by Starsky Hutch 76
John Garrick whistled happily as he walked to the Keystone City coffee shop that had become Henrietta’s and his regular hangout. He still couldn’t believe he had such a beautiful, glamorous girlfriend. He found himself caring about things he never had before, like fashion, music, and dancing, just so he could look like he deserved to be with someone like her.
He opened the door to the coffee shop and smiled as he saw her sitting in a booth, waiting for him. She didn’t look up. Instead, she was focused on a shallow box in front of her that looked to have some sort of unfinished device sitting in it. She was tugging at small wires with two sets of tweezers and let out a small squeek as a spark shot out.
“What’s that you’re working on?” he asked, sitting down across from her.
“A project I’m doing for school,” she said. “The science fair’s coming up, and I could really use the extra credit.”
“What’s it about?” John said, eyeing the project inquisitively.
“I’m trying to use inertia as a means of producing cheap and plentiful energy. The faster it speeds up, the more energy will be produced, which will then make it go even faster and produce even more energy in an infinite loop.”
“Wow,” John said admiringly. They had so much in common. “Perpetual motion. I’ve got a few theories on that myself. It’s supposed to be impossible, so naturally I’m out to prove the experts wrong.”
“Naturally,” Henrietta said, smiling at him. Another spark flew out, and she yelped in frustration.
“Do you want me to take a crack at it?” John asked, looking at the project with piqued curiousity.
“Yes, please,” the pretty blonde said, shoving the unfinished contraption toward him.
John dug into the project enthusiastically. Soon, he was lost in a deep concentration, becoming oblivious to anyone or anything around him.
Henrietta King watched him and smiled slyly. If only he knew what the device he was building for her would really be used for.
Grant Emerson walked down a solitary New York City street toward the subway after having dinner with the Pratts, who were visiting from Calvin City. As usual, Al had offered to drive him home, but he had politely declined. He liked these quiet moments when he could gather his thoughts.
Another reason he never let Al or Mary drive him home was that he didn’t want them to see how upset he was when it came time to leave. It was almost embarrassing the amount of attention they gave him when he was there. It was so different from what he was used to. The people he had thought were his real parents barely acknowledged his existence until it would come time to tell him what a screwup he was. Then would come the hateful words, if not worse. He wished Al and Mary were his real parents. Things could have been so different for him growing up.
A feeling of melancholy began to overtake him, and he was barely aware of his surroundings. The nearby figure cloaked in shadows, with legs stretching for several stories, went unnoticed. For one brief second, he thought he saw a man-shaped shadow pass in front of the full moon. He quickly dismissed it as his own imagination playing tricks on him.
The next thing he failed to notice was two arms stretching across the street to anchor themselves against the roof opposite the abandoned building the elongated figure had wrapped himself around. When he did look up, the arms simply looked like cables and gave him no cause for suspicion.
When he finally did hear something suspicious, the breaking of masonry and cement, it was too late. He was just in time to see several hundred pounds of brick and cement falling on top of him.
If not for his powers, he would surely have been crushed to death. But it was too little too late. Much of the debris still found its intended target. He was having trouble thinking straight. And from the warm, wet feeling running down the side of his face, he knew he must have a concussion.
“Nice move there, Ace. Probably saved your fool life,” a voice said. Suddenly, he was struck by a giant fist that sent him flying, and he bounced painfully across a terrain of broken and jagged brick.
“Wh-who?” Damage sputtered, his mouth filled with the coppery taste of his own blood.
“That’s for me to know and you to find out,” the voice said, delivering a sharp kick to Damage’s side. He was suddenly lifted by gigantic hands and thrown through the brick wall of a building on the opposite side of the street.
Damage lay stunned and bleeding in the broken remains of the wall. “Whu… why?”
“Ask yer old man,” the voice said, walking into the view of his blurry vision. Damage couldn’t believe his eyes. He looked like an ordinary street punk wearing jeans, a plain white T-shirt, and sunglasses.
“My… my father is dead,” Damage coughed.
“Not him. Your real father,” the youth said.
“My real father? What do you mean?” Damage said, raising his head up.
“You know… Al Pratt,” Stretch O’Brien said, repeating the information Faust had given him for this encounter, “the Atom. He and Mary Pratt are your real parents. But I guess they never told you, did they?” he said with mock gentleness. “Since they gave you up. I guess they just didn’t love you enough. It sucks when that happens. I oughtta know. But what can you do?” Suddenly, he turned and ran in the opposite direction. His legs stretched to enormous lengths as he ran, carrying him off into the distance.
Damage slumped back to the ground, weakly. He knew that he should run after him in pursuit, but he suddenly found himself unable to move.
Superboy was all smiles as the flock of teenage girls mobbed him, pushing pencil and paper toward him for autographs. This was the part of the job he loved. Growing up in the Smallville of Earth-Prime, he never dreamed he might one day be considered a celebrity.
“Good work in putting out that fire,” the large fire man said, working his way through the crowd of girls to clap an appreciative hand on the Boy of Steel’s shoulder.
“I’m just glad I could help out,” Superboy said. “Is everyone I pulled out of the record store OK?”
“Yes, thanks to you. If it hadn’t been for you, whoever the sicko was who started the fire would’ve made sure they were the Dead Kids on the Block.”
“I’m just sorry he got away,” Superboy said. It won’t be for too long, though. I have a friend who’s pretty good at detective work.”
The fireman smiled, knowing who that was and who had taught him. “I’m sure their manager will be really appreciate it, and there will be some sort of a reward.”
“Tell them to give it to the Junior JSA Charity Fund,” Superboy said. “I’ve got to be on my way now.”
The teenage girls parted so they could make way for the young hero and see him take off in the same way his famous adoptive father had so many times before.
He started into a run, but before he could take off, something hit him with the force of a bullet and began shoving him into a faster and faster run. Superboy looked down in alarm and saw two gray-clad arms wrapped around his waist and a blue mohawked head by his side.
“Who the heck are you?!” Superboy cried out in alarm as he tried to dodge objects and people in his path as they moved faster and faster down streets, fields, and roadways at a breakneck pace.
“I was trying to kill two birds with one stone. Thanks for screwing that up, Boy Scout. I thought you people were supposed to work for the betterment of society.”
“What are you doing?” Superboy gasped in alarm as their surroundings began to blur. It was getting harder and harder to dodge innocent bystanders.
“Just following orders,” Bluestreak said. “Quite a ride, isn’t it? This may be the fastest I’ve ever gone before. But it’s far from the fastest you will. See this?” He held up a yellow, metal, cylindrical device. “A buddy of yours whipped it up for my boss-lady. A real whiz kid he is, I tell you.”
Bluestreak reached over and attached the device to Superboy’s belt, and they began to accelerate dramatically, their speed multiplying by the second. “This is where I get off!” Bluestreak yelled out. “I don’t want to go where you’re headed.”
He let go and watched as Superboy rocketed off uncontrollably with a boom that shattered every window for several miles in all directions. From the looks of things, they were somewhere in the Orient. Superboy sped by three more times, having spanned the globe in nanoseconds. Only Bluestreak’s speedster eyes could see him. On the fourth go-around, he disappeared from sight completely.
When Dick Grayson had been the youthful ward of Bruce Wayne, he had been a regular sight at charity balls and other events. The society column often showed him accompanying Bruce and his date. Such was not the case with Jason Todd, now that he was the ward of Richard Grayson. That sort of thing simply wasn’t his style. So this evening found him joining a few friends to see Agent Orange at a local club known for punk acts, while Richard went with Karen Starr, Helena Wayne, and her date to a fundraiser.
Jason cut the evening short with his friends so he could spend the rest of the night on patrol as Batwing. Red Robin had told him he needed to get used to doing it by himself from time to time should he ever suddenly be out of commission. He didn’t like to hear him talk like that, but he was realistic enough to know he had to acknowledge the possibility in their business.
Batwing drove his motorcycle down a darkened street when an object struck him in the jaw, knocking him over. As he flew through the air, he tucked and rolled to control his impact as he collided into a line of garbage cans.
His mouth tasted coppery with blood. As he rose to his feet, he rolled his jaw to see if it was broken. “Nearly broge my freagin’ jaw,” he spat. He glanced down at the object that had struck him as it rolled by his foot. Picking it up, he looked at it. It was a jawbreaker.
“Oh, look! We almost match now!” a high-pitched voice giggled. “You’ve got a red dot on one of your cheeks, too!” He looked over to see a lithe girl with blonde spitcurls, a bow in her hair, and a short, babydoll dress. Her face was painted like that of a doll, with red circles on each cheek. In her hand was a bag of jawbreakers. She took one out and hurled it at him. “Lets see if I can tag the other one! Then we’ll match, and we can go steady!”
Batwing dived out of the path of the jawbreaker, and it struck the brick wall behind him. Whatever it was made of, it hit hard enough to shatter against the wall and actually chip the brick. He grabbed a batarang out of his belt and sent it flying toward her hand, breaking her grip. The bag fell to the pavement.
“My candy! Ooohhh!” she cried angrily.
“Too much sugar’s bad for you,” Batwing said. “Obviously, it’s gone straight to your head.”
“My daddy says it just makes me even sweeter,” Dollface said, folding her hands behind her and swaying from side to side coquettishly.
“That’s debatable,” Batwing said.
“Now don’t go and hurt my feelings, cutesy-wutesy,” she said, breaking into a somersault. “I wouldn’t want to have to hurt you back!”
She landed on his shoulders and locked her thighs around his neck, grabbing him in a chokehold. Batwing gasped, flinging himself against the wall in an effort to knock her off. “Sorry,” she said. “You can’t dump me that easily!”
Spots began to appear before his eyes. He knew he had to get this nut off him soon, or he would black out. Trying to pry her legs from around his neck wasn’t working. Her grip was too strong.
Batwing reached into his utility belt and grabbed another batarang. Rather than throw it, he took hold of it and jabbed the point of it into the fleshy part of her rump.
“Yeeeoooww!” Dollface screamed, leaping from his shoulders.
Batwing coughed furiously, trying to regain his air. He took a battle stance, preparing for her next move.
Dollface pouted and rubbed her injured posterior. “Hey! That’s cheating!”
“So’s hitting a guy when he’s not looking,” Batwing said.
“Aww… our first spat,” Dollface cooed. “How sweet!”
“What are you talking about?” Batwing said. “You make it sound like we’re a couple or something!”
“Playing hard to get, huh?” Dollface said, diving at him again.
In orbit around the Earth, Superboy’s scream was swallowed by the force of his projection as he continued to soar forward, propelled by the device apparently created by his teammate.
His muscles now ached from running as long as he had. Since his powers first surfaced, he thought they were endless and nothing could give him a workout. Now, though, he felt he was near his limit. If this continued, he realized, it could kill him.
Reaching down, he tried to grab the device to pull it from him. “Agh!” he yelped. It was hot to the touch. Well, of course it was. It was using his own kinetic energy.
Well, if it was energy it thrived on, then energy it would get. He wrapped his hand in his sleeve and grabbed it. He began shaking it to make it vibrate at an even faster pace than he was moving. He seemed to be moving even faster now as the device tried to feed its excess energy into his propulsion. Something more was needed.
He fired his heat-vision at the center of its surface to the point where it seemed to take in kinetic energy. He would force-feed the sucker.
The device began to glow red hot. Then suddenly, it exploded. Superboy went flying wildly, like a rag doll caught in a hurricane.
He collided painfully with a rocky surface. Rising shakily to his feet, he saw that his uniform was badly singed. There was a big smoking hole in it where the device had been. Unlike his old uniform, this one wasn’t entirely indestructible.
As he stared out at the barren landcape, none of it was familiar. All the stars were in the wrong place, and where the moon had been, there was now a line of big shining rocks going across the sky. Where — or when — was he?