The next day found Mitch Shelley in a medium-sized park, walking around observing as the park filled with joggers, chess players, people walking animals, and people following other interesting pursuits. He stopped for a moment to observe a Tai Chi class begin before wandering deeper into the heart of the park.
A black crow swooped through the air just over his head cawing loudly before it landed in a nearby tree. Its black eyes glittered with what seemed to be an unnatural intelligence as it watched Shelley walk around the park. Two well-dressed men were talking to each other just up ahead of him as he came into range to hear their conversation.
“I’m telling you, this new stuff is great for a rapid energy boost, Jim,” the taller of the two said as he popped an oddly colored pill into his mouth.
“I don’t know about this, Leonard. What did you say this stuff was called, anyway?” Jim asked as he swallowed the pill given to him by his friend.
“The street name is Boost or Surge,” Leonard replied as he felt a surge of strength and energy in his body.
“Wow!” Jim said as he felt the pill take effect.
“Aren’t you glad that I’m a doctor? The guy who sold me this stuff said to make sure to stay calm and not to get angry.” Leonard’s eyes began to alter in color as the drug interacted with his system.
“I’m sick of hearing about you being a doctor all the time, Leonard. Why don’t you give it a rest?” Jim’s eyes also began to alter in color.
“I’m sick of seeing all the women you date and then dump, Jim, so don’t be giving me any of your attitude. You still think you’re in command of a ship and that I serve under you, but that was a long time ago.” Leonard’s voice grew angry.
“Why don’t you try to make me shut up so I can whip your ass once and for all.” Jim made an obscene gesture with his fingers.
Leonard growled with anger, grabbing a park bench that he slammed into his friend, sending Jim slamming backward before being stopped by a tree. Jim shook off the powerful blow with ease as he rose to his feet to run at Leonard. The two men traded powerful blows with each other as they battled. Mitch Shelley watched with a genuine curiosity before he tried to step in to stop the violence. The two men had grown berserk from the influence of the designer drug and turned their attacks onto Shelley.
Only the specially designed costume given to him stopped the full power of the blows from getting through as the two men swung wildly at him. But even the reduced force sent Shelley stumbling backward with the two men in pursuit.
“Calm down, fellows. There’s no need to get so violent. Can’t we just discuss this like civilized people?” Shelley said, trying to calm down the super-strong duo.
“You interrupted our fight, so now you must die,” Leonard replied, sounding quite unbalanced as he grabbed one of the smaller trees and ripped it from the ground.
“Yes. You stopped Leonard from getting his ass kicked, so you must be punished,” Jim uttered as he also ripped a tree from the ground.
Shelley managed to duck or dodge most of the blows directed his way as he struggled to contain the two from roaming into the more populated areas of the park. Finally, the super-strong berserk duo began to lose power as the drug lost its effectiveness. Shelley tagged the two with knockout blows, then searched for someone to help the drugged men. He returned with one of the park authorities, who called for an ambulance to be sent to park. A little while later, after the ambulance arrived, the park authority asked Shelley to show him the damaged area.
“You say they did all this damage?” The park authority with the name tag Smith said as he surveyed the uprooted trees and wrecked park benches.
“Yes, they did,” Shelley replied as he watched the man survey the area.
“I transferred here from Jellystone Park to get some peace and quiet from picnic-snatching bears to wind up in a park ravaged by Boost users,” Smith said with some regret as he looked at Shelley, shaking his hand with a dismissive attitude. “Thank you for your help, sir, but we would prefer that you move to another area of the park, since this section will have to be closed down for repairs.” Smith shooed Shelley out of the area, muttering about transferring back to Jellystone.
Mitch Shelley decided that he had seen enough of the park as he walked out of the area back to the city streets. Unnoticed, the black crow flew after Shelley, keeping him in sight. Shelley was soon attracted to the sounds emanating from a busy club and walked inside.
“Hey, honey. It’s a five-dollar cover charge to come inside,” the blond woman said as she smiled at Mitch. Shelley reached into one of his pants pockets and gave the woman a twenty. She tried to give him his change, but he just walked deeper into the club after telling her to keep the extra money.
On the stage, a band was playing a soulful rendition of a blues song that Shelley found familiar, somehow. He found a table and pulled out a chair to listen to the music.
After listening to several song sets, Shelley stood and introduced himself to the four members of the band. “That was most excellently done. You captured the true essence of those songs. By the way, my name is Mitch Shelley.”
“Thanks, man,” the vocalist and guitar player said with a sort of a wry grin.
“It is indeed a great pleasure to hear that our feeble attempts to pay homage to the great blues men and women brings joy to even one soul,” the horn player said in a deep voice.
“Flattery, Mr. Shelley, is welcome to our little quartet,” the female vocalist and keyboard player said.
The drummer rose from behind his set to give Shelley a little bow. “Once again they forget to introduce themselves to a fan. Our player of the stringed instruments is Gordon Bartelli. The horn player who fancies himself a ladies man is Obadiah Walker. The lovely keyboard player is Delilah Kokoski. The humble smacker of these drums is myself, and my name is Frederick Winthrop, but most people call me Freddie.”
Delilah gave Freddie a friendly smack on the back. “He’s the least humble man I know, so don’t believe it, Mitch.”
The sound of a fiddle playing was heard in the background as the woman at the door slumped over, asleep.
“I have no time to waste on you. I am here on an urgent matter, my dear,” said a notorious criminal as he walked past her. The Fiddler was one of several old super-villains who had regained his youth nearly a year ago during a successful rejuvenation scheme. (*) His eyes scanned the room and saw the small group gathered near the stage. He tucked his fiddle under his chin and played a lullaby, causing the rest of the patrons of the club to fall fast asleep, leaving only the small group untouched.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Showcase: JSA Reserves: All This and Earth-Two, Chapter 3: Villains Rejuvenated.]
The Fiddler walked smartly over to the group, giving the lady a slight bow. “I believe you are the person I seek. If you do as I ask, no harm will come to you. I need the service of a master craftsman to reassemble a rather special instrument for me.”
Gordon Bartelli looked at the Fiddler and chose to say as little as possible. “That’s me.”
Obadiah Walker frowned at the mention of the instrument. “You must be talking about the legendary Instrument of Power. It’s just a story, as far as I know.”
Frederick Winthrop spun his drumsticks around his fingers as he gave Delilah a signal. “What if my good friend, here, doesn’t feel like aiding you in your little quest?”
The Fiddler played a spritely little ditty on his fiddle, causing everyone to start dancing wildly for a moment before he stopped. “That would be most unfortunate.”
Delilah stepped closer to the Fiddler and gave him a thousand-watt smile. “No need to give us any more demonstrations of your power. I’m sure Gordon would be happy to help you out. Now, how are you going to find this Instrument?”
The Fiddler pulled out a small, rolled-up map and spread it out on the table. “I found this map showing the locations of the disassembled pieces of the fiddle. It’s in a language I don’t understand, but I’m certain that I can find someone to translate it one way or the other.”
Delilah looked at the map and gave a genuine start as she recognized the language. “I understand this. It’s a lost Romany tongue that very few people can understand. Obadiah, isn’t this one of those obscure little countries that you know people from?”
Obadiah looked at the map. “Yes, it is.”
Mitch Shelley made his move at that time, seeking to knock the Fiddler out before he could use his instrument again. The Fiddler, used to battling the likes of the Flash, reacted too quickly for the blow to land as he enshrouded the moving Shelley in a circle of deadly sound.
“A would-be hero, but no match for me.” The Fiddler laughed triumphantly as he played a few extra notes, causing the circle to shrink.
Frederick Winthrop sighed loudly as the plan he had put together fell apart. “We all have to accompany you on your little quest, Fiddler. Gordon is needed to assemble the instrument, Delilah to translate the map, Obadiah has to act as a guide to these countries, and I myself am needed to provide the transportation and money, so we had better leave before you hurt our fan.”
“Then we must depart in my Fiddle car before I succumb to the desire to crush the would-be hero. I bid you adieu.” The Fiddler gestured mockingly to Shelley before following the four musicians through the door.
Mitch Shelley cursed as the Fiddler escaped before the circle of deadly sound began to dissipate. He ran out of the club to see the oddly shaped car racing away too fast for him to catch up with it. The sensation of losing was a difficult one to swallow, as Shelley knew that he should have been able to defeat the villain. A memory flashed in his mind of a sword before it faded away.
That sensation of peace had been replaced with a restless anger, so the man called Shelley started walking again. He wasn’t sure how long he had walked as lost in thought he was. The sounds of a battle caught his attention. A car flew through the air to smash into a building, sending several people on the sidewalk running away.
“I am going to smash you, hero, then I am going to smash this city to pieces for all of the abuse it’s giving me,” the man in a purple costume said as he blocked a laser beam from his opponent.
“You’re not Arsenal, but I will be happy to kick your butt,” the yellow-clad man said as he directed another beam of white light at the purple-costumed man. The beam was caught on one of the bands on the man’s arm and was absorbed. Their comrades were pulling several unconscious police officers to safety as the purple-costumed man grabbed another semi-smashed police car and tossed it at the yellow-clad man.
“Everyone is going to fear the power of the Ultraband Man,” he said as the car flew right through the yellow-clad man.
“Maybe you should try something else,” the Ray said as he fired a blast at the asphalt underneath the feet of the Ultraband Man.