by Drivtaan, Gamma Xmen, Immortalwildcat and Starsky Hutch 76
Ralphie Tyler sat alone in his room. He knew he was in big trouble, and he even understood why. It was wrong for him to have taken his dad’s costume without asking, and he knew he was not allowed to hold Zach unless Rick or Beth said he could, but this had been important. He let his shoulders sag and sighed. At least the Boogeyman didn’t get Zach. He just wished they would have believed him. To the big man who idolized his father and younger brother, their disappointment in him was punishment enough. Still, they should have believed him. Had he not listened to their stories about the things they had seen and done and believed them?
“I didn’t lie to them,” he muttered. “When they asked me what I was doing, I told them. When Dad asked why I took his costume, I didn’t lie.”
Ralph glanced up at the door. “I didn’t lie,” he whispered.
The more he thought about it, the sadder he got, until he was blinking back the tears. “And I didn’t lie to him about the Miraclo, either. If he would have counted his stupid pills, he would have known that none were missing. All I did was rub the little hourglass.”
Ralph looked up as he heard his bedroom door open. There stood his father dressed in his Hourman costume. “Come on, Ralphie. Let’s go.”
Without saying a word, Ralph did as he was told. As he started toward the door, his father spoke. “Get your coat.” He did as he was told.
This must be it, he thought. His parents did not know that he had overheard them talking about sending him away. He even knew that his dad had discussed it with some of the other members of the JSA. He kept his head down as his dad led him downstairs and to the back door.
Once outside, the pair walked silently to the back gate. Just outside the gate, a car was waiting. As he started to get in the car, Hourman heard Ralph chuckle.
“What’s so funny?” he asked.
Ralph looked up, a big grin across his face. “My real dad never wears his costume in the house.”
“Well, I’ll be…” a disguised Batwing said as he glanced back at Hourman and Ralph. “Don’t worry, Ralph. We’re friends, and we’re here to help you.”
“Wow,” Ralph said, smiling from ear to ear, “my own adventure.”
“Let’s get out of here,” Batwing told the driver.
Superboy looked over at his friend. “You got it.”
Batwing looked at Hourman as they sped away, saying, “Good job, Kiku.” Ralph watched in amazement as his supposed dad suddenly became a young girl.
“I would never have thought of trying to appear as another living hero,” said Kiku, “if Arrowette hadn’t suggested it. I had believed the dial created my new bodies only randomly.”
“I guess she realized that, since you could repeat forms,” said Batwing, “your subconscious had at least a little control over the process. How do you feel? You look drained.”
“I am. Maybe co-existing with another person like that puts too much of a strain on me. Whatever. It’s an interesting experience, but not one I will repeat unless it’s absolutely necessary.”
Batwing turned his attention back to their guest. “We’re sorry we kidnapped you like this, Ralph, but we know what happened, and we want to help you.”
Ralph looked at his kidnappers and asked, “You believe me about the Boogeyman?”
“We sure do,” Batwing said. “As a matter of fact, all of us younger heroes have seen him.”
“But I’m not a kid anymore; at least that’s what Dad says,” Ralph told them. “If it’s just kids, why me?”
“We’re… not sure,” said Batwing after a slight pause.
“Probably because I’m stupider than the other grown-ups.”
“Hold it right there, Ralph,” said Superboy, looking at him from the rearview mirror. “Don’t ever say that. Because of your quick thinking and bravery, the Boogeyman didn’t get your nephew.”
“That’s right,” Kiku said.
“A lot of babies weren’t so lucky,” Batwing told him. “If there were more people as brave as you, maybe the Boogeyman wouldn’t have got them, either.”
Ralph thought about what they had told him. “Know what?” he asked.
“What?” Kiku replied.
“Ralph is here now, and I got this.” He held up a replica of his dad’s miniature hourglass. “Let’s go rescue those babies.”
His companions’ mouths dropped open, but no one could say a word.
The Spectre flew through the evening skies, with only one destination in mind. Although he was no longer a member, the grim ghost had always considered his old friends in the Justice Society of America good women and men, all good comrades. Now he needed their help.
Once he arrived at the brownstone headquarters, the Spectre mentally summoned the Justice Society, wherever they each were. “My old comrades of the Justice Society of America, I call for you to appear before me now. I sense a gathering of evil that requires the entire Justice Society, past and present members to combat this evil, and I call upon Wesley Dodds, the Sandman, for I sense his dreams are connected to this evil. Come now, all of you, to our headquarters!”
The main meeting room of the JSA Brownstone was suddenly filled to capacity and beyond, as every past and present member of the Justice Society found themselves magically transported by the Spectre’s summons.
“Great Scott!” exclaimed Superman. “I was planning to come to the meeting tonight already. Who couldn’t wait?”
“I bet I know,” said the Atom, who was standing with Wildcat. “Spectre! Is this your doing?”
The grim ghost nodded. “Indeed it is, Atom. Someone, or something, seeks to attack the land of the living from within the realm of dreams and nightmares, and only the combined might of the Justice Society may stand true before it.”
“Sounds like the case we’re already investigating,” said Red Robin, eliciting nods of agreement around the room. He strode over to the pale figure clad in green. “It must be bigger than we thought, though, to garner the attention of the almighty Spectre.”
“Do you seek to mock me, ex-Boy Wonder?” The Spectre glowered down at the man he had known as a boy decades earlier.
“I just find it amusing that you can leave the world alone for years, but when something threatens Corrigan’s family, it becomes a great, forbidding menace that requires you to rip us all from our own lives, our own investigations.”
“Insolent youth!” With a wave of his hand, Dick Grayson was Robin once more, eleven years old and clad in his old uniform. “Do you really think you can grasp the enormity of matters concerning beings who were ancient when your world was newly spun out of the nothingness?”
“We’ve been able to handle things pretty well around here without you until now!” exclaimed the boy, still defiant. Heads nodded again around the room. Power Girl strode forward, prepared to take on the Spectre singlehandedly if needed.
“That is enough!” Heads turned toward Hawkman, standing at his seat at the great round table. After his initial shout, his voice was low and calm. “Bad enough to be brought here without warning, Spectre — but you will not indulge that temper of yours on our friends and teammates.”
“He speaks truthfully, old friend, and you know it.” Doctor Fate moved to stand helm-to-face with the Spectre. “Curb your impatience, and let us all work together.”
“As you wish.” A gesture, and Red Robin stood before them once again. “A truce, then, Robin?”
“It’s Red Robin now.” Gotham’s protector sighed, then relaxed. “Very well. Pax.”
As the current members moved to take their seats, and others scrounged chairs from nearby rooms, Wildcat spoke up. “Umm, guys, it looks like all the members are here, but Al and I were working with somebody else on this case, and she wanted to meet with the whole group tonight. She’s got some information that might just help us here.”
“Who is it, and where’s she at, ‘Cat?” asked Johnny Quick. Once he got the information, he sped out of the room. Ten seconds later, he reappeared with Miss Terrific. “There ya go!”
“Thanks, Johnny,” said the green-and-red-clad young woman. “Wow, I haven’t seen this many of the team since…” Her voice broke off. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Justice Society of America: Times Past, 1979: Swift Retribution.]
“It’s all right, dear.” Wonder Woman came and took Miss Terrific in her arms. “I know, and I’m sure everybody understands. But you are here for a reason, carrying on in your father’s mission.”
“You’re right. It just struck me for a moment.” Stepping away from the matronly Amazon, Miss Terrific regained her composure. “I guess we can get started now.”
“Indeed we shall, Miss Terrific,” the Spectre replied, not taking a seat. “As Red Robin mentioned, Corrigan’s family has been visited by this evil creature. I believe you have all heard of this creature through children’s lore. This creature is called by many names, but I believe the name children call it today is the Boogeyman.”
At this, most of the JSAers looked at the Spectre as if he had gone insane.
“Ya got to be kiddin’, spook!” Wildcat exclaimed. “He’s nothin’ but a fairy tale ta keep kids in bed at night!”
“Even I thought him but a myth, Wildcat,” the Spectre replied, his ghastly face more grim than usual, “Until tonight. When James Corrigan heard his daughter Libby’s scream, he rushed to her aid. She spoke of a frightening creature menacing her in her dreams.”
“That’s pretty much what our kids told us,” the Flash said, “and the Junior JSA youngsters said that they kept seeing something. Even then, when some of the adult JSAers were with them, they still claimed they saw the Boogeyman, even when we adults couldn’t.”
“And that could fit in with the recent murders of children,” Red Robin replied. “They were all unsolved. The police couldn’t make anything out of it.”
“Indeed, young Robin,” Doctor Fate said, “I have sensed much unnatural evil in some of the murders I have investigated. I willed one of those murdered children to speak and tell me who had committed the murders.” The visage of his golden helmet turned dark. “She spoke of one name — Boogeyman. I have investigated further into this at my Salem Tower, and I have found such legends going back to ancient times which would suggest that this creature is nearly as old as time itself.”
“I’ve had strange dreams of this Boogeyman,” the Sandman spoke up, “and they all point to the same story. Which means the JSA’s usual approach is useless against a creature nothing more than the stuff of dreams.”
“What you all say is true,” the Spectre replied, continuing his own story. “Libby Corrigan spoke of the Boogeyman, and she shrieked in terror as she saw something in the dark that Corrigan could not. I, however, sensed something more — something… primal and evil. This creature exists only in the realm of dreams, and that is where the Sandman, Doctor Fate, and myself come in. We shall determine the Boogeyman’s vulnerabilities by entering the Sandman’s dreamscape and examine his dreams of the Boogeyman firsthand. Are we agreed?” He looked around at his old teammates, awaiting their answers.
Before such an answer came, a hysterical voice interrupted, shouting, “No, you can’t!”
The JSA stood in stunned silence as the slight form of a redheaded teenage girl darted into the room and ran for Superman. “Mr. Kent, you can’t go there! You can’t. You just can’t!”
“Jenny, how did you–?” he gasped. He had revealed his secret identity to her great-uncle, but he had never told her. He could not believe that Jimmy or Cal would tell her without his permission, either.
“Cal was already away from home when I came over,” Jenny began, frantically trying to explain everything at once, “and I didn’t know where you were, so I borrowed my parents’ car to drive all the way here, and — and –” She stopped and composed herself when she realized she was not making any sense. Finally, she cried desperately, “The Boogeyman appeared to me in a dream! He warned me that if you or the Junior JSA tried to stop him, he’d kill Cal! He’d kill them all!”
Superman looked at his teammates, a sick expression on his face as he held the frightened Jenny Olsen. “We have to find our kids.”
“Agreed,” Hawkman said nodding. “Here’s the plan. Wes, you’ll work with the Spectre and Fate to decipher the dreams and try to contact Morpheus, but do not enter the Boogeyman’s realm until we get the kids under protection. You’ll receive a signal once we get the job. The rest of us will find them and get to them before the Boogeyman does. And, ladies and gentlemen, if there’s any time to pray, now is the time to do it.”
He smacked the gavel. “Meeting adjourned, everyone — and may God help us if we fail.”
With that, the JSAers split up to their individual cities, leaving only the Sandman, the Spectre, and Doctor Fate in the JSA Brownstone.