The Spoiler's Diary:
The slick, dirty side of the dumpster didn't even bother me as I slumped against it. I quickly slipped my hood back on, hoping no one had seen an attractive blonde girl in purple tights fall out of the sky into the trash. Not that I had to worry too much about attracting company -- the smell coming from the dumpster would be enough to give me privacy.
I felt a cold sensation on my palm. The earplug DeSaad had returned to me was still locked in my grip. Opening my hand finally, I saw that it didn't look like much. Just a small piece of metal, wires, and foam about the size of a dime. No buttons and no instructions.
But Robin had said it would help me get in touch with Oracle. Whoever that was. One thing was for sure. She'd better have a way to find me a bunch of major leaguers to take to Apocolips or just about the only guy I had any reason to respect was as good as dead.
I pushed it in my ear and listened. Nothing. I tapped it a few times for good measure. Still nothing. No hiss, no clue that anyone was on the line.
"Hmm, hello," I said, immediately feeling pretty stupid.
The silence did a pretty good job of convincing me how foolish I must have looked, scrunched down in an alley and talking to myself. I was just about to tap the plug again when a woman's voice filled my head.
"Sorry to keep you waiting. Wh --"
"Are you Oracle?" I interrupted. "I need help. Justice League size help. It's horrible."
"Whoa. Slow down. First, who are you and what are you doing with Robin's com-link?"
"My name's Ste--, I mean Spoiler. And Robin gave it to me to get help."
"Take it slow, and tell me what's happened." Her voice was like a clear bell inside my head. "Okay?"
"You're Oracle, right?"
"Right the first time. What's the story?"
I told her everything, how Damage had been attacked at the bus station, how we'd been sucked toApokolips, how we'd been captured, and how the Rasputin the evil monk had sent me back to find more players for his game. Oracle listened without speaking, and a few times, I had to stop and ask if she was still there. The clarity of that com-link thing was eerie.
"You know it's a trap," she said when I finished my story.
Like I didn't know that. "You think?"
"A smart-alek, huh. I bet Dinah was like that at your age."
I didn't know who Dinah was, or what Oracle meant by that 'my age' crack, and I really didn't care. What I needed was help. "Look, can you get me some help? I've got less than an hour before that straw thing comes back and whisks me back to never-never-land again."
"Already on it, Stephanie. Just calm down, okay."
"How'd you know --"
"Your name? You'd be surprised what I know. By the way, your dad's in isolation again. Tried to follow on the heels of a failed jail break."
It figured. Still, give him a few weeks and he'd be out again somehow. Apparently Gotham's prison came equipped with revolving doors.
"Spoiler, if you don't mind."
"Okay. Spoiler. I'm accessing Justice League HQ now." She made an angry sigh. "Ah man. Never around when you need them."
"What? What's wrong?" I checked my watch. Barely 40 minutes left before the boom tube express back to sunny Apokolips. "What's the problem?"
"The League's away. Aztek's alone up there. Hang on, though. He's patching me through the com units the old League passed around. With any luck, some of the former leaguers can help." There was a long pause.
"Still here. Sorry. What's your location?"
"Behind what used to be the Gotham bus station. Why?"
"Hang on, you're going to have some company soon."
"Not sure. The call's on an open link. There's no telling who may show up." Another long pause, during which I heard the loud clicking of a keyboard. "And the Titans are on their way, too, and bringing a friend."
This was too good to be true. Arthur Brown's little Stephanie leading the elite spandex club of America into battle against DeSaad and his evil demon guys. They'd run over Apokolips like a steamroller and we'd have Robin and Damage back home in no time. As long as they showed up in time, that is.
The fast kid was the first to arrive. He showed up in a blur, bringing some scared bimbo with a bow and arrow with her. When he stopped and put her down again, she ran behind the dumpster and threw up. Or at least she sounded like it.
"Hi. Is this where we're supposed to meet you for the rescue mission? I ran all over Gotham trying to find this place, but after a few seconds I'd covered just about everything, and well, here I am."
"I hope you brought your parents."
He looked hurt and I almost regretted ragging him. Almost. But if this rescue was going to work, we'd need more power than a bimbo with an bow and a goofy, big-haired kid who could run fast.
He puffed his chest up like he was someone important. "I'm Impulse, and she's ..." He pointed to the white skirt poking from behind the dumpster. " ... Arrowette. The new Arrowette. I guess the sprint was too much for her. You must be the Spoiler." He stuck out his hand, and I took it, then let go. "So, when do we leave?"
Good question. By my best guess, we had about thirty minutes left, but in all honestly, DeSaad wasn't exactly the kind of guy I'd trust to keep his word, and after a ten-minute wait, my hopes for a mighty rescue team were beginning to dwindle.
Before I could give Impulse a smart-aleck answer, Argent of the Teen Titans, slid in on that slide thing she does, with the blue guy from Fawcett City and a fashion victim in red biker shorts flying right behind her.
"Long time, no see, Spoiler."
"Where's the rest of the team?"
"You don't want to know. Trust me." She brought the slide down easily on the nasty pavement, then stepped off and nodded toward Impulse. The blonde had come back from the dumpster and was wiping her mouth with the back of her hand. "Good to see you again, Impulse. Who's your friend?"
"Arrowette," I answered for him. "The new Arrowette."
Fawcett City blue set down beside Argent. Way too close, and she sidestepped to get her personal space back. "Any you are?" I asked him.
"Ready to get this trip under way."
"I know you," the blonde chirped in. "You're one of those Marvel guys. Marvel Boy or something like that."
"Something like that," he said, rolling his eyes..
Argent grinned and looked at Arrowette. "Captain Marvel Jr. He's got this little thing about saying his name though. And this is the new Wonder Girl. Cap Jr. will vouch for her."
"Nice to meet you. Welcome to the pajama party." I hoped the joke covered my anxiety.
"You too." She looked over the group and smiled. "This is so cool."
"That's what I tried to tell her," Impulse chimed in, "But she wouldn't listen. Just a little too moody for the hero thing, if you ask me."
"Enough talk." As Fawcett City spoke, he smoothed out the edges of his cape. "Where is the rest of the rescue team?"
"That's what I'd like to know."
The voice came from above us. A shadowy figure leaped down from the low roof of one of the few non-damaged buildings. Actually, he summersaulted into a perfect landing a few feet away from me. His dark costume blended with the night, and it took me a while to recognize him as Nightwing, the guy Robin had mentioned before -- like in every other breath. At least that meant that a little bit of real muscle had shown up.
"Is this all of us?" he asked in a friendly, yet condesending voice.
"So far." I stepped forward and introduced myself, barely realized how shaky my voice sounded beneath the hood.
He wrinkled his mouth and glanced around at the slipshod team I had assembled. The blonde stood next to Impulse quietly, staring at the ground. Impulse stood perfectly still with a goofy look of excitement on his face. Argent smiled weakly as Nightwing's gaze passed over her. Fawcett City just stood firm and returned the look of scrutiny.
"That's not good." Then he turned and looked up into the night. "Oracle," he said aloud, "I need to know where Flash, Arsenal, Tempest, Gar, and Donna are." Then to the girl Argent had introduced as Wonder Girl. "A new Wonder Girl, huh. Well, stick with that one theme, if you don't mind me saying so. It got out of hand last time." He waited for a few seconds, then this horrible look of disappointment settled on his face, and he clenched his fist. "All of them? Yeah, I know. Sorry. Try the old League beepers again and let me know who turns up. And make it fast, okay."
"Everybody's out of town, huh?" I asked.
"Don't worry," he said, placing a strong hand on my shoulder, "We'll save him, both of them. If we have to search every last inch of Apokolips with a flashlight, we'll get them back home."
Before I could finish thinking how lucky Robin was to have a friend like Nightwing (and how pathetic it was that all I had was a clueless mom, a locked-up dad, and a partner who wouldn't even trust me with his name), we all were shocked to see a shiny space ship hover into place above Gotham. I braced, waiting for the sucking winds, guessing that DeSaad had found another way to transport us back to his mudball. But the sucking never came. Instead, a hatch opened, and Superboy came flying out, carrying a big rock-covered guy. Behind him came a woman made out of lightning and some guy in gold armor.
"Hope I didn't miss the party," Superboy said as he landed. "I even brought a few friends to join in."
"This isn't some kind of game, kid." Nightwing had shifted back in the shadows at the first sight of the ship. "Treat it like a game and you might not make it back alive."
"Cool down, partner. I know the score. Besides, the little guy still owes me for knocking me around a few months back, and I just can't let the big D get in the way of payback."
"Well, it's nice to have some real power around, anyway," I said under my breath. Superboy had helped get rid of that Cyborg, and the rock guy looked pretty strong too.
During the silence that followed, the armored guy landed and introduced himself as the Alpha Centurion. I vaguely remembered hearing something about him being run out of Metropolis or something. The blue lightning girl, however, I'd never even heard of, but Superboy vouched for her and the Centurion.
Once again, everyone traded introductions and got their egos pampered with mutual admiration, until finally, Nightwing called everyone together.
"I don't much like the idea of heading to Apokolips with a bunch of kids." A few of those assembled started to gripe, but Nightwing cut them off. "But I don't want to do this by myself either. But understand that this is not some kind of game. You'll will play by my rules or your corspe will have a nice rest billions of miles away from Earth."
There was a sharp crack above us, and when we looked up, nearly every male jaw dropped to the pavement. "You Bat-boys were always good cheerleaders. It's a wonder you ever made friends with motivational speeches like that." With all the grace of a dancer, Catwoman glided into the middle of our huddle.
In a flash, Nightwing was poised, ready to jump, but there was a blur, and Catwoman struck instantly to her left. Then a loud crash as Impulse fell into a row of small garbage cans. "Cool your jets, heroes. I'm here to help."
"I don't have time for your games, Catwoman. Take whatever you stole and leave. Tonight, I got more on my mind than your little heists."
"You listen about as well as your boss." She rolled the whip into a coil and held it at her side. "I said I was here to help."
"You expect me to believe you?" he said.
"I don't really care if you do or not. I just want to know the kid's okay."
I was stunned. Not only had Robin inspired friends like Nightwing, Argent, and Superboy, but even one of the badguys were willing to risk her life trying to save him. "Guys," I said, stepping between them, "Right now, I wouldn't care if the Joker showed up if he could help us rescue Robin and Damage."
There was a quick, cold stare between Nightwing and Catwoman, broken only by the reappearance of Impulse, with one of those stupid, Gee-did-I-miss-anything grins on his face. I looked over the team who had come to help. Maybe we could pull it off. Some of them, like Nightwing and Superboy, had some experience under their belts. Some of the others seemed pretty powerful, at least strong enough to take out a few of those parademons, anyway. The blonde girl and Impulse bothered me, though. She didn't seem too ready for a fight like the one we were heading to.
Still, even with headliners like Nightwing and Superboy, I wasn't too sure about our chances. I'd really hoped for at least a few Justice Leaguers. Didn't they do stuff like this everyday before breakfast?
I checked my watch again. Five minutes before our one-way trip back to DeSaad. It was time for somebody to come up with a plan.
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