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The Beetle and Mr. Justice

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Post Thu Aug 11, 2005 7:51 pm
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Dan Garrett swung his nightstick in a circle on its loop as he walked along. As a patrolman, this was his beat, and he knew everyone on it. He tried to be reasonable in his enforcement of the law.

When that didn't work, Dan used a special vitamin and the chainmail disguise of the Blue Beetle to keep the lowlifes from hurting the innocent. He dealt a harsh justice in his masked identity since force was the only thing the local hoodlums understood.

As a beat cop, Dan wasn't supposed to be that effective. He was just supposed to help detectives, and prosecutors, grab headlines as the world went to war. He thought about joining the armed forces since his job made him exempt from the draft. Looking around the neighborhood he patrolled kept him in place.

He couldn't leave when people looked at him to keep the peace any way he could.

There was something about making a difference that appealed to him. It was probably why he had became a cop in the first place. He paused at Mercer's Grocery. Something was wrong inside.

Dan went to the door, nightstick at the ready. Mercer was always visible in his store from the street. Dan couldn't remember a day that he wasn't.

The smell when he pushed the door opened told him the worse had been done to the old store keeper.

Dan pulled his service revolver from his pocket as he stepped inside. He locked the door behind him to keep out the curious. That also prevented anyone from getting in his way as he searched the place.

It was obvious that Mercer was dead. He lay in an x of his own blood, parts of his insides dropped around him. Something vicious had gotten to him. There was no other disorder that the policeman could see.
That spoke of intelligence to Garrett.

An animal would have wrecked the shop after it was done with Mercer. Instead everything looked pristine. There was no blood trail, but Dan noticed crumpled napkins with blood on them on the floor just outside the pool where the body lay. Maybe the killer cleaned his hands after he did the deed.

There was nothing on the walls near the body.

Dan quickly checked the rest of the place before returning to where the body was. He called in, so detectives and the coroner would be on the scene soon enough. This was something he would have to look into as his alter ego.

Post Thu Aug 25, 2005 1:31 pm
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Charles Justice arrived at Mercer's Grocery from the Mayor's Office a few hours later. He was a special investigator for the city. The specialness came from the type of cases he was called in to handle.

His ability to handle those cases was greatly enhanced by the fact that he was a centuries old ghost using a body to move around in the modern world. This gave him an edge on the monsters he hunted.

Mr. Justice waded through the sea of blue, scowling at what he saw at the scene of the crime. The murder was gruesome, but it was impossible for the almost absence of blood after such disemboweling. He couldn't remember anything similar.

He could see that the police and technicians from the Morgue examining the scene felt the same way. Animals don't leave everything as neat as this, and a human being couldn't just make a huge surplus of blood not stain everything around the area like this one did.

This was certainly something he should look into as special investigator, and as an administrator of supernatural justice.

"Who found the body?," he asked.

All eyes turned to a redheaded man in uniform, cap pushed back as he filled out notes in a pad that no policeman was without. He looked up at the demand, holding up his hand briefly before starting to write again.

"Charles Justice, Investigator from the mayor's office," Mr. Justice said.

"Patrolman Dan Garrett," said the red head, still filling out his report.

"Was everything the same way when you found the body?," Justice asked.

"Yes, sir," said Garrett. "I noticed that the store wasn't open, checked in, and found the body just as you see it."

"Anything like this happen before?," asked Mr. Justice.

"Not around here," said Garrett. "I have been walking the beat here for about three years. I haven't heard of anything like this before now."

Mr. Justice surveyed the scene again before touring the small building. He wanted to order everyone out so he could do his own investigation. He decided to wait until the police and coroner were done, and everyone had left. Then he could use his more ghostly talents to track down whomever, or whatever, had done this.

Despite their competence, the police weren't equipped to handle threats from his realm. Almost certainly some of them would be killed if he allowed them to tag along. That wasn't something he was willing to risk.

It was better to hunt his own way through whatever tortured maze he had decided to enter.

After all, he was already dead.

Post Sat Sep 10, 2005 1:40 pm
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Dan Garret was released back to his beat after the homicide detectives took over the scene. The investigator from the Mayor's office gave him the creeps. The worse thing was the implication that this was only the first.

Dan wanted the monster responsible to face justice, one way or the other. No one should be split open and have their insides dumped out. That spoke of a casual disdain for life that he had never seen before.

Dan decided that he would visit Dr. Franz for his advice and the special vitamin he had created to give a man superhuman strength. Garret was more likely to get answers as his alter ego than as himself. The Blue Beetle had just the right way to ask a question that anyone would answer through their broken teeth.

Dan left the crime scene to the administrations of the detectives and the coroner. There was nothing he could do for Mercer now. His feet carried him to the pharmacy just down the street a few blocks. He would get a malted and talk to the doctor. Maybe hashing things out would give him a new perspective.

The doc could reduce a problem down to its bare bones in a moment. His analytical skills were honed by being a pharmacist, and solving problems for his customers. He didn't miss much from behind his thin rimmed glasses. When Garret stepped inside his business, he was sending Mrs. Callahan off with a bag of medicine to help with her gout.

Dan nodded as he held the door for her.

"Hello, Dan," he said in his quiet way. "Everyone is talking about some excitement down the street at Mercer's."

"Mercer is dead," said Dan. "The detectives will probably be canvassing the neighborhood as soon as they are done at the crime scene. Weirdest thing I've seen. No blood anywhere but under the body which is split open."

"Split open?," said Franz.

"Down the front," said Dan. "I wasn't able to get a good look at the body."

"I would like to examine this body," said Franz. "It reminds me of something that happened when I first arrived and opened my store. I saw something similar to what you have described."

"Similar?"

"I had just opened my pharmacy," said Franz. "A man named Kruller had started coming in to get a prescription for pain in his chest. One day he needed his pills delivered. I took them over and found him much like you have described Mercer. He was on his back with his chest opened as if by some gigantic blow. The ribs were pushed out as if from inside."

"Like something was trying to get out," said Garret.

"Like something had gotten out," said Franz. "I remember that there was a minimal amount of blood around the body."

"Where did this happen?" asked Garret.

Post Tue Oct 04, 2005 9:22 pm
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Mr. Justice waited for the police department and others to clear out of the grocery store. He locked the door behind everyone, making sure to post a notice to keep others out. There were always going to be those who would flock to an unguarded treasure trove, but hopefully they would stay away while he conducted his own investigation, using his own methods.

The investigator laid down on the floor. He closed his eyes and seemed to fall asleep. A mist rose from his nose becoming the pale faced astral avenger that was the remains of a prince carried over to modern times. The ghost sniffed around the area, then passed through the wall swift as a shot.

Mr. Justice wandered the neighborhood, casting about like a bloodhound for a scent. There had to be something that would lead him to the culprit. A killing such as the one he faced declared itself a signpost in the psychic ether, and a spattered trail should lead back to the thing he wanted to catch.

The astral avenger floated above the neighborhood until the glowing specks that he hoped for took shape to his senses. He jetted after the shifting trail, hoping to follow it to its end before it faded away. He was not pleased that it ended at the borderline between one neighborhood, and the next. The cut off was as sharp as a razor's slice.

That didn't make sense.

The trail should have continued until he could confront the owner in person. Its sudden vanishing could mean anything. It did stop any more use of it as an indicator of guilt.

Mr. Justice returned to where his body lay, thinking about alternate methods. He had a feeling that anything he tried would lead to the same sharp line of demarcation. Essentially it was a dead end unless he could come up with some other clue that might have been missed by the police.

The smoky form rolled up the nose of the sleeping investigator. Eyes snapped open to make sure that the scene had not changed since the spirit had left. Mr. Justice got to his feet, looking around before heading for the door. He didn't see anything that hadn't been there when he first got to the scene.

He wondered how much time before the next body was discovered.

Mr. Justice decided to walk over to the spot where he had lost the trail. Maybe something would present itself. He didn't have anything else to do, and he couldn't speed up the lab, even with his ghost powers.

He would give the area an once-over before heading to the records division. He had a feeling that something like this had happened before. Maybe the police investigation had come up with a suspect.

Mr. Justice paused at the spot where he had lost the trail. He started examining the nearby buildings one by one. Most of the brick edifices seemed to be tenements for the poor. People were on the street, mostly children and women doing house work. He frowned as he kept walking.

None of these people seemed like a savage murderer who ripped his victims apart.

Who did these days?

Mr. Justice walked through the city, letting his feet carry him to Police Headquarters. Someone must know something, and there had to be a way to get to it. He wasn't going to get anywhere trying to question everyone in the surrounding area. He had a feeling that no one would talk to him unless he used extraordinary means.

Better to try other angles first.

Post Fri Oct 21, 2005 10:52 pm
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Dan Garrett ran across the rooftops, clad in another blue uniform. He had taken notes from Dr. Franz, then his vitamin. Now the Blue Beetle was looking into things since Officer Garrett was off duty.

The azure avenger made his way back to the scene of the crime first. All of the technicians and onlookers would be gone, giving him another chance to look it over. Perhaps he missed something the first time around. The first thing on his agenda was to make sure he didn't.

The Blue Beetle had no problem getting inside the grocery store. He used a small flashlight to look things over, making sure to keep one hand over the beam to block the ray from flashing out on the street. He noticed something in the focused beam that he had missed in the daylight.

A small dot glowed near the steps leading to Mercer's apartment above the store proper. It was just inside the door's frame. It was a virulent green that glowed under the torch's beam.

The Beetle played the light around, looking for more of the green dots.

He found a gingerbread trail leading up to the apartment, across the sparsely furnished rooms, to a set of book shelves. Dots danced on the wood as he examined the space.

Garrett smiled, realizing that a book had been in that space and it was gone.

He had a motive for the crime now. The question became what was in the book that made it worth killing the shopkeeper in such a gruesome way. Once he knew that, he would have a step up to solving the murder.

He followed the trail of green out of the room and back through the store to the front door. He was stumped by a sudden cessation of his crumbs. He shone the light up and down the street. Either the spots had stopped falling, or a vehicle had picked up the murderer.

Garrett thought a ride was more likely.

What else would turn up if he looked hard enough?

Garrett decided that he needed a look at the crime scene from the earlier murder. Maybe something would be there for him to follow up on. It didn't matter the number of years as long as the place was relatively untouched.

Two such similar murders that close to each other couldn't be a coincidence.

The Blue Beetle crossed the neighborhood with his superhuman strength and speed, descending on the former home of Mr. Otto Kruller with his grim efficiency. If he discovered green dots, that would be the link he needed.

Then he could decide how to proceed from there.

The Kruller apartment was an abandoned corner away from the residents still living in the building. Dust and gloom hung on the door like a drunken friend. No tape kept the place empty, only the memory of a bizarre death.

That wouldn't stop the Blue Beetle from looking around.

Garrett forced the door with his mighty hands. He propped it up behind him, before he started looking around with his flashlight. He was pleased to see the tell tale green dots.

Post Wed Nov 02, 2005 1:22 pm
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Mr. Justice frowned at the clerk helping him. The woman seemed to have no clue about the filing system she was searching for him. It was starting to bother him enough that he wanted to vault the counter and look himself.

"Yes," said the woman, pushing a strand of her hair back. "There have been similar crimes reported in that neighborhood. I'm sorry for taking so long, but we have so many files here. If it wasn't for the unusual nature of the crimes, I wouldn't have found them for days."

"Thank you for your diligence," said the investigator. "I appreciate that."

"Just remember to bring the files back," said the clerk. "The cases are still open, and I have to have the files ready fro the next detective who will be assigned to the case."

"Don't worry," said the ghost from the past. "These cases will be closed one way or the other. I guarantee that."

The investigator took the files to a nearby desk and scanned them quickly. His mind's eye conjured pictures of the scenes as he went through the reports one after the other. The odd coincidence of three men with chests being pushed out from the inside was too much.

He couldn't remember a case that resembled this. It had to be a work of some spectral monster loosed on the world much like the Green Goblin. The worse thing for him was he didn't have a clue how to proceed to find the thing responsible for the deaths.

Still he did notice that each man lived within a few blocks of each other. They formed a triangle separated by a few years. Mercer was a fourth corner to form an x in the city scape.

Mr. Justice decided that he needed to see what was at the center of that x. Maybe there was some clue he could use to his own advantage.

Mr. Justice left the records hall, and headed for his office at City Hall. He needed some privacy for what he wanted to do next. His small room would give him a small amount of shelter while he looked around as his inner self.

It was time that he solved this mess and prevented anymore deaths from happening.

Mr. Justice sat down at his desk after the long trek to the closet he used to pretend to be human while he fought things not of this world. He concentrated for a moment, then his body slumped over as if dead. The blue clad spirit made sure the office was locked before flashing away as fast as inhumanly possible.

Mr. Justice soared over the city, his ghost form invisible to the naked eye. He descended to the area over the center of the x he had drawn on the landscape in his mind. His answers were down there in those buildings. All he needed to do was find them.

The astral crusader started by searching each building as silently as a ghost. There was no need to warn anyone that he was there to put an end to things. That would come later. He was surprised to find someone in blue chainmail ahead of him, sweeping a flashlight back and forth.

Mr. Justice recognized the man from police reports. The gangbuster known as the Blue Beetle was famous for his crushing vigilantism among the police force and the underworld alike. The crusader should have known that he would also take interest in such a strange death.

Post Thu Nov 17, 2005 2:17 pm
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The flashlight played on the floor in front of the mystery man. He followed it to a shelf on the wall. Green spots lit under the passing beam.

"What's your interest in this?," said Mr. Justice.

The masked man turned, weapon aiming for where the invisible spirit stood. The reaction was much faster than he had thought it should be.

"Show yourself," demanded the Blue Beetle, wary of an unseen opponent.

The pale face crusader gradually faded into view. Blank eyes regarded the azure avenger. He smiled at the recognition from the mystery man.

"Mr. Justice?," the Blue Beetle said. "I've heard of you. I thought you were just a boogeyman."

"I have heard of you also, Blue Beetle," said the ghost of Prince James. "I didn't think you would take an interest in something that was clearly not gang related, or belonging to the everyday world."

"I'm looking into it for a friend," said the Beetle.

"I assume you have discovered something," said Mr. Justice, arms folding across his chest.

"There's these green dots," said the Blue Beetle, pointing with his flashlight. "I found them at Mercer's and here."

"Green dots?," said the ghostly avenger, stepping closer. The emerald spots flared under the beam from the light. He raised his brow in puzzlement.

"What do you think made them?," the Beetle asked. "They remind me of dripping blood."

"It's definitely not of this world," said Mr. Justice. "You found these at the grocery store?"

"Yes," said the mystery man. "I checked it out after the cops had left. There was an impression of a book inside a small splash pattern. Almost like that was what whatever it is wanted when it killed Mercer."

"I understand," said Mr. Justice.

He touched one of the drops with a finger. Impressions flooded his mind as he sought out the creator of those strange markings. One place stood out from the rest. It was a building, closed and deserted to the population, but not to those who bred in its cool embrace reaching down into the earth. The crusader took his hand away, cutting the connection.

"I'll take it from here," said Mr. Justice. "I don't think there's any more reason for you to be involved."

He became invisible and flew through the wall, heading up to look at the buildings nearby. He had a definite sense that the lair was close to the four attack areas. He took him minutes of searching but finally he saw a wreck that matched what he had sensed. The ghost descended toward it, eager to stop this new menace in its tracks.

The Blue Beetle shook his head. A spook had told him to not even work his own case. That wasn't going to happen. He would rather be partners with the astral avenger, but he wasn't going to cut out entirely.

Garrett, put away his light and gun, went to the window, and opened it with a tug. He squeezed out on the sill and grabbed the brick wall with both hands. He pulled himself up the sheer surface with his vitamin enhanced strength. He vaulted the rampart to the roof. He pulled his light and waved it around.

Green dots made his frown turn into a smile of satisfaction. He rushed across the rooftops, strength and speed that of ten men. He didn't know exactly what was going on, but no spook was going to tell him to drop it and go home.

The Beetle crossed the city blocks, unknowingly on Mr. Justice's trail. The green dots went into a building that had not suffered a murder that he knew about. This might be the lair of the thing. All he had to do was get inside.

When you have the strength of ten men, getting into a place you want to get into is a snap.

The Beetle sized up the distance, took a running start, and leaped from the top of the building he was on. He sailed through the air effortlessly. He hit the wall of the closed building and grabbed a handhold. Then he punched through a shuttered window with ease. Then he was inside.

The whole thing had taken less than a minute.

Post Mon Nov 21, 2005 8:57 am
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The Blue Beetle decided to head down, gun drawn, flashlight beam leading the way. Dry green stains reflected his light in a scattered rainbow. The mystery man nodded to himself at his find. He knew this lair was where the body breaker waited for its next victim.

He picked his way through the mess, looking for stairs. No way would the elevator be working in that tumor. Even if it was, he wouldn't use it. It would be a death trap where the monster could attack at leisure.

He didn't want to think about there being more than one waiting below for him.

The Blue Beetle started down the stairs, jumping from landing to landing with his prodigious strength and speed. More and more of that dried green stuff reflected his light as he moved. The walls had taken a organic look as he descended.

How had this grown inside the city?

The Beetle reached the bottom floor, stopping when he came to a barrier. It was made of something that resembled muscle. And it stood across the whole hall. There was no knob or handle to grasp.

He would have to use some muscle on it.

Garrett stepped back to get a running start. He jogged forward, leaping with both feet at the strange barricade. He cracked the rock like face, but it wasn't enough. He got to his feet and slipped both hands in the fissure. He pulled.

A piece of the thing came away in his hands. He could see a piece of light leaking from the other side. He stepped back and then stepped forward swinging. His hand widened the hole by knocking a huge shard to the floor on the other side. It was almost wide enough for him to get through.

The Beetle backed up and charged forward, swinging as hard as he could again. The rest of the wall cracked out of his way and dropped to the floor like he wanted. He hadn't knocked the whole thing down, but there's was more than enough room for him to swing through.

The mystery man landed lightly on his feet, and drew his gun. He didn't need a flashlight anymore. The glow from that excrescence had divorced itself from exterior light.

The Beetle headed down. That was the only direction he could head in if he wanted to find out what was going on. He didn't think Mr. Justice would give him the time of day, much less answers to his questions.

He had already decided that someone was going to pay for Mercer. No ghost was going to stop him from making sure of that.

Post Tue Nov 29, 2005 11:15 am
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Mr. Justice passed through the walls, marveling at the changes he saw. He was glad that he had left the Blue Beetle far behind. The man had a reputation, but he wouldn't be ready for this.

Mr. Justice streaked along, until he reached a barrier he could not pass. Someone had drawn a ward against spirits in the green glowing stuff. They expected someone like him to get involved and had taken steps to stop him.

"They won't," the ghost said to himself as he examined the wall of green lightning in front of him. "I will punish these things."

The crusader moved away from the barrier. He cast about until he found the remains of a sprinkler system hanging from the ceiling. The thin rods seemed bent and rusted together. He jerked on the hanging system. He was rewarded with part of it coming off in his hands.

The astral avenger jammed the rod into the barrier, pleased as it dug into the strange substance. He kept pushing, careful to stay out of the reach of the barrier while he worked. Suddenly he broke through to the other side. One pale eye looked down the shaft, checking for obstructions.

Mr. Justice flowed into the rod like heavy water. It carried him through the green lightning and the solid wall the ward protected. They had been ready for someone like him. Now it was time to see how ready.

Mr. Justice found himself in a large room, filled with small emerald orbs. They glowed along rippling veins. He frowned, knowing this was some kind of nest for some thing men weren't meant to know. Something had invested time in creating this in the middle of the city.

That was the person he wanted to talk with.

Mr. Justice flowed through the room, trying to sense the master of the den. That was the person he wanted. The rest of this could wait until he had a talk with the brain.

A scent of bloody darkness drifted to him. The astral avenger followed it, anger trying to take control of him. He followed the impression down until he came to a vast room deep beneath the earth. Platforms and side tunnels branched out from this vast hive area. Still the impression led him down to a much smaller chamber.

Mr. Justice paused at what he found. The queen bee regarded his spectral self, even invisible as it was with intelligence and malice. She was at least fifteen feet tall, covered in the organic soup that glowed on the walls around him, and had so many tentacles he couldn't count them all. Workers, like man frogs, gathered small eggs and sealed them in resin before taking them to the upper chamber.

Mr. Justice estimated there was enough of the creatures to raze the city to the ground if they wanted to do it. He didn't understand why they hadn't done more than kill some random victims. There had to be something he was missing.

Mr. Justice heard a crash from above. All of the monsters went on alert, heading upwards to deal with whomever was in the building. The astral avenger had a hunch he knew who it was, and shook his head. He should have known the Blue Beetle would not leave this alone.

He hoped the mystery man could hold out while he dealt with the queen.

Post Thu Dec 08, 2005 1:49 am
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Dan Garrett realized he was in trouble when things started boiling up from the depths of the hidden lair he had invaded. He had expected a response, but not a horde of slobbering frog things with the mouths of sharks. He could see one of these ripping Mercer apart like they intended to do to him.

The Beetle was armed with an Army .45. It held seven shots, and he had two magazines to reload when he was empty. He decided to shoot as many of the charging monsters as he could before they closed enough to touch him. His pistol roared in the darkened building as the bullets punched through one slimy thing and kept going into others behind. The projectiles didn't slow the beasts down, even with the massive wounds inflicted.

The mystery man punched one of the defending beasts in the head. He was not surprised that it splattered like a rotten pumpkin after Halloween. What surprised him, was that the thing was not slowed by the lack of head, and kept coming at him.

The Beetle stepped back, afraid of being mobbed, and a little spooked by the headless predator still trying to claw him. He set his jaw, and plunged forward, swinging with all of his enhanced strength. His red gloved fist plowed a row through the monsters. Goo splattered the walls as he smashed through their front line like a human juggernaut.

He wasn't a harmless shopkeeper to be gutted like a fish.

More of the gelatin frogs loped up from the depths. They were bugs on the windshield of the Blue Beetle's angry plunge. He was covered with their remains as he punched through as easily as his bullets had earlier.

The frogs were coming from below. Garrett decided that's where he wanted to go. His legs allowed him to leap down the staircase, overwhelming his opposition with the weight of his body and chainmail armor. Two powerful jumps dropped him to the bottom of the staircase with green blobs falling down from above. He kept going before it could rain on him.

The Beetle paused at the sight of the thousands of orbs. He knew right away they were eggs waiting to hatch on humanity. Something moved in the chamber beyond. That had to be the queen in her nest.

The Beetle reloaded his pistol after shaking off some of the glop from his hands. He hoped the Colt would give him some kind of edge he could exploit to his advantage. The minions seemed weak, perhaps the Queen was weak too.

The mystery man leaped into the last chamber, pushing aside a minion that had got in his way. He didn't like the towering thing glaring at him with hideous eyes. If it had a human expression, he would have to say it was very angry with his arrival.

The roar that erupted from its slit mouth reinforced that notion. It was definitely angry at his arrival through its children.

Garrett fired his automatic until it was emptied.

Post Tue Dec 13, 2005 10:28 am
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Mr. Justice frowned at the unexpected arrival of the mystery man. He was less than pleased the Beetle's firearm did nothing against the Queen. The bullets froze when they penetrated the skin of the giant beast.

The Queen rushed the man in blue, expressing its anger with a steam whistle call. He put the pistol away as he readied himself to meet the onslaught. The exposed portion of his face said he was determined to win at any price.

Mr. Justice had seen that look many times when he was alive. He had commanded forces in war before his demise through treachery. Soldiers meeting on the battlefield had that same look before they eviscerated their enemies.

Before the ghostly crusader could reveal himself, a piercing whistle reverberated through the room. The Queen paused to listen to the sound bouncing off the walls. It hooted in reply. The sound of cracking drifted to the ghost.

All of those eggs were hatching at the sound of the Queen's command. There was no telling how many of the monsters the two heroes would have to face in the crypt. There was no telling what would happen if they decided to leave the lair and head into the city. Citizens could be killed by the dozens if the infants were as vicious as the adults.

That couldn't be allowed to happen.

Mr. Justice revealed himself, growing to the size of a giant in an instant. He blind-sided the Queen, rushing from the lair. The blow dropped the monster on its side as the ghost headed for the entrance to the egg chamber. older monsters gathered the babies together, herding them towards the staircase leading up and out. The newborn things clacked in a feeding frenzy.

Some of the monsters charged Mr. Justice, intent on stopping him as they had tried to stop the Blue Beetle. Giant hands grabbed the walls and roof and pulled with all the strength in the giant body. Some of the frogs jumped clear as the upper floors began to fall toward the basement of the building.

The Beetle will have to take care of himself, Mr. Justice thought as he passed through the falling brick, sheet rock, and other material. I have to stop any escapees.

Mr. Justice seized any frog he found, catching them in giant hands, and reduced them to puddles with his glare. He searched as the place continued to collapse, but he couldn't find any more than the ones he had caught climbing on the stairs leading upward.

The ghost passed through the walls, turning his senses on the blocks surrounding the building he had brought down. It looked like none of the minions escaped the sudden maelstrom. All he had to worry about was the Queen, the Beetle, and whomever had blown that whistle to start the stampede.

The crusader descended into the dust cloud, letting the collapse's aftermath drift through his body as much as it wanted. Concern pressed down with the knowledge that the Blue Beetle could be dead because of his decision.

Prince James had sent many men to their deaths in defense of the realm. Mr. Justice had to decide what was more important to protect his city. The choices weren't easy to make even after centuries of being dead to think about it.

Mr. Justice returned to his normal height as he floated into the Queen's chamber. Most of the building had fallen into this area, burying the combatants under a ton of debris. Thrashing revealed where the Queen worked frantically to free herself. There was no sign of the mystery man who must have been killed by the falling tons that had made up the upper floors of the place.

His body would be found to be buried with honors.

Post Wed Dec 14, 2005 12:54 am
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Dan Garrett took a special pill before putting on the chainmail armor of the Blue Beetle. It made him stronger and faster than ten men. He still couldn't hold up a mountain like the one falling straight for him.

He needed something to block the debris so he had a chance for survival. That something was still lunging at him with clicking mandibles.

The Beetle leaped under the sabers trying to chop him in half. He slid along the floor, going for a spot near the body. A closer examination told him that the Queen was made of the same as the frog children under a thicker rind. She was a cushion he could use if he was right.

The upper floors collapsed into the basement lair with an express train rumble. The Queen couldn't jump aside from that. Garrett got behind the leg, bracing it with his body, waiting for the thunder to stop. The leg came apart as the bricks and wood battered it, but the mystery man had built a pile around him for it to fall on instead of himself.

The Blue Beetle didn't know when the roof stopped falling. It took a while for his hearing to snap back to normal. He took a breath before pushing out of his cocoon. The mound pushed away from his hands easily. The blue battler stood, pieces and dust shaking from his armor as he moved.

"You're alive!" said Mr. Justice, then quieter, "You're alive. I'm glad to see that."

"I'm touched by your concern," said the Blue Beetle. "You dropped a building on me. What were you thinking?"

"That was the only thing I could think of to stop the colony from spreading into the city," said Mr. Justice. "It looks like they were all wiped out."

"If we are working together after this," said the Beetle, brushing his tunic off with gloved hands. "Warn me if you're going to do something like bring a building down on me. Can you do that, please?"

"I apologize," said the former prince. "I acted hastily due to a fear of a massacre."

"Apology accepted," said the policeman. "We have one more thing to take care of before we leave."

"We have to find the whistler who hatched all those eggs," said the ghostly crusader.

"We set him back," said Garrett. "That doesn't mean he doesn't have more of these hives, or can't rebuild this one. He's already stockpiled monsters for a few years from the look of things before we happened on the scene."

Mr. Justice looked around, letting his supernatural senses sift the living world. A scent sprang into existence. He took a moment to examine it.

"Our trail goes that way," he said, pointing at a small hole in the surviving wall. "The mastermind stood on the other side and blew the horn."

"Let's go then," said the Beetle, walking to the wall. He grabbed the edge of the opening and pulled with his enormous strength. A muck covered brick slid out of the way for him. He did this twice more so that he could have room to step through with his gun drawn.

Hopefully the Colt would stop the bad guy when Garrett shot him.

"Are you sure you want to keep going?," Mr. Justice asked. "This isn't the typical gangster busting that you have done so far."

"Just don't drop another building on me," said the Blue Beetle. "I think I can handle the rest."

Mr. Justice floated down the exposed passage silently.

Post Wed Dec 14, 2005 12:55 am
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The heroes followed the scent in the ether. Mr. Justice followed it, with the Blue Beetle keeping a little behind and to the left. There was probably some kind of trap somewhere ahead to keep people from doing what they were doing.

That wouldn't stop the erstwhile partners. They had already committed themselves to halting whatever was going on beyond the breeding of things men weren't meant to know.

They followed the trail until they reached a hatch in the floor. It was metal, and loose from recent usage. A print glowed next to handle.

The crusader flowed through the floor. He returned a moment later, almost smiling.

"This leads into the city sewer system," said the ghost. "I think we stopped him in the nick of time."

"What do you mean?," asked the Beetle, working the hatch, and flipping it out of the way.

"I think he was going to dump the dump those eggs in the sewer and let them go where they could to feed," said the former prince. "Ectoplasm is dripping from every stone."

"You're talking about spreading these things all over the city so they could attack anyone they felt like outside the neighborhood," said Garrett, jumping through the opening and dropping into the dirty waterway. He moved away from the opening carefully in case of a trap.

"This waterway feeds to the river, which feeds to the ocean," said Mr. Justice, pointing as he descended into the sewer. "He could attack everything between here and the coast if he wanted. We stumbled onto his scheme just in time."

"You're talking about a disaster of biblical proportions," said the Beetle, following the prints on the raised side of the water channel with his flashlight. "The deaths of hundreds, maybe thousands."

"It still might happen if we can't catch up to this person and subdue him," said the ghost.

"We'll catch him," said Garrett. "I'll move the earth to catch this guy."

They followed the sewer line across the city. Mr. Justice felt a sharp pang when he crossed the invisible line binding the neighborhood. The chase was leading them away from the hatching ground toward someplace more upscale. Sooner or later, the breeder would come to his roost, and it wouldn't be in a tenement.

"I have an idea," said Mr. Justice. "I don't know if it is a great idea, but it might help us leapfrog ahead if it pans out. Can you stay on his trail until I get back?"

"Do what you have to do," said the Beetle. "You better come back with what you find out."

Mr. Justice passed through the roof of the sewer. There was one place in the city that could answer his questions. He headed there with all of his ghostly speed, passing through anything that got in his way.

Mr. Justice entered the hall of records. All the clerks had gone home for the night. That was fine from his point of view. He didn't want to explain anything to a nosy clerk.

It took a few minutes to locate the owner of record for the tenement that he had partially destroyed. An address was listed with the name. This could be the break they were looking for. The crusader checked for other property owned by his suspect. He was not pleased to learn three other buildings in the neighborhood had been bought.

Post Wed Dec 14, 2005 7:58 am
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Mr. Justice returned to the Blue Beetle's side, pleased that the mystery man had found a clue of his own on the wall of the sewer.

"I think he went up from here," the mystery man said.

"I found a name," said Mr. Justice. "Robert Caris. He owns several buildings just like the one I wrecked."

"You're saying this guy has more of these things he can turn loose," said the Beetle.

"We'll have to check them out as a matter of course," said the astral avenger. "If you want to continue after our man, and see if he and Mr. Caris are the same, I'll check those other addresses and meet you."

"I'm happy with that," said Garrett. "We can't let him trigger any more of those things, and we can't leave them lying around for others to find and get hurt by them."

Mr. Justice told the Beetle the address where Caris lived before lifting into the air. The crusader turned back toward the neighborhood they had just left a half hour before. All of Caris's other buildings sat inside that invisible square.

The crusader flowed through the buildings one by one. He was not surprised to find similar arrangements as the building he had destroyed. These hives didn't have as many of the eggs or workers as the first.

He didn't plan to give them a chance to grow.

He willed his spectral body to grow to its maximum size. Then he brought his fists down on top of the first newly discovered building with more force than any wrecking ball. He did this to each of the other buildings, driving them down on top of the monstrous progeny without a thought of mercy.

These things were designed to kill people. He couldn't allow that, and he couldn't allow them to roam free. That would be the same as allowing hungry lions to leave the confines of the zoo to get their own food out of whomever they happened to chance upon. The ghost checked his handiwork, satisfied that this part of the menace was ended for now.

All that remained was rounding up the planner of the scheme.

Mr. Justice found his colleague heading for the front door of the address given for Caris. His blue tunic and pants were covered with slime, sewage, and dirt from the collapsed building he had survived. His grim expression spoke his thoughts for him as he kicked down the heavy wood door of Caris's townhouse.

Four murders and creating a menace of everything in the place where he lived was well outside the amount of forgiveness he would allow an ordinary crook.

The Blue Beetle stalked inside the townhouse, gun drawn, aware of something watching him as he looked around the entrance foyer. He cautiously moved forward, alert for any sign of his enemy.

The crash of a vase alerted him to a shadow falling from above. The mystery man leaped out of the way, rolling to his feet as a crossbred frog tiger leaped at him with scarcely a pause in its motion after missing with its first strike. The Colt roared a statement of defiance in the ugly face of walking murder. Divots of slime blew away as the thing kept coming.

Claws reached for the hero, intent on ripping out vital organs. The watchdog was surprised when the man in blue charged it, moving like an express train. There was a sudden moment of surprise before it tried to bring its paws down. By then it was too late. Its prey had charged through it, splattering it on the hard wood floor.

The Blue Beetle reloaded his pistol with the last clip he carried as fresh slime dripped off his armored shirt.

"Perhaps we should check upstairs," Mr. Justice said, heading upwards as he spoke.

"Let's do that," the Beetle replied.

Post Fri Dec 23, 2005 5:47 am
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The two heroes ascended slowly. The Beetle didn't bother with his pistol. Bullets just didn't stop those things as much as his superhuman strength. He ripped a piece from the wooden railing. That should be more effective in his hands.

Mr. Justice paused to scent the air with his ethereal senses, shook his head at the conflicting trails, before finding the one that led to the top of the townhouse. The small irony didn't escape him as he floated toward his goal.

The creations lived under the city, growing in darkness. Their master liked to live three stories above the street. At least he hadn't taken over a skyscraper to populate with his frog plague.

Four of the larger guardian frogs jumped down from the third floor landing. Their toothy maws grinned at the thought of ripping something to shreds. It was what they were meant to do.

The ghost twisted his body away from them, striking out with the strange powers at his command. The sentries were hurled away by an invisible hand, not hurt enough to be stopped but out of his way so he could continue to fly upward.

The Beetle came up the stairs behind him. Powerful swings of his arms cleared the way, before the gooey guardians could get clear. His vitamin enhanced strength left splattered remains in his wake.

Mr. Justice pushed open a door at the end of the third floor hall. His blank eyes narrowed in disbelief and anger at what he had discovered in the room beyond. The ectoplasmic sign on the floor kept him from advancing to end the menace he had found.

"What's wrong?," the Beetle asked, coming to a stop at his comrade's immovability.

"There is a seal to keep me out," said Mr. Justice. "As long as it is in place, I can't go any further."

"That's right, gentlemen," said the creator of the frogs. "This is where your interference stops."

The man was thin to the point of emancipation, coke bottle glasses covering his eyes. He wore a robe in the style of the ancient Greeks or Romans. Green slime dripped from his pores, pooling on the hard wood floor.

"It has taken me some years to uncover the secrets I now possess," said the bald man in the glasses, standing straight like a soldier on a parade ground. "Others tried to take my discoveries. They had to pay for their effrontery. Now I have two famed mystery men here to take my inventions away. I can't allow that."

"We don't want to take your inventions from you," said the Blue Beetle. "We want you to face justice for killing people, and filling a nest with these things. You can keep your monsters."

"So you want to take me in to stand in front of a judge," said the frog man. "There is no one who can judge my genius, the genius of Suvok Light. You can meet your maker."

The Blue Beetle charged, not bothered by the warning against the spirit world. His wooden club snapped back to crack Light's head. He was surprised by the slime coming to life, washing over him. He smashed through a wall as the stuff tried to strangle him.

"It's just you and me," said Light. His slimy covering twitched in excitement. "Let's see who will win."

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