by Starsky Hutch 76, Rubberman41 and Tynnechris
Life had been hard for Susan since coming to the big city. Her parents had tried to talk her out of it, but she had dreams, and they couldn’t be lived out in a small town like the one she’d come from. So she had scraped what meager funds she had and took the bus to the bright lights of Star City, where she hoped to make it big one day on the stage.
Things hadn’t gone as she’d hoped, though. Most auditions required a little time spent on the couch, and she had promised her father that she’d come home before giving in to that. She waited tables, still hoping for a legitimate shot at the stardom that she craved.
Unfortunately, the salary of a waitress in Star City didn’t allow you to stay in the best places, and she feared for her safety. She could see the way the seedy-looking men who hung out on the street in her neighborhood looked at her, and she feared that one day one of them would try something.
As she approached her building, she heard a pitiful meow and saw the cutest little kitten sitting at the entrance to an alleyway. She knew it wouldn’t stand a chance with all the hoodlums on the street. One of those sickos might do something to it.
“Come here, kitty,” she called out. Rather than coming, it ran into the alley. “Don’t be afraid,” she called out. “I won’t hurt you,” she said, running in after it. As soon as she saw the dark, ominous surroundings of the alleyway, she realized how foolish she’d been. She turned to leave, but it was too late. One of the same hoodlums she lived in fear of was blocking her exit.
“Pretty, pretty kitty,” he laughed menacingly.
“I — I saw the cat run in here, but I guess it got away,” she said.
“There was a cat in here?” he laughed, approaching her.
“Don’t touch me,” she said. “If you do, I’ll scream.”
“Go ahead and scream,” he said. “Just makes it more fun for me. Ain’t like anybody ’round here’s gonna do anything about it. Ain’t like you’ll be around to tell nobody later, either.”
“Unhand her!” a voice boomed from the entrance to the alley.
Susan thought she had to have been hallucinating from shock and fear. There stood a giant of a man with long, flowing, blond hair wearing a toga, armor, and a cape.
The punk that held her wrist laughed out loud. “You in the wrong part of town for some fancy costume party, Caesar. Why don’t you take off? Me and the chick here was just about to have some fun.”
The large man stepped forward majestically, the light of the moon reflecting off of his highly polished silver chest-plate. “The name is Odysseus. I told you to unhand the woman. Do as I say or suffer the consequences. You won’t get a second chance.”
“You an’ me might not have had a problem before, nut-job, but we do now.” He pulled out a stiletto and shoved his blade at the part of Odysseus’s stomach not protected by armor. The blade bent, and the punk brought the knife up, staring at it in horror.
“You’ve had your turn, villain,” Odysseus said, smiling cruelly. “Now I will have mine.”
Susan screamed as the hoodlum crashed through the brick wall of the alleyway behind them. She could hear his bones snapping from the impact. Bricks rained down upon him as he lay there in a heap.
“You’ve killed him!” she screamed. “I thought you were a super-hero.”
“I am!” he said indignantly. “Is this not the fate he had in store for you?”
“I… guess,” she gasped, struggling not to hyperventilate.
“Then how can you condemn me for giving him that which he deserved?” he said irately, stepping toward her.
Susan backed away from him, letting out another involuntary scream.
A sneer of disgust crossed Odysseus’ face. “Ungrateful wench.” He leaped into the air and flew away without looking back.
She turned back to the hole in the wall where her would-be attacker lay in a ruined heap. A groan escaped from the hoodlum. He was alive. She ran from the alleyway screaming for anyone who would listen.
Within the temple that she had built in her home to worship her gods, Wonder Woman lit the incense in the bronze bowl upon the dais. She spoke the words of summoning, and an image began to appear within the smoke.
“Who summons me?” the deep, resounding voice said.
“It is I, Lord Mars,” she said. “Diana of Paradise Island.”
“Ah, Wonder Woman,” Mars said. “Our chosen warrior. Perhaps you have summoned me to thank me for the gift I have bestowed upon your husband.”
“Thank you?” Wonder Woman gasped.
“Yes!” Mars said. “Many of the gods bestowed a gift upon Steve Trevor to make him the fine figure of heroism that he is now, but I feel mine was the most important of all. I returned to him his skills in the lost art of war and returned the fire to his soul.”
“You’ve made him a madman,” Wonder Woman said. “He’s become an arrogant, swaggering boar!”
“Save your reproachful stare for someone it will actually work upon, Amazon. You stand before a god.”
“He thinks he’s Odysseus!” Wonder Woman snapped.
“Thinks?!” Mars laughed. “I forget the simplistic terms that you mortals live by. You really did not know who you were wed to, did you? When I said I returned the fire to his soul, I meant just that. I sheared away the weakness that had been formed by life in your modern times and returned the fire and passion of old. Your husband doesn’t believe he’s Odysseus. He is. He always was.”
For once, Wonder Woman wished she was one of the frailer women of man’s world such as those she had encountered when first leaving Paradise Island. She would have enjoyed the liberty they had of fainting dead away when given shocking and horrifying news.
In Gotham City, Yolanda Montez continued keeping watch on the secret warehouse lair of the Joker, listening in to conversations as she had for several weeks now through devices she’d managed to plant during the brief times they’d left their hideaway. She was now fully immersed in her new role, much to the suffering of her career as a journalist. A freelance writer who didn’t write didn’t get paid. Luckily, she’d found other means to get by, such as the money inside the warehouse. This particular assignment was on the Joker. She turned up the volume of her listening device and focused her telescopic lens on the window at the top of the warehouse.
“My deal with the Shade,” the Joker said to his gathered henchmen and his daughter, Harley Quinn, “was to keep the former Boy Blunder busy while they schemed of ways to deal with the JSA. This plan should do it in spades! Not to mention the fact that we’ll be able to loot the whole city.”
“I just hope it doesn’t blow up in our face,” Franko Morelli muttered.
“Blow up?” Joker sputtered. “Bwah-hah-hah! That’s a good one, Franko, old boy!” He slapped his long-time foot soldier on the back.
“Your jobs,” he continued, “will be to plant high-powered explosives at all entrances to and from Gotham, army reserve centers, the police station, all hospitals, radio and TV stations, power stations, and anywhere else that will bring this city to a standstill. Once these bombs go off, Gotham will be a veritable no man’s land.”
“The JSA would be all over us in a heartbeat!” Franko said.
“My daddy knows what he’s doing!” Harley snapped.
“Thank you, puddin’,” the Joker cooed. “As for the Geriatric Society, they only come into town for meetings,” he continued. “It’s not as though anyone other than Red Robin lives here. Him and his new twerp sidekick, Batwing. We’ll do this when the rest of his little club isn’t in here, and then he’ll be on his own. Oh, better throw a bomb in for their brownstone, too.”
“Anywhere else?” Franko sighed.
The Joker’s eyes lit up. “The orphanage! Can’t forget the kiddies!”
“That’s my pop!” Harley squealed. “Just a big ol’ softy!” The Joker and Harley hugged each other, cackling with laughter. A stricken look came over the gathered henchmen.
Yolanda sat down her binoculars, wide-eyed with shock. She had to contact Red Robin, but how? And would he trust a new Catwoman?
In another old warehouse in Gotham City, two men sat at a large oak table, flipping through aged scrolls and books. One of them slammed the cover of a large book and flopped it on the table.
“Wizard, we must find a way to rejuvenate our compatriots, or the Ultra-Humanite and that Luthor bitch will have our heads,” he said to his peer.
“Stop whining like a girl, Karkull. You have done this before — you rejuvenated the Justice Society ages ago. Stop worrying,” the Wizard said as he got up, stretched, and yawned.
“But, that was a fluke — an accident! I haven’t been able to duplicate the effect since,” Ian Karkull droned on.
The Wizard was about to retort, but the words caught in his throat. An acrid plume of smoke filled the room they were sitting in, and a figure appeared out of it. “Hello, gentlemen. I have been observing your dilemma from afar, and I do believe I have a solution.”
The figure stepped forward through the smoke, and the others recognized him. The figure had green skin, resembled the devil himself, and was dressed in red and green.
“Wotan!” Karkull exclaimed.
“Yes, my misguided ally, it is I, Wotan,” the figure continued. “You have been given the task of rejuvenating your fellow criminals so you can wage war on the Justice Society, yes?”
“How did you know that, Wotan?” the Wizard asked.
“If you must know, I have been rewarded for my years of serving the dark forces. I have been raised by my peers to be a Lord of Chaos.” Wotan enjoyed the surprise and fear that entered the eyes of the two men before him. They had both heard things — dark things — about the Chaos Lords, and they trembled for a moment before regaining their composure.
“Well, if you are so high and mighty now, why don’t you just wave your hand and rejuvenate them yourself?” the Wizard said, smirking.
A ribbon of dark force whipped out of Wotan’s hand, hitting the Wizard square in the chest. The Wizard was thrown across the room, slamming into the wall.
“Do not mock me, mortal, for I possess powers you cannot even fathom. But I am here to grant you what you seek.” Wotan stroked his goatee and smiled. “I will aid you in your war against the Justice Society, because it will be a boon to my plans, but there will be a price.”
“And what price is that?” asked Karkull.
Wotan glared at Karkull and said, “You shall see, old ally, but first I need for you to gather all who will be part of the transformation.”
Outside, lightning crashed, and thunder rolled as a cold rain started to fall.
“Rudy Jones, is it?” The red-haired woman looked up from her desk at the thin, nervous-looking man seated across from her desk.
“Uh, yeah. Yeah! I’m really happy to be interviewed here, missus… uh…” Oh, crap! I forgot her name — and she’s such a babe! Oh, crap! You idiot, Rudy!
“Call me Ms. Lex,” she said, smiling, despite feeling tired from hours of interviews much like this one.
“Oh… hah — OK.” Rudy shuffled in his seat and gave a little smile. The interview went just swell from there. Apparently, this new company in Metropolis needed all the warm bodies it could to set up some new science facility that looked to rival even TylerCo or Knight-Tech. And that included the need for a managing sanitation supervisor; so what if that was just a glorified janitor? It took skill, and it was the only job Rudy showed any skill for.
Lousy, anyway, he thought. With the Crisis, you’d think people would be beggin’ all the workers they could find to sign on, but no, I gotta apply for weeks.
“Does this sound acceptable, Mr. Jones?”
Rudy realized that Ms. Lex had been speaking with him for a while now. After a moment of confusion, he said, “Ah, yes, definitely, if it’s OK with you guys — uh, I mean you?”
“More than OK, Mr. Jones. Please come in for orientation tomorrow at four.”
Rudy Jones thanked her profusely, gave her everything but an offer of marriage, and tripped twice over his own feet on the way out.
Alexis Luthor could almost feel guilty. As soon as she was certain she was alone, she let her hair out of the wretched bun she’d had it in over the last few hours of interviews and touched a panel on the desk. The grotesque visage of the Ultra-Humanite materialized above her. “Is he the doppelgänger?” she asked.
“Yes… yes, he is. Excellent. Report to the lab. We must make our orientation ready for him and the others tomorrow.”
The albino ape then enjoyed a hearty laugh. Alexis turned the visual off, feeling herself warm with anticipation. Soon things were going to be very interesting in Metropolis.