Jase Allen opened his eyes, seeing a ceiling with a painted starry sky emblazoned on it. He started to sit up, running a hand through his hair, feeling something softer than his usual insulated fingerless gloves. Looking down at his hand, Jase saw a large white mitt where his glove usually was. That's when he looked down at his clothes, seeing a pair of corduroy overalls covering a checkered shirt. Seeing a mirror he rushed to it, seeing a red yarn wig on his head, covered with a corduroy cap.
"What the fu--"
"What the fu--"
ISSUE #16 (February 2020)
Written by Tobias Christopher
A small clown car drove down the street of Central City, trying to find a party to perform at. While the yellow car was about the size of a shopping cart, inside it contained enough space for a dozen clowns of different sizes and colors.
"I sensed a child in need of birthday entertainment," Shaky the Epileptic Clown said. "We're close, I can feel it."
"Good, we haven't entertained at a kid's party for weeks," Penicilin the Clown told him. "It's like people are afraid of clowns these days."
"The last party I went to, the kids egged me," Piamessius the Heavy Flow Clown added. "With hard-boiled eggs."
"I know times have been tough," Shaky told them. "But we'll blow them all away with our performance. We'll make them see clowns can be funny and not scary."
Not too far away, a truck driver transporting a large tanker of dangerous chemicals had just taken several Ambien pills to stay awake while blasting Taylor Swift on the radio. He closed his eyes for a second before the clown car came into view. He quickly swerved and came to a stop, just as the clowns saw the truck, Shaky hit the brakes and came to a screeching stop. The clown car stopped, just barely tapping the chemical truck.
A slight 'ping' was heard as everyone breathed a sigh of relief, just as the chemical truck exploded, causing a flood of neon green chemicals to sweep the clown car over a bridge and into the water below.
Jase rushed around the room, trying to find an exit. He already found that he couldn't phase through the walls, and he couldn't find his Impulse costume. Not wanting to rush into a dangerous situation naked, he kept the clothes on that he'd waken up in.
"Hello!" Jase shouted as he pounded on the wall. "Someone let me out!"
After a few minutes, a door appeared out of nowhere. It slowly opened as the army man and the man in the loincloth and chest harness walked in.
"Look, G.I. Josh," the man in the loincloth said. "Raggedy Ronald is awake."
"He looks different than what I expected, Hu-Man," G.I. Josh told him. "But then again, I'd only heard tales of what Ronald looks like. That's why we need to find--"
"Who are you guys? And why am I dressed like this?" Jase asked as tried to decide whether he could take these two on.
"You have amnesia, my friend," G.I. Josh told him. "We rescued you while in search of another missing friend."
"I don't think I am who you think I am," Jase told them. "Who do you think I am again?"
"You are Raggedy Ronald, beloved cloth companion," Hu-Man said. "We have spent much time seeking out you, among others."
"Okay," Jase said. "And what insane asylum did you escape from exactly?"
"Now that we have found you, you can aid us in our search for the rest of our last missing companion," G.I. Josh said as Jase followed them down a hall. "Welcome back, brother."
G.I. Josh opened a door, leading to a room full of full-scale anthropomorphic toys, including a horse with a multi-colored mane; mutant cabbage babies; a buddy doll with red hair and a mean look on his face; and a few different colored bears with different symbols on their stomachs. As Jase looked around, he noticed the crate from the toy factory.
"The Green Drunken Irish Ranger is in that crate," Jase said. "I need one of those for my friend."
"As do we," G.I. Josh told him. "Our friend is under a curse, making him a lifeless toy as we all used to be. He is one of the last few of us unaccounted for, including your sister, Raggedy Rosie. But to be honest, we had never truly seen her, she was only rumored to exist by our missing friend."
"Yeah, I don't have a sister," Jase told them. "I'm not a toy, I'm a real-life boy, here, I can show you."
Jase went to pull down his overalls, but Hu-Man stopped him. "It's okay, friend Ronald, we saw your horrible disfigurement when we changed you into your proper attire."
"Disfigurement?" Jase asked as he looked down into his overalls. "Everyone says I should be proud of it, especially that guy in the urinal at the bus station. So, you guys really are toys brought to life? How did this happen?"
"We can not explain," Hu-Man told him. "We only know that when our young friend went missing, all of us suddenly found ourselves being able to walk and converse. We've spent the last few months searching for our friends. You are the first one we have found."
"Maybe I can help," Jase told him. "Where is your missing friend?"
"We do not know," G.I. Josh told him. "We just know that we are a family once again, and we do not intend to be taken away from each other again."
"Tell me what he looks like," Jase said as he grabbed a sketchpad. "I'll do an artist's rendering."
"He's about your height give or take a few inches," Hu-Man told him. "Brown hair, the jeans of blue, the shirt of the color of the night sky and eyes of green like the ripest of apples."
".... Right," Jase said as he looked down at the sketch of a stick figure. "Really should learn to draw. So, what's your friend's name?"
"Bobby? That's a toy I've never heard of," Jase told them. "Is he an action figure like you?"
"No, Bobby is a human boy," Hu-Man told him. "He was our leader, the one who sent us on our adventures. He played with us, hour after hour, always creating a new adventure. Then one day we waited for him after his schooling. He had taken you and the Green Drunken Irish Ranger with him for something called 'show and tell'. But he never returned. That was what felt like an eternity ago. The next morning we all awoke to find we could move of our own free will, so we determined to seek out the three of you on our own. But alas, we still can not find our dear friend Bobby."
"Then let's go find him!" Jase told them. "The sooner we can find him, the sooner I can get out of this stupid costume. He can't be that hard to find, right?"
A knock came at the door as Adam went to answer, finding Wyatt standing outside.
"Ah, friend Wyatt, come in," Adam told him. "What brings you here today?"
"I was wanting to see if Jase wanted to come out and play," Wyatt told him. "Is he here?"
"Afraid not, friend Wyatt," Adam told him. "Jase still hasn't returned from retrieving your birthday present. Wait, that was supposed to be a secret."
"Aw, Jase doesn't have to get me anything, just being my best friend is enough," Wyatt said. "Do you know when he'll be home?"
"Well, he left yesterday afternoon, so it should be soon."
"Yesterday afternoon? What'd he do, walk to Metropolis?" Wyatt asked.
"No, Jase usually runs where ever he goes," Adam said. "Wait, that's supposed to be a secret too. I'm really bad at this."
"I need to find Jase, he might be in trouble," Wyatt told him. "Maybe Cody can help me. He's been wanting to bond with me."
"I shall come as well," Adam told him. "I would be saddened if Jase were dead."
"I'm pretty sure we all would," Wyatt said. "We'll stop by my house and get Cody first."
Bart stood over Preston's grave, holding a flower as he wiped a tear away.
"I'm so sorry, Preston," Bart said. "I should have been there for you. I heard how it happened and... I feel like this is all my fault. You were my best friend and I just... never looked back. I could have checked up on all of you, made sure everyone was alright. I'll never forgive myself for letting this happen."
Bart kneeled to put a flower on the grave as he looked at the headstone.
"If only I had my speed, I'd be able to-- that's it!" Bart said as he stood up. "I'll find a way to get my speed back, then I'll go back in time to save you. I won't let this happen, Preston, I'll find a way to stop this from happening, I promise. You'll see, I'll bring you back."
Wyatt and Adam headed out to the guest house in the back, where Cody and Jay were living currently.
"What's that noise?" Adam asked as they got closer.
"Oh, Cody and Jay are just wrestling," Wyatt told him as he knocked on the door. "Usually they do that late at night when they get home. I've gotten used to the noise, though. Jay even bought me a pair of earmuffs to sleep in so they don't wake me up."
Cody opened the door, out of breath as he pulled a shirt on.
"Are you okay?" Cody asked.
"Jase is missing," Wyatt told him. "His brother's really worried about him. Can you help us look for him?"
"The little dude's missing?" Cody asked. "Jay, get up, my brother needs us to help find his friend."
Seconds later, the quartet headed out as Adam looked at Cody. "That noise wasn't wrestling."
"Wyatt doesn't know that," Cody told him. "Look, we're not gay, alright? We're just... friends with benefits. Sometimes after a job we have so much adrenaline built up and no way to spend the extra energy, that's all. We're just having fun. A way to relax so we're not up all night after pulling a big heist."
"So, where's the last place Jase was seen?" Jay asked, having overheard.
"He was headed toward a warehouse in search of a collectible," Adam said. "He never came home."
"Then we'll start there," Cody told him as he patted Wyatt's head. "We'll find him."
"What the fuck are you doing?" Jay asked him as they walked ahead. "You hated this kid with a passion a few weeks ago."
"Things changed," Cody told him. "You know, this time last year, I had nothing. No family, no friends, no one. Now I have a brother, friends and... someone special. And I really don't want to lose any of them. I almost lost you twice now, Jay. I don't want to go for a third."
"Are you just saying that to me as a friend or just someone to burn that adrenaline off on?" Jay asked as he walked ahead.
The wall of Bobby's room had been broken down by Hu-Man as the living toys walked through the hole.
"This is friend Bobby's bedroom," Hu-Man told him. "We woke up and quickly went in search of him."
Jase looked at a different hole in the wall where the toys had previously exited.
"If I knew what this kid looked like, I'd be able to recognize him a bit better," Jase said as he zipped around the room, finally finding a picture on the nightstand. A young black man sat at a table with his parents, holding his Raggedy Ronald doll. "Okay, now I got the face, I can find--"
Another hole blasted through the wall as a being with a skeleton head, a person wearing an orange cowl and a large grey robot walked in.
"Skele-Tron! Megaton!" Hu-Man shouted.
"Yes, Hu-Man, your greatest enemies have come to destroy you!" Skele-Tron shouted. "And now nothing can stop us!"
"How many of you living toys are there?" Jase asked as he saw the empty toy box. "Well, that's not a good sign. If their fight spills out onto the street, people could get hurt. What would Bart do?"
"Come on, Jase, let's play videogames!"
"What would Bart do if he had powers?"
"Find that kid, then we play videogames!"
"Okay!" Jase shouted as he ran out the door to find Bobby as fast as possible.
"How do I get my speed back?" Bart asked Conner as the two friends sat at a local diner.
"That's like me asking how I get my powers back," Conner told him. "I know that we both want to get back in the hero game. But even if we train as hard as Tim, it's going to be a long road. It could even be years. Meanwhile, Chris and Jon are out there, saving the world and leaving me in the dust. But the only way to get my powers back would be if we found Brainiac's ship, and that was blown up."
"And my heart's too damaged to tap into the speed force," Bart told him. "Am I doomed to be slow forever?"
"Ever consider a heart transplant?" Conner asked. "Your current one is too messed up, but... what if you had one that wasn't so damaged? One that the speed force wouldn't burn through?"
Jase zipped through the town at superspeed, checking every building and parking lot.
"No sign yet, and any second now those toys are going to start fighting and send a lot of people to... the... hospital. That's it!"
Jase started running toward the hospital, searching every room until he finally found Bobby laying in a bed, unconscious with a Raggedy Ronald doll in his arms. A Drunken Green Ranger figure sat on the table.
"Found him," Jase said. "But I don't get it. How are his toys coming to life?"
Jase picked up the medical chart. "He's in a coma. The toys came to life just as he went into one I think. What if... Bobby's a metahuman. His power brought to the toys to life through his subconscious. If Bobby wakes up, it might put the toys back to the normal. But how do I wake someone up from a coma?"
"This trail leads to that house over there," Adam said as the group followed the trail from the wrecked factory to the toy's hideout to Bobby's house, where the toys were fighting in Bobby's bedroom. "They're going to destroy the house!"
"But where's Jace?" Wyatt asked. "What if he's hurt?"
"Hey, I recognize that kid, he was on the news two days ago," Jay said as he saw the same picture Jase did. "He was hit by a car, he's in a coma at The Our Lady of the Evening Hospital downtown."
"Then let's get down there and--" Cody started to say as Jay was already headed out of the hole in the wall.
"I'll go myself. I won't build up that much adrenaline from here. You won't have to worry about burning it off."
"Wake up!" Jase shouted as he popped an air-filled bag over Bobby's bed. He zipped out and grabbed two trash can lids, banging them together. "Maybe I can a firecracker and--"
"Jesus, kid, are you trying to kill him?" Jay asked as he walked in. "You're just trying to wake him, is that it?"
"He's meta-human, his powers are bringing his toys to life, they'll end up--"
"Hurting innocent people, blah blah blah," Jay told him as he sat down in a chair. "Watch my body, I'll handle this."
Jay's aura began to rise from his body as it entered the comatose boy. After a few moments, Bobby bolted away, still clutching his doll.
Back at the house, the dolls started returning to their original forms before any more of the house had been destroyed.
"Well, that was anti-climactic," Cody said as he looked around. "We might not want to be here when the kid's parents see what's gone down here."
Cody, Wyatt, and Adam took off running after a few seconds.
"So, is Bobby going to be alright?" Jase asked Adam later as he stood in his bedroom at home.
"No, he died from complications like an hour later," Adam said bluntly. "But at least there won't be any more living toys And you got Wyatt's birthday present."
"Yeah, but a kid's dead and I couldn't save him," Jase told him as he started hyperventilating. "I feel horrible. I never want to feel this way again. From now on, I'm going to make sure no one else dies. I'm going to protect Central City. I'm going to be a real hero from now on, so no more kids die."
Jase hugged Adam tightly as he started crying. "I can't make this feeling stop! How do I stop feeling horrible!"
"I wish I had the resources to tell you," Adam told him. "Perhaps the pain will lessen in time. I'll help you, Jase, as your friend."
"I'm sorry for what I said," Cody said as he started getting dressed for Wyatt's birthday party. "You're not just a quick fix for getting rid of excess power. You're... important to me."
"I have to leave," Jay said. "For good this time."
"The last time you left, I had to break you out of jail," Cody laughed as he realized Jay's bags were packed. "You're serious. You can't go. I need you."
"And I need you, which is why I can't stay," Jay said. "We said that we were going to keep what we do on a strictly friendly level, but... I'm getting feelings for you, Cody, and every time we... I can't do it anymore. I'm going back to Australia to forget about all of these. Unless you... have something to say to keep me from leaving."
Cody turned around. "You know I can't do that. I'm sorry, Jay, but I can't be with you like that."
Jay picked up his bags and opened the door. "Tell Wyatt I said goodbye."
As the door closed, Cody jumped up. "Jay, wait!"
Cody opened the door to find Jay was nowhere in sight.
"Goodbye," Cody said silently as he slowly closed the door.
Bart sat on the couch with Jase, comforting him the best he could.
"I'm sorry, kid," Bart told him. "I should be paying more attention to you, training you. If I had my powers, I'd be of more use in that department. I'm thinking about getting on a list for a heart transplant."
"Will it hurt?"
"If it works and I can get in good with the Speed Force again, I should be able to heal instantly," Bart told him. "It's just getting on the list for a heart that's the problem."
"Why can't we just find someone to heal you with magic?" Jase asked.
"Because I've been told a million times that magic isn't the way to solve a problem," Bart told him. "But I'm going to find a way to get better for you, to be the big brother you need."
"You already are," Jase told him. "I gotta go to Wyatt's party, wanna come?"
"Sure," Bart said. "I could use an afternoon out."
As he sat on the airplane headed back to his country of birth, Jay leaned back to relax when he heard a voice.
“Who’s there?” Jay asked as he sat up as people started looking at him.
“I’m lost!” the voice said. “I wanna go home!”
“Where are you?” Jay asked. “Who are you?”
“My name’s Bobby and I don’t know! It’s dark and cold!”
Jay’s eyes widened.
“… … Shit.”
As everyone started gathering for Wyatt's birthday party, a waterlogged clown car pulled closer to the house...
TO BE CONTINUED...