Here There be Monsters
Part Four: "Monster Rally"
(NOTE: "Here There Be Monsters" continues between the Marvel Family and the Squadron of Justice chapters. Characters in this story and succeeding chapters are property of DC Comics. No money is being made from this story, no infringement is intended.)
Radar didn't sigh as he hung up the phone. He figured it might be something like this. The Marvels had sometimes worked with their nonpowered brethren, but they always preferred their own kind.
He turned to the other man in the office, Mickey Malone. "Guess you heard the backwash of that, Mick. The Captain and the kids aren't coming to the party."
Malone, only five foot four and freckle-faced, had a youthful appearance overlaid with the weltschmertz so many had gained when they made it back from the War, if they did. "Who else is? It's been years since I suited up last. Practically all of the rest are civilians, Pep. Probably raising families."
Radar took off his hat and massaged the back of his neck. "We still need an organization on this one. I'd prefer your kind of people on it."
Mickey said, "Guys with funny names and costumes. Like Phantom Eagle."
"Or Radar," said Radar. "Even if I haven't worn a union suit since I was a kid. But I know one guy I want to try next. He's our best bet...still semi-active, and he has powers."
"I say, go for it," said the Eagle. "Even if I'm not sure I know who you're talking about."
"You will," Radar murmured. He sat on the edge of his desk, dragged the phone into his lap, cradled the mouthpiece between his head and shoulder, and dialed an unlisted number.
"Good afternoon," said a woman's voice. "This is Taia. How may I help you?"
The apartment Prince Amentep shared with his lover was not too ostentatious, but he had done it up in Egyptian decor. Some of the material he'd bought, some of it had been fashioned from raw materials by himself and Taia, and the rest of it had been made by a different means and was no less authentic. Often he burned incense, but Taia didn't want him to when she had the bridge club over, so the place was fumeless today.
Right now, Amentep was seeming all too American, in undershirt, jeans, and socks, stretched out on a sofa in the living room, watching on a new Philco TV set Gorgeous George's valet perfuming a corner of a wrestling ring. A gilded cat-idol perched on top of the set. On the floor, within reaching distance, was a mug of beer, but not of a kind which had been produced commercially for centuries.
Stuck in one pocket of his pants was an instrument he never kept far from his person. When he showered, he took it in with him and laid it in the soap dish.
Taia, looking lovely in a white dress of American style which barely brushed her knees and a gold tiara with silver workings, stepped into the room. "Tep, darling? It's for you. Says it's important. Do you know a man named Pepper?"
The prince said, "Pepper? Am I supposed to? Did he say anything of the matter?"
She shook her head, her dark tresses whipping her shoulders. "Somewhat close-mouthed, he seems. Should I take a message?"
"No," grunted Amentep. "There is, after all, the chance that it will be important. But next time, dear one, please pump the caller for more information." He arose from the sofa, stretched himself, and walked into the office room where the nearest phone was.
As he vanished through a doorway, Taia debated herself a moment, then took his place in front of the TV, and turned it up a bit.
She had to admit, that Gorgeous George wasn't as good as the wrestlers in her time, but he was just about the sexiest thing on this television device so far.
Ibis took the phone and sat in his office chair. Outside of some arcane decorative material, it was pretty much standard American business office, even though it was one room of his apartment. "Greetings," he said. "This is Amentep."
"Ibis," the voice at the other end said, "this is Radar. I need your help."
A serious look came into the Egyptian's eyes. "Say on," he said.
After a short exchange of information, Amentep said, "I will be with you in a matter of moments," and, a few seconds later, hung up.
He took the instrument from his pants pocket. "Ibistick," he said. "Clothe me."
It seemed to know what he wanted.
When he stepped through the doorway into the living room again, he looked like a new man. His head was wrapped in a red turban with a yellow jewel at the forehead, and his body was clothed in a formal, black suit with a red opera-style cape hanging from his shoulders. In his hand was the golden wand with the oblong head that was centuries older than himself.
And Amentep, like Taia, was over 4,000 years old.
"My services are required," he said.
Taia looked up. "Do you want me to go with you?"
"Not at this time," he admitted. "I'll be in touch with you later. And, Taia?"
"Do tell me if Gorgeous George wins or loses, please?"
"I'll be certain of it," she smiled.
He held the wand forth and looked at it. "Ibistick, take me to the presence of the man who just called me on the phone."
Ibis the Invincible quickly faded from sight.
Taia, looking at him, hoped that he'd be back in time for breakfast. If not, she was eating out.
Mickey Malone had never seen a man materialize out of thin air before. Then again, neither had Radar, but he kept his surprise a bit better concealed.
He was standing before them, his arms crossed at the wrists like a man about to be mummified, and in one of his hands was a gold wand. Mick had to admit that he did look like a stage magician, the kind that affects turbans instead of top hats.
"I am Ibis the Invincible," he said. "You are Radar?"
"No," said Mickey, pointing at the man in the white trenchcoat. "He is. I'm Mick Malone, the Phantom Eagle. Pleased to meet you." Ibis shook hands with him, and then with Radar.
"You say my enemy Trug is among the escapees?" said the magician. "Almost ten years has it been since I matched magics with him."
"He's been cooling his heels in Sing Sing ever since then," said Radar. "Seven months back, he was sprung from jail along with several other characters. We feel there's an organization behind this, and we want an organization of our own to deal with it."
Mickey said, "I worked with Radar before. He recruited me for the International Police Force. That's why he contacted me first. We know who some of the others are that we're trying to get. Maybe your Ibistick can help with some of the ones we don't."
"Pray that they will be as willing as I," said Ibis. "Since the end of the great war, many of them have stopped adventuring."
"The bad guys evidently haven't," said Radar, and dialed another number. "Hello? Hughes Aircraft?"
"Line's for you, Alan. A Mr. Pepper wants to talk at you."
"Mister? Not Doctor? Ah, all right, Sid, let me take it." Alan Armstrong got up from his drawing board, a sketch of a new jet still half-finished on it. He went into the office next door, where the phone was. "Hello, Armstrong," he said, sitting on the edge of the desk and balancing the phone on his knee.
"Armstrong, this is Radar," said the other party. "We need your help."
"Who's ‘we'?" said Alan, with a frown. "And what kind of help are you talking about."
"I'm with the International Police Force," Radar said. "We've never worked together, but we had a common acquaintance during the War. The Captain."
"What Captain would that be? Either start making sense, or I get back to work."
He heard the phone on the other end being taken, and then a familiar voice came on the line. "Hello, Alan. This is Amentep. The prince."
Armstrong whistled, dangling a leg off the edge of the desk. "Be damned. I recognize your voice all right, Prince. What're you doing calling me up?"
"Many of our common enemies have broken free of imprisonment. Radar believes that a countervailing organization must be formed to deal with them. I agree, and we would like you to be part of it."
The aircraft design man looked through the glass of the door window, checking to see if anyone was coming down the hall. "It's been awhile since I've done that sort of stuff, Prince," he admitted. "I tried out a new look and name. Didn't work out too well, so I pitched it. You know, you were at my and Eve's wedding. How's the wife?"
"Beautiful, thank you. But your old look and equipment would be what we wish for this endeavor, Alan. That is, if you please."
He considered it. "I've been a civilian since ‘48, Tep. Been a long time since I put on the dress greens. Got a wife and two kids now. They need a dad."
Ibis said, "Many such wives and children will be endangered if these criminals go unchallenged, Alan. America itself will be placed in danger. Of that, one can be sure."
After a pause, Alan said, "Maybe I could just come down and hear you out?"
"That would be fine," said Ibis. "If you came in costume. And with your craft."
Alan Armstrong paused again, trying to consider what he was getting into, and realized he hadn't a clue. But he was curious. Also, if America really was threatened...well, those were the magic words.
"Tell me where," he said. After Ibis did, he hung up.
He didn't know if there was a place in the postwar world anymore for Spy Smasher.
But he was damned well going to have to find out.
"He will come," said Ibis to the other two in the room.
"Excellent," said Radar. "We've got a few others I'd like to try. I'm not absolutely certain of their civilian i.d.'s, but we've got a good idea." He opened a drawer of his desk, took out a folder, and passed several photos within it across to the turbaned man. Ibis picked up one of a man and a boy.
"I know who these two are," he said. "Permit me. Ibistick, let me know the whereabouts and phone number of the persons whose picture I hold."
There was a brief flash of white light from the head of the Ibistick. A piece of papyrus appeared in his hand, over the photo, with an address and some numbers on it.
"Is he going to keep on doing that?" said Mick Malone, and shivered.
Radar shrugged. "If he gets results, I could care less if he came in on a sleigh with eight tiny reindeer."
After some years on the road, Brian Butler was glad he had a steady source of income. Damned glad.
Back during the war years, he had been a practicing attorney, then a District Attorney. In the latter capacity, he had developed a way of handling crime that went beyond his prescribed duties. But it was effective. So effective that the crime rate went way down in the district he served. He lost the next election to a candidate who claimed that it wasn't Butler to blame for low crime, it was his other identity. Since Brian couldn't claim that identity and reveal that it was his own, he was stuck. He was also out of office.
He and his foster son Pinky, born Mark O'Connor but adopted by Brian after his mother's death, had been up and down the Midwest for years after that. There wasn't enough lawyer work to keep body and soul together where they went, it seemed, and they ended up odd-jobbing it, more often than not. A father-and-son hobo team.
It had been about five years since they had put on the costumes. When they stopped, Brian was able to find himself a job as a law clerk, then a legal assistant, then an assistant to the D.A. in the Seattle suburb they had ended up in. They put down roots. Pinky finished high school and was enrolled in college.
Brian was preparing to hang out his shingle again after his work with the district attorney ended, and, for once, he was confident that he would have business.
It was amazing what one could do once the costumes were put aside.
Pinky was sitting across from him in the living room under a reproduction of a Rembrandt. "So far, so good, Dad," he said. "I've got a 3.4 this year. Biology isn't my strong point, but I'm managing it."
"Going to have to do more than manage it, if you expect to get into law school, Pinky," said Butler, massaging his temples. "The review boards just love to find something to point at and go, ‘Look, he's a dummy.' That gives them the chance to cut somebody else out. But your overall average is fine."
The young man was a bit embarassed, but buoyed up at least a bit by his foster father's backhanded praise. "Well, sorry. You know I'm starting a couple of years late."
"Look, Pink, it's all right," said Brian. "I'm not trying to knock your confidence. You've got the stuff to make a decent lawyer. It's just that getting the thing is going to be the toughest bit of business you've ever done in your life. For several years, you're going to have to be a legal monk."
"Really?" Pinky looked crestfallen, a bit.
"Really," confirmed his elder. "But. If you even think about quitting that major and trying something else, without seeing that you can do it, I'll come up there and make your backside redder than those uniforms we used to wear." He smiled as he said it. Pinky grinned back, but he caught the seriousness in Brian's tone.
"I'll do it, Dad," he said. "Biology and all. I'll sure as heck try."
"One more thing," said Brian. "The costumes are over. They had their time, but now the war, as far as we're concerned, is over. All we are now, is ourselves. Without the masks. So don't let me hear that you've put on the suit again and started trying to catch crooks. Fighting crime and studies don't mix."
"I hear you, Dad," said Pinky. He hoped his eyes didn't betray how much he wanted to put on the red suit and kick the backsides of bad guys again. But, like Brian said, he had a new priority.
That was when the phone rang.
Brian picked it up. "Butler residence, Brian speaking. Who? Amentep? Oh, Ibis! Yes, it's me. Nice to hear from you again."
"Ibis?" Pinky's face showed the astonishment.
Brian waved his hand to stave off his foster son's questions. "You said what? So there was some coordination in those breaks. We'd suspected something, you know, but there was never any proof. I'll be sure and tell the D.A., thanks."
Then Brian's face shaped itself into a frown. "You want me to do what?"
In an instant, Pinky Butler knew just what Isis had asked his father.
"The answer is no, no, and emphatically no in that order," he said. "I've got a job here, and it's a good one. Thank you, Ibis, but I have no interest in interrupting my life just to go galvanting around with a bunch of super-characters again. That's over. Yes, it is. What? What was his name? Well, I'm sorry. Thanks anyway. Best to the wife. Goodbye."
He hung up the phone, closed his eyes, breathed heavily.
"Brian?" said Pinky.
"It's okay, kid," said Brian, not opening his eyes. "Our old friend Ibis just wanted me to--you know what he wanted me to do."
Pinky leaned forward. "He wouldn't call us if something big wasn't up. Maybe I can handle it, Brian. I've got some free time right now."
"Absolutely not. You have no free time until after you get your legal degree. That's final. Go hit the books. This may be your off time, but you're going to learn something while you're idling."
Pinky scowled a bit. Still, the old man had been there and done that. What he said in regard to the legal life had to be good advice. At least, until Pinky got his degree and started doing it himself.
"Okay," he said. He got up and went to his bedroom. Once inside, he opened the big cardboard box he'd brought home from school and balanced an English 101 anthology on one hand and a bio textbook on the other. He opted for Bio first, as much as he wanted to get into some Edmund Spenser at the moment.
A few seconds later, he heard the phone ring again.
There wasn't an extension in his room, but he could hear Brian pick it up in the front room, and could hear what he said in response.
"Where and when?", said Brian.
Jack Weston wanted to get through with the damned evening crowd, go home, and sleep till 10 A.M.
But the hungry of Kansas City deserved their nights-out dinners or their meals after the movies. He was glad that they chose Weston's as much as they did. Even if keeping at least one of three white jackets presentable at all times, and keeping a fresh flower for his buttoniere, were often a drag. He smiled, he liked most of the people he served as a restauranteur, and he put up with the ones he didn't. It was a matter of pride to him that everyone who ate at his establishment seemed to think he liked them all.
Right here, in Harry Truman's backyard. Once or twice, the great man had even come in. He didn't recognize Jack without the mask, and Jack was just as glad he didn't.
Weston had stopped wearing the red, white, and blue duds shortly after D-Day. From then on, the war was a job for ordinary soldiers, and he had done his part. After V-E day, the high command had let him serve the rest of his time as part of the occupational army. He got out in 1946 and collected his pay and a special citation from Mr. Truman for his service in a capacity in which he did not wear a U.S. Army uniform.
He followed a Cajun friend whom he met in the Normandy business to New Orleans, where he had learned from him the art of being a chef and the business of running a restaurant. A year later, Jack decided to strike out on his own. He heard of a restaurant in KC, Mo., which was up for sale. With a little borrowed money, he made it his own.
Now he had chefs and waiters and waitresses and cash register jockeys and other employees who worked for him, and he only put on an apron and concocted stuff when he wanted to. On the other hand, if some of the big bankers and real estate men and city fathers came in and wanted some of the cuisine he'd appropriated from Louisiana or elsewhere, he was only too happy to shuck his jacket, tie on the apron, and take over from Louis and Dell for some of his specialties.
It was a good enough life. Especially when he found out how many women liked being with a guy like him. One of these days, he was going to have to pick one out and settle down. Hell, it'd been over six years since he'd set up shop here. On the other hand, he hadn't got caught yet.
Maybe that was his greatest accomplishment to date.
Sammy, the counter girl, waved to him. "Mr. Weston? Phone. No name."
"Thanks, hon." Weston, a six-foot, black-haired man whose scars of battle were hidden by his clothes, stepped back to his office and shut the door with his foot. Then he sunk into the creaking swivel chair and picked up the phone.
"Weston's, Jack Weston speaking," he said.
"Good evening, Jack. This is Prince Amentep," said a familiar voice.
"Ibis!" Weston sat up a bit straighter. "Hey, it's been years. Great to hear from you. When are you going to get down these ways again?"
"Regrettably, Jack, not for some time," said Ibis. Within five minutes' time, he had outlined the situation they faced. Weston's expression was much more sober.
"And you want me to--"
"To see if you can help us, Jack. Yes, we would appreciate it."
He sighed. "I've been out of that sort of stuff longer than any of you, ‘Tep. Just about ten years, to tell the truth. I've got a business. Can't just jump up and run."
Ibis said, "Perhaps it would help if I told you that Illyria was involved."
"Illyria?" Weston paused. "You're sure?"
"According to Radar, her name has been mentioned as one of those possibly among our enemies," said Ibis.
Weston was silent for another moment. Then he said, "Where is this meeting? When? I hope you understand that I'm not committing."
"I understand that, Jack," said Ibis, and gave a time and place.
"Okay," said Jack. "Thanks, Ibis. Tell everyone else hi for me."
Ibis said, "I think you'll do that yourself. Goodbye, Jack."
"Goodbye," said Weston, and hung up.
He sat in the office for about a minute.
Of course, the problem was that Ibis was probably right.
He walked into the steaming atmosphere of the kitchen and caught Louis attending to chicken in a pan. "Louie, emergency's come up," he said. "Think you can front for me for about a week, and stick Dell back here?"
The chef grinned. "If the customers can survive Dell's cooking for a week, Mister Jack, I'll be proud to break out my old white jacket."
"Good enough," said Weston.
Ibis turned back to Radar and Mickey Malone. "I believe he will be here," he said. "You may count on me as well. Tomorrow, then?"
"Yep, tomorrow," said Radar, leaning his chair against the office wall. "I want you to know that I appreciate your efforts on Uncle Sam's behalf, Ibis. Sincerely."
"It's not just for your ‘Uncle Sam'," said the magician. "It is for the world. I will see you at the appointed time. Farewell. Ibistick--return me to Taia."
Mick tried not to look like a rube as he watched the strange man fading from sight like a Cheshire cat. But he figured he lost the battle.
"Well, what now?" asked Mick.
Radar said, "There are a few others I'd like to try. Irregardless, the operation starts tomorrow. Still feel up for it?"
Malone smiled. "Like always, Pep."
"Good enough," said Radar, taking off his hat. "Goodbye, Marvel Family, hello, Squadron of Justice."
And if Malone thought that was a stupid name, he kept it to himself.
(To the Golden Age Fanfiction Site)