“Dan!” Ted Kord said urgently, shaking the man he seemed to recognize as his college roommate by his shoulders. “Wake up! Dan?”
The fallen mystery-man in blue made a sound, turning his face halfway around and opening one eye. Several bruises marked the visible parts of his face. “Huh?” he said, blinking rapidly. “Where am I?”
“Hub City Convention Center, Dan,” Ted said, wearing a mixture of shock and happiness as he helped his friend to sit up. “I thought you died on Pago Island!”
The mystery-man in blue blinked for a moment as he stared at the younger man. “Uh, hello? Do I know you, son?” he said, rubbing his eyes with ripped blue gloves.
Ted looked more closely at the man, whose domino mask was torn, and he realized that he was listening to the voice of a stranger. “You’re… you’re not Dan Garrett, are you?”
“I don’t know how you know my name, son, but–”
“Your name?” Ted interrupted, suddenly angered at the apparent trickery. “I knew Dan Garrett. Dan was a friend of mine. And you’re no Dan Garrett!”
The other man chuckled weakly. Smiling, he gathered his strength and said, “You must be talking about Sparky.”
“‘Sparky’?” Ted repeated, his face a mess of confusion. He looked away as if in thought and came to a realization. “That’s right. Dan’s original name — before he had it legally changed — was Sparkington J. Northrup. Then you — you must be Dan’s mentor, the original Dan Garret. The one who was a police officer. Then… then you’re the original Blue Beetle!” He began staring at the older man in awe, realizing that he looked no older than he had been upon his disappearance in early 1956.
“Pleased to meet you, son,” said the Blue Beetle. “Any friend of Sparky’s — or Spunky as he preferred to be called when he was a little older — is a friend of mine. But this isn’t exactly the best time for a discussion, is it?” He looked over at the women warriors.
“I think we’ll have a lot to discuss later,” Ted said, shifting his attention to the approaching women. “But now — how do we get rid of those broads?”
“A-hem,” said Eve Eden, spinning the music stand in her hands.
“I don’t know,” said the original Blue Beetle, finally focusing on the problem at hand. “I think we can force them back through the portal, but I don’t know how except by brute force.”
“Too bad I don’t have the Bug at hand,” said Ted. “I’ve been working on its systems for this kind of situation.”
“Bug?” said Dan, unaware of the younger man’s own heroic identity.
“I’ll explain later.”
The scarlet women swung their flaming swords at the five remaining members of the party and their surprise guest. Lemuel Toadkin ducked away from the flaming arc that cut the air above the table. His temporary guardian, Vic Sage, hit the woman in the face with the spoon from the punch. The thin metal bent under the blow. The woman staggered back, more surprised than hurt. Lemuel threw the punch bowl at her as he ducked an overhand from another of the praetorians. He spotted a flying ham as he grabbed another item from the table. The second woman went down under the weight.
“Let’s join the others,” Vic said as he grabbed an arm after a failed swing. He dragged the soldier over the table top, dumping her on her face with a spinning turn.
“Right behind you,” said the wedding planner, gesturing for the reporter to precede him.
Sage kicked a woman in the knee as he dodged a lunge. Her crimson face fell into his rising fist, causing her teeth to clack together unpleasantly. He shoved her out of the way efficiently.
Captain Atom flew into the Blue Beetle’s opponent, trying to hurl her clear of the portal summoning. The last things he wanted were reinforcements for the amazons already attacking the others. She soared upward, enraged. “You dare touch my person?” said the otherworldly White Queen, raising a glowing hand. “I command you to die, mortal scum.”
A beam tried to slice the nuclear man in half. He dodged in a zig-zag path as the room’s floor steamed up in a line of melted tiling. Unfortunately, while he had dodged the ray, he was too low to avoid several of the women who grabbed his legs. They dragged him down to the floor under a pile. He punched one in the face before the mass of metal and flesh drowned him from view.
The Blue Beetle took aim and threw an intense, Vitamin 2X-packed punch at the mound. The three women on the top flew off as he staggered slightly from the exertion. That was enough for Captain Atom to dump his enemies off from his body. He summoned enough strength to take back to the air, laying about with metal fists, fighting to get free. He flew backward to float in front of his comrades.
On one side, Captain Atom and the original Blue Beetle blocked access to the remaining members of the wedding party. Opposite was the floating queen and her emerging army. The scarlet guard formed an advancing line of armor and burning blades on the beleaguered action-heroes and their aide.
“Any ideas?” whispered Atom.
“I think her girdle is helping to perform her witchery,” said Lemuel, gasping at the sudden exertion he had undergone. He wasn’t as young as he used to be. “If we could get our hands on that, perhaps we could put a stop to this.”
“Good idea,” said Ted, smiling at the thought. “All we need is a distraction and some interference with the all-girl squad.”
“Leave that to us,” said the original Blue Beetle. He leaped into the advancing crowd like a cannonball with a measure of his full strength. Bodies flew from his path as he swung his chainmailed arms in wide arcs.
Captain Atom also flew up over the charging amazons. He saw the White Queen’s glowing eyes grow wide as he slammed into her, knocking her out of the sky. She hit the convention floor in a slide.
“Let’s go,” Ted Kord said, charging forward into the chaos. Vic Sage and Eve Eden followed him into the massed horde.
Lemuel lost sight of his new friends amidst the melee, although he kept sight of the golden age Blue Beetle creating havoc among the women soldiers like a rogue elephant. He winced as one slammed into a wall and slid bonelessly to the floor. Then Captain Atom smashed into the ceiling. He flew back into his personal battle and was lost beyond the sea of heads.
The wedding planner selected a golf club from a bag someone had wrapped in a ribbon and brought to give to Ted. He hefted it, trying to guess how much damage he could do with it if he had to. Some of the amazons broke away from the Blue Beetle’s grasp. They saw the arranger standing alone in his corner and advanced on their easy prey. He brought the club in a ready position. He wouldn’t be as easy to take as they seemed to think.
The first to arrive swung an overhand cut at the wedding planner. He hopped out of the way and swung the golf club as hard as his arms could. The head of the club banged against the woman’s helmet and snapped away. The amazon kicked the struggling Lemuel in the gut, sending him sprawling. She stood over him, bright sword upraised. He saw the woman smile, a bit of flame escaping her lips, her comrades pausing at her side. He saw the blade descend toward his head, and he closed his eyes, hoping the moment of his death would pass swiftly.
He suddenly heard an outraged cry. A wind plucked at his torn sleeve, and then the wind was a typhoon in the confines of the convention center. He opened his eyes as he looked around for something to grab. He saw his attacker trying to grab him and scooted away as fast as possible. Lemuel had no desire to visit a place ruled by bloodthirsty savages.
The amazons vanished through the reversed gate, dragged by the lightning from the belt the White Queen wore. The woman in white held onto Captain Atom desperately, trying to avoid returning to her own world. He pushed her away with both arms. The White Queen flew into the portal with a vengeful scream. One by one, her soldiers joined her until they were all ejected from reality.
“Looks like we beat Tracey’s deadline,” said Captain Atom, wiping the sweat from his brow with the back of his hand.
“We’ve got a wedding to finish,” said Ted. “Where is Tracey?”
“Across the street,” said Atom. “Let’s get everybody back here, and we can do the ceremony outside.”
“My thoughts exactly,” said Ted, trying to brush the dirt from his ripped tuxedo.
“I have to get going, Ted,” said the original Blue Beetle, smiling. “Congratulations on your wedding.”
“But I still have a lot of questions,” said Ted, frowning slightly.
“I’ll call you some time and explain everything,” said the masked Dan Garret, vanishing through the hole in the ceiling.
The Kord wedding was carried on in the street. Ted Kord stood in his ruined tuxedo, grinning at the world. Tracey Kord held him close, black smears running the length of her white dress. Eve Eden and Nathaniel Adam stood on one side, smiling in reflected happiness. Vic Sage stood on the other, not quite smiling but not quite as stiff as usual. Lemuel took the picture and added it to his scrap book.
Lemuel Toadkin decided a week later to move out of Crown City and into New York, where he opened an office in a building across the street from a private detective named Mauser. His business began to grow again, allowing him to again move to a more prosperous place on the East Side.
Although he was sure the original Blue Beetle had been true to his word and gave Ted Kord a call, Lemuel remembered reading about the Beetle’s death. He had apparently died in battle sometime in the 1970s, but considering his earlier return after a long absence, rumors of his death had to be considered as greatly exaggerated.
In 1982, Lemuel planned a wedding for Nathaniel Adam — the groomsman at the Kord wedding — and his fiancé Janet Rogers. This wedding would have gone off without a hitch, but there was just one problem: Janet didn’t want to get married. After she left Nathaniel at the altar, Lemuel had insisted on giving the jilted Mr. Adam a full refund, but instead he had received a generous tip for his services despite the lack of an actual wedding ceremony. Thankfully these circumstances were rare.
And just this year, Michael Mauser had remembered him and called on him two months ago to arrange a quick wedding for his assistant at a strip club. The groom, Alec Tronn, seemed at once innocent and ancient at the same time. The bride, Katrinka Colchnzski, seemed full of worldly wisdom and positively irradiated raw beauty and sensuality. To Lemuel Toadkin’s senses, it was almost like he was arranging the wedding of an innocent angel with a sensual temptress. Despite his initial hesitation, the wedding had gone off without a hitch, and the bride and groom departed for their honeymoon immediately afterward.
Then the Villain War commenced. New York was devastated like it had never been before. Lemuel had watched as a plastic giant had set fire to the sea with a shudder. Then, in the wake of the victory against the villains, Lemuel’s business had begun to boom again. Customers called on him to arrange the finest celebrations that he could humanly perform from everywhere in the country. None of them went as smooth as he had wanted, but none had been quite as eventful as the Kord wedding.
He went over the list left behind by Mr. Rey and Miss Serch. This looked like an ordinary set of arrangements to him for an ordinary couple, but he always kept in mind the rule of Murphy’s Law as he set about his work, and he planned accordingly.