by Doc Quantum and Starsky Hutch 76
“Come over here, you big, brainless monstrosity!”
Faust found himself at the end of his rope where his patience was concerned. That was surprising to him, since he considered patience one of his preeminent qualities. As a magician’s apprentice, it needed to be. However, since they had resurrected the corpse of Alex Olsen into the hulking ogre they coyly referred to as Kid Grundy, the monster had been out of his control, at least since the day afterward. His suspicions now became roused.
“Don’t want to… want Etta!” replied the childlike Kid Grundy in a thick, resonant voice, referring to Henrietta King, AKA Savant, the daughter of Brain Wave. The beast refused to move.
“Hmm… it seems my suspicions may be correct,” Faust mused. “So she wants to bring most of the team under her control, does she? Methinks Ms. Henrietta King is due for a comeuppance. I think it’s time to pay a visit to one of my mentors.”
Faust stepped away from the monstrosity known as Kid Grundy in anger, walking down the hall with a forceful stride. And as he did, the shadows seemed to billow and grow around him into an inky darkness.
Suddenly, in this shadowy void there began to appear an enormous throne. And in this throne sat the enigma known to the world as the Shade. He sat, leaning on his cane, staring at Faust intently.
“Faust, my boy. What can I do for you? Have you come for more of my tutelage?” the Shade asked pleasantly.
“It’s that matter I discussed with you earlier.”
“The ambitious endeavor you and the beauteous Ms. King are about to undertake?”
“Yes, that one. As I feared, she seeks to align all our forces under herself.”
“And you need someone on your side you can trust implicitly,” said the Shade.
“Yes, I do.”
“You’ve come to the right place,” the Shade said. “I have someone you can add to your forces — one of my own trusted minions whose services I would be more than happy to lend you. Of course, I may call on you for a favor at a later time.”
“I wouldn’t have expected otherwise. But aren’t most of your shadow beings mindless?” Faust asked.
“A common misconception. The shadow dimension is a realm like any other. It has its own denizens. My fortune is that they are now all under my control. I have merely used the mindless variety more often in the past, because they were more pliable. The ones such as the one I will send with you is actually valuable because of his keen wit. Not to mention the fact that his talents are considerable.”
“Excellent,” Faust said. “Where is this minion?”
“Why, he’s been here all along,” the Shade said. A boy who seemed almost made of the same inky blackness as the shadow realm stepped forward from beside the throne. “I give you the Darkling.”
“Forget it,” said Stretch O’Brien. “I don’t do costumes.”
“But you gotta wear a costume,” Dollface said. “I think it’s a law or something.”
“We break laws, don’t we?” said Stretch.
“If you don’t like the one we made for you…” Savant began.
“We can always get you one that shows off your legs, just like your grandaddy’s!” Dollface interrupted.
“Please, you’re not helping,” Savant said.
“If my grandpop wore one like the picture you showed me, it’s no wonder he never went big-time in the hero biz,” Stretch said, remembering the photograph of Plastic Man, circa 1942.
“Who knows how far he would’ve gone if he hadn’t left for Earth-X with all those other heroes?” Savant said. “I don’t think it was the costume. It’s no more revealing than the Atom’s.”
“I think his costume’s fruity, too,” Stretch said. “I’m plain clothes-ing it.”
“Suit yerself,” Mitch said, speeding into the room in his new blue and gray suit. “I think this one’s totally awesome! It’s a hell of a lot easier to run in.”
“You looked like some kind of blue streak just now,” Stretch said.
“Cool,” Mitch said. “That’ll be my name.”
“Me, I’ll just stick with Stretch.”
“How imaginative,” Savant said, rolling her eyes.
Six out of the seven members of the newly formed Junior Injustice Society sat assembled in the lounge room in the suburban villa in which Henrietta King (who now called herself Savant) lived. They were an odd bunch.
Stretch O’Brien and his friend Mitch, now calling himself Bluestreak, found themselves easily distracted in the posh surroundings. It was like something out of Hollywood, at least to them. Every once in a while Henrietta would catch them whispering to each other and pointing at various objets d’art and various technological trinkets she kept around. It was obvious they had never been around such wealth before (not that she was terribly wealthy herself), and she hoped that she’d be able to have an opportunity to show them what a mistake it would be to try to steal from her. Stretch had nimble fingers, as befitted his name, and Bluestreak — grandson of Quicksilver — was probably fast enough to swipe something and get back into his original position before anyone noticed.
Dollface was wearing a Walkman with headphones on and was dancing around the room, singing karaoke-like at the top of her voice to the Cyndi Lauper tape playing in it. That girl could entertain herself for hours. She seemed harmless enough at times like this, but Savant knew of her psychotic reputation long before she’d officially become an outlaw. They’d known each other since before puberty, since their fathers were in the same business. Henrietta’s father, the original Brain Wave, had little in common with Dollface’s dad, the Rag Doll. They had also hardly ever worked together, except for having been fellow members of the Ultra-Humanite’s Secret Society of Super-Villains a few years ago, but somehow their daughters had met in a quite rare occasion, which would have been absolutely surreal to anyone looking on. Thanks to the disproportionate size of his head, Savant’s father looked like a midget, even though he was half a foot taller than the Atom, and Dollface’s father had a penchant for dressing up like Raggedy Andy.
Kid Grundy sat in a lump on the floor, watching every move Savant made. Ever since her private session with the ogre-like undead teen a couple of weeks ago, he had become her undying slave, much to the consternation of her rival, Faust. He had believed that, since Kid Grundy was resurrected from the dead through his magicks, he had every right to have him under his power. When Savant had wrested him unknowingly from the young mage’s control, the well-guarded (but definitely real) anger she saw in Faust’s eyes was delicious, positively delicious.
The newest recruit of the Junior Injustice Society stood in the far corner, away from the window. Faust said his name was the Darkling, and he was literally an intelligent shadow creature, one of the Shade’s best, in fact. He had been what in the shadow dimension would be the equivalent of a litter-mate to Smudge, the Shade’s number one shadow creature. He was one to keep an eye on, especially since he’d been personally recruited by Faust, but even moreso because he was the eyes and ears of the Shade. And she didn’t trust that old manipulator any more than she did anyone else.
The six were still in waiting for the arrival of Faust, who was supposed to have been there for the meeting in which they’d give out the assignments. He’d been on an information-gathering session of sorts and was expected momentarily.
Moments later, the young mage made a dramatic entrance through an otherwordly portal in the middle of the room.
“Is that a new trick?” Savant asked the young man, not in the least impressed.
“Yes. Do you like it?” he asked uncaringly, looking down at the notes he held in his hand. Without waiting for a response, he said, “I’ve found the information we were looking for on those other young… heroes who may be potential future candidates of the enemy team.”
“Arrowette and Flare? And Star Sapphire?”
“Indeed. Shall we begin the meeting?”
And at that, Savant called the others to gather around them. The aspiring super-villainess known as Savant smiled at her newly formed Junior Injustice Society, the assembled body of which were now all looking at her expectantly. She just loved being the center of attention.
“You all know why we’re here,” she began. “We are the children and protégés of the greatest villains on our world. Well, at least for the most part,” she added, glancing at Stretch and Bluestreak. “But while we are young, we are not children. Our elders and mentors did not believe in us enough to bring us into the family business, citing our youth as a reason, and we are gathering here today to prove them wrong.”
“So formal,” Faust said under his breath, smirking.
Savant continued without acknowledging that remark. “Our goal cannot be reached without testing the waters. It would be foolish to attempt an attack on the Justice Society of America proper, so we will start small, by attacking their children. I’m not suggesting anything so base as murder or dismemberment or anything like that. No, I’m suggesting an attack on the things their young hearts prize the most — their newfound heroism. They aspire to be super-heroes in the same way that we aspire to be super-villains. And so we will attack them at their weakest points and bring them to their knees, using different methods. Dollface, I want you to spar against Red Robin’s young partner, Batwing.”
“Oooh, he’s so cute,” Dollface giggled.
“He may be that, but he is also just a boy in over his head. I want you to show him that. Bluestreak, your nemesis will be Superboy.”
“Wha–?” the speedster said in shock, his mouth agape.
“I know, I know… he’s pretty powerful. But with your speed, I’m sure you can come up with something. Remember, you have the street smarts which this blue Boy Scout has no hope of having. I suspect he’s just some farmboy who has no idea what’s out there. And those powers of his can definitely be as much of a drawback as an advantage. You’ll show him how true that is.” Before Bluestreak could respond, Savant added, “Don’t worry, we’ll talk about it after the meeting. I already have a plan for you.”
“Oh… OK,” Mitch replied.
“Stretch O’Brien,” Savant continued, “you will be going up against the kid known as Damage.”
“Damage?” Stretch said incredulously. “Ain’t that the kid who blew up Atlanta? (*) What, are you crazy?”
[(*) Editor’s note: See DC Universe: Crawling from the Wreckage, Book 2, Chapter 2: Damage.]
“Yes, he was the unwitting cause of that explosion in Atlanta, and ever since then he’s been dealing with the guilt he feels from it. He’s totally unsure of himself. I want you to enforce that feeling.”
Stretch grumbled in protest. “Well, who the hell are you going up against?”
“I will be visiting the young speedster known as Whiz Kid.”
“Well, how come Mitch ain’t going head-to-head with that kid?” Stretch complained. “He has the same speed as him!”
“Yeah!” Mitch agreed.
“I’m sorry, Mitch, but you’re outmatched by the Whiz Kid in terms of intellect,” she replied condescendingly. “And I am looking forward to a… meeting of the minds, so to speak,” she said. “I am going to see how much it takes to corrupt this innocent boy. I don’t think he’s ever met anyone like me.” Smiling, Savant then glanced over to her second-in-command and said, “Faust, you have the floor.”
The young magician stood next to her and addressed the team. “My target is Coral, daughter of the king of Atlantis.”
“Wait a sec,” Stretch said. “Why are you going up against a weakling like Coral while you’re sending Mitch, here, against a powerhouse like Superboy? Why don’t you go up against Superboy yourself? All Kryptonians have a weakness against magic, don’t they?”
“As Savant said earlier, we do have a plan in the works to give Bluestreak an advantage — please hold all further comments until after the meeting, all right?” Faust said impatiently. “As I was saying, my assignment is Coral, for the simple reason that I may be able to corrupt this naive Atlantean in a similar way as Savant with Whiz Kid, at the same time learning something of Atlantis, which should prove useful at some point in the future.”
Ignoring her, Faust continued. “Kid Grundy will go into battle against the young Star Sapphire, who ironically has similar powers to the Green Lantern, Solomon Grundy’s arch-nemesis.”
“This is totally messed up,” Stretch continued to complain.
“And finally,” Faust said loudly, now hardly able to maintain his cool demeanor from all the grumbling, “our own Darkling will teach young Arrowette and her partner Flare the meaning of true fear, as only he can.” He reached over to the nearby table for some file folders as Savant stepped up again.
“We’re giving you each an information folder on your foe, which will give you an advantage, since they have no such information about you,” she said. “Faust and I will gladly go over each folder with you individually later. I wish you luck on your assignments.”
“God, you are such a stiff,” said Faust, an ironic smile on his mouth.
“You’re one to talk,” Savant replied, and they ended the meeting.