by Starsky Hutch 76 and Vendikarr DeWuff
“How the heck did we get drafted into this?” Batwing said.
“I don’t know,” Superboy said. “But I can think of worse things than being told to chase after a cute redhead in a bathing suit and go-go boots.”
“She was kind of cute,” Batwing agreed. “Kind of pushy, though.”
“Where could she have gone?” Superboy said. “She couldn’t have gotten that far.”
“Look,” Batwing said, pointing to the top of a small building.
“How the heck did she get up there?” Superboy said.
“We’re talking about Aquaman’s daughter. She’s strong enough to withstand the pressure of the ocean floor. She probably jumped!”
“Funny,” Superboy said. “I don’t remember him having a daughter in the comics.”
“Long story,” Superboy said. He grabbed ahold of Batwing and then flew to the top of the building where Mina was hiding out.
“What do you want?” Mina said angrily as they landed on the roof. They could tell she’d been crying.
“Just to talk,” Superboy said.
“I’ve got nothing to say to you,” she said haughtily.
“I know you’re upset,” Batwing said.
“You don’t know anything about me!” she snapped. “What it’s like having your mother and father let your older brother do whatever he wants, but stop you whenever you try anything. They smother me!”
“You’re right,” Batwing said. “I don’t. I never had any brothers or sisters. I never really knew my mom, either. And my dad could care less what I did. He was pretty much a loser. Eventually, he just took off, and I’ve been on my own ever since. Just living on the streets taking everything I needed to survive.”
“Wow,” Mina said, for once speechless.
“I never had any brothers or sisters, either,” Superboy said. “And my parents were killed in the Crisis along with the rest of my world. I’m staying with Superman now.”
“I feel so stupid,” Mina said, tearing up again. “Here I am complaining about my problems, when you guys have had it a lot worse than I ever could.”
“We’re not letting it keep us down, though,” Superboy said. “And you can’t let this beat you. You’ve got a lot of spirit. Don’t let this take that away from you.”
“I won’t,” Mina said, sniffling. “But if they say I’m too young, how did you get in? You guys are the same age as me!”
“Uh, we didn’t,” Batwing said.
“They wouldn’t even let us in the meeting,” Superboy said. “We were watching a movie we’d rented when you showed up.”
Mina let out a small laugh. “We should form our own team. That would show them.”
Batwing shrugged and said, “That’s what Infinity Inc. did.”
A silence passed between them as they considered the possibility.
“You can’t start your own team,” Red Robin said.
“Why not?” Mina said. “If you don’t want us–”
“You’re in enough trouble as it is,” Red Robin said. “Don’t make your situation any worse.”
“Infinity Inc. started its own team when you guys didn’t want them in,” Batwing added. “Why shouldn’t we be able, too?”
“You’re awfully eager for someone who’s only been in the hero business for about a week,” Red Robin said to Batwing. The Gotham teenager looked down toward his shoes, not meeting his gaze, but it was obvious from the set of his jaw he wasn’t about to budge.
“The same could be said for you,” Superman said to Superboy. “You haven’t been in it that much longer.”
“Have you thought about money?” Hourman said.
“Money?” Superboy asked.
“Sure. You’ve got to have some sort of funding to operate. We’ve got it. So does Infinity Inc. Sylvester pays for it out of his own pocket and with the help of the city of Los Angeles.”
“Last I remember, you don’t have a penny to your name,” Red Robin said to Batwing.
“Would you get off my back?” Batwing responded.
“This is so unfair,” Mina said.
“We’re not trying to be unfair,” said Doctor Mid-Nite. “We’re simply trying to get you to face facts.”
“You can’t jump into something like this half-cocked,” Hourman added.
“Maybe we could work out something here,” said Jay Garrick, the Flash.
“We could?” Red Robin said, flashing him a warning look.
“Sure,” Jay said.
“You aren’t suggesting we put a bunch of kids on the team,” Wildcat said.
“It wouldn’t be the first time we’ve had youngsters on the roll sheet. Back during the war, we had Atom and Johnny, and they were still wet behind the ears.”
“They were still over eighteen,” Doctor Mid-Nite said.
“But they benefited from their association with us and eventually became great heroes in their own right. Same could be done for these kids, here.”
“What are you suggesting, Jay?” Wonder Woman said.
“Maybe a Junior JSA in reality — not simply a fan club we had back during the war, but a team these kids could be a part of, so they can develop their skills under close supervision. One of us would act as a chaperone.”
“Who would you suggest?” Hourman asked.
“You did a pretty good job of straightening out Al back in the day, Ted.”
“Oh, no!” Wildcat laughed. “I ain’t no babysitter.” This drew a unanimous sigh from the so-called babies in question.
“Then how about the member who couldn’t make it tonight?” Jay said with a mischievous grin.
“All in favor of Johnny Thunder being the new liaison to the Junior JSA, raise your hand and say aye,” Doctor Mid-Nite said.
The room echoed with a loud, booming, unanimous, “Aye.”
While the discussion of the Junior JSA continued, the Atom entered the JSA Brownstone with a young, brown-haired boy in tow.
Superman noticed their entrance and said, “Atom, glad you could make it. Who have we here?”
Keeping to just costumed identities, Al said, “Sorry I was late, guys. Had some legal maneuvering to do in Atlanta.”
“Legal maneuvering?” asked Wildcat.
“Yeah. You must have seen the news about the incident in Atlanta, where a few blocks of the city were blown up. Well, it appears to have been accidentally caused by our young friend here, Grant Morrison.”
“Emerson,” corrected the boy.
“Oh, sorry — Grant Emerson. Grant, could you wait outside?” The boy then left the meeting room, joining the other young people outside. The Atom continued. “He seems to have some ability to absorb and release explosive energy. I think it’s kinetic in nature. I wanted to bring him back here so we could run some tests at TylerCo, if that’s OK with its president.”
“I think that can be arranged,” replied Hourman, alias Rex Tyler.
“Why bring him here, Atom?” asked Superman.
“They wanted to arrest him in Atlanta. But he didn’t do this on purpose. I could just tell that when I found him. Plus, there’s something about him. I can’t put my finger on it, but I just had to bring him with me.”
“So what were the legal maneuvers?”
“Well, it appears his adopted parents died recently, and he has no other relatives. He has been placed in my custody, which is better than being placed in juvie or even in with the adult super-villains in prison.”
“What’s he like?” asked Wildcat.
“He’s a very good, decent boy. He’s really upset about the amount of damage he caused. I think that if he can learn to harness this power, he could be a real asset to the team one day.”
The gathered JSA members looked at themselves, and then Doctor Mid-Nite said, “Al, you’ve arrived at just the right time. We have a long-term project in mind for Johnny Thunder, and I personally think you would be the perfect person to join him.”
Al saw the grins on the gathered membership and commented, “Why don’t I think I’m gonna like this?”
“So what’s your thing?” asked Superboy.
“Excuse me?” replied Grant.
“Well, we’re forming a Junior JSA,” explained Batwing, “and it looks like you also get to be in on the ground floor, if you have a thing. Ya know, a power? Superboy, here, is as powerful as Superman. Mina has Aquaman’s powers.”
“Coral,” interrupted Mina Curry. “I’m going to call myself Coral on the surface world.”
“That’s cool,” said Batwing. “Anyway, I’ve got martial arts skills like Batman and Robin. So what’s your power?”
“Oh, well, I blow up,” said Grant. “It needs to be brought under control. The Atom seems excited about it.”
“You the one who nuked Atlanta?” asked Batwing, genuinely shocked.
“Well, it wasn’t nuclear in nature, just explosive. I caused a lot of damage, though. The Atom squared it with them, I think.”
“Well, Damage, welcome to the Junior JSA,” said Superboy as he shook his hand.
“Damage, eh? I guess that works,” replied Grant.
“And then Al comes walking in with this kid who’s responsible for that big explosion in Atlanta we heard about on CNN!” Jay Garrick said as he rinsed off another dish and handed it to his wife to place into the dishwasher.
“It sounds like it was some meeting,” Joan Garrick said.
“It certainly was,” Jay said. “The only thing I can think of that compares to it is the one that the Infinity Inc. kids crashed. Hopefully, this will sort of make up for the way we treated them when they came in looking to join.”
“Well, they were a bit older,” Joan said. “It’s not like they needed the guiding hand you’ll provide for these youngsters.”
“I can only hope,” Jay sighed. “It can’t be easy for them, having this burden of power at such a young age, when you’re already trying to find your place in the world as it is. As much as I worry about him, sometimes I’m thankful that John never developed any powers.”
“True,” Joan agreed. “He’s such a peaceful boy. I don’t know if he’s cut out for the sort of life you lead. He’s not an athlete like you were when you were young.”
“I don’t know if I was that much of an athlete,” Jay laughed. “If I recall, you snubbed me for the captain of the football team.”
“You know what I’m trying to say,” Joan laughed, throwing a dish towel at Jay. “He’s much more content with his beaker and chemicals, or in front of his computer.”
“I know,” Jay chuckled. “If he’s the son of the Flash, you’d think that Flash was of the Earth-One variety! He’s a lot more like Barry than he is me.”
“Oh, didn’t I tell you about our illicit affair?” Joan said coyly, looking over her shoulder at him.
“Hmmm! I think you left that little detail out at the christening, my dear!” he said, pulling her to him.
“You know I only have eyes for you,” Joan said. “Even if you weren’t much on the football field.” She paused and said, “You’re getting that look in your eyes again.”
“I know I said that I’m glad he doesn’t have any powers, but when I think about it, at least those kids are able to take care of themselves.”
Joan sighed and said, “When are you going to stop kicking yourself for going public?”
“How can I?” Jay said. “You said it yourself — he’s so gentle. All he wants is to lose himself in those books and shut out the whole world, and anyone could sneak up on him and–”
“It won’t happen again, Jay,” Joan said, putting her hand to the side of his face. “That was a long time ago, and you and Alan were able to find him before anything happened.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See The Flash: Times Past, 1973: The Family Business.]
“I’ll never be able to stop thinking about it,” Jay said huskily. “I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself, and it would have been all my fault.”
“You had no reason to think we would’ve been able to have children at our age,” Joan said. “Why would you? Or you wouldn’t have given that interview. Who knew the energies that kept us from looking old would have that effect, too?”
“I should’ve taken it into consideration,” he said.
“How could you?” Joan said. “You’ve got to stop punishing yourself. At least we managed to give him some semblance of a normal life.”
In the science lab of a nearby school, John Garrick concentrated, making sure his hand stayed steady as he slowly poured a chemical from one tube to the next. He had to get the compound exactly right, or the results would be explosive, to say the least. Concentration was essential.
Suddenly, one of the neanderthals he called a classmate charged into the room and bumped him from behind, growling, “Watch it, Dr. Frankengeek!”
“Lemmer! What are you doing in here?!” John yelped. “You don’t even take this class!” He watched in horror as the test tubes flew through the air. What would happen when the chemicals landed was anyone’s guess. The experiment was unorthodox, to say the least, and not necessarily approved by his teacher. His heart leaped up in his throat at the thought of losing special lab privileges again.
He focused on the two colors of chemicals in the air and realized they seemed to be floating in midair, as were the test tubes. That lummox Lemmer was also frozen in place, reaching for a bottle of ether and obviously up to no good. John grabbed the test tubes and quickly brought them to the individual red and blue droplets hanging in midair, dividing them by color. He then sat the tubes in their rack and ran over to where the bottle of either was sitting, taking it away from Lemmer’s waiting grasp and locking it up in the cabinet on the oposite side of the room. Then he ran back to where he had previously been standing and concentrated, trying to slow himself back down to the normal pace of the world.
Lemmer blinked repeatedly, as if his eyes were deceiving him. The bottle of ether was no longer where it had been only a few seconds before. His friends were going to rag him for sure when he showed up empty-handed. He turned to where John Garrick was standing, carefully measuring out what was probably some insanely dangerous chemical into another tube of insanely dangerous chemicals. “Hey, Dr. Frankengeek! Did you see…? Nah, you wouldn’t’a seen anything. Not with them Coke bottle lenses you got on.” He stomped out of the room angrily to his fate.
John let out a whistle of amazement. He and his father would definitely have a lot to talk about when he got home.
“So that’s everything that happened,” John Garrick said, having recounted every detail of his first encounter with super-speed, from the ogre-like stoner Gary Lemmer nearly ruining his experiment after bumping into him, to the entire world going into slow motion, to his catching the chemicals in their individual test tubes and still having enough time to keep Lemmer out of trouble by taking a jar of ether out of his grasp.
“Sounds like you’ve had quite a day,” said Jay Garrick, the Flash. “Looks like the Junior JSA was formed just in time.”
“Junior JSA?” John blurted.
“That’s right,” Jay said. “It’s a group of kids with powers like yourself, all about your age, being trained to use their newfound abilities responsibly.”
“That’s really not necessary, Pop,” John said. “I don’t have any interest in heroics such as the JSA engage in — no offense. I plan on using my new abilities in scientific pursuits. Being able to move at the speed of thought will be invaluable in the lab. I’ll be able to carry out my experiments as fast as I can think of them!” he said, gesturing wildly with excitement. His arm jostled the TV tray sitting next to him, and his glass began to fall. He reached out with his super-speed, but rather than catch it, he knocked it with his hand and sent it firing across the room like a bullet.
At just that second, Joan walked into the room with a pitcher full of lemonade. “Would either of you boys like anything else to drink?” The pitcher slipped from her grasp, and she let out a cry as she saw the glass rocketing toward her.
In a blink of an eye, Jay Garrick flew out of his chair and raced to where the glass was, only inches from her head. He plucked the glass out of the air and caught the pitcher before it hit the floor.
“Just the same,” he said, breathing heavily more from the shock than the running, “I think you could benefit from associating with this group, Whiz Kid.”
John Garrick let out a groan and rested his head in his hands. He knew he’d be spending a lot less time in the lab because of this.