Chapter 1: Third Saturdays
Speed_Demon@yahoo.com; ElecTrickEel@aol.com; MartyMann@jonesinvestigations.com;
Subject: That time…
Prod the girl
Ponch&John, idiot, and Albert
Call BSA and Jacques
… "The Babysitter is Dead"
To the untrained eye, the e-mail meant nothing: a series of jumbled letters and unintelligible gibberish. To Wally West, however, it was the announcement he had been expecting.
"Hot damn!" he muttered, pulling out his palm pilot and going to the calendar. He smiled to himself as he quickly jotted in an appointment, then dropped the Palm back into his pocket.
"Prod the girl?!" Linda’s voice said from behind him, causing him to bolt up, his hand going to the mouse and closing the e-mail.
"It’s nothing, honey. It was a clue from Kyle about a case the League is involved in…"
Linda eyed the back her fiancée’s head questioningly, then shrugged and walked back out of the room. Unintelligible E-mails from Kyle Rayner were not a new occurrence in the West household. That boy had too much free time on his hands…
You've got mail!
"Ooo!" Eel bounced up out of his chair. "Hold that thought, I’ll be right back…"
He hopped out of the bedroom and into the den of his apartment, bounding over to the computer desk. He clicked on his e-mail icon and brought up the new message. "Woo hoo!" he shouted, maybe a bit louder than he should.
"Hey mister, the clock is ticking!" came the reply from the bedroom.
Eel smirked to himself, then closed the e-mail and headed back into the bedroom. "Don’t worry ladies, I’ll pay for the extra time, if need be." He returned to his overstuffed chair, his fingers steepled under his nose. "Please… continue."
The two ladies looked at each other then shrugged. EHD Escort Service specialized in providing clients they're "Every Heart’s Desire" (or so the motto goes). Mr. O'Brien was one of their stranger… "clients," but he always paid on time and tipped generously. Considering his "special requests," a little extra cash always ensured the utmost discretion. Mandy adjusted the odd purple cat-eared mask on her face, then headed over to Candy, unzipping the back of her Eagle-embossed corset. Mr. O'Brien merely sat motionless in his chair, his eyes locked on the pair as a single word crept out of his mouth…
J'onn read the e-mail and smiled. It was about time.
"Cute, Kyle. Real cute…" Discretion was not something that J'onn had to deal with too frequently when it came to e-mail transmissions… no wife, girlfriend, family or co-workers who had potential access to his e-mail. But he understood the need for the cryptic lines on the screen in front of him when he saw the other addresses. They each received similar e-mails every month, and although they looked nonsensical, they were, in fact, an invitation to a meeting of the biggest kept secret in the JLA’s history.
It all started way back in the early days of the League. On the third Saturday of every month, Hal Jordan, Oliver Queen and Barry Allen would put aside whatever else had been going on with the League or in their personal lives, meet together at someone’s home or apartment, and play games, watch movies or just sit around and chat. Rumor has it that it all started with Hal making some off-hand comment after one of the League’s meetings ("You know, we should all get together and trade stories sometime") which lead to a late-Friday-Night phone call from Oliver ("Hey, tomorrow night. My place. Pizza, beer and poker. Bring the Scarlet Fascist. It'll be a hoot"). They decided after that first night to make it a regular occurrence. They soon discovered that, although it was merely a social occasion meant to be a night of relaxing fun in their normally hectic lives, the Third Saturdays were strengthening the bonds between the trio and making them far more effective "in the field". Fairly soon after that, they brought J'onn in to join them.
Somewhere along the way, Third Saturdays became an institution. Almost every incarnation of the League had some version of Third Saturdays, sometimes as successful as the original, sometimes to catastrophic ends. After the "Gardner/Palmer Incident," (which attracted not only the rest of the League’s attention, but that of the national media as well) Third Saturdays were officially discontinued.
After a year with this newest version of the League, J'onn decided it was time to resurrect the old custom. At first, it was just J'onn, Wally and Kyle. Eventually (per Kyle’s request), they started extending invitations to several of the others in the League as well, including the reservists. What originally started with a late-night phone call, had now turned into a sort of "secret society" which was announced through monthly cryptic e-mails.
Kyle was usually the most creative in his invitations… chalk it up to his being an artist. Some of Eel’s invitations in the past had been downright ridiculous. Wally’s were usually just two or three lines. But Kyle’s, however cryptic, were always downright fun.
J'onn read the e-mail again, mentally deciphering it as he read:
- Third Saturdays Club
J'onn paused. "Albert? Hmm… Albert… Ah, right! Beer!" he concluded, remembering Wally’s comment at the last month’s Saturday about his favorite college roommate being "Albert Cohall" (Alcohol).
- Clark (BSA-Boy Scouts of America) & Arthur (Jacque Cousteau)
"Call BSA and Jacques"
J'onn chuckled again, shaking his head and marked his calendar. "Poker at Kyle’s. Should prove to be an interesting night."
"John Henry?" Superman called out as he landed in the main design room of the Steel Works factory.
"Over here, Superman." John Henry Irons (a.k.a. Steel) walked out from around a particularly large mechanical construct that, to Superman’s eyes, look like a cross between a giant satellite dish and a military issue armored personnel vehicle. "Just finishing up my new mobile unit. Glad you could stop by." John Henry wiped his hands on a rag as he approached the original Man of Steel, stopping by a computer station and picking up a piece of paper off of the printer.
"What’s thi…" Superman paused as his eyes crossed over the page that was just handed to him. A small smile crossed his lips, and he looked back up to John Henry. "Already?"
"Hey, time flies when you're savin' the world." Both men chuckled as John turned back toward the armored vehicle. "You know," he said over his shoulder, "you wouldn’t have to make these trips if you'd just bite the speeding bullet and get an e-mail address."
"I have an e-mail address, John Henry. Actually, I have several. The problem is, they're actually 'Clark Kent’s' e-mail addresses and, well… secret identity and all that…"
"I hear ya, man. It’s just one more reason why I've been thinking of establishing an e-mail system for the Watchtower. Give every Leaguer their own address for official use…"
"This," Clark indicated the printed e-mail by holding the piece of paper up, "isn’t exactly 'Official Business'…"
"Good point," John Henry chuckled. "Still…"
"Yeah, might be worth looking into. With all the digitally-savvy foes we've faced off with recently, though, we may need to be careful."
John Henry turned around and stared at Clark, an almost disgusted look on his face. "You sayin' someone’s gonna hack into my system?"
Clark grinned, then gave the one word explanation to end the argument before it started: "Prometheus."
"Psshh. Please. That was several years and multiple revisions ago. Hell, it was his 'break-in' that prompted the entire security overhaul in the first place. Between me and Oracle, we've got that place so secure, even a 24th century hacker would have a hard time getting in!"
"OK, fine. We'll discuss it later. I've gotta get home before Lois notices I’m gone…"
"She doesn’t even know you left?"
"No, she was in the shower…"
"Let me get this straight: your unbelievably gorgeous wife is at home and in the shower right now, and you're still here talkin' to me?! Damn, you got more self control than I thought…"
Superman’s eyes widened for a second, then a mischievous grin crossed his face. "You've got a point there…"
Faster than a speeding bullet, he was gone, leaving John Henry Irons standing alone in his shop. Laughing.
That night, Arthur sat in the monitor womb, watching the flickering images with a bored detachment. He sat back in the chair, his eyes glazing over as he tried desperately to stay awake. He immediately popped up in the chair at the sound of approaching footsteps.
"Hey Arthur." J'onn’s tired voice filled the Womb. Arthur turned to regard his friend, his face dropping as he saw the haggard and worn look on J'onn’s face.
"Fine. Just beat." J'onn managed a small smile.
"Another marathon session with the Princess?" Arthur probed.
J'onn had been spending quite a bit of time with Diana recently, slowly working her back into being able to handle the lasso. Their sessions were mostly mental, Diana trying to come to grips with all that had happened. They usually left Diana asleep and J'onn mentally and emotionally drained, but it was a labor J'onn loved. Just knowing he was helping a friend and fellow teammate through a traumatic time was worth a little exhaustion. Speaking of which…
"How are you holding up, Arthur?"
"I’m good, J'onn. Busy, but good…"
"Oh, before I forget," J'onn interrupted, "This weekend."
"What about it?"
"It’s Third Saturday time again…"
Arthur sighed. "Oh…"
"Oh, c'mon Arthur," J'onn perked up a bit. "I know every time I ask you, you say no, but please think about it this time. I mean, with all that’s been going on—between Diana and her lasso, and Bruce and his damn Protocols—it'll be good to have a good old-fashioned get together. Just hanging out with friends and compatriots…"
"I dunno, J'onn. I mean, I used to love it. Back in the old days when it was just you, me, Barry, Hal and Ollie, I had a great time. It was a great way to learn and try to understand human behavior. But now… now I’m not so sure I want to understand it…"
"Well, look: It’s this Saturday at Kyle’s place in Philly. If you feel like coming, by all means, come. We'd love to have you."
"I’ll think about it," was the best answer J'onn was going to get.
"Fair enough," J'onn accepted, surprised that he actually hadn’t gotten a "no" this time. He figured he wouldn’t press his luck and changed the subject. "So how’s Duty going?"
"Duty is… Duty. Same as always, I sit here watching all of these ridiculous reports and waste another few hours of my time. Honestly, when you came in, I was just trying to keep myself awake…"
"No one’s told you?" J'onn asked, moving a bit closer.
"Told me what?"
J'onn looked around conspiratorially, then spoke in a near whisper. "About Monitor 15?"
"Monitor 15?" Arthur asked, turning his attention to said monitor and seeing a couple of rather whale-ish sized surface dwellers in clothing that looked about three sizes too small standing in a large, official looking room and talking boisterously. "What about Monito…"
He stopped as J'onn reached up and grabbed the monitor room keyboard. After tapping the now-all-too-familiar sequence of keys, a scrolling menu of channels appeared on Monitor 15.
"Whoa! How'd you do that?!" Arthur perked up, his eyes scanning the channel listings.
"I’ll show you," J'onn said with a grin. He walked Arthur through the key commands on how to enter the menu system and how to quickly back out to it’s normal preset. "Now, you can get almost any satellite TV station in the world. Just scroll through the menu and find what you're looking for…"
"Of course, I don’t really know the kinds of things they show anymore." Arthur admitted. "The last thing I remember seeing on one of these was some strange thing about a bunch of kids hanging out in an eatery of some kind. There was this tall red-headed kid, who appeared to be the star of the show and some strange, wet-haired guy in a shiny black coat who had some kind of magic power that let him turn electronic devices on with a snap of his fingers…"
J'onn chuckled, tabbing through the channel selection and landing on the "Nick at Nite" listings. He found what he was looking for in the British feed and selected the station. Immediately, the inside of Al’s diner popped on the screen, just in time to see The Fonz waltz in, a lady on each arm, and salute the crowd with his customary "Heeeeeyyy!"
"That’s IT!" Arthur pointed at the screen. "That’s what I saw!"
"It’s called Happy Days, Arthur. Classic TV show. You can watch this or…"
"Actually," Arthur interrupted, sounding a little dejected. "I think this is the one I saw. Like the very same show…"
J'onn chuckled again, switching back to the menu. He tabbed through again, reading the channel names as they flashed by. He paused, turned and looked at Arthur, then back to the screen. "Here you go. Try this one…" He clicked the channel selection and the screen flipped to a scene of what looked like swamp-land. Arthur furrowed his brow for a second, then noticed something moving in the water.
Suddenly, a slightly plump man with sandy blond hair wearing a khaki shirt and matching shorts peered in on the side of the screen.
"Oi! Look at dat one! Ee’s reaaaaly huge! Ee looks loike a meen one… Let’s go 'ave a closa look."
"What the fuck…?" Arthur muttered as he watched, transfixed on the screen. "Wait a sec…" he leaned in toward the screen as a large crocodile slithered out of the water. "Dolan?"
"Uh… no," J'onn answered. "I think his name is Steve…"
"No, not the Aussie twit. The crocodile! It is! It’s Dolan!!"
"Yeah, I know him! Great reptile! Funny as all get-out… Wait, what is that jackass doing?!" They watched the screen as Khaki-man approached the shoreline where the crocodile waited.
"Look at those jauwws!" the Khaki-man said, inching closer to Dolan with a large stick in his hand. As if on cue, Dolan’s mouth opened wide, waiting for his next victim. "One snappa dem jauwws and you can kiss a finga good-bye! Roight now, he’s probably a liddle pissed cause Oi'm invadin' his terra-tree."
"Actually, you retard," Arthur said to the screen. "He’s thinking about how delicious your ankle’s gonna taste in about five minutes… well, that and he’s hoping his teeth look pretty enough on camera…"
J'onn looked at Arthur incredulously. "You mean you can hear him?! He knows he’s on camera?!?"
"Oh, hell yeah! He’s hamming it up big time. Putting on a little show before he chomps this idiot’s foot off!" Arthur cocked his head back and laughed, J'onn unable to resist in joining in his friend’s merriment.
Something had told him Arthur would love Animal Planet. As Arthur continued to talk to the screen, waiting for the host to loose his foot, J'onn stepped away, content in the fact that he just saved Arthur from another night of complete boredom in the Tower…
Bruce scanned the text on the monitor of the Batcomputer for the sixth time. And grunted, for the sixth time.
"So," he said to the bats hanging from the ceiling, "it’s Third Saturday time again…"
The bats squeaked a reply that was either:
"Yes, and they didn’t invite you again!"
"Of course they didn’t invite you, Wanna-be. They're still miffed about the Protocols bullshit. Not to mention the fact that you know about this because you're reading their e-mail! You keep shitting on them, no wonder they're pissed. In fact so are we! Here, how do you like it!"
A small splat next to Bruce’s right foot signified the dropping response from his ceiling companions. He grunted again, staring at the small puddle of grayish-brown before returning his attention to the monitor.
He smirked a bit, at least somewhat happy that his teammates in the League still appeared to be trying to work together. And come to think of it, why did he really care? He never cared about how the League treated him in the past. He'd never been invited to Third Saturday in all the years he’d been a Leaguer and it never bothered him before. Hell, he’d relished in it, just knowing that he scared them enough for them not to want to have him at their little reindeer games…
So why did it seem to sting this time?
He sighed (surprising the bats with his versatility of expression) and closed the e-mail window. Why now, after all this time, did he care about not being invited?
Suddenly, he heard Catwoman’s voice in his mind’s ear. "Because, you judgmental jackass, for the first time in your life, you're finally allowing yourself to feel. Even if that feeling is regret.
He smiled lightly.
Selina - who had finally shown him what it means to be loved and accepted for who you are.
Selina - who had opened his mind and his heart to the fact that there are things in this world beyond "the mission"
Selina - who had shown him that there are other emotions in this world besides Hate, Anger and Rage.
Selina - who was currently upstairs waiting for him to come up while he sat down here pondering the reasons why the people he’s spent years trying to keep at a distance haven’t included him in their lives.
Selina - who was currently laying half naked in his bed waiting his return…
Batman paused for the briefest of moments, then with a speed that would make even Wally blink, he flung the cowl off his head and ran up the stairs.
To be continued...