Author name: Propaganda -- author LiveJournal, author email
Recipient name: David Hines
Requested character(s): Courtney Whitmore / Star-Spangled Kid II
Story title: Bedlam Boys (and Girls)
Rating: appropriate for all ages
Author's notes: The timeline for this story is a nebulous place partially of my own creation, I think. This is after the YOUNG JUSTICE/STARS & S.T.R.I.P.E team-up, and after Jakeem Williams (J.J. Thunder) joins the Justice Society, but before the IMPULSE/STARS & S.T.R.I.P.E. team-up, before JSA ALL-STARS #4 and Courtney's renaming herself Stargirl, and before the events of "Sins of Youth." Phew.
Acknowledgments: Many many thanks to
for beta work, and to
Bedlam Boys (and Girls)
"-- not learning as fast as I'd hoped," Alan says. Courtney stops dead just before the conference room door and holds her breath, trip to the kitchen for more Diet Coke completely forgotten. Maybe they're talking about Jakeem. He's always causing problems down in the museum with that genie. Courtney smirks and flattens herself back against the wall like she's seen eavesdroppers do in movies. She loves hearing the other "junior" member of the Justice Society get dissed. It gives her a leg up in the standings with the older members.
Hey, a little friendly competition is healthy.
"It reminds me a bit of the situation with Impulse," Jay says. Oh, they're *definitely* talking about Jakeem. Impulse is that freaky annoying speedster from the future -- he and Jakeem should team up, Courtney muses. Though the world might collapse from their combined *boy*-ness.
Jay's talking again. Courtney tunes back in, resisting the urge to press her ear against the wall to hear better. "The stubbornness is certainly there, along with the unwillingness to respect authority."
"Though that's a problem with most of the kid heroes," Ted says. Courtney grits her teeth and clenches her hands into fists. Wildcat! You traitor! And she's not a kid hero. She's a hero who *happens* to be under the legal age of majority. There's a *difference*. She relaxes her hands and keeps listening.
"That team they've formed, Young Justice. Do you think it would be good if --"
Alan interrupts Jay, and Courtney can imagine him standing there, posture ramrod straight and hand held up like he's testifying, the perfect image of authority to go along with that stentorian voice. "I think more good would be done here. We are rather more experienced than a cabal of teenagers still growing into their abilities, don't you think?"
But you're way more intimidating, Courtney answers silently. Working with Young Justice had been fun, though not quite as educational as being a member of the JSA was. Robin was just as competent as many of the older heroes Courtney had seen, and Impulse and Superboy...well, maybe the less said about them, the better.
Though if Jakeem were sent to work with Young Justice, that would make Courtney...
"Yes!" she mouths, and punches the air. Star-Spangled Kid number two: best, brightest, and youngest member of the Justice Society. She can totally get behind that.
"...should still work with other kid heroes," Ted says, and Courtney sighs. He'll get it right someday.
"I agree with Ted," Alan says, in that voice of his that means it's final. Courtney feels the tiniest stab of regret -- with Jakeem shipped off to Young Justice, she'll have no one to boss around -- but it's quickly replaced with the sort of glee that makes her want to jump around in a very undignified way. No more Jakeem! No more stupid annoying genie! No more shouts of "So cool!" No more --
"That's settled, then," Jay says, and she hears the scraping of chairs but she's too busy doing a quiet little victory dance in the hallway to register it until Jay says, "I'll take Courtney out to see Max Mercury and Impulse --"
Courtney drops her hands to her sides. "What?!" she says loudly, then claps her hands over her mouth, eyes widening. Oh, *crap*.
"Looks like our walls have ears," Alan says wryly, and then all three of them, Flash, Sentinel, and Wildcat, are standing there in the doorway, arms crossed over there chests and looking down at her like she's just been caught sneaking out after curfew. Not that the JSA has a curfew. But if they did, and Courtney had snuck out after it and been caught, this is totally how they would look at her.
"JustgonnagogetasodathenI'vegothomeworkseeyouguyslater --!" She wheels around to sprint down the hallway, but Jay's hand on her shoulder stops her. She stops and looks back at the three of them, and they're smiling, so she's not about to be punished for eavesdropping -- well, probably not, but Wildcat's got that grin he usually gets right before he lays a haymaker on the bad guy so....
"Not so fast," Jay says. "You and I are taking a field trip."
I don't *want* to go work with Young Justice that Superboy guy was totally sleazy and he stared at my chest and made fun of my braces and -- "What about Jakeem?" she squeaks, and ew, why is she *squeaking*? She shouldn't be nervous -- except she totally should because *Sentinel Flash and Wildcat* are staring at her and she's gonna have to go be on a team with *Impulse.* AUGH.
The three of them exchange vaguely amused looks, then turn back to her. "J.J.'s got something to do," Alan says. "Don't worry. You'll be plenty occupied without his company."
Courtney wonders if she'll stop cringing anytime this century. "Where are we going?"
Jay smiles and adjusts his hat. "You'll see," he says. "Better change into civilian clothes. But bring your gear," he calls after Courtney, who's stalking down the hallway to her bedroom and grumbling loudly.
She pulls on a pair of ripped jeans and a Blue Valley Soldiers sweatshirt before stuffing her costume into her backpack. She slings it on and pounds down the hallway to the conference room, where Jay's waiting.
"So where are we going," she says, or starts to say, but Jay's got her scooped up in his arms and the world spins off its axis for a nauseating second and a half before it rights itself again.
Courtney tumbles out of Jay's arms and collapses to the grass, moaning melodramatically. "Can you *warn* me before you hit Mach three?"
"He only got up to Mach three? Dude, that's *lame*."
Courtney opens one eye to find a giant poofball on a stick leaning over her, bright yellow goggles two inches from her face. She yelps and scrambles to her feet. "Personal space bubble! Personal space bubble!"
The poofball on a stick sets his hands on his hips and tilts his head to one side. "Waitaminnit, I know you."
Courtney stares at him for a moment, then groans and buries her face in her hands. "I must've been a serial killer in a former life," she mutters.
A hand on her shoulder makes her look up. A man about Jay's age in a costume with a disco-collar -- doesn't he know those went out of style even before disco did? -- smiles down at her. "I wonder the same thing ever day," he says, and pats her on the back.
"Max Mercury, this is the Star-Spangled Kid," Jay says. "I see she and Bart have already met."
"Been there, done that, got turned into a freaky blue alien and burned the t-shirt," Courtney says.
"You got a t-shirt from that?" Bart looks so wide-eyed and earnest. Courtney gives a pleading look to Jay, who just shakes his head.
"We're putting you two to work for a cause," Max says. "Habitat for Humanity's building a house in the neighborhood, and we've volunteered you to put some finishing touches on it."
"Awwww," Courtney and Bart groan together. Bart bounces a little on his feet and says, "But Preston and I were gonna play Super Steal Auto Racer Sev --"
"And now you're going to paint a deck." Jay hands Bart a can of paint and picks up the other, balancing a paintbrush on top and offering it out to Courtney. She sighs like she's been asked to repaint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and takes the can and brush.
The house is right behind them, obviously freshly built. Courtney can see a wooden deck attached to the back door, and through the windows the house looks completely empty inside. Bart swings up onto it and plants his hands on his hips. "This won't take long at all," he announces. "I'll just use my superspeed and --"
Max thwaps Bart gently on the back of the head with a paintbrush, then hands it to him. "No speed. No powers whatsoever. This is educational."
How getting beige paint -- ugh, who paints a deck beige? -- all over her jeans is educational is something that escapes Courtney's comprehension. Max and Jay are standing on the lawn not far away from them, talking in low voices. Then suddenly Max is gone and Jay's leaning on the unpainted portion of the railing.
Impulse quits smearing paint everywhere. "Where'd Max go?"
"He's taking a little break," Jay says. "Going city-hopping for a day."
"So you're just gonna stand there and watch us paint a stupid deck?" Courtney stands up and pushes her hair back out of her eyes, and gets a blob of paint on her forehead for her trouble. This day just keeps getting worse.
"I'm supervising," Jay says with a smile. Something starts beeping and Courtney drops her paintbrush and starts fumbling through her backpack. Jay gets to his beeper first.
"Put your pager down," he says to Courtney, who waves it at him.
"It's the JSA headquarters number! That means there's something going down -- I gotta be there too. I'm just as much a member as you are."
"You're still a junior member," Jay says, not unkindly. "I'll go run and see what the trouble is. If it's a big emergency, I promise I'll be back in five seconds to get you. If I *don't* come back, you two stay put and finish painting the deck." He's gone in a blur of red and Courtney thumps down onto the deck, letting her head fall into her hands.
"Man, this *sucks*."
Bart flicks paint off his brush and says, "This would be so much cooler if we had --" he's suddenly gone and Courtney jumps to her feet, ready to yell for him, but then just as suddenly he's back, holding a small portable television set in his arms.
"Now we have entertainment," he says, and sets it on the railing, flicking it on.
"-- reports of a bank robbery," they hear, and the picture wavers into the image of a newscaster standing in front of a huge stone building. "Witnesses claim the perpetrator hypnotised the teller somehow, then made off with over fifty thousand dollars in a stolen tractor trailer. The truck has been spotted driving north out of the city, on highway 481. Descriptions of the perpetrator match that of this woman." An image flashes up onto the screen of a young woman with hair even bigger than Bart's, wearing a flashy blue jumpsuit and smiling coyly at the camera even though it's a mug shot.
"White Lightning," Bart says.
Courtney snorts. "'White Lightning'? What kind of stupid name is that? It's so redundant!"
"And Star-Spangled Kid is so much better."
Courtney widens her stance, sets her fists on her hips, and glares at Bart. "It's a *legacy*. You wanna make something of it, *Impulse*?"
Bart crosses his arms over his chest and rocks a little on his heels, glaring right back. "I'm not gonna fight you. You're not a villain."
Oh, he just *hands* it to her. Courtney smirks and lets her hands drop. "Oh yeah? And how 'bout her? That why this little number," she jerks her thumb back at the television, "keeps getting away from you? 'Cause you don't think she's a villain?"
"She's got freaky powers!" Bart flails his hands in the air so fast they're just pink blurs on the ends of his arms. "I mean, she's like my nemesis!"
"I get a half-human, half-reptile science project who tries to take over the world, and you get ... White Lightning. The world is so not fair."
Bart's ignoring her. "We gotta go take her down," he says. "Forget this stupid house thing."
Courtney bites her lip, torn. On the one hand, there's a chick out there in a cheesy jumpsuit driving off in a Mack truck with thousands of dollars. On the other hand, there's the job Jay and Max told them to do. "The stubbornness is there," she remembers Jay saying. "Along with the unwillingness to respect authority." She's gotta prove that she's not like those other kid heroes, and if the hair-rock refugee gets away...eh, well, it's not *her* city.
"Jay said to stay here," she hears herself saying, and cringes a little at the goody-goody tone of her own voice. Jeez, she sounds like Shirley Temple with an extra helping of sugar.
Bart's already in his Impulse costume. Courtney didn't even notice him leave. "Fine," he says. "I'll just bring her in on my own."
Courtney drops her paintbrush into the bucket and whips off her backpack. "You stay put," she tells Bart, then races into the empty house to change into her Star-Spangled Kid outfit. No way she's gonna sit by and paint the deck like some Tom Sawyer wannabe while freakin' *Impulse* gets the glory.
Bart's actually vibrating with impatience by the time she gets back outside, belt firmly in place. "WegottaGOshe'salreadytothehighway!" He grabs her hand and the world tilts upside-down for a sickening second before she's back on her feet on the side of a two-lane highway.
Courtney puts her hands on her knees and takes a few deep breaths of exhaust-laden air. "So never gonna get used to that."
Bart's bouncing up and down on his toes. "She's gonna get here in about thirty seconds," he says.
"Yeah? You got a plan to go with that ETA?" Courtney straightens up and peers down the highway. Cars zip by and a pickup honks at them. She very deliberately does not give them the finger.
"Not really," Bart says. "Usually I just hop into the cab of the truck and have a little chat with her."
"'Little chat' meaning you punch her lights out, right -- oh, wait. You don't hit girls."
Bart flails his arms again, looking like he's trying to take off into the air in a particularly poor Hawkman impression. Courtney gets the feeling he's about to go off into a, "Max says not to hit people if running fast will solve the problem!" sort of spiel, so she raises a hand to cut him off before he gets started. "Stow it, speed-freak. I see her truck. Got any suggestions?"
"Yeah. Stay here." The truck zooms by, cargo rattling, and Impulse is gone.
"Oh, *shoot*." Courtney throws up her arms. "This is a total waste of --"
Impulse is standing right in front of her. There's no fifty thousand dollars, Mack truck, or White Lightning in sight. "I let her go," Bart says. There's an odd lilt to his voice, but Courtney's too busy getting ready to explode to notice.
"You *let her go*? She stole fifty thousand dollars, freakboy! That's not petty whatever, that's -- that's grand whatever!" Now *she's* flailing her arms and -- Bart's not moving. That's strange enough to make her drop her hands and take a closer look at the speedster.
Who's staring off into the space just above Courtney's right shoulder, slack-jawed, a completely blank expression on his face. Courtney snaps her fingers in front of his eyes and suddenly he's himself again, wound tighter than a watch spring.
"Aw, *crap*!" He stamps his huge feet on the ground and stomps around in a circle. "She used her charms on me! Her stupid freaky powers," he explains, as soon as Courtney opens her mouth to ask. "She's got *mind control* or something. But it only works on guys and I think she mind-controlled me into letting her go and *crap* Max is gonna kill me."
Courtney seizes on the pertinent point in Bart's rant. "It only works on guys?" Bart nods. "What are we standing around here for, then? I'm not a guy! I can stop her."
"But you're not a speedster," Bart points out astutely. "How are you gonna catch up to her and get in the cab?"
Courtney covers her face with one hand. "I can't believe I'm saying this," she says, "but you're gonna get me there."
"She's probably halfway to Mississippi by now," Bart grumbles.
"Stop moving!" Courtney clenches her fists in Bart's hair and doesn't bother to hide her smile at his yelp.
"Well I gotta keep my balance *somehow* and it's a little hard with a hundred and -- ow!"
Courtney lets go of the handful of hair she yanked on. "You're stopping right there. I know it's hard to balance with me on my shoulders but stop complaining and focus and maybe it'll work." No wonder Max Mercury was so eager to get away for a while.
"Stupid cheerleaders with your stupid moves and your stupid sitting on people's shoulders." Bart grabs hold of Courtney's ankles, gripping them tightly. Courtney's stomach drops a little as she realizes just what's going to happen, and she tightens her legs over Bart's shoulders and hunches over a little, wrapping her arms loosely around his neck. "Okay, hold on."
"All riaaaaaiiiiieeeee!" They take off down the highway, zipping past cars like they were standing still. Courtney fights to keep her eyes open in the wind, tears streaming horizontally back from her face from the force. Then she remembers something. "Bart!" she yells, and he doesn't answer. She yanks on his hair and he slows down barely perceptively. "Bart, this is important. Was the passenger side window open?"
"I can't remember," he shouts back. "I don't think so. But the driver's window was!"
Well, crap. "Bring me up on the driver's side, then," she yells, and then turns her focus to keeping her stomach in its assigned position until they see the back of the tractor trailer up ahead.
Relax, she tells herself as they come up beside the truck's cab. The window is open and she can see White Furball's hair streaming in the wind. Thankfully she's occupied with watching the road and isn't paying attention to the two kid heroes right next to her, one tottering atop the other's shoulders like something out of a cheap circus. "On three," she calls down to Bart, "I need you to push me up towards the window as hard as you can. Okay?"
"Okay!" He shifts his grip on her ankles a little bit and she thinks about taking a deep breath, then decides she'd just probably wind up swallowing a bug.
It's just like in the movies, she thinks. Except they're wearing safety harnesses and have stunt doubles and the cars aren't really moving that fast and -- right. *Just* like the movies. She untangles her arms from around Bart's neck and feels herself start to sway. C'mon Court, she thinks, waving little pom-poms in her mind. You've done this a hundred times in cheerleading practice. You can do it one more time.
White Furball glances over at them, looks back at the road, then whips her head back, mouth in a round, surprised 'O.' Shit. "Three!" Courtney yells, and Bart launches her up into the air, up towards the open window. She reaches up, up, hands grabbing at empty air and a photographic slideshow of every piece of roadkill she's ever seen flashing through her mind until *yes*, her hands latch onto the door and she flips herself up and over, arms screaming with the strain of it, straight into White Lightning's lap.
The chick lets out a shriek and slams on the brakes, and Courtney's thrown to the other side of the cab, banging her ribcage against the door. The wind's knocked out of her and she lies splayed upside down on the bench seat, wheezing. She can see Furball fumbling for the door handle -- probably gonna push her out and oh god here comes the roadkill again -- but she reaches up and grabs hold of the girl's wrist.
"Don't," she says as menacingly as she can when she's upside down in the cab of a tractor trailer and still trying to catch her breath.
White Lightning gives her a big, wide, well-howdy-stranger smile and actually bats her eyelashes. "I wasn't going to do anything," she says, in a voice that drips like syrup and makes Courtney's self-respect want to shrivel up and die in sympathy.
Courtney snorts and twists around until she's sitting right side up again. "Shyeah right. Pull over."
Furball's smile distorts into a snarl and she wrenches her arm out of Courtney's grasp. "Not on your life," she says, and jerks the wheel to one side. Courtney's prepared for that and braces one arm against the door to keep from tumbling again. Maybe she should buckle up.
The belt's starting to thrum with energy; she can feel it rippling out through her torso, up her spine, out to the tips of her fingers. She grins and snaps her fingers, just for show really, and five of her stars start to circle her hand. "I'd pull over if I were you," she says, making her voice as threatening as possible.
Which, okay, isn't very threatening and maybe she should ask Alan for lessons on that because White Furball just laughs and floors it. Jeez, is she really that easy to ignore? Courtney grits her teeth.
"I'm gonna ask you very politely one more time," she says, "and if you *don't* do like I ask, then one of my stars is gonna lay you flat. Okay? Now pull over."
"Listen," White Lightning says, not taking her eyes off the road for a second. "The money is for my mother. I gotta bail her outta jail -- she's the only one I've got and --"
"You didn't pull over," Courtney interrupts smugly, and tosses one of her stars at White Lightning's head. There's a flash and the girl crumples to the floor of the cab, unconscious. "That'll teach you to ignore the Star-Spangled K--"
The truck swerves wildly and Courtney's head snaps up. The wheel. There's no one driving. And she definitely doesn't have her driver's license yet. The truck jolts again and she swallows a whimper. Being in a runaway tractor trailer with an unconscious villain is so much worse than being in a controlled tractor trailer with a conscious villain, and why didn't she think of that before?
Not like she's got a choice now. She lifts her feet up over White Lightning's body and scrambles over to the driver's side, trying to remember everything from Driver's Ed. The speedometer is hovering at eighty, and Courtney forces her hands to hold tightly onto the vibrating wheel. She squeezes her eyes shut and presses her foot down on the brake, gently, gently -- she can just imagine the trailer whipping around and flipping the truck if she stops too fast and god what an undignified death that would be -- and the truck starts to slow. Barely at first, the needle creeping down to just below seventy, and Courtney remembers to check the side- and rear-view mirrors to watch for approaching traffic.
The only approaching traffic is Impulse, who's still running alongside the truck. Courtney rolls her eyes and depresses the brake a little more. Sixty, fifty, forty. The shoulder of the road isn't very wide but it should be far enough for her to pull over. She can see Bart waving his arms over his head, and behind him -- oh. An entire squadron of police cars, all flashing their lights with sirens blaring. Courtney hopes that teenage heroes don't need licenses in order to drive.
She takes the truck down to ten miles an hour and pulls it over onto the shoulder. It's like wrestling Gorilla Grodd, but she manages and eventually the truck rolls to a stop. Courtney flings open the driver's side door and leaps down onto the asphalt.
"That was SO COOL," Bart shouts. Courtney just rolls her eyes and grins.
"That was *so lame*," Jakeem groans, collapsing onto the couch in the common room. Courtney looks up from the history textbook she's got balanced on her knees. "For two hours all I did was sit there and watch Arrowette shoot at a target in her backyard! I didn't even get to shoot a single arrow! No *way* would she let me touch her precious bow. And then Alan dragged us off to a soup kitchen to serve dinner to homeless people! Soooo lame." He lets out a frustrated noise and drags his hands over his face, then looks over at Courtney. "What'd they make you do?"
"Paint a porch with Impulse," Courtney says around the pen in her mouth. "For Habitat for Humanity."
Jakeem nods a couple times. "Impulse. Cool. Cooler than *Arrowette*." He makes a face.
Jay pokes his head into the common room. "Courtney! I didn't get a chance to talk to you. Bart brought you home?" Courtney nods and Jay's face breaks out in a smile. "Good, good. So what do you guys think? Do you want to do this again sometime?"
"No!" Jakeem shouts. "No way, no how."
"Well, there's one vote," Jay says with a laugh, and looks over at Courtney. "How 'bout you, Kid?"
Courtney takes the pen out of her mouth and considers it for a moment. Then she looks up at Jay. "Not until I get my driver's license."
The confused look on Jakeem's face makes the whole thing worth it.
Reference images taken from JSA ALL-STARS #4 and STARS & S.T.R.I.P.E. #7.
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