by Starsky Hutch 76, Drivtaan and Immortalwildcat
“The dark and brooding thing is supposed to be my schtick — why so moody?” Batwing asked Superboy as the other Junior JSAers looked about the warehouse that Ralphie Tyler had led them to.
“I was thinking about my sister,” admitted Superboy. “I feel like we’ve run off and left her defenseless.”
“Protecting her and all kids is the reason we ran off,” Batwing said. “I mean why we branched out on our own. It was to protect her and other kids like her, so we could do whatever we had to do, since we’re the only ones who can see them — without the adults breathing down our necks.”
“We don’t even know what the menace is yet,” Superboy said. “In the meantime, he might make another grab for her.”
“So what do you want?” Batwing asked.
“I want to know she’s safe!” Superboy exclaimed. “We snatched Ralphie for his own safety, and he’s in his thirties. Mary’s a lot more helpless. She might be half-Kryptonian, but she’s several years away from developing any powers yet.”
The usually quiet Damage overheard and had to speak up. “You want us to snatch Superman’s baby? Are you insane?”
Superboy and Batwing turned their heads quickly in his direction, as did everyone else in the warehouse.
“I can’t believe what I’m hearing,” Damage said. “Why not go after the Scott triplets while we’re at it? Or Wonder Woman’s kid? Or what about the Spectre? I hear he’s got a couple of kids — why don’t we put them on the list, too?”
Batwing stepped between Damage and Superboy. “That’s enough. This isn’t the time or the place to argue.” He looked at Ralphie. “Ralph, would you please lead us to the lab?”
Ralph nodded and stood up. “It’s this way.”
No one spoke as they followed the man to Rex Tyler’s original lab. Ralph pushed the door open and led them inside. He felt along the wall until he found the light switch.
“Gee, Ralph,” Whiz Kid said as the lights flared to life overhead, “this place is pretty cool. It’s like something straight out of an old science fiction movie. Was your dad a mad scientist?”
“No,” Ralph said, “but he will be when he finds out I’m not home.” Despite the pressures the team had all felt recently, they couldn’t help but laugh. Even Superboy chuckled once or twice.
Batwing walked up and patted Ralph on the back. “Good joke, Ralph. We really needed a good laugh.”
Ralphie was proud of himself, and his grin showed it. “See,” he said, “there’s no reason to fight.”
Damage and Superboy looked at each other for a moment. Almost simultaneously, they stuck their hands out. “I’m sorry,” they said in unison.
“So,” Damage began, “were you serious about Mary?”
Superboy thought for a moment. “I… I don’t know.”
“Ralph’s situation was a little different from Mary’s,” Star Sapphire said.
“Yeah,” Coral added. “They were going to send him away just for trying to protect his nephew.”
“I think the girls are right,” Batwing told his friend. “With Superman is probably the safest place for Mary to be right now.”
“Uh, guys,” Whiz Kid interrupted, “if we are seriously discussing this, I’m afraid I would have to agree with Cal on this.”
“I, too, think Superboy is right,” Kiku said. “If this creature, this Boogeyman, attempted to take her once with Superman there, who’s to say it won’t try again?”
“I think we should rescue the babies that have already been stolen,” Ralph said. Damage nodded in agreement.
“But what about my sister?” Superboy asked.
“Well,” Ralph began, “when I was holding Zach, the Boogeyman wouldn’t come near him. Maybe if somebody stays with your sister, he can’t get her. Maybe he’s afraid of grown-ups.”
“Of course!” Batwing exclaimed. “Ralph, you’re a genius. Cal, write your mom a note and tell her not to let Mary out of her sight.”
“That’s not a bad idea,” Star Sapphire said, “but whoever takes her the note is going to get the third degree.”
Batwing grinned. “Not if they’re fast enough.”
“Oh, man,” Whiz Kid groaned. “How do I let you guys talk me in to these things?”
“Quit whining,” Coral told him.
“I’m not whining,” Whiz Kid said, grinning. “I’m just questioning this idea in a high, nasally voice.”
Superboy handed him the note. “Well, whatever you’re doing, you’re now ready to go.”
Whiz Kid smiled. “Be back in a flash.” Before anyone could say anything, he was gone.
Within seconds, Jay Garrick’s son stood in the kitchen of the Kent family home. Laying the note on the table, he turned to go.
An authoritative voice behind him asked, “Where’s Cal?”
Slowly, the son of the Flash looked over his shoulder to see the Man of Steel standing behind him. He had always viewed Superman as the most noble of heroes, but right now, he did not seem so noble. Whiz Kid swallowed nervously. Right now, Superman looked upset.
“What kind of answer is ‘um’?” Clark Kent asked as he took a step toward the young intruder.
Whiz Kid’s mind began racing. He gave Superman a sheepish grin. “Um… ‘Bye?”
The Man of Steel saw the after-image of the fastest kid alive begin to fade. These kids today, Superman thought as he ran out the door after Whiz Kid.
A half-second later, Whiz Kid slowed the vibration of his body and began to fade back into view in the Kent family kitchen. I can’t believe that actually worked, he thought, then walked over and peeked out the door. When he was sure Superman was gone, out he went and started off in the opposite direction.
Moments later, an agitated but very impressed Superman re-entered his home. He found Lois Kent looking at the note.
She glanced up at her husband. “Where did you disappear to?”
“The Spectre summoned us. I came back to let you know and found John Garrick standing in the kitchen with that note.”
Lois handed her husband the slip of paper. “It’s from Cal. He says for us to not let Mary out of our sight.”
Clark put his arms around his wife. “Those kids are on to something. I just hope they can handle it.”
“Boy, that just burns my butt!” The Atom smacked one fist into the palm of his other hand. “‘Go find the kids,’ he says, and brushes us off like we’re nothing. What? Does that pasty-faced ghoul think he’s the only one that can track down this Boogeyman?”
“Easy, there, kid — you’re gonna give yerself an aneurysm,” said Wildcat, laying a hand on the shorter man’s shoulder. “The Spectre don’t exactly go in for niceties, if you know what I mean. And he does have connections that nobody else in the JSA can touch with a ten-foot pole.”
“Yes,” agreed Geri Sloane, “and the long-time association with the spirit world can make a spirit such as the Spectre dissociate from mortal humanity, therefore obviating the need for courtesy or consideration for the feelings of others. Those spirits that remain attached to the mortal plane generally do so because of a mission, and that mission becomes the end-all and be-all of the spirit’s existence. The Spectre is a classic example of this.”
“Jeez, Geri, what’d you do,” asked Wildcat, “take a course in paranormal psychology?”
“Well, the study of the occult is something of a hobby of mine,” the young lady said with a grin. She wore a green tunic that bore the words Fair Play emblazoned upon the front. “Especially after both Daddy and Batman were murdered by criminals who had ties to the spirit world.”
The Atom nodded his agreement. “Well, with Red Robin and Superman both leading teams trying to track down the Junior JSA members, what are we supposed to do?”
“How about we pick up where we left off before the spook pulled us out of our hotel room? We got the JSA computer systems at our disposal here, so let’s make use of them.” Wildcat led the way into one of the work rooms where there was a computer terminal. “I think maybe a check of reported sightings of this Boogeyman might be in order.” He sat down and began typing at the keyboard. Within moments, information was scrolling down the screen.
“That’s interesting,” noted Miss Terrific. “The sightings have been all over, but look where the highest concentrations are.”
“Gotham, Metropolis, Gateway City, Civic City, Los Angeles, and New York.” The Atom scratched his head through his cowl. “Big cities, but what in particular catches your interest, Geri?”
“Wildcat, can you get city-by-city statistics on mystery-man activities with this?” asked the young heroine.
“You betcha. Smartest thing I seen with these computers, from this business out of California. Lets ya split the screen up into windows, with different stuff going on.” Again, the bare-knuckled crime-fighter’s fingers danced over the keys. “Hey, will ya look at that.”
“Not an exact match, but I think it’s statistically close enough,” Geri said. “It’s like the kids who are accustomed to hearing about heroes are more likely to get attacked.”
“Imagination!” cried the Atom. When the other two gave him a puzzled look, he explained, “Just think about it. Politicians like to talk about how we inspire people, right? Well, it only makes sense that part of that inspiration is that people, and especially kids, can imagine more possibilities in the world. What if that makes them more susceptible to this Boogeyman’s attacks?”
Dian Belmont unconsciously placed a hand on her stomach as she thought of Wes Dodds. He had been very tight-lipped about what was on his mind, but she knew it had something to do with their unborn child. It irritated her when he tried to hide things. Despite all pretensions of open-mindedness, he was still just a man.
Something had frightened him, something he did not want to talk about. That both worried and frustrated her. Then he had disappeared from their home completely, summoned by the Spectre.
“You should sit down, Aunt Dian,” said Sandy Hawkins. “You shouldn’t be pacing around like that in your condition.”
“I’m just pregnant — I’m not some fragile China doll,” Dian said to him. “Especially considering the transformation I’ve gone through in the past year.” She gestured at herself and her slight vampiric appearance, gained during a case involving the Monk and Dala last year. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See The Sandman: Crimson Tide.]
“I know,” Sandy said. “It’s just — Wes would want me to look after you while he’s gone.”
She turned and saw that he had suited into the gear he wore as the crime-fighter known as the Sleeper. “Going somewhere?”
“Something big is goin’ down,” Sandy said. “I just want to be ready when I get the call to join him. I spent too many years laid up and no use to anybody.”
“You’re a good man, kid,” Dian said, placing an affectionate hand by the side of his hand. “I ever tell you that?”
“You’re all right yourself, for a dame,” Sandy teased.
Dian gave him a playful punch. “You’re his partner — did he give you any indication of what was going on?”
“No,” Sandy said. “I really wish I knew, Aunt Dia–” Sandy’s words caught in his throat.
“What is it?” Dian asked.
Sandy gave no reply. He stared into the shadows behind her, trying to convince himself he was seeing things as a pair of red eye slits stared back at him.
The son of the British ambassador glanced up from his homework. “Is someone there?” Receiving no answer, he slid his chair away from his desk and stood up.
“I need your help.” The voice seemed to come from somewhere far away.
“Perhaps someone down the hall needs my assistance.” It was only a few short steps to his bedroom door, but for some reason, Jeff felt like he had walked for days by the time he reached his destination. I must really be tired, he thought as his hand closed around the handle. “Something isn’t right,” he finally whispered as he tried to pull the door open without any success.
He gave several more tugs before the door opened to reveal nothing but blackness within. Immediately, he spun around and slammed the door behind him. What he saw in the room shook him more than what was in the hall.
In his seat someone slept, head down on the desk. He started to speak when he realized what was happening. He was dreaming, and it was he that was nodding off at the desk.
“Jeffrey Pierce, I need your help.”
Jeff looked back at the door. “Oh, bollocks. This sort of thing never happened to me before I became a meta-human.”
“Please, help me.”
The fact that Jeff knew this was all a dream did nothing to detract from the urgency he sensed in the voice. Although he already knew the answer to the question he was about to ask, and the thought filled him with dread, he lifted his eyes toward the ceiling and spoke. “What do you want me to do?”
“You must open the door.”
“That isn’t as easy as it sounds,” he said aloud.
“My… jailer… is resisting my attempts to free myself.”
Another question popped into Jeff’s mind. “Who are you?”
The voice continued to speak. “Your recent metabolic transformation has made it easier for me to speak to you. The electrical receptors in your brain are more acute, making you the perfect one to contact.”
“But… who are you?” Jeff asked a second time.
“I can guide your dream-self to me through these electrical impulses. You must hurry, though. The fate of several realms depends on you.”
Jeff struggled to open the door again. When it finally pulled open, he took a deep breath and stepped into the hallway. “You still haven’t told me who you are,” he reminded the voice.
“I am Morpheus.”
Jeffrey stepped into the hallway and heard the door close behind him. The blackness engulfed him, and he fought the urge to turn around and return to the safety of his room.
“I need some light,” he whispered. Suddenly, an electric-blue nimbus surrounded him. Realizing that he no longer felt the floor beneath him, he looked down and discovered that he was hovering in place. Momentarily, his fear was replaced by a rush of excitement.
Jeff felt the tug in his mind as Morpheus spoke. Like a piece of driftwood, he allowed himself to be pulled along the current that drew him to the one needing his aid.
“I’m never going to get there at this rate,” he told himself. The teen thought for a moment. “Well, since this is a dream, I might as well play around with it.”
Jeffrey slowly shifted his body from his current vertical position to one more or less horizontal. “This is more like it. All of the other heroes fly like this.”
Another thought entered his mind, and he looked at his arms. He stretched his right arm out before him and pulled his left arm in tight to his side. Next, he stretched his left arm out beside his right one. With a shake of his head, he pulled both arms back down to his sides. “How in the world do those people decide what to with their hands while they fly?”
Deciding that for now that he would keep his arms close to his side, he began concentrating on picking up speed. Incredible, he thought, this is actually working.
Once he settled into the notion that he was actually flying, despite the fact that he knew this was a dream, Jeff began to wonder where this Morpheus person was held prisoner. “If I were holding someone prisoner, I would do it in a castle high on a bluff overlooking the sea.”
No sooner did he voice his opinion on the subject, than the darkness began to lighten to a dull gray. Below him, Jeffrey saw waves the color of slate making their way toward a distant shore. Scanning the shoreline, he saw that the gray sand eventually gave way to a rocky expanse that led up to a steep cliff. Perched at the summit with its back toward the sea was a craggy castle just like one he once saw during a visit to the English countryside.
“Excellent. Make the landscape a familiarity — a place you feel comfortable.”
Jeffrey recognized the voice as Morpheus.
“I am indeed somewhere in your castle. I must warn you, however, that Teggarimor — whom you would know as the Boogeyman — has placed foul creatures to prevent my escape.”
No sooner had Morpheus finished speaking, than what appeared to be a large, shadowy sea serpent reared up before him. Without thinking, Jeffrey stretched out his hands, and a bolt of blue energy leaped from his fingers and shot at the creature. Just as it was about to strike its target, the creature’s body shifted, and a hole appeared where the bolt would have hit it.
Jeff’s mouth dropped open. “Oh, bloody hell — this can’t be good.”
Once the energy had passed through it, the creature re-formed and breathed a bolt of shadow at the young man.
Jeffrey shut his eyes and felt a numbing cold wash over him. Suddenly, his eyes snapped open, and he realized that the aura that gave him light and flight had protected him from the blast. He let out a sigh of relief.
Then his mind began to race. Since my aura is basically static electricity, he realized, then maybe I can expand the field around me and drive the thing back far enough for me to reach the castle.
When he set his plan in motion, he was completely caught by surprise at what happened next. A man — or at least the shadow of a man — appeared within his expanding aura. The newcomer placed his hand on Jeff’s chest and gave his dream-self a shove.
“You aren’t ready for this yet — you need help,” the young man heard as he fell through what felt like molasses. The last thing he saw, or thought he saw, was the figure straighten what appeared to be a fedora.
Sandy Hawkins jumped up from the couch where he had dozed off. He had been dreaming when he saw Wes Dodds appear and shove something toward him.
Floating before him was the translucent figure of a boy who looked just as surprised to see Sandy as Sandy was to see him.
“Oh, bloody hell — this can’t be good,” Sandy heard the boy say with a British accent he hadn’t heard since his trip to London last year.
“Who are you?” Sandy asked.
“My name is Jeffrey Pierce,” the boy answered, “and I think Morpheus wants you to help me.”