by Martin Maenza
In one of the smaller buildings on the Verner Brothers lot, a large and impressive figure sat hunched over a workbench. In one hand was a soldering iron and in the other a small contraption of some sort. The tool sparked as he brought the two items in contact with one another. Finally, the man said, “That should do it,” and he flicked off the tool.
Dan Cassidy stood and stretched out his muscular blue arms. “I need to move about a bit,” he said to himself. He removed the welding goggles from his eyes and passed them over the two large, white horns that protruded out of his bald blue head.
There was a gurgling sound.
“Hmmm,” Dan said as he rubbed his washboard-chiseled stomach beneath his colorful, floral print shirt. He turned his head and glanced at the clock on the wall. The smaller hand pointed straight up, while the larger hand was past the bottom and ready to head up again. “I’d better go get something down at the commissary. The morning got away from me.” He put down the goggles and started toward the door.
As he started to step out on the lot, there was a rush of movement and sound coming around the corner. Dan quickly stepped back into the doorframe as a small group hurried past, giggling and shrieking.
“Sheesh,” Dan said to himself. “Nothing like almost gettin’ run down by a couple makeup girls and an intern.” He stepped back out onto the lot and watched them hurrying off with a purpose toward the center of the lot. “I wonder what all the hubbub is about.” He decided to investigate.
Soon, after a quick-paced stroll, he found the very same trio of young ladies joining about a half-dozen more as they crowded around someone near the main building. “What in the world?”
“Hey, Danny, did you hear the news?” asked a voice from behind him.
Dan Cassidy turned to see a red-haired boy, age thirteen, rushing up behind him. The stuntman-turned-hero smiled as young Edward Bloomberg approached. He was the nephew of Dan’s good friend and director Marla Bloom. The lad had come out from the East Coast a couple of years ago to live with his aunt and had become a permanent feature around the studio lot ever since.
“No, Gopher,” Dan said, calling the young teenager by his nickname, “I hadn’t. What’s going on? Is Wayne Tarrant auctioning off dates to the studio’s female employees again?”
“Nah,” Gopher said, shaking his head. “Nothin’ like that. We’ve got a visitor on the lot!”
“Visitor, huh? Let me see, here.” Dan Cassidy paused for a second and considered. The group of women were ringing around this guest, blocking the view of whomever they were swarming over. “Must be a guy, and not a very tall one, either. That kind of rules out most of the Brat Packers like Ron Lowe and Judd Newton. Could be J. Michael Fox or that Darren Festino kid from Marriage and Family, though.”
“Wrong, wrong, wrong,” said Gopher. “Oh, yeah, and wrong.” He gave his friend and mentor a big grin. “Care to venture any more guesses?”
Dan Cassidy frowned slightly. “Nah, I think you’re enjoying this too much,” he said as he mussed the youth’s hair with his right blue hand. “Come on, let’s get a closer look.”
The two walked over to where the ladies were gathered, still shrieking and giggling and gushing over whomever they managed to entrap. Dan waited for a few moments, but the situation was hardly improving. In fact, even Gopher seemed to be getting a little caught up in the excitement.
Nothing worse than star-struck studio staff. “OK, ladies,” Dan finally said. “Let’s break it up before you smother the poor guy.”
There were disappointed “Awwws” and a few dirty looks given to the man who was spoiling their fun as they started to move away.
“You’ll get over it,” he said to them as they grumbled by. “It’s not like you won’t see another star before the day ends.”
“Maybe so,” said the voice behind Dan Cassidy, “but how many are unique like me?”
The voice registered in Dan’s head before he even turned around. When he did, he saw the five-foot-eight young man dressed in a brightly colored shirt and white shorts. He didn’t need the young man’s telltale colored skin and hair to know who it was.
“Garfield Logan!” Dan exclaimed. “Is that really you?” He rushed over to give him a hug.
“In the evergreen flesh,” the visitor replied. “Ooof! Easy on the hug there, big blue.”
Dan Cassidy set the young man down. “Sorry about that, Gar. It’s been ages.”
“Sure has, Dan,” Gar said. He checked out the man who now, more than before, towered over him at seven feet. That was mostly in part due to the fact that Dan Cassidy’s body, while on location shooting a movie on Ile Du Diable a few years ago, was fused by mystical energy to the stunt costume he had devised. Dan had originally just planned to wear the suit to be a blue devil for the film, but now he was in fact truly a Blue Devil in every sense of being.
“Nice shirt,” Gar continued. “I always knew you had good taste.” The shirt Dan wore was as similarly loud and garish as the one that the green-skinned youth wore.
Dan clamped his hand about Gar’s shoulders. “So, what brings you back to the old Verner Brothers’ lot? You get homesick for the old place?”
“Riiight,” Gar said with a smile. “Nah, I happened to be in town for something, and I wanted to check the old prop house. A couple months back, before all that invasion stuff hit, my team was involved with something that had me thinking about the old Space Trek 2022 set. I wanted to take a look around, that is, if you think that old Jock won’t mind.”
Dan waved his hand. “Nah, Jock won’t care much,” he said. “‘Course, we don’t have to tell him, either.” He gave his friend a little wink.
“Ahem.” Gopher cleared his throat loudly, hoping to get the two’s attention.
“Oh, sorry,” Dan Cassidy apologized. “Gar, this is Gopher Bloomberg. Gopher, meet my old pal, Garfield Logan. I did some of my earliest stunt work on back on his old sci-fi TV show before it ended its run.”
“Pleased to meet you,” Gar said, offering his hand.
Gopher shook it. “Same here,” the red-haired youth said. “But we both have a bit of a connection, too.” Gopher leaned in closer and dropped his voice to a whisper. “You know, the whole Titans thing.”
“What?” Gar asked, a little surprised.
“Don’t mind him,” Dan said to his old friend. “Gopher’s just so excited that I let him pal around as my occasional sidekick. That and the fact that his aunt and I both agreed he could do some occasional training across town with some of your old friends, Gar.”
“Yeah,” Gopher added. “Lilith, Mal…”
A light bulb seemed to go off over the green-skinned young man’s head. “Oh, right. The West Coast branch. Got it! Sorry I didn’t realize it sooner.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Dan said. “We don’t make much of a big deal of it, neither.” Gopher started to pout, but the man who resembled a blue devil in appearance just gave him a knowing wink.
Dan’s stomach grumbled, enough for both young man to notice. “Say, Gar, I was just about to head over the commissary to grab some grub. You interested in joining me — er, us?”
“Does Mrs. Lamattina still work there?”
“Sure does,” Dan replied. “Finest lasagna around town.”
Gar smiled. “I’m in! Let’s go!”
“So I’m booked doing these auto shows around the country for the rest of the summer, billed as Tork,” Gar was saying between mouthfuls of food.
“His character from Space Trek 2022,” Dan clarified.
“Duh,” Gopher said. “I’ve seen the show before, Dan. Like about a hundred times. I think WKLA-TV still shows it after midnight on Saturdays.”
“And that keeps the meager residual checks coming in,” Gar said, “so it’s all good. Since I had an extra day or so in Los Angeles, I decided to stop in and check things out at the old place.”
“Well, I’m glad you did,” Dan said. “It’s good seeing you again, outside of some major–”
At that exact moment, someone burst into the commissary, a woman shouting in panic. “A giant monster is attacking the studio!” she screamed.
“–crisis.” Dan finished his sentence, shaking his head and sighing.
Both Gar and Gopher were rising from the table fast. “Come on, Dan,” the red-haired boy said. “It’s action time!”
“Really,” Gar added. “Unless you’d rather a professional handle it.”
“I’m coming, I’m coming,” Dan said, chasing after them. “I swear, being a weirdness magnet can end any time now, thank you.”
Cassidy made a quick detour through his lab to grab his trident weapon. “Best to be prepared,” he said as he started for the door.
“I’ll be along in a minute,” Gopher said as he pulled off his T-shirt. “Just need to get into my Kid Devil gear.”
Dan didn’t have time to lecture Gopher about dangerous situations. If there was indeed a giant monster attacking the Verner Brothers studio, Blue Devil was needed right away. It didn’t matter how reluctant of a hero he was.
When the azure avenger rounded the corner, he skidded to a halt. “Holy cow!” he said as he stared up wide-eyed for a moment. Indeed, a giant gorilla of a figure, easily thirty feet tall, was rampaging across the studio, tearing up things in its wake.
“Back, everyone, back!” Changeling said as he transformed into a large green elephant after placing himself between the screaming staff and the attacking monster. “Wouldn’t want any of my fans to get trampled!”
The people did as the young hero instructed.
Taking steps to the side, the changed hero glanced up at the monster. “Wow!” he whistled, his trunk extending out, “This guy’s like King Kong come to life!”
“Allow me, then, to take it down a few pegs!” Blue Devil shouted as his mighty legs propelled him through the air. As he approached the beast, he swung his large golden trident back with both hands. “Let’s see if I can shock the monkey a little!” The weapon crackled with an energy charge.
Changeling had looked away a moment from the blinding attack as he transformed again. When he had become a bird form to get closer, he saw something shocking. There, on the lot ground, was a pile of rubble with blue limbs slightly visible. “Blue Devil!”
The giant ape seemed to ignore the attack and started to move again, roaring loudly as his feet thudded on the ground with loud crashes.
As he swooped in, Changeling transformed again. This time, he became a huge green gorilla and started to pick up the large chunks of the damaged building. “Hold on, Danny,” he said as he threw the blocks aside. “I’m coming!”
Blue Devil groaned and shook the smaller pieces off his back as he slowly rose. “Man! What hit me?” he asked as he rubbed his head.
“I’d say Studio 4-B,” the green ape replied.
“Cute,” Blue Devil said as he bent over to retrieve his weapon. “Where’d your monstrous mama go, junior?”
“That way!” Changeling responded. He transformed again, becoming a small chimpanzee able to sit on the other hero’s shoulders. “Let’s go get ‘er!”
Blue Devil ran fast in the direction the monster had fled. As he rounded the corner near the main studio office building, he almost ran into a red-costumed youth. “Gopher!”
“Where’s the action?” Kid Devil asked. His costume was a similar motif to Danny’s, except that it really was just a padded costume. He carried a red trident weapon, a smaller version of similar design to his mentor’s.
“Kid, did you see the giant ape pass this way?” the green chimpanzee asked.
“Giant ape?” Kid Devil asked. “Uh… no. Should I have?”
Changeling leaped off Blue Devil’s shoulders, transforming as he dropped to the ground. When he landed, it was on four legs. Now, as a bloodhound, he started to sniff the ground with his nose. “Give me a moment to get its scent,” he said between sniffs. “Something that big and that hairy has gotta have left some kind of nasty odor behind.”
Blue Devil scratched his head curiously. “How could something that big and causing so much damage have moved so quickly?”
“What damage?” asked Kid Devil.
“That damage!” Blue Devil said sternly, pointing back around the corner from where they came.
The smaller costumed hero looked for a moment. “All I see is some rubble by one of the studios which has got a hole in the side,” he said. “The Demolition Team did more to the place last Fall when they barreled through here. (*) Am I missing something?”
[(*) Editor’s note: See Titans West: Studio Tore Up.]
“What?!” Blue Devil exclaimed. He poked his head about the corner and looked thoroughly. “Hey, what gives? That giant ape was tearin’ up the whole place! I saw it with my own eyes!”
The green bloodhound stepped up and transformed back to a human again. “Got some bad news,” Changeling said. “I couldn’t pick up a single odd scent. It’s almost like it was never here.”
“What’s going on here?” Blue Devil looked curiously at the other two.