just disappears and leaves Yuna, I mean, even after all the credits there's just that little teaser, and so really, I dunno, I guess I'l-"

"Um, MC? Could you please, um, be quiet? I've just gotten to the climax, and I'd really appreciate it if.."

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt you. Man, don't you just hate it when you're trying to concentrate on something and people just keep bugging you for no reason when normally you could be in dire need of some help and there's no one around to bug you except when you don't want to be bugged? I just hate it, it's one of the worst things ever, you're just minding your own business and someone just ruins your whole day by interrupting you over and over and over and just when you think you can get back to what you were doing they interrupt you again!"

"Yes, exactly!" Ari said, a little vehemently. Midnight fell silent for a minute or two.

"So whatever happened to Fred, anyway? I mean like, it looked he possessed that one guy but you never know with him, do you? Kinda strange, when you think about it, huh?”

"I don't know," Ari sighed, resolving herself to her fate and dropping her book, after marking her page. "I guess....if something were wrong, we'd hear about it. No news is good news, right?"

Midnight shrugged, and Ari, took the opportunity to escape. "Well, you know, I'm kind of tired, what with that whole thing with Violet, and all, so, um, I'm going to uh, take a nap. Or wash my hair, or something. See-ya!" She scrambled away, and Midnight raised an eyebrow. He opened his mouth to say more, but fortunately she was already safe in her room.

Despite telling Midnight she was tired, Ari really wasn't- she sat on her bed, reading her book, feeling a bit, well, restless. There weren't really any major crimes going on lately- just small time stuff, it seemed. And everyone was coming and going all the time. Ari wished she could feel more at ease. Why did everything have to be so melodramatic and extreme? That must be the penalty of having super-neato powers and cool gadgets, Ari decided- having to put up with constant drama and unpleasantness.

Speaking of unpleasantness....

She wondered how George was...then as quickly as possibly shoved him from her mind. After all, the way he had behaved, well... it just...it wasn't......

"Fair?"

Ari almost jumped off the bed, in a spectacular reflex motion where she flipped at least twice and then collapsed in a heap. She looked around, expecting...

There was no one there.

Except, she could feel something there, almost feel a hand at the back of her neck, something whispered almost in her ear....

She shuddered, and retrieved her book from where it had landed. After resetlling herself on the bed, she drew a blanket about herself, and tried to calm down.

Jackson crouched to the ground, and edged slowly towards the corner. He flattened himself against the wall, and ducked his head out to see. There was no one there, despite the itching at the back of his neck that he felt. No one, but suddenly, he realized...

"She realized she was not alone..."

Ari almost screamed. Her left arm was reaching for her throat, by its own will. It must've been ridiculous, to see her grappling with herself, entangled in a blanket and beating one arm with a paperback book.

She heard a deep, echoing laugh for a moment, then it was gone. Just as suddenly as it had started, her arm dropped back to her side, no longer a malevolent force bent on her own destruction...Leaving Ari to wonder what in the heck had just happened to her.

***

Jo walked carefully down the well-kept streets of the northern end of the City; evil could be lurking at any corner! Or maybe not. Regardless, he sucked at nighthawking (the flashlight always seemed to give him away), so he would do his best dayhawking. Eventually he might even stop a crime. Or at least see one.

“Dude, worse stuff went on in Dixie than goes on at this end of the City,” Jo said as he kicked a tiny piece of gravel that had somehow made its way onto the sidewalk. “I could be saving people from shark attacks or sandbars or something.” He kept on walking, still alert.

“Gaaaaaahn…” Jo’s ears picked up a sound from the alley across the street, and he took off towards it. “Gaaaah. Nuuh.” A figure in blue at the far end of the alley was sprawled on the ground. He rushed to help.

“You okay, Miss?” She was blond, dressed entirely in blue.

“I’m...gah. Not okay. I think she-I-cracked a rib,” she said, touching her side gingerly.

“What happened? Dude, did someone do this to you?”

“No, I just felt like smacking myself around so I could hang out with Noah Wyle in the E.R.” She looked up at him, smiling just for a second before her face contorted in mix of recognition and alarm at seeing the surfboard. She looked away. “I’ll be okay,” she said, standing quickly, her hand half-covering her face.

“I’ll take you to the hospital,” Jo offered. “You should file a report or something.”

“No,” she said, walking away. “I’ll be like new with a little time. It won’t happen like this again.”

That voice. Her voice was…Jo started walking after her. “Are you sure you’re okay? You should probably see a doctor.”

She hurried her pace. “Leave me alone. I’m fine.”

“But-“ Those shoes. He knew those shoes. She was almost running now, running with a slight limp from the now missing left heel.

“You’re with that crazy group of superheroes. Come one step closer and I’ll scream for the cops.”

It was her. When had she dyed her hair? “Lylah!”

She stopped for a second, turning slightly. “Don’t follow me, Jo.”

She ran out of the alleyway. Jo dropped Barbara Ann and ran after Lylah as fast as he could. He stepped out of the alley, sunlight flooding his vision until he cast some clouds over it, but it was no use; the only thing in sight was a single bluejay perched on a nearby dogwood.

***

Ari wandered outside, after recovering from the Book of Death attack. Lo and behold it was nice out. For once. And nothing evil was happening. How amazing. Is that. Pretty darn.

She didn't see Fred Jr. around anywhere, but that was okay, there were several nice outdoor chairs littered around that would do instead of a llama. Picking an ugly painted green one, she walked over to it.

Flopping down in the chair, Ari decided it was almost unnaturally comfortable. Usually plastic chairs were horribly shaped so that no matter what you did there was that one itchy part in the small of your back and there was nothing you could do it short of diving off and delivering a swift karate chop. Since this was not the case, Ari began to drift off into a nice sleep.

All the sudden she heard a rapping, tapping noise, outside her chamber door.

Wait a second. I don't have a chamber door. I'm OUTSIDE! Ari told the narrator.

FINE THEN! *cough*

All the sudden she heard the annoying cheeping and twittering of small birds above her head.

"Gah!" Ari cried, starting awake. "CHEEEEEEE- oh. Uh." She began to laugh, albeit a bit uncertainly. "Must've just been that dream again."

She settled back down into a comfy position, and half-closed her eyes. There was an evil, deep laugh by her ear. Her eyes popped open.

No one was there.

"Okay, okay. You can come out of hiding now. Haha very funny you got me." Ari called, suspecting a Justice League member of her continuing discomfort.

"Er... Hello?" Ari asked, sitting up. "Anybody?"

And of course, the risk of saying such things are that someone might answer.

"No! Of course not!" Said a Voice. It was the type of voice that just by hearing it, it was a Voice. Too deep to be anything remotely human, it seemed to vibrate Ari's very bones, the way an insanely loud R&B hit would.

Ari stood, posed to high-tail it outta there, when a tap on her shoulder caused her to panic, entangle herself, and fall over. Wincing, she began inventory of all the main body parts when a shadow fell over her.

"It's about time you bowed to me, Slave." A very familiar Voice said. Ari looked up. "This kind of respect is why I bother keeping you around."

"Oh! Um. Fred! Well...er.." Ari stuttered. "What..brings...you...here......Again..."

"Business, Slave. I've decided to grace you with my magnificent presence for a while longer. There are...ends to be met.."

"Er. Yes. Ends...met...umm.. Well! It seems you don't need me anymore, manifesting yourself physically as you are without a host right now. So I'll just be goin-" Ari stumbled up to her feet.

"NOT SO FAST!" Fred said, in a very definite VOICE. Ari froze, and smiled nervously, looking for an escape route. "I'd hate to use all my energy I've managed to regain just by manifesting myself. No, I think a more....covert operation is called for. Yes...something.....surreptitious."

"Well, you're, the, um, evil…mastermind......" Ari said. "I, uh, expect you know what you're doing."

Fred smiled, slowly. It made what flowers the JL had wither, and the annoying chirping birds were suddenly very dead birds. "Yes. I expect I do know. Come here, Slave." He held out a dark, almost clawed hand. Ari took it, after hesitating for a moment. The hand snapped shut, like a vise. "You will obey me, Slave. This isn’t a girl scout trip. You’re to fulfill MY agenda, not yours. Understand?" Fred spoke softly into her ear. "I won't tolerate failure this time. Understand?"

Ari whimpered, nodding her head. Fred released her, and smiled again. This was a more friendly smile, looking past the fact it was coming from a demon bent on world domination. "Good. We...understand...each other, I hope." His eyes glinted in a way that meant, roughly, the opposite. "Excellent. Well, Slave,-" He clapped a clawed hand on her back, almost knocking her over, "-it's good to be back...Now. Down to business." Ari remembered those words, from the first time, and almost shuddered. Almost.

It was the easy, painful part. She held out her hands. Fred clasped them with his own. His fingers stretched, it seemed, until they went up her arms. Ari held her breath, to keep from shouting. He seemed to melt up, into his fingers, until nothing was left, into her. And then it happened a second time- in reverse, until he was standing before her, clasping her hands with a bone-breaking grip again.

“That wasn’t too hard, now was it, Slave?” He said, upon noticing her pain, and releasing her. She shook her head. It wasn’t hard. It just hurt like hell. “Well! Time to begin Phase One: Surveillance!”

"Umm.. Fred..." Ari began, tentatively. "Where...er...why did you...come back..?"

Fred snorted derisively and dismissed the question with a wave of his black, clawed hand. "I got what I wanted from him. I decided the best way to reach my goals was somewhere a little less...noticeable."

"Oh..." Ari bit her lip. She wondered exactly what his "goals" were. Knowing Fred......She began to doubt the entire thing altogether.

He seemed to sense her doubt, and put a hand on her shoulder. "This time, Slave, try to stopper that fountain of incompetence you possess." Ari attempted to wriggle out of his grip, but he held tight. "I might actually have reason to reward you, then..."

***

“Hamlet, Surprisingly Wise Black Leopard of the Far Southeastern Lands of Dixie, the chief, may arrows always miss him and strike his enemies, is here to see you,” said Quixote, Chief Neal From the Distant Seven Eleven Convenience Stores’s attendant.

Seconds later, Chief Neal walked into the tent. Hamlet continued to blow up the balloons for the surprise attack on the Musseronges.

“I see all is in order, Hamlet,” Chief Neal said, looking around at all the preparations. “The Musseronges won’t know what hit them.”

Hamlet meowed.

“I know, it’s a drastic plan.” He sighed. “But it’s the only plan I could come up with.”

“Meow,” Hamlet said, the last ballon done.

“Yes. I’ll give Chieftan Tim your regards. But you will be greatly missed, as your firey friend has been.”

“Myow.”

“The Azande tribe looks forward to the return of the Splendidly Garbed L’or I of the Remote Southern Countryside of Dixie.”

“Meow.” With that, Hamlet left the Azande Chief Neal to his surprise birthday party preparations. He had learned much, but none of it useful at this time. Though he was certain that the tip on oil futures would come in handy if he could get to Wall Street before the next Beanie Baby craze.

Of course, that bastard Ewan McGregor had left the area before Hamlet could get at him. Off shooting some movie with that sad excuse for a Catwoman.

And then, a brilliant idea came to him.

He would teach them.

They would both pay.

“MEOWHOWOWHOWH!!!” he laughed to himself.

***

Violet stood in the center of the field behind the Justice League Hall. It was warm out, but not humid. Jo had made sure the weather would be perfect. Scarlett stood beside Violet. She wore a beautiful red dress, as did Oreo and Rosma. After all, Scarlet had helped make the preparations.

Violet, she wore a white dress. It was simple and elegant-like her mother’s. Violet had even found a piece of jewelry that used to belong to her mother. An amethyst charm she wore on a gold chain around her neck.

Isomorphix looked handsome, cleaned up, happy. All the Justice League men did. Pinzz had even managed to wrestle Eric into a suit, although he had already unbuttoned his collar and lost the bowtie.

White lawn chairs were set up, flourished with white crepe paper and pink roses. They were occupied by fellow heroes and friends. It had been decided the ceremony would be small.

Violet turned her eyes back to Iso, and then to the Justice of the Peace. His lips moved rapidly, though no sound came out. But Violet understood. He closed the book in his hands and smiled at the young couple. Soundlessly, Iso lifted the veil from Violet’s face and…

Snorted with laughter.

Violet whirled around and the picturesque scene vanished from view. She was back in the room she shared with Scarlet, and her wedding gown now a black skirt and lavender blouse.

X-Y continued to laugh as he sat down on Violet’s bed, whooping with glee.

“What did you see?” she pressed. She felt her cheeks go pink.

“How long until…you were going to fantasize…the honeymoon!” he spurted. Violet’s cheeks were quickly changing from pink to red.

“How dare you!” she yelled.

“What? Come on, Violet, you really think you’re going to marry Iso?”

Violet didn’t answer. She wiped her eyes roughly with the palm of her hand.

“He’s gone. He’s been gone for months. And it’s not like you ever had a relationship with him, anyway.”

“How would you know?” Violet asked, daring him to answer. Then, more softly, “At least he wasn’t trying to get in my pants every few minutes.” She glared at X-Y as she spoke. He seemed taken aback.

“Yea, well, at least some of us cared enough to try!”

“That made no sense, X-Y,” Violet huffed. “Why are you here, anyway?”

“I was just checking on you,” the hero said with an apathetic shrug. Then he stood up and exited the room. Violet sat down sulkily in the spot where he had been, her cheeks still pink with embarrassment. Suddenly, X-Y called over his shoulder, "Just remember: if you want me for the bachelorette party, I've got hourly rates."

Violet hit him in the back with a pillow.

***

Violet looked up from her still-unfinished picture. A dark figure stared at her from the darkest corner of the bedroom she and Scarlett shared. A brooding figure.

“Iso!”

“Yes.” He placed a finger over her lips. Spoken words would only cheapen the interaction between these two superheroes--they made the mind dull and the subdued the spirit. Conversation was a waste of time. He turned on his portable boombox. The rich, mellow voice of Bob Marley filled the room, encompassing them both.

Iso took Violet’s hands in his. Brought one to his shoulder, and clasped the other around his waist. He rested his head against Violet, and they stepped ever so slowly in a flawless box step.

As the music faded, Iso lifted his head from Violet’s shoulder. The next song began to play. A much more upbeat song.

“They’re making a movie of this song, you know,” Violet commented.

“We can go see it,” Iso replied, drawing her closer for a bump and grind.

“Iso, your katana,” Violet said, feeling something brush against her, and then she noticed a familiar sword gleaming in the darkest corner of the room. “Happy to see me again?”

Iso smiled, anticipating the scenery change approaching quickly. Violet kissed him, and suddenly they were in an ocean, two new fixtures in a colorful coral reef. Schools of silvery fish swirled around them, all oxygen gone save for that exchanged between them, and bubbles of escaping air floated to the sunny surface above. A sea serpent pushed into Violet’s hip, but was thwarted by the folds of violet fabric clothing her.

They parted for a second and were back in the bedroom; as Violet fumbled to lock the door, they kissed again, and now they were suspended on a rickety bridge above a vast volcano steaming with fiery lava. Iso was sweating underneath his leather wardrobe, and began shucking it off, throwing it to burn forever in the sizzling depths below. Violet began to help him, and soon the lava had claimed all of his garments.

A rush of hot air billowed the skirts of Violet’s dress. She reached to sacrifice her dress to the volcano as well, but they withdrew from each other as she did so, and they were back in the bedroom again. Iso pulled Violet into the corner with him, and she grasped hold of his katana, careful not to stab herself with it.

“I didn’t know it was so…small,” she said, studying it. “Isn’t it more like a dagger?”

“It’s always been sufficient to handle the men I find myself up against.” He leaned in to kiss her again, anxious to see where they would find themselves next when there was a pounding on the door.

“Violet! What’d you lock the door for?”

“Scarlett!”

“I need to get in there!” there was a clicking sound on the lock. Scarlett was picking it.

“F*ck!”

“That’s what we almost did, yes,” Iso commented.

“No, she’s coming in!” Just then, the door swung wide, revealing Scarlett and a short Hispanic guy.

“Violet! What are you doing with Iso!? Violet!”

“Violet!” Violet felt herself being shaken. She opened her eyes.

“Scarlett? What the…”

“You were having another nightmare. Are you okay? You kept moaning like you were in pain.” Scarlett looked worried.

Violet glanced over at the corner. Empty. Of course. “I’m fine. Don’t worry about me.”

“Okay,” Scarlett said, getting back into her bed. “G’night, Violet.”

“Goodnight, Scarlett.”

***

Mattias surged forward, exulting in his newfound Jetta and the distinct lack of traffic cops at this wee hour. Oh, Fate, you rapscallion. That you would so perfidiously set me up for such pleasures.

Naughty girl,
he added to that thought, revving the engine straightway through another red light, and the grammatical ambiguity tickled him: the car or the concept? Normally he’d say ‘concept’, but here in this black, purring metal hunk was physical embodiment of concept as well. Mmm. Concept with embodiment. Exultation with duty - he had to speed to get there in time. Even the lack of music - heavens perish at the alternative - couldn’t proscribe his sense of rest. Rest, and revving, there’s a couplet.

Plus, it simply hadn’t been the best day for him. Catharsis is good for any man at rage, inner or outer.

First off was porn and secret rituals: how could that go wrong? Well, first off, they had voted down his cinema suggestion, on the basis that they had done the “lesbians in the old west” theme last time. His protestations that Sisters was a classic were to no avail. And while the choix d’noir - NASCAR meets Roman Gladiators meets Dirk’s Dick - was quite appealing in concept, it lacked in Embodiment.

So to speak.

Disappointing bonding rituals accomplished, he then had his extra-League activities to pursue. Properly notifying the cellarer months ahead of time - could he help that it was he? - did nothing to prevent this conversation:

“I’m going out for that appearance type thing at the BC04 rally. See you in a few days.”

“You’re appearing at official campaign events?!?”

“No, I’m really a guest speaker at the Islamic Theology Conference in Portland. Don’t tell anybody, or my reputation’ll be ruined!”

Yeesh. Stupid @#%$ing cow. The funniest thing he could think of is that she took it literally and tried to look up and phone an actual Islamic group in Portland in hopes of averting a massacre. Liberals are addicted to vicarious heroics of that sort. The next funniest thing he could think of would be him actually going to Portland and bashing a few terrorist skulls. That would have to play well with the Party, right? Yeah, his mug’d be plastered all over the news, one way or another. Liberal media would probably spin it as a “hate crime”, though…

But a real man is a man of his word. Of course, there’s the issue of the letter of the law versus its true spirit; but when he had said he’d appear at the rally, he’d said it man to man to Ed. Even if Gillespie was kind of effeminate.

Then, nuisance number two: his SUV was missing.

“Just wait ‘till it’s daylight and you ain’t camouflaged no more!” he yelled, but the bellowing wouldn’t frighten them into giving the car back. Bereft of semen and SUV, he was stranded, not for the first time in the last several months. Given the choice between violating the property rights of an upstanding member of society and taking a run down to their part of the city and taking one of their cars, he opted on the side of physical fitness.

So it was with considerable burden upon the super-strength of his legs and lungs that there was enough oxygen left in his brain when he reached downtown to take the proper mechanical precautions necessary to not setting off an alarm, and with considerable shortness of breath that he yelped out - oh, twice-contrariness! - “Yee-haw!” in an idiosyncratically Texan show of bravura.

So now, then - because he was a man of his word - on to Portland, because that’s where the rally, as Fate (saucy thing) would have it, actually was.

Fuck. He shouldn’a masturbated today, not if everything he’d overheard about these events from the local Party meetings were true. Oh, well, he’d fare okay. If eternal vigilance is the going rate for liberty, rebounding concupiscence is the reward for Godhood.

***

Fred had a goal. Oh, he had a goal, and a plan, and he was going to take over the world!!

For a few minutes he indulged himself in some menacingly evil laughter.

"What's got you so exicted?" Ari probed, looking around. She was hanging out in the Justice Hall's exercise room, so that they would be undisturbed. At least, she figured no one actually bothered with the training room. Except maybe RWM, or Jo.

"Nothing!" Fred answered quickly.

"Okay, spill. What're you planning?" She sat on a bench, and leaned against a weighted bar.

"What I'm planning, Slave, is my own business!" Fred huffed. He did that surprisingly well.

"I thought the whole point of us being here was that you wanted to tell me something of the utmost importance? And you didn't want any of the Justice do-gooders interfering, so you figured the best place to plot would be within their own halls?"

"Oh...right..." Fred remembered. "We-ll. It pretty much goes like this."

Ari's hand twitched, involuntarily. She frowned, puzzled.

"You see, Slave..." Fred said, his voice now serious, and increasingly cold, "I have come to the conclusion that...well, if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself."

"What're you getting at, Fred?"

"It's what you agreed to, remember, Slave? It wasn't that long ago since we made our bargain." Disdain filled his voice. "Or have you forgotten, so soon? You promised me some things..." His dark, shadowy form appeared in front of her, arms folded.

"Fred..." She asked hesitantly, now concerned. "What.."

"To give your will to me, your body to me, your mind to me...Everything to me..." He paused, letting his words sink in. "And that's a promise I intend to make you keep."

"No." Her voice shook as she understood what he was doing, sitting up, sliding away from him, off the bench, standing to her feet, growing hysterical. "You can't treat me like this!"

"Can't I?" His voice was hard, and she shook, eyes widening as her left hand clenched and unclenched. Her mouth twitched, against her will.

"I won't let you do this to me! I...the deal, the deal is off, Fred!" Ari pleaded, trembling.

"I'm afraid, my dear Slave, that you no longer have a choice. It's far, far too late to turn back now... Besides, you had a second chance...A second chance that made your desires quite apparent. Besides, you-" He chuckled again, quietly though, stepping towards her, what could be a hand, outstretched, "-wanted control when you first found me. And now, Slave, I'm giving it to you. All my control."

Pain gripped her, tore at her. She whimpered, and clutched her stomach. In her agony, Ari slid to the floor. Letting out a groan, she struggled to rise, but couldn't. She couldn't move, couldn't focus, couldn't... ....

She couldn't see Fred bend down and pick her up like a doll. Or see him....melt, drain, into herself. But she could feel it- feel herself shoved into a remote corner, discarded like a used napkin, or an empty condiment bottle. Her eyes, which had been glazed and fuzzy, suddenly burned.

Fred... Weakly, she struggled, mentally crying out.

"It's too late, Slave. You had your time of freedom...I gave you orders, and you failed me. This time, it will be different." Her body moved on his accord- standing, brushing itself off. Fred narrowed her...his....their eyes. "And this time I'll do it right."