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[ Prev ] FEAT OF CLAY, Part XIII” [ Next ]
B L Ü D H A V E N

28 Phraim Municipal Housing District

People had all good intentions and no end of promises when the city had pledged to transform the block at 28 Phraim into affordable, subsidized housing to address a growing crisis of homelessness that exploded with the re-finance and foreclosure crisis of the early 2000s. Instead, cost overruns and budgetary shortfalls had presented challenges that the legislature couldn’t overcome. The price of all those promises was a tax hike that few in the city supported during an economic recession, leaving the square block a condemned collection of half-completed dreams that had come to represent the very poverty that it had set out to eliminate.

A trio of men huddled over a 55 gallon drum that was currently being used as a fire pit. A few feet away, a family of four huddled atop a discarded mattress inside the husk of an empty building that had never been completed. Down on the corner, an unkempt man drank from out of a brown paper bag, with a disheveled looking dog laying beside him.

It was an aspect of the city that the doll hadn’t thought about before, even though he’d lived in Gotham and Blüdhaven for more than thirty years. When he had been Toyboy, none of this would have mattered to him, merely whatever the Toyman wanted. There was never any question or concern for what Toyboy had wanted. It wasn’t material. It wasn’t important. It wasn’t even part of his programming.

Not until Toyman had given Toyboy the edict to protect Anton, never realizing that the doll would have to act to protect Anton from his own father. In that instance, Schott had unwittingly given Toyboy the last piece of the puzzle that separated artificial intelligence from humanity.

Schott had forced Toyboy to make a choice. In a single, liberating nanosecond, the doll had thought for himself. What did he want to do? What would he decide?

It was so different with Dick. Those moments when Toyboy thought for himself and made his own decisions, even when they contradicted what Dick had told him to do, were encouraged. Toyboy had leapt in to fight Anton Schott when Dick had told him to merely observe and report, and Dick thanked him for it. Then Dick told him to look out for Clayface and, instead, Toyboy was trying to find a lost girl instead.

Again, Dick offered only encouragement.

With the Toyman, if Toyboy lost a fight with Nightwing or did anything that wasn’t in the script, he was disassembled. “It’s not your fault,” the Toyman would say. “I clearly made some mistakes. Yes. A few adjustments is all you need.”

The message was always the same. There was something wrong with Toyboy. That was why he failed. That was why he didn’t understand. That was why he didn’t do something the way that the Toyman wanted it done. So he’d be picked apart. Tweaked. Reassembled and disassembled again and again until the Toyman was satisfied.

He wondered how many of the people who ended up at 28 Phraim were the same. Picked apart and left on a shelf of society. While the people around them just continued about their lives with a blind eye toward the children with nothing to eat at home, because they didn’t have a home to go home to.

He had no way of knowing if the girl would even be in this part of town. Heck, he’d last seen her at the bus terminal. She could have caught a Greyhound to Atlantic City, Gotham, or even Cincinnati for all he knew.

But if she was anywhere in the city, 28 Phraim was the safest place in the city to disappear to. It was far enough from the main arteries that the motorcycle gangs didn’t come this way, and far enough inland from the ports authority that the longshoreman of the local organized crime didn’t poke their noses here either. There wasn’t enough money between the three men at the fire pit to buy a hit of smack, so the drug dealers didn’t tend to come here either.

It was strange. 28 Phraim was like a bubble of isolation. An island within the city, ignored by everyone except the forgotten lives that were exiled there.

“You shouldn’t try to help me.”

The voice spun him around, as the young Robin had been passing through the alleyways of the housing district. As he looked back, from out of shadows emerged the dark haired waif in the mini skirt and cardigan. A look of genuine concern was on her face as she offered, “He’ll hurt you too.”

The boy started to take a step toward her, but the flightiness was more than apparent. So, instead, he merely shrugged. “I can handle him.”

“What makes you so sure?”

“I know his type,” the doll answered. At the quizzical look in response, he had to think of a way to elaborate. Not wanting to use the word ‘creator,’ he substituted the best word that he could as he stated, “My dad wasn’t much of a prize either.”

The statement seemed to register. Taking a step forward, the girl reached out, taking one of his gloved hands in both of hers. “So that’s why you care. You’re the only person I can remember who ever did.”

Tugging on his arm, the girl pulled the boy toward her. Standing on her toes, she leaned in and planted a kiss on the doll’s cheek.

The gesture was unexpected, stalling the doll for a number of nanoseconds as his programmed had to adjust. “Yeah, but you don’t remember anything,” the boy offered, sounding somewhat sheepish as he struggled to come up with something to say.

The girl gave a bit of a laugh at that, which had the effect of bringing a smile to his face.

His primary function was to bring joy to children. She was obviously hurting, but for just a moment he’d gotten her to forget about that. For a toy, a child’s smile was the sincerest form of flattery.

He could be Jason. He could wear the mask and cape of Robin. But he would always be the toy doll that Winslow Schott created in that workshop. Dick was right, only Jason could decide who he was. But he’d always be what he was.

A glance off into the distance seemed to force a change.

“What is it?” the boy asked, turning to check that Hagan hadn’t come out of the shadows again.

“That light,” the girl said, her reach directing his attention up to a billboard overhead. The advertisement board was empty, but there was a single spotlight that was still shining. “It’s familiar.”

“That’s good,” the boy said, trying to adopt the same encouraging tone he’d heard in Dick’s voice. “Try to remember.”

The girl closed her eyes. “I’ve seen one like it before,” she said, falling silent for another minute. Then, talking aloud, said, “I was walking toward it. It was dark. The ground was uneven. But the light was higher. It was at the top of a tower or something.”

She couldn’t know that she was talking to a computer. Meticulously, the boy was trying to vector the different pieces of data and then discriminate the variables against the topographical index of the city. It took a few seconds to complete, but when it finished the boy said, “I think I know just the place.”
Pinky finger.

Ring finger.

Middle finger.

Index finger.

One by one, the youth used the thumb of his left hand to tap each in turn. His time here had almost driven him to madness. In that despair, he had sought refuge by re-connecting with the religion of his mother. He didn’t have a rosary, so he counted on his fingers to try and keep count of the prayers.

He dared not speak aloud, or else draw the rebuke of his captors, so he kept his head bowed as though in defeat. His lips parted, moving in time to the silent offerings that he made.

Maybe God didn’t exist. Maybe no one was listening. For some reason, repeating the words gave him comfort in spite of the doubts. That solace was the last shred of humanity that seemed left him. They cut into body, tormented his dreams, and made a spectacle of him like a caged animal at the circus.

That’s exactly what his life had been reduced to. An animal in a cage.

After the strange looking creature arrived, the room lapsed back into silence. Toro had mouthed the words to one Padre Nuestro and had been starting on his third Ave Maria when they were interrupted by the arrival of more prisoners. At first, the boy had thought it was just more guards, then he’d caught sight of a pair of legs that were dressed in the same white prison cloth.

Faun brown eyes peered up, the child craning his head just enough to catch sight of a man. Even though he was dressed as another prisoner, he had a commanding presence. The next was another man, this one looking far more haggard and wearied than the first. The last was a girl. Or, a woman anyway.

“Welcome, gladiators!”

Oh, great. Him again…

The boy’s eyes returned to the floor. As he listened, he found himself staring down at the palm of his left hand.

Where had he left off..?

The thumb touched against his fingers, counting off each in his head, before landing on his pinky finger. His mouth opened, the lips forming the words that dared not escape. Dios te salve, María, llena eres de gracia, el Señor es contigo. Bendita tú eres entre todas las mujeres…

“For this event, you will be pitted against one another in a winner-take-all extravaganza."

Toro’s mouth hung open. The prayer seemed forgotten. In that instant, everything seemed to stop. It was as if the boy was frozen in place, ice creeping through his lungs, a sensation like something crushing his chest and preventing him from so much as breathing.

"Failure to participate will result in immediate termination. Mojo would prefer each of you to succumb to one another but do not be mistaken, should you refuse to compete against your fellows you will be destroyed excruciatingly and spectacularly.”

Cock fighting.

They were just animals in a cage. Taken out and made to perform before audiences. At first, Toro had related to it as being a show in a circus. But that wasn’t true. This wasn’t a circus, it was a cock fight. And they were the cocks.

And people watched cock fights so that they could see one chicken kill another.

The boy lurched. Maybe he was going to sob. It felt like he was going to throw up. Clenching his jaw, he ground his teeth and felt confusion grip him as a rush on conflicting emotions seemed to run through him at once. His left hand closed into a fist.

He knew that his fire could hurt people. His fire had hurt people. He didn’t want that. He’d never wanted that. So... what, then? Would he refuse to play their game? Except, he didn’t want to die...

He looked down at the trembling fist. What would Jesus do? The boy swallowed at the thought. The question answered itself. He knew what the answer was, but... could he ever have that much faith?

Swallowing anxiously, the boy looked up again as one of the walls parted to reveal an open chamber on the other side. His eyes immediately found the familiar circus outfit. It was like a leotard, except that it had full leggings. It wasn’t as flashy or colorful as the other circus outfits. Theirs were made with sequins. Toro’s was made of an asbestos blend.

He recognized the changing room from his gladiatorial match from a few days before, but there hadn’t been other people with him then. Hesitating a moment, the boy was a moment late in realizing what was meant to happen.

They were all changing? Here? Together?

Even as he picked up the familiar circus outfit, the boy looked to his left and right to confirm that, yes, in fact, people were changing here. The initial reluctance was stifled by the chafing of the collar against his shoulders. He gave a heavy sigh, shifting so that his back was toward the woman.

A faint blush of embarrassment still colored his face. As he started to disrobe, he realized that by putting his back toward the girl, that he was now facing the white creature. That fact briefly caused him to pause a moment.

He’d assume it was a person of some kind, but it wasn’t human.

Another sigh, the blush intensified as Toro went ahead and finished disrobing. Stark naked, the boy placed the leotard on the floor before he stepped into it, one leg at a time. Crouching down, he pulled and shimmied the leggings up to his knees, before standing. Then, pulling the garment up, got it up to his waist. Looped his arms into the straps, he pulled it up the rest of the way with a shrug, before adjusting the front.

He squirmed a bit, pulled at the crotch and the back as he stretched his legs and tried to settled into the garment. It was embarrassing how it showed his body off. Toro had grown up in the circus, training day after day to perform the gymnastics that formed part of his Fire-Eating Kid act, and his body displayed an athlete’s definition. But he was still an adolescent and the embarrassment was plain on his face.

When he’d finished, he looked down at his left hand. If he went out there, he was going to die. The boy’s eyes moved looked the white creature up and down. It was alien. Just alien. He turned his eyes right and caught a glimpse of some kind of armor.

If he fought, he was going to die.

If he didn’t fight, he was going to die.

No matter what he did, he was going to die. He didn’t want to die.

So what was he going to do..?

Toro had stumbled and slipped down on a knee before the sound of the explosion had registered in his mind. Amid the confusion, he felt a familiar heat suddenly blossom from within him. As though the leash that had been holding back his fire had suddenly snapped.

“oh no.”

All of Toro’s conflicted emotions came to life in that moment, an explosion of fire that swallowed the boy whole before blooming into a column of flame that mushroomed out along the ceiling.

Drawing in a sharp breath, the child seemed to pull back the flames. The column of fire dissipated, though patches of flames still appeared to burn along the boy’s arms and legs. Got it under control. Keep it under control…

"Run!"

The boy’s fiery eyes lit up as he raised his head. The white creature bolted. Toro hesitated for just a moment, then broke into a sprint behind the alien being.

[ Prev ] FEAT OF CLAY, Part XII” [ Next ]
T H E B A T C A V E

April 9th, 1970

Alfred’s voice stopped him before he could even move.

“You’re not going anywhere like that, young man.”

The boy wonder was snatched back from the stairs that led up to the mansion proper. The elf-like boots splashed in the puddle that had already formed where he stood. They’d caught a sudden downpour while out on patrol. The sudden rise in temperatures had brought with it a surprising amount of rainfall as spring started to thaw New Jersey.

Alfred was merciless and efficient as he peeled the wet clothes from off the trembling youth. In short order, Dick had been stripped completely bare. He fidgeted with his hands held awkwardly down in front of himself. The cold stone floor was painful to step on with bare feet, causing him to dance back and forth.

Bruce just abandoned the boy to his fate. Moving on to the Batcomputer without so much as a word. A trail of water marked his path from the car to the computer, though neither the seeping rain permeating their costumes nor the chill inside the cave seemed enough to budge the stoic guardian.

A robe was thrown over his shoulders. Alfred grabbed the boy’s arms, pulling them away from where he’d been trying to safeguard his modesty to fit them into the sleeves of the garment. “There’s a warm bath for you upstairs,” the butler stated, in his usual crisp manner. As Alfred started to gather up the boy wonder’s wet articles of clothes that now littered the cave floor, the butler locked a commanding glare on the youth as he stated, “Go there directly.”

Dick actually jumped at that.

Nothing in his life made any sense to him any more. His parents were dead. He was the foster kid to Bruce Wayne, a mysterious man who barely seemed to have more than two words for him. They lived in the same house and still it felt like there were miles between them.

And then there was the butler, who seemed to be the only one who genuinely cared for him -- but was more frightening than the Batman could ever hope to become when he got like this!

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BLÜDHAVEN
Present Day

The toy wonder looked like a drowned rat.

Clumps of what was likely bits of Matthew Hagan were smeared across his skin and clothes. Rips in the fabric gave evidence of the struggle that had taken place between Jason and Clayface before the building fire suppression system had kicked in, dumping gallons of water on both of them.

The black hair was plastered against the doll’s scalp. The red suit was waterlogged, the water repellant treatment on the fabric either overwhelmed or defeated by the volume.

Dick had met the new Robin on the landing that was just inside the skylight that supplied entry into the condominium. The sight of the boy had brought back memories of himself. A different Dick Grayson. A younger Dick Grayson. A long time ago, in what might as well have been a galaxy far, far away.

A puddle of water had already formed beneath Jason, though unlike the recollection of himself at that age, the doll began undressing himself the moment that Dick had started to remove the cape from around his shoulders. Instead of trying to fight or resist the butler that was stripping him bare, Jason casually peeled off one article at a time before passing them over to Dick so that the soiled, wet costume could be deposited into the laundry basket.

When he’d finished, the bare doll actually did a cartwheel. “So that was Clayface?” Jason asked, popped upright and just starting up a conversation. “He didn’t seem that tough,” the boy added, putting a few punches in the air.

Unlike Dick at that age, modesty was definitely not one of Jason’s hang-ups.

Placing a hand on the doll’s head, Dick noted wryly, “You look like you still have some Clayface on you.” Tousling the wet clump of hair atop the doll’s head, the man moved his hand to the boy’s shoulder and nudged him away. “Go jump in the bath.”

Spinning around, the doll performed another cartwheel, this time blending the motion into backflip before dropping into a Naruto run and dashing off inside of the house.

With a sigh, Dick watched as Jason disappeared around a corner. He was tired from just watching the boy. A dull ache moved through his back, as the man bent down to retrieve the laundry basket that now contained a puddle of Clayface and torn parts of Jason’s Robin costume. The cape, boots, gloves, and mask were probably salvageable. The tunic was going to get burned. The trousers? Maybe.

One of the first things that Dick had discovered when he’d moved out on his own was that he’d never had to learn how to do his own laundry. Alfred had always taken care of that. Figuring out how to do his ordinary clothes had been easy. But the costumes? That was more art than anything else. Especially for blood. Getting blood out of spandex was no easy feat. In that sense, Jason’s costume hid blood stains rather well.

But, it had been awhile since Dick had to try and get Clayface mud out of a suit. That was probably going to call for more than just a Tide pod.

The dull whirl of the washing machine was barely audible through the expansive condo. Dick had settled into his recliner, an open book cradled on one leg and the television playing CNN in the background, as the former Boy Wonder mulled over what he’d witnessed through Jason’s eyes and ears.

“I’m her father punk!”

Matthew Hagan had no known children. Was he even capable of it? His anatomy was nonexistent at this point. Nothing about his consciousness made sense. So any offspring would likely have been from before his transformation, which would make his children older than this ‘Annie’ appeared.

So what was the connection? Why was Hagan so interested in that girl? For that matter, why was Hagan knocking over pawn shops and jewelry stores? That was a little low brow, even for Hagan.

Dick was snapped from out of his brooding by the sudden arrival of a pouncing Toyboy. The doll knocked the wind out of him, as Jason landed atop him amid a bubbling litany of childish giggling. Clad in one of Dick’s old police academy t-shirts, which the boy used as a nightgown, the slightly damp but much cleaner Jason squeezed his way between Dick and the chair.

“What’cha thinkin’ ‘bout?” Jason chirped, curling up against the man.

It was strange. Like thawing out an old memory. Dick could recall being that familiar with his parents, even some of the other performers at the circus where he’d grown up as a boy. But could he have imagined pouncing on Bruce? Or giving the man a hug?

Nope. Not in this or any other lifetime.

With one hand, Dick brought his arm up so that it rested atop the boy’s head, his fingers russling through the damp hair. With his other hand, he picked up the book and deposited it over onto the side table. Hm? Oh, just the news,” the man replied, lying artfully as he gave his full attention over to the boy that was snuggled up against him. Hard to imagine that thirty years ago, the two of them had been fighting inside of the bank that the doll had been robbing at the time. “What about you?”

The boy shifted so that his head was resting on Dick’s shoulder. “I’m worried about that girl,” Jason remarked candidly.

It seemed that the two of them were of the same mind. Recalling the name that Jason had offered the girl, Dick asked, “Annie?”

“Yeah,” the doll affirmed. Shifting position, the boy slid up the arm rest and then sat upright, so that he was looking down at Dick as he continued. “There’s no logical connection that would explain why Clayface would target her,” the boy remarked, his hands gesturing as he spoke. Throwing his arms up in frustration, he added, “And we don’t know where either of them are.”

What would Bruce have said, Dick wondered.

That was actually simple to answer. Bruce would have said that they should focus on finding Clayface. After all, the girl wasn’t the real problem. Clayface was the danger to society. Bruce would have said that girl was a problem for someone else to sort out. Not a job for Batman and Robin.

It wasn’t what Dick would have wanted to hear if he was in Toyboy’s shoes. “Focus on finding the girl,” the man said. Not because he wanted to spite the philosophy of Bruce Wayne, but because he wasn’t Batman. He was Dick Grayson. Rationalizing his decision aloud, the man explained, “If you’re right, then at that point, Clayface will come to you.”

Bruce always focused on the problem, rather than the people. It was one of the things that Dick had set out to do different when he’d become Nightwing.

It seemed to have worked. A smile lit up Jason’s face, as the doll pounced down to give the weary Boy Wonder a hug. “Once we’ve neutralized him, we can get the girl the help that she needs,” the man offered, bringing a hand to rub the doll’s back. Then, he brought the hand up to the back of the boy’s head and neck, giving a gentle squeeze as he said, “Why don’t you power down for a bit? I noticed some software patches were uploaded by S.T.A.R. Labs. You’ll probably need to reboot anyway.”

“Does it bother you?”

The question caught Dick by surprised. Giving the boy a bit of a double take, the man tried for a moment to try and put the question into a context, and found he didn’t quite follow. “Does what bother me?”

Me,” Jason stated, sitting up in Dick’s lap. “You always treat me like I’m a real person,” the doll commented in a matter-of-fact tone. “Even though I’m not.”

Dick just blinked. At first, he wondered where that statement or sentiment had come from. Then he remembered what Jason had shared with him earlier: Schott never named me. He’d just say ‘boy’ and I was expected to answer.

A hand rested on Jason’s shoulder. “You showed that you’re no one’s puppet at Hinkley Creek,” Dick stated firmly, giving the boy’s shoulder a squeeze. “You are who you choose to be. That makes you as real as any of us,” the man said evenly. Placing his hands under the doll’s arms, Dick lifted the boy up and then gently set him on his feet. Leaning forward on the chair, Dick looked the doll in the eye as he added, “Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.”

Pitching himself forward, the boy threw his arms around the man’s neck. “Goodnight, Dick,” the doll said, squeezing against him.

A weary smile crept across Dick’s face. “Goodnight, Jason,” he answered with a sigh, returning the hug before gently pushing the doll away to go to bed.

Jason came running back a moment later. “Last hug!”

[ Prev ] PASSING THROUGH GETHSEMANE, Part V” [ Next ]
G O R A N G K A A

Kymellian Agricultural Colony | The Milky Way Galaxy

Prince Kofi Whitemane of the Kymellian Technomancy was actually fifth in the line of succession.

His father was the youngest of three siblings, with the oldest being the currently reigning monarch. Aelfyre was his uncle, the middle of the three.

Sixty years before Kofi had been born, the Kree had withdrawn from a non-aggression pact with Kymellia. The Shi’ar Imperium and the Kree Empire had been engaging in a series of hostilities against the other. The Technomancy had tried to act as a neutral arbiter in the conflict, but the Kree wanted to use Kymellian territory in order to carry out attacks on the Shi’ar. Virtually overnight, Kymellia found itself thrust unwillingly into the conflict, when the Kree had annexed the Galvan Corridor.

The early days of the conflict had devastated the Technomancy, as the Shi’ar response overran their colonies and, soon, the Kymellians found themselves helpless victims caught in crossfire between the Kree and the Shi’ar.

Aelfyre had abandoned the sanctuary of the royal palace, eschewing his royal status for a real role in what was happening. He forged new alliances, and the League of Non-Aligned Worlds was born of those efforts.

And he hadn’t stopped there. From Earth, a planet no one had even heard of before, Aelfyre brought a hero named Captain Marvel to the conflict.

That was the universe that Kofi had been born into. Shi’ar to the left of them. Kree to the right. Skrulls at their back. Like his uncle, he’d stepped out of the shadow of the royal palace and served as one of the Technomancers in the field. While his father had always enjoyed a life of shelter, Kofi aspired to be more like his Uncle Aelfyre.

The sight of the Shi’ar warships bearing down on them was a great reminder of the war that they were still fighting.

“There’s an opening forming in the right flank!”

Large, three-fingered hands slammed down on the controls. “On it!” the horse-faced boy chimed brightly.

The Kymellian smartship seemed to skip nimbly across the stars. In an instant, the forward inertia was cancelled, as the ship flipped on its axis and completely altered its trajectory toward the Shi’ar ships.

Even as advanced as they were, Kymellian technology was no match for Shi’ar firepower in a protracted encounter. G’Kar was operating the sensors, being their eyes and ears. Alora was down in engineering, trying to keep them flying as best she was able. They hadn’t had much downtime from the last battle, so they had to make every shot count.

Strafing along the Shi’ar defensive line, the Kymellian ship seemed to sling-shot through the formation, stringing behind a series of explosions. As Kofi’s eyes glanced up at the holographic monitors overhead, he could see starfighters following in their wake like a host of angry bees. “I think we’ve got their attention,” the young Technocrat uttered flatly.

That was good. While Friday and the other combat vessels were trying to hold the line, the colony was in the process of being evacuated.

“The last transport has departed Gorangkaa,” G’Kar remarked.

The boy gave a heavy sigh. They’d done it. They’d managed to get the transports out of here. But, they were still abandoning the colony. So it was a victory that was still a very real defeat. “That’s our signal,” Kofi remarked, raising his voice as he shouted, “Alora, calculate the jump to Knowhere!”

The rainbow colored hair of a Majesdanian poked through a maintenance hatch in the floor. Grease-marked and haggard, Alora looked confused as she said, “Wait, Knowhere is the rendezvous point?”

“It is not,” G’Kar confirmed, as the warlord pivoted to direct a challenging stare over toward

A thick finger jabbed up toward where the cloud of wasp-like starfighters was rapidly approaching optimal firing range. “Is there anyone who would like to voice objection? Because this is not a good time for debate,” Kofi deadpanned dryly.

Ducking back into the maintenance shaft, there was a moment of silence before Alora’s voice could be heard counting down. “Jump drive in five... four... three... two...”

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He had a splitting headache.

Blinking several times, Billy felt as though his brain were trying to tear itself apart, his head about to explode, and his body made of solid brick. As he rolled over onto his side, trying to pull himself together and push himself up off the floor, everything seemed out of focus.

Whatever they’d hit him with, it had felt like facing that German panzer in Marseilles, France during the War all over again.

He started to get up, but his equilibrium was way off. The room went into the spin cycle, as Billy teetered on two feet for no more than a few seconds before he let himself fall back to the ground. He collapsed into a cross-legged seated position on the floor.

It seemed like everything was still spinning, even as he put his head down into his hands.

This was a doozey. Not even Terax the Pantsless had managed to land a hit like this on Billy. Even seated, as the boy raised his head again, he found that his vision was still slightly out of focus. There were halos around all of the lights...

...wait...

As the boy looked down at his outstretched arms, he realized what was different about himself. The gauntlets weren’t around his wrist.

“Ah, you’re awake.”

The room seemed to tilt precariously. The sharp turn of the dark haired boy’s head throwing his balance off. The reptilian alien was as menacing as he was large. A Zy’nx. Neigh-universally regarded as the galaxy’s thugs. The carion-eaters of the galaxy, finding work for themselves as cheap labored whored out to criminal enterprises.

This one was probably a bounty hunter. “We’ll be arriving soon,” the crocodile-like alien remarked, turning as he added, “I’d encourage you to make peace with whatever gods you believe in. I doubt the Shi’ar will let you live for very long, hero.”

“Thank you.”

The comment caught the Zy’nx dead in his tracks. “This is Spartax, isn’t it?” Billy asked flatly, his piercing blue eyes seeming to bore a hole through the alien before him.

“Not sure why you’re so happy,” the alien uttered, shaking his head as he walked away from the cage that contained the boy. “You’re gonna die here, you know?”

Squaring his jaw, Billy looked down at his own hand. He was still seeing double. This wasn’t exactly ideal fighting form for him. However…

“I’m right where I want to be.”

Spartax was where the Shi’ar had taken the people that they had stolen during their earlier attacks. Innocent bystanders, women, and children, snatched away from their ordinary lives to be used as slaves to fuel the Shi’ar war machine.

Those people had to be so afraid. So uncertain of what was happening to them. Questioning whether anyone remembered them, or even cared that they were gone. Wondering, was anyone coming to save them?

Billy had left Gorangkaa to become the answer to that question.

Hope has arrived. Because I am here.

The boy's ethereal blue eyes were large and expressive.

Speechless, color dusted the child's cheeks as he found all three sets of Lalafell eyes on him. "Ah, umm..." the youth stammered, fidgeting with the shepherd's crook as he fumbled for something to say.

He'd been concerned about River's tone and manner of questioning toward Kikipu, but Kajin seemed to have that particular concern in hand. Or in the head, as it were. "er... It was, uh," the boy uttered, as his eyes darted from River to Kajin before finally arriving at Kikipu. "Wait," he declared finally, as it occured to him that something that Kikipu had said didn't make sense to him, "How do you rent a body?"

Why would you rent a body? Or rent out a body for that matter?

Giving a shake of his head. "Probably not important right now," the Padjal reasoned aloud. The momentary distraction had, at least, gotten them away from the point of what had originally bothered the boy to begin with however, so there was that much to be grateful for.

Giving a bow toward the Lilliputian woman, the Padjali said, "Thank you for your assistance."

As he straightened back up, the Seedseer looked to his diminutive companions. "I should think further inquiry with Master Tillman is in order,"


Location: New York City, New York -- Brooklyn Visions Academy


Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

The over-the-ear headphones hugged the sides of his head. A messy, mop of dark hair framing the boy’s face. A few freckles dotted his cheeks, which were starting to take on more adult-like features. He was clearly starting to grow out of childhood. A gangly form in a junior high school uniform. The blazer hung open, enveloping his small frame. The collar of the white shirt was loose, the top button undone as the tie dangled loosely around his neck.

(Let’s dance.) Put on your red shoes and dance the blues.

A pair of Vans schlepped through the hallways. Through the Beats headphones, the musical stylings of Britain’s David Bowie radiated from inside the boy’s head.

He should have been an ordinary kid at an ordinary school.

Unfortunately, ordinary was a word that described what other people were and Garfield was not.

(Let’s dance.) To the song they’re playing on the radio.

Eyes tracked him through the halls. People stared. Some openly, others tried to hide behind their text books or side-eye him from whispered conversations that echoed in the halls.

Lots of super heroes had secret lives. Lots of sidekicks never got the spotlight. And Garfield? Garfield was green. Literally. And, if that wasn’t enough, his bright yellow eyes and pointed ears added a distinctiveness that ensured no one would ever mistake him for anything else than something out of the ordinary.

(Let’s sway.) While color lights up your face.

He tried to lean into it. He was @BeastBoy across social media, so of course people would recognize him in real life. The nonchalant attitude seemed to play it off. Garfield would pretend to be oblivious to the attention, hiding behind a pair of noise cancelling headphones and trying to shut out the look of shock on their faces, the slack-jawed glances and conspiratorial whispers that transformed any sidewalk, hallway, or classroom from an open space to a prison in which he was the center of attention.

(Let’s sway.) Sway through the crowd to an empty space!

Some wanted him to perform. Some thought he was the proof that demons must exist. Some wanted to fight him and others wanted his autograph. So it was with a big sigh of relief that Garfield arrived at his desk for the next class.

Dropping his back by the desk, the boy pulled back the chair and prepared to take his seat. As he did, a loud CLAP rolled like thunder. The windows rattled. Garfield felt something that was like the bass at a rock concert, but only for a moment.

A plethora of panicked squeals and screams sprang forth, as the other students all tried to process what had just happened.

Oh, if you say run, I’ll run to...

Reaching up a hand, the green haired boy pulled the headphones from off his head. “Uh, Miss Thatcher?” Garfield uttered, raising his hand as he called to the teacher at the front of the class. Amber eyes darted for the windows. Smoke was rising into view.

That was an explosion.

“Can I , uh, use the bathroom?”

Okay, so it wasn’t the smoothest of excuses. Feet sliding across the floor, Garfield shot out into the hallway, before sprinting for his locker. His old Doom Patrol uniform was stuffed into his gym bag just in case he accidentally shapeshifted himself into a clothing malfunction.

It was a couple of minutes more before the mop-head hero was bursting from out of the front doors of the private school. Clad in the distinctive red and white uniform, the boy’s form seemed to launch upward as his form blurred. He took one step, humanoid shape imploding as the form of a falcon emerged in its place.

The green raptor spread its wings, beating several times as the falcon rose rapidly up into the air. Planing out, the bird spread its wings as an updraft seemed to take hold. Circling slowly, the school grounds fell away, as the boy was given a bird’s eye view of New York City below.

There were some ugly dudes. A lot of ugly dudes as a matter of fact. A girl with flaming hair. A Superman fan. And… a black dude?

Hypothesis: Assume the humans are the good guys.

Folding his wings in, the falcon plunged down toward the Earth. Swooping over the street, the bird’s form blurred as its seemed to explode outward -- becoming a rhinoceros that thundered down the street. A pair of brutes were launched into the air, as the rhino came barreling through.

Several laser-like shots rained his direction. The rhinoceros shrank into a rusty spotted cat, then a kangaroo as he launched himself at one of the assailants. As the brutish figure went flying back through the air, the kangaroo became a mosquito.

Zipping over and around where the black hero was looking like a total bro, the mosquito expanded out into a hybrid simian form. A prehensile tail flicked behind him, as the distinctive monkey boy form of the Doom Patrol’s Beast Boy appeared.

“Sup, brah? the kid quipped, tossing a smile over toward Aqualad.

Character Name


Garfield Mark Logan
Beast Boy

Age


13

Attributes & Abilities


In simplest terms, Beast Boy is a shapeshifter. He can adopt the form of any animal that he has either seen or is capable of visualizing (such as dinosaurs). Beast Boy's powers defy the law of conservation of mass, allowing him to transform from average human height and weight to that of a blue whale or an amoeba without difficulty. When transformed, he has all physical properties of that form. Thus, when a blue whale, Garfield's weight (displacement) is on a scale of 173 metric tonnes; however, when transformed to a hummingbird, he weighs mere ounces (a fraction of a pound). Garfield can go from one extreme to the next, changing forms consecutively without suffering any ill effects from the apparent expansion or compression of his mass. While in animal form, Beast Boy loses the ability to speak but retains his full mental faculties as well as all physical or physiological characteristics of that creature. As such, he can fly swiftly as a peregrine falcon, endure oceanic pressures as a whale, or go full Hulk smash as a full-sized gorilla.

Outside of his altered physiology, Garfield demonstrates a knack for languages. He speaks three languages fluently (English, Portuguese, and French), in addition to having some conversational familiarity with Arabic, Urdu, Swahili, and Lingana. Though an American citizen, his life abroad has resulted in his speaking English with a noticeable accent.

Finally, Garfield wears a suit composed of a matrix of unstable molecules. Devised for him by Mento and constructed by the Doom Patrol, the suit alters shape and mass in response to changess in Garfield's physical form. This most commonly takes the form of a collar around the next of his animal forms. This enables Garfield to maintain his modesty even while transforming between human and animal forms.

Character Synopsis


The son of paleontologist Mark Logan and biologist Marie Logan, "Gar" grew up in all corners of the world. After the death of his father in a boating accident, Marie Logan moved the family to a permanent home operating a wildlife sanctuary in the Republic of Qurac. At the age of eight, Gar contracted the Sakutia virus. Due to the isolation of the wildlife sanctuary and the rapid deterioration of Gar's condition, his mother was forced to treat him using an experimental vaccine developed for treating the virus in West African green monkeys. Though Gar made a full recovery from the illness, his body reacted to the vaccine.

In light of the aggressive, sometimes violent reactions, Marie Logan moved Gar to a pediatrics hospital in the United States. Tests revealed that Gar's genetic structure had undergone a mutation of unstable molecules within the rNA of his cells, thus allowing him to alter his shape and form. In particular, Gar was successful in changing shape and form into animals with which he was familiar. When treatments were unsuccessful in reversing the metabolic changes, Marie Logan again returned to her work in animal conversation with Gar in tow. As a result, Gar's nomadic childhood has been spent across the world; primarily Bialya, Brazil, and the Congo.

It was while operating an animal sanctuary Bialya, Marie Logan and Garfield were caught in the cross-fire between the outbreak of hostilities between Bialya and its neighboring country, Qurac. Though Garfield was rescued by the timely intervention of the superhero team known as Doom Patrol, he lost his mother in the attack. For a time, Garfield found a surrogate family in the Doom Patrol, though Mento's harsh treatment toward him eventually alienated Garfield from them. Returned to the United States in order to resume his education, Garfield has, on occasion, struck out on his own as the hero that social media knows as Beast Boy.



[ Prev ] FEAT OF CLAY, Part XI” [ Next ]
B L Ü D H A V E N

BLÜDHAVEN MUNICIPAL BUS TERMINAL

The chair rocked back on its casters, tipping over onto the floor as Dick found himself on his feet.

HIs hands slammed down against the console. His face was mere inches from the monitor, staring at the scan-line visual of a man who’d thought dead for the better part of the last twenty years.

Clayface.

“That’s Hagan,” Dick uttered tersely. His hands flexed instinctively, as if eager to put his arm through the screen. Toyboy was still very much an experiment. And now the Toy Wonder was faced off against one of Nightwing’s most challenging opponents.

“Do you know how long I’ve been looking for you?”

The sound of the man’s voice sent chills racing along Dick’s spine, recognition slamming into him even as the massive figure began advancing upon where the doll was positioned between Clayface and the strange girl.

Across one side of the screen, Dick saw Toyboy’s computer brain start to process the information. Evaluating the known data sets for Hagan and extrapolating different contingencies. First, second, and third order effects of various courses of action.

TARGET ID: HAGAN, MATTHEW
VOICE RECOGNITION: 92.7 PERCENT
THREAT ASSESSMENT: HIGH


“You were supposed to come right back!”

The robot was just standing there. Processing. Calculating. Analyzing. The shadow of the large figure passed over the boy. An arm extended forth, reaching for the girl as if the boy was not even there.

The sharp intake of breath snapped the doll into action.

Even before Annie screamed, the robot’s arm snapped up. Grabbing Hagan by the wrist, the outstretched fingers were just short of the girl’s face. “She doesn’t want to go with you,” the boy stated flatly.

“I’m her father, punk,” Hagan snapped.

“Say what now?”

Even as Dick’s voice registered in the doll’s head, the boy was lift off his feet as Hagan reared his arm back.

Then flung away as Hagan pitch forward. “Stay out of it!” the man barked, flinging the boy through the air with an inhuman strength.

Gyroscopic sensors kicked in. In midair, the doll adjusted his body alignment. Re-orienting, the robot flipped around. His feet planted against the side of a wall and pushed off.

Hagan’s hand again reached for the girl’s head. Annie seemed frozen in fear.

Jason connected with Hagan’s left side. Shoulder down, the boy slammed into the man with sufficient force to send ripples through Hagan’s form. The two fell away from the point of impact, with Hagan lifted off his feet and coming down hard on the ground.

Jason rolled back along the ground, the black and gold cape fluttering as he popped back up to his feet. Adopting a generic martial arts t-stance, the boy dropped his center of gravity and assumed a ready stance as he replied, “I don’t think so.”

The man’s form rippled like water, the flesh and clothes replaces by reddish brown mud as he staggered back to his feet. The left side of his body had an indentation of Toyboy’s silhouette, which disappeared as his body reformed into the monstrous figure of Clayface.

A large backhand swiped at the costumed Toy Wonder. “I said, outta my way!

Reaching a hand to his utility belt, Toyboy dropped low and then sprang forward with a straight arm jab. The black gloved hand sank into Clayface’s body, vanishing into the muck up to the elbow.

Looking down at the small Robin, the monstrous figure just seemed to issue forth a hollow laugh and sadistic smile. A large hand flowed around the doll’s neck, lifting him up into the air.

The doll was giving him a self-satisfied smirk.

Confused, Hagan looked down as a flash of red light caught his eye. There was part of a batarang jutting out of his midsection.

An explosion a moment later tore the man apart, sending parts of Clayface splattering around them.

Jason landed back on his feet. Already, the larger puddles of mud were starting to pull back toward one another. A hand emerging forth as the pools started to reform the monster. Pausing to look back at Annie, the boy said only, “Stay here!”

Then, turning back toward where Hagan’s golem-like form was beginning to reappear, the boy sprinted forward. He collided with the clay figure in a classic take-down tackle, propelling the two of them off the side of the second level terminal platform.

Somersaulting away, the boy made a three-point landing just a few feet from where Hagan became a wet stain on the floor of the main terminal entrance. The black cape furled about the doll’s slight form, as another explosive batarang was unfolded in hand.

His thumb was on the detonator.

With a beastial roar, Hagan burst from out of the puddle on the floor. Rising nine feet over the small robot, the monster loomed large. “Like to play rough, kid?” Clayface’s voice growled, echoing off the walls of the busy terminal. Hagan’s fists were transformed into large, spiked balls, as the man barked, “All right, let’s play rough!”

The spry, small figure rolled left to avoid a downward swing. Hagan’s wrecking ball fist shattered the floor tiles and left an impression on the foundation. Hagan tried to made a swing with his left hand, but the doll had already closed the gap. Springing from off the floor, the Toy Wonder literally put his fist through Hagan’s face -- as the force of Jason’s uppercut split apart Hagan’s form from sternum to scalp.

Bracing one foot against Clayface’s shoulder, the Toy Wonder nimbly vaulted away. Twisting in mid-air, the explosive batarang was unleashed in a hook shot right before one of Clayface’s arms connected with the the boy in the air.

Pulling his form to one side, Hagan avoided the batarang. Laughing, the Clayface slammed the child-like robot down against the floor. Then, reeling the boy in, looked the toy in the eye as he uttered, “You missed.”

A bubbly laugh tricked from out of the doll. Eyes alight with hellfire, the impish figure flashed a devil-may-care smirk and asked, “You sure about that?”

Confused, Hagan’s head twisted around. Behind him, the batarang stuck into the middle of the wall.

Next to one of the fire alarms.

The muffled explosion a second later sent a trigger through the entire facility. Overhead, fire suppression sprinklers kicked in, dumping gallons of water inside the terminal.

“NO!” Clayface roared, terror gripping his face as the water started to thin out the mud composing his body. Toyboy was dropped unceremoniously onto the floor, as Hagan bolted for the exit. The doors to the terminal were thrown off their hinges, as Clayface erupted from out of the bus station and onto the city street.

As Jason sprinted after, the large creature vanished. Liquified and plunged into one of the storm drains recessed in the crook where the sidewalk met the street.

Back at Dick’s apartment, the man heard the boy’s voice ask, “Think we foiled that jewel heist at least?”

“A better question might be, what’s his interest in that girl?” Dick’s voice replied, inside of Jason’s head.

“The girl...” Jason echoed, the cape whipping around as the boy turned back toward the bus terminal. Police sirens were close. The flashing lights could already be seen. Regardless, the boy turned and ran back inside. A grappling line sailed out to the upper levels, as the boy swung back to where he’d left Annie.

There was no sign of her now.

“Figures,” the boy uttered dryly.
@Master Bruce

I have to object to the use of a deceased Jason Todd as Robin II. I'm currently writing the Absolute version of Jason Todd as Toyboy's alter ego for Robin II, as clearly detailed in the sheet for Dick and Toyboy. Jason Todd is not mentioned in Wraith's sheet and it was never been established in the IC that there was any Robin after Dick Grayson, and to do so now and decide that it's Jason Todd after a version of Jason has been introduced into the IC is a problem for me.
I demand a Green Hornet post that plays homage to the coffee porn scene from the movie. Minimum 1,200 words detailing the making of a single cup of barista quality coffee, either in a single post (wall of text style) or a series of posts. The Espresso Arc.
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