by Starsky Hutch 76, Bejammin2000 and Philip-Todd Franklin
“Mary Louise Kent, you come down from there right now!” a panicked Lois Lane Kent shouted up to the toddler girl who sat at the peak of the farmhouse roof.
“No-o-o-o,” the stubborn girl said, her attention trained on the metal weathervane. “Birdy,” she said, pointing to the rooster.
“Yes, it’s a birdy, now come down from there!” Lois called helplessly. She wished her husband or adopted son were there to help get the child down. She could probably get a ladder and go up after her, but she’d be liable to jump down and run off, or worse, jump to the top of the barn where the whole mess would begin again.
“Birdy,” Mary repeated. “Chicken birdy.” She reached over and snapped the top of the weather vane off. “Bock bock bock,” she clucked in her best chicken imitation, perforating the roof with the broken piece of metal as she made the rooster dance across the surface.
Lois winced every time she heard the piece of weather vane hit the roof. It looked like Cal would be cleaning up after his sister again. “You just wait until your father gets home, young lady.” This did manage to get a concerned look from the child. “Come down right now!” Lois commanded.
“No-o-o-o…” Mary repeated stubbornly. A shadow suddenly cast over her, and she looked up expecting to see her father. When she saw that the owner was decidedly female, she squealed excitedly, “Auntie Kara!”
“Mary, are you giving your mother fits?” Power Girl asked.
“Chicken birdy,” Mary said, holding out the metal bird as if that explained everything.
“I see,” Power Girl said, taking the top of the weather vane from her. “Let’s put the chicken birdy back where it belongs for right now, though.” She held the piece in place and, with a quick burst of heat-vision, reattached it.
Seeing this, Mary strained to try to copy her second cousin. When no beams came forth from her eyes, she gave an aggravated groan.
“Someday, you’ll be able to do that,” she said smiling at the girl. “It takes practice.”
“Practice,” Mary said, as if trying on the word.
Power Girl picked up the girl, stepped off the roof, and floated to the ground.
“Thank you so much,” Lois said in relief as Power Girl sat the child down. She turned to her daughter and said, “What have I told you about going up there!” She raised her hand as if about to swat her on the butt and then thought better of it, remembering the child was half-Kryptonian.
“I guess Dick and I will be going through this someday,” Power Girl said. “If we’re lucky.”
“Yeah,” Lois said grinning. “If you’re lucky.” She lifted the child up and kissed her on the cheek. Mary looked both delighted and confused at this change of mood. Hadn’t she just been in trouble?
“Well, what do you think?” Helena Wayne asked her brother and soon-to-be sister-in-law. She and Bat Lash had gone to Wayne Manor to help with the wedding planning in any way they could, which was also a way to introduce Bat to ‘Lena’s family.
“He’s… well, he’s different. That’s for sure,” Dick Grayson said. Bat and Jason Todd were in the other room but within eyeshot. The two were playing a game of three card monte. There was some muffled cursing from Jason as he lost — again. He reached into his pocket and pulled out another dollar. And they played again.
“I know. He’s got some kinks that need to be hammered out, but he’s charming. And he means well, truth be told,” Helena replied.
“Hey, Dick. Can I borrow some money? I think I figured it all out.” Jason had made his way to Dick and Helena. Dick sighed and gave him a few dollars, just to watch Jason go back and lose it again.
“Means well? For who?” Dick asked, with a quirked eyebrow.
“Don’t give me that look.”
While the two siblings were talking, Bat took that moment to meet Karen Starr, Dick Grayson’s fiancée, after besting Jason in another game. “It’s nice to meet you, Miss Starr,” Bat greeted, taking her hand. “And, just between you and me, if the whole marriage doesn’t pan out, give me a call.”
The reply he got was a very painful squeeze to his hand, one that sent him to his knees. “You know, you have the most… interesting taste in men, Helena,” Karen said, joining Dick and Helena.
“Whatever he said, he didn’t mean it. He likes to jest,” Helena immediately replied, defending both her and Bat, who was quite visible as he was still kneeling on the floor, clutching his hand.
“I won’t be sitting near him tonight, though. He’s kinda creepy,” Karen stated.
“Once you get to know him, you’ll like him. Trust me,” Helena said. This was going to be harder than she realized.
At a small deserted island in the south sea, a few seagulls noisily fed upon fish on a beach of clear, clean, nearly white sand. The sounds of the waves calmly rushing onto the shore and the call of the birds were the only sounds to be heard for many miles around. Without warning, a small white portal began to form between two oddly shaped palm trees, scaring the animals within the area and sending them scouring for a place to hide. After a few moments, a tiny figure with little wings appeared from within the portal. He was young looking and wore what looked to be a cut-to-fit black and white tuxedo.
As the portal closed behind him, Melvin the fairy began to scan the area around himself, remembering the location of the two palm trees. “Ah, one of the more pristine of the many isles of Avalon,” he said to no one in particular as he quickly dug into one of his pockets and removed what looked like a tiny folded map.
After unfolding the map, Melvin quickly began to scan over it, and within seconds noticed a large land mass that was boldly marked on the map and then another tiny dot that was blinking in a soft white glow. “Marvelous. Simply marvelous handy little thing, this map,” he said as he noticed another little dot that blinked in black.
Quickly refolding the map, Melvin placed it back into his pocket and — giving one more look at the now-setting sun — his tiny fairy form disappeared in a flash of light, leaving the tiny island once more in silence.
On the outskirts of Gotham City, out in the countryside, resided many wealthy people, those whose influence was felt by nearly all who resided within the great city proper. One old manor house residing amongst a grove of large pine trees had sat long abandoned by the owners, and yet today a single black car rolled up the cracked and faded driveway.
Within the car sat the new owner of the manor, Melody Jones and her butler Winforth. Melody had long, dark red hair that framed her almost-angelic face and eyes that looked crystal blue. She wore a long black formal gown and short black high heels. She had been so completely engrossed with the most recent copy of the Gotham Gazette that she had paid nearly no attention to the many roads that her butler had been driving on.
Winforth wore the natural attire of a gentleman’s gentleman and fit the bill, except for the large scar that ran down the left side of his face, running from just above his eye to a point just short of his jaw line. It was from an incident long ago that had left him indebted to Ms. Jones and her family. He had known Ms. Jones since she was a teenager, and she had always been a much-spoiled brat who nearly always got her own way with anything, or so he thought as he drove toward the large manor, listening to a long string of cussing flowing from Melody.
“Why that unforgiving %*#& — that worthless excuse of a man! The nerve of him thinking that he should have the right to choose some worthless hussy over me!” Melody spouted, nearly crushing the paper within her hands into a ball.
Without taking his eyes from the road, Winforth inquired of his employer, “Is everything all right, Ms. Jones?”
“No, you dolt, everything most certainly is not all right. Who does he think he is?” she said as her face slowly began to turn the same shade of red as her hair.
“I might be of help, madam, if I was to know who ‘he’ is,” Winforth said cautiously.
Nearly spitting out each of her words, Melody replied, “He is the slimy Richard Grayson, one-time ward to Bruce Wayne.”
“I see, madam,” Winforth said.
Taking a moment to steady herself, she spoke again. “Have I never told you of him, Winforth?”
“No, madam,” he replied.
Nodding softly, she began her tale. “I met him early in college. Even there he tried to act like he had no interest in me, but I knew oh so much better. What young man hasn’t ever wanted me?”
Slowly Winforth pulled the car up the drive and stopped just before the front of the manor as Melody continued her story. “After a time we lost touch as I went to acquire the gifts that daddy had located in Egypt.” Our own personal ‘fountain of youth’ is one of them, she thought to herself. “It was not blind luck that brought us back to Gotham. Just as I shall have all that my heart truly desires, so shall I forever own Richard Grayson, and then he and Gotham will be in my control. Soon, then, will I have the world.” A small evil smile played across her face as she said these words.
Within a tiny flash of light, Melvin appeared upon the porch of the large, ancient-looking Wayne Manor. Without saying a word, he quickly pulled the tiny little map from his pocket and quickly scanned it, softly nodding his head and smiling. Replacing the map in his pocket, he silently fluttered up to the doorbell and, using all his strength, pushed the large button.
Within the manor, a bell could be heard ringing and then the sound of footsteps approaching the large wooden door. Within seconds the door opened, and a tall thin man dressed as a gentleman’s gentleman appeared. “May I help you, sir?” Alfred Beagle asked as he opened the door of Wayne Manor.
Taking a few moments to think, Melvin floated up to eye level with Alfred and said, “Are you by chance one Robin, squire of Sir Hardi le Noir?”
The momentary shock of the sight of a live fairy floating before him inwardly struck Alfred as if he had been punched in the stomach. Yet he was a true English butler, and without flinching he recovered himself and merely replied, “I know not who you are, tiny one, or from where you came, but neither of those names reside within this dwelling.”
Melvin looked at Alfred for a puzzled moment and then spoke again. “Let’s cut to the chase, kind one. You do not seem to be he whom I seek, and yet to Avalon I may not return till my errand is finished as great Merlin desires.”
I used to love reading of Merlin the magician and King Arthur as a child, and Master Bruce once told me a tale of having met them both. Could this tiny one be for real? Alfred thought.
It was true. Batman and Robin had once journeyed back in time to the era of King Arthur and Merlin in order to discover the identity of the mysterious knight known only as Sir Hardi le Noir, only to learn that Batman himself would become knighted by King Arthur under this name for his heroic actions. (*) It was just one of many such time-traveling adventures the two had undertaken throughout the 1940s and 1950s, thanks to the genius of their friend Professor Carter Nichols, who was a former member of the Time Trust, a World War II-era think tank of scientists who worked on various methods of time travel. Professor Nichols’ specialty was time travel through hypnosis, from which he eventually devised a time-ray.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Sir Batman at King Arthur’s Court,” Batman #36 (August-September 1946).]
Melvin reached into his coat pocket and removed a tiny note and box. Concentrating on both items, he caused them to slowly return to their normal sizes and gently float down to rest upon the floor. “I know this be the dwelling of the squire of Hardi le Noir, and I shall leave these in your care.” With those words, Melvin bowed before Alfred and, without waiting for a reply, disappeared with a flash of light. Unknown to Melvin, the tiny folded map also lay upon the porch of the manor.
Once the shock had faded, Alfred slowly picked up the box and note and, looking around, closed the front door to Wayne Manor. What a most peculiar day, Alfred thought as he slowly opened the folded note. Written upon the note Alfred now held were the following words:
“To thee, squire of Hardi le Noir and his worthy Bride. These are but a small token of my long Appreciation for the help thy friend and Elder along with thee did give when I was but detained for possible treason so very many centuries ago. A small amount of arcane ability does each crystal set attain. While worn, thy years shall be akin to each grain of sand within an hourglass, and thy appearances shall truly match thine own need and desires.
With my great wishes to thy futures, Merlin the Magician.”
“What a strange turn of events, indeed. I do so wonder what Master Dick shall make of this,” Alfred said to himself as he refolded the note and returned to his normal duties within the manor.
The front door to the apartment unlocked, and Stretch O’Brien stepped inside. “Maggie, I’m home,” he called out, tossing his backpack full of schoolbooks down.
“She went on a beer run,” a familiar voice said.
Stretch turned to the sofa where the voice had come from, and his jaw dropped. There, clad in blue and silver, sat his old friend Bluestreak.
“Yeah, that’s pretty much the reaction your lady friend had, except she tried to take my head off. I’ve got to rethink the color scheme on this get-up. Apparently, it doesn’t exactly scream bad guy.”
“She still would’a tried to take your head off. Maggie’s funny like that when folks break in to where we’re stayin’. C’mere, you!” He pulled his old friend into a bear hug. “When’d you get out?”
“Just recently. Interesting woman you got there, Stretch,” Bluestreak chuckled.
“Yeah, ain’t she a peach?” Stretch said. He reached to the sleeve of the T-shirt where he’d rolled up a box of Lucky Strike cigarettes, took them out, and tossed one up. When it looked as if he might miss, he stretched out his lips in a comically exaggerated way to snag it. He then pulled out his zippo lighter, opened it with a flick of his wrist, and lit the cigarette.
“Ha ha ha ha!” Bluestreak laughed. “I used to love when you did that! Always gotta keep the cool.”
“Can’t keep the cool if you let your smoke hit the ground,” Stretch said with a half-grin.
“Speaking of cool, leaving my ass in stir wasn’t very,” Bluestreak said, suddenly losing his smile.
“Didn’t figure you needed me for that,” Stretch said. “Savant broke out. I broke out. That crazy b#%& Dollface broke out. Hell, even that mook Kid Grundy got out. I would’a figured you would’ve gotten out before those last two. But here you are now.”
“Yeah, here I am now, no thanks to you,” Bluestreak said.
“Don’t be like that,” Stretch said.
“Don’t be like that?” Bluestreak said. “We were always supposed to look out for each other. Like we did on the streets.”
“We ain’t on the street no more,” Stretch said. “Things changed.”
“I met a lot of guys over the years let a woman come between him ‘n’ his buddies,” Bluestreak said. “Never would’a figured you’d end up being one o’ them.”
“Leave Maggie outta this,” Stretch said. “You wanna know why I didn’t rush to bust you out? It’s cause I was trying to lay low for a while ’til the heat died down! You would’a wanted to jump right into the next big score and have us getting chased by the cops or getting smacked around by the capes and thrown right back in lock-up. You’re so freaking impulsive sometimes it drives me crazy.”
Bluestreak looked at Stretch as if he no longer recognized him. “Huh?”
“I don’t want to spend the rest of my life that way, getting my butt handed to me by one cape after another,” Stretch sighed.
“Your old man have anything to do with this? I hear he’s working on getting his powers back so he can be Plastic Man II again.”
“No, I had to donate some bone marrow to that cause, but that’s not it. I just want something better.”
“That’s right,” Bluestreak said wryly. “You’re Joe College now. How’d you pull that off, anyway? You never even finished high school.”
“Remember our old pal Dick Ritchie? He knows some people who know some people who get paid to make fake documents for people.”
“You got a good thing going here,” Bluestreak said. “A good woman, a nice apartment, a cool car, you’re going to college… be a shame if something were to screw all that up.”
“Eh?” Stretch said. “What the hell you talking about?”
“That Maggie’s one tough chick. She told me about all the stuff you been through together. But she doesn’t move at super-speed.”
“So help me God, Mitch, you lay a finger on her, and you won’t be able to run fast or far enough to escape what I will do to you.”
“You can’t move at super-speed either,” Bluestreak said.
“My bones don’t break. Yours do. So I don’t need super-strength. Just patience,” Stretch said through gritted teeth.
“Don’t worry,” Bluestreak said, turning his back on him with a dismissive wave. “I’m not gonna hurt that little hottie of yours.” Then he looked back and said, “but there are plenty of other ways to pull the rug out from under you.”
“What the hell is it you want from me? An apology?”
“You owe me bigger than that, Stretch-o. Do you know while I was locked up, some creepy old guy named Steel came by and wanted to stick me in something called the Suicide Squad? Folks there were telling him I was too young, but he had this look in his eyes that scared the crap out of me. That’s when I knew I had to quit waiting on you or Savant or the others to get off your butts and bust me out.”
“You ever hear ‘the Lord helps those who help themselves’?” Stretch said, taking a drag off his cigarette.
“Well, now you’re gonna help me,” Bluestreak said. He pulled out a newspaper article and handed it to Stretch.
“It’s a wedding announcement,” Stretch said. “Richard Grayson and Karen Starr. Ain’t these the folks our old pal Jason Todd’s staying with now?”
“Yeah,” Bluestreak said. “And now they’re finally gonna tie the knot. It’s gonna be a big society shindig. Lots of big names with big jewels and heavy wallets. Talk about your major score!”
“No way. I don’t do that anymore,” Stretch said. “Besides, it’d be a pretty crappy thing to do to Jason.”
“Since when do you care about treating old friends like crap?” Bluestreak said indignantly.
“And with a big society deal like that, there are liable to be cameras all over the place,” added Stretch. “I’m trying to live my past down and move on.”
“So get a costume and a name!” Bluestreak said. “All these heroes have secret IDs. Why not villains? It’s time you got over this I’m too cool for spandex thing. No one’s ever gonna take you seriously in this business until you start wearing tights, anyway.”
“Did you hear what you just said?” Stretch said, exhaling smoke.
“I’m not kidding around here,” Bluestreak said. “You owe me for abandoning me like that. And you got more here to lose than you realize. Maggie wanted this to be a surprise, but I think I’d better show this to you now.” He streaked out of the den toward the bathroom and then back in, handing a small object to Stretch. “Maggie had just gotten done with this when I showed up and scared the bejeezus out of her. This is what she’s gone to get the beer to celebrate. Well, that and yer old pal showing up. I don’t think she’s gonna be drinking much, though. Blue means pregnant, right?”
Stretch’s jaw dropped. Then he turned to Mitch as if just realizing he was still talking. “Huh? Whuh… well, you tell me, Bluestreak!”
The young super-villain’s eyes grew wide at Stretch cracking a joke at a time like this. “Bwah-hah-hah! Same old Stretch! Man, this is gonna be like old times, after all! Better pick yourself out a mask and some long johns, buddy,” Bluestreak said. We’re about to go to work.”
Stretch slumped heavily down into the couch, and his sunglasses fell from his face as he brought his hand up to his head and stared at the pregnancy test in stunned silence. Everyone had thought he was crazy for becoming a teenage groom. Now he was about to be a teenage father. How crazy was that?