Untold Tales of the JLI: "The Nightmare Fair" (based on a breakdown by Keith Giffen)
The snow fell outside the brownstone that served as the Justice League International embassy in New York. As the snow quietly fell past the streetlamps, it heightened the sense of silence throughout the street. It was as though the city was holding its breath, waiting for something to happen. That "something" was midnight.
December 31st was a special time of the year. It was a time to remember the year that had past and to celebrate the year to come. As the minutes ticked away to midnight, corks could be heard popping, people could be heard singing, and music could be heard playing. It was a time of celebration.
But, Blue Beetle wasn't celebrating. He was sitting in front of the monitoring station in the JLI embassy, chin in his hands, contemplating both his bad luck and his lousy lovelife. No date on New Year's Eve was almost as bad as no date on Valentine's Day. What was worse was that he was stuck here at the embassy while it seemed everyone else was out celebrating the coming New Year.
Ice had even convinced Guy Gardner to celebrate the New Year at the Paris embassy (much to Guy's chagrin). When she was a member of the Global Guardians, Ice had always enjoyed the fireworks display the Pariseans used to celebrate the New Year. And despite Guy's feelings about the French and their country, he decided to go with her to keep her happy.
Booster Gold and Fire were celebrating closer to home. Fire wanted to see the "Dropping of the Ball" in Times Square. Fire had seen the event so many times on television that this year she wanted to "experience" it. Booster agreed to go along with her.
"Probably hoping to steal a kiss at midnight." grumbled Beetle. Or not. It all depended on Fire's mood. Beetle had heard that third degree burns on your lips could be very painful.
"This sucks!" Beetle complained outloud to no one in particular. "New Year's Eve and I'm stuck on monitor duty." Beetle sat back in his chair and stared at the ceiling. "Lucky Booster got to go with Fire over to Times Square..."
Beetle's musings were interrupted by a flashing light and shrill beeping from the monitoring console. Beetle sat up straight and turned his attention to the security screens. One screen flashed: "INCOMING MESSAGE: NEW YORK POLICE DEPARTMENT". Beetle's face registered the shock he felt as he read the message.
J'Onn J'Onzz knew better.
He should have stayed in his room and meditated like he planned, but, his stomach growled as the Oreo cookies called out like a siren's song to him. On his way to the kitchen, he passed by the Monitor Room where he heard Beetle exclaim, "HOLY JEEZ!".
J'Onn let out a weary sigh. "Now what?" he asked himself.
Booster and Fire were standing amongst the enormous crowd in Times Square, awaiting the world-famous "Dropping of the Ball" that signified the start of a brand new year. Both were dressed for the weather and out of their respective uniforms, and, thus, blended in well with the crowd. Even Fire's bright green hair didn't garner a second glance from their fellow revellers.
Booster had made the ultimate sacrifice and was actually standing out in the cold and snow of his own volition. And EVERYONE knew how much Booster hated the cold. It was only fifteen more minutes to midnight when Fire hit him with her decision.
"But, it was YOUR idea!" exclaimed an exasperated Booster Gold.
"I don't care." Fire said. "It's too cold, too crowded, and I'm tired of waiting here. I want to go."
"It's only fifteen more minutes!" argued Booster. "After all the time it took us to get here, we might as well just see this through." If Fire had asked him to go fifteen minutes ago... or an hour ago... or two hours ago... he would have left without a word. Truth be told, he didn't even want to be here. The only reason he agreed to go with Fire was to drive Beetle nuts. But, after waiting all this time, he'd be damned if he was going to leave with just fifteen minutes to go!
"Booster." Fire said dangerously. "I said I want to go!"
Booster was going to stand his ground. He was going to, but, just then, his JLI signal device started to beep.
"Awww. No." said Booster, knowing that Fire was going to get her way. "Now what?"
"Thank God!" Fire exclaimed as she heard the signal device. "Anything's better than this!" With that, she burst into green flames, startling the people around her and nearly burning Booster.
"HEY!" Booster shouted, but, it was too late. Fire had taken flight and was on her way to the embassy. Booster muttered something to himself and, thanks to his Legion flight ring, flew off after her.
Several minutes later, Booster was in his room, pulling up the boot of his uniform. Beetle was standing in the doorway with half a smile, filling Booster in on the situation. If Booster didn't know better, he'd swear Beetle was happy about Booster's plans for the evening getting short-circuited.
"In Central Park?" asked Booster.
"Yeah." said Beetle with a gleam in his eye. "Weird, ain't it?"
Booster gave Beetle a dirty look as he got up from the chair he was sitting in and walked over to the doorway. Beetle smiled innocently as both started walking down the stairs to the foyer.
"For this you screw up my New Year's?" asked Booster accusingly.
"No. No." said Beetle magnanimously. "Don't thank me..."
Booster's retort was cut short by J'Onn standing outside the Monitor Room. Fire was standing behind him. Obviously, J'Onn had been filling Fire in on the situation while Beetle was getting Booster up to speed.
"Are you two about finished yet?" asked J'Onn dryly.
"I still don't see why we were called in." responded Booster.
Before J'Onn could answer, Fire said coldly, "Call it a blessing in disguise."
The quartet flew over the city toward Central Park. J'Onn, Fire, and Booster under their own power. Beetle inside of one of Booster's forcefield bubbles.
"Kinda sounds like your New Year's plans weren't going too hot." said Beetle with a smirk. "No pun intended. You should thank me!"
Booster responded by shrinking his forcefield bubble, forcing Beetle to sit cross-legged for the journey.
Meanwhile, J'Onn was saying to Fire, "I find this whole situation hard to believe."
"Well," said Fire as she pointed ahead. "There's the park. In a minute we'll..." The word stuck in her throat as they cleared the treeline and the scene unfolded before them. "...Know?"
Set up in the middle of a field in Central Park appeared to be a carnival. But, not just a carnival. A very rundown, very dark, very dilapidated carnival. The lights on the attractions glowed dimly in night, casting an eerie yellow glow around the area. Tattered tents flapped ominously in the wind. The sound of an out-of-tune calliope could be heard even from high above the carnival.
If all this wasn't enough to give the foursome of heroes pause, the fact that within the area of the carnival it wasn't snowing did. In fact, there was no snow on the grounds of the carnival, dead grass could clearly be seen between the tents and attractions.
"I'll be damned." Beetle said quietly as he looked down at the carnival.
J'Onn and Fire were already descending toward the multitude of NYPD cars surrounding the carnival. As the officers looked up, the sergeant in charge said, "At last..."
"Officers," J'onn addressed the group. "Can you give us any more information on this situation?"
The sergeant filled J'Onn in as Booster and Beetle landed. "This..." he pointed at the carnival. "This... monstrosity just... appeared outta nowhere. The first units arrived just under half an hour ago." The sergeant looked out over the carnival. "It seems deserted. We haven't seen any movement in there since we arrived."
"Maybe they all went to Times Square to..." started Beetle before J'Onn cut him off.
"Not now, Beetle." warned J'Onn as he turned his attention back to the sergeant. "Have any of your men looked around yet?"
"Hell, no!" responded the sergeant. "Can't you feel it?" he asked as he shivered. "It doesn't want us here." he added quietly.
J'Onn nodded. "We'll check it out." he told the sergeant, who looked relieved that he wouldn't have to send any of his people in there.
As the group set off toward the carnival, Booster asked nervously, "What do you think he meant by 'it doesn't want us here'?"
"Ahhhhh," said Beetle waving it off. "Probably just trying to shift the workload onto us."
Beetle expected a reproach from J'Onn, but, instead J'Onn let out a scream of pain and flew back as though he were punched by an invisible force.
"J'ONN!" Fire shouted as she ran over to attend her fallen teammate. Booster and Beetle were right behind her.
J'Onn waved Fire off as she leaned over his fallen form. "I'm alright." he said. "There's some kind of psionic barrier around the carnival. It won't let me through."
"But," said Fire. "Then why weren't we...?"
"Apparently," responded J'Onn as he stood up. "I'm not invited."
Fire and Booster exchanged worried glances as Beetle said, "Uh... Maybe we oughtta wait..."
"No." J'Onn stated. "I want this checked out... NOW."
"But," started Beetle. "This whole thing smells like... magic." Beetle said the word distastefully. "Shouldn't we wait for one of the 'magic types' to..."
J'Onn cut him off. "No. This thing has been here for well over half an hour. We need to know what kind of threat, if any, this carnival poses to the public."
"But..." started Beetle again.
"No 'buts'!" stated J'Onn. "Time may be a factor. That carnival needs to be checked."
Beetle dropped his head. He knew that this was an argument he wasn't going to win. He turned around and headed for the carnival. Booster and Fire followed Beetle.
"Be careful." J'Onn called out after them.
The walk into the carnival was quiet... and creepy! They all noticed the rise in temperature as they crossed the threshold. Booster also noticed that the eyes of the carousel horses seemed to follow them, and the hairs on the back of his neck started to stand. Beetle was getting unnerved by the calliope music. Fire was trying not to show how creeped out she was becoming.
When the trio of heroes reached the center of the carnival, Beetle stopped and looked around. It was becoming obvious that they were the only souls there. "Kinda spooky..." he said.
"Ever think about changing your codename?" asked Fire, trying to cover her nervousness. "Maybe something like 'Captain Obvious'?"
"I hate to say this." started Booster as he looked at his friends. "But... maybe we should split up. We can cover more ground that way. Get this place checked out quicker. Get the hell outta here faster!"
Fire and Beetle looked less than thrilled with the idea, but, they agreed that Booster was right.
"Okay." said Booster. "Sing out if you find anything."
"What about a girly, scared-spitless scream?" asked Beetle.
"That'll do." said Fire as she picked a direction and walked off.
"Uh..." started Beetle. "Anybody have any idea what we're looking for?"
"Guess we'll know when we find it." said Booster as he walked off leaving Beetle alone.
Beetle looked around nervously. "Man, I hate this!" said Beetle as he cautiously peered around the corner of one of the tents. Standing before him was the "Tunnel of Love" ride.
"Well, isn't this just perfect?" thought Beetle sourly. "'The Tunnel of Love' and here I am all alone. Big surprise!"
"Guess I'd better check it out." Beetle said aloud as he stepped into the murky waters of the shallow canal leading to the front gates of the ride. As Beetle looked down at the water, he wondered just what was in all the murky water he had just stepped in. Beetle was so preoccupied by thoughts of catching all kinds of diseases from the muck that he didn't notice that behind him one of the ride's cars slowly started to move toward him. The car picked up speed and caught Beetle behind the knees, flipping him into the car.
"HEY!" shouted Beetle as the car moved toward the gates of the ride. The gates parted and the car containing Beetle glided past them. "HEY!" Beetle shouted again, this time in more of a panic, as the gates closed with a less-than-cheerful "thoom".
Fire found her way to the "Hall of Mirrors" while searching the carnival. She decided it was best to make sure her search was thorough, and she went inside. Once inside, she was surrounded by all manner of distorted image of herself.
Fire smirked at the images and walked over to one of the mirrors. The mirror was curved in such a way that Fire's reflection had huge "thunder thighs" and wide hips.
"If your not careful with the sweets, Bea," she said aloud to herself as she ran her hands down her hips. "That could be you in a few years."
She caught sight of a mirror behind her that distorted her image into that of a "beanpole". Fire turned around and studied her reflection. "And that..." she added aloud, "...is what happens if you're too careful with your sweets."
Fire laughed at that as she walked deeper into the hall, unaware that the reflection she was just looking at started to pull itself out of the mirror.
Booster Gold was standing outside of the "House of Horrors" attraction. Through the dirt and grim, Booster could make out that the facade was modeled after a horror film version of a castle. Booster snorted his derision. "How cliche!" he thought as he walked into the entranceway.
Booster looked around and found himself surrounded by wax representations of the worst people history had to offer. Whether it was real-life monsters or their fictional compatriots, it seemed they were all represented. Booster spot Rumaan Harvajti standing next to a very Bela Lugosi-looking Dracula. Adolf Hitler was standing next to Frankenstein's monster, and Josef Stalin was standing with the Wolfman. "I wonder where they keep G.W." Booster commented to himself.
Further in the attraction, Booster found something that piqued his interest. On display were representations of all the alien races involved in the not-so-recent Invasion of Earth. Booster spotted a Durlan, a Dominator, a Thanagarian wingman, and even a Khund.
Booster walked up to the Durlan and brushed some dust off its shoulder. "You don't look so tough now, do you?" Booster said to the Durlan as he smiled.
And much to Booster's dismay, the Durlan blinked.
Blue Beetle was still sitting in the car as it motored through the "Tunnel of Love". He decided to stay in the car as it was probably the quickest way to check out this particular attraction. He was trying to calm himself as the car made it's way through the ride.
"Okay." Beetle told himself. "No need to give yourself a heart attack. This is only a cheap carny ride."
There had to be someone else here in the carnival, Beetle realized. This ride didn't start itself. Someone had to start this ride. "Didn't they?" Beetle asked himself outloud.
As the car trunnelled along, Beetle couldn't help but think about the last time he had been on such a ride. It was years ago. When he was in college. With Noreen Feinwein! Beetle smiled at the thought of Noreen. "Ah, Noreen." Beetle thought.
Noreen was every male student's fantasy (and some of the female ones, too). She was beyond hot. She was smoking hot. Tall and blonde and put to-get-her! (Beetle bit his knuckle at that memory.) Baby blue eyes that she would bat at you in the most suggestive of ways. She was the stuff fantasies and nocturnal emissions were made of. Noreen Feinwein was perfect in every way... except one! She was annoying as hell. She didn't mean to be... she just WAS. It wasn't like she was stupid or anything. She wasn't. Beetle thought it was because Lucille Ball was her personal hero, and Noreen did everything she could to be as funny as Lucy. But, God bless her, Noreen had a lousy sense of humor. She just wasn't funny and came off as being goofy. She was the hottest girl Beetle had ever dated, but, when she opened her mouth, it was a major turn-off.
Beetle shook his head at the thought of poor Noreen. She was probably annoying some poor schmuck right now. Beetle's musings were interrupted by the sound of giggling. Beetle's eyes opened wider as realized that the giggling was very, VERY familiar!
"Ohhhhhh... Tedddddy..." a warm voice said, followed by more giggling.
Beetle turned to see Noreen sitting next to him in the car. Beetle was speechless. Noreen looked exactly like she did years ago. EXACTLY! It was as if she were still nineteen. She hadn't aged one bit. If anything, she looked even better than the last time Beetle had seen her.
"N-Noreen?" Beetle finally managed to ask.
She started giggling again and ran one hand along the side of Beetle's head as the other darted lower. Beetle had almost forgotten how "grabby" she was (at the most inopportune times, in the most inopportune places) and was a bit taken aback by her forwardness. Noreen, for her part, was totally oblivious to Beetle's discomfort as she leaned in closer and pressed up against him.
"Hey. Hey. HEY!" Beetle exclaimed to no avail as Noreen let her fingers do the walking. Beetle tried his best to block her roaming hands. "No. C'MON! Th-th-this is crazy! I haven't seen you in years and..."
Beetle was profoundly confused. Not only had Noreen shown up as if out of the blue, but, she was the picture of how Beetle remembered her. And, believe it or not, it was not one of Beetle's prouder moments. Sure, she asked him out back then, and he agreed to go out with her, but, Beetle knew she was still seeing...
"AH HA!" yelled out a voice from behind Beetle.
"'Ah ha'?" said Beetle as he turned around. At the back of the car was one extremely p. looking 21-year old neanderthal with no descernable neck, crewcut, and dressed in a football jersey. "Rico?" asked Beetle unbelievingly.
Rico had been Noreen's boyfriend all those years ago. He was the middle linebacker on the school's football team and a possible steroid addict. Beetle also remembered that he had a godawful wicked temper and was very possessive of Noreen.
"I knew it!" Rico yelled at Beetle. "Kord! You rotten little...!"
"Rico, wait!" said Beetle, trying to explain the situation. "It's not what you..."
Beetle's defense was cut off as Rico let out a primal scream and lunged at the startled Beetle. Both fell out of the car and into the water of the channel in the tunnel. Rico wrapped his hands around Beetle's throat and forced his head back and under the water. Rico's grip was vice-like as he held Beetle's head under the water.
The only thing Beetle could think as he started to black out was, "This is crazy! Rico never found out..."
In the "Hall of Mirrors", Fire was having an unexpected battle with herself. Actually, it wasn't herself. It was a distorted reflection of herself. Several distorted reflections! Fire dodged a blast from "short, squat" Fire and blasted her reflection back. But, as that reflection shattered like glass, two more distorted versions made their way out of another mirror.
"This is madness!" exclaimed Fire as she blasted a "beanpole" version of herself. The "thunder thighs" version almost tagged Fire with a flame blast. "This is getting way outta hand!" thought Fire. "I've got to get out of here!"
Before Fire could make a break, she was surrounded by at least a dozen of her distorted dopplegangers. As the distorted reflections gang tackled Fire, she thought, "No... too many!" In a desperate attempt to put some distance between herself and her dopplegangers, Fire let out a nova-like burst of flame, disintegrating the distorted versions of herself as she screamed, "GET AWAY!"
But, more reflections pulled themselves from the mirrors...
"Aliens!" exclaimed Booster Gold. "It's an alien plot!"
When the Durlan blinked, it was like a signal that brought all the alien displays to life. The Thanagarian wingman spread his metal wings and pulled his gun. The Khund brought his battle mace over his head, looking to crash it down on Booster's skull. The Durlan shape-shifted its limbs into tentacles.
The wingman took flight, but, its first salvo of shots just missed Booster and destroyed the Saddam Hussein display behind him. Booster wasted no time and responded with a shot from the blasters on the back of his hands. The shot caught the wingman square in the chest, pinwheeling him down into the Michael Myers display.
Booster was able to duck the Khund's first swing of the battle mace, but, the Durlan caught one of Booster's ankles with its tentacle, and pulled Booster off his feet. The Khund brought the mace over his head, looking for a skull-shattering blow on Booster. Booster was able to roll out of the way as the mace shattered the floorboards where Booster had been. Booster quickly rolled back and caught the still bent over Khund along the side of the jaw with a cyberneticly-enhanced right cross. The Khund's helmet flew off as it went reeling.
"Give us back what you have stolen!" intoned the Durlan as it started dragging Booster toward it.
"Wh-what?" asked Booster as he tried to find a purchase in the floor.
"Our technology!" boomed the Dulan. "Give us back what you have stolen, THIEF!"
"Are these aliens after my suit?" Booster asked himself. It was true that Booster had... liberated his suit from the museum he worked at in the future, but, how did these aliens - in the present- know about that?
Booster was so momentarily confused that a lion-headed alien almost pounced on him. Booster responded with another right cross to the Glykian's jaw.
"Huh?" thought Booster. "A Glykian! But they weren't part of the Invasion. In fact, the Glykians didn't encounter humans until my time."
"This is all wrong!" Booster stated aloud as he caught sight of a Dominator looming over him.
Outside the threshold of the carnival J'Onn J'Onzz was standing with the police officers. They were doing what they could- waiting.
"It's been awhile since they went in there." the sergeant stated. "Do you think they're okay?"
"My people are highly trained, resourceful individuals." J'Onn told the sergeant. "If they encounter any problems, I'm sure they can either handle it or have the presence of mind to signal for help." J'Onn didn't truly believe that, but, it sounded good.
Any further conversation was cut short as Doctor Fate hovered down amongst the falling snow. "J'Onn!" she called out.
"I've been waiting for you." J'Onn told her as she set down next to him.
"I came as soon as I sensed it." Doctor Fate responded. "Has anyone gone in?"
"Beetle, Booster, and Fire." answered J'Onn.
"DAMN!" exclaimed Doctor Fate. "This complicates matters a great deal."
"Should I take that to assume you know what's going on here?" asked J'Onn.
"Nabu did..." started Doctor Fate as she tapped her helmet.
"And?" prodded J'Onn.
"And I can't do a damned thing to get rid of it until everyone is out of there." she answered.
"I don't suppose you could go in and...?" started J'Onn.
"Hardly!" responded Doctor Fate. "And no one else must enter either! It's too dangerous in thing practically reeks of magic! I can't understand why they didn't wait for a mage to show up before going in there."
J'Onn almost visibly winced. "There'll be no living with Beetle after this." he thought.
"I think you'd better explain exactly what this is..." J'Onn told Doctor Fate.
The roof exploded off the "Hall of Mirrors" in green flames as Fire flew through the newly created opening. She was quickly followed by a dozen of her distorted dopplegangers.
"Dammit! They're following me!" she thought as the air next to her head sizzled from a blast by one of the dopplegangers.
Fire turned and blasted another of the distorted reflection. It shattered like glass as the others flew by it toward Fire. Fire realized that she might have made a tactical mistake in turning to fire. The reflections never stopped moving toward her and, in the time it took her to blast the one, were almost on top of her.
"They're too close!" she thought. "Can't fight them all!" Fire did her best to try to keep the pack of reflections at bay. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see that, past the threshold of the carnival, J'Onn was standing there with the police officers just watching the proceedings.
This angered Fire. "What's wrong with J'Onn?" she thought. "Can't he see I need help?"
Fire was resigned to the fact that J'Onn wasn't going to help her. As she dodged the flame bursts from the dopplegangers, she thought, "I think I'm in BIG trouble!" And as she tried to twist away from another blast, another thought popped into her mind, "What happened to Booster and Beetle?"
"A 'Chaos Carnival'?" asked J'Onn J'Onzz. "To what purpose?"
Doctor Fate shrugged her slender shoulders. "Even the Lords of Chaos need entertainment, I guess."
J'Onn and Doctor Fate were standing near the police cars, there view of the carnival unobstructed. As of yet there had been no signs of Beetle, Booster, or Fire. The carnival seemed eeriely calm. Neither J'Onn nor Fate had seen Fire's battle with her dopplegagngers. The carnival didn't want them to see it.
Doctor Fate explained further. "The carnival blips around from area to area and time to time. It calls out to the strong and tests them by presenting their worst fears or their personal shortcomings to them. It thrives on the emotional turmoil it causes."
"And Chaos enjoys this?" asked J'Onn.
"The emotions are channeled by the carnival to the Lords of Chaos." continued Doctor Fate. "It provides them a kind of..." Doctor Fate searched for the words. "...A kind of emotional sustenance. The emotions generated are a treat for the Lords of Chaos. Kind of like... ice cream."
"Emotional ice cream?" asked J'Onn dubiously.
Doctor Fate shrugged again. "That's the best way that I can explain it. Anyway, it's meant as a test for mankind. That's why the carnival rejected you."
J'Onn pointed toward the carnival. "Then, all of this is like a malevolent Flying Dutchman?"
"Yes." said Doctor Fate simply. "But those with strong psyches can survive the test and exit the carnival."
J'Onn stood there for a second and looked out over the carnival. "Wonderful." he said quietly.
"MY GIRL, you little TURD!" Rico shouted as kept Blue Beetle's head under the water in the "Tunnel of Love". "You didn't think I'd find out? You thought I was some kind of moron? I'm gonna kill you, Kord!"
Beetle was feeling himself blackout. "Snap outta it, stupid!" Beetle thought. "You're a 'superhero'! You've beaten guys that are much bigger and stronger than Rico." Beetle managed to get his foot between himself and Rico and kicked Rico off of himself. Rico flew backwards into the murky water.
Rico got up and yelled at Beetle, "I'm gonna rip your head off for that!"
Beetle was coughing up water as Rico charged him. Beetle caught him right under the jaw with an uppercut, and Rico fell back into the water. "Shut up, Rico!" Beetle added as he spit up some more water.
Beetle put his hands on his knees and tried to get his ragged breathing under control. He straightened up and started rubbing his bruised neck. He looked down and Rico's unconscious form and watched something really weird happen. Rico's body started to dissolve into smoke. Within seconds, Rico was gone.
"This is too weird!" said Beetle aloud as slogged his way out of the tunnel. If it weren't for the facts that he was sopping wet and his throat was killing him, Beetle might have thought this was all a bad dream. "Was it real or was it Memorex?"
Beetle followed the canal the car car would've taken. The ride couldn't have been that long. Beetle was heartened to see a light coming from just up ahead. He was going through all the recent events in his mind, and he came to the conclusion that this was definitely a mystery. "Too bad Ralph's not here." he thought. "He loves a mystery."
As Beetle was reaching the exit of the ride, he heard something that chilled his blood. A chorus of at least a dozen female voices all saying, in a sing-song voice, "TEEEEEDDDDDDYYYY..."
Beetle turned to see a dozen women. They were all different heights, different shapes, different creeds, different colors. But they all had two things in common... they all looked mad and they were all EX-girlfriends of Blue Beetle. Beetle gasped.
"We've got a bone to pick with you, mister!" they all said as one.
Fire had managed to put some distance between herself and her dopplegangers. BUT, the damned carnival wouldn't let Fire out. She could fly all the way up to the edge, but, not past. She'd been forced to fly in circles while avoiding her own distorted reflections.
She was making her second pass over the "Tunnel of Love" when she saw the doors fly open, and Beetle came running out like the hounds of Hell were on his tail. "JESUS CHRIST!" Beetle screamed in a hysterical voice as he ran.
"I've seen Ted run fast." thought Fire. "But, I've never seen him run that fast!"
Fire flew closer to the ground and tried to match Beetle's speed as she glided next to him. "About time you showed up!" Fire yelled at him.
Beetle was so intent on running that he hadn't noticed Fire flying next to him... until she yelled at him. Beetle didn't stop running, but, he looked over at Fire and, out of the corner of his eye, caught sight of Fire's dopplegangers behind them. "Great!" Beetle yelled back at her. "Lead them to me next time, why don'tcha?"
As Beetle and Fire approached the "House of Horrors", Booster came crashing through one of the walls. Booster looked like he was on the wrong end of a beatdown.
"BOOSTER!" Beetle yelled at him as he approached. "Quick! Your forcefield!"
Booster looked dazed as Beetle reached him. Fire had split off from Beetle, hoping to draw her dopplegangers away long enough for Beetle to help Booster. Her plan only partially worked. The first half of the group followed Fire, but, the second half were still bearing down on Beetle and Booster.
Beetle grabbed Booster by the shoulders and shook him. "Now, Booster!" yelled Beetle. "Put up your forcefield!"
"Oh... okay." said a still dazed Booster. "I can do that."
The forcefield went up a split second before Fire's dopplegangers reached Beetle and Booster. The distort reflections barrelled into the forcefield and exploded in a shower of green flames and broken glass.
"Whew!" said Beetle. "Finally! The first thing to go our way all night."
Fire rounded the corner and headed back toward Booster and Beetle's position. The dopplegangers were still hot on her heels. "COMING THROUGH!" screamed Fire.
"Quick! Drop the shield and let Fire in!" Beetle told Booster.
Booster complied, and Fire crashed down next to them. Beetle didn't have to tell Booster to raise the shields again. Beetle instinctively covered his head as the second wave of dopplegangers met the same fate as the first- a spectacular display of green flame and broken glass.
"We gotto get outta here!" Beetle said in a panic as the flames died down.
"Uh... Ted." Booster, who was starting to regain his senses, said.
Beetle ignored him. "We... we need a plan..."
"TED!" Booster shouted.
"WHAT?" Beetle shouted back.
Booster pointed out toward the concourse of the carnival. The exit was less than a hundred feet away. "They're all gone. Let's take the opportunity to get the hell outta here!"
Outside the carnival, J'Onn and Doctor Fate waited. J'Onn didn't show it, but, a wave of relief washed over him as he saw his teammates exit the carnival. Mentally, J'Onn thank the diety he believed in for their safe return. "Now..." he thought. "How do I explain to them that they've been amusement for the Lords of Chaos?"
A sopping wet Beetle passed right by J'Onn and hugged the startled Doctor Fate. "Doctor Fate!" he exclaimed. "Thank God! It's... it's crazy in there!"
J'Onn wasn't sure whether it was the cold or fear that set Beetle's teeth to chattering. J'Onn had rarely seen Beetle so shaken. "He must of went through hell in there." thought J'Onn.
Booster fell over and started gasping. He felt lousy. Fire was right behind him, and she looked at J'Onn a little peevishly.
"J'Onn!" said Fire. "Didn't you see me...?"
J'Onn cut her off. "Not now, Fire."
Beetle had a wild look in his eye as he talked to Doctor Fate. "You've gotto... We've gotto..." he started manically. "Alla' my old girlfriends are in there!" he said desperately. "IT'S HELL! HELL, I TELL YOU!"
J'Onn put his hand on Beetle's shoulder. "Beetle..." he said. "Can I have a word with you?" J'Onn gently led Beetle off some distance away from the main group, despite Beetle's protestations that immediate action was needed.
As Doctor Fate and Fire watched J'Onn talking to Beetle at a distance, Doctor Fate said, "He's not going to like this."
"Like what?" asked Fire.
Before Doctor Fate could answer, they watched J'Onn step back as Beetle bellowed, "WHAT!"
Some hours later, after Doctor Fate had sealed the carnival off in a pocket dimension, Beetle was still fuming. He was so mad, in fact, that he couldn't stop letting off a stream of expletives. He was so mad that he didn't even take the time to point out that he was right and J'Onn was wrong. He was so mad that Booster, who was sitting in the study with Beetle, said "Give it a rest, will you?"
"'Give it a rest'? I've been humiliated!" responded Beetle. "My lovelife..."
"Such as it is." interrupted Booster.
Beetle ignored him. "My lovelife was used as some kinda weapon for the amusement of some kinda 'superior beings'! I've been HUMILIATED!" repeated Beetle.
"You should be used to that by now." responded Booster.
As Beetle stormed out of the room, he let loose another string of explatives.
"Hmmmm..." wondered Booster. "Were my emotions chocolate or vanilla ice cream...?"