Hey everyone! Please enjoy, for the 12th issue, an extra-long (and hopefully, extra-good) installment of DC Mayhem's JSA! For more Mayhem, click here!
“You killed them.”
Starfire shuffled awkwardly as she, and the rest of the team, stood in front of Power Girl in Blood Manor's 'briefing room'. There had been talk of getting a home-base that could actually be called such, and was stationed anywhere but Gotham City, but so far only a small amount of thought had been put into finding one. As it was, the red velvet drapes, soft carpet, and few ancient arcade games that lined the walls did not make this room feel entirely appropriate. “...Maybe,” the tamaranean princess said quietly.
Kara set her hands on her hips, eyes smoldering slightly. After returning from her wholly-depressing visit with Edward Nigma, the eight o' clock news had immediately informed her of a quintet of brightly-colored corpses falling from the sky, their rocket-powered flying cards crashing into nearby buildings or streets. Not the way she had wanted things to go. “All of them?”
“I accept full responsibility,” Etrigan said quickly, his arms tucked behind his back, chest held out high. He had been in command, after all – though even with his experience leading infernal shock troops and special task forces, leading this kind of team was madness. Only one or two (mostly the ex-Titans) were team players, and even they were difficult to keep under control. With wild cards like Creeper and Bleez on the team, things were nearly hopeless.
“The responsibility is not yours to take,” the Red Lantern growled after only a moment, stepping forward out of the crowd of sheepish superheroes. “I killed them. I alone.”
Kara narrowed her eyes, folding her arms beneath her breasts now and tilting her head, sizing up the havanian. “You may have, but Etrigan was still in charge. I don't know how things worked in your Corps, and I don't care. Just because Green Lanterns are authorized to use lethal force does not mean that they're allowed to do it when they're serving with the Justice League. You can't make that kind of call without it going through a chain of command first.”
“And who elected you leader?” Bleez seethed, taking another step forward, now dangerously close to the kryptonian. “When I served with the Red Lanterns our leader proved that he was fit to lead. Proved it to us. You show more concern for that pair of teenage girls than you do about Trigon, and so far you haven't lifted a finger to keep us in line. The demon is more our leader than you are.” A faint, sizzling red aura began to surround the other alien, her eyes seeming to mist over. The red ring on her finger began to pulse with the fury coursing through her napalm heart.
“I smell a cat-fight,” Creeper said from the back of the small group. “Twenty bucks on the kryptonian, she's got bigger boobies.”
“Didn't we just do this with her and Etrigan?” Question said, arching a formless brow. “Anyway, you're on. I know better than to bet against Bleez now.”
“You wanna know who elected me leader, Bleez?” Power Girl said, inching forward enough that her nose nearly touched the havanian's. Close enough that she could feel Bleez's acidic breath stinging her cheek. “The old JSA. Ted, Alan, Jay. Real heroes. When the new team formed they begged me to keep everyone in line, to lead the way Alan had. And every day I regret having accepted the task. You want to lead this JSA? I dare you to try. But if you want a better leader, a stronger leader, then fine – Raven has a lead on the Trigon situation, and we leave in the morning.”
Raven coughed quietly, as if not liking her name even being mentioned when the tension in the room was this high – as if it involved her somehow. Kara was, however, correct. She did have a lead. She had sensed a presence not far away, and was putting together more and more information about what it was the team actually needed to be doing. It was time for the practice runs to end.
Bleez growled absently for a moment before folding her wings behind her back, turning from the kryptonian. “Sure. The morning. Gives me time to charge my ring.”
“Good,” Kara said, not having changed her imposing posture. Her head tilted straight again, and she called out to a few of the team. “Etrigan, Raven, Question. Care to meet me in the study?”
“What do we do, friend Kara?” Koriand'r said softly, tilting her head. She was still a little fidgety – while Etrigan, and even Riddler before, had been ornery at best, at least he seemed to know what he was doing on the team. Bleez, on the other hand, was showing herself more and more to be the team's wild card, with the kind of disruptive behavior that can only be achieved through planning. Being left in the manor with her and the Creeper, of all people, wasn't... entirely exciting.
Kara shrugged. “I don't have anything for you to do at the moment. Bleez may want to keep her ring charged – but as for the rest of you, take a breather and some time away from training. We're gonna be thrown into the field – the real field – pretty soon, from what Raven's told me.”
Kory chewed her lip awkwardly before nodding. “I suppose that works.”
“We shouldn't be long,” Raven droned quietly. “Have... um, fun, I suppose.”
“I'll call the hookers,” Creeper purred, crouched behind the red lantern and examining her backside as he spoke. It had become a bit of a pastime.
“With blood and rage of crimson red, I fill men's hearts with darkest dread, and twist your minds to pain and hate, I'll burn you all – that is your fate.” Bleez withdrew her hand from the crooked, cracked crimson lantern she had been keeping in her closet, the ring on her finger pulsing with a visceral scarlet energy, in tune with her vitriolic heartbeat. The havanian gritted her teeth slightly, closing her eyes and nearly uncontrollable raw rage coursed through her, staining her blood and her soul, threatening to devour her.
But she could control it. She had already felt the greatest pain her life could offer, she had been plunged into the Blood Ocean and she had taken her revenge on the men – the beasts – who had destroyed her soul and replaced it with napalm. She could control the rage because she had no choice. Because she had been a commander of the Red Lantern Corps.
Because she was Bleez, and mindlessness was beneath her.
“...Friend Bleez?” Starfire said softly, arms behind her back as she hovered absently through the air, her deep jade-green eyes round and friendly as she called out to the other alien. “Are you ready? Mr. Ryder says that we're going to the mall, and we're going to purchase clothing and various technological toys. It shall be a great amount of fun.”
“Clothes?” Bleez grumbled, not turning to face the tamaranean princess. “The ring gives me a uniform. It's all I need.”
“Well, yes... but we are not always in combat, and the team does not require a uniform, so perhaps you would like to wear different things? I know I like to wear different things at times – I do not plan to wear my uniform to the mall.”
“You think I can be seen in public?” Bleez snarled, finally turning and slowly spreading her bony wings. “I'm a monster.”
“Well... if you like, I think I have some clothes that could fit you. Maybe take off your mask, and... hm.” Kory tapped her chin idly, examining Bleez's figure and face. “The only tricky part will be the wings.”
Bleez chewed the inside of her cheek before closing her eyes. The skeletal wings on her back seemed to crumble before falling into dusty red sparks of dissipating energy. “That better, tamaranean?”
Starfire's eyes widened. “Admittedly, that was unexpected. I thought the wings were...?”
“My wings were torn off by the Sinestro Corps, shredded and destroyed. The wings you see, I created.” Bleez turned again, facing away from Koriand'r and back towards the lantern on her bedside table. “One more mockery of my old life.”
“Well that will certainly make things easier,” Kory's lips curled into a wide smile. “I think it's time you got a makeover. This will be wonderful!”
“While I have the opportunity to say so, I must admit that I'm quite fond of this little group. Offbeat as it is, I find myself facing an attractive alien any way I turn.” Victor still had his mask on. One of these days, he'd take it off, show the JSA his true face. But for now, he was the Question – and he hadn't yet been given a good reason to show his full trust. This was business of the apocalyptic variety (never his favorite) and it was best if he kept in character.
“I'm flattered,” Kara snarked, taking a seat at a large, octagonal, hardwood table and folding her arms behind her neck. “But I think Raven has something to tell us. Ready to lay down some exposition?”
“I've been... studying,” Raven said quietly, her voice still sounding tired. “When we investigated the Royal Flush Gang, I sensed another presence as well, one... somewhere in Metropolis, not far. It wasn't particularly friendly, either... someone marked by Trigon.”
“Let me stop you there,” Victor said quickly, holding up one hand. “You've mention this mark before, and that a few of us – Jack, Bleez, and myself – are among these marked people. What exactly is with the mark? What does it mean?”
Raven sighed, taking her own seat at the far side of the table. “I was about to get to that... I mentioned it a few days ago but wasn't sure what it meant yet. But I've been scrying in my spare time, checking marked presences that I noticed before, but I... considered too volatile to contact.”
“You didn't consider Bleez 'too volatile to contact'?” Kara said, eyes widening with incredulity.
The corners of Raven's lips tilted slightly, as if attempting to smile while being unfamiliar with the gesture. When the expression ultimately failed, she simply continued. “A few of them – a man named Cole Cash, and the Joker – have... already died. This isn't the kind of mark I'm familiar with my father using, which means something... different, is happening.”
“What's your reasoning for them dying?” Etrigan asked.
“I'm working on that. Looked through some books for spells, curses, whatever... something that may work that way. Closest thing I found was an earth-based spellbook... an old one.” Raven inhaled and hunched forward slightly, her deep, pointed hood now fully obscuring her face. “It puts a curse on a person, surrounds them with a small, fate-altering field that causes bad luck of the, um... fatal variety.”
Power Girl set her elbows on the table, leaning forward. “But you said he wanted to control the marked people, not kill them.”
“Exactly... it gets worse.”
“Hmmm. You're a little smaller than me, actually.”
“You're tall,” Bleez deadpanned.
“True. Hmm.” Starfire tapped her chin again, glancing at her own wardrobe. “I may have a few things that I wore when I was still with the Titans... I was a little smaller then. But these are older clothes.”
Bleez chewed the inside of her cheek, a small trickle of blood dribbling from her bottom lip as she watched the tamaranean browse her own clothes, covering herself as much as possible after Kory had told her to strip out of the Red Lantern uniform.
“Well, I do have something I think will fit you. I hope you don't mind pink.” Starfire turned, smiling widely and holding up a pair of ripped jeans along with a pale pink t-shirt. “I think it'll look great on you.”
Ten minutes later, Bleez found herself in the backseat of Jack Ryder's car – a simple, yet classy Lexus – her head slightly out of the open window and a look of utter misery on her face. “Why are we doing this again?” she groaned. “It's so childish.”
“Well, I need some new shoes and my mp3 recorder just stopped working, so.” Jack was behind the wheel, cruising through the streets of daytime Gotham and heading for one of the less-crowded shopping malls. “Kory just wanted to go.”
“It will be marvelous,” Kory said with a smile, sitting in the passenger-seat. “I'm going to get one of those freezy orange drinks that fill me with such joy, and then I wish to shop for undergarments!”
“...Do any of us actually have any money?” Bleez snarled, pressing her foot against the back of Starfire's chair. She was wearing what she'd been given, and besides her pale blue skin, could almost be mistaken for a normal, if somewhat feral, human being. Pity it wasn't Halloween. Then again, with Koriand'r's vibrant orange coloration, maybe she wouldn't stand out too much.
“Jason gave me some,” Ryder said, turning into the parking lot and stopping the car. “I guess he's made some good investments over his several-centuries of life, doesn't seem to be much of an issue for him. Was considering borrowing a little cash to make some investments of my own, but this whole JSA thing has kinda made me have to postpone my show.”
“Friend Jack, you have a television show?” Starfire hopped out of the car, pointedly trying not to hover as she usually did, but instead walking towards the glass double-doors that lead to the mall. “I have not seen it! You must record a few episodes for me.”
“I don't think you'd like it, but sure, I can do that.” Jack smirked, ignoring Bleez's disdainful snort. “It's called 'You Are Wrong' if you're interested. I'm hoping that after this whole Trigon thing ends I can get the studio to air the show again and I can get back to work.”
Everyone was silent for a little while as the unlikely trio wandered into the mall, staying together until they reached a map kiosk. Finally, Kory looked up and said what had been on her mind up until now. “What am I supposed to be wrong about?”
“Um... nothing, or, everything. It's just the name of the show, is all,” Jack said sheepishly, smirking slightly before checking the map. “Alright ladies, I'm sure you have different plans than I do, so when you two are done, meet me in the Sharper Image. I'll be 'testing out' one of those magic fingers recliners for a while.”
Starfire nodded and turned to the havanian with a smile as Jack Ryder wandered away through the mall. “Are you prepared to acquire clothing, friend Bleez?”
“I guess.” The red lantern folded her arms across her stomach awkwardly, as the little pink tee she wore did not entirely conceal her lower torso. “Anything to get me out of this.”
“Glorious! First I want a new skirt, and then we can stop to get cloth foot-coverings, and we can go to the JC Penny and--”
“Which store is that?” Bleez's dark gray eyes widened slightly, a small pulse of passion causing her ring to throb. She pointed one clawed blue digit towards a small store, a dark store, a store that hummed with moody teens and bad music.
“That store? We don't like that store... do we?” Kory arched a brow hesitantly as she followed Bleez's finger. “Um, that's Hot Topic.”
“I'm going there.” The havanian said resolutely, already walking towards it with a meaningful stride.
“But, friend Bleez, I--” Starfire hung her shoulders and exhaled, finally following the red lantern. “Very well, but only for a little bit, okay? I still need socks.”
Etrigan propped his feet up on the table, folding his arms. “So, let me get this straight. Trigon found the people marked to destroy him, and cursed them with a spell that causes them to die. After they die, he resurrects them under his control and uses them as cohorts in his quest to destroy or dominate the earth. Am I getting this straight?”
“I hate the sound of this spell. Mostly because it supposedly effects me. Why am I not dead yet?” Victor fidgeted in his own seat, immediately starting to scan the room for possibly-lethal objects. “I only enjoyed the Final Destination films because I wasn't a character in them. Now I may be burning my collection. Or, alternatively, studying them closely for threat-minimization strategies. Contingency #1: avoid trains.”
“This seems really roundabout, doesn't it?” Power Girl said. “Why not simply kill them and be done with it? Why does he want them on his side?”
“Resurrecting them gives him... control. I think. That's how that spell works, and it seems to fit best. Only problem is it doesn't fit his style. Also... the magic is wrong. Doesn't seem like him.”
“How do we know it's him?” Question asked, sliding out of his chair and standing, grumbling something about getting skewered by a splintered chair leg. “If the style doesn't match Trigon's maybe we should keep other options in mind.”
“He's my father,” Raven droned. “I know when he's... up to something.”
“Perhaps he has help,” Etrigan mused. “If he has already tried, and failed, he may have adopted another tactic. It's what I would have done.”
“Possible.” Raven said with a small shrug, leaving it at that.
Kara Zor-L stood, setting her palms flat on the table. “Then our top priority has to be keeping marked ones safe. If they don't die we can use them – at least prevent them from becoming scions of Trigon. What was the presence you sensed in Metropolis, Raven? Could you tell who it was?”
Raven shifted in her seat, glancing away from the kyptonian and letting out a soft cough.
“Raven? Who was it?”
The azarathian fidgeted, visibly uncomfortable. “Um... Lobo.”
Kara's eyes widened. Etrigan coughed out a small plume of flame. Question stared blankly. “Who?” Vic clucked.
Power Girl answered. “Lobo. The Main Man. The most deadly bounter hunter in the universe.”
“Wait, why is Lobo a problem? Lobo can't die. If he can't die then being marked is totally irrelevant.” Etrigan seemed to relax slightly, comfortable in his assessment, though his eyes did linger on Raven, awaiting a rebuttal.
“He was marked for a reason,” Raven deadpanned. “He's dangerous. He could make or break a battle against Trigon. Even if he can't die... who knows how the curse will effect him.”
“Can I just say now that I'm uncomfortable with the idea of fighting a galactic bounty hunter when I'm in a cosmically fragile state?” Vic lifted his hands up in a helpless gesture. “Hello? Normal human. Totally powerless. Lethally-bad luck. Will definitely die. Nobody else seeing this?”
“He's right,” Etrigan grunted. “Using Question in a fight against Lobo is nothing more than a waste of resources.”
“I will accept that unflattering comment if it prevents me from dying,” Vic quickly added. “And you guys are just going to talk to him, anyway, you don't need me. I'll go do something... else. Like a really challenging crossword puzzle. For solidarity purposes, of course.”
“Still, we have to go. Hopefully he doesn't get too far away from Metropolis by morning.” Power Girl scratched the back of her neck, furrowing her brow slightly. “Makes me wonder why he went there in the first place, unless it's some kind of kryptonian grudge match.”
“I suppose we'll find out soon.” The demon brought himself to his feet along with the others, unceremoniously heading for the door. “I wonder if the kids are back yet?”
“I think... I may like Earth clothing,” Bleez purred absently, holding a black leather closed-vest against her chest and gazing at herself in the mirror. It had been a while since she had... looked, at herself. Allowed herself to be admired, even if it was only by Bleez herself. Been so long since she had even seen her own face.
“It is most lovely, friend Bleez. This store is also less unfriendly than I had suspected – this shirt refers to doing things in a similar manner to a boss, which seems like a very professional aspiration.” The tamaranean turned to a small bin of womens' smallclothes, fishing through lacey black panties and trying to find any that didn't have skulls on them. It was challenging, to say the least. “Have you found anything you like yet?”
Bleez glanced at the massive bundle of black, red, and violet clothes draped across her arms. “...Maybe.”
“Got great taste, cutie,” the cashier said, a thin man in his early 20's with a few too many facial piercings. “We got a dressing room in the back too, if you wanna try some on. Or you can just go for it right here, I don't mind.”
Starfire held her breath, glancing from the man to the havanian. “Blee--”
“...Insolent beast! Utter one more word to me and you will taste the fury and hatred of a Red Lantern! I will tear you limb from limb you insignificant waste of gore!”
As Koriand'r dragged the red lantern from the mall, the rage-filled threats and roars continued. Well, they wouldn't be able to come back to this particular store for a few months at least... but at least they had a good time. And she had even managed to find a pair of underwear that had a kitten on the backside, rather than a skull. She counted that as a win.