"Fortune Quest" Part 3/3
Written by Crazy Ivan
PREVIOUSLY IN OUR STORY SO FAR, IN CASE YOU'RE JUST JOINING US...
Ted Reilly and John Carter, better known as the Scarlet Scarab and Golden Torch, have left St. Louisville on a rescue mission inspired by a fortune cookie message (you remember, 'Help! I'm being held captive in a fortune cookie warehouse!'). To this end they abandoned their posts on Monitor Duty for the Young Heroes For Hire, were turned down for membership by the Justice League Avengers, and stole a '69 VW van belonging to comic shop owners Denny & Donny O'Donald.
Now they are on their way to California. The trip has not been made easier by the revelation that the AM radio in the van doesn't work. Their only recourse for entertainment has been to play the many cassette tapes in the O'Donalds' collection. Most of the tapes are soundtracks to movies, ranging from INDIANA QUARTERMAIN AND THE LOST MINE OF DOOM to LITTLE SHOP OF ROCKY HORROR. Ever so often they come across a true abomination, a karaoki tape labeled 'Denny & Donny's Greatest Hits.' After listening to six seconds worth of 'Hip To Be Spies Like Us' Torch... accidentally... melts the tape deck.
They talk a lot on this trip.
"What I don't get," Carter starts up again, still dwelling on their experience with the JLA, "is why Thunder Woman said she never heard of you. I know you were on the Judgment League: Work Force; that should have made you a shoo-in!"
Ted avoids making eye contact. "Actually, the JLWF was never sanctioned by the League. We just sort of, borrowed the name. Captain Wonder was a member of the Avengers for a while. But they kicked him out when they found out he was a mole for the U.S. Military, so he started the Work Force as a way of getting back at them."
"Oh, that's real mature. One of your role models, no doubt."
"This coming from the guy who stole a time machine?"
"That was for medicinal purposes! They were going to let the Suicide Gene kill me! Say, when am I suppose to turn?"
"I-40 merges with 15 somewhere up ahead. Watch the signs, LA's a big enough place. You only need me to navigate once we get inside the city. Where's that address again?"
"Culver Del Rey. Funny, I would have thought a fortune cookie factory would be in Chinatown."
"Well, John, that would make sense except for the fact that Chinatown is part of San Diesco, not LA."
"Sorry. By 2099 all the cities in southern California have been amalgamated together. I never bothered to learn where the old boundaries were."
After three days of non-stop driving they arrive in Los Angeles. When they next stop for gas (still using Denny's Exxaco card) John wants to phone the factory. Ted refuses. "You can't do that! They'll know we're coming! We gotta take these guys by surprise. Our unnamed kidnapping victim is counting on us."
"I think this trip is getting to me. You're starting to make sense. Alright, let's go find this factory." They load up once again on junk food and soft drinks and head for the coast. The warehouse is in a fairly dirty area, but doesn't look to be overrun with crime. The faded sign over the entrance to the high bay can barely be read: FU Q FORTUNE COOKIE COMPANY.
"Of course, you realize that's pronounced 'FOO CUE,' right?" Ted Reilly says over his shoulder to the ever-elusive fourth wall.
"Well, it's now or never," John says, and starts rummaging through the back of the van for their costumes. "Ted! What did you do?" Reilly climbs over the seat to see what Carter is yelling about. Both of their super hero outfits are coated in a sticky pink film left from two-day old Silly String foam.
"What makes you think this is my fault? Silicon-Man could have been playing a prank on us or something."
"We were still wearing them when we left the hotel. And there's a can of your 'web formula' upside-down back here, with a bag of Smarties laying on top of it."
"Good. I was wondering where those things wound up. Okay, so maybe in some small way I'm partially to blame for this. So what? We don't need no stinkin' costumes! Besides, if there's a reward, Hard Cage would want us to give a portion of it to the Young Heroes For Hire."
"So we do this in street clothes? I wasn't planning to reveal my identity to the rest of the world just yet."
"You worry to much. We'll be in and out of there so fast, they won't even know we were here. But leave your wallet in the van, just in case." Ted grabs his Super-Soaker and leads John up the fire escape to a skylight window on a low portion of the roof.
Inside they see a factory, much as they expected. But no crispy fortune cookies are rolling off the conveyor belts; this place is manufacturing drugs. "So that's their game!" Johnny Carter whispers a little too loud. "Whoever wrote that note must have discovered their operation here and got himself caught."
"Yeah, but he probably wasn't a professional super hero. We'll bust this place wide open, call the cops in to clean up our leftovers. Then we can get our uniforms laundered in time for the media coverage! Now, on the count of three, you burst through the glass and I'll cover you with this!"
John still can't get over the way his pal thinks. "For the last time, that's just a Super-Soaker full of Silly String!! You aren't covering ANYBODY with that! This time we'll do it my way. I'll slip in the back and start slagging their equipment while you create a distraction."
"How do you propose I do that?"
"I'm sure you'll come up with something."
Ted doesn't much care for the new plan, but goes along with it. He goes to the delivery entrance and knocks on the door. He convinces the voice behind the intercom box he is there to collect a shipment and is allowed to enter. Once inside he pumps up the Super-Soaker and starts spraying the security cameras while shouting monosyllabic interjections.
Four armed men (no, not four-armed men, that's just silly) rush into the lobby and he back-flips across the room to catch two of them with a super-strength kick. A leap and two boots to the head later all four of them are unconscious. Gee, maybe I should just take this all the way in, Ted thinks. Hopefully John will be able to catch up.
Ted Reilly kicks in the door going to the warehouse and raises his gun to the nearest group of men. "Nobody move! This is a raid!" At once fifty people level their own firearms (all considerably more realistic than his own) at the hapless hero, and he is compelled to drop the Super-Soaker and throw up his hands.
About this time a column of flame shoot from the back of the space, destroying one of the kilns used to process LSD. Unfortunately the liquid compound douses him and enters his system even as several men come at him with assault weapons. His eyes burning, his mind tripping, and his partner surrendering, John Carter is in no condition to put up a fight.
Ted and John are taken to a back room with dim lights and ten men holding semi-automatic weapons of various shapes and sizes. They are forced to their knees and have their hands tied to their feet. Johnny Carter notices that this is very similar to the way mob executions were carried out, at least according to the holo-vids in 2099.
A wizened Asian man hobbles into the room, leaning heavily on his solid gold cane. It's hard to be sure, but in this lighting he appears to have a greenish tinge to his skin. "Why are you here? Who sent you?" The elderly man's voice contains none of the stereotypical speech patterns attributed to Orientals.
The .45 caliber pistol muzzle in his back compels Ted Reilly to come up with an answer. "We're super heroes; I mean, vigilantes. This is... Stick!" The man formerly known as the Golden Torch eyes his partner inquisitively. "As in, Matchstick!"
"Right," John follows up. "And he's called Neuron!" And the hero formerly known as Scarlet Scarab returns the stare of confusion. "Because he's neurotic!"
"Yeah, that's right! So you better just let us go! My pal Stick here can turn into a super-nova and incinerate this entire building if he wants!"
"That seems very unlikely, Mr. Neuron. Doing so would also incinerate you, would it not?"
"I'm willing to take that chance."
"Then so are we." Having called Neuron's bluff, the ancient drug lord loses interest in his captives. If they could pose any sort of threat to him, they never would have been so easily captured. "Get rid of them! We don't have any use for hostages!"
"Yeah? Well, we didn't come here alone!" Ted quickly improvises a Plan B. "We have a whole team of superheroes who expect us to report in within the half-hour. If they don't hear from us, they already know to converge on the Fu Q Cookie Company!"
"You have no idea who you are dealing with, do you? I am Fu, as in Fu Manchu the Merciless! You're rescuers would have to pop out of nowhere to get here in time to save you!"
The recognition of their captor's name hits Johnny Carter like a 42.38 Metric Ton anvil. Fu Manchu the Merciless was one of the most elusive criminals of the twentieth century. He first showed up in the early 1890's and tangled with Sherlock Holmes, Warlord of Mars, on numerous occasions. He later resurfaced in the 1930's, and was defeated by Flash Rogers. Fu was no international thief or terrorist; this guy led an intergalactic fleet against the Earth! If he's still active and living on the planet's surface, there's no telling how much time is left before the new invasion begins!
"That's exactly what NoWhere-Men do best!" With that John burns the ropes off his hands and flares up his head in a burst of light that momentarily blinds their captors. Ted also seizes the opportunity to rip through his own bonds using his enhanced strength. He coincides his attack on the gun-wielding thugs with the pyrotechnics display (knowing his partner's tactics, he expected this), and takes five of them out before their vision clears. The rest scramble to protect Fu.
"Get them, you imbeciles!" he shouts at them. "Don't let them get away!"
Ted "Neuron" Reilly and Johnny "Stick" Carter press the advantage and rush the five armed men while they are crowded around the exit. The room is really too small to make their weapons effective, but there is more than enough room for fisticuffs. As soon as the threat is minimized John blasts a hole in the wall opposite their captors, and the duo make their escape.
Into a long darkened corridor. "This doesn't look like a warehouse!" Ted states between breaths, "Could we be in a subway tunnel?"
"How would I know?" John gets irritated with the question. "Just keep running till we find some light. I don't wanna flame up and give them an easy target!"
They continue fleeing Fu's entourage until Ted notices a draft coming from directly above them. "Fresh air!" he yells, loud enough to give away their location. The shots penetrate the tunnel, forcing John to grab Ted by the arm and fly up into the opening. The heat he generates in flight cannot be contained, but Ted is willing to suffer a few minor burns in lieu of having his organs perforated.
They emerge inside the mouth of a large drainage pipe. The smell hints to them that they are at a waste-treatment plant. The sudden rush of discharged by-products washing over them as they struggle to retain their position pretty much confirms it. "Naturally a slime ball like Fu would use the sewers for a hideout," Ted comments after wiping off his mouth. "Hey, thanks for the save back there."
"Don't sweat it, we both looked pretty good. Of course, if you had just followed my plan we wouldn't have NEEDED to look good"
"I DID follow your plan! I distracted them while you went on an acid trip and had a flashback to the future! Next time we use my plan!"
"NEXT time?" John and Ted continue to argue while finding their way back to the van (and a desperately-needed change of clothes). Eventually they settle on a new course of action; calling the Feds. John places the call and reports the kidnapping, leaving out all references to personal involvement (especially the part about the fortune cookies).
Meanwhile Ted returns to the FU Q FORTUNE COOKIE CO. warehouse and marks it for easy identificationÖ with twenty-three cans of photoluminescent paint (again with the credit card fraud; someone really needs to have a talk with these boys). While there he notices that the building has been abandoned; apparently Fu wasn't willing to find out what Neuron and Stick were up to.
He decides to have a quick peek inside. When he returns to the van Ted hands John a manila folder and tells him to open it. Inside it Carter finds the invoice for the shipment that their fortune cookie came from. The shipping order is dated 12 November 1988, a decade ago! If a kidnapping did take place here, the crime is far too old, and the trail far too cold, to do anyone any good.
Ted and John drive back to St. Louisville feeling pretty stupid. They feel even worse when they arrive, and Ted suddenly remembers that they left Denny and Donny stranded in Springford, Illinois! A phone call to the REALITY CHECK Comic shop reveals that they made it home okay. In fact, they spent the entire weekend with fan favorite Grant Robinson, and all three of them stayed up late Saturday and Sunday making prank phone calls to Todd McLarson and Alan Moorcock! So neither O'Donald has any hard feelings about the trip (but just wait till they get the Exxaco bill!).
Not so easily dealt with are the Young Heroes For Hire! While they were out some kid genius broke in and triggered some alarms that brought the whole team running (Scarlet Spider and Golden Torch had left their signal devices in Johnny's El Domino). When the rest of them showed up the brat had them fighting each other as he revealed that Hard Cage was his secret pawn. The mercenary team took a couple days to recover from this bombshell, and only after Off-Fist nearly died did things start to straighten out.
"So what happed to Hard Cage?" Ted asks FrostKnight. The icy warrior tells him that Cage had some trouble dealing with the news himself, and nearly had a nervous breakdown. But after a little soul-searching he returned to active duty with a new alias, Power Drive! And one of Power Drive's first items of business has been to reorganize the status of the Young Heroes For Hire.
For starters, he hired a butler. Second, he brought in a lot more part-time heroes to help fill out the YH4H ranks. And, as Thundercules informs the two errant heroes, he considers any decisions made while under the kid's influence to be suspect; including placing the Scarlet Scarab and Golden Torch on monitor duty at the same time. So he doesn't really blame them for running off like they did. He should have known this would happen when the company's insurance refused to pay for Reilly's Ritalin prescription.
Ted and John are relieved to learn that they got out of trouble so easily. But the real problems begin when Hulkgirl and Tigerfire want to know how the Scarlet Scarab and Golden Torch spent the past week. Ted screams at John as they are once again running for their lives, "See? I told you it has to be pronounced 'FOO CUE'!"
Next Issue -- A New Story!!
The end of May / beginning of June have proven to be quite challenging for old Ivan Ronald Schablotski. I find myself facing that destroyer of lives, Moving Day!!
I have survived so far, but let me tell you; finding time to write fan fic while trying to pack an entire three bedroom household, transport it to a new location, and unpack, PLUS attending to sundry affairs such as work, school, sleep, and my pulls-folder at the local direct outlet, can be so exasperating at times I find myself creating enormous run-on sentences that don't make a lot of sense and would be better broken up into three or four smaller sentences (or better still, left out of the AMALGAMnation column altogether!), though I have to admit I may have scrimped a little here and there in the sleep department, and I cleverly put a cardboard cut-out of my at my desk at work so hopefully when I go back no one will realize I've been away for over a week!
Or, in simpler terms, Crazy Ivan is running late again.
Just wait and see, though; I could catch back up at any time! No, really!
Till next time, Always Ask About Amalgam!
COMICS SHIPPING THIS WEEK:
AMALGAM TAILS #39
Marko Xebra's Gnu Mutants are kidnapped by the Pesticide Squad, and Ox-Factor is helpless to interfere! It's up to the Justa Lotta Scavengers' Hoppy the Hulk Bunny and Iron Lambkin to save them! Plus, the origins of the Small-Star Wieners' Aqua-Marsupial and Mr. Terrific Whatzit are revealed!
CRAZY IVAN'S FOURTH HOST #3
Highfather Odin reveals the true reason he created the Forever Warriors; as a testimonial of Earth's potential to produce its own gods, should the Fourth Host ever come! Will this information come in time to sway Thorion's judgment? Plus, Thunder Woman and the JLA battle Thunder Man and the Thor Corp!
FREEDOM CRUSADERS #3
The Italians are selling Europe's art treasures to beings from the future! But what they get in exchange could change the course of history, as the Freedom Crusaders soon find out! Can they stop the Fascists from arming themselves with Multi-Array Taser Cannons? Maybe with help from Miss Liberty and Speed Demon they can!
NIGHT THRUSH #3
Night Thrush confronts the aged Wax-Man and discovers he has been victimized as well! But just as he looks to be unable to solve the crimes, the REAL attacker shows up, sight set on Night Thrush! Find out what secret connection there is between the Wax-Man and... the Shambler!
Ted Reilly and John Carter arrive in LA, and find more than they bargained for! The Scarlet Scarab and Golden Torch are captured, and not even a stolen VW van and a Super-Soaker full of Silly String can save them, in the conclusion of FORTUNE QUEST!
THE BOOKS OF DARKHOLD #3
Kid Eternity discovers his true purpose in the universe, and ascends to a higher plane! This leaves Brother Power the Voodoo geek to deal with the dark god of speed, Savithos! Good thing for him the Midnight Force Sons are also on the case! A VERGE imprint title!
Disclaimer: The NoWhere-Men were created by "Donovan" Scott Dempley and myself, but the Scarlet Scarab and Golden Torch are based on the concept of Amalgam Comics. Several characters in this story belong solely to DC & Marvel. Captain Wonder was made by Mark Ayen. I honestly don't remember who suggested the Zarathos / Savitar amalgam, but I know I named him. Anyone left over I created. Amalgam and related names are used without permission. Crazy Ivan is not affiliated with Marvel Comics, DC Comics, or any other institution that could feasibly earn him a single penny writing stories, unless you count the Untold Tales Of Amalgam fanfic group, but that would be silly.
Dedicated to Scott Dempley (1969 - 1996)
THERE CAME A TIME WHEN THE OLD GODS CHANGED!
THORION AND THE NEW ASGODS #1
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