“I still think we should be out lookin’ for the Triad,” Ollie Queen said as the limousine pulled to a stop at the corner.
“They’ll keep, Ollie,” Bruce Wayne said. “You only get married once, you know.”
“Assuming Dinah doesn’t get wise and leave him,” Carter Hall added.
“Up yours, feather-duster!” Ollie snapped.
“OK, you two, enough with the fighting for one night,” Ralph Dibny said. Ollie found it creepy hearing Ralph’s voice coming out of an unrecognizable face. The Elongated Man had no secret identity and was a very public figure; to protect his friends’ secret identities, he had molded his malleable features into a very different face. Only he, Bruce, and Carter were in the limousine with Ollie; the others were meeting them at the location.
“Here we are,” Carter said. “All out.”
“At least I finally get to find out the big secret,” Ollie said. He opened the door of the limousine and found a small group of men waiting in front of the entrance to a building. Clark Kent and Hal Jordan were there, as well as the Red Tornado in his John Smith identity; as were two Ollie had not been expecting.
“Roy!” Ollie cried, embracing his former ward. “You old son of a gun! I didn’t know you were coming!”
“As if I’d miss it,” Roy Harper said. “And here’s someone else you may not have expected.”
“Hey, Ollie,” Ray Palmer said. “Hope there’s room for an old friend at your party.”
“Always, Ray,” Ollie said, wringing his old friend’s hand firmly. Ray Palmer had given up his identity of the Atom, but not his friendships with his former teammates. He and Ollie, the first two non-charter members of the League, had always shared a special bond.
“I heard Arthur and John couldn’t make it,” Ray said. “What about Wally?”
“He had to cancel at the last minute,” Carter said. “Something about Len Snart, I think. Well, come on, let’s go in!”
For the first time, Ollie looked up at the building to see where they were. It was the Take Six, a trendy jazz club in downtown Star City. Ollie was a frequent patron of the place.
“Nice,” he said. “You’re doing OK so far, Carter.”
Ollie’s friend and favorite sparring partner grinned. “Wait until you see what’s inside.” Inside, Ollie found the club deserted; not surprising, his friends having rented it for a private party. A scantily dressed waitress took their drink orders.
“And for you, sir — wow!” The young woman exclaimed. “I mean, excuse me, but aren’t you Bruce Wayne?”
“Yes, I’m afraid so,” Bruce smiled. “I’d like a ginger ale, please.”
“A ginger — you mean, as a mixer?” the waitress asked. “What do you want in it?”
“Ice,” Bruce replied. Wide-eyed, the waitress took the rest of the order and moved on.
“Well, this is a pretty good turnout,” Ollie said. “I still wish John and Arthur could have made it, and Wally, too. He’s a good kid. But still, thanks for coming, everyone.”
“To the happy couple,” Clark said, raising his glass.
“Attention, gentlemen!” the master of ceremonies’ voice came from the stage. “Thank you all for choosing Take Six for your special event! And a heartfelt congratulations to the groom, Mr. Oliver Queen! I hope you’ll mention us in your column, Mr. Queen!”
“Depends on the show,” Ollie called back in good spirit.
“Well, I’m sure you’ll enjoy that, sir,” the M.C. promised. “Mr. Baron will be ready in just a few minutes!”
Ollie did a double-take. “Baron? D.D. Baron? The D.D. Baron? You’re kidding, right?”
“Surprise, Ollie,” Carter said. “Your favorite blues guitarist, right?”
“Are you kidding?” Ollie said. “He’s the only blues guitarist! Everyone else is just trying to be him! Man, he never performs live anymore! How’d you swing this?“
“Has it been so long, Ollie,” Bruce asked, “that you forgot what enough money can buy?”
“Guess it has,” Ollie admitted. “Thanks, guys. This is going to be a real treat.”
Ollie sat motionless, eyes glued to the stage, waiting for a glimpse of his idol. Five minutes went by, and finally, the curtain parted. A middle-aged man, an African-American, sat on a stool, holding a guitar across his body.
“It’s him!” Ollie whispered. “It’s really him!”
“H’lo out there, cats,” Baron said into the microphone. “I understand there’s a big fan of mine out there in the audience tonight, someone who’s gettin’ ready to take the big plunge. Well, you’re a braver man than I am, brother. So here’s a little number just for you.” The master musician began to strum his guitar expertly, his fingers gliding along the strings with the ease born of decades of practice. A huge grin split Ollie’s bearded face as the music filled the club.
Suddenly, the music was disrupted by the sound of a muffled explosion. A huge cloud of thick, dark smoke burst from the kitchen door into the club, completely hiding the stage from the view of the partygoers.
“What the hell?!” Ollie cried out, leaping to his feet.
The smoke quickly cleared, and three figures became visible, standing in front of the stage. “Mr. Baron’s performance is canceled, due to circumstances beyond your control,” the Bookworm said haughtily.
“Son of a gun!” Ollie snarled.
“I do apologize for interrupting your party, gentlemen,” Moonwalker said. “But when we heard the famous D.D. Baron was performing live again, we knew his record company would pay a king’s ransom for his safe return.”
“And while I hate to rely on trite phrases,” Bookworm added, “don’t try anything, and you won’t get hurt.”
“You pickin’ up what we’re puttin’ down, amigos?” Quintessential Man asked.
“Hal–!” Ollie growled in a whisper.
“I hear you,” Hal whispered back. At a silent command from its master, the power ring sent out a blinding flash of brilliant emerald light. The Terroristic Triad covered their eyes and exclaimed in astonishment. When they lowered their hands, where eight ordinary men had sat, eight costumed heroes now stood. Green Lantern’s power ring had even clothed Ray Palmer in his old Atom costume.
“The Justice League!” Moonwalker cried.
“Aw, man!” Quintessential Man declared. “Major bummer!”
“It was a trap!” Bookworm cried. “They lured us here, disguised as a private party! And we fell for it!”
“Um, OK, we’ll go with that,” Green Arrow whispered, drawing an arrow.
“Oh, no, you don’t!” Moonwalker declared, throwing out his hands. Instantly, the club was plunged into blackness.
“Dang, Bats, you weren’t kiddin’ about this darkness!” Green Arrow declared.
“I’ll say,” Superman said. “Even my super-vision can’t penetrate it!”
“Well, let’s see what a little old-fashioned light on the subject can do!” Green Arrow notched a magnesium flare arrow and fired it where he remembered Moonwalker standing. Through the darkness he heard the burst of the flare, followed by Moonwalker’s scream. Then the lights came on.
“Good shot, G.A.,” Elongated Man said. “Now let’s clean house!”
“Time to go five alive!” Quintessential Man declared, and in an eye-blink, five of him stood where one had been. The five villains separated, each running in a different direction. Batman, the Elongated Man, Hawkman, Red Tornado and Arsenal each pursued one.
“I’ll wrap up the lethal librarian,” Green Lantern declared, “then I’ll help you guys with Q-Man!”
“Not so fast, Green Lantern!” Bookworm declared, clutching her book tightly. Suddenly, a portly man with a black beard, in purple robes and a golden crown, appeared before her.
“Who do we have here?” Green Lantern asked, firing a beam from his power ring. “Old King Cole?”
The purple-robed king grabbed the edge of one of the club’s round tables and turned it on its edge like a shield. At his touch, the table turned to solid gold, and the power beam bounced off it harmlessly.
“Whoops,” Green Lantern corrected. “King Midas!”
With a snarl, Midas lifted the golden table and hurled it at Green Lantern, too fast for the emerald gladiator to dodge. The table struck him, and he crashed to the floor.
“G.L.!” Green Arrow cried, seeing his friend bowled over by the golden table.
“I’ll handle it, Arrow,” Superman said, streaking through the air across the club. “That golden touch of yours is magic in nature, if I remember my storybooks, Midas, but I can stop you without touching you!” The Man of Steel blew a concentrated blast of super-breath at the robed king, but before the column of air could touch him, Midas vanished.
“Didn’t learn your lesson from our first encounter, Superman?” the Bookworm asked. “Time to introduce another character to the story!” With those words, an elderly man in flowing blue robes and conical hat appeared. His long gray beard hung down to his rope belt, and his eyes burned with molten fire.
“Oh, no,” Superman gasped. “Merlin the Magician!”
“Saladam balshazar oblivia!” Merlin chanted, flinging his hands forward at the Man of Steel. A bolt of magical energy leaped from his gnarled old fingers, striking Superman in midair. With a scream, the Metropolis marvel fell to the floor.
Meanwhile, the five Quintessential Men were working as a unit, and the five Justice Leaguers were getting in each other’s way trying to capture all of him. Elongated Man’s stretching body had become tangled in the Red Tornado’s spinning torso, and both heroes lay on the floor in a twisted heap. Arsenal tried to get the drop on two of them with a sonic arrow, but the Quintessential Man changed tactics then and merged back into a single entity. The arrow sped past where two of his bodies had been and finally found a target in Hawkman, who clapped his hands over the sides of his helmet to shut out the sound.
“The caped one has fallen before the mystic might of Merlin,” the sorcerer declared. “Who is next? You, perhaps?” Merlin addressed the final comment to the Atom, who was running up to him defiantly.
“Perhaps,” Ray Palmer said, “and perhaps not.” Ray flung a handful of something at the robed magician. “Have some white dwarf material!”
“NOOoooo!” Merlin cried out in a diminishing voice as he shrank out of sight.
“Spe — Arsenal, Maneuver MF-73!” Green Arrow called out. Arsenal looked back with a confused look on his face.
“MF-73?” he repeated. “Now what was–? Oh, yeah!” His face lit up with recognition then. He drew an arrow and fired it at the single Quintessential Man standing before him.
“Nice try, arrow guy!” Quintessential Man called out, and suddenly split into five. The arrow whistled past where he had been. But Green Arrow had been prepared for it and launched three blunt-headed arrows at once. One struck one Quintessential Man in the temple, bounced off, and tagged another in the center of the forehead. A second struck one on the point of his chin. A third struck a fourth Quintessential Man on the jaw, bounced off, struck the top of a table, then ricocheted up and caught the final Q-Man under his chin. Almost as one, the five Quintessential Men sank to the floor. Once unconscious, the five villains merged into one.
“Now, that’s more like it!” Green Arrow said, grinning.
The emerald archer didn’t have much time to gloat, as the lights suddenly went out again. “Aw, no, I thought he was taken care of!” Green Arrow muttered. “G.L., are you awake?”
“Unh, barely,” Green Lantern muttered. “Hey, the lights! Moonwalker?”
“Uh-huh,” Green Arrow said. “How about some of that in-blackest-night stuff?”
“Coming up,” Green Lantern responded. Green Arrow barely made out the glow of the power ring, piercing the darkness. Then he saw another green glow — the body of Moonwalker, made to fluoresce emerald by Green Lantern’s power ring. Thus given a target, Green Arrow launched an electro-shock arrow. The shaft sped true, striking Moonwalker square in the chest. The sub-lethal current sent him sprawling to the ground, unconscious. The lights came on instantly.
“Two down, or is it six?” Green Arrow said. “Anyway, one to go. Where’s–? Uh-oh!” The emerald archer saw a beautiful woman in flowing white robes, a bright golden light streaming from her body. In her hand she held a large brass cap. Batman knelt on the floor in front of her, covering his face with his hands.
“If I remember my English lit, that’s the Ghost of Christmas Past,” Green Arrow said. “She must be makin’ Bats recall his childhood, before his parents were killed! Man, that’s dirty fighting!”
“My comrades have fallen, but I do not need them!” Bookworm declared, holding her leather-bound tome high above her head. “The only help I need is from my friends from books, and I can call them all down to destroy you!”
“Lady,” Green Arrow said, drawing an arrow, “you talk too much.” The arrow sped like a bullet, striking the book and knocking it out of Bookworm’s hands. The arrow then exploded into flame, setting the dusty old book afire. The dry pages blazed quickly.
“No!” Bookworm shrieked. “My book!“
The Ghost of Christmas Past vanished then. Superman helped Batman to his feet, assuring his old friend that everything was all right. Hawkman swooped down to grab the Bookworm’s arms, pinning them behind her back.
“Good shot,” Hawkman said, smiling.
“Thanks,” Green Arrow responded with a grin.
Minutes later, the villains were securely bound. The eight heroes stood around them, triumphant over their foes. “We’ll deliver them to the authorities, now that the fight’s gone out of them,” Batman said. “Good job, everyone.”
“So much for the Terroristic Triad,” Green Arrow said.
Hawkman took Green Arrow aside, where the villains could not hear. “Ollie,” he said, “I’m sorry your party turned out this way. I had tried to give you the best bachelor party I could, but–“
Green Arrow grinned. “Are you kiddin’, Hawky? You gave me what I love most of all: a good fight!” Green Arrow clapped his old friend on the back. “I’ve never had more fun at a party!”
Hawkman returned the grin.