by Starsky Hutch 76
“Fancy collection of doo-dads you have here,” the Joker said, looking over Dr. Robert Van Winkler’s ramshackle laboratory.
“It gets me by,” Dr. Van Winkler said.
“I’m sure it does more than that,” the Joker said. “In fact, it gets you great house guests like me!”
“My cup runneth over,” Rip said, looking through the disarray.
“Your mouth runneth over,” Franko Morelli said. “Less gab, more searching. Now find where in this disaster area you call a lab you left the stuff.”
“Ewww!” Harley Quinn said, realizing she’d sat in old pizza.
“I’d wondered where I’d left that,” Dr. Van Winkler said. “At least that’s something.”
“Ha-ha-ha-ha!” the Joker cackled.
“Daddy!” Harley Quinn exclaimed, pouting indignantly.
“I’m sorry, puddin’,” the Joker said, “but that was a perfect sight gag. You’ve warmed the cockles of my heart with your perfect comedic setup, Dr. Van Winkler. It will pain me terribly to have to plug you for not coming through.”
“Well what do you know! Here it is!” Dr. Van Winkler said, suddenly laying his hands on a syringe full of a bright yellow solution.
“I thought your luck finding it might suddenly improve,” the Joker said, rolling up his sleeve. “Now let’s have it!”
The Joker took the syringe from Dr. Robert Van Winkler and brought it to his arm. “Are you certain you want to do this?” Van Winkler asked.
“It took care of the aging in your test subjects, didn’t it?” the Joker asked.
“Well, yes,” Van Winkler said.
“Then I’m certain! You just stand over there and stop trying to put me off!”
“Very well,” the scientist said, backing away from him.
The Joker stuck the needle into his vein, and the serum flowed into his bloodstream. “Nnngnn!” he groaned, feeling it begin to kick in. “Gives you a bit of a charge!”
“What’s it feel like, boss?” Franko asked.
“It’s… almost electric!” the Joker said. “I can feel it charging into my cells! Can you see a difference?”
“Maybe,” Franko said. “I think some of those lines around your eyes are smoothing out.”
“What? I didn’t go to all this trouble for an eye job! Dammit, Van Winkler!”
“Be patient,” Van Winkler said. “It’s not done yet.”
“Nnngg!” the Joker groaned, feeling it yet again.
“I feel it! I think it’s doing something else. I feel–!” Suddenly, his eyes rolled to the back of his head, and he fell to the floor.
“What the hell?” Franko cursed, withdrawing his pistol.
“What’d you do to my daddy?!” Harley Quinn said, pulling up her own gun.
“Nothing,” Van Winkler said innocently. “My serum did exactly as promised, so he got what he wanted. He’s not aging anymore.”
“Daddy!” Harley Quinn screamed, slapping the Joker in the face. “Wake up!”
“I’m afraid there’s no telling how long he’ll remain in this dormant stage,” Dr. Van Winkler said. “None of my test subjects have awoken so far.”
“Buddy, you just committed suicide,” Franko said darkly.
Harley looked up with tears in her eyes and said, “Waste him, Uncle Franko.”
Suddenly, Red Robin and Batwing crashed through the tiles of the ceiling. A batarang struck Franko’s hand, causing him to fire wildly. Two more took out the other henchmen in the room.
Harley lifted the machine gun of one of the henchmen and began spraying the room with bullets. Batwing leaped on Dr. Van Winkler, knocking him to the floor to get him out of the line of fire.
“Give it up, Harley,” Red Robin said. “It’s all over!”
“It ain’t over ’til the fat lady sings,” Harley said. “And I don’t see Rosanne nowhere!”
Batwing dived for her, and she easily dodged out of the way. Red Robin made a grab for her, and she eluded him with a backflip and then returned with a roundhouse kick to his head. She somersaulted from an attempted blow from Batwing and then delivered a low spinning kick, knocking him off his feet. As they began to rise, she was already out the door.
“I underestimated her,”Red Robin said. “She may be even more formidable than the Joker himself, at least when it comes to an actual hands-on situation. He’s obviously been training her her entire life. Dr. Van Winkler, bind these men and call the police.” Then the two of them were out the door and in pursuit.
Harley Quinn ran into the room where Lenny and the other henchmen were holding the prisoners. “Give me that blaster, babe,” she said to Lenny.
“What’s goin’ on?” he said. “I heard a lotta noise!”
“Daddy’s down,” Harley Quinn said. “And Old Man Wonder and his brat are in the building. He took out Uncle Franko and the rest of the gang.”
“What’re we gonna do?” Lenny yelped.
“We do what Daddy would’ve done,” Harley said with an evil smile as she raised the blaster. “We waste the prisoners.”
Blades suddenly jutted out of the sides of Magnus’ forearms, slicing through his bonds. “That’s all I needed to hear.”
The men began firing at him, and as before, the bullets seemed to have little effect except to pierce his dead-looking skin and reveal metal. His form seemed to swell as he advanced, and his skin split at the many places where he had been wounded. Silver metal showed underneath.
Laser turrets rose out of the splits in the skin in the tops of his forearms, and he returned fire, taking down a couple of the men.
Harley Quinn raised her blaster and aimed it at him. The blast destroyed one of his arms and slammed him against the wall. Silver tendrils began to form at his shoulder where his arm had been. They grew out, intertwined, and began to re-form his arm.
A look of annoyance crossed Harley Quinn’s face. “Uh-uh,” Harley said. “I don’t think so.” She lifted the blaster again and fired. This time, the blast destroyed his left leg. Again, tendrils began to form at the base where the leg had been. She fired a third time to destroy the other leg and then again for the other arm. Magnus screamed.
“We can play this game all night,” Harley said.
“But you have an unfair advantage,” Magnus said. “It’s time the odds were evened.” He turned his head toward Power Girl, and rays shot out of his now-mechanical eyes to sever her bonds.
“No!” Harley screamed. She leveled the blaster at him and fired, destroying his head.
“Will!” Power Girl screamed.
Power Girl leaped forward, and Lenny dodged between her and Harley Quinn. She swatted him to the side, knocking him unconscious. Harley took the opportunity to run from the room through the doorway on the opposite side of the room from the door she’d come in.
“Will…” Power Girl gasped, moving to Magnus’ side. Suddenly, tendrils began to form at the base of his neck and began to form a new robotic head. His arms and legs finished forming as well. He rose to his feet and pulled away the shredded remains of his shirt, along with the dead, useless skin. Now he looked for all the world like a cyborg wearing a pair of cutoff shorts.
“I thought you said the nanites were protecting your brain,” Power Girl said, shocked to see him rise again.
“They did,” he said, tapping his chest with his fist, “by moving it here.”
Red Robin and Batwing ran into the room and saw the fallen henchmen. “You seem to have everything under control,” Red Robin said. “But where’s Harley?”
“She just left,” said Magnus, pointing toward the other doorway. “That way.”
The four of them ran out the doorway she had left through and into the hallway that led to several other doors. Batwing jumped out of the way as a blast came toward him. “I think I know which way she went!” he yelled.
They ran in the direction where the blasts had come from. “We’ve got her boxed in,” Red Robin said. “According to the layout of the building, there’s no exit.”
“There’s one,” Magnus said. “This end holds the transporter project.”
The blast suddenly stopped, and as they rounded the corner and entered a large room, they saw Harley Quinn standing inside a transporter tube. “Buh-bye now,” she said with a wave. She hoisted the blaster and threw it at the controls of the machine. The butt end of the blaster struck the lever that activated the machine. The tube flashed to life, and she disappeared.
“That witch!” Power Girl cursed.
“Why would you have a transporter project?” Red Robin growled in aggravation. “This is hardly new technology. He sighed and said, “On the plus side, this can hardly be an escape, since the only other models are in government installations and the JSA Headquarters itself.”
“Not this particular model,” Magnus said. “In theory it’s supposed to function without another tube on the other end. But it’s never been tested on human subjects. We have no way of knowing if she’s even alive.”
When the police arrived, Will Magnus had used his newfound abilities to create synthetic skin to mimic his old appearance, and he’d donned another suit. The Joker’s henchmen were carted off, but the Joker himself was kept in Dr. Robert Van Winkler’s lab, the unwitting test subject of his anti-aging drug with the bizarre side-effect of hibernation.
“How are you holding up?” Chuck Grayson asked him after the police had left.
“I suppose I should be an emotional wreck,” he said, removing the false face. “I’m doing surprisingly well for someone who’s just lost his humanity. I suppose I’m still in shock.”
“At least we know the nanites work,” Chuck Grayson said.
“Oh, they work extremely well — beyond our wildest dreams, in fact. They’ve mimicked the functions of my central nervous system, so I can still feel. That’s probably what keeps me from collapsing.”
“You did get some interesting new abilities from this incident, nonetheless,” Chuck said.
“That’s true,” Magnus said. “Perhaps that’s what will keep me from going insane. After all, it worked for you for many years.” He turned to Chuck and said, “Since you’re no longer using the name Robotman, do you mind if I take it?”
“Harley sure made chumps out of us,” Batwing said, pacing around the cave angrily.
“It’s the nature of the Joker family to try and get the last laugh,” Red Robin said. “She may not have, though. We don’t even know if she’s still alive.”
“Do you really think she’s dead?” Power Girl said.
“It’s a possibility we have to consider,” he said. “She jumped into a machine which no one knew worked or not. She could be spread over the entire hemisphere by now. We’ll never know for certain unless she turns up again.”
“Wow,” Batwing said. “Part of me wants to say it couldn’t happen to a nicer gal, but that might be too horrible a fate, even for her.”
“She definitely inherited more from the Joker than his looks,” Red Robin said. “I’ve never seen him fight like that, though.”
“You aren’t kidding,” Batwing said, stretching. “My muscles are going to be sore for a month! Which reminds me, I’m ready to turn in. Good night, everyone.” He turned and walked up the stairs toward the mansion.
“I’m glad we’ve got this time alone,” Red Robin said.
“Why? What’d you have in mind?” Power Girl asked playfully, wrapping her arms around his neck.
He looked down and said, “I can’t tell you what it did to me seeing you tied up like that… helpless.”
“It’s not often someone gets the best of me,” she said reassuringly. “Don’t let it get to you.”
“It just made me realize even more how important our time together is to me and how much I want us to be together.”
“I know,” Power Girl said. “I’m ready now. I want to live here… with you.”
“That’s not enough. I want even more than that. I… I want us to really be together. I want you to marry me, Kara.”
Power Girl’s eyes grew wide with shock and then began to well with tears. Her face broke out in a wide grin, and she pulled his hood away so she could see his face. “Yes, Dick,” she said, pulling him toward her. “Of course I’ll marry you.”