5,474 words- I believe this is the longest entry I've ever written for a CCC. I enjoyed every minute of it. Hope you do too.
New York City - The Gold Bar:
To many, Benny Fitz was known as Starfist, and Starfist had a unique way of dealing with barflies that didn't pay their tab. Today was Chris King's day to experience that personally. At the front door of the bar, a glowing yellow hand at the end of a slender tendril held Chris off the ground by the back of his shirt. Another tendril came out the door, formed a glowing yellow boot, and kicked him in the butt, sending him sprawling over the sidewalk, and into the street's gutter. The tendrils coalesced into the face of Starfist, and he shouted, "You drink more than you serve, ya bum! You're fired!" The face popped out of view, and the energy dissipated.
Chris rolled painfully to his back as Starlight and Starbright stepped out onto the sidewalk. They were a pair of alien women that were summoned by Starfinger's ring- also now in the possession of Benny Fitz. Benny had made them the bar's bouncers.
Standing over him, Starlight said, "Your last paycheck will be put towards your tab."
"Aw, c'mon," moaned King.
"And don't come back," snarled Starbright, firing a black concussive force blast at the pavement between his knees.
"Hey, now!" shouted Chris. "That's not necess--" He was cut off by a glare from Starbright. "Alright, alright, I'm going," he said weakly, as he used a lightpole to pull himself to his feet.
Starlight started, "Be glad he let you keep your--"
"--Hey!" Benny's glowing yellow face reappeared over the sidewalk. "Before I forget, get his watch! Benny Fitz's benefits, yeah?" The face chuckled with menace, winked at King, and then winked out again.
"Aw, crud!" said Chris as he took off running.
"Hey! Come back here!" shouted Starbright.
Chris reached for his watchface as he ran, and started dialing H-E-R, but was interrupted by one of Starbright's blasts clipping him as he rounded a corner into an alley. He fell to the ground as he transformed into a woman in a pink jogging suit, and then slipped into unconsciousness as he rolled into a pile of trash.
A few seconds later, Starlight and Starbright rounded the corner. "Where is he?" Starbright growled.
"Not here," said Starlight calmly. "Fast for a drunk guy. Dang!" she started. "He knocked this woman down as he ran?"
"What a jerk!" Starbright seethed.
"We should help her," said Starlight.
"Not our problem," Starbright said coldly. "Besides, the boss'd just put the moves on her."
Starlight shrugged. "You're probably right. Let's go."
The two women left the transformed Chris King lying in the alley. She laid there for just under an hour, and groaned as she awakened. Then she threw up from the stink of the trash she was laying in. The woman in the jogging suit reached up for the brick window ledge that was just above the trash pile, pulled herself up, and leaned heavily for a moment before looking at heself in the window. The reflection of the woman before him didn't just shock Chris King, it scared him. "Vicki?!" he gasped, and just then he reverted back to himself.
"Holy Hannah," he said, looking at his watch. "I've gotta get out of here." He ran up the alley, and kept running until he reached a bus stop. He boarded, and took the bus to Manhattan. Once there, he again began looking for bartending jobs.
Manhattan - Warrior's:
All you had to do to know who Guy Gardner was, was turn on the TV. His arrogant, over-the-top attitude got him on the news and Heroes Tonight way more often than the Justice League liked. Currently, he sported some alien markings, and could transform himself into all kinds of weapons. Today, Warrior's was entertaining the Justice Society- Green Lantern, Flash, Captain Marvel, Liberty Belle, and Stargirl who was apparently celebrating a birthday. Warrior himself was regaling them with stories that were probably only partially accurate. Chris was headed to the bar when Guy spotted him, and stopped his story to yell, "Hey, kid! Bar's closed for a private party! Come back tomorrow!"
Hopeful, Chris said, "I... I was actually looking for a j-job?"
Gardner guffawed. "Sorry again, champ! I only employ superheroes here!"
"I... um... I am a superhero."
Guy snorted. Starting over from the group, and them following, he said, "Yeah? I gotta hear this. Okay, kid, what's your name?"
"--Your hero name, man! What are you? New?"
"Give him a break, Guy," said Flash.
"Oh. Well, um, it... changes?"
Guy smirked knowingly. "I get that. I've been Green Lantern, just Guy Gardner," he said, looking at Flash, "and now I'm Warrior. Okay, so what's your power?"
Chris looked like he might be sick. "Um... it... it changes too," he kind of mumbled.
Gardner looked at him dubiously, "Oookay. I've had two power rings, and now it's Vuldarian DNA, if you can believe that."
"The current powers are a little hard to believe," Captain Marvel said quietly.
Stargirl giggled. Guy scowled at the Captain.
Then turning back to Chris, he said, "Hit me. What are your powers now?"
Chris was beginning to panic, and rubbed the back of his neck. "Uh, it's hard to explain. I don't have any powers right now. I--"
"--Look, kid, nice try, okay? But you gotta have powers. Now, if you don't mind..." Guy put a hand on Chris' back, and started to steer him towards the door.
"No! No!" Chris protested. "You don't understand," he said, ducking Guy's hand and backing away a couple of steps. Holding up his wrist, he said, "I dial 'hero' on this magic watch, and I become a different superhero every time!"
"Oh, come on," said Guy.
"We've both used power rings," Green Lantern said to Guy.
Guy was exasperated. "But a magic watch? Does it call Superman when you need him, too?"
"No," said King, "but I've met him- he can vouch for me!" Then, reconsidering, he said, "Of course, I did dial 'horror' that time."
Guy's hand shot out and grabbed Chris' wrist. Reaching for the watch dial with his other hand, the clockface dissolved to reveal the letters H-E-R-O on a sort of rotary dial. "HA! Well, how 'bout that? He was tellin' the truth! I gotta tell ya kid, this is funny. So funny, in fact, you know what else you can dial on here?"
As Guy put his finger to the dial, Chris tried to pull free, "No!"
"H-O," Guy started.
"That's not a good--"
"H-O," Guy continued.
"--idea." Chris whined.
"H-O," Guy finished.
There was a bright flash of light, and Gardner was thrown backwards on his butt. Looking where Chris had been, he meekly said, "Santa?"
Looking himself over, and at the large bag in one hand, Chris said, "Ho! Ho! Hoooo! I've become Jolly Old Saint Nick!" Looking at Guy, he shook his finger and said, "You might have to go on the naughty list."
Guy went pale. "No!"
Reaching in his bag, Santa brought out a small, wrapped package, and handed it to Stargirl. "I believe that someone is having a birthday?"
Stargirl was giddy with excitement as she took the package. She unwrapped it hurriedly, took the top off the small box, and brought out a small cloissone pin of Santa's face. She put it on her shirt, and pulled a string that came out of his beard. His face lit up from inside, and a small voicebox said, "Ho! Ho! Ho! Haaaapyyy Birthdaaay!"
"Ha!" exclaimed Stargirl. "Never heard Santa say that before! I love it!" She gave Santa a quick hug, and a kiss on his cheek, which made him blush.
"Wait a minute," Green Lantern interrupted. Forming the face of a long haired girl with his ring, he said, "I've got a transmission coming in from Roxy. Go ahead."
"Hi, GL. We've got a trifecta at Times Square- The Mad Maple, Uncle Elvis, and Olavlord are wrecking everything."
"We're on the way," said Lantern, and Roxy's image dissipated. "Flash, Liberty Belle- you run ahead. We'll catch up."
Flash and Belle were gone in a whoosh of air. Captain Marvel looked at Stargirl, and asked, "Why do they always forget that I have the speed of Mercury?" and with a whoosh, he flew after the speedsters.
Stargirl looked at Green Lantern, and shrugged. "Guess that leaves us playing catch up."
"Can I help?" asked Santa.
Green Lantern was speechless, and chose to fly away rather than answer.
Stargirl said, "Oh, yes, yes, yes! I've got to see what happens here! Come on!" she said, and flew out of the bar.
Guy looked at Santa, and sarcastically said, "Well? Think you can keep up?"
Santa hefted his bag over his shoulder with one hand, put a finger to the side of his nose with the other, and was gone with a whoosh.
Gardner was slackjawed with disbelief. He stared silently at the door for a few seconds. Then he shook his head, and said, "I'm havin' a beer." Heading behind the bar, he sneered and said, "Put that on your naughty list."
Blocks away, Santa caught up to Captain Marvel and the two speedsters. Their shock was apparent. Chris just winked, and said, "Quick as a flash."
They all smirked, then laughed aloud. "I bet Guy's face was priceless," said Liberty Belle.
Then they poured on the speed, arriving at Times Square in the blink of an eye.
"Okay, so who's who, here?" asked Chris.
Liberty Belle sighed, looking at the red-and-white clad man ranting from the top of the Coca-Cola sign. "The Mad Maple is one of mine. AKA Jim Burke, he's ticked that Canada isn't as popular as the United States. They're 'a free country too.' They 'have two official languages.' Blah blah blah. I've got him." With that, she leapt into the air, and zoomed towards the Mad Maple.
Captain Marvel looked embarrassed at the caped guy tearing into the McDonald's. "Ugh. Uncle Elvis, AKA Elvis Orten. He thinks I ripped my cape off from Elvis Presley. I don't know how he got powers like me. I suspect Black Adam was involved. I've got him," he groaned, and darted towards his evil counterpart.
"So I guess the armored guy by the Disney Store is--"
"--Olavlord. Right," said the Flash.
Santa made a confused face, and said, "Olav? Olavlord? Really? Who does he belong to?"
"You've got it wrong," said Flash. "He thinks we all belong to him. It's 'Olavlord,' as in Olav B. Lord- the older brother of Maxwell Lord. So, don't let him touch you, or you'll be fighting for him. And that armor gives him firepower and maneuverability. Stay alert!" Flash warned. Parts of the crowd were clearly under Olavlord's control, so Flash shot into the fray to start rounding them up.
He's going to need help, thought Santa to himself. Reaching into his bag, he brought out a few dozen tin soldiers with wind up keys in their backs. He reached into his coat pocket, brought out a handful of dust, sprinkled it on the soldiers, and they grew to eight feet tall. They started advancing on the mind controlled crowd, pushing them back towards the Flash. There were many of them though, and Santa thought, What else can I do? He got a twinkle in his eye, chuckled to himself, and called out, "Now Dasher! Now Dancer! Now Prancer and Vixen! Come Comet! Come Cupid! Come Donder and Blitzen!"
Just like that, eight reindeer shot from the sky into Times Square, pulling Santa's sleigh behind them. Santa unhitched them at super speed, and the deer started helping the tin soldiers corral the crowd. I knew I could do that, thought Chris, but I still don't believe it. This is great! He laughed, and threw his bag over into the sleigh.
From above, Green Lantern called, "Stargirl and I are here now... um... Santa."
Stargirl smirked as she fired a few cosmic bolts at Olavlord.
"I think you can call your..." Lantern winced, "reindeer back to your sleigh."
"Surely, Lantern," said Santa, and he began, "Now Dasher! Now Dancer!..."
Green Lantern almost looked defeated. "Oh, brother," he muttered. A few curved, green barriers lanced out from his ring, surrounding the crowd and pushing them back until the barriers formed a solid circle around them.
Flash landed a few hundred super speed blows on Olavlord which were mostly distractions until Stargirl got into place, and blasted him properly with her cosmic blasts. Thrown backwards into a wall, he was knocked unconscious, and that freed the crowd from his control.
The Mad Maple had thrown his leaf-shaped shield at Liberty Belle, but she had caught it at super speed, and returned it to the angry Canadian with a super strong body blow, knocking him unconscious, and throwing him from his perch atop the Coca-Cola sign. She caught him and headed towards the ground.
Captain Marvel had been exchanging powerful blows with Uncle Elvis. Finally, using the wisdom of Solomon, he managed to goad his foe into saying, "Black Adam," which brought down the lightning, and turned him back into his mortal form of Elvis Orten- an accomplished Elvis impersonator, even without his powers. Santa wooshed over with some duct tape, slapped a strip over Elvis' mouth, and Captain Marvel flicked the man in the head, rendering him unconscious.
"Put them all in the sleigh!" called Santa. "I'll drop them at One Police Plaza!" Snapping his finger, the tin soldiers marched back to the sleigh, and shrank back to toy size as they jumped back into Santa's bag.
Green Lantern plucked the three villains up with giant green ice tongs, and dropped them in the back of the sleigh. "Flash, go on ahead, and let them know we're coming." Looking at Santa, Lantern just shook his head, smiled, and said, "You were a big help. Let's go." Lantern, Stargirl, Liberty Belle, and Captain Marvel rocketed into the air as the crowd started cheering.
Santa looked as he got into his sleigh, and saw that many of them were cheering wildly for him. Giving a light hitch to the reins, the sleigh rose up behind the reindeer. Waving at the crowd as it sped away, he called out, "To all a merry evening, and that was a great fight!" The crowd cheered louder, but soon faded as the group got further away.
In the air:
Stargirl laughed. "I cannot believe that we fought supervillains with Santa!"
"Well, not the Santa," said Santa. "More like a magical stand-in."
"I don't care if you're from the Salvation Army," said Liberty Belle. "We'd have had trouble with the crowd without you. Besides, anyone that can shut Guy up is okay with me."
Santa's belly shook as he laughed, but then he said, "Um, Green Lantern? Do you mind catching me and the guys in the back?"
"Catching? What do you mean?" asked Lantern, but then the sleigh and reindeer faded away, and Santa turned back into Chris King. A green flying carpet caught Chris. The villains fell into a barred cage, and the top formed after them. "Well. You're back. That was... abrupt."
"Yeah," said Chris. "My changes only last an hour, max. Maybe less, if I expend more energy. At least, that's how it was when I had internalized the watch's power. Now that it's a watch again, I don't know for sure."
"So what do we call you now?" asked Green Lantern.
"Just Chris, I guess. That's what I was trying to tell Mister Gardner- I don't have a hero name when I'm me. I turn into a different superhero every time I dial. I mean, I could dial 'ho ho ho' again, and I might become Santa Claus, I might become Captain Ho-Ho, or the Green Giant! I don't know."
Captain Marvel said, "Holy moley! My changes are magic too, but I get to choose how long they last!"
"An hour? That's crazy," said Stargirl.
Liberty Belle said nothing. Just "Hm," to herself, and then they were at One Police Plaza.
One Police Plaza:
Once the villains were disarmed, processed, and all the paperwork had been done, Green Lantern asked Chris, "Can we, um, drop you somewhere?"
"Well, I'm actually between places. I was looking for a new job and a new room when I came into Warriors."
"I might be able to vouch for you with Guy," said Green Lantern. "As for a room, we have some extras at our headquarters. You could stay there while you get on your feet. If Guy is feeling stubborn, you could maybe even help Ma Hunkel with the JSA Museum."
"That... that'd be great," Chris said with relief.
Morningside Heights - Brownstone Headquarters of the JSA:
Guy Gardner had remained stubborn, refusing to employ Chris at Warriors. Stargirl joked, "He's probably afraid you'll find more reasons to put him on the naughty list."
Chris slumped his shoulders. "I was only kidding with him. I mean, he was ragging on me too."
"It's alright," said Green Lantern. "There's still Ma Hunkel."
They met with Ma Hunkel, and she agreed to hire Chris. Frowning, she added, "But I run a tight ship, mister! I smell alcohol on your breath! You don't drink on workdays with me, y'hear?"
Chris gulped. "Y-yes ma'am."
"It's Thursday. No sense trying to start you tomorrow. You can start Monday."
"Thanks!" Chris said. "Really!"
Green Lantern showed Chris to a spare room- more of an efficiency apartment- and left him to get settled in. Finding a case of beers in the fridge, Chris had several, and soon fell into a fitful sleep, dreaming about the past.
LA - The Past:
Things had not been good for Chris King in the last several years. Ever since Vicki Grant had tried to kill him, things continued to get worse. There were a few bright moments, if you could call them that. The Titans helped him fight Vicki off. STAR Labs had studied him after he internalized the powers of the H-Dial, and helped him understand how his powers worked. He had even entered UCLA to study sports medicine.
However, once on campus in California, he had decided to change his image from what he'd had in Fairfax, Virginia. He reasoned if he was going to be in sports medicine, he should get used to being around those who played the sports. He pledged to the jocks' fraternity- Alpha Rho Epsilon- and became something of a party animal. To King, this meant drinking. A lot of drinking. While he was known campus wide for his skills behind the bar, as well as at beer pong, and the beer luge, the alcohol took its toll. Chris became an alcoholic.
Nearly drinking himself to death one night at a party, he had to be transported to the hospital for alcohol poisoning. He recovered, but lost his scholarship, and was kicked out of school. To add insult to injury, the power he'd interalized left him, once again turning into the magical watch he once wore. He still had it, but he hardly ever used it. He didn't know where Vicki had gone, and he didn't want her to find him. He started taking odd jobs in LA to get by. Mostly bartending jobs. Most of which he lost when he had run up a tab higher than his paycheck.
Finally, he saved up enough money to take a train across country to New York City, where he hoped for a new start. What this meant to him was a new set of bars to run up tabs in while he bartended. Just like LA, he lost job after job over his tab, until he finally landed at the Gold Bar, where Benny Fitz was the proprietor.
JSA Headquarters - the next morning:
Chris wandered to the main kitchen, and found Power Girl and Doctor Fate having breakfast.
"Good morning, Christopher King," came the deep echo of Doctor Fate's voice. "Power Girl, Mister King will be working with Ma Hunkel in the museum. Mister King, you seem to wear on your face the unrest I sense in your soul."
"Huh?" Chris said groggily.
"He's saying you don't look like you slept well," said Power Girl. Then she made a stink face, and said, "And I can smell why. Had a few last night, did you?"
Chris blushed. "Um... yeah. Ms. Hunkel said I can't drink when working with her, so I thought I'd throw a few back last night, since I don't have to work this weekend."
Power Girl just raised an eyebrow. "You better get it together by Monday," she said. "Ma Hunkel is tough. She makes the rest of us seem like lightweights."
"Indeed," agreed Fate.
Chris couldn't help but look worried. He wanted another drink right now.
"You may need help that we cannot give, Chris King," said Doctor Fate.
Sweeping a hand over his face, Chris just shook his head in acknowledgment. "You mind turning down the volume a little?" he asked.
"You'll have better luck with aspirin and coffee," said Power Girl. Coffee's over there," she said, pointing at the counter. "Aspirin's in the drawer, just underneath."
"You guys take aspirins?" asked Chris.
Power Girl shrugged. "Wildcat, mostly."
Roxy's holographic form appeared next to Chris. "Power Girl, there's a Kryptonian causing trouble in a trailer park in New Jersey. Can you and Doctor Fate handle it?"
Power Girl let her head drop to the table, banged it softly, and then sat up, exasperation showing on her face. "Ugh. He's a Daxamite! Not a Kryptonian."
"Tomay-to, tomah-to," said Roxy. "How'd you know it was a he?"
"There's a difference!" groused Power Girl. "And there's only one trailer trash Daxamite on Earth. Gar-Baj." She sighed. "You coming, Doctor?"
"I shall accompany you," said Doctor Fate.
Chris sat his coffee down quickly. "Can... can I help?"
"I don't know. Can you?" asked Power Girl, referring to his hungover state.
Chris didn't know what to say.
"I shall transport you there with me, Mister King," said Fate. "We may need every second of your hour time limit against a Daxamite."
"May as well take me too then," said Power Girl.
"Very well," agreed Fate.
To Chris, Fate seemed to be making rock-and-roll horns with his fingers, but then two glowing ankhs appeared around his hands. There was a flash of light, and space seemed to fold around them, and next thing he knew, they were in a trailer park, presumably in New Jersey.
New Jersey - Kun-Lun Trailer Park:
"We are in New Jersey," Fate said in apparent answer to Chris' unspoken question.
"How dare you name this hole after Kun-Lun?" demanded Gar-Baj. "I knew Kun-Lun! This wasn't her style!" A trailer went flying overhead, and Power Girl rocketed after it, catching it before it landed in the roadway outside the trailer park.
"I guess I'd better dial," said Chris. "Hey, Kryptonians are vulnerable to a red sun, right? I seem to remember that from my Kryptonian Biology class in college. What's that Spanish word for 'red' again?" He thought for a second. "Oh, yeah! R-O-H-O," he recited as he dialed.
"Far out! said Chris as he transformed into a transparent, red ghost. "I've become Roho! Maybe I should be called The Red Ghost?"
"That is a villain in another universe," said Doctor Fate.
Chris shrugged. "Doesn't matter to the dial."
"Do you think you can be of help?"
Roho thought for a second, and said, "I still think the red sun thing can work. Krypto Bio taught us that Daxamites are an offshoot of Kryptonians. Maybe I can convince Gar-Baj that I'm Rao?"
"Maybe he will be vulnerable to my magic," suggested Fate.
Rocketing past them towards the Daxamite, Power Girl called, "Are you guys coming, or what?"
There were thundering blows heard, and then Power Girl went flying back towards the road.
"I'll catch her," called Fate, flying away. "Stop Gar-Baj!"
Roho looked in Fate's direction, then looked back in the direction of the rogue Daxamite. "Right. 'Stop Gar-Baj.' Well... I'm already a ghost, right?" he said to himself. Drifting towards Gar-Baj, he wasn't sure what to do. Ghost or not, he still had a splitting headache. Suck it up, Chris, he thought. Here goes nothing. "Garrrrr-Baaaaaaj!" he called, trying to sound as ghostly as possible.
He got the Daxamite's attention. "What the frag is that?!" he shouted, as he tossed a Trans Am aside. "Lobo's never going to believe this."
He's seen you now, King. "Garrrr-Baaaaaj! Whyyy do you dishonorrr the Great Rao?"
"Pft!" spat Gar-Baj as he rose into the air. "The what? If you're Rao, then I'm a space dolphin."
Roho sensed something, and then made "OK" signs with both hands. "You daarrrre?!" he shouted, and then intense light shone through him, and struck Gar-Baj.
Weakened, the Daxamite fell the short distance to the ground, and he looked up, scared.
"You would challenge the god of the sun of your ancestral home?" shouted Roho, the light still shining through him, turning color as it passed through him, and bathing the area in a red glow. "You would challenge--"
"--Great Rao! Have mercy! I didn't know! I didn't know!" shouted Gar-Baj. "What would you have me do?"
"Leave this solar systemmm, and don't come baaaack," Roho continued in his horrible ghost impression. "Fiiind a new hoooome, and do gooood wherever you goooo! BUT GO NOW!" he boomed.
Gar-Baj looked horrified. He screamed, and leapt into the air, rocketing into the upper atmosphere until he broke the pull of gravity, and plunged into the darkness of space.
Floating in midair, Roho watched in disbelief as the Daxamite fled. "I can't believe that worked," he said. Looking back towards Doctor Fate, who was now turning visible, he asked, "How did you know I'd be able to hear you?"
"I did not know," was Fate's answer. "Nabu sensed that you could hear his spirit, so it was he that communicated with you."
"Huh," said Chris. "He sounds a lot like you."
"You are fortunate that the ruse worked, as well as the dial combination that you chose. Why didn't you just dial H-E-R-O?" asked the mage.
Roho didn't answer.
Flying from the other side of a trailer, sporting a black eye, Power Girl scoffed. "You were still fuzzy from your hangover, weren't you?" she demanded.
Roho still didn't answer. Still floating, he just looked at the ground. Then, he dialed O-H-O-R, turned back to Chris King, and promptly fell to the ground. Power Girl didn't catch him. Laying there for several seconds, feeling the various pains from his fall, Chris finally said, "Yeah. I wasn't thinking straight. I'm still hung over."
Power Girl just fumed for a long few seconds, then focused her eyes on Chris' body. "Nothing's broken. Get up. Let's go."
Chris rolled to one elbow, then both hands, and pushed himself up into a stand. Brushing himself off a little bit, he finally said, "Alright. I'm ready."
"Then let us return to JSA Headquarters," said Doctor Fate, and with the same brief flick of his hands, space folded once again, and they were back at the brownstone.
Morningside Heights - Brownstone Headquarters of the JSA:
Chris had returned to his room as soon as they arrived- mostly to avoid Power Girl. He had a beer while he took a long, hot shower, and then he passed out in his bed from exhaustion. A few hours later, Roxy had awakened him, and informed him that he was wanted in the main kitchen. The AI hologram looked him over dubiously, and added, "I don't know why though," before blinking out.
Chris threw on some clothes, and shuffled to the main kitchen. All the JSA'ers he'd dealt with so far were waiting for him, along with Roxy. They wasted no time with pleasantries. "We took a vote," said Green Lantern. "You can stay."
Chris looked relieved.
"For now," warned Lantern, "and it wasn't unanimous."
Chris looked at Power Girl, who scowled at him openly.
Green Lantern continued. "You don't start at the museum on Monday."
"I wouldn't have it," said Ma Hunkel.
Chris looked distraught.
"Mister King, you need help, son," said the Flash. "Guy got you into the misdial as Santa, but if you had become anything other than a ghost against that Daxamite, things could have ended very badly for you, as well as many others."
Chris didn't know what to say. He just waited.
Captain Marvel stepped up next to Power Girl. "We voted about something else too."
Chris braced himself.
"We want you on the team," said Stargirl. Chris looked at her in disbelief, and noticed that she was still wearing her Santa pin. He smiled weakly at that, trying not to cry.
"Wh-why would you want me on the team?" said Chris. "I'm a mess! My power's not even reliable. Even if I dial correctly with H-E-R-O, I could become anyone from a Superman to Zeep the Living Sponge. Why would you want to take that chance?"
Taking off the Helm of Fate, Kent Nelson said, "Because even with two misdials, you still successfully aided two missions today. We think you could be a valuable asset to the team."
"There are conditions though," said Green Lantern, "and they will require trust on your part."
Chris nodded somewhat tentatively.
"First," said Flash, "rehab. Non-negotiable. You kick the alcohol, attend some meetings, do the Twelve Steps- the whole business. We found a place. It's the same place where Time Phantom does his meetings, but you'll be staying there for a bit. Doable?"
Chris put his hands in his back pockets, looked at the floor for a minute, then looked up, and nodded his head.
"The second part might be a deal breaker for you, but as Flash said, this too is non-negotiable." Green Lantern paused for a long moment, and then said, "You have to surrender your watch while you're in rehab. I'd suggest either to me or Doctor Fate as we're senior members, and have both dealt with mystical objects. Can you do this?"
Again, Chris looked distraught. Vicki was still out there, might still be looking for him, and now that he'd used the dial, she knew where to look. Could he survive without it? He considered for a few minutes, and the JSA waited patiently. Finally, he decided there was no other answer he could give.
He started taking the watch off as he walked across the room. "I can do this, Green Lantern, but... if it's okay... I'd like to surrender it... to her," he said, holding the watch out to Power Girl.
"Me?!" she balked. "Why?"
"Power Girl," he said a bit shakily, "I just stood here in a room full of the world's greatest superheroes- all of you waiting on my answer, and all of you willing to help me... except for you. And hey," he shrugged, "you might be right. But I trust you to not give this back to me if I'm not ready, and I certainly can't take it from you. So, if you'll give this back to me when I'm straight, I'll do the rehab. What do you say?"
The Kryptonian looked at Chris King and his watch for what seemed like an eternity. Then, she nodded, and said, "Just so you know, I'm putting it in the Fortress of Solitude."
Chris nodded. "Even better."
"Okay then," she said, and she took the watch.
"Oh, there's one more thing," said Star Girl.
Chris looked at her, curious.
"You need a name," said Roxy.
He was a little taken aback, not quite sure what she meant.
"A superhero name," said Green Lantern. "One we can call you, no matter who you turn into. You can pick your name, of course, but we have a suggestion."
"Okay?" said Chris, not knowing what to expect.
Liberty Belle spoke up. "My husband's been inactive- he's sick. He had powers that only lasted an hour at a time too. I think his name fits you."
"Yeah. It's perfectly suited for addicts with one hour power sets," Roxy said dryly.
"ROXY!" shouted Stargirl. "That's not nice!"
"But it's accurate," stated the AI.
"Roxy," Liberty Belle fumed. "Rethink your approach."
The AI went quiet.
Belle bit her lip for a second, then continued, "You could be the new Hourman."
"No way," Chris said softly.
"You don't like it?" asked Liberty Belle.
"Are you freakin' kidding me?" said Chris. "I love it. I'm just feeling stupid that I never thought of it." He smiled broadly.
"Then it's decided," said Flash. "To Hourman!"
"To Hourman!" echoed the group.