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Hub City Justice

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Post Thu Jan 04, 2007 3:11 am
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Mr. Justice flew over the city by the lake as silently as the ghost he was. Below him the river drifted down from Crown City, heading south with its murky drifting. He wished he had time to sightsee but he was in town on business.

Mr. Justice resided, if that was the right word, in New York. In the last few days, he had been bothered by vague premonitions. It was tied to something pushing on the edges of the dimensional walls that kept his Earth from less desirable places. He decided that he needed a close up view of whatever was causing the trouble.

The ghost of a prince had taken on the job of defending mankind from monsters in the dark. This was one more menace that he needed to put down.

Mr. Justice descended toward a house on the other side of the city. He would make his first survey from there. It had a feeling of pent up energy. He could use that to help magnify his scanning.

Ever since the Crisis, there had been an increase in these invasions. The spirit worlds had been stirred up by the loss of most of the multiverse. That was the only thing he could think of to explain the incursions into the real world by some of these monsters.

They were like buzzards trying to scavenge something dead.

Only his Earth wasn't dead yet. He was here to see that it survived, and knew there were others equally dedicated. They hadn't fought off one marauder to fall at the hands of minor menaces from other planes.

Mr. Justice landed on the roof of the house he had picked out. It was decrepit, and seemed exhausted, slumping down to the ground. He felt a tug of spiritual energy. It wasn't much, but it did tell him that he was right about one thing.

Whatever was intruding on his reality, was based in Hub City somewhere.

Mr. Justice spread his senses out, virtually taking apart everything with a glance. Whatever was here wasn't active yet. He still had time to find it, which was good. The bad part was as long as it remained dormant like this, it could keep itself hidden from all but the most diligent searches. Then it could spring into whatever plan was going on, forcing him to have to play catch up.

He couldn't allow that. People could be killed while he was still trying to figure out what was going on. He had to find whatever was in town as soon as possible. Then he had to get rid of it.

Mr. Justice didn't expect that to be easy. He had come across quite a few menaces that didn't want to go back to where they came from. And more and more, they seemed to have gotten better hiding in the shadows.

Mr. Justice took to the air, deciding that he should at least patrol. Maybe he would stumble over something that would point him the right way. He didn't need creature comforts as a ghost so spending the night flying around didn't bother him at all.

He missed the days he could impersonate a living man and mingle with mortals without thought, but that was long ago, and he had lost his touch.

Post Tue Jan 16, 2007 11:00 am
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Ted Kord polished the armored hull of his baby. Once a month he went over everything, replacing what needed to be replaced, polishing and cleaning. Then he went on patrol. He knew he was showing off his ride, and didn't mind at all.

Sometimes Tracy rode along, monitoring performance. Some of the new additions had been crafted by her wonderful hands. She liked to see what they could do in the field.

Ted planned to do some lone jaunting over Hub City that night. Then he and Tracy had to meet other scientists later to talk over how Kord Inc. could help with projects that had ran into snags in the prospective contracting labs.

It would be a short flight for the Bug, just a shakedown cruise out of the river across the skyline and back.

Ted had trained himself and took on the identity of the Blue Beetle because of something that he had caused to happen. He remained a costumed hero because it suited him, and he liked adventuring in the night.

There was always someone who needed a hand, and he liked to be the one to give it.

Ted put his tools away, checked to see if the Bug was buttoned up, before donning his now famous costume. The special locks clicked into place as he secured his mask. He worked the remote in his gauntlet to start the beetle shaped machine, as he boarded. He settled into the pilot's chair as the Bug hovered, then turned to the secret entrance. Then the Beetle guided his invention out into the river, and then into the air over Hub City.

This was the best part of the job as far as he was concerned. The Bug could fly itself while he scanned the ground, and listened for trouble. Sometimes he liked to take his ship up to the maximum altitude it would lift to and just look at the curve of the earth below.

It was reassuring to see everything was right where it should be, a comforting illusion. He knew that the illusion only masked the trouble he dealt with on his own and as a member of the Sentinels of Justice. Still it was a wonderful two minutes of gliding until he brought the Bug down to a more reasonable height.

Hub City looked at peace for once. He was sure there were crimes going on, but at the moment it looked like he had the night off. He would take care of this meeting, then he and Tracy could have some alone time.

Kord brought the Bug down over the river, dropping below the surface. The blue vessel headed for the concealed door to the tunnel leading to his lab. Things looked good. And he still had time to get things done before the meeting.

Sometimes he admitted he wouldn't mind selling the business and taking off somewhere for a long vacation. Every time those thoughts passed through his head, he remembered that he had volunteered to be the city's protector. He couldn't throw that aside until someone else stepped up to fill his shoes.

Kord maneuvered his amazing Bug over the landing pad and dropped it on the four back legs that acted as landing gear. He dropped out of the chin hatch and started getting ready for his meeting. Tracy would be pacing right about now.

Ted raced up the stairs, checking his look in a mirror before he stepped out in their offices upstairs. Tracy had recommended the mirror so he could make sure to keep his Beetle costume and equipment downstairs and didn't accidentally take things into his public life.

She was better at keeping his two identities separate than he was.

Post Sun Jan 28, 2007 9:31 pm
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The leader swung his head around like an owl to inspect his base of operations. They had found a place near the river cutting through Hub City. It was perfect for them. This would be the fifth such place they had set up since they had moved into town.

Abandoned buildings close to the water had been picked for their value in escape routes, open sight, and the need for secrecy. The only threat close by was the Kord lab building down the river. Someone there may spot something, may not.

The leader had been selected to prepare the way. If that meant paying a call on his neighbors, he would do that. At the moment, he insisted on secrecy and stealth. The master wanted to awake. That was what they were going to do.

It had taken a long time for their organization to form. The special circumstances they depended on were few and far between. The recent crisis on infinite Earths had pried enough of their juices from their home to expand somewhat. When it ended, it closed the window they had been using.

Still they had been able to take advantage of the chaos enough to start their operation, build their numbers, and focus on the ideal place to nest in until they were ready. Avoiding the heroes that had plagued them had been a bonus.

Hub City only had one compared to other cities that could have been targeted. And he was frequently busy dealing with threats more overt than the one they were engaged in. The leader was confident they had enough power to deal with a man in a flying bug ship if he interfered.

Still they might not have to if things went according to plan. They would gradually grow until the city was theirs, and no one would be the wiser. The local hero would be terminated along the way.

If he discovered their existence, there would be war between them and the heroes that populated the Earth. They weren't ready for that quite yet.

First they needed to carry out their plans. He would do a risk assessment about Kord's building in the morning. If the lab was a threat, then he would task a force on eliminating it. If they weren't, he would watch them until he needed to expand down the river. Then he would decide the best way to handle it.

That was the best plan he could think of at the moment. His brain had not been designed with the thought he would have to do a lot of complicated thinking, but he found that if he kept things simple, he didn't freeze up and become indecisive at the wrong time.

He admitted it was hard for him to keep things that simple. Humans loved to complicate things more than anything else he had encountered.

The leader inspected his operations one more time before he retired to his nest in the upper floors of the building. He gathered some of the edges close as he settled into think about what he was going to do in the morning.

While he slept, he would think about what he would have to do to deal with the Kords, and their building. He might have to sink the building with his people. Something would come to him on how to proceed. It was like messages from his creator.

Surely the master would have a subtle way of dealing with his obstacle that his simple brain couldn't think of at the moment.

That's how they had acquired the buildings for their power base to reach this point of the plan.

The master had supplied everything but the physical body needed to do the job. Of course the physical parts were the most needed.

Post Sun Feb 11, 2007 9:13 am
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Mr. Justice drifted over the strange city, senses alert for the least sign of trouble. Several muggers, a rapist, and a thief trying to break into an old woman's condo felt his touch as he passed by. None of them liked the consequences of his attention.

Mr. Justice felt a twinge over the river. He had felt it before years ago. It seemed odd to feel that alarm as he hovered over the city of a namesake of the hero that had aided him when he had dealt with the person who had caused him to feel this originally.

Destiny, or coincidence?

The ghostly guardian considered the idea as he dropped over the river. He spotted the tell tale green as he floated over the water. He frowned as he examined the green slime floating on top of the dark water. It was a twinge that reminded him of his earlier encounters with this particular nemesis.

Suvok Light had tried to breed monsters in the forties, then tried to open his private world to others in the seventies. Sixteen years later, his signature slime was floating on the surface of the river cutting through Hub City. Perhaps it had drifted down from Crown, or Big City. That meant a push was coming somewhere in the region, and the most likely staging area was Hub City.

He wondered if it was just a coincidence that the third Blue Beetle made his home in the town where they were planning their operation.

Mr. Justice followed the drifting trail back up the river. He hadn't dealt with the newest azure avenger. He wasn't sure if he should even approach the man when all he had was diluted slime on a polluted body of water. His mystic senses pointed it out to him, but how to convince the living?

The trail faded away in front of him. He looked around, surprised that had happened. The slime should have followed a solid line back to the things that made it.

There was no reason for it in his ghostly experience.

Mr. Justice floated over the surface of the river, thinking about this small puzzle. His vast insight in the world around him seemed to have failed him, or more likely been blocked by whatever had dissipated the ectoplasmic trail he had been tracking. It wasn't the first time one of his enemies had put up a screen to hide his, sometimes its, activities.

Mr. Justice descended into the river, peering through the murky water as if it were lit by the sun. He floated down to the bed, examining the water for any trace of the ectoplasm. He found nothing, frowning at the possibility that he could be wrong.

The ghostly crusader searched the river around the spot, looking for any kind of pointer. He found a metal door in the river bank. He saw that it wasn't magically protected from the likes of him. He walked through, pausing at the metal insect lording it over the secret lair he was in.

He decided to exit the way he came in. The Blue Beetle would probably be angered at his accidental snooping. The living loved their secrets.

The former prince floated in the dark water, thinking as he watched some trash float by in the current. The river had to be connected with Suvok Light's minions. This was where he needed to be. He just didn't know where they were so he could deal with him.

Mr. Justice decided the best way to keep an eye out for his enemy was to keep an eye on the river. The best way for him to do that was to be the river. He expanded his own ectoplasm until he filled that section of the water with his intangible body. The current would still flow through but if anything landed in the streaming water, he would know it.

It wasn't a perfect scheme, but he had touched Light's ectoplasm before, and would know it if some of that weird substance dropped in the river now that he was filling up both banks.

Then he would find out how Light was doing things from his prison in his private spirit world.

Post Tue Mar 13, 2007 2:50 pm
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The leader of Suvok Light's followers looked over the mass of green humanoids. He had reached his decision during the night. They would take over Kord's building down the river. It had to be done so they could expand.

The more ectoplasm they created, the more they could alter reality to open the door for their master. That meant adding on to their mission any way they could.

Too bad for Kord and his employees. They would have to be food for his people.

Then they would quietly add any visitors to their ranks. Control of the river would automatically fall to the webbed hands of the servants. Fate was leading him down the road to success.

He blinked large dark eyes, wide gash of a mouth turned down. The spots on his skin gleamed slightly under the jaundiced lights in the main warehouse. He flicked his tongue as he considered his next action.

"We will divide and attack from the river." Webbed hands dripped ectoplasm on the floor in a gentle patter. "We want to surround the building and take anyone we encounter. Take them for food later but do not hesitate to kill them if they get in the way. Any trouble we cannot overcome, return to secondary positions and hide as well as able.

"Do you understand?"

The frogs ribited loudly in agreement with the speech.

"Then go and do your tasks." He turned and headed for his private exit at the back of the building. He would be watching the assault from a position on land in case there were problems.

The crowd headed for the large exits built for trucks to unload deliveries. They dropped into the dark water, shedding the unnatural material of their bodies as they swam against the current. Once they reached the other side of the shore, they would have to scramble to reach the Kord Laboratory.

The frogs bounded to the fence, ripping it down with their inhuman strength. They ran for the doors. Control of the exits meant they could act with leisure about the rest of their mission. Maybe they could eat a little too.

Humans were excellent food.

The frogs burst open the doors, slightly surprised that only one security guard was in evidence. He wouldn't be much for the larder.

The river came alive at their backs, forming tentacles of black water. The monstrous followers looked at the possessed water in amazement. They fled from the reaching appendages.

The frogs moved toward sewer accessways to make their escape. The river coming alive was like air trying to strangle a human. They understood now why they couldn't return home if they were discovered. Those tentacles would follow and try to crush their brothers.

The animated water dispersed in the face of the fleeing frogs. Mr. Justice assumed his normal shape, but remained invisible as he flung himself after the ectoplasmic creatures. They had to be stopped before they could hurt someone.

Mr. Justice caught up with some stragglers, wrapping them in envelopes of psychic might before heading after the main body of stampeding hunchbacks. He was not surprised that they split up to foil pursuit. Still he had four in the bag. That would have to do.

The ghostly avenger gathered the four frogs together. They looked at him, refusing to communicate. His pale face drew down as he looked at them. Sending them back to Light's dimension was just postponing dealing with them.

"I want to know what you're doing here." Mr. Justice looked at each of the frogs in turn. "Who wants to talk?"

The amphibians turned their back to him. Betrayal was not in them.

Mr. Justice shook his head, thinking about his next move whether the frog men talked, or not.

Post Tue Mar 27, 2007 11:50 am
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When the Kord Building was attacked, Ted and Tracy Kord made sure their employees were safe before he descended to his lair for a change of clothes. No one was wrecking his place without the Blue Beetle trying to stop them. A minute later, the Bug was rising out of the river, ready for action.

The Blue Beetle circled in the air, wondering why they were giant human frogs, and what they wanted from his business. When they fled, he released Snoopy to help keep track of them. Then he spotted something that was a partial explanation for the strange attack and flight.

The Crusader known as Mr. Justice was floating over the river, chasing the frogs. He actually captured four but the rest got away.

The Blue Beetle dropped from his chin door. He landed on the ground lightly, hand on his BB gun.

"What's going on?" The Beetle knew Mr. Justice's reputation as a ghost interested in supernatural happenings.

"These things were trying to break in to Kord Labs." Mr. Justice frowned at the slimy things. "They serve a magician named Suvok Light. The Blue Beetle and I thought we had dealt with him years ago."

"I'm the Blue Beetle." An eyebrow went up.

"The second Blue Beetle." The Ghostly Avenger looked at his prisoners. "Now I have prisoners but I don't know what I can squeeze out of them. They do not want to talk to me."

"I know somebody who might have something to say on that subject." The Beetle smiled. "The second Blue Beetle?"

"Yes." The ghost floated closer to the frogs. They cringed away from the look in his eyes.

"Why don't you tell me about it while we wait for Snoopy to talk to us." The Beetle dropped his pull bar with a touch of the remote built into his gauntlet.

Mr. Justice glared at the four frogs, popping them with his power. He followed the Sentinel into his strange aircraft, passing through the walls with ease.

"You killed them." The Beetle glared at his new ally. "That wasn't right."

"It was just." The ghost stared at the mortal implacably. "They were extensions of Suvok Light. What they know, he would know eventually."

"Tell me about this Suvok Light." The Beetle settled in his command chair. "How did you and the second Beetle meet him?"

"Actually the first Blue Beetle and I dealt with him in the forties." Mr. Justice floated in the air, sitting cross-legged on nothing.

Mr. Justice started with the first encounter and the serial killings that Light had used to fuel his ectoplasm, and his nests of monsters. The second encounter ended with Light being imprisoned on a pocket world he had created. The two attempts seemed aimed at spreading his creations, his frogs, around the world to supplant humanity.

"So you think this Light is making a come back." The Beetle considered the story, watching his guest.

"The river is a perfect attack point in the city for his ectoplasm creations." Mr. Justice raised a hand, crackling a map in existence. "He has to be planning something here in Hub City to free himself."

"How many of these ectoplasm creations would he need?" The Beetle studied the map intently, realizing it was of the river descending from Crown City upstream.

"I don't know." Mr. Justice concentrated his map around the Kord Building. "He has always tried to build an army before making a major move."

"There are a lot of places around the river he could hide an army." The Beetle pointed at several places on the map. "These warehouses have been abandoned for a couple of years for example."

"They are choke points if he wants to attack shipping." Mr. Justice thought about it. "Why did he attack your building?"

"Excuse me?" The Beetle tried to hide his surprise at this revelation.

"I found your base's entrance while searching the river." Mr. Justice tried to smile. The effect was a little ghastly. "Don't worry. Your secret is safe with me."

"All right." The Beetle sat back in his chair. "I can't deny that Ted Kord and I are the same man."

The control panel beeped, an indicator light flashing to get attention. The azure avenger turned his chair, smiling at what he saw.

"Snoopy saw one of your frogs go into a warehouse up river." He flipped a switch. A small screen showed what the small bug spy saw with its camera eyes. "Its only a few miles from here."

"It's close to where I lost the trail when I arrived in Hub City." Mr. Justice's empty eyes lit up. "Let's see if your spy is right."

The Blue Beetle pointed his mechanical marvel up river, and flew through the night sky. He brought the Bug to a hover high above the warehouse.

"Let's see if we can find out what's going on." Mr. Justice sank through the hull of the blue behemoth, dropping toward the building.

Post Tue Mar 27, 2007 12:22 pm
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Mr. Justice paused at the edge of the building he wanted to investigate. His mystic senses alerted him to the symbols around the base of the warehouse. Light's followers had been warned and put up a field to keep him out.

Mr. Justice smiled. This was a temporary setback.

The ghostly avenger raised his hands. Energy flowed out of him to the nearby river. He gestured. Water flew through the air, smashing into several letters in one fell swoop. He had an alley to use now to get inside the building.

More importantly he had something to justify any search he wanted to do. The only reason to erect a shield wall against ectoplasmic entities was the knowledge they were looking for you. Either the screen meant to keep him out personally, or all ectoplasmic entities.

It was a better than even chance it was meant for him.

Mr. Justice passed through the wall. He frowned when he finished floating through the concrete. The inside of the mundane building had been turned into a nest to match the ones he had destroyed when he had first met Suvok Light. He estimated thousands of egg pods suspended from the ceiling. Some of the frogs moved around, carrying out duties inside the hive.

This was much worse than he had believed.

Mr. Justice decided that this many ghost things had to be destroyed before there was a disaster. He had a feeling that this wasn't the only nest in Hub City. The others needed to be located and wiped out as soon as possible.

Mr. Justice grew into a tower of fury in the middle of the hive. The frogs gaped at his sudden appearance in their midst. He opened his mouth. Green flame swept the pods, vaporizing them as he turned his head. Light's drones fled toward escape holes as the destructive force cut the air. The ghostly avenger vomited flame to scour the escapees before they could reach the outside. Several popped in an instant, but he wasn't sure how many he had caught as he cut the burning breath.

Mr. Justice looked around him, putting the fire out with a gesture as soon as he was sure his victims were dead. Several frogs had made it out. He could sense their fleeing ectoplasm now that they were clear of the screen.

"Blue Beetle." He projected his thoughts to his ally above. "Please launch your Snoopy to track the local underground network. It should listen for the frogs."

Mr. Justice ascended through the building, normal sized and watchful. He knew what he should look for now. That made it easy to locate the lairs of the enemy. The Beetle's robot could make even that small amount of searching redundant if things worked out as he thought.

Light's followers needed to be dealt with before they caused something to the city. His experiences with them in the past had proven they were driven and dangerous. They couldn't be allowed to fester.

A feeling that this was his last chance to win the war haunted him as he joined the Blue Beetle in his aircraft.

They didn't have any other choice but to win. The third time might just be the charm, and Mr. Justice didn't want to see how warped the world could be under a plague of frogs.

Post Tue Mar 27, 2007 12:23 pm
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The Blue Beetle lifted the Bug high over the city, watching the console. His robot spy was loose, working on its own as he waited for its feedback. He had an idea he had fed to his on board computer to work on.

The frogs needed a physical space to build their lairs. They also needed the river as an easy method of travel without being seen. His computer had a link to the city files at the Hall of Justice. Feeding those two facts into the search prompt had already dumped more than few places that fit what he was looking for. Adding the Kord Lab and the torched warehouse address cut the search to something within reason.

Snoopy's erratic flight pattern told him he was on the right track.

Its jets carried it over one frog who had come up to the surface, and made a break for the river. The spy tracked its quarry with an infrared scanner built in its eyes as it flew from one side of the river to the other. The colder than normal heat pattern faded away, mixing with the temperature of the flowing river.

The Beetle smiled as he piloted the Bug into a pickup of its metal child.

The floating scarab opened a door in its belly as it hovered over a suspect building. The blue robot lifted into the opening and settled on its rack for recharging. Plugs dumped its event memory into the aircraft's central computer system until its next mission.

The Beetle checked the list from the hacked records against the address. It fit the profile. He needed to get a closer look before he could rule it out.

The Bug's chin opened to let the azure avenger drop down on the roof using his pull bar. He landed lightly, skulking to a skylight. A gloved hand wiped at the glass, but the dim interior refused to give him a clear view of the interior.

The Blue Beetle knocked out a pane of glass, reached in, and pulled the skylight open. He grabbed hold of the chin bar and dropped down inside the opening. The frogs below looked up with hateful expressions, but their numbers didn't concern the scarab sentinel.

What did concern the Beetle was the helix of round shells hanging from a rafter to his left. He knew the numbers hatching out of that would be disastrous for Hub City. He had to stop it somehow.

The frogs gathered at the base of the spun together wombs pointing at the Blue Beetle as he hovered above them. The azure avenger worked the bar's remote as he hung in the air. He had an idea on how to deal with the baby monsters. It wasn't pleasant but he couldn't allow them to hatch.

The Bug ripped the roof off the warehouse with its forward legs. Its claws snagged the helix in a firm grip. He ordered it straight up, recalling the chin bar as the machine pulled the incubator after it.

The Beetle settled in his command chair, buttoning up the Bug tight. He headed for the aircraft's operational ceiling, dragging the infant frogs behind him as he poured on the speed. He had never taken the flying scarab that far. The engines rattled as they reached a point where they struggled for breath to keep going. The sentinel switched his craft to hover in the freezing air high above the earth.

Ice formed on the semitransparent bumps in the incubator. The extra weight pulled the Bug down, started stressing its front arms. He couldn't drop them, nor did he have a way to store them until a government agency could be called to take them away for disposal. This was a bad move, no doubt about it.

So how could he turn this to his advantage?

The Beetle made a phone call as he descended. Tracy knew exactly what he wanted as soon as he told her what he had done. A promise of five minutes made him smile as he headed back to the lab building.

Kord Inc. prepared a large liquid nitrogen bath for the incubator. All he had to do was hover over the giant pool and lower it into the freezing cloud without getting any on the Bug's claws.

Post Wed Mar 28, 2007 12:51 am
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He frowned as much as his lipless mouth would allow. His people had lost two of their growing trees to the enemies of their father. He had hoped for a quiet expansion, eliminating the humans one at a time. Now he knew it was open war.

He looked at his brothers, thinking about the decision he was going to make. It was all or nothing now. They had to succeed.

He sent the word out for his people to gather by the river, leaving some to hide the remaining pods. He watched as his orders were carried out with rapidity. Some might escape to renew their quest to open the for the master.

It would be out of his hands if his plan didn't succeed against their ghost foe.

He waited until the last second before he walked to the edge of the cold river and jumped in. Others swam with him as he moved to a central meeting point between the remaining nests. It was time for a little revenge.

Ectoplasm flowed into the river, grabbing any fish foolhardy to be caught in the city's refuse. Everything but bones joined to the frogs as they warped into a new shape. The remains sank to the bottom of the bed. The frogs grew with the amount of fish and traces of life in the water as they moved together.

The ectoplasm lost shape as each frog melted into its neighbor. The creatures dropped to the bottom of the river, planting themselves into the silt. As they flowed into each other, they grew taller and wider. Water, and anything they could drain from the water, added to their mass. Eventually one frog stood out of the river, looking around with black eyes. It headed for the lake at the end of the current to continue growing using anything living in its way.

This was an enormous distraction as well as a lure for Mr. Justice and his helper. They couldn't ignore a giant mass of ectoplasm sucking the life out of the city's inhabitants. That should give the rest a free hand to get away with the next generation of monsters.

And if by some luck he killed both of them, so much the better.

The ghost appeared, altering his size to match the giant humanoid frog striding along. The two sized up each other. They agreed to terms without speaking. No quarter asked, none given.

The two giants closed on each other, their skins warping from the closeness of different degrees of plasm. The frog leaped before the crusader called on his arcane energies to burn, or pull apart, its substance. They fell into the water, Light's servant on top.

The frog lashed out with its tongue, flinging gallons of water into the air with the whip strike. The blow drove Mr. Justice down. His body was normally impervious to injury, but since he was dealing with something that was made of similar stuff as he was, pain lanced through his system destroying his concentration.

The frog pressed its advantage, flicking its tongue out like miniature lightning. A rain of blows drove Mr. Justice back, smashing his ghostly body into a distorted caricature of its normal state. He flew back from the beating, trying to regain his composure while putting some distance between him and the whipping limb.

Light's servant leaped after him, driving him into the water with a tremendous splash. It had the master's hated enemy on the ropes. The war ended that night no matter what it did afterwards. There would be no more Mr. Justice to interfere in their plans.

Post Mon Apr 16, 2007 11:31 pm
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The Blue Beetle looked at his handiwork from the cockpit of the Bug. The liquid nitrogen had worked. That meant he had a weapon he could use. He just needed to make it mobile somehow.

The battle between Mr. Justice and the giant frog broke out upstream. Kord winced as the two caused a tidal wave to rush down toward his lab. He needed to stop that as fast as possible.

"Tracy." The Beetle could see his lovely wife wave from the ground. "I need as many nitrogen tanks as we got."

She shook her head, then pointed. He looked out the window. They had already used all the liquid coldness to create the bath for the incubator chambers. He was out of luck unless he could think of something quick.

The only thing he could think of was to dump what he had into the river and freeze what he could. He knew that wouldn't work. The water would overflow the banks, and the frog giant wouldn't even be touched enough to make a difference.

The Beetle suddenly had an idea. It was crazy, almost too crazy. On the other hand, he didn't have another way to save his business if it didn't work. He just needed a couple of minutes to ready himself, and his scheme.

He didn't think Mr. Justice had a couple of minutes. He would just have to go a little faster than was safe.

The Bug dipped down, grabbing the frozen incubator in its forelimbs again. The engine strained but the flying machine lifted its burden clear of the tank. The Beetle struggled with it, realizing the aircraft just would not fly high with its burden.

Time to make do.

The Beetle aimed his beetle machine at the giant frog, flying above the waves as fast as it could drag the heavy weight. The giant continued beating on Mr. Justice, holding him underwater with webbed fingers. The azure avenger braked, and released the makeshift spike at the same time. The incubator flew true, stabbing its organizer in a humongous thigh.

The frog screamed at the sudden pain. It swung a long arm at the Bug, hand as big as the aircraft. The Beetle dropped under the swing, falling into the river. He leveled out to consider his next move.

Mr. Justice pushed up, reaching for the piece of ice sticking from the monster's leg. He grabbed it, poured his will into it to set it alight. Suddenly it was a sword of flame. He yanked and stabbed in a move he had learned as a youth training to be a knight as well as prince. The fiery blade sank into the creature's jaw and kept going, burning away ectoplasm with its touch.

Mr. Justice pushed with his free arm, trying to get the frog off of him so he could move a little more freely. He swung his burning sword again and again, gashing his opponent's torso open. Ectoplasm cooked from the blade.

The frog staggered back, trying to pull itself back together with the existing ectoplasm at its command. Part of its damaged head returned as it glared at the ghostly crusader with its one eye.

"You are not allowed in this world." Mr. Justice closed on his enemy, sword burning a little less brightly than before. "I'm willing to help you return to your own place, or destroy you. Being a threat to the people I protect is not an option."

"I have my orders." The frog swept forward, swinging a slimy fist.

Mr. Justice stepped into the swing, breaking his weapon into drifting motes of ash as it dug a hole through the monster. He reached into the hole before it could close. He pulled with both hands. His effort ripped the giant frog apart into two halves. The divided mass fell on the shore, hemorrhaging its fuel, its collective life, as it tried to get back together.

"This is over." The ghostly crusader grabbed one half of the beast. Unearthly heat rushed into his hands. The piece of monster caught fire, shriveled as the flame spread from one frog to another. It drifted as ash into the river below.

The other half followed the first, helpless without an arm or leg to assist movement.

Mr. Justice looked around, senses winging through the night air. He instinctively knew he had not dealt with all of the enemy forces. He could feel them moving along the waterfront, taking advantage of the distraction their leader had provided.

He had destroyed a large portion of Light's children, but had missed his chance to try and catch them unaware and round up all of them at once. He knew their mission was to grow and spread until they brought back their master from his exile. He didn't know how to stop it.

Mr. Justice shrank back to his normal height, wondering how badly he had failed.

Post Mon Apr 16, 2007 11:32 pm
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The Hub River stretched from Hub City to Crown City, making stops along the way. It emptied into Lake Michigan at one end, and rushed into the Mississippi at the other. Efforts had been made to clean it up, and keep it clean. The green slime flowing into it was a different kind of pollution.

Suvok Light's followers needed a vast number before they could wake him from his slumber. His plan to combine the Earth with his ectoplasmic base could be restarted after that. Only with the loss of their battle in the river they faced a catastrophic setback which might take years to fix.

Their leader had a plan b. The ectoplasm they were made from could use living tissue as a base. It just needed to be put somewhere where it would come into contact with anything it could feed on. The river with its small fish population, and access to the waterways under Hub City, was almost a perfect feeding ground.

The surviving frogs completed their task of dumping their substance into the water, then they fled underground. When the ectoplasm had converted something, the newcomers would know where to go to join the colony. That was programmed into their rudimentary gene set.

The slime spread from the river, infiltrating the water supply for Hub City. Filters couldn't stop living matter working its way up pipes everywhere. More than a few rodents lost their lives as the swamp used them as fuel and building matter. They quickly learned to run away from the strange smelling predator.

The ectoplasm settled to the bottom of whatever branch of water it was in when it ran out of easy prey. Proto frogs moved with uneven limbs in search of more food to build more of themselves.

The older frogs began working on another lair under the city. Scouts looked for a place they could start on another pod tree to make more of themselves in a generally slow, organized way. Plan b depended on the heroes believing the menace had lost its purpose and was going after any human that they came across. That would cover the rebuilding effort they were undertaking.

Their enemy was cunning, and powerful. Being even more cunning was the only way they could succeed in their quest to free their master.

It may take more years, even decades, but they were willing to continue their work until the world was nothing but slime pits reaching for the stars and humanity was nonexistent.

They didn't expect it to be an easy task. They had already lost much thanks to the interference of Mr. Justice and the Blue Beetles. Each time they had rebuilt their place to try again. It was programmed into their very existence to keep trying to expand and usurp mankind's place in the world.

Unfortunately their plan b had a flaw in it. The slime covered the river, snapping up easy prey in the water, forcing itself to grab whatever came close. That made it easy for Mr. Justice to see its limits and come up with a plan to protect the sleeping city.

Still they were behind their protective screens where he couldn't go. They were hidden deep in the city, taking a breather before they started again. When the master returned, he would destroy the meddlesome ghost, and anyone else allied with him.

That was the hope anyway.

Post Mon Apr 16, 2007 11:33 pm
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Mr. Justice dove after the Bug, flying through its blue hull to stand in the cockpit. They had defeated some of the enemy, but he couldn't rest until he was sure they wouldn't menace anyone else.

"We need to track down any survivors and make sure we finish the job." The crusader folded his arms over his chest. "Otherwise they will try some other scheme."

"I've been thinking." The Blue Beetle piloted his unique craft into the air over the river. "Maybe there's some way to track these things down using something like an infrared camera. It's only a thought, and I'll need some way to test it before we put it to use."

"We may have frightened them into a retreat for now." Mr. Justice looked out the wide windows at the skyline. "They'll try again, hoping to catch us unaware."

"That's why I think I can take a scanner and load it up on Snoopy and try to find them." The Beetle frowned at the water below. "A giant monster on the waterfront was a lot of trouble."

"What would you need for this scanner?" Humanity had made miraculous things in the hundreds of years Prince James had been a ghost. Surely tracking the supernatural wasn't that farfetched.

"I'll need one captured long enough for me to run tests." The Beetle slid his chair out of the way to look at the river from the chin hatch. "What is that in the river?"

Mr. Justice peered down at the flowing water. A green glow permeated the liquid as it moved between its banks. Small shapes formed and broke off to sink out of sight. He dropped out through the open chin hatchway. He had an idea of what was intended by the dumping, and vowed to destroy the frogs as soon as he could.

The ghostly crusader floated up enough to tell his ally to begin taking readings on the polluted water below. That should help give a fix to his scanner. The former prince dropped again to float within inches of the torrent. Tendrils stretched from the water, snaring him with surprise.

Mr. Justice resisted the pull for a few seconds before it dragged him underwater. More of the ectoplasm converged on the grim avenger, wrapping around his body with a vehemence of a mindless predator. The newly created river monster surrounded its enemy.

The next thing on its to do list was eating and growing stronger off the food it ate.

Mr. Justice wrapped his limbs in supernatural fire that boiled the water as it shredded the ectoplasm. He broke free and flew up, climbing high over the river. He saw the glowing menace spread as far as he could see the water.

That had to be stopped somehow.

"Freeze the water." The Blue Beetle's voice echoed from a loudspeaker. "If you can freeze it, we can just pull it out in a solid chunk and place it in a tank, or something to hold it."

Mr. Justice grew to giant size again so he could reach both ends of the growing infection. The green slime trashed around, trying to grab and absorb him again. He dropped the temperature in the water, freezing it in a solid chunk from top to bottom. He grabbed both ends of the instant cube and yanked it out. The ghost took the stored heat from freezing the water and turned his goo cube into a stream of mist burning away.

"That's not exactly what I meant." The Beetle frowned as the living slime turned to ash, boiling away with the frozen water. He knew they were monsters, but he wanted to capture them and keep them from harming people rather than wiping them out. Mr. Justice's methods seemed more extreme than they needed to be.

"They can't be allowed to continue to threaten humanity." Mr. Justice cast his senses on the steam spreading away from his hands. The river fled from his presence.

"I guess I thought we should exile them, rather than kill them."

"They would expand their numbers until they broke out of any confinement we put them in." Mr. Justice usually didn't explain his actions, but felt he had to if he expected the Blue Beetle to continue to help him. "No place was safe while they were alive."

"I don't approve of casual killing." The Beetle looked the giant ghost in the eye through the windshield of the Bug. "Let's try to take them alive. Then we can come up with some kind of solution on how to deal with them."

"I agree but I must point out that these things will not act as human beings do." Mr. Justice shrank to his normal height. "They will keep on attacking as long as they are alive."

"I understand." The Beetle nodded. "Just a little restraint until I can think of something without wholesale killing."

He wanted to say murder, but knew that would be a sticking point no matter how gently he said it.

Post Mon Apr 16, 2007 11:34 pm
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Ted Kord studied the Bug's instruments as he thought. Mr. Justice was set on destroying every frog man he came across. There had to be a better way. Killing them couldn't be the only solution even if they were intent on wiping out humanity.

The Beetle put those thoughts out of his head. He didn't deal with the supernatural as a rule. He thought exile was reasonable, but if he was wrong the frogs would return to devastate some other city when they tried to multiply and summon their master from the interdimensional jail he was in. Innocents shouldn't suffer because he felt there was a better way.

He didn't have enough information to say one way, or the other.

Something moved in the river below. The Beetle waited, watching the spot. He thought Mr. Justice had stopped the changing ectoplasm in its tracks. Maybe they had been wrong about that.

"There's something swimming away." The Beetle readied Snoopy for launching again. "You might have missed one in the water."

"You plan to follow it back to the others." Mr. Justice turned his senses on the swimmer in the water. It was more of a tadpole than a full grown menace.

"I don't see why not." The Beetle shoved the miniature spy out of the aircraft. It hovered in the air, locking on target. "I expect there's some kind of racial memory going on with these frogs. What one knows, the rest might know. And it's definitely going somewhere so we might as well cross our fingers and hope for the best."

Mr. Justice nodded. He spread his net wider, concentrating on the flowing water below. He detected other swimmers. Some were in the early stages, still trying to sprout arms and legs. Some had used the river's life to reach a puberty where they resembled smaller versions of the adults. All seemed to be heading in the same direction.

"They seem to be entering the city's underground network." He pointed at the river bank through the window. "I see a pipe leading into the water. It looks big enough to hold an older frog, so these little ones should be able to enter it fine."

The Beetle looked at the signal from Snoopy. The robot agreed with Mr. Justice's assessment. He ordered it to wait before entering the pipe. Might as well let the crowd go first to prevent another escape.

The masked avenger pulled maps from the Bug's navigation memory. The sewer network should have been blocked off from the runoff in the sixties. Maybe the frogs had broken through into the regular tunnels. They could be anywhere under the city.

He pondered the lines, knowing that until Snoopy reported something, it was still a guess. They needed more than a guess. That stuff in the river could have hurt a lot of people not involved in the private war that was going on. He doubted even Mr. Justice could reverse a human being turned into a frog.

"This line runs to the center of Hub City?" Mr. Justice's finger traced a green section moving away from the river front towards City Hall.

"I think so." The Beetle checked the map against his memory. "There are some buildings that sit directly on that line that I think are abandoned."

"I think that's where we should center our attentions while we wait on your remote viewer." Mr. Justice memorized the details of the map. "I will meet you there."

Mr. Justice stepped through the Bug's walls and flew across the skyline, passing through anything in his way. In seconds, he stood on a light pole trying to catch signs of a young frog not yet screened from his ability to detect them. He wanted to put an end to this before something awful occurred.

Post Mon Apr 16, 2007 11:35 pm
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Snoopy drifted through the air until it reached the spot over the pipe. Then it sank into the water and used its jets to carry it into the drain from the sewer system. It waited motionless in the water as its quarry swam rapidly along in the narrow channel.

The blue spy drifted after the young frog, watching it in infrared. The ectoplasmic core was colder than the surrounding air. That made it a white blur to the camera eyes in Snoopy's round head.

The frog dined on slow rats as it wandered through the tunnels under Hub City. Each snack increased its size and filled it out a little more. One really big meal would push it over into full adulthood. It looked around for more things to eat as it went.

Snoopy stayed behind, artificial eyes and ears allowing it to stay out of sight while it trailed the rapidly growing juvenile. Caution had been programmed into its software so it wouldn't walk into a bad situation hopefully.

Still a piece of bad luck could ruin the effort.

The frog entered the regular sewer lines through a break in the wall ahead. It squeezed through the narrow hole, then moved along. Snoopy stopped to take a picture to send back, then pushed a brick out of the way so that it could follow. It didn't wince at the slight clatter it made as the block hit the dry floor beside the water channel. The robot waited for a few minutes, then climbed through the best that it could and took up the chase once more.

The two made their way to a blank wall deep in the middle of the city. Snoopy watched as one webbed hand pressed on the wall. Glowing letters ran in a circle around his hand. The solid cement ran with green sludge for a moment. The young monster slid inside the slime. It became solid again as soon as his feet vanished from view.

Snoopy took pictures, perplexed by what it had seen. It pressed a claw against the wall, noting its hardness. The spy headed for the nearest manhole and flew up to push the cover off. It slipped out of the underground, and headed for a roof top to call its mother.

Its mission was done.

The Bug drifted over the skyline, homing in on its baby. The computers talked as it dropped over the section of road where the manhole gaped open. The Blue Beetle frowned at the recorded images on his console. He decided to take a better look at the wall in question.

The Beetle recalled Snoopy, and placed it back on its rack. A few seconds went into plugging the battery back into the Bug's generators. Then he used the chin exit to drop down to the city street below. He sealed his aircraft and sent it high in the air where it could wait on him. Its fake helicopter beacon would direct air traffic around it while it hovered in place.

The Beetle dropped down in the sewer, goggles in his mask letting him see in the dark. He went to the wall where Snoopy saw the frog disappear. He felt it with his gloved hands. His first guess was some kind of magic was involved in the trick.

And he didn't know how to use magic at all.

He mulled over means he could use to break the wall down. A jackhammer could do the job. He could maybe rig something up from the equipment at his lab. Maybe a small amount of explosives could do it. He knew some people who could show him what he needed to know to do the job.

The Beetle went back to the manhole opening and brought the Bug down to hover over the street. A few pushes of his gauntlet control dropped the chin bar down to lift him up out of the underground. This was where Mr. Justice could come in handy.

He just had to find him.

Post Fri Apr 20, 2007 1:20 am
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The Blue Beetle didn't have anything on board the Bug to detect ghosts. So he had to do things the hard way. He would have to get some altitude and look around until he found the grim avenger.

In a city the size of Hub City, that could be a job that took forever.

The Bug rose effortlessly above the street. At least the traffic below was slow and sporadic. Lawbreakers would stay away as long as the flying beetle hovered above. It rotated in a full circle until it decided on a direction. Then it floated forward slower than usual.

The Beetle scanned the sky outside his windows, until he saw a shadow flitting along five stories up. He sped up until he caught up with the caped ghost floating above the street. Criminals must be running for the hills as soon as they learned Mr. Justice was in town.

Next week might be very quiet for the crimebusting business.

"I found your guys, I think," the Beetle announced over his PA system.

The ghostly crusader stepped inside the flying insect. Intense interest wrapped his white face in an expression of wanting to get things done. The frogs' seal still hid them from his supernatural senses.

"Where do you think they are?" Mr. Justice's blank eyes bored into the Beetle's.

"I'll show you if you quit trying to stare holes in my skull." The Beetle rotated the Bug to go back the way he had come.

"I apologize." Mr. Justice folded his arms, floating above the floor of the robot as it cruised through the city. "I seem to have lost some of my manners."

"You seem obsessive." The Beetle brought his aircraft to a hover about where he had entered the sewer earlier. "Maybe you should take some time off, smell the flowers."

"I don't have time for that." The ghost frowned at his host.

"Workaholics burn out." The Beetle dropped through the chin door, heading to the ground. Mr. Justice followed silently. "Think about it."

Mr. Justice said nothing. He had lost the few friends he had made when he first emerged from the Atlantic Ocean to time and natural causes. Only those like the Shield and Steel Sterling understood his drawing away from people that will soon be on the other side while he marched on.

Confronting his lost love in the mind of the Commissioner's daughter had only exaggerated his depression.

He would be still battling her if the Crisis and the Mysterious Traveler had not intervened to extricate him from that reunion.

The Beetle dropped below ground, pulling out a light. He led the way to the wall Snoopy had observed allowing the young monster to pass. It stood as if it was the same as the rest of the tunnel leading to it from all sides.

"This is the place." The Beetle ran his light over the face of the stone. "I don't how he made it work."

"Let me try." Mr. Justice ran his hand over the air in front of the wall. He felt something there, some hint of magic that tried to hide itself from him as he exerted himself just a tiny bit to touch it. The revolving words lit up, turning the wall to ectoplasmic slime.

"That's pretty handy," the Beetle said, pulling his flash gun from its holster.

"Let's see what lays on the other side." Mr. Justice separated the slime with an invisible dome, stepping through quietly.

The Blue Beetle followed quickly so that he could get through before the slime became solid again.

The tunnel led away from the entrance toward a massive chamber carved out of the concrete and steel supports of the city. The Beetle could see hordes of the monsters trying to set up another of those birthing trees in the middle of it. One of them spotted Mr. Justice, and gave the alarm.

The frogs charged to the attack. The ghost could not be allowed to destroy their last hope of freeing the master.

"This room is like the wall." The Beetle pointed the flash gun and fired a flare of light that blinded everyone looking at it. "Can you change the writing?"

"Change into what?" Mr. Justice reached out, placing his seal on the exits. None of the monsters could be allowed to escape.

"Some interdimensional door back to where they came from." The Beetle used a jump kick on the closest blind monster still trying to grope for him. The frog went down.

"I don't see why not."
The Blue Beetle didn't have anything on board the Bug to detect ghosts. So he had to do things the hard way. He would have to get some altitude and look around until he found the grim avenger.

In a city the size of Hub City, that could be a job that took forever.

The Bug rose effortlessly above the street. At least the traffic below was slow and sporadic. Lawbreakers would stay away as long as the flying beetle hovered above. It rotated in a full circle until it decided on a direction. Then it floated forward slower than usual.

The Beetle scanned the sky outside his windows, until he saw a shadow flitting along five stories up. He sped up until he caught up with the caped ghost floating above the street. Criminals must be running for the hills as soon as they learned Mr. Justice was in town.

Next week might be very quiet for the crimebusting business.

"I found your guys, I think," the Beetle announced over his PA system.

The ghostly crusader stepped inside the flying insect. Intense interest wrapped his white face in an expression of wanting to get things done. The frogs' seal still hid them from his supernatural senses.

"Where do you think they are?" Mr. Justice's blank eyes bored into the Beetle's.

"I'll show you if you quit trying to stare holes in my skull." The Beetle rotated the Bug to go back the way he had come.

"I apologize." Mr. Justice folded his arms, floating above the floor of the robot as it cruised through the city. "I seem to have lost some of my manners."

"You seem obsessive." The Beetle brought his aircraft to a hover about where he had entered the sewer earlier. "Maybe you should take some time off, smell the flowers."

"I don't have time for that." The ghost frowned at his host.

"Workaholics burn out." The Beetle dropped through the chin door, heading to the ground. Mr. Justice followed silently. "Think about it."

Mr. Justice said nothing. He had lost the few friends he had made when he first emerged from the Atlantic Ocean to time and natural causes. Only those like the Shield and Steel Sterling understood his drawing away from people that will soon be on the other side while he marched on.

Confronting his lost love in the mind of the Commissioner's daughter had only exaggerated his depression.

He would be still battling her if the Crisis and the Mysterious Traveler had not intervened to extricate him from that reunion.

The Beetle dropped below ground, pulling out a light. He led the way to the wall Snoopy had observed allowing the young monster to pass. It stood as if it was the same as the rest of the tunnel leading to it from all sides.

"This is the place." The Beetle ran his light over the face of the stone. "I don't how he made it work."

"Let me try." Mr. Justice ran his hand over the air in front of the wall. He felt something there, some hint of magic that tried to hide itself from him as he exerted himself just a tiny bit to touch it. The revolving words lit up, turning the wall to ectoplasmic slime.

"That's pretty handy," the Beetle said, pulling his flash gun from its holster.

"Let's see what lays on the other side." Mr. Justice separated the slime with an invisible dome, stepping through quietly.

The Blue Beetle followed quickly so that he could get through before the slime became solid again.

The tunnel led away from the entrance toward a massive chamber carved out of the concrete and steel supports of the city. The Beetle could see hordes of the monsters trying to set up another of those birthing trees in the middle of it. One of them spotted Mr. Justice, and gave the alarm.

The frogs charged to the attack. The ghost could not be allowed to destroy their last hope of freeing the master.

"This room is like the wall." The Beetle pointed the flash gun and fired a flare of light that blinded everyone looking at it. "Can you change the writing?"

"Change into what?" Mr. Justice reached out, placing his seal on the exits. None of the monsters could be allowed to escape.

"Some interdimensional door back to where they came from." The Beetle used a jump kick on the closest blind monster still trying to grope for him. The frog went down.

"I don't see why not."

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