Queen Bee smiled at her husband Insect Master as he worked with an ant farm. “Darling, aren’t you ready for some rest?” she called.
“Hush! I hear our guest coming,” he warned.
Sure enough, a young man entered and greeted them both. “Hello! I got the electronics you wanted, plus some really swell specimens,” he announced.
He spotted Selina and frowned. “What’s this? I agreed to help you round up the insects, but I sure never agreed to taking any hostages. I just wanted to show up Superman and Batman, not harm innocent folks!”
“Ricky, honey, we had no choice,” cooed Queen Bee. “She followed Lefty here.”
Insect Master smiled urbanely and patted the sandy-haired boy on the shoulder. “Listen, my boy, we can’t turn back now. If the lady had reported us to the authorities, then we would be stopped before our creations made the Man of Steel and the Caped Crusader look like fools!”
Ricky nodded. “OK, I guess. But after we do it, then she goes free, right?”
Insect Master grinned. “Son, when we get finished with the world’s best heroes, then she won’t be of any importance. We do want to make them look bad and expose their fallibility. Your late father deserves that much.”
Ricky nodded. “Yeah! For Dad, I’d gladly risk anything. He had so much potential. Nobody even remembers him now. All you ever hear about is Batman this or Superman that. It’s so unfair. Other mystery-men died for their country, and where is their fame?”
“With your rapport for the bugs and our science,” said Queen Bee, “we can bring the cities to their knees and show up the heroes who hogged the glory your father never received.”
Ricky Raleigh grinned. “That’s what I hope!”
Superman and Robin sat in the Batcave as the grim Batman read from a piece of paper.
“The last record for either is a marriage record,” he explained. “H. Pim and Janice Devan wed a few years ago, and I can only assume that makes our theory about them pretty accurate. We can track the bees back to their lair with the dye I sprayed on them when they shrank back to normal.”
“The chemical dye shows up on our scanner and to your vision,” explained Robin.
Superman nodded. “Let’s go! I have a hunch those matrimonial miscreants need a good work over!”
They soon reached the lair of the pair of villains and formed a plan. Superman scanned the building with his vision and announced, “Selina is there, all right. Along with the couple, their insect collection, and a kid I don’t know.”
Batman nodded. “You get her out while we handle them.”
Superman agreed. He sensed his usually easygoing friend was worried about his captive bride. Bruce Wayne had lost so much over the years. Superman vowed that he would not lose Selina.
He crashed through the roof and carried Selina Wayne to safety even as the Dynamic Duo swung down to face the villains.
“For the couple who has everything — matching black eyes!” said Robin as he tackled the Queen Bee.
Batman moved toward the Insect Master. “Give it up, Pim! We have you, and we can counter your little ant farm!”
Insect Master cursed and said, “You found us too soon, but we’ll just move up our own timetable!” He set loose a group of ants and watched them enlarge rapidly.
Batman dropped gas pellets on them and hit the Insect Master in the chin. “I can anesthetize these insects before they enlarge,” he said. “I can put you to sleep even faster!”
Robin pinned the non-physical Queen Bee and tied her up. “You know, the buzz around town is the food is better at Gotham State Prison since your last stay. Then again, don’t let me drone on and bore you!” he quipped as he rolled the blonde beauty over.
Queen Bee screamed for help, and the boy in red charged Robin.
“You were just a kid when my dad died, but you still got more credit than he did!” said the boy. “You must have earned it beating up women!”
He concentrated, and a swarm of beetles appeared and covered Robin’s face. He knocked them away, only to be stung from behind by the now-free Queen Bee.
“My stinger cut through your ropes easily. Now sleep the sleep of the soon-to-be-deceased!” she screeched.
“Easy, Bee — don’t kill him!” warned Ricky Raleigh. “Just show him up like we talked about!”
“Too late for that. He dies!” she screamed.
Batman kicked the huge mantis aside as the Insect Master produced the creature. It resisted his efforts and caught him in a long, clutching limb.
He saw Robin fall before the gold-and-black-costumed blonde, and he struggled to fight free. He planted both legs and kicked the monster back. Then he rolled to where Robin lay and shoved Queen Bee over a chair. Facing Ricky Raleigh, Batman said, “I know that costume. You dishonor it by associating with these two killers!”
Rick frowned and said, “You never even tried to help my father or avenge his death! Now I wanted to make you famous mystery-men look bad. I never wanted to kill anybody.”
As they talked, Superman rushed back in and melted the device in Insect Master’s gloved hand. “You don’t need to call in your troops!” the Man of Steel said as he closed in on the frightened but defiant Insect Master. “We’ll finish you off here and now!”
“I think not. You’ll die here and now!” he said calmly.
Then a giant wasp flew down and stung Superman.
“Great Scott! Magic must be involved, as well as your weird science!” he muttered as the room swam before his eyes.
Batman shook Rick Raleigh Jr. aside and ran for the Insect Master, only to be caught in a sticky film that shot from the flying bug above him.
“Trapped, like a fly in a spider’s web! Or, should I say, like a grub in a silk worm’s thread!” laughed the Insect Master as he helped his wife to her high-heeled feet.
“Wait!” said Ricky. “This is getting out of hand. There’s no one here to see them get beaten. I just wanted to make them look bad, not hurt them.”
“That broken record needs to be silenced!” whined Queen Bee. She stung Rick, and as he fell she gloated, “No one remembers the Red Bee, because he was such a loser! You hear me, kid? He was pathetic! You may have his insect-control powers, but no mutant ability can save you from us!”
Insect Master kicked over the fallen son of the late Red Bee and laughed. “My dear, you said it better than even I could have done!”
Selina Wayne had been placed safely on a roof by Superman, but she had returned to the house when her husband and his friends failed to join her. She kicked off her expensive heels and now moved with the agility she had displayed years before as the Catwoman.
Prowling near the house, she scanned the sky for the insects who guarded the couple’s base. No sign of the bugs, but then they may be needed inside to deal with Superman and Bruce, she mused.
She climbed up the side of the house using a drainpipe and grimaced as the metal edge of a window sliced through her skirt. She ripped the loose fabric off and looked in the window. Inside she saw Batman, Robin, Superman, and the boy named Rick Raleigh Jr. hanging from a cocoon-like netting while sinister insects swarmed over them.
Those are normal-sized, but they could grow at any minute they command them to! she realized.
Insect Master and Queen Bee kissed passionately and looked at the fallen heroes.
“Richard, we were using your insect-summoning powers for our own agenda,” explained the Insect Master with mock pity. “Your father, the Red Bee, would have seen through our pretense of merely wanting to help you make the heroes seem as flawed as your dead daddy. He was an Assistant D.A., not just a punk kid, though!”
Queen Bee laughed. “You never knew we used the bugs for our extortion scheme when you were away. We even killed old Hiram with one!”
Ricky looked decidedly ill. He said nothing.
Batman glanced over at Robin. “Old pal, are you awake?”
“Yes,” replied Robin. “But I’d like to put that stinger where that peroxide blonde sits down!”
“It already is there!” giggled the Queen Bee.
Superman looked ill. He muttered feverishly. “That last stinger was magical… like the insects Insect Queen uses. He must have stolen one she had originally summoned and enlarged!”
“Exactly, my enemy!” crowed Insect Master. “I took that one from the leggy beauty called Insect Queen without her ever being aware of it!”
Superman heard Selina on the rooftop, and he confirmed her identity with his x-ray vision. He hoped she would buy them enough time for Batman to think of a plan. He could barely stay awake himself.
Looking upward, he caught Batman’s eye; he smiled and seemed to understand.
Batman spoke to Ricky under his breath. “Son, your dad was only known to me through one big All-Star Squadron meeting, but I certainly admired his bravery. He fought the same fight I did, only he did it alone and without the special equipment I was fortunate enough to have. That’s courage, and I mourned his loss, as did all of us. We did leave other heroes on that wartorn Earth to avenge his death when Hourman told us of it. Ray, Black Condor, and others like Manhunter made the trip over later that year. We did not forget what he did.”
Rick teared up. “I guess I was just so jealous that Red Bee wasn’t a JSAer or big name like you. I swear I never meant for it to lead to murder!”
Robin tensed as the lights went out as Selina pulled the fuses and raced into the room. She kicked Queen Bee in the face and chopped her in the back of the head with a swift motion, then ripped the sharp stinger from the blonde’s costume, leaving her bare and stunned on the floor.
She sliced through Batman’s bonds even as the light of a firefly illuminated the room, and Insect Master charged her.
“Brave of you to come back, Mrs. Wayne!” he said.
Batman lashed out and knocked the Insect Master’s hands away from Selina. “Let me take him. Free the others,” he ordered. “Rick override his control of the insects if you want to make up for what you’ve been a party to!”
Ricky concentrated, and the insects remained immobile despite Insect Master’s frantic orders to attack. Superman and Robin joined the fight as Selina cut their bonds.
“Thanks, Mrs. Wayne!” said Robin. “Your hubby would be proud!”
Superman watched the insects, but none of them moved while the strain of holding them against Insect Master’s will and devices showed on his face.
Batman gripped the Insect Master by his shirt and said, “You tried to turn a legacy of valor to one of crime. You won’t do so any longer.” He knocked the purple-costumed man cold, and Superman patted the Red Bee’s son on the back.
“You did good, son,” said Superman.
Later, Bruce and Selina Wayne enjoyed a fine Christmas Eve dinner with Dick Grayson and the Kents.
“So, even if the fighting skill you showed seems odd to the insect couple, they can only assume you wanted revenge on them for kidnapping you, as the former Catwoman would!” said Clark Kent.
“True,” said Selina. “If they don’t recall my Catwoman identity from their own criminal circles, then we’ll just let them stew over how a society doll was able to take down Queen Bee!”
“I doubt they will give much thought to it,” said Lois Kent. “Their kind tend to brood over costumed heroes more than housewives turned martial artists!”
“I’m glad young Rick decided to go back to college,” said Bruce. “I spoke to him for a while. He never knew his father, since he was born a few months after Rick Raleigh died. But he grew up hearing stories from his mother, whom Raleigh had known only a short time before they were married. He’s a very bright boy, though — was advanced a grade and graduated a year early. He can do more good as a scientist studying insects than he could as a second Red Bee.”
“True,” said Dick, a glimmer in his eyes reminding all of the pun-loving boy he had once been. “Plus, with the JSA no longer active as a group, who could he join — a SWAT team?”
Bruce smiled as groans echoed across the table. “Merry Christmas, son,” he said.