by Doc Quantum and Starsky Hutch 76
“I’m still worried about her, Charles,” said Myra Mason McNider. “I know she has those powers and the star sapphire to protect her, but even they couldn’t stop whatever it was that hurt her so.”
“I know, I know, Myra,” replied Dr. Charles McNider as the two walked down the New York City hospital hallway toward Amanda’s room, “but look at Dick Grayson. He was only twelve years old when he became Robin, and he had no powers whatsoever to protect him. Our Amanda not only has her powers but also some martial arts training. And she’s got another benefit which Dick never had in his day — a Junior JSA full of other kids like her. If we let her retreat into a shell now, it’ll take her that much longer to recover from her ordeal. We’ve got to let her face this thing head on. It’s the only way she’ll become stronger from it.”
“It all seems so heartless. Isn’t there anything we can do to help her?”
“Of course, Myra. We can continue to love her and support her. And that means letting her make her own decisions.”
“But to become Star Sapphire again, so soon after what happened to her? She still hasn’t healed yet!”
“She’ll have help from the other JSA kids to stop whatever it is that’s attacked them. Whoever they are, they seem to be about the same age as the Junior JSAers. Here we are. She wanted us to come see her and talk with her. I think we should just hear her out before we say anything.”
The couple opened the door to Amanda’s room, and they were surprised.
Before them stood Amanda Martin, dressed in a pair of jeans and a green, short-sleeved wool shirt, as beautiful as she ever was. Nothing of the scars on her face could be seen at all, and Myra stepped back in shock, a second before she rushed for her daughter and hugged her, crying in joy all the way.
Charles McNider looked at Amanda and could not see any of the previous damage whatsoever. “Amanda?” he said, questioningly.
The girl, smiling despite herself, replied, “I guess those powers I got from the cryotuber came in handy, after all, with a little help from the purple healing-ray pills.” Amanda smiled as she remembered how Diana Trevor, even in the midst of her pregnancy, had provided the miraculous healing pills. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See World’s Best: Power Girl and the Huntress: Power (Girl) Mad, Chapter 3: The Preserver.]
“They helped you to heal yourself!” said Myra happily.
“Well, at least they healed the outsides,” Amanda said sadly. “The insides are gonna take a little bit longer.”
Henrietta King’s enormous penthouse apartment was alive with activity, now that many of the Junior Injustice Society were staying there. All were gloating over their successes. All, that is, except for Savant herself.
“What are you moping about for?!” Faust exclaimed with a dramatic wave of his arm as he paced behind the chaise lounge she lay on. “Everything we had hoped for has come to pass!”
“I know,” Savant sighed with her back turned to him.
“The most powerful members of the Junior JSA are now either broken or hopelessly lost,” Faust continued. “And the others are badly shaken.”
“Yeah,” Bluestreak and Stretch O’Brien echoed. They were sacked out on her opulent couch with their feet propped up on her expensive, antique, mahogony coffee table. Normally, she would have threatened to kick them back out into the streets for such an offense. Now, she did nothing. She simply lay on her side and sighed, “I know…” as if preoccupied.
“In fact, if not for that truck, Batwing might no longer dwell upon this mortal coil,” Faust mused.
“Mmm-mmm, I do love that man o’ mine,” Dollface gushed.
“I know all this…” Savant sighed.
“So what is it with you?!” Faust exclaimed, looking over her shoulder to try to make eye contact. As he leaned over her, he caught her in the middle of trying to hide the photo of Whiz Kid she had been looking at.
“What’s this?” Faust cried in delighted surprise as he stopped her. “The little one got to you! How terribly… sweet!”
This drew laughs from around the room. Even Kid Grundy let out a low chuckle that sounded more like, “Huh-huh-huh.”
Dollface began to dance around the room and sang, “Etta and Johnny sittin’ in a tree! K-I-S-S-I-N-G!”
“I don’t have to sit here and take this,” Savant growled, leaping up from the chaise lounge. “I’m out of here.”
“Aw, I was just funnin’ with you,” Dollface said. When Savant didn’t come back, she stuck out her tongue at her. “Ya’ ol’ grouch. My boyfriend is cuter, anyway.”
Savant stormed over to the coat closet, threw open the door, and let out a startled cry. “Faust! What is the meaning of this?!”
Faust drifted over to her side and looked to where she was pointing. In the midst of the huge pile of Dollface’s stuffed animals, Coral’s expressionless face could be seen.
“I’m keeping her,” Faust said, smiled evilly.
The assembled members of the Junior JSA sat gathered in a circle in the Batcave. Batwing sat at the head of the group with the chair to the large computer console turned so it faced the group. Each of them had a sullen, hangdog expression of someone who has been beaten down, pushed too far. Gathering them together might have been impossible if it weren’t for the noticeable absence of their most spirited teammate, Coral.
“We’re glad to have you back,” Batwing said to the most sullen member of the group of all, who sat with his elbows resting on his knees. His now-long hair shaded his face from view, and he wore tattered jeans and a dark Superman T-shirt to replace the uniform that had been ruined during his ordeal.
“Yeah,” Superboy said half-heartedly. “Me, too.”
“Look,” Batwing said to the group. “This has been hard on all of us, but we’ve got to move beyond it. Move on.”
“That’s easy for you to say,” Arrowette said. “You weren’t made a chump of. At least you could feel like you stood a fighting chance!”
“In case you weren’t paying attention to what I was saying earlier,” Batwing said with irritation, “I was nearly killed. All you got was a little scare.”
The room suddenly erupted into shouting. First between Batwing, Arrowette, and Flare, and then joined by the others. Whiz Kid tried to calm everyone down, and when that proved ineffectual, he set his jaws in an angry grimace and slapped his hands together at high speed, producing a boom that was almost like thunder. Everyone stared at him in stunned silence.
“Look at you all!” he snapped. “Mina’s out God knows where, and you’re all bickering like a bunch of kids!”
“He’s right,” Damage said. “We’ve all been hurt more than most of us ever have. But we can’t let it start tearing us apart. We’ve got to pull it together for Coral’s sake.”
“How’s the leg?” Batwing asked.
“Still a little stiff,” Damage said with a weak laugh. “And it kinda aches when it gets cold. But I’ll live.”
Batwing turned his chair toward the computer console. “I’ve done some checking. Henrietta King hasn’t shared a home with her mother in over a year. Since her name popped up, I’ve felt she was the link in tracking down all the rest of our attackers.”
“So where do we find her?” Flare asked.
“Good question,” Batwing said. “As a minor, she couldn’t very well sign a lease on her own. And considering the line of work she’s trying to get in, she probably wouldn’t want in on one anyway, which makes tracking her down a little more difficult.”
“So what have you got?” Superboy said darkly. From the tone of his voice, there was a lot of pent-up anger in him waiting to be released.
“Check this out,” Batwing said, clicking a button on the console to the Batcave computer. An image of a well-dressed, silver-haired man stepping out of a limousine came onto the screen. He was trying to block a paparazzi camera with his hand.
“Nice suit,” Star Sapphire said. “And obviously loaded. But he doesn’t look like any costume I know.”
“That’s because he isn’t one,” Batwing said. “He’s Councilman Andrew Blackman, a local Keystone politician and respected businessman, happily married until this picture was taken.” Batwing zoomed in on the area over the man’s right shoulder. A young girl could be seen trying to block her face with her purse. “She look familiar, John?”
Whiz Kid let out a gasp. She looked far more sophisticated and elegant than when he last saw her, but it was unmistakably the girl who had broken his heart.
“Yeah,” he said, looking down. “It’s her… Henrietta. She… looks older there.”
“I’m sure that’s what she was going for,” Batwing said.
“Eeewww!” Star Sapphire exclaimed. “He’s gotta be three times her age!”
“Almost four, actually,” Batwing said. “But his bank account was enough to make her see past that.”
Another series of similar pictures clicked on the screen, one after another, showing her similarly clad in expensive evening dresses, designer gowns, jewels, and other high-fashion attire. And she was always accompanied by wealthy, affluent, and older men. “The few times these pictures have managed to see print, these men, all rich and powerful, have tried to pass her off as a niece or a friend of a daughter. Usually, the photographers have somehow been persuaded to suppress the pictures, despite the huge nature of the story.”
“So how did you end up with them?” Arrowette asked.
“I learned from the best,” Batwing said with a grin.
“There are numerous places owned by her paramours that she could be staying,” he continued. “Villas in Rome, a country estate in England, a small island in the Caribbean. These men give her pretty much whatever she wants when she wants it.”
“What a slut!” Star Sapphire said, and Whiz Kid winced.
“Actually, considering her ability to cause people to see and feel what she wants them to, she doesn’t have to do anything like that to get these men to give her what she wants,” Batwing replied.
“Convenient ability,” Flare laughed.
“Anyway,” Batwing said, “the place she appears to be staying now isn’t nearly as remote. It’s a penthouse suite in Keystone Towers owned by Prince Aman Ben Rashaad, son of the ousted Shah of Qurac.”
“Wow, a prince,” Damage said. “What would his people say if they knew he was mixed up with someone like her?”
Whiz Kid flashed him a dirty look that shut him up.
“She’s one of the bad guys now,” Superboy said coldly.
“I know,” Whiz Kid said. “I can’t help it… she was… we…”
“If you’re coming along with us, you’d better start helping it,” Superboy said with controlled rage. “Thanks to you and your girlfriend, I ended up going through the worst thing that’s ever happened to me since the Crisis!”
Whiz Kid looked at Superboy with eyes filled with hurt. At first, Superboy began to regret his words, but then the memory of losing control and being flung through the time barrier filled his head, as well as the feelings of helplessness and loss, and he clenched his jaws and scowled.
“Hey! Leave him alone!” Arrowette yelled.
“Yeah! I see you’re copping the attitude to go with that new look of yours,” Flare chided.
“Hey, I didn’t ask for this,” Superboy said, grabbing a lock of his hair. “Where I was, I didn’t exactly have a whole lot of chances to stop for a haircut. And there aren’t a lot of people who can cut my hair, anyway.”
“Superman doesn’t have any super-scissors you could use?” Damage asked.
“He doesn’t need them for his hair. It doesn’t grow like mine,” Superboy said. “He and I are different.”
“You can say that again,” Arrowette muttered under her breath.
“I heard that,” Superboy said. “I have super-hearing, you know.”
Batwing let out a sigh as he rubbed his temples. He felt a headache coming on. They needed a plan of attack, and soon. For the good of the group, they needed to take out their attackers and regain their sense of worth. Otherwise, they wouldn’t last much longer.
“What are we doing here?” Stretch O’Brien said with an angry, irritated sigh as he and Bluestreak sat on Savant’s expensive sofa, watching television.
“What do you mean?” Bluestreak said. “We’re about to watch General Hospital. I thought it was your favorite soap.”
“We shouldn’t even have favorite soaps,” Stretch snapped. “I mean… what are we doing here?!”
“Look, if you don’t wan’t to watch it, then find something else,” Bluestreak said, handing him the remote.
“It’s not about the shows. It’s about all this sitting around,” Stretch said. “Jeez, dude. Aren’t you bored?”
“Well, yeah, kinda,” Bluestreak said. “But it beats where we were before. We ain’t ever ate this good before. And we’ve got a roof over our heads now.”
“You think Savant’s gonna let us stay here forever?” Stretch said. “She’s already getting pretty snippy with us. Like she’d love to have us out of here so we don’t mess up all her nice stuff. Eventually, we’re gonna get kicked out. In the meantime, where’s the big payoff?”
“I-I…” Bluestreak stammered, trying to think of an answer.
“Savant’s loaded, so she doesn’t have to worry about money like us. And that freak Faust acts like he doesn’t even care about it.”
“You got that right,” Bluestreak said. “That guy really creeps me out, the way he just seems to appear here without ever using a door. That shadow pal of his, too.”
“Yeah, I’m not sure what the hell Darkling’s supposed to be,” Stretch mused. “All Faust and Savant seem to care about is making a name for themselves. I could give a rat’s ass about that. I wanna get paid.”
“So what do you have in mind?” Bluestreak asked.
“We need to plan a job, a really big score,” Stretch said. “Something to set us up for ourselves.”
“I don’t think Savant and Faust will go for that,” Bluestreak said.
“Who says we’ve gotta include them?” Stretch started.
They were suddenly distracted by the deep laughter of Kid Grundy as Dollface held a toy bird on a string over his head with a stick, and he batted at playfully. Both giggled like children. She pulled it back and led him toward her. “Who’s my widdle chalky baby?” she asked.
“Guh-Grundy,” he said, batting at the bird as he staggered toward her, laughing ecstatically. “A-huh-huh-huh.”
“And who does Grundy-wundy love?” she said.
“So come here and give yer Dolly some sugar!” she said. The two of them leaned in and gave each other a quick smooch. “Mwah!” Dollface said with a loud giggle. Kid Grundy clapped happily, giving another deep, though still childlike laugh. “Huh-huh-huh!”
“I don’t believe it,” Stretch said.
“I did not need to see that,” Blue Streak said sickly.
“I think I know who we will be including when we do this,” Stretch said, grinning slyly as he watched Dollface continue to lead Kid Grundy around the room with the toy, laughing giddily and obviously enamored of the living doll who had paid far more attention to him in the last few weeks than either Savant or Faust had.