by Starsky Hutch 76 and Drivtaan
Kiku, the champion of Badhnisia, lay in bed tossing and turning. Her sleep that night had been fitful. The magic of her H-Dial made her more in tune with supernatural forces, and she had been unable to shake the feeling that something bad was coming.
Her eyes darted open as she suddenly felt a horrible pain in her stomach. She jerked up her nightshirt and stared on in horror as a face began to press outward against the tight skin of her stomach, its mouth moving in silent torment.
Kiku let out a blood-curdling scream at the sight of the twisted face rising from her belly. Her arms darted outward, as if she hoped to escape the horror emanating from her own body.
The face was joined by another, pressing outward from her side, its mouth contorted in the same moan of agony. Still another rose from the center of her chest, followed by another from the underside of her right arm and another from her shoulder. All wore the same mask of agony.
As Kiku stared at these grizzly faces, she recognized their features, twisted though they were. They were the faces of the many heroes she had become while using her H-Dial. (*) They were all fighting to rise to the surface again.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Secret Origins: The Secret Origin of Kiku.]
“No!” she screamed. “This is my body! My body! You can’t have it!”
Kiku’s eyes moved from the monstrosities rising from her skin, twisting it like Play-Dough, and stared at the H-Dial that hung from the bedpost by a chain. Its surface also appeared to change into a face. This one had never belonged to her, though — it was dark and evil, with two glowing red eyes. When it opened its broad, smiling mouth to laugh at her, she saw that it possessed many rows of sharp, pointed teeth.
She woke up in a cold sweat, her wet nightshirt clinging to her. This was, without a doubt, the worst nightmare she had ever had. She knew it was more than just a dream, though. The dial made her more in tune to the supernatural. It was trying to tell her something, but she had no idea what that something was.
Perhaps Badhnisia’s favorite son, Johnny Thunder, would know, she thought. If not, his Thunderbolt might.
She reached for her H-Dial and experienced a moment’s apprehension. “If I let whatever is at work make me afraid to use you, dial, then it’s already won.”
Kiku picked up the dial and dialed H-E-R-O. She was transformed into a black woman in a black and silver bodysuit. She opened her bedroom window, throwing back the shutters, and an aura formed around her body. She streaked into the sky in a burst of light, flying toward the United States and whatever fate held in store for her.
Red Robin walked into the JSA Brownstone, his look as grim as the Spectre’s, accompanied by Power Girl. Without delay, he went straight to the meeting room. “We’ve got a problem,” he said as he opened the double doors.
Every head turned toward him.
“Then you must have been the one to call this meeting,” the Atom said.
“It wasn’t me,” Red Robin replied. “My situation just came up a short while ago. There’s been a massacre at the Wayne Home.”
Wonder Woman gasped in horror. “Oh, no!”
“The worst part is that Helena thinks it was her fault,” Power Girl added.
“How could she have been involved?” Green Lantern asked.
Red Robin told them, “She was paying them a visit and — as she left — she told one of the little girls not to let the bedbugs bite.”
“Let me guess,” Hourman said, “that they did.”
Both the Atom and the Flash told the others of their children’s nighttime antics. Superman listened intently, then told them what had happened with Cal.
“I, too, have had a dream,” stated the Sandman.
“I think I know what the emergency is now,” said Wonder Woman.
“Since everyone is present who was able to make it, except for Wildcat,” Starman began, “he must have been the one who called the meeting.”
As if on cue, Wildcat entered the room.
“It figures,” the Atom said. “Wildcat calls an emergency meeting and then shows up late.”
“You’re punch-drunk, Al. Why would I call a meeting?”
Instantly, Green Lantern threw up an iridescent green bubble around his teammates. “This has to be a setup,” he said.
“If you hadn’t thrown up this bubble,” the Flash told his friend, “I could have had the brownstone checked out a hundred times by now.”
“Sorry, Jay,” Green Lantern said, “but since you are a presidential candidate, we can’t risk losing you to madmen, aliens, or crackpots.”
“Oh, my,” Wildcat and the Atom said simultaneously. Wonder Woman just hung her head and sighed.
“I’m the one who called this emergency meeting,” came a voice from outside the bubble.
As the assembled Justice Society turned, Mathilda “Ma” Hunkel entered the meeting room. They had known Ma since the early 1940s when she went by the name Red Tornado, and, like them, she had regained her youth through a quirk of fate. At the sight of their old friend, Alan let the green energy fade.
“What’s the emergency?” Wildcat asked.
“My kids are having nightmares,” she told them.
“Give them some warm milk or sing them a lullaby,” Wildcat told her. “We don’t have time to come and tuck ’em in for you.”
“Listen up, you mug.” Ma placed her hands on her hips and stared Wildcat square in the eyes. “Somethin’s gettin’ my kids spooked, somethin’ unnatural, and I want somethin’ done about it.”
Before Ted Grant could reply, Superman placed his hand on his friend’s shoulder. “Perhaps you should hear the whole story.”
“It’s with profound honor that I present this award for excellence in journalism–” said Perry White, “–even if her great-uncle does run one of my fiercest competitors–” This drew laughter from the assembled crowd. “–to Ms. Jenny Olsen!”
Jenny rose from her seat in a gorgeous Versace gown slit up the side to reveal a shapely expanse of leg as she strode toward the stage. Her face was perfectly made up in an attempt to cover up the line of freckles that dotted the bridge of her nose and cheeks. She was the perfect picture of style and glamor. The flash of cameras accompanied her as she strode toward the front.
As she came forward to receive her award, she heard a chilling groan, followed by a hand reaching for the hem of her dress. She swatted it away, but the bony hand seemed to leave a slimy residue in her palm. There seemed to be more moaning and wailing from other tables as she walked through the banquet hall. When she looked down at the rug, it seemed to twist and turn like bodies in a pit. She walked faster.
When she reached the stage, Perry White, already so old — even older than her Uncle Jimmy — seemed to be aging before her very eyes. His skin took on a sickening hue, and his features became cadaverous. She reached to take the award, but he kept a firm grip on it. She gave a sharp pull, and the award came free… along with his hands.
Jenny fell from the stage into a pile of moaning and wailing zombies. She fought with everything she had as they pulled at her hair and tore at her gown. Finally, she made it to the exit at the other end of the banquet hall and leaped through, slamming the large double doors behind her.
Her chest heaved up and down as she rested against it, exhausted. An image came into her mind of all the horror-movie heroines who had done the same thing, only to have the ghouls shove their arms through the door to grab them, and she spun around quickly.
“They won’t come — you’re in a different dream now,” an eerie voice said.
Jenny turned and saw a throne in the center of a large room. It sat upon a pile of skulls. On closer inspection, the skulls proved to be small — they had belonged to children. Seated on the throne was a figure enclosed in darkness. Its only distinguishing feature was its mouth, which was large and filled with row upon row of sharp, pointed teeth.
“What do you want with me?” Jenny demanded.
“I want you to tell them… tell your friends…”
“Tell them what?” Jenny said, trying to sound strong and fierce instead of afraid.
“Tell them not to interfere with me or my plans…”
“And why should I do that?” Jenny said, lifting her chin haughtily.
“You’ll do as I ask. I know who holds your heart. He’s vulnerable to magic, isn’t he?” A hand reached out from the darkness. It held a severed head — one she recognized.
A sick feeling came over her. “Superboy?” she said. “I’m not in love with…”
“Ah-ah-ah,” he said, wagging a clawed finger. He placed a pair of glasses onto the head and then threw his head back to issue the most terrifying laughter he had ever heard as Jenny screamed.
Jenny woke up bathed in cold sweat. She had to warn Cal that he was in danger.
On Sunday morning, Cal Kent sat in the barn looking at the empty stall. Reaching out, he ran his finger across the hole his heat-vision had burnt through the wall. He felt a wave of anguish roll over him. If only I could have caught whatever was in Mary’s room, he thought.
Glancing at the ceiling, he switched to his x-ray vision and noted the position of the sun. The Junior JSA had decided to gather and try to figure out what had been happening to them. It was time he should be going. As he approached the back door, he could hear his parents through an open window.
“The whole family is torn up,” he heard his dad say. “Rex was telling me that Wendi is taking this hard.”
“I can’t imagine what they’re going through,” his mom replied.
“He told me that Beth spends most of her time holding Zach.”
Cal stopped and listened further. I wonder what’s wrong?
“Rex said that, as much as it hurts, they had decided that Ralphie was going to have to be put somewhere where he couldn’t be a danger to himself or anyone else.”
“Doesn’t that seem a little extreme?” Lois Kent asked. “Just because he had a dream about the ‘Boogeyman’ taking Zach and wanted to protect him…”
“I think it has more to do with the fact that he can use the Miraclo than anything,” Clark Kent told her.
Outside, Cal’s mouth hung open. This was something the rest of the team should know about. He waited a few of the longest seconds in his life before opening the door. “I’m leaving now,” he told his parents.
“Try not to be too late, dear,” his mother told him as she gave him a kiss on the cheek.
“I won’t.” In the blink of an eye, Superboy stood before them.
“You’re getting pretty good at that quick-change,” Clark complimented his son as he and Lois walked outside with the boy.
“‘Bye,” Cal told his parents as they watched him fly up, up, and away.
As Cal approached the JSA Brownstone, he spotted a blur appear at the horizon. With a grin, he began to pour on the speed.
“Too slow, Superboy,” Whiz Kid told him as he held the door open.
“One day,” Cal said as he entered the building, “I will beat you.”
Whiz Kid just laughed.
Once inside, they found the other members already there. “It figures,” Star Sapphire said, “that the two fastest members are always the last to arrive.”
Damage opened the door to their meeting room. “I don’t see why we couldn’t have met yesterday evening, when our parents were here.”
Superboy suddenly grew very serious. “We have to talk.”
He led them into the meeting room and, when everyone was seated, related to them what he had overheard.
“So,” Coral said, “we’re not the only ones to have these nightmares.”
“But if none of the grown-ups have had these dreams–” Damage began.
“Sandman has,” Batwing said, interrupting his friend.
“OK,” Damage said, “besides Sandman, if none of the grown-ups have had these dreams, why has Ralphie?”
“Perhaps because of his… condition,” Whiz Kid said uncomfortably.
“Then his parents shouldn’t send him away,” said Flare.
As the others bantered back and forth about how wrong the situation was and how the parents should take the time to listen to what was going on, Superboy sat quietly in his seat. Only Batwing noticed his silence.
“What’s up, Cal?”
“I was just thinking,” he replied.
“About what we have to do.” The others grew silent when they realized that Superboy and Batwing were having a conversation of their own.
“What are you two talking about?” Coral asked. “What do we have to do?”
Before Superboy said anything, Batwing realized what his friend was talking about. “You realize how much trouble we’re going to get into, don’t you?”
“Trouble,” Damage voiced everyone else’s confusion. “For what?”
“I’ll take the blame,” Superboy said, continuing his conversation with Batwing.
“Take the blame for what?” asked Arrowette.
When Superboy fell silent, Batwing turned to the rest of the team. “We’re going to kidnap Ralphie.”
“Are you insane?” Whiz Kid yelped.
“It’s the right thing to do,” Superboy insisted.
“My father is running for president,” Whiz Kid said, “in case you’ve forgotten!”
“You’d let that keep you from helping him?” Superboy said indignantly.
“Well, we shouldn’t do anything to sabotage Mr. Garrick’s campaign,” Damage said nervously.
“You mean just leave poor Ralphie in there to rot?” Coral snapped. “You heartless–”
“Calm down, people,” Batwing said over the ruckus. “The answer is simple. We don’t wear our costumes.”
“But then people would recognize us,” Damage said.
Batwing winced. “I wasn’t suggesting we go in plainclothes, Grant.”
“I think he’s suggesting other disguises,” added Arrowette.
“Exactly,” Batwing said with a sigh.
“If we go in there all together,” Whiz Kid said, “same powers, same body types, same number of boys and girls… somebody’s gonna make the connection.”
“Are you trying to back out?” Superboy said accusingly.
“I thought Kryptonians were supposed to have super-brains,” Whiz Kid shot back, startling him. Everyone looked from one to another in surprise at the normally shy and reserved youth.
“He does have a point, Cal,” said Batwing.
“So what do we do?” Star Sapphire asked.
“Maybe shake up our number a bit,” Batwing said. “Flamebird’s had the nightmares, too, so she might want to join in. But if her… circumstances prevent her from doing so, does anyone know of anyone else?”
Each looked at one another to see if anyone had any suggestions. Flare broke the silence. “What circumstances?” she said.
“Uh…” Batwing started. The door to the meeting room opened suddenly, allowing Batwing to avoid trying to explain Flamebird’s circumstances without revealing her two-in-one secret identity of Beth and Kathy Kane.
A girl approximately their age with bronze skin and shoulder-length, coal-black hair poked her head in the door and then stepped the rest of the way in. “Hello,” she said in an accent unfamiliar to most of them. “My name is Kiku. I have come here from Badhnisia in search of the one called Johnny Thunder.”