Black Canary kept her eyes open and waited. Waited for the "weak one" to stray away from the herd. When that moment occured, she would pounce.
But, she needed to determine which was the "weak one". Fire? No. Too willful and tempermental. Ice? No. Despite her apparent sweetness, she'd fiercely protect one of her own. Same went for Mary Marvel. Guy? Apparently out cold. Max? Nope. Unless there were something in it for himself. Booster?...
Dinah smiled. DING-DING-DING! "We have a winner!" she thought.
Canary watched Blue Beetle's "encounter" with Fire, Ice, and Booster Gold from accross the room. She couldn't tell what the discussion was about, but, she could tell it was heated (especially from Beetle's point) toward the end. She watched as Beetle, visibly angry, stalked off into the hall. The remaining trio looked shaken by Beetle's reaction. Soon, Fire and Ice went off to different parts of the reception. Leaving Booster alone.
Canary swooped in.
"Hi, Booster." she said brightly. "How have you been?"
Meanwhile, in the hall, Blue Beetle was leaning against the wall. His eyes closed and his mouth set in scowl. Lost in his own thoughts.
"I knew that would happen!" he thought. "I KNEW IT!"
It was actually worse than Beetle expected. He expected the awkward questions. As much a pain as that was, he could deal with it. He hadn't expected the voicing of his own insecurities. That Power Girl was "out of his league". He had flashbacks to looking at attractive women and always telling himself, "Forget it, Ted! She's outta your league!". Beetle was mad at his friends for bring those feelings back in him. But, he was more mad at himself for still feeling that way!
Beetle was so lost in his own thoughts he didn't heard Ice enter the hallway until she said, "Ted?"
Beetle opened his eyes. He didn't say anything. He was still hurting. He was waiting for Ice to make the next move.
"I'm sorry, Ted." Ice said quietly. "I really didn't mean to upset you. It's just so shocking..."
"That Power Girl would hang out with someone she so clearly outclasses?" Beetle asked, still stinging from the earlier conversation.
"No!" said Ice quickly. She had a hard time saying what came next. "It's just that...so many things have changed since I was...away. It was a shock to me because it only seemed like yesterday that we were all in the Embassy. And Power Girl was in Paris. And..." Ice trailed off, shaking her head.
Beetle's stance softened. Ice had been such a trooper since they'd brought her back from Hell that no one thought about how hard it must be for her to adjust to having all that time taken away from her.
Beetle gave Ice a small smile. It was hard to stay mad at her for very long. She was so sweet, sincere, and earnest!
"I know you didn't mean to upset me." said Beetle quietly. "Your reaction just caught me off-guard! I expected it from Booster and Fire, but, not from you. The term "out of your league" is just a push-button to me."
Ice put her hand on Beetle's shoulder. "I'm really am sorry about that." she said. Then she smiled softly. "I think you're a really nice guy, Ted. And any woman would be lucky to have you!"
Beetle shook his head. "I should hire you for my P.R." said Beetle with a smile.
Ice smiled back. "I'll put it in writing if you want!"
Back at the party, Black Canary convinced Booster to join her out in the opposite hallway. She was determined that she was going to get the answer to her question at any cost!
"Booster," Canary started sweetly. "I need your honest answer to a question."
"Okay." said Booster cautiously.
Canary stepped a leg forward and started running her hand up it. "You don't think these fishnet stockings make me look too dated, do you?"
Booster's eyes followed Canary's hands up her extremely shapely and lovely legs. "N...no!" replied Booster, sweat forming on his upper lip. "I always loved the fishnets! One of my biggest regrets in life is that you didn't wear them in our time in the League together!"
Canary smiled sweetly at Booster. "Really?" she asked. "You are just so sweet!"
Booster was feeling giddy. He always thought Canary disliked him. Or, at the very least, disapproved of him. PLUS, he heard she and Green Arrow were on the outs!
Canary walked up to Booster. She got in very close to Booster."Can I ask you another question?" she asked breathlessly.
"Sure!" said Booster quickly, just keeping his voice from cracking.
Canary stood on her tiptoes and whispered in Booster's ear, "Why'd Ralph punch Ted?"
Booster pulled back suddenly. "Is this what all the flirting has been about?" asked Booster shrewdly. "Just so that you can find out why Ralph punched Beetle?"
Canary started to smooth things over in the hopes of keeping this going, but, Booster interrupted her.
"I just want you to know that I have absolutely NO PROBLEM with that!"
"Well?" asked Canary breathlessly.
"Well." said Booster. "Your gonna have to give me a little more than that for the answer! Maybe a little cleavage? A butt shake?"
Canary thought about it. And then was thoroughly disgusted with herself. Was finding out why Ralph punched Beetle really important enough to debase herself in front of a leering Booster Gold!
Canary looked up at Booster. "Forget about it!" she said.
"Oh, no!" said Booster. "I don't think I COULD forget about it!"
Elsewhere, at the party. Sue had gotten tired of Ralph and Hawkman's "old war stories". Afterall, how many times could a person listen to the "Set" story and not get bored?Sue found Fire off near the window Black Canary had shattered making her "entrance". They started comparing notes on what had happened at the party so far.
"Wildcat?" asked Sue.
"A seven. He's got machismo!" responded Fire. "...So, you knew about Beetle and Power Girl?"
"Uh-huh. Wasn't that hard to figure out. Captain Marvel?"
"A six. He's okay, but, too goody-goody. ...You're saying you figured it out?"
"LOVE hairy chests. An eight! ...How? How'd you figure it out?"
"Simply put all the clues together! Spend enough time with Ralph..."
"A four." said Fire teasingly, as she smiled and looked away.
Sue shot her a dirty look and completed her sentence. "...And you learn some detective work."
At a different part of the reception, Hourman decided that now would be a good time to see what these "Super-Buddies" were made of!
JSA Brownstone, New York, NY. 12:44 PM.
Black Canary couldn't stand it anymore! She had to know why Ralph Dibny punched Blue Beetle. Canary was a mental wreck. All the stonewalling by everyone was driving Dinah nuts! She found Sue Dibny talking with Fire. Canary quickly walked up to Sue.
"Sue!" Canary started as she grabbed Sue by the shoulders. "Please! If you have any regard for my sanity, please- PLEASE!- tell me why Ralph punched Ted!"
Fire watched this proceed and simply "tsk"ed her disapproval as she shook her head.
Sue was appalled by the state Canary was in. The "boys", knowing that Canary hated not being in the loop, were probably keeping the information from her just to wind her up.
"Dinah, calm down! I'll tell you!" said Sue calmly.
A relieved smile spread accross Canary's face.
"Ralph punched Beetle," started Sue slowly. "Because, -somehow - somewhere- Ralph got it into his mind that Ted and myself were having an affair!"
The smile froze on Dinah's face and she blinked a couple of times. "WHAT?" she asked incredulously.
"Yep!" said Sue smirking. "Old Mr. "I-Don't-Get-Jealous" got some bad info and flew right off the handle! He punched Beetle from accross the room."
"Like in 'The Incredibles'?" asked a stunnedCanary.
"Yeah." said Fire. "I didn't think Ralph had it in him!"
Canary shook her head. "Where would Ralph get the idea that you and Ted...? I mean, that's pretty far-fetched!"
"Especially since Ted's been so busy with Power Girl!" said Fire smiling wickedly.
Canary's jaw went slack. "WHAT!" Canary went from "out-of-the-loop" to "information overload"!
Elsewhere at the party, Hourman had picked his first victim. He'd been eavesdropping in on Hawkman and Elongated Man's conversation. He decided that Elongated Man was the perfect choice to be the first victim of the afternoon. But, in Hourman's mind, he knew that there would be more. Rex Tyler, Hourman, smiled at that thought!
At another spot at the party, Blue Beetle decided it was time to rejoin the group. He had let all the anger go. It wasn't like Beetle DIDN'T see it coming. Some might say that was pessimistic view. "But, those people don't know my friends!" thought was in a state of semi-peace with himself.
"There you are!" said Power Girl, looking slightly relieved. "I got back from my little 'talk' with Hawkgirl, and you were gone! What happened?"
"My worst fears were realized." said Beetle calmly.
Power Girl winced. "Booster found out?"
"Oh, yeah. And Fire. And Ice." said Beetle.
"You seem to be taking this awfully calmly." opinioned Power Girl.
Beetle shrugged. "I already had the blow-up. The worst is over."
"As bad as you thought it would be?" asked Power Girl.
Beetle nodded. "Oh, yeah! Aside from voicing my worst insecurities, the general concensus was the question of how you could keep from hurting me in the course of our...'activities'!" Beetle gave Power Girl a sly gaze.
Power Girl smiled. "Oh, it's a difficult task!"
"I hope I'm worth it." Beetle stated with mock-indignation.
"If you weren't, I'd have 'hurt' you a long time ago!" said Power Girl slyly. "What are these 'worst insecurities' of yours that were voiced?"
Beetle remained silent for a second. Finally, he said. "That you're 'outta my league'."
"That's silly!" Power Girl said, waving the very idea off. "Of course, I'm out of your league! I just like slumming it!" She broke into a big smile.
Beetle gave her a sardonic smile. "I guess I'm lucky you have such low standards!"
In a secluded room in the JSA Brownstone, Elongated Man was taking a giant-sized ass-whooping. Hourman was relentless! He kept hitting Elongated Man with punch after punch! At first, Elongated Man tried avoiding the punches, but, as they kept connecting, he became more and more desperate. He tried his best to defend himself from Hourman, but, it was too little too late. It was all over for Elongated Man. Shattered and humiliated at the hands of Hourman!
Back at the party, Canary was in a state of shock! She DID NOT see that one coming! "Beetle and... POWER GIRL!"
"Yeah." said Fire. "You coulda knocked me over with a feather when I heard it, too!"
"BUT- HOW?" asked Canary. "Wouldn't she...?" Canary let the question hang.
"That's what I thought, too!" said Fire.
"Maybe it was a one-time thing?" offered Canary.
"No." said Sue. "I'm pretty sure we're talking about more than one time."
Both Canary and Fire were stunned into silence.
"Besides," said Sue, looking past them. "I think you're both missing a very important point. You guys are so concerned about the 'how?', when you should be asking 'how good?'. Afterall, they seem to be fairly happy with each other!"
Fire and Canary, both considering what Sue had just said, followed Sue's stare and saw Beetle and Power Girl laughing over some private joke they had just shared.
"WOW!" said Canary after a second. "Beetle just went up several notches on my 'respect-o-meter'!"
"Amen, sister!" said Fire. "Amen!"
On the other side of the room, Mr. Terrific had finally found Blue Beetle. "You're a hard man to find!" said Mr. Terrific. He introduced himself. "I hear you're quite the inventor!"
"I dabble." said Beetle as Power Girl rolled her eyes.
"I'll let you two discuss 'shop' for awhile." said Power Girl to Beetle. "There's something I have to do anyway!"
Power Girl walked over to where Hawkgirl and Booster were talking. Power Girl spun Hawkgirl around. Hawkgirl was about to protest, but, Power Girl cut her off by planting a long, deep kiss on her! At first, Hawkgirl resisted, but, eventually gave into the passion they shared and returned Power Girl's kiss.
Booster was shocked!-BUT, enjoying himself!
As Power Girl started kissing the side of Hawkgirl's neck, Hawkgirl breathlessly started calling out Booster's name. "Booster... Booster..."
Booster finally snapped out of his fantasy as Hawkgirl snapped her fingers in front of his face. "Man, you were out of it for a few seconds! What were you thinking about?" asked Hawkgirl.
"Oh. Nothing." said Booster, slightly embarassed.
"Well," said Hawkgirl. "Before you 'zoned-out', I was telling you that Hourman wanted to talk to you."
Booster was a little leery. Afterall, Hawkgirl was one thing, but, Hourman was one of those "fossils" that Booster had no desire in meeting. But, he had to put up a good showing for Hawkgirl.
"Okay." he said. "What's the worst that could happen?"
JSA Brownstone, New York, NY. 1:23 PM
Booster Gold put up a valiant effort. He was a far more worthy opponent than Elongated Man, at least in Hourman's opinion. Booster lasted longer than Hourman thought he would. Booster had good reflexes and, surprisingly, stayed calm under adversity.
But, Hourman's experience proved Booster's undoing. A left-right combination ended the epic struggle decisively. Booster never saw it coming!
Back at the party, Blue Beetle and Mr. Terrific were deep in technological discussion. They'd been comparing notes, discussing the latest issue of "Popular Science", and generally shooting the breeze in "geek-speak".
"So," said Mr. Terrific. "Of course you shield your systems?"
"That goes without saying!" said Beetle. "I don't want a stray EM pulse knocking out the Bug's systems."
"Not to mention your own propulsion systems." added Terrific.
Beetle was confused. "What about them?" he asked.
"C'mon!" said Terrific. "Your ship isn't exactly an aerodynamic wonder! Simple jet propulsion alone isn't going to keep her aloft. You have to use magnetic repulsors!"
"Do I?" asked Beetle innocently.
"Yes!" said Terrific emphatically. He added light-heartedly, "Unless you're packing an anti-grav drive in the Bug."
Beetle just smiled knowingly.
Mr. Terrific was beyond impressed, but, tried not to show it. "You're packing an anti-grav drive in the Bug!" he asked.
"Uh-huh!" said Beetle nodding, obviously pleased with himself.
"Nth metal?" asked Terrific.
"Nuh-uh!" said Beetle shaking his head.
"Pfft! As if I'd ever use magic! I hate magic!"
"Okay," said Terrific. "I give up! Where'd you get anti-gravity technology?"
"Where do you think?" said Beetle. "I created it myself!"
"Let me get this straight!" said Terrific, trying to wrap his mind around the mind-boggling concept of an Earth-invented anti-grav generator. "You created an anti-grav generator for your ship!"
"No." said Beetle. And added quickly. "I created FOUR anti-grav generators for the Bug!"
"FOUR!" Asked Terrific in shock. "Why four?"
Beetle explained. "The Bug Mark I had one big anti-grav generator, but, the generator has to spin in order to work!" Beetle held his hand out palm down and began rolling it at the wrist while bringing his fingers up and down. "Stability while hovering wasn't the greatest! About the same as a helicopter."
"The Bug Mark II had two smaller anti-grav generators: one rotating clockwise, the other counter-clockwise. Better stability, although pitch was still a minor problem, and the Bug, in emergency situation, could still fly under one generator." Beetle continued.
"Now, the latest version of the Bug," said Beetle, as he delighted in discussing the virtues of his Bug. "The latest version of the Bug has four anti-grav generators: Two clockwise, two counter-clockwise. Thanks to the wonders of miniturization, each generator is about the size of a car tire and can kick out a pulse GREATER than the huge original! ROCK SOLID in hover mode!"
"Damned!" said a clearly impressed Mr. Terrific. "Any chance of you sharing THAT recipe?"
Accross the room, Hawkgirl and Power Girl were watching Beetle and Terrific's technological summit.
"Twenty minutes on doo-dads and whiz-bangers! How could you possibly want to miss that?" asked Hawkgirl, with a smile.
"Oh, yeah! Techno-babble is my first language!" said Power Girl sardonically.
"No. No." corrected Hawkgirl. "Computerese is your first language. It just sounds like techno-babble!"
Power Girl raised an eyebrow. "Are you calling me a geek?" asked Power Girl.
Hawkgirl shrugged. "If the taped-up horned-rimmed glasses fit..."
"I don't wear glasses." said Power Girl with a half smile.
"Ever consider them as part of your of your secret identity?" asked Hawkgirl sweetly. "I think you'd look HOT!"
In another part of the party, Hourman was talking with Sand, when Fire quickly walked over to them. She got right in Hourman's face (Which was fine with Hourman because he had to look down at Fire and got a nice peek at her bountious cleavage!).
"I found out what you did to Ralph and Booster!" said Fire aggressively. "How about taking me on!"
Hourman blew off the suggestion. "You're a GIRL! Girls don't..."
Fire cut him off. "THIS girl does! And I'll kick your ass!"
Hourman laughed that off. "A lot of people have tried, and when all was said and done, they ALL cried!"
"Aw, Rex!" said Sand. "It's bad enough when you do this to us! Do you have to do it to our guests?"
Before Hourman could reply, Fire said, "He's giving you a way out, MINUTEman! Better take it!"
"OH-ho-ho!" said Hourman. He had to respect that kind of audacity! "You are on, lovely lady! Let's get ready to rumble!"
At a different part of the party, Black Canary was just staring at Blue Beetle. She was unable to get the mental picture Sue Dibny had painted out of her mind! It was...FREAKY! Never would Canary have thought about Beetle THAT way! Now, she couldn't shake the thought. It was like having a song stuck in your head.
Canary became aware of another person standing next to her. She looked over and saw Star-Spangled Kid. She was doing the same thing Canary had been doing. Finally, she became aware that Canary was looking at her.
"Who'da thunk it? Huh?" the Kid said with a smile.
JSA Brownstone, New York, NY. 2:11 PM.
Hourman almost made the mistake of taking Fire too lightly. She was really good! Fire took the fight to Hourman early, and she was relentless in her attack. She had Hourman on the ropes, but, he had quickly found a pattern to Fire's offense and started a counter-attack.
Hourman put his qualms aside and battered Fire. Punch after punch. Fire let her fury control her and forgot her defense. Hourman had Fire's pattern down, and Fire did nothing to change it. An uppercut sealed Hourman's victory!
At another part of the party, Blue Beetle was letting out a sigh. This had turned out to be a very long, very strange day. Beetle had nearly choked, been punched in the mouth (he rubbed his lip at that thought), kicked in the butt, been embarassed, and insulted. AND all by his FRIENDS! He counted himself lucky none of his enemies had shown up.
"Tough day, son?" asked the Flash as he walked up to Beetle.
"I've had worse." answered Beetle. "But, they usually involve a super-villian trying to kill me!"
Flash smiled at the joke. "No one knows how to get on your nerves more than the people you care about."
Beetle had to smile at that. He'd lay his life on the line for any one of his friends, but, the thought of spending an afternoon with them filled him with dread!
"You've got a good bunch, though!" said Flash. "They're a little rough around the edges. But then, what team isn't?"
"Somedays," said Beetle with a smile. "I think they're intentionally trying to drive me nuts!"
Flash started laughing. "Every team leader thinks that way!"
Beetle froze. His mind started racing. He went through every member of the "Super-Buddies" and mentally checked them off a list. AND Max had been giving him more and more to do. Beetle blinked with realization.
"Ohmygod!" Beetle said, sounding less than thrilled, as he began massaging his temples. "I am the team leader! How the Hell did that happen?"
"Same way it happens to all of us." said Flash empathetically. "Someone suckers you into it!"
As Beetle was coming to grips with this realization, Booster, Ralph, and Fire walked up to him.
"We need your help." said Fire, looking somewhat...downtrodden.
Beetle sighed. "What happened?" Even as Beetle asked the question, he started cringing.
"Hourman's been kicking our collective booty for the past hour!" said Ralph.
Beetle looked at all of them. They seemed fine. No signs of injury or other affects of a "booty-kicking".
"Am I gonna get an explaination or do I have to guess?" asked Beetle.
Before anyone could answer, Flash asked, "'Main Event Boxing III', right?"
The trio nodded.
Beetle was dumbfounded. "A video game? You're coming to me because someone beat you guys at a VIDEO GAME!"
The Flash came to the defense of Beetle's friends. "Hourman's become somewhat...addicted to them. His son introduced them to him. And he took to them like a fish to water. He sometimes takes his boxing games a little too seriously though! He can become a bit... obnoxious when he plays!"
Beetle blinked. "We're talking about a video game here!"
Booster looked down in shame. "He called us 'a bunch of fumble-thumbed whipper-snappers'!"
Ralph added, "He said 'Your generation is a bunch of losers!'"
Beetle looked at Flash. Flash just shrugged his shoulders. "I can't tell you he didn't say that. Like I said, he can become obnoxious when he's playing that video game."
"Do you know how EMBARASSING it is to get schooled in a video game by someone old enough to be your grandfather!" asked Booster. "No offense!" he added to the Flash.
"Now, why would I find that offensive?" asked a clearly offended Flash.
"So, what do you want me to do about it?" asked Beetle.
"You've got to defend our honor!" said Fire, surprised that Beetle wasn't thinking of that.
"WHAT?" asked Beetle, clearly not following their line of reasoning.
"C'mon, Beetle!" said Ralph. "You know you're our best gamer! You've CREATED new video games!"
"No." Beetle corrected him. "I've created video game PLATFORMS. Hardware to play the games on. Not the games themselves."
Fire waved off his argument. "That doesn't matter! You're still our best video game player. Booster's good, but, you wax his ass ALL THE TIME!"
"HEY!" said Booster.
"Give it up, Booster!" said Ralph. "You know it's true!"
Beetle held up his hands for them to keep quiet. "It doesn't matter who the better gamer is! So Hourman beat you guys? So what? It's only a VIDEO GAME!"
Hawkgirl walked over to the group. "Hourman's looking for you." she said to Beetle. Hawkgirl sounded as though she was less than happy to be delivering that message.
"Thanks for the advanced warning!" Booster said sarcasticly to Hawkgirl.
Hawkgirl shrugged. "Better you than me! I'm tired of losing to him all the time!"
"Tell him 'thanks, but, no thanks'!" said Beetle to Hawkgirl. "I've had a really long day and playing a video game doesn't rank up high on my 'to-do list'."
Hawkgirl looked down, almost embarassed by what she had to say next. "Hourman thought you might say something like that. And he had a message for you."
"Really?" asked Beetle. "And the message is...?"
Hawkgirl looked up and pursed her lips. Finally, almost wincing, she delivered the message verbatim: "'If that bright blue clown is too chicken to take his ass-whipping like a man, maybe he should start wearing one of Kara's dresses! Everyone knows she wear the pants in that relationship anyway!'"
Flash cringed as Hawkgirl delivered the message.
Booster, Fire, and Ralph all looked down, not wanting to see Beetle's reaction to that message.
Blue Beetle raised his eyebrows.
It was very quiet for a few seconds. Finally, Fire had to ask, "Well? Is it on?"
"Oh," said Beetle determined. "It is SOOOOO on!"
JSA Brownstone, New York, NY. 2:29 PM.
The word spread around the party quickly. The members of the "Super-Buddies" wanted to see Blue Beetle "defend the team's honor". The members of the JSA wanted to see if anyone could beat Hourman at "Main Event Boxing III". Even Ma Hunkle had come out of the kitchen to watch as everyone gathered in the rec room.
Hourman was sitting in front of the television screen waiting for Beetle to take a seat. "I thought you might not make it." he said with a smirk.
"Sorry. I couldn't find one of Kara's dresses that fit me." Beetle responded as he took a seat next to Hourman.
Hourman smiled and waved the game contoller around. "You're not going to hold that against me. Are you? It was just my way of giving you some...motivation!"
Beetle picked up his controller. "You should think of doing it professionally."
Hourman brought up the screen to select the fighter. "Are you ready to rumble?" he asked confidently.
"Just one thing before we start." said Beetle. He leaned in close so that only Hourman could hear him. "Win or lose, there's not going to be a rematch. I've had a lousy day. And I really don't appreciate the comments in that message you had Hawkgirl deliver."
"Is that all?" asked Hourman. Flash was right. Hourman really did become obnoxious when playing this game.
"No." said Beetle loudly, so that all could hear. "As the 'visiting team', I think I should get first pick of fighters."
Hourman nodded his consent with a smirk. Beetle used the controller to scroll through the names until he came to and highlighted "Ted Grant".
From talking with Booster, Ralph, and Fire, Beetle found out that Hourman used the same boxer to beat all three of them: his friend and teammate Ted Grant, Wildcat and former World Heavyweight Boxing Champion.
"I know he's your favorite boxer and all," said Beetle with an innocent smile. "But, I hope you don't mind if I play as him. Do you?"
Beetle saw Hourman's jaw tense, but, to his credit, Hourman responded, "You're our guest. Feel free."
Beetle smiled. "So you want to play mind-games with me, eh?" thought Beetle. "I'm gonna mess with you a bit!"
Beetle moved the cursor up the list and selected Muhammad Ali. "I appreciate the offer." said Beetle. "But, I don't want you feeling anything less than your best!"
Hourman recognized the game Beetle was playing. He smirked as he highlighted Ted Grant's name and selected it. "Let the games begin!" he said.
As the bell rung to start the first round, Hourman decided to give Beetle a little test to see how good a player he was. He moved "Grant" to the center of the ring and waited for "Ali". When Beetle moved "Ali" forward, Hourman hit a quick jab that Beetle blocked. Two more quick jabs to "Ali" were both blocked. Then, "Grant" followed with a jab-hook combination. "Ali" blocked the jab and ducked the hook. "Ali" responded with a stinging jab that connected.
Hourman smiled and nodded. THIS was going to be a good match!
As the match unfolded, Beetle thought to himself that picking Ali as Grant's opponent was a good choice. He had enough experience playing this game that he knew how the boxers were rated. Grant had the edge in power and toughness. Ali had the edge in stamina and technique.
During the early rounds, Beetle used Ali's famous "rope-a-dope" strategy. He kept stinging Hourman with quick jabs and backing off before Hourman responded.
Hourman did a good job in not showing it, but, he was getting mildly annoyed. He hated when an opponent used that strategy. He'd much rather have them come head-on.
Hourman got over-aggresive in the fifth round, and it almost cost him. He went for a double jab-straight punch combo, and Beetle ducked the straight punch and connected with an uppercut that floored the wide-open "Grant".
The assembled heroes responded to what was happening on the screen, and when "Grant" went down, the crowd popped. Ralph shouted out "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee"! But, "Ted Grant" was far from finished. He got up at thesix count. And the battle went on.
Beetle's strategy was working well up till this point. He used "Ali"'s speed and technique to jab his way to frustrating Hourman. He was connecting with the jabs and either blocking or ducking most of Hourman's counters.
Hourman had to admit it. This guy was good! Much better than his friends! He was even better than Jakeem. And Jakeem was the only one here who could give him a decent fight. It was time to change things up!
By the eighth round, Hourman had found his stride and the tide of battle had changed. He'd caught Beetle with several combos already. And once Hourman had the momentum going his way, he was relentless. "Ali" was staggered. "Grant" moved in for the kill. A one-two combo floored "Ali".
"Yeah!" shouted Hourman triumphantly.
The crowd groaned. Another victory for Hourman...woo-pee.
But, "Ali" wasn't done yet. He got up at the eight count. Hourman sat back down, disappointed that didn't end the match. Beetle kept hanging around, and it was taking its toll.
Everyone's nerves were frayed by the eleventh round. Both "boxers" on the screen showed the damage of the fight with swollen eyes and cuts. Hourman and Beetle had been at it for over 45 minutes, and they, too, were feeling the affects. Beetle's forearms were cramping from the constant button mashing, and he shook them out between rounds. Hourman's lower back was killing him from the tension and sitting on the edge of the chair, and he was stretching between rounds.
The bell rung for the 12th and final round.
"Ali" and "Grant" circled each other. Beetle and Hourman each waited for the other to make a mistake. No human opponent had ever taken Hourman to the 12th round! Hourman had become accustomed to the early round knockout, and this long bout was killing him! He had two minutes to clinch this or lose it. He was taking the chance.
"Grant" came at "Ali" with an opening series of jabs. Unlike the earlier rounds, it was harder to block after the damage done. Hourman connected with two of the three. "Ali" responded with a stiff jab-straight punch combo that connected. "Grant" backed off to regroup. "Ali" came in with his own series of jabs. "Grant" ducked the last one and scored with a right cross that knocked "Ali" to the canvas.
Tension filled the room, but, "Ali" got up at the nine count. This one was going the distance.
The bell rung ending the fight.
Hourman tossed the controller down and stretched his back. "Damn!" he said to Beetle. "You're good!"
Beetle put the controller down and started rubbing his forearms. "So, I guess I don't have to put on a dress?"
Hourman winced. The prolonged battle had drained all the cockiness from Hourman. "Sorry about that! Sometimes I get a little... intense when I play this game."
The screen came up with the judges' decision: Grant over Ali by split-decision.
Beetle extended his hand to Hourman. "Congratulations." he said.
Hourman shook his hand. "Thanks." And he smiled. "But, It's ONLY a game!"
Beetle smiled. "I'm glad you realize that."
Hourman laughed. "I'm sorry I acted like such a jerk. I'm gonna apologize to your friends now." He patted Beetle on the knee on his way out of the chair. "You're alright..." Hourman raised an eyebrow and smiled. "...for a 'whipper-snapper'!"
"Thanks, 'gramps'!" said Beetle with a smile.
"I'm not the one rubbing cramps out of my arms." said Hourman slyly.
"Yeah," said Beetle as he looked up at Hourman. "But, I'm not gonna need a heatpad for my back tonight!"
Hourman stretched his back and groaned. "Good point!" he said as he patted Beetle shoulder as he passed.
Power Girl took the seat Hourman vacated. "You lost." she said.
Beetle shrugged. "Can't win 'em all!"
Power Girl looked at him. "You know, a lot of the people here only knew you by reputation." Power Girl started.
Beetle winced slightly at that. He knew what his reputation was like in the "superhero community".
"But," said Power Girl. "I think most of them are reconsidering that!" She smiled. "A lot of crap went down today, and you handled it all pretty well. Flash thinks highly of you."
Beetle just leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. "Sometimes I wonder if I'm always going to be considered 'that second-stringer from the Second City'."
Power Girl tilted her head. "Only to those people that don't know you." she said.
Beetle tilted his head over and opened one eye. He smiled at her and said, "Changing opinions one person at a time!"
"You look beat." she said.
"I feel beat. It's been a long day!" he said closing his eyes again.
"That's a shame!" said Power Girl with a slight smile. "You didn't even get to see my room yet."
Beetle opened an eye again and smiled. "I have to drive everyone home."
Power Girl got out of her chair and leaned over to Beetle. "Let them take a cab! I'm sure they'll understand."
Beetle just smiled as Power Girl grabbed both his hands and helped him out of the chair...
JLA Watchtower, the Moon orbiting Earth. 1:45 AM.
"We didn't get called in?" asked Batman skeptically.
"No." J'Onn J'Onnz said. "We did not." By this point J'Onn was not only NOT surprised by Batman's sudden appearances, he was actually expecting them.
"No disasters? Alien invasions? Super-villian attacks?" asked Batman.
"Nothing." said J'Onn.
"One of these things actually went off without a hitch?"
J'Onn raised a brow. "Apparently so!"
J'Onn J'Onnz got up from his seat at the monitoring console and headed over to the teleporter.
"And where are you going might I ask?" queried Batman.
"Yes, you may ask." J'Onn responded with a hint of a smile. "And the answer would be to get Oreos. I hope you don't mind covering the monitors until I get back." With that J'Onn activated the teleporter and vanished in a burst of light.
As Batman stood there pondering uninterrupted mixers and Oreos, the signal device on his utility belt went off. Batman reached into a pouch on his belt. When he pulled his hand out, his fingers were covered in a white foam...
JLI Embassy, New York, NY. Years ago...
Batman had called a meeting of the newly formed Justice League International. Batman looked around the table. Everyone was present. Martian Manhunter, Black Canary, Captain Marvel, Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Mister Miracle, Guy Gardner, and Max Lord.
Before Batman could call the meeting to order, the signal device on his utility belt went off. Batman reached down and opened the capsule containing the transmitter. A white foam shot out of the capsule.
Beetle was the first to react, letting out a loud "BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!"
Booster started pounding the table as he guffawed.
Canary and Miracle tried to stiffle their laughter, but, to no avail.
Guy let out a loud "HAW!"
Marvel and Max did a better job of covering their laughter.
And J'Onn sat there with the faintest of smiles on his face.
As Batman wiped shaving cream off his fingers, he looked up at the group and said, "You all realize that there will be consequences to this incident!"