Chapter 12 – The Toyman Can
Jessica watched Annie cry and shout. She watched Peter struggle and fight in his Labcoat's firm grip. Jessica did none of these things. She kept still as a statue, for her whole world had been petrified to deadness. This was the scariest hospital she had ever been in.
Her own Labcoat, a woman with hair scraped back into a harsh bun - every hair laying flat against her scalp in a hostile submission, so befitting her own hard features - pushed Jessica in the back forcefully.
The Labcoats led the three children on through to a room as white as the rest of the hospital with beds that Jessica had only seen in surgery rooms on TV, lining the walls, surrounding them. Each child was sat down next to a bed.
Peter didn't sit still. He jumped back off the stool immediately as though he was on fire but the male Labcoat's hands were quick to restrain him. The man gave a hard swipe at Peter's head, the sheer force of it splitting Peter's lip.
Peter too began to tremble as a thin trickle of scarlet dripped to his chin, the tears welling in his eyes but refusing to spill. The Labcoats remained unfazed. They had done this countless times before.
Jessica suddenly heard a deafening buzz put to her head, making her jolt forwards. She, like Peter, was restrained back to a sitting position as her head began to acquire a strange lightness. Jessica couldn't see what they were doing to her but the same thing was happening to Annie and Peter.
Annie sat opposite her. Jessica watched in horror as a long, thick curl fell past Annie's shoulders. And then another and another.
The scissors in the Labcoat's hands were quick, sharp and brutally efficient.
Peter was first to be shaved, his head now completely bare. Jessica was next. She gulped as she raised a shaking hand to where her pigtails once were. Her hand caught air, her head covered only by prickly, black spikes where her hair should've been. Both children looked at Annie, who had placed her face in her palms, her shoulders shaking, her long princess locks reduced to uneven tufts dappled around her head.
Jessica could have cried. She could have for Annie. But she was dragged off the stool once again. Each child was thrown onto the bed and restrained, arms constricted to their sides. The back of the bed was raised until the children were all sitting upright.
Peter began to shout again. Annie had gone quiet, though the tears still flowed silently down her cheeks. Jessica watched as each Labcoat came back to stand at each of the children's beds. Jessica's Labcoat approached her from the right. Her eyes widened. The woman held up the needle, menacingly. Jessica understood – this was for her. But she didn't want the shot. She wasn't sick. She didn't want it.
Panic gripped Jessica as she struggled to get away, pulling to the side and against her bonds. No use. The woman had filled the syringe with fizzing water. It was lime-green. Jessica's nose wrinkled. She didn't like it. She didn't want it.
She edged away. She struggled. She cried out for help but her shouts fell on deaf ears.
Annie sobbed louder before the needle pierced the side of her neck. She gave a yelp as her big blue eyes widened before her poor shaven head fell back against the pillow. Peter and Jessica shouted themselves hoarse, pushing and pulling and shrieking against their own restraints.
No use. No use.
Peter was next, but he was fighting hard against it. He didn't freeze when the needle pricked his neck and he struggled even more when the liquid was pushed in. He let out a painful scream. Jessica shouted too, telling them to stop. She watched Peter's eyes well. She saw his lip, trembling, the blood still trickling from the split.
He screamed again. His head shaking. And then he stopped.
Jessica stared. The cut was gone. Peter had stopped fighting. His head fell back against the pillow. He had tired himself out. He'd understood it was hopeless.
Jessica's neck suddenly pricked. She had forgotten about her own Labcoat. She cried out. It hurt. It hurt. The needle was in. The liquid made her veins burn. She shouted. She was on fire. She tried to fight but she couldn't breathe. She gasped. She tried to shout out to the Labcoats - she couldn't breathe! The world was spinning. She felt herself weaken.
And just like that, abruptly, she felt relief, although the side of her neck was still prickling painfully. She let out a weak moan and fell back against the pillow, losing herself in dreamless sleep.
• • • • •
Sunday, 3rd April 2011
"…recently discovered information, by Vlatvarian authorities of last months attempt on Queen Perdita's life, showed that the assassin was, shockingly indeed, one of Queen Bee's Bialyan ex-generals. The accusation has caused great offense to the Bialyan government as well as Queen Bee herself, who considers the general to be a very good friend."
"Manbek Javanshiri, is the name of the highly decorated general of the Bialyan Army, who fled his Vlatavarian home after being accused. He is currently residing at the Bialyan Embassy, though angered protesters have the area surrounded day and night, making it impossible for him to escape. Queen Bee, we have been told, has asked Vlatava to reconsider imprisoning Javanshiri in his own home. So far, however, she has had no reply from either Queen Perdita or the Vlatvarian government."
"Bialyan troops have now covered the entirety of the Bialya-Vlatvarian border, an impressive area the size of the Gobi Desert, arms at the ready, for an infuriated Bialya has declared that if anything should happen to the ex-general, then it would be considered as an act of war. News reporters standing by with the rest of the world in hopes that the war threat between the Middle-Eastern nations will be removed.
In other news…"
• • • • •
Hall of Justice
Sunday, 3rd April 2011
Robin turned to look back at the Team, lowering the volume on the TV. They had been sitting here since seven that morning. Batman had instructed them to remain in the Hall, scanning for anything out of the ordinary in both Gotham and Central City while the League was away.
The Team took their job very seriously… For the first two hours, until eventually realizing that neither city required saving, the screen on the wall had been left blank.
They eventually succumbed to the boredom: Kaldur was sitting on the couch opposite while Artemis and Superboy had both retreated to rivaling sides of the room, searching through the Hall of Justice's vast collection of books. Wally was in a corner by himself, back turned away from the Team, however upon tilting his head for a better look, Robin could see that Wally was in the midst of something that looked suspiciously like 'scratching' the inside of his nose. He turned his gaze away, looking to the other side of the room where Keylee and Megan were standing motionless, deep in telepathic conversation, Keylee's eyebrows firmly knitted together in concentration. A few moments later however, they both blinked and the Martian smiled warmly.
"You've really improved, Keylee. I can hear you a lot clearer now."
"Thanks, Megs," Keylee returned the smile as she picked up a large metal globe from the table nearby. "Now it's my turn to help you."
Making sure Megan was ready, she hurled the golden sphere at the Martian. Megan disappeared momentarily, the globe whizzing straight through her on a seemingly suicidal mission to crash into the opposing wall. However, before it could make contact with the metallic barrier, it halted in mid-air. Megan reappeared, eyes glowing green and outstretched hand pointing in the direction of the floating globe. X clapped for her, impressed.
"We can count density-shifting and telekinesis as improved too." X grinned.
"Hey, Rob. Turn the volume up," Robin turned to look at Wally who was now watching the TV. He obliged as everyone's attention turned to what Wally was pointing to. The screen showed a man in a white shirt and jeans sitting at a desk, a big bright banner behind him.
"Welcome back to Hero Watch, the only show that gives you hour on the hour updates on your favorite heroes. I'm Hugh Sloughman and here's the latest."
"The top Leaguers have all been summoned to Taipei where a mass breakout of hurricanes and earthquakes has been terrorizing civilians. Specialists from around the world agree the situation to be an unnatural weather phenomenon and although we can't confirm the identity of the villain behind the plot, our viewers have been keeping in touch, a vast majority thinking it to be the Weather Wizard."
"And now onto our newest segment, Sidekick Watch with Zoe Carter."
A few fists in the room clenched upon hearing the word 'sidekick', as the camera panned to reveal a young woman with shoulder-length brown hair and bright red lips.
"Thanks, Hugh. Today, on Sidekick Watch we discuss the latest additions to the fight against crime, X and Arrowette."
The Team turned to look confusedly at Artemis, who had turned bright red with anger. She muttered something about the stupid show making up a name for her, almost snapping her bow in half when the name was repeated.
"Sources tell us Arrowette is Green Arrow's new protégée, the whereabouts of his previous one, Speedy, still unknown. However, X's place is much more ambiguous.
She has been spotted multiple times in Gotham and is responsible for preventing a few acts of street violence within the city. She was also recently filmed during one of these street fights sporting a new costume, a deep-blue, cropped hoodie, black and blue striped sports leggings and a small backpack."
Keylee nodded looking down at her new costume. The Team had insisted she get one made like them, especially seeing as Catwoman had shredded her old one. She liked it, to say the least. It stayed true to the old design, having a hood that she found crucial while being much more practical and durable. She remembered, having put on her mask and belt, the hours she spent admiring it in front of a mirror, telling Robin the only thing that was really missing was a cape with which she could confuse bad guys by whipping it in and out of their faces. He said he'd make a note of that, but the roll of his eyes gave her the impression that he might just have been humoring her.
"Whether she is officially affiliated with the League is still unknown however, all information leads us to believe so. She has been caught on camera fighting alongside big namers such as Batman, Robin, Kid Flash, Superboy, Miss Martian, Aqualad as well as Arrowette."
Artemis punched Wally in the stomach for sniggering before throwing her hands up in frustration and leaving the group for a bookshelf on the other side of the room, muttering darkly to herself as Zoe continued.
"Either way, she and Arrowette already have a small but growing fan base and a high interest rate in finding out more about these two mystery girls. And now, a word from our sponsor, Nattel Inc, who have recently enlarged their Justice League collection due to popular demand. Now the toy company will add X and Arrowette action figures as well as renewing old classics. Take a look."
The screen went black momentarily as the Team leaned in closer, the anticipation growing. A black and white image flicked on as gloomy music played to seven children sitting in a circle, looking bored. An enthusiastic voice cut the depressing tune, making the children look up in happy surprise.
"Hey, kids! Are you tired of the same old toys? Do you want something new?"
"Do we ever!" the children shouted, joyously.
"Well, follow me!"
It was as though a rainbow had thrown up on the screen. In a painful flash of color, the children were seen running around a lush, green, flowered meadow, each with a doll in their hand. The Team watched on, dumbstruck and unable to avert their eyes as the advertisement for, well, them continued.
"Make a dash with Kid Flash! Just wind up and GO!" the disembodied voice shouted triumphantly, as the first little boy wound up the doll and it zoomed around him in computer generated bliss. Keylee couldn't even read the small print at the bottom of the screen but she knew it said something like, "Please note: toy doesn't actually run". She peered over at Wally who looked mortified when the boy picked him up and made a 'thumbs up' sign to the camera, a fake smile plastered on his face.
The commercial continued, inviting the viewers to "Jump for joy with Superboy" where a little boy literally jumped with a Superboy doll in his hand. The Team saw what it would be like to "Fly again and again with Miss M" as a little girl whizzed through the painted sky by wires attached to her back, all the while clutching to a very odd looking Miss Martian with huge red lips and tiny, beady eyes. Keylee lost it when she found out you could "Get out of any blunder with the Boy Wonder".
The Robin doll was truly hilarious. It had a bright yellow cape, lime green boots but what set the whole thing off was a pair of glittering green panties, leaving the doll's legs bare. They shimmered in the artificial sunlight as the disembodied voice added that Robin came with over fifty catchphrases. The child demonstrated by pushing a button on its back. The music stopped to allow the doll to squeal out: "Holy Molehill, Batman!" Keylee turned, still spluttering, to look at Robin who, himself, had begun to mutter darkly.
"You wear and say that once when you're nine, and the world never lets you live it down."
The next was poor Artemis, whose doll not only carried the wrong name but also had a long, blonde ponytail, which looked suspiciously like unwashed horsehair. The voice called out that we could "Catch every threat with Arrowette" as the sound of Artemis's fist colliding with the wall bounced around the room. The next one was where Robin got his revenge.
The X doll didn't look too bad. They got the stripe on her leggings wrong and put a giant black X on her hood. The figure was exaggerated too, with a waist so small it could never accommodate any vital organs, while the hoodie's chest filled up just a tad too much. But what silenced Keylee and made Robin cackle was the information that X too had a catchphrase. Keylee wasn't aware she had a catchphrase.
She leaned in as the voice proclaimed with a flourish: "Fight the best with little X" as X's tiny fist moved to touch a thug doll's face. The button on her back was pressed and a shrill voice from the doll announced that "X marks the spot!" Keylee winced as the button was pushed again and again, making Robin point and laugh at her vengefully. She just sat there, completely frozen with an emotionless look covering her face. Robin stopped chortling with her lack of reaction and waved a hand in front of her face but she didn't blink, appearing to have gone into shock.
The final doll however, seemed to be the most worrying where the voice invited the children to"Take a bath with Aqualad". The rubber Aqualad was placed into a tub of water with a little boy who squeezed it, hard. The doll gave a loud squeak in protest as it suddenly blew up with water, floating up to the surface and bumping around the sides of the tub sadly. Aqualad looked terrified as he watched himself be fished out and squeezed once again, spitting out a ribbon of water.
The children now looked much happier, fake smiles pointed at the camera and waving their action figures around. The voice told them that the dolls had now been made in Taiwan and that they will visit a store near you in a week. The sheer joy that surrounded the Team upon hearing this was unanimous. Really. It was.
The commercial ended and Robin immediately lunged at the remote, switching off the television. No sooner had the appliance been silenced than did the Team jump up, outraged, their shouted complaints filling the room and making their united rage make their own emotions seem all the more justified. Megan and Artemis were talking about how they got their hair completely wrong, the dolls being the most unflattering representations of the girls they had ever seen. Robin chimed in, telling them at least theirs looked vaguely similar and didn't speak, Kid Flash agreeing that his own was worse off. Aqualad mumbled sadly about being a squeaky toy while Superboy too seemed disappointed that his own doll didn't do anything.
They all continued to fume until the screen of the Hall's tracker flashed to bright red. Robin moved to the keyboard.
"Unrest at the Gotham City Bank. Looks like a heist."
"Alright. Team, move out." Aqualad nodded, silencing the members as they all dispersed from the room. Except X. She was still sitting, her stare mirroring the blankness of the TV screen. She was still in shock. Robin stuck his head back through the door once noticing she hadn't joined them.
"X?" he asked, quietly. "You okay?"
His tone was one you would only use if you were speaking to a young child or a mentally unstable person. She just continued to stare at the TV. He sighed and gently took her wrist, getting her off the couch and slowly pulling her out of the room towards the Team.
"I've never said that in my life," she said in a monotone, unblinking.
"I know, I know," he calmed her, still using the same tone.
"But, I never –" she began again but he interjected.
"Shhhhhhh. I know, I know."
She gave a slow nod, as they joined the Team. Admittedly, they were all slightly shell-shocked from what they had just witnessed, moving towards the zeta-portal in a united daze.
• • • • •
Sunday, 3rd April 2011
Perhaps it was too much to ask to have dibs on choosing better missions. Perhaps it was silly to even consider Batman letting them tackle the Joker, Lex Luthor, Vandal Savage, Black Manta or Zoom. Perhaps… But even X had to draw the line on this mission. Upon seeing the man they were to face - short, comically plump, a face that resembled a tomato, bespectacled, not to mention pertaining to a disgusting fashion sense – X began to laugh. The sound was contagious as the whole Team began to do the same - hold for Kaldur who just smiled and Superboy who shrugged at the back of the group.
Wiping a tear from the corner of his eye, Kid Flash stopped snickering, catching his breath, and looked at the villain.
"And what are you supposed to be?"
"I am the Toyman, you insolent brats!" the man stamped his foot, outraged by their mockery.
"The Crowned Prince of Crim-"
"You took that from the Joker!" X pointed an accusing finger at him.
"Seriously, where have I seen this guy before?" Robin added, stopping the now redder Toyman from replying.
"Toyman: Active D-class villain. Hometown: Metropolis. Last caught by Superman on the 14th December 2010 at eight thirty-two pm. Recently released from Belle Reve prison for good behavior," Superboy answered, mechanically. Everyone looked back at him in surprise, never having heard him make such a detailed contribution to a discussion before.
"He does that sometimes," Miss Martian explained.
"Oh yeah!" Artemis made a noise of recognition. "You're the lame-brain who led the Justice League to the Legion of Doom's hideout."
"Must have made you really popular with your fellow members, huh D-class?" X chortled.
"Do not speak of it!" the Toyman shrieked. "And now you shall feel my wrath, you impudent pestilence!"
"Without the backtalk, D-class," X laughed again as the Toyman whipped out a remote control from his pocket and pushed a button. "What are you gonna do, cancel playti–?"
Her voice immediately dropped, as she felt the ground suddenly give a loud rumble. Each Team member looked up over the roofs of the skyscrapers ahead and many eyebrows shot up, taken aback, while their mouths snapped shut.
"You see the giant bouncy cowboy too, right?" X whispered to Robin and he nodded. The huge cowboy doll jumped on springy booted legs, hopping at the Team.
"Link established, Aqualad," Miss Martian's voice rang in their heads. Aqualad nodded.
"Acknowledged. Team, proceed to takedown the robot."
The cowboy gave an almighty bounce at the Team, wobbling furiously on his round bottom when he landed, giant arms flying and nearly hitting Kid Flash who dodged out of the way just in time. Robin attempted to stop it by frying its controls with an electric bird-a-rang, but they fell immediately to the ground upon contact, barely leaving a scratch on the cowboy's painted metal belly. Miss Martian flew up to find any weaknesses in the huge wobbling head while Artemis tried to take it down from behind, to no avail, with her sharp arrows. As with Robin's bird-a-rangs, they barely left a scratch. Next up was Superboy, who jumped up to an unbelievable height, putting as much force as he could into his fist, which came crashing down on the swaying giant's chest. It swung backwards on its round bottom forcefully, until coming back up and head-butting Miss Martian into a building, which collapsed to the ground. The mental link between everyone severed as Miss Martian landed fell, bits of the building blanketing her. Kid Flash, who was closest, proceeded to speedily dig through the pile of debris. Meanwhile, the Toyman cackled.
"Who's D-class now, children? Now, if you'll excuse me, my ride awaits."
Sure enough, a push of a button later, the Toyman sat atop a crimson-colored mechanical bull. He seemed slightly disappointed in his own deranged way that no one had stopped to appreciate the Western theme of his creations
"Robin, X, Artemis, get the Toyman," Aqualad shouted, dodging another swipe from the cowboy.
The three nodded, running at the red bull. What came next was a big shock. With another push of the remote control, the bull sprouted wing-shaped rocket boosters from its armored back, flying up into the sky. X suddenly chuckled.
"What?" Artemis asked.
"'Red Bull Gives You Wings'" she quoted, still smirking. "Geddit? 'Cause it's also an energy drink."
"Time and place, X" Robin told her firmly, as Artemis rolled her eyes.
"Well, excuse me for appreciating quality comedy!"
"We need that remote control if we want to stop Woody over there," Robin said, ignoring her and gesturing towards the cowboy.
"I'm on it," Artemis replied, shooting an arrow up at the bull. It exploded, letting out white sticky foam and knocking the Toyman off the bull's back. He shrieked as he fell, dropping the remote.
"No!" The three heroes shouted in unison, running in different directions to catch it.
"I got it!" They yelled together again, coming up to the same point, arms stretched out and standing in a small circle.
The remote came crashing to the ground… Three feet away from them… Crumbling to pieces upon contact. The teens looked at the remains of the controller then at each other, sheepishly, as the glued Toyman screamed, having landed on the ground in a cloud of foam, unharmed.
"Fools! There is no controlling them now!"
"Is it that bad?" X asked him.
"Worse," Robin answered, pointing up at the bull. The artificial life, spinning in mid-air and flying through an entire level of a glass building, demolishing it.
"Any ideas?" Artemis muttered.
"Yes!" X snapped her fingers with a flourish. "Leave the bull to me. You guys go help Aqualad and Superboy with the cowboy."
"Why? What are you gonna do?" Robin asked.
"Get some wings," she replied, leaving him and Artemis looking puzzled before deciding to oblige.
X charged up to Superboy who looked angrier than usual, fists clenched and about to fight the robot again.
"How's your aim?" she prompted, making him look at her, surprised.
"Okay, I guess, but Arte-"
"Follow up question. How's your throwing someone about my size at a giant flying bull?"
"Got it."Superboy picked X off the ground just as Aqualad was knocked into a building behind him.
"Robin! Artemis! Get Down!"
Without further warning, Superboy suddenly gave X a mighty fling at the mechanical bull. X flew at the machine and, behind her, Superboy was next to be knocked aside by the enormous cowboy.
The sticky foam-covered Toyman watched on in horror as he heard X's powerful battle cry accompanied by an "I can fly!" before his creation suddenly disappeared from the air in a cloud of smoke. X had landed on its back and appeared to have dismantled the rocket boosters.
The bull began its quick descent to the ground, X still on its back and plummeting down with it. She shut her eyes, realizing she had not thought her 'ingenious' plan completely through and now, cursing herself, readied for her supposedly imminent death.
It never came. X reopened her eyes and peeped down, only to see the bull's hooves levitating a few inches off the ground. She looked back up and sure enough saw Miss Martian, eyes glowing green and hand outstretched, holding up the robot. She was putting her improved skills to use as well as restoring the telepathic link.
"I love you, Megan!" X grinned and M'gann smiled back, setting the bull lightly down onto the ground just as the bottom of the tilting cowboy exploded.
The bits of metal flew; Artemis standing with a taut bow, smug that her idea of exploding arrows had worked. The Cowboy fell backwards with a crash, smashing his head and thus stopped retaliating completely.
X was about to hop off when the bull gave a sudden jolt. Slightly taken aback, she peered over at its face. The nostrils suddenly flared and steam came out, spraying her face. And with that, the bull began to kick and jump around in manic spasms, with a self-declared mission to throw X off, the girl left clinging onto the neck, shrieking.
"Get me off of this thing!" she shouted as the bull zoomed past Kid Flash and Robin.
The two boys looked at each other, unsure of what to do. KF ran up next to it but received a hoof to the stomach for his trouble. What eventually stopped the bull was an explosive bird-a-rang to the front. The robotic creation stumbled forward slightly, looking at Robin with an even fierier rage. It got back on its hooves quickly, not giving X enough time to get off. Still clinging to its neck, she knew what was coming.
"Oh. Crap." With a mighty jolt, she was thrown backwards off the bull, straight through the wall of a nearby building.
"X!" M'gann shouted. "X!"
The Team peered anxiously through the gaping hole in the wall, a couple of bricks still falling off the edges. Superboy could take it. He was indestructible. Likewise could not be said for X. However, a dazed "I'm okay" was heard in each of their heads as they gave relieved nods and continued to fight.
X slowly sat up from the rubble, coughing and rubbing the back of her head, amazed that she was only slightly scratched. As the dust cleared, she looked at her surroundings, pausing at the person who still remained seated on their wooden bench, which hung from the wall, totally unfazed by the sudden intrusion of a young masked girl through their wall. X raised an eyebrow, now realizing she had landed in a cell of the Gotham City Police Department.
"I can't believe you're still here," she told the muscular woman. The woman, in response, broke another piece of wood off the bench and splintered it in her fist as she had done once before.
X ignored her, getting back up onto her feet, wobbling slightly. She stumbled over to the wall from which she entered the cell and peered out. The bull had been wrestled down to the ground by Aqualad and smashed to pieces – the work of Superboy, no doubt. But the fight was still not over. The Toyman had somehow managed to escape his sticky prison and was now emerging from the dust inside a 40-foot tin soldier. He had one last trick up his sleeve. X groaned, exasperated.
"Honestly, some people just don't know when to give up!" she told the woman but the same growl was her only response.
The Toyman was now cackling inside his creations hat, causing a giant mechanical fist to come crashing down onto the sidewalk in an attempt to crush Robin, who dodged out of the way. His voice rang in X's head.
"A little help would be nice," he grunted.
"On my way."
She got onto the edge of the hole, before turning back to her former cellmate, having remembered something.
"Listen, you don't mind sitting here and not escaping, do you?" she asked sweetly
"Yeah, yeah. Grr. I know." X rolled her eyes, hopping out of the gaping hole in the wall with a small wave and joining her team into battle with the giant tin soldier.
• • • • •
Hero Watch Newsroom
Sunday, 3rd April 2011
"I am happy to announce the Justice League have successfully completed their mission of saving Taipei. Whoever predicted it was the Weather Wizard, you can give yourself a pat on the back. The criminal has now been stripped of all weaponry that enabled him his weather manipulation and is currently on his way to Belle Reve."
"In other news, the Toyman's own storm on the Gotham City Bank was stopped this afternoon by the League's young protégées. We go to the footage caught at the scene by our own Zoe Carter."
The image flicked to one of X immediately jumping out of the Gotham City PD building and running at the tin soldier's foot. Kid Flash ran around it while Superboy, Aqualad and Miss Martian hurled debris at it. These attacks were followed by Artemis, shooting exploding arrows up to the robot's face and blinding the controller with the light from the blasts. The offense worked perfectly, distracting the Toyman enough that he didn't notice X hop on to the Soldier and begin to shimmy up the leg, closely followed by Robin.
The camera zoomed, watching the two heroes approach the head. Before the Toyman noticed, Robin smashed the window and X threw in a smoke pellet. The bespectacled man began to cough, face turning red as suddenly the controls gave out a loud bang, the buttons fizzling out and bursts of electricity flooding the tin man's head. Robin grabbed the now unconscious Toyman and grappled them to a nearby building, out of the shot. X jumped off just as the head exploded. The tin soldier's body spun as with a final powerful punch to the chest from Superboy, it fell to the ground with a thundering crash.
The camera wobbled and shook as did Zoe Carter, clutching her microphone. As the cloud of dust cleared, Zoe immediately seized the chance to run up to the closest sidekick she could find.
"Arrowette! Arrowette! We're Sidekick Watch. How do you feel knowing you're Speedy's replacement?"
Artemis glared at her then at the camera, raising a hand aggressively to cover the lens.
"No comment," she replied icily, as she flipped the camera over, making it drop to the ground. The image went static. The shot then flicked back, the camera wobbling.
"You okay?" Zoe asked and the camera moved up and down, imitating a nod. She smiled and turned around.
"Ooh, look! There's the Boy Wonder," she said as they approached Robin with Aqualad and Superboy on the ground, and handcuffing the Toyman.
"Hey guys, can we have a statemen-"
"No comment," all three replied in unison, not even looking to the camera. The lens turned to Kid Flash in the distance, picking up the bull's head and mouthing something about a souvenir. The camera was again pushed over by a green-gloved hand – Artemis.
The image after was one of X who had leaned in close to the camera lens.
"X? Would you like to give a statement?"
Without saying a word, X snatched the microphone out of Zoe's hand, looking directly at the viewer. She cleared her throat after a long pause.
"I have never- I repeat- never uttered that idiotic phrase: "X marks the spot"," she said firmly, handing back microphone to a now silent Zoe Carter. An awkward silence followed before the cameraman's voice came from the back of the lens.
"Uhm… You just did."
X's masked eye gave a twitch, her eyes widening as she realized he was right.
"Dammit!" she exclaimed, making both civilians jump.
"No comment!" Miss Martian told the reporter, floating in from the side and pushing the fuming X out of the shot sheepishly. Artemis had turned up again, arms folded.
"This interview is over," she said with a tone of finality as the image went static again. The audience was back to looking at the grinning Hugh Sloughman, who was now straightening and stacking the papers on his desk.
"And there you go. The Toyman was apprehended and is now on his way back to Belle Reve. Playtime is officially cancelled, for him at least."
• • • • •
Hall of Justice
Sunday, 3rd April 2011
The young heroes trudged back to the waiting room, muscles aching and heads pounding. None were in the mood for a lecture from Batman but all were sure it was inevitable.
Artemis, Superboy and Aqualad leaned heavily against the doorway as Miss Martian unwillingly dragged herself away from it to speak with her uncle. X and Robin immediately toppled onto the couch while Wally didn't even make it that far. He dropped himself onto the floor, releasing a series of whines, groans and other noises of complaint.
"I never want to see another toy again!" he announced, and immediately being answered by a chorus of groans in agreement.
"Seriously if I see another doll, I'll scream," Artemis affirmed his statement.
"I wouldn't go that far, Artemis." Megan reentered the living room, wearing a grave expression as she carried in a large cardboard box. "Look at what my Uncle J'onn just brought back from Taipei."
Everyone fell silent, looking at it curiously. Upon examining it closer though, their eyes dropped to the floor.
"They gave it to the League as a gift for saving the city," the Martian explained, almost guiltily.
"What is it?" X piped up until she caught sight of the sticker on the box side. 'Nattel Inc.' You could almost hear the sound of seven teen hearts drop apprehensively.
"Neptune give us strength," Kaldur breathed, greatening the sense of unease.
"We'll take each other's. It's fine. We'll never have to speak of this," Wally said in a failing attempt to reassure his friends though they all new the words were empty. Instead, Robin's words rang in each of their heads. The whole world would be in on this. They would never hear the end of it.
"Who's going first?" Artemis broke the silence as the box lay in the center of the coffee table, covered by everyone's wary gazes as though it carried The Bubonic Plague within its cardboard walls. All eyes turned to X who raised her hands up, defensively.
"Hey! Why me?!"
"You're the Girl Without Fear, aren't you?" Robin was quick to retort.
"Just because I'm not scared of it, doesn't mean I want to do it! You open it, Wonder Boy!"
"Too late. All in favor of X opening the box?" To answer Robin, five hands shot up into the air. Robin looked around, smug, before turning back to X and lifting his own hand. She glared at him, muttering something about hating the world and how she was the victim in everything. She leaned in and opened the box. An air of tension hung over them as she took out seven wrapped prims from the box and then placed them onto the coffee table.
She stepped back, again muttering about keeping the bubble wrap the box contained.
"Okay. Everyone ready? On three, grab one." Robin said and everyone nodded, X popping a plastic bubble in agreement. "One. Two. Three!"
A struggle of hands, a couple of grunts and one ruined box later, everyone now held an action figure with a slightly less hysterical look, all relieved that they hadn't gotten themselves.
"I've got Miss M," KF called out first, winking at the M'gann. "She doesn't look that bad, babe."
"Kid Pervert, over here," Artemis announced, disgustedly. She twisted the handle on the doll's back, making his legs move up and down and making it seem almost as if he was trying to escape Artemis's clenched fist.
"Aqualad," X chuckled, squeezing the miniature Kaldur and making him squeak in protest.
"Artemis," Miss Martian twirled 'Arrowette's blonde horsehair ponytail not sure whether to say something or to just leave it.
"I got X," Robin laughed at the real one, pushing the all-dreaded button on the plastic girl's back and cackling all the more when the shrill voice emanated from the doll. "X marks the spot" "X marks the spot" "X marks the spot" "X marks the spot"…
The button was left to rest when X pounced on Robin with an angered yell and began to wrestle him for the doll.
"I have Superboy" Kaldur interjected in an attempt to distract both heroes from injuring one another further.
"And I got Robin," Superboy finished. X immediately halted, fist which had been made to connect with Robin's nose, left frozen in mid-air. Robin's own eyes widened but before he could take action, X had already leapt at Superboy with a cry of "Let's swap!"
She thrust the Aqualad doll in Superboy's hand, snatching the tiny Robin and waving him in the full-sized one's face, gaudy green panties shimmering in the light. Robin cringed, making X feel all the better about taking her revenge.
"And now the piece de resistance" she smiled evilly and pushed the button on his back.
"Holy Molehill, Batman!"
The high-pitched tinkle of the doll's voice had X gasping for air from such great bouts of hysterical laughter. Robin narrowed his eyes at her, slowly raising Mini X up. He lifted a finger, purposefully and gave the doll a slow but sure jab in the back.
"X marks the spot!"
"Bah!" X groaned and then with an air of frustrated rage, she jabbed the tiny Robin.
"Holy Chutzpah, Batman!"
Robin stabbed at the doll's back.
"X marks the spot!"
"Holy Impregnability, Batman!"
"X marks the spot!"
This went on and on and after realizing that there was a chance this ordeal would never end the rest of the Team, slowly and silently, filed out of the room, leaving the two youngest members poking furiously at each other's dolls and growing all the more angry with every push.
"How long do you think this'll last?" Wally whispered to Kaldur as they walked down the hallway. They could still hear the shrill echo of "X marks the spot!"
"Soon, I think. After all, Kid, Nattel's batteries only last so long."
Kid Flash nodded as the final "Holy Tintinnabulation, Batman!" sounded faintly from the wall.
"Well, that. And Robin and X's tempers," Kaldur corrected himself after Mini Robin's voice was followed by two very loud thuds against the wall. A long, low croak of "X… Marks… The… Spot…" indicated the end of the short-lived existences of both the gaudy Robin and the annoying X dolls.
AN/ Surprisingly, the summer is even busier than the school year! I'm exhausted. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the chapter – I figure, if it's almost twice the normal length, you won't hate me as much and maybe it will justify the lateness? Maybe?
Anyway, side-note: Artemis' identity should be more concealed in my story so after a little bit of digging, I found she was originally to be called Arrowette – it made me laugh so I decided to use it. Thanks for the reviews, favorites, alerts and lovely messages! Please, don't hesitate to continue with that ;) See you soon!