Too Many Long Boxes!

End of Summer

Villainy on Vacation

Have Joker, Will Travel

by Michael Rees

People ran for cover behind the display of cans as the metal horse thundered through the supermarket aisles while show tunes blared from the stores loudspeakers.

"Welcome to Laugh-a-Lot," came a voice deep within the rider's suit of armor, "Prepare to be knighted and join my merry men!"

The knight swung his lance in the direction of a group of shoppers cowering in front of a pile of paper towels, its tip sliding back to reveal a barrel. Giggling, the knight pressed a button on the lance's shaft and a gas canister shot towards them.

Before it reached them, a blue and red blur swooped through the air and caught the canister. Superman landed in front of the people, and just as the metal container in his hand started to hiss he blew on it, enclosing it in a block of ice.

The knight raised his visor revealing the pale face of the Joker, an insane grin fixed on his face. "My, you don't look pleased, what's the matter? Your tights riding up on you?"

Superman glared at the homicidal criminal. "I've had enough of you coming to my city to murder innocent people. Last time you came here I wasn't at my best. Don't expect to have it so easy this time."

"My horse is ill but you don't hear him complaining." Joker patted the robot on its head, and in return, it let out an electronic whinny.

Launching himself into the air, Superman intended to take Joker out before he could do any more damage, but to his surprise the robot horse opened its mouth and let fly a huge sticky glob. Entangled in the vile slime, Superman crashed into a huge promotional stand displaying a giant-headed man wearing a crown.

"I think he has a computer virus," the Joker said as his steel steed galloped between the shelves. "You've a cheek to call this your city. I rule this little kingdom, so it's you who is trespassing."

Wrestling the goo from his body, Superman used his heat vision to cut his feet free. "This isn't a domain, its King Chuckles Super Mart!"

"And I killed King Chuckles so his land is now mine. I am here to ensure my subjects have a smile on their face, even if I have to kill to do it!" More gas canisters popped out of the lance, bouncing along the aisles, causing people to scatter in terror.

Harley Quinn smiled to herself, unseen and unnoticed under a table offering food samples, her hands working frantically over the controls of the two remote control units she held. One metal box bore the label "Robot Horse" and the other read " Robot Joker."

"Limited special offer in aisle twelve, half price Laughing Venom", she said speaking into the headset microphone. Moments later her words could be heard from the robot, electronically altered to sound like the Joker.

Superman was kept so busy retrieving the bouncing canisters that he had no chance to take a closer look at the Joker with his x-ray vision, and even if he tried it, she had made sure the suit of armor contained lead. (Harley Quinn wasn't just a pretty face attached to a gorgeous latex covered body).

The building shook as Superman threw the canisters through the roof where they could explode harmlessly in the upper atmosphere. Throwing the last canister to safety Superman turned his attention back to the Joker.

"If you want my kingdom so much you can have it." The robot horse leapt on to the top of the shelves, and the Joker pulled a bright purple sword from its sheath, a comical clown face on the base of the hilt. "All you have to do is pull this sword from the store manager before it explodes."

He flung the blade with a flick of the wrist. It flew through the air and hit its target perfectly, pinning the overweight store manager to the tiled floor by the shoulder. Red digits appeared on the hilt counting down from ten.

" You won't get far Joker," bellowed Superman rushing to the stricken man's side. "As soon as I've dealt with this, I'll track you down."

"Sorry Stupid Man, places to go, people to kill" the faux Joker shouted, moments before the robot horse kicked a hole in the wall and carried him away.

Whistling innocently, Harley Quinn packed up her equipment and tiptoed away. Despite being dressed in a figure-hugging red and black Harlequin costume, and wearing white face paint and black domino mask, she was able to slip away unnoticed as Superman struggled to work out a way to remove the sword quickly without hurting the store manager.

"Time to get to the rendezvous point, collect the equipment and head to the next city on the great Joker tour." Harley said to herself as she made her way through the shadows of the towering futuristic buildings of Metropolis. "Mr J will be so proud."

Behind her, an exploding sword lit up the darkening evening sky like a purple firework display.

A week earlier, the Joker had been reading the National Newspaper just as Harley Quinn returned with his morning custard pie and fresh ammo.

"What is wrong with the reporters today? Don't tell me I've killed all the good ones? This Vacation idea was mine but you'd never guess it from these rags. Killer Moth gets mentioned twice, Poison Ivy and Scarecrow each get an article and all they did was mess with small towns. Maxie Zeus gets more coverage than I do! Maxie Zeus!" the Clown of Crime fumed.

"Pudding, didn't Ra Al Ghul come up with the idea?" Harley Quinn had ducked just as a jet of flames emerged from Joker's cane and burnt the paper to ash.

"Never complicate matters with the truth," the Joker had scolded, twirling his cane, smoke still drifting from its end, and walked over to the window. "I want people to think of me as a trend setter, not a follower. I need to make up for lost time."

"How are you going to do that Mr J?" Harley could see that a plot was forming in the Joker's lovely head. "After that business with Captain Marvel and his girl, we've had to lie low. Not that I mind, it's quality time for the two of us."

"Quality time?" The Joker had raised a single green eyebrow " I've been plotting. I've come up with a sure fire way to make sure everyone knows who is the most evil man in America, the world even, but it'll take time and I can't be caught before its put in motion."

"How are you going to do both my Homicidal Honey? You can't do both. It's not like you can be in two places at once." Harley Quinn had placed the pie and ammo on a small blood stained table, pushing the hotel owner's body to the side.

Joker turned round, a look of glee on his face, causing Harley's heart to flutter, it was the same look he had when he was drowning kittens or beating a man to death with a shoe. She so loved the way his green eyes twinkled.

" Perfect! What a brilliant idea, we'll make a robot Joker you can take round the country, building up my reputation while I set my plan in motion," The Joker ran his fingers along his lapels. "I'm glad I thought of it."

"My very own Joker to play with?" Harley Quinn clasped her hands together and raised one leg. "Oh all the other psycho sidekicks will be so jealous. I hope it comes with a neat collection of accessories and is anatomically correct."

"This'll be for business, not pleasure Harley! Now where's that engineer we ran into a few days back? Dr Kolsen will be able to build us what we need. Ah! Here he is." The Joker gave the chest a kick and the top sprung open, revealing a short balding man crammed inside. His hands and feet were tied together and a brightly colored handkerchief stuffed in his mouth. "Morning Toodles, time to pay the rent on this delightful chest we've let you stay in."

Another panther leapt at Wildcat, but he ducked in time and the razor sharp claws just missed him. A thick muscled arm propelled his fist upwards; catching the beast in the stomach as it passed over him.

" Sorry kitty but I don't like the way you play." Wildcat struck a defensive pose, moving from one foot to the other, fists hovering in front of him covering his body movements and ready to strike any of the other six panthers that were circling him, should they want to try their luck.

The robot Joker sat on the bone throne that had been erected in the JSA headquarters. He was wearing a tiger skin zoot suit, and cat's ears were perched on top of his green hair. "They're not playing, just following the orders of their Panther God."

"You're a Panther God?" Wildcat delivered a spinning kick to an advancing panther, and with a snarl it recoiled.

"I was surprised as well," the robot Joker dug into his suit and pulled out a document with gold text."Found it in a box of Crackerjacks. It also says that New York is the natural home of panthers, so here I am.

"You're a nut!" Wildcat snarled, unaware that one of the panthers was leaping at him from behind.

"What was your first clue?" The robot Joker jumped up on to the throne, teetering on the edge.

Harley Quinn watched from the skylight, laughing hysterically as Wildcat was knocked to the ground. In response the Joker laughed as well, reminding her how much she missed the real deal. No matter, when they joined up again he'd be sure to appreciate everything she'd done.

It had been embarrassingly easy to catnap the panthers, brainwash them to see Wildcat as a walking lamb chop, and let them loose in the JSA headquarters. It was just the sort of thing the real Mr J would have thought of.

Harley Quinn's musings were disturbed as the door to the make-shift panther throne room was shattered by a cosmic bolt from Starman's rod. Even before the splinters hit the ground the original Flash rushed into the room, his silver helmet shining as he streaked around the room, removing the panthers from the bloody body of Wildcat.

Dr Midnight rushed to Wildcat's side reaching for his medical kit. "How are you feeling? Where does it hurt the most?"

"I'll save time and point to the areas where it doesn't hurt," Wildcat gritted his teeth as Dr Midnight touched an open wound. "What took you so long?"

"The Joker flooded the lobby with candyfloss; it's taken us this long to dig our way through," Sentinel explained using his ring to create a green cage around the panthers.

"I thought you were a Panther God? What does candy floss have to do with panthers?" Wildcat was struggling to his feet even as Dr Midnight wrapped a bandage around the older man's chest.

"If I was consistent I wouldn't be insane!" The robot Joker leapt back narrowly avoiding a high kick from Black Canary. "I must say that your team is as American as apple pie. Mind if I have a bite?"

Chattering teeth shot out of the suit's sleeves, attached to wires, and latched on to each member of the JSA, sometimes in very painful areas. With a flick of his wrist, the robot Joker caused electricity to flow through the wires and into the heroes' bodies, causing them to spasm in agony.

"Look after my panthers won't you?" Springs popped out of the soles of the robot Joker's and with a bounce, he leapt through the glass skylight, the wires falling away from his jacket and landing on the smoking, twitching bodies of the JSA.

On the roof, Harley Quinn caught the robot Joker and glanced down at the heroes who were slowly getting to their feet, noticing that when Sentinel was shocked his green cage had dispersed and the panthers were free once more.

"That should provide me with enough time to get away." Harley Quinn mused before turning to gaze on the fixed grin of the robot Joker. "I wonder what the real Mr J is doing?"

In Alaska, the Joker sat in a small cafe just outside of Haines, cackling with amusement as he read the national newspaper. The front page read "Joker's One Man Crime Wave." The reporter wrote with horror and awe at "his" rampage across America.

"Ain't she great?" Joker looked up at the trucker who was sharing his booth while he rolled up the newspaper, the large barrel chested man smiled broadly in agreement. "Nothing like having a good woman who puts some effort into her job, unlike Mabel over there."

Joker indicated to the waitress, slumped over the counter, the jug of coffee in her hand spilling it's contents and creating a brown waterfall, her face pulled into an insane grin.

"My dear Harley Quinn deserves a gift for this, but what to buy the homicidal woman in your life? Any suggestions Bert?" When the trucker didn't answer Joker nudged him causing the large man to collapse on to the floor, eyes staring sightlessly ahead. "Yes, you lie down and think about it. Maybe I can get her a box of arsenic chocolates, or a piano wire necklace. I'll see if Macy's carries any."

Getting up from his table, Joker strolled over to the grinning family across the way, themMother in her pink dress clutching the arm of her husband as he regarded the ceiling, his head tilted back.

"Thanks for letting me read your paper, here you can have it back." Joker laughed as he forcefully plunged the rolled up paper into dead man's mouth.

"What a delightful child you have." Joker patted the smiling eight year old on his head, his lips stretched to their limit, flushed an unnatural bright shade of red. "He has his parent's sense of humor."

With a casual stroll, Joker left the cafe and its dead patrons, the pink venom gas escaping from its confines and out into the cold Alaskan air. The Joker rubbed his white hands together as he trudged his way through the snow towards the collection of parked vehicles, the keys he had collected from his murdered victims clattering at his side.

"So many to choose from, what best suits me? I suppose as long it gets me to my meeting it doesn't matter." Joker smiled with amusement as he thought how surprised all the thugs would be when they found out he was the famous villain from Gotham, and that they would be taking part in a plan that would wipe out every super hero in the world, in one fell swoop.

" The future's looking bright." Joker looked up into the gray sky and noticed a pin prick of green light getting brighter and closer " What could that be?"

His answer came as the green light revealed itself to be a large green hand that slapped the Joker into a snow bank before rapidly departing into the distance.

"The Green Lantern? Or is it that old geezer, Sentinel? Both make stupid green constructs." The Joker spluttered as he crawled out of the snow. "How could they know I was here?"

Staggering to a red station wagon the Joker dug into his pocket trying to find the right key. He had to make tracks before he was caught. Just as he completed the thought, a green display case surrounded him, the words " Clownus Crimilus" written along its base.

"Not now, not so soon!" The Joker beat his fists on green glass. Let me go this instant."

To his amazement the display case did vanish, dropping him on to the snow covered ground, as the green light receded in distance. For a moment he didn't move, the snow freezing him, waiting for the green light to come back. Ten minutes later, he was satisfied there would be no further attacks.

"Wonder what that was about?" The Joker brushed himself off and headed to the station wagon.

The Green Lantern pointed his ring at the robot Joker and concentrated, willing it to trap him but as had happened before, the green light went off at an angle, through one of the windows of the newspaper office and stretched into the distance. In frustration he willed it back, who knew what it would do.

"What have you done to my ring?" Kyle Rayner shouted.

"Maybe it recognizes the freedom of the press?" The robot Joker pointed to the label on his tweed jacket that read "REPORTER".

In all honesty, Harley Quinn had no idea why the Green Lantern's ring wasn't affecting the robot (although she wasn't complaining). She had thought the gig was up when the Green Lantern had made an unexpected appearance at the Chicago Tribune.

Kyle Rayner flew towards the robot Joker, preparing to use his ring again. This wasn't exactly how he planned to spend his trip to the Windy City, but when he heard that the Joker was using a camera to paralyze the staff at the Tribune Tower he had little choice but to step in. So far, every time he had willed his ring to attack the Joker it had directed its power towards Alaska, so maybe he should concentrate on affecting things around the Joker.

"Prepare to meet your biggest fan." Rayner concentrated and caused the ring to form a huge green fan, its blade spinning causing papers to go flying off desks and chairs to be knocked over.

The wind tugged at the robot Joker's clothes, the robot's extra weight pinning it to the ground. He raised the large old-fashioned box camera and released a blinding flash. "Smile!"

Rayner tried to cover his eyes but it was to late, his limbs felt like dead weights and he hit the ground hard. He tried to get to his feet but realized his body was not responding to him. Even a witty comment was out of the question as his jaw was jammed shut.

"You've gotten off lightly GL, you deserve much worse for that pun." The robot Joker gave the prone hero a solid kick in his ribs. "Now you can stay and watch these reporters meet their "dead" line. Ha, ha, ha!"

As the robot Joker left, he indicated to the acme Joker typewriters on each of the paralyzed reporters' desks. Each of the keys had a spike set in its center and loud ticking came from the depth of each machine.

Harley Quinn sneaked out after the robot stifling a giggle. The Chicago Tribune had to relegate the Joker's crime wave to page three instead of the front page. Also the press always find crimes more horrendous if members of their own profession are the victims.

While his body was paralyzed Rayner's mind was going a mile a minute. Concentrating, he willed the ring to protect the reporters and watched with satisfaction as a green shell surrounded the men and women in the office just as the spikes were fired.

With everyone safe, Rayner turned his attention to his currently immobile form. Green tendrils extended from his ring reaching into his mind and correcting the damage done by the Joker's camera.

Suddenly his muscles relaxed and he let out a gasp of relief. Unsteadily, he got to his feet, ordering his ring to help the reporters. The room was soon a mass of green tendrils leaping from one person to the next until everyone could once again move.

Once he had checked that everyone was okay the Green Lantern looked with interest at the computers dotted around the room. Each had the same words on their screens.

"Okay, I can understand the Joker trying to kill people but why would he go to the bother of writing this?" Rayner commented aloud as he read the message that was simple but confusing "HELP ME, I AM IN BIG TROUBLE" followed by ever changing numbers. "Where's Batman when you really need him?"

Harley Quinn looked up at the Bat symbol being projected on to the rolling storm clouds high above the buildings of Gotham City and slapped her forehead " What on earth was I thinking?"

She tucked the robot Joker under her arm and headed back out of the city.

"So you have the same problem?" Kyle watched the JSA trying to fix their computer.

Black Canary nodded pressing the keyboard in a desperate attempt to get the computer to display anything other than the "Help Me" message with little success " We didn't notice until we attempted to access the groups logs hours after the Joker left, but it must have been him.

"He must have taken an advanced computing course at some point if it was him" Starman said, looking up from the back of the computer monitor, screw driver in hand. "Whatever he did rewrote every chip in the machine to display this message, and something is still transmitting a message to it changing those numbers."

"Should you be messing about back there with the power still on?" Kyle had visions of Starman electrocuting himself. Not a very dignified way for a hero to die.

"Internal power source. We can't turn it off." the Star Spangled Kid blew an unruly strand of long blond hair out of her eye. "I hope you fix it soon, I want to get back to playing the Stars and Stripes game Hourman created for me. I am almost up to stage 13."

"Courtney, this is serious." Sentinel shot a warning glance at the young girl. "I hear your ring was giving you trouble as well."

It took a moment for Kyle to realize the older man was talking to him, caught up as he was admiring Star Spangled Kid. Meeting a younger generation of heroes made him feel less of a rookie, a feeling he often had when he was with the JLA.

"Yeah, whenever I willed the ring to attack or contain the Joker it went of in completely the wrong direction." Rayner examined the green band on his finger.

"From my experience, the ring is usually very reliable. I wouldn't worry about it." Sentinel patted Rayner on the back. "As long as your will is strong it will always do what you want it to. From what I've seen, there's no need to worry about the wearer either."

The feeling of being a rookie surged again within Kyle. Here was the original Green Lantern, the man who first used the ring to defend Earth, not knowing the ring's true origin, speaking with admiration of Rayner's skills. Sentinel's original ring had even been unable to effect wood, a greater limitation than being unable to effect the color yellow, and yet he had survived to the modern day, still fighting crime. Rayner hoped he'd last as long as Sentinel in the crime fighting game.

"So Superman noticed the same thing at the supermarket in Metropolis? All the tills displaying the same message" Black Canary said, breaking the uncomfortable silence, and Kyle responded in the affirmative.

"Let's just find the Joker and show him what you get when you mess with the man who trained Batman how to fight." Wildcat pounded his fist into the palm of his hand.

"But how? He's going all over the country, how do we locate him?" Courtney asked adjusting the red cosmic belt around her waist.

"I could search for him on foot." Jay Garrick placed the metal helmet back on his white hair. "How long could it take for me to cover the whole of America?"

Kyle looked at the scrolling numbers and suddenly a thought struck him, causing a glowing green bulb to appear above his head. "I think I have a better way to find him."

The collection of criminals regarded each other uneasily while snow fell outside the window. Every man in the room had a reputation of being the worst that Haines had to offer. Robbers, drug sellers, cold-blooded murderers, smugglers, each and every one. They despised each other almost as much as the public feared them. Despite that, they had assembled in the small hotel to meet the mysterious figure who had promised them the biggest job they had ever taken.

At exactly two o'clock, as arranged, a tall gaunt figure, bulked up in a long overcoat and large hat that hid his face in shadows, entered and took his place at the head of the room behind a large wooden desk.

"My, my what a collection of villainy," said the figure in a voice that the assorted criminal found strangely familiar " Nothing compared to the inmates of Arkham but that's nothing a few facial disfigurements couldn't solve.

"What's this all about," said a member from the crowd, voicing the question they all had on their minds.

"A plan, my thick-headed comrades, a plan to wipe out everyone who has ever prevented you from acting on every depraved whim you've ever had. A plan so evil, they'll have to think up a new word to describe it. If that isn't enough to get you drooling it'll also net you a cash figure larger than most of you can count," cackled the stranger.

"Why should we believe you? We don't even know who you are." said a large burley man at the back of the room who looked like he was the offspring of a bear and ox.

"Oh but you do." With great relish the stranger threw off his hat and coat revealing the pale face of the Joker " I am the greatest criminal to ever come out of Gotham".

There was a stunned silence for a moment as the collected criminals stared at the crown of crime, the only sound coming from the window as flakes of snow brushed against the glass. Some one chuckled at the back of the room, the sound of amusement rippling through the crowd until everybody was laughing.

"You're not the Joker!" Yelled one man, pointing an accusing finger at the flabbergasted Joker " Everyone knows, he's just been in New York, killed everyone in a beauty pageant because they wouldn't let his girlfriend, Harley Quinn, enter. Made off with all their dresses and jewelry."

"Dresses?" Joker couldn't believe what he was hearing.

"Yeah, you ain't the Joker," said the large bear-ox man getting up from his seat and turning to the door " He's been travelling all over the place for weeks, he couldn't have arranged all this. You're just a sad loser, a wannabe villain."

The others followed the large man's lead and headed for the door, slowly filing out. Unable to comprehend what was happening, the Joker watched them go, jaw hanging open. The last man, a small fellow in a white suit threw a newspaper onto the desk.

"Here's some research material for you," the small man laughed and followed the others out to the hotel stairs.

The Joker clutched the paper and read up on "his" exploits. Forcing artists to draw paintings of Harley Quinn in Leesburg before Supergirl had interrupted, holding the UN hostage, demanding that they agreed to put Harley Quinn's face on Mount Rushmore, until Wonder Woman had freed them. Booster Gold interrupting "his" attempt to force Woody Allen to make a "good" comedy film with Harley Quinn as the lead. The list went on and on.

In anger he ripped the newspaper to shreds. His reputation would be ruined. Harley Quinn was making it look like he was devoted to her. No one would fear him at this rate. He was going to have to teach her a lesson, right after he taught those thugs one. Grabbing a crow bar from the desk drawer he headed for the stairs.

Harley Quinn carried the robot Joker away from the unconscious bodies of the Titans at the scene of her latest crime caper. The wind up toys still clattered behind her as they milled through the fragments of barrels, the little monkeys occasional bumping into a Titan and delivering another jolt of electricity.

"I told them there wasn't anything more fun than a barrel of monkeys," casually she leapt from the roof of the Giggles Cola factory to the opposite building.

With a yelp of surprise she landed right in front of the real Joker and in her surprise she dropped the robot, causing its head to bounce off. The Joker glared at her, his arms crossed in a pose that reminded Harley Quinn of the expression Dr Arkham had on his face when he had found out she was having a relationship with one of the inmates.

"Hi Mr J, long time no see," she said and laughed in embarrassment.

"When I gave you this task I didn't intend for you to turn me into your sidekick," the Joker said between clenched teeth " Stealing dresses for you, declaring love for you, poisoning Giggles Cola because you didn't win their joke challenge. Are those things going to inspire fear? "

"I killed a lot of people as well, pudding. Its gone into triple figures since I blew up the comedy clubs in New York. None of them told jokes as well as you."

"That's not the point," the Joker fumed. "I don't want people to think I have feelings for you!"

"Oh Mr J," Harley sobbed. "You're breaking my heart."

"I'll break more than that," Joker lunged forward and started to throttle the woman causing the remote control she held to clatter to the floor, landing next to the robot's body.

There was a gust of wind through the night air and the Joker looked up to see both the JLA and JSA hovering in the air above him, those who couldn't fly standing on a platform created by the Green Lantern. The only ones not present were Batman and the new Flash.

"Stay where you are Joker," said the Martian Manhunter in his deep, thundering voice. "Your rampage ends here."

The Joker kept his tight grip on Harley Quinn's throat. "Are domestic incidents so high on the JLA and JSA's priority list? Out of interest how did you find me?"

"Thanks to the message that your robots were leaving behind everywhere you went. When you made Dr Kolsen build them he put a small locator device in each of them and a broadcaster which made computers in their vicinity display a help message and the co-ordinates of the robots," explained Superman, his cape swirling about him in the night air.

"I don't know why you'd want to have robots built of your girlfriend and yourself but the gigs up. Dr Kolsen is safe and you're going back to Arkham." Kyle was pleased to see that his theory had proved correct.

"Robots? What robots?" Joker asked in confusion when suddenly Harley Quinn's head shot into the air before bouncing up and down on the spring that connect it to the pale neck that the Joker held in his hands. "Harley!"

A safe distance away, the real Harley Quinn used binoculars to watch the heroes capture the Joker. Green Lantern and Sentinel held him in green bonds while Wildcat got his pay-back by punching Joker square in the jaw.

She grimaced at the sight and hoped that her love wasn't too mad at her. When the robot Joker had been made the first thing she had done was test it out on Dr Kolsen. It proved how perfect it was, not even its creator realized it was just a collection of nuts and bolts ordering him to build a robot of Harley Quinn and not the real Mr J.

Placing the remote control labeled "robot Harley Quinn" in a safe place she made plans to slip away. Her pudding would soon forgive her when she busted him out so they could continue their vacation.

The Jokers voice drifted through the air to her ears as he was carted away .

"Harley Quinn, if I ever see you again I am going to strangle you with your lower intestines and eat your eyeballs!"

Well, maybe she'd wait a little while before freeing him. Give him a little time to calm down.

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