by Starsky Hutch 76
It was meeting day once again at the JSA Brownstone. As usual, the Justice Society of America and the Junior JSA had broken to their respective rooms to commence. Both teams were nearing the end of their proceedings when they were suddenly interrupted by a distress call. The JSA elected to handle it, leaving the Junior JSA to their own devices.
Batwing was playing pool with Superboy when he noticed how out of it he seemed to be. “What is it with you?”
“It’s Mary,” Superboy sighed. “Her room’s right next to mine, and she cries all night now. I’m not getting any sleep!”
“I thought you didn’t need to sleep, being… you know… super and everything,” Batwing said.
“Of course I need to sleep. I’m still human!” Superboy groaned.
“Aren’t your folks trying to stop her?” Batwing asked.
“They said it’s normal for babies to cry at night. They don’t go in there every time, because it would encourage negative behavior. So, in the meantime, I’m stuck without any sleep. When you have super-hearing, it’s not like you can just stick a pillow over your head.”
“Don’t worry, Kal. She’ll grow out of it eventually,” Batwing said with a half-smile.
“I hope so,” Superboy groaned. “Kryptonite has nothing on a colicky baby.”
Suddenly, the lights began to flicker and then shut off. “What was that?” Batwing said.
Superboy turned his x-ray vision on the wall. “None of the other lights on the street are out.”
Just as soon as they’d gone out, they came back on. “That was weird,” Batwing said. “Maybe we should check the security system.”
“Isn’t that overreacting a little bit?” Superboy said. “People have power outages all the time.”
“Not at the Brownstone,” Batwing said. “This place has its own generator. Too much high-tech gear in here that we can’t afford to go down. Plus, isn’t it a little suspicious that we were the only ones affected?”
Upstairs, Coral sat in her room reading a copy of her favorite music magazine. Lately, she’d developed a major crush on the lead singer of Duran Duran, and she was trying to figure out which free poster would be going up on her wall. After careful consideration, she decided all of them would after she took down a few pop icons she was no longer as interested in. (Not as much as she was last month, anyway.)
Suddenly, she noticed she was starting to perspire. And it wasn’t from looking at Simon. It was becoming hot in the room — real hot.
She went over to the vent and felt hot air blasting out of it. And it was growing steadily hotter. “Something must be wrong with the thermostat,” she said to herself.
Is this someone’s idea of a joke? she thought. Maybe Flare was having fun with her. She’d soon take care of that. She got up off her bed and went to the door. When she reached for the knob, it suddenly locked itself.
Coral twisted the doorknob, trying to open it. When she looked down, she realized the hot air wasn’t escaping under the door. The room was heating up quickly. It was already like a sauna. Her costume was soaked with sweat. She began to realize the threat it posed to her, and her heart began to pound.
She ran to the window to try to open it. It locked as soon as she reached it. Coral pounded on it, but it was no use. The window was made of a special reinforced glass — a unique alloy from Tyler Labs with the strength of steel. All the windows were made of the same substance. The JSA Brownstone was one of the safest places in the world… unless you were trying to escape from it.
“Someone get me out of here!” Coral screamed.
Arrowette and Flare were in one of the specially designed training rooms brushing up on their hand-to-hand combat skills. They were pitted against several robots brandishing various assorted weapons, all very lethal in appearance.
They usually got a pretty good workout from these sessions, though not as good as Flare would have liked. She had tried several times to get Ma Hunkel to ease up on the safety protocols, but she would have none of it.
Arrowette managed to disarm one robot with a bolo-arrow. Another approached her, and she took it out with a boxing-glove arrow. “This is almost too easy,” she said.
“Almost,” Flare said, knocking one over with a roundhouse kick. “I’ve had more challenging sessions on Grant’s Nintendo.”
A robot lunged for Arrowette, and she slipped down between its legs, tripping it with her bow. “It’s still fun, though.”
“Sure,” Flare said. “If you like kid’s games.”
“I wouldn’t go that far,” Arrowette said. She was surprised, suddenly, as one of the robots actually managed to dodge her arrow and expertly threw its baton at her, narrowly missing her head. Another delivered a backhanded blow that knocked her from her feet and left her seeing stars.
“Bonnie?!” Flare exclaimed. She turned at the approach and suddenly had to dive out of the way as a throwing star came hurtling toward her. She felt a cool, wet sensation and felt her arm. She winced and brought her hand to her face. Blood. This wasn’t supposed to happen. It looked as if she had gotten her wish about the protocols. They were now in very real danger.
Since her fight with Faust, Star Sapphire had been fascinated with the use of mirrors as an extension of her own power. After speaking with Ma Hunkel and Wildcat, the practice room in which she now stood had been created.
The walls of the room were covered with mirrored plates like the room where the confrontation with Faust had taken place over the Eye of Qurac. (*) But unlike that specially designed room, these mirrored plates were constantly moving. Therefore, she had to stay on her toes if she were to control the direction of the blasts. The mirrored plates could change directions at any angle at any time, thanks to the motors underneath, which would redirect the ricochet — possibly even sending it back toward her. So she had to be ready to reabsorb it.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Junior JSA: The Junior Injustice Society, Chapter 11: Payback.]
To make matters interesting, there were several floating mechanical globes firing at her as well. Part of the exercise was to take them all out while avoiding any ricochets of her own power that might come at her. She received higher marks for creative use of her powers with the mirrors rather than firing upon them directly.
To her, this was more fun than any video game out at the time. Her aim was getting better. In some cases, she was able to take two, maybe three, globes out with one shot. She would have to tell Ma Hunkel to add more globes next time. She was so wrapped up in the exercise that she failed to notice the security camera following her every move.
Suddenly, one of the mirrors at the bottom of the room tilted upward as a beam glanced off of it. Amanda Martin watched as it ricocheted straight up. She let out a gasp as a thin beam shot out from the remaining globe, splitting it in several directions at once. All at once, the top mirrors turned on their axis as the beams struck them, making them fire downward on a specific point: Star Sapphire. She let out a scream as they struck her, rendering her unconscious.
If the initial power outage had seemed strange to Batwing and Superboy, what happened afterward was even more so. Light turned on and off in different rooms, appliances started by themselves, drinks and snacks spilled out of the vending machines, and the TV began to surf channels by itself.
“Now tell me there’s nothing wrong,” Batwing said.
“OK, OK, I’m convinced,” Superboy said. “You go check security. I’ll find the others and make sure they’re all right.”
They split up and headed in opposite directions, Batwing toward the technical area, Superboy toward the training facilities.
As Superboy headed down the hallway, he reached out with his super-senses to get a feel for where the others were. He heard several elevated heart rates. Wow, they’re really going at it pretty hard, he thought.
Suddenly, his senses picked up something not quite right — footsteps moving toward him unaccompanied by any vital signs. He turned and was greeted by a very daunting sight. As he turned, he suddenly found himself encircled by a large group of his adoptive father’s rogue’s gallery.
Superboy quickly realized they weren’t the real deal. Not only weren’t any of them sporting a pulse, but several members, such as Alexei Luthor, were as lifeless now as these robots. Since Superman was now retired for the most part, many of the training androids were covered in dust and more than a few cobwebs. The Ultra-Humanite was looking particularly dingy and yellow because of the dust in his fur.
“OK, fellas, let’s get you back to the training center,” he said, moving toward one of the training droids. Rather than letting itself be deactivated, the Mala replica delivered a backhanded slap, knocking Superboy backward.
“What the…?” Superboy said, stunned. He didn’t have long for the surprise to set in. Colonel Future suddenly leaped on his back, followed by several others who rained kicks and punches down on him.
“Get off of me!” Superboy bellowed, sending androids flying. The Ultra-Humanite robot roared as it leaped toward him, delivering a pile driver that drove him to his knees.
“These robots are almost as powerful as the real things!” Superboy gasped. “Of course they are… they were designed to give Superman a workout. I’d better take them out quickly, or I could really be in trouble.”
As Mala flew toward him, Superboy sent twin beams of heat-vision toward his head, making it explode in a shower of sparks. He wasn’t about to let a Kryptonian replica anywhere near him. The same went for the Vance Corlin robot.
Next, he ripped the Ultra-Humanite’s arms off and sent them hurtling toward Alexei Luthor and Colonel Future. Both missiles took out their intended targets.
The Prankster and Toyman came running toward him, and he froze them with his super-breath before either could reach into their bags of tricks.
“Well that’s that,” Superboy said, slapping his hands together. “Of course, when Ma Hunkel sees this mess, these guys will seem like a picnic.”
Suddenly, a fist slammed across the back of his head, and he fell to the ground, seeing stars. He turned and saw an armored figure staring at him with a malicious grin. Superboy got to his feet and suddenly felt woozy. “Wha… that punch wasn’t that hard. Why am I…?” The robot hit him again, knocking him back to the ground, followed by a kick that knocked the wind out of him.
With every blow, Superboy seemed to grow weaker. He suddenly remembered the obscure villain from his comics back on Earth-Prime. “M… Metalo… but that’s not right,” Superboy said, feeling sicker by the second. “Metalo didn’t have kryptonite powers… he was just some dork in a suit of armor. That was Metallo, on Earth-One…”
Superboy realized there was someone behind him and turned to see a turbaned figure behind him. A green jewel glowed from its center. “Aw, no…” Superboy said. “Swami Dan Rivers.”
The last thing he saw was Metalo lifting him back up by the front of his shirt as he brought his fist down to his face. Then everything was black.
Damage loved absorbing energy. Having always been a lanky youth who had to fight to keep on any weight, he loved what happened whenever he absorbed the force of an energy attack or the kinetic energy of a physical one. Suddenly, he was no longer a scrawny youth but a powerful adonis with muscles popping from everywhere. Of course, eventually something would happen to make him blow up, and then he would be back to his old self. But in the meantime, he would look like he’d always dreamed of looking as a kid reading about his favorite super-heroes in comic-books.
Naturally, whenever it would come time for his training sessions, he would pick the ones involving energy blasts and explosive projectiles. By the end of these sessions, he would wind up looking like the Incredible Hulk — before he blew up, that was. The others loved to come in and rib him toward the end of these sessions, threatening to “stick a pin in him.”
If they were to stick a pin in him, they’d get a pretty explosive reaction now, he thought. As big as he’d gotten, he was sure to rattle the reinforced walls.
A projectile he hadn’t managed to avoid slammed into his side and exploded. Here it comes, he thought, feeling the energy building within him and realizing he had reached his limit.
Damage exploded with monumental force that reminded him of the explosion that rocked Atlanta. Luckily, the reinforced titanium walls of this chamber were more than capable of handling it.
Plus, the energy siphons were there to take in the excess energy. In fact, they were hard at work now pulling it in.
Damage felt his excess mass going away as the energy flew from him and into the energy siphons. He quickly began reverting to his former stature.
After a few seconds, he grew alarmed as the siphoning continued. He tried to give off an explosion, but he no longer had enough energy stored inside him. If anything, it made the siphoning quicken.
He stared in alarm at his fingers as the shape of his bones began to become visible. The skin on his face began to grow tighter. His ribs and leg bones began to become visible. He looked as if he’d just stepped out of a concentration camp.
As he grew weaker, he became unsteady on his feet and fell to the floor. “S-s-stop… please…” he gasped, swooning into a dead faint.
As soon as he was unconscious, the siphoning stopped, and the doors to the training facility opened. One of the cleaning androids stepped in and dragged the near-skeletal figure out of the room by the ankles.