Forgotten Heroes: Twisted Metal
by Sean Taylor
Everything was perfect. The soft lull of the waves lapping against the beach. The distant squawking of seagulls. The fresh smell of ocean air. And not a freak of nature or a genetically enhanced, super-criminal genius in sight anywhere.
Gillian smoothed the edge of her towel then grabbed her paperback copy of Behind the Mask and flipped to the dog-eared page she'd been reading. It didn't make sense, she thought, how those guys could have the guts to fight crime back then -- heroes like the Sandman, the Tarantula, Phantom Girl and Dr. Midnite -- without any real powers worth mentioning. Sure there were a few really powerful ones like Green Lantern and the original Ray, but by and large the heroes from the Golden Age were just a bunch of amatuers with clumsy costumes and lots of heart. Even thought she was still young, her alter ego Wyldheart could take down most of them without much of a fight. Not that she would, of course. It was funny, she thought with a laugh, they'd be the first casualties in today's world of mega-powered alien takeovers and indestructible Krytonian killing machines.
Still, you couldn't help but admire them.
Gillian had bought the book on a whim, during a visit to a junk store in Opal City. She'd been hoping to run into the new Starman, to ask him if he had any clue where Damage might be, going strictly on the guess that Damage might be trying to visit his genetic fathers and mothers to make some connection to his own lost past. It had been a no-go on Starman, but the girl watching the junk shop had recommended the beat-up copy of Behind the Mask since the old-style heroes had come up in conversation.
Reading it was kind of a chore for her, though. That Law guy who had been the Tarantula had overwhelmed the book with his extensive namedropping and do-gooder attitudes. Still barely halfway into it, chilling out on the beach and enjoying the peace of normality she'd be sure to finish it during her 'vacation' before she resumed her search for Damage.
But the gnawing in her gut was once again undermining her resolve to tackle the book. She sighed, folded the top corner of the page, and placed the book back in her duffel bag. The sudden urge for an Italian ice convinced her that she could wait a few more minutes before returning to the Golden Age glory Law had preserved in black and white.
A short walk to the refreshment stand later she found herself standing behind the posterchild for Corn Growers of America. Long curly hair, a mousey brown, and a one piece bathing suit that screamed, "My mom bought this for me." She waited as the midwest queen changed her order, again and again. First a hot dog, then no, maybe a pita, no definitely a corn beef on rye, no wait, make that a hot dog after all.
Finally, when she could stand no more, Gillian blurted out, "For crying out loud, just get a hot dog and get out of the way."
The girl turned around and Gillian instantly recognized her as Sparx from the Bloodpack team. Gillian backed up cautiously, instantly regretting picking a fight with someone who had traded blows with some of the big-timers. "Oops, I'm sorry, Sparx. I didn't know it was you."
"Like it would be all right to be rude if I was someone else." The girl turned back to the cashier. "Just get me an cherry Icee please. I wouldn't want to keep anyone waiting too long."
The cashier went to make the Icee, leaving Gillian alone with Sparx. Suddenly feeling rotten for butting in, Gillian tapped her on the shoulder lightly. "Look, Sparx, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have lost my patience with you like that. With anyone." She extended her hand, hoping to firm up the apology with a handshake. "But especially not someone who hung with Superboy and with Bloodpack."
Sparx took her hand, shaking it quickly then letting go. "Please, call me D.C., and it's okay. I'll lost my temper a little too."
"D.C.? You're kidding, right?"
"I wish. With a name like D.C., I guess I was doomed to get electrical powers."
"Speaking of which, what's up with that? I haven't heard anything about you for over a year now. What did you do, retire young?"
"Something like that." D.C. looked down at the sand, sighing audibly.
Gillian could see that D.C. didn't feel like talking about it, and luckily the cashier returned with the Icee to give her a chance to think of something else to talk about.
"That'll be, like, $2.50, man."
Thank heaven for Californian's, Gillian mused, at least some things never change. "Look, let me pay for that," she said, "My way of making up for dissing on you."
"Normally, I wouldn't let you," D.C. pointed to her side, "but I left my money in my fanny pack back at the towel. Thanks."
"Don't mention it. Say, do you mind if I join you? I'm getting kind of tired of the music the guy two towels down from me is playing. Tony Bennett. I mean, get real."
D.C. laughed. "What's wrong with Tony Bennett?"
"You're kidding, right?"
"This time, yes. Actually, I could bring my box over to your towel and we could drown him out with a little Natalie Merchant."
"Now, that, my sister, sounds like a plan."
Gillian ordered a lemon ice and she and D.C. started to head back to the beach. Before they got as far as the first row of towels and umbrellas, however, they were stopped cold by a blast of light that caused the ground in front of them to explode.
The dust settled to reveal a young guy in a gladiator helmet and out-of-style jacket lying in the sand.
"Ouch. For a guy made out of thermometer juice, he hits like a train," he said.
"The Ray?" Gillian brushed the sand from her arms. This guy was Justice League, was being the operative word. Still, he and Damage had slummed together on at least one adventure. Maybe he could help her locate him.
"In the bruised and aching flesh," he said, pulling himself up to his knees. He was clutching a metal ball of some sort. "Sorry to nearly wipe you out, ladies," he said. "Especially you," he added to Gillian, obviously noticing her bikini. "But I'm kind of fighting for my life here so you two may want to find somewhere else to stand."
"We'll take Doc's responsometer back now, if you don't mind," thundered a voice above them.
Gillian looked up to see a flying car filled with metallic people. No, she corrected herself, not people. Robots. And not just any robots -- the Metal Men!
But why would they be chasing Ray?
"I'd listen to Iron, honey, if I were you. He can get a little ticked off when people don't follow his suggestions." Platinum, the slinky bombshell of the team, stretched from the car to the ground, shaping her body into a ladder for the others. Iron, however, jumped from the car straight down toward Ray.
Without thinking, Gillian instantly formed an energy shield, which caused the Metal Man to bounce back into a row of garbage cans. So much for the peace and quiet of the beach.
"You j-j-j-just crashed a party you really d-d-d-d-on't want to attend, m-m-m-m-a'am." Tin this time. As he stuttered, he flung his arm toward her, shaping it into a blacksmith's hammer as it rushed toward it's target.
A blast of light sent the smallest of the Metal Men flying back toward the car.
"Now we're even," Ray said, smiling. "Nice costume, by the way."
"Cute," Gillian said. "Stop watching my bikini and start telling me why the Metal Men are chasing you. This isn't one of those fight-each-other-then-make-up-and-trash-the-bad-guy things, is it? Cuz I really don't want to get in the middle of one of those."
"I wish." He took another peek at her bikini. She noticed and grinned. "Can you fly?"
He blasted above he head, hitting the anvil Iron had created to pound her with. "It's a good way to keep from getting hurt. That's all."
"Don't have to tell me twice. What about you, Sparx? Want to join the party?"
She looked around as she lifted herself into the air. D.C. was nowhere to be seen. But that mystery would have to wait. There was a more immediate one to clear up.
"So, spill already. What's the 411?"
"Long story. Here's the short version.Vandal Savage. Sneaky trick. Bad set-up. Mind-controlled super robots."
"So you didn't steal one of their respondograms or whatever?"
"Responsometer. And no comment."
Great, she thought. What else could go wrong with her vacation?
As Scorn looked out over the mass of people that was the Malibu beach, he wondered what fascinated humans so about being cramped on a crowded stretch of sand, sweating and baking their skin in dangerous radiation. At least Ashbury had the good sense to cover herself with a long t-shirt to protect her skin.
"So, big blue guardian of mine, what do you think?"
He turned and got the shock of his short, blue-skinned life. Ashbury had slipped out of the t-shirt and was wearing an outfit her father would certainly have disapproved of. Scorn knew he'd probably get blamed for that too.
"I wish I had Mysa's goggles handy. I'd love to see your face right now." She reached for his hand. "And of course it's less, it's a bikini. Now take me to the beach and show me off." She pulled him toward the crowded sand. "And I want you to describe people's faces when they see how good this new bathing suit looks on this poor, little blind girl."
"Scorn does not understand this place at all, Ashbury." He glanced again over the crowd, this time noticing a flurry of action in the distance.
"It sure was nice of Daddy to let me go on this class trip to California, wasn't it? And I was really surprised when he agreed to pay for you to come to. I know he just wanted you to watch out for me, but I'm glad you're here, you know. Still, really, he acts like he believes I can't take care of myself. I mean, it's not like --"
"Yeah, Scorn, what?"
"There is a fight ahead. People may need my help."
"You go, big guy. I can take care of myself."
"Are you sure?"
"I've got my cane. I'm fine. Just take care of yourself and hurry back, okay."
"I will, Ashbury. For you."
She kissed his hand, then he let go and leaped toward the action. A team of four stretchable, metal people were attacking a girl in a bikini -- as Ashbury had called it -- and a young man in battle armor. The girl and the young man were faring well, but they wouldn't last long unless the odds were balanced.
He jumped between the girl and a man made of red, taking the full strength of the red man's punch. He wiped his chest, then returned the punch, sending the attacker flying backward.
"Are you okay?" he asked.
"Just fine. And you are?" the girl said.
"I am Scorn. A friend of Superman."
The girl smiled and patted his shoulder. "Works for me. I'm Wyldheart, and the hunk getting tag-teamed over there by Platinum and Tin is called the Ray." She fired a blast of energy from her hands, blasting a hole in the smallest metal person. "That ought to help Ray. I'll handle Mercury. You take Iron."
"The big guy with the iron symbol on his chest."
"The dark blue guy."
"Oh. The biggest one."
"Sure, you know, big blue guy to big blue guy. It'll be fun."
He jumped toward his opponent, expecting to knock him to the ground. Instead, just before impact, the metal man transformed into a box and sealed around him. Not good. He'd have to pound his way out and pay more attention next time. He struck with enough force to make even Superman flinch, but to no avail. With each punch, the box merely absorbed the impact and stretched until the strength of each punch was gone.
"Punch all you want, blue boy, you and your friends aren't going anywhere until we get Doc's responsometer back," a face appeared on the wall beside him and said. "If you'd just hand it over, we'll put this nonsense behind us."
"Scorn does not know what a responsometer is. But I know that people who attack girls are bad."
"And people who steal aren't?"
Before he could answer, a blast of energy struck the man-box, forcing a small hole. Scorn knew exactly what to do with the chance. Prying the hole, he stretched it until he could climb through, then grabbed the edge of the hole and tossed the box-that-was-becoming-a-man-again far out into the water.
Wyldheart and the one she had called Ray stood back to back nearly twenty feet away, blasting away, keeping the remaining attackers at a distance. As he watched Wyldheart create beams of purple energy, Scorn marvelled at how many metahumans inhabited this strange planet. Earth was certainly more interesting that Kandor.
Still, a few days without having to be a "super-hero" would be nice. Some time to joyride and enjoy his youth before he had to grow up and follow his father's footsteps in Kandorian government. That's why he had come with Ashbury to this beach thing. She'd convinced him that it would be relaxing, a great way to take some down time and explore their feelings for each other. She was even going to teach him how to surf, she said, whatever that meant.
Knowing Ashbury's taste for adventure, maybe the battle was a welcome break.
Well, Gillian thought, this guy Scorn seems strong enough to handle himself. We're lucky he came along. Still, the Metal Men are the big leagues. If they weren't being controlled by someone else, they'd be mopping the floor with us.
And where had Sparx run off to? It wasn't like they didn't need her help in a big way.
To be continued ...
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