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    NTS-HD-07 The New Super Stars

    NTS-HD-07 The New Super Stars
    By Darrel James Vanwinkle
    June 19th, 2013

    Chapter Sixty-One

    Pulling a fast one with the help of the Care Bears, I extended my hospital stay for an additional set of months until the time bypassed the date of when I officially became a toon. And why had I done this? Remember when Havenfang had told me that I couldn't enroll in any hero school until I met two requirements? I had to be on QC Planet for a year, which I did qualify for, and I had to have been a toon for a year, which at the time I didn't qualify for. But thanks to the extended stay in Cloud Kingdom Memorial, I now qualified for the second requirement and there wasn't a thing anyone could do about it.

    Taking a page out of Ace's Book of Being Sneaky, I had the hospital announce that my release date was going to be on Friday. But in truth, I was getting out the previous Monday. That would give me four days free to do as I liked. And I had some things on my mind to take care of.

    What's that? My super powers I mentioned at the end of the last episode? Okay, I'll tell you what I had the Yuskay Groomers do for me. I was sort of jealous when I saw that Supermouse could still transform back into his human form. And I thought it was high time that I got that freedom myself. But I went a step further with the request. Even though High Command were total assholes in sending WWNN after me, the humanoid canine ability did impress me. So... I now had a transformation power that allowed my toon human form to change into either my super powered Night the Superdog form or into my new super powered Cano-Sapien identity. I didn't have a name for him yet, but being a sexy hunk of a Black Labrador Retriever was to die for. However, I had an additional request that involved my other Sponsor parent... Rudolph. Keeping the canine theme was good for Krypto, but I felt sad that I was doing nothing to honor Rudolph. I mean, he's been there for me just as much as Krypto had. So two more forms were added to my mix. A posture problematic super powered reindeer form like Rudolph's and a super powered Cervi-Sapien form, one which literally makes a sleigh team perk up and take notice. Not that I'm trying to give them an erection, but let's face it, folks... when you're hot, you're GOSH DARN HAWT!

    The reindeer forms had a coloration of caramel and chocolate with a creamy white undercoat. I had decided to call my reindeer form by the name of... Yummy. No, I'm just kidding, but that's what I think of when I see the form in a mirror. Hee Hee. Actually, the name I've given that form is The Bronze Buck. I can't wait to show Rudolph how hot and sexy it is. I still love his cooking.

    I spoke in private to Lord Paul about the hero school problem and when I mentioned being interested in MIT, he told me that the school was still under investigation except they couldn't get any evidence on what was going on in there. So I presented the lord with an offer. Allow me to enroll at MIT and secretly I would keep track of everything I saw going wrong in the school and report those things back directly to him. He thought it was an excellent idea and thus, I was given clearance to work undercover.

    When I arrived at MIT, it looked peaceful. But according to Lord Paul, it was what lay inside that they needed to know about. I walked inside and approached the registration desk. It wasn't like it was in MYTHS; the desk was simply in the hallway for all to see. For this performance, I was in my new reindeer form. I thought that would be more useful since everyone knew my other form on sight.

    The Register Clerk looked at me with a curious look. "Name, Maverick Identity, and Powers, please."

    I replied, "Real name: Haley Safeton; Maverick name: The Bronze Buck; Powers: Flight, Strength, and X-Ray Vision." I chose to keep the rest under wraps.

    The Register Clerk said, "Could you demonstrate please?"

    I nodded my head and leaped into the air where I stopped in place, then I reached down and lifted his desk with my antlers. And I finally performed my vision on his pants. "You have a pocket watch, 48 cents, and a breath mint in your left pocket, and your right pocket contains-"

    The Register Clerk blushed. "No, that's enough." He was glad when everything was back on the ground. "Continue on to the Dorm Assignment Clerk further down the hall. Next!"

    I was rather put off by his attitude since I thought he was being rude. I soon arrived at the dorm assignment desk. "I'd like a basement room, please. I am used to menial labor so if I could closer to janitorial services, that would be most helpful."

    The Dorm Assignment Clerk made a face. "Basement rooms are reserved for the F-Squad. You will be assigned to the E-Level dorms for now until your evaluation is complete to see which group you might fit in with. Report to the E-Dorm, claim a bunk, then proceed to Class Assignment Division. Next!"

    I made a face myself and as I was walking away from his desk, I deliberately farted and continued on my way. That guy had been rude, too, so that was the reply I gave him.

    The E-Dorms were filthy. And that's really saying something. Remember that I spent several months with the Vagabond Hounds in their rail car and they hardly ever bathed. This was far worse than that. Lord Paul would not be happy to hear about this. But then I got to thinking: how could they keep the entry dorms so dirty and Dalis not find out about it? He ran this school and he's one of the cleanest panthagoyles out there. I couldn't wait to show him this later. I could have cleaned it up myself at super speed, but remember: I'm undercover. So it had to stay exactly as I found it.

    End of Chapter Sixty-One

    Chapter Sixty-Two

    And if E-Dorms were like that, what conditions were the F-Squad living in?

    I went and hit the Class Assignment Division next. In MYTHS, everyone took the same classes although depending upon how long you had been attending, you might not be in the same classes as the new registrants to the school. In MIT, they tested your powers and abilities, then you were assigned your classes. And just so I didn't come across as too smart, I deliberately messed up the majority of my tests. In MYTHS, if you messed up a test, the instructors calmly spoke to you in front of the dean and an arrangement was made to help you through the problem the next time. But in MIT... not only were the testers rude, but they were also impatient, tactless, and angry. If you messed up a test, they called you stupid, slapped you, and sometimes... compared you to a toilet bowl. If new students had to go through this, it was a wonder the school was even open.

    Even after messing up my tests that badly, they still did not assign me to F-Squad. And that made me wonder how bad of a mess you had to cause to get in there. I needed to see what F-Squad was like or else I would never get this undercover work completed in my time limit. Therefore that night, pardon the pun, while the Bronze Buck supposedly slept, Night the Superdog prowled around the school looking for clues and trying to find the entrance to the F-Squad quarters. It sure was handy to be able to switch forms whenever I wanted. Not a true shape changer but it fit my needs.

    I got lucky somehow when I saw Ace, of all people, sneaking down a hallway in his cape and cowl toward the janitorial division. So I quietly followed him. I knew Ace didn't work at MIT, so perhaps a student here was on his likes list. My super hearing heard Ace getting ambushed just inside the Janitorial quarters. And that was my cue to come to his rescue. How I would have LOVED to have Darcadia's shadow powers right about now. Therefore, I simply burst into the room and my heat vision fired off point blank.

    It didn't take long to take down both powered thugs guarding what looked like a door to stairs leading down. I helped Ace to his feet. "You know, old friend... you shouldn't be here at all. But I am glad you are."

    Ace broke his code of grimness for a moment and he smiled when he saw who it was. "Release on Friday my ass. Good job. You're learning. This is the entrance to the F-Squad quarters. I've explored this school several times but this is the first time I've ever found this door."

    I said, "If F-Squad's quarters are anything like the E-Dorm, I may have to reveal myself from my undercover job for Lord Paul."

    Ace seemed to get what I was saying. "Less said the better. Now let's go see what condition those students are in."

    The basement rooms were worse than a sewer. Not even Master Splinter and his Turtles would want to live in conditions like this. More than one student seemed to be sick with god knows what and it stank worse than Pepe Le Pew and the Vagabond Hounds, combined on a hot day.

    I activated my comm unit for contacting Lord Paul. "Sir? I think you better see this. Ace and I are in the basement of MIT. This is where they stick their F-Squad students. I honestly do not think Dalis knows anything about this at all." Yes, I was giving Dalis the benefit of the doubt. He is Timesheart's friend, so I had to.

    I then described what I was seeing directly into the Comm Unit.

    And almost instantly, Lord Paul wearing a gas mask arrived with a platoon of the Unstoppable Exploration Company. The students were gathered up one by one and transported to Cloud Kingdom Memorial. Then the rest of the UEC platoon raided the school from every direction at the same time. And the All-Stars were right along side the UEC during this strike. So I was right about Dalis not knowing anything about this. Good thing too... I've seen angry panthagoyle more often than I've cared to.

    By the next morning, it was the biggest news to hit Meta Star City in a long time. Not only was the school being run by shady instructors, but documents were found tying direct involvement by the Hero and Villain Union itself. I was not the one who found those documents; Lord Paul and Dalis found them together. MIT and the HV Union were closed down the same day. The event was being called The Sting of Lord Paul. My name was kept out of the reports deliberately since officially, I was never there. Hospital stay until Friday, remember?

    I spent the day with Ace, Krypto, and Rudolph at the Terryville Home in the Cloud Kingdoms where a serious discussion was being had. And it involved my learning about hero teams. And how I'd met Supermouse's hard hitting team. " you see, Ace, I get the feeling that MYTHS seems to fall short on teaching that level of hero team management. And I am not sure what to do about it?"

    "What about the Champions?" asked the dark hound.

    "They may remain in operation under your guidance," I said. "But I feel that they are too limited in what I was expecting. Supermouse's team is what really showed me what was what. I want to form a team of my own independent from the school who can be as professional as the New Protectors. Let me break down what I think is wrong with the Champions."

    End of Chapter Sixty-Two


      Chapter Sixty-Three

      I continued at that point. "Jonas doesn't take the team position seriously. He's always joking around, like Bud and Lou, and primarily looking at my ass. And my ass isn't that nice. He thinks he's in love with me, but I'm in love with Cheer Bear. James isn't confident enough to be on the team, although he and Whistleplix were the first ones to uncover what was really going on during that outing. He can be bright at the right times, but he still falters when it comes to confidence. I found out that Rya used to work for a mobster who is currently in prison. Even though she comes across as the serious team mate, her act borders on an acting too serious stance. Almost as if she's faking it to be brave. And that isn't good in a team. Yok hates super villains. He only controlled his punch during that one outing because he knew that the student wasn't a real super villain. But had it been a mainstream villain, their balls would be hanging out of their noses. And then there is sweet lovable and shy Athame. I just can't bring myself to say anything bad about him. He lost his parents and Dalis vouched for him. Plus he pulls off the cute oh so well. Dorwin is crazy; nuff said. And Blitzkrieg has a crush on me; like Jonas, it isn't a good stance to have on a team."

      Krypto hummed at my evaluation. "So you're saying that only Athame measures up to the team standard that you want to put together."

      "He's the most brilliant," I said with a blush. "Don't get me wrong; the others could someday reach that level, but not at the moment."

      Streaky then asked, "And what do you want to call this new hard core team?"

      I smiled. "I've given that some serious thought. I am thinking... the New Super Stars. Wonder Woman told me that there used to be a World War II team with that name."

      Ace pivoted his eyes up in thought, then he looked directly at me again. "If that's the plan and the name, then I know an independent hero who would likely jump at the chance to form a team with you, Harold. His name is Kangaroo King. The New Protectors know of him, but he isn't a member of their team. He normally patrols QC Aussieland."

      Krypto smiled. "Kangaroo King has a sidekick named Joey Boy; a real cute were-kangaroo kid."

      Streaky hummed. "I have an idea that could pan out, Harold. There are a lot of powered types in Jaded Shadow who might benefit by being in a serious new team with a canine like you. They just need a chance to show they aren't personalities to be overlooked. Just ask around at the Outcast Bar. They might be able to give you a list of names."

      I was intrigued because Streaky had been right about things before. And this time he wasn't asking for a fish dinner reward. But before I could say anything more... Jimmy the Rat arrived and hopped up on the table in front of us. He was wearing a Three Musketeers hat with the feather, a miniature purple cape, a simple eye mask, and he had a small rapier fastened to his belt. "Jimmy? What are you all dressed up for? Is Ace throwing a masquerade ball and failed to tell the rest of us about it?"

      "Oh no, Nighty honey!" said Jimmy with a smile and debonair flair. "I want to join your new team. With the closing of the Hero/Villain Union, I'm out a paycheck and I have people to support back home. Acy knows what I am talking about. A lot of us are hurting with the closing of the union. Its like the recession of the 1920s on Earth. Worse for us since we have mouths to feed. At least I turned to a hero in the making instead of going off on a crime spree like a ton of the others. Underdog was off with Dynomutt looking at a jewelry store window last night. It didn't take a degree in rocket science to know what they were thinking, Acy. They aren't getting paid anymore, so they are desperate."

      "Being independently wealthy like I am," stated Ace. "I forgot what the closing of the union would do the other toons who don't deserve to be caught in the pinch like this. As sad as this will sound, Harold... Meta Star City needs a local union to keep the heroes in line. Otherwise, the population of the villains will triple. It was good of Jimmy to choose to come to you for the solution of his own desperate needs. But those weaker than Jimmy... they could be crossing the line right now. We need a solution that works."

      I looked at Benny. "You first, Jimmy. What's your hero name going to be and what can you do?"

      The street rat smiled. "You won't regret this, Night. I promise. I call myself the Fencing Prince, play on the first part of my name since I have been known to fence items acquired. But it is also a duelist term and while I am not Ace's level of fighting... I deserve a chance. I too have a few detective skills under my belt, although up to now, I've never used them for a good cause. But I must be good at what I do because otherwise... Ace would never come to me to get the word on the street. He could get it himself. So may I join?"

      I said, "I'll give you a trial run, Jimmy. I know you'll be tempted to backslide into your old ways, but I think I know how you can get a decent union paycheck again." I then looked at Ace and Krypto. "Part two... the local union situation. We cannot just reinstall the Hero/Villain Union or else it will end up worse than before. It needs to be run publicly by someone who has had trouble with the old version of the union. And before you all start looking my way, the answer is NO FUCKING WAY! Not me! It must be someone else who got screwed over by the old union. I have too much on my plate to be thinking about adding one more piece of garbage to it."

      "Not even as dessert?" asked the dark hound in the cape and cowl.

      The look at sheer upset fury that passed between Ace and myself was enough to make blood run cold for anyone else witnessing the glare I was giving the Bat Hound. "If you want the ability to pee tomorrow, I'd suggest you rethink that question, Ace."
      End of Chapter Sixty-Three


        Chapter Sixty-Four

        Krypto hummed. "Now wait a minute, Harold; no one said you had to run it by yourself. You could create it as an investment under Lord Paul. He would own it and you would hire people to work there. Once the personnel were in place, you would hardly have to look at it and you could check up on it's progress occasionally. It wouldn't even interrupt your schedule. Not to mention... a lot of ex-Reps are currently out of work because of this fiasco. Most had no other skills except to do union based jobs. The downtrodden, son... if not for yourself... for them? Surely you met a few nice Union Reps, didn't you?"

        I sighed. Krypto always knew exactly what to say to me. "Yes, there were a few who had their hearts in the right place. Maybe more I never got to meet. I suppose you want me to speak to Lord Paul about this."

        "I think you should base the new version of the union here in the Cloud Kingdoms so the Care Bears and My Little Ponies can jointly keep an eye on it. In the past, access to the union was blatantly abused by anyone seeking to get their way with a bribe. With it being located up here, do you really think Nobleheart Horse would let it get that far out of his hoofs?"

        I just grinned. "I could put Mourningheart Mule in charge of the record keeping portion of the department. Who would seriously want to try to pass him a bribe?" Everyone just paled as I said that. Yep, the Care Bear Cousin of DEATH was NOT the entity you spoke of lightly and I had just done it. He would be speaking to me later; I just KNEW he would.

        And that also ended the discussion regarding the union situation. Soon I was on my way to speak to Lord Paul who was surprisingly understanding about the whole thing. With his help, the new union was arranged. Lord Paul suggested that it be set up similar to the stock market where the public can invest in the shows (which would cover all members of that show) and paychecks would be regulated by the stock ratings of the shows. Popular shows would obviously grant the actors more income. I then suggested that an Active Security Insurance be part of the contract for employed toons in a show. The active security would slowly develop over time until the toon became inactive and then they would receive Inactive Security Income directly from the Active Animation Union. For those toons currently not in a show, the old shows would be reviewed for quality and a set Inactive Income would be created so they could live comfortably. Union Reps would be heavily screened and monitored so they did not fall prey to bribery and/or corruption. Now, illegally participating in an Active Show's scripted fight would negate pay for everyone in the fight as punishment for breaking the rules, but no one involved would end up paying fines. The loss of income would be punishment enough.

        Unionized Superhero and Super Villain teams were also going under the hammer to be straightened up so making a team was more fair. The old way stank.

        Lord Paul and I worked well into the night, pardon the pun since I am Night, to get all of the rules ironed out and in place. The next morning, after a hearty breakfast and some needed coffee, and I don't know when I started drinking coffee and liking it, we acquired land in the Cloud Kingdoms for the new union headquarters. It only took an hour for Lord Paul to construct the place and furnish it. It must be nice to be as powerful as Lord Paul. Not that I'd want it; I have enough problems. Finally, the interviews with the former Union Reps commenced. They were told that their interviews would be recorded for security purposes and those not wanting to be recorded could just leave and never think about Union work again.

        That left about fifty some odd former union reps from the original five hundred some odd number.

        With the new Union Reps in place with copies of their new rules in a guide book and with the lot of them wearing their new uniforms (yes, new clothes makes a Rep happier!), the announcement to Meta Star City via Lord Paul's megaphone that the new hero and villain union titled as the Active Animation Union was open for business. Anyone wanting to make a clean start of things should come sign up immediately. Adhering to one original rule, the new union did NOT handle making scripts. That's what the Script Writing Union was for; which I was a member. Ha! Take that!

        The first day had a line of toons that was enormously huge. Even formerly out of work toons and anime stars had shown up to get on board the new project.

        "What do you mean I'm only going to be getting this much income? I was getting a lot more before!" Sadly, most of those signing up did NOT like the pay reductions we had to instate to regulate the corruption we knew had to be occurring with the old union. As for the out of work (inactive) toons, their final paychecks was a bit more than they had been getting before. Remember how Lord Paul and I reworked the Inactive Security Income? Well, for most of those unemployed, they deserved it. Before they weren't getting it; now they were.

        Unionized Superhero and Super Villain teams were likewise not happy to learn that in order to renew their teams at the start of the year, their entire roster had to enroll in Refresher Courses at MYTHS and pass those courses. Otherwise, they would be forced to disband. Too often were these teams sliding bribes to the old union to get illegally gained benefits slid under the bridge to improve their teams. Now, they had to take classes like any other student.

        When it was all said and done with, (and yes, just watching Krypto, Streaky, and Ace sign up for the union was just as fun as anything I could imagine, hee hee,) everyone's union cards were issued complete with legalized bar codes and then we had a pizza dinner at Arden's, because we were hungry and we deserved it. Everyone had a copy of the new union rules to read over. And I mean everyone. Anyone signing up were given one of these new rule books so they would have no excuse in not knowing the new rules. And yes, just watching my mentors reading the rules while eating and making odd faces every once in a while was also fun.

        "Now that we have the union out of the way, I can now focus on my new non-unionized team."

        End of Chapter Sixty-Four


          Chapter Sixty-Five

          Locating Kangaroo King wasn't all that difficult. He performed his patrols in Aussieland which was accessed through the Aussieland Transportal. Arriving, it was like stepping into an animated version of the Outback. Humorously while I was deciding which way to go to located my quarry, Bugs Bunny ran by lightning fast followed closely by the Tasmanian Devil and a flying mobile motion camera. I wondered if they had even seen me standing there. I didn't have long to wonder because Bugs Bunny and Taz both came back and looked at me.

          "Eh..." the famous rabbit said as he munched on his carrot. "What's up doc?"

          Taz sniffed me and made those sounds he was famous for.

          "I am looking for Kangaroo King for a business proposition. I just emerged from the Transportal back behind me."

          Bugs Bunny looked past where I stood and saw the Transportal. Then he glanced back at Taz, as he brought out his script and showed it to the devil. "Tazzie, old boy... we're off track. I am sure it was an accident. See? It says we were supposed to make a right at the old signpost and I think we made a left."

          Taz stopped making his sounds and looked at the script. "Oh my, I think you are right. Your friend Daffy is going to wonder where we ended up at. No harm done this time, I suppose. Aren't you Night the Superdog?" The last was directed at me.

          I hesitated to reply. "Um, yeah. That's me. I'm sorry about the whole union mess thing and-"

          He cut me off. "No, no! I think the new union is better, in truth. A lot of toons were getting screwed over before and you helped to straighten that mess out. As for Kangaroo King, we haven't see him for a few days. Nor Joey Boy, his sidekick. Your best bet would be to take flight and locate a random kangaroo and ask them for directions to KK's station. The roos in this region all adore him."

          "Thanks guys. If there is anything I can do for you, just ask. I'm out here recruiting for a non-unionized superhero team."

          Bugs nodded his long eared head. "Well, there is something you can do for us right now... could you give us both a lift back to signpost so we can resume our script run. We weren't supposed to be anywhere near the Transportal today."

          And so, I was carrying the heated rabbit and the heated devil back to the signpost. I knew they were heated because I could feel their damp fur where they were sitting on my back and their hide beneath felt warmer than usual. Once I landed at the signpost, I let them off my back and then I resumed my flight in my search for Kangaroo King's station.

          The kangaroo I found pounced on me instantly and held my head down as a rocket flew over our position and exploded off in the distance. "Now yas owe me, mate. Ever since Kangaroo King's arch enemy started attacking 'im, its been rather dangerous around these parts."

          "Actually," I started. "Kangaroo King and Joey Boy are who I am looking for. I'm Night the Superdog and I need KK for my new non-unionized superhero team."

          The kangaroo hugged and kissed me deeply on the muzzle! Okay, that wasn't the reaction I was expecting. Then he let go and said, "Ah'd like to come along too. Ah can 'elp yas in yer base. Ah 'ave a 'igh school education. 'ow about it? Please?"

          "Okay, you can come along and hang out in my new headquarters... something else for the list; building the new headquarters. I knew I was forgetting something."

          The kangaroo smiled. "Follow me and stay low. Ah'll lead yas to KK's back door. The fight is occurring in the front. Smells like Joey Boy is cooking something. Come on." And he hopped off in a certain directly and I certainly followed him to avoid direct confrontation with an enemy I knew nothing about. Of course now I was smelling the cooking scent. It didn't smell appetizing to me; but the kangaroo indicated that it was nice to him. So it must be an acquired taste. I already had lunch before coming, so I could politely decline any meals.

          It didn't take us long to get around the safer way to the rear of the KK Station where the two of us entered the door to the kitchen.

          "'ey Joey Boy! Look who Ah found on 'is way 'ere to see Kangaroo King?"

          The sidekick to the superhero looked like a were-kangaroo himself but he smiled when he saw me standing beside the kangaroo who escorted me into the kitchen. "Night the Superdog! Ah've always wanted to meet yas! Ah see yas met Slippery Roo, the Black Marketeer of the region. 'ave a seat and Ah'll get yas some cookies and milk."

          I looked at Slippery Roo. "Black Marketeer? You never mentioned that part when you begged me to let you come live in the headquarters."

          End of Chapter Sixty-Five


            Chapter Sixty-Six

            Fortunately Kangaroo King joined us at that moment and we had a short snack; well more truthfully, they ate. I lost my appetite when Joey Boy explained what he put into the recipe. So I politely declined claiming a delicate stomach since my stomach had not acquired the Aussieland taste yet. I hated to lie but the last thing I needed was to be sick to my stomach.

            "So yas are putting together a new non-unionized 'ard core super'ero team and yas are 'ere to ask me if Ah would join," stated the animated Australian superhero. "Sadly, Ah must decline and not because Ah am not interested. Aussieland is my patrol territory, Night. Like Ace, Ah am a solo 'ero with a good sidekick. Ah know yas came a long way and yas were 'oping for an immediate recruit, but... and this will sound strange to yas... what do Ah get out of joining? Remember: Ah 'ave no interest in any other land other than Aussieland."

            I felt heart-fallen. "I cannot offer you anything as yet, KK. I didn't know how you would take the offer. But if this is how it is going to be... perhaps I am not ready for my own team just yet. Maybe... I'm still just a kid..." I was starting to second guess myself. I thought that if I just asked people, they would want to join. It was a disappointing start. Jimmy the Rat as the Fencing Fencer and Slippery Roo as the Black Marketeer. Neither one a fighter and hardly what I would call 'hard core'. I just wanted to give up at that point.

            Apparently Kangaroo King and Joey Boy could discern the look on my canine muzzle and the two were quietly talking in Aborigine; yes, another one of those languages that I didn't know. Finally, the superhero turned to me and said, "Ah'll tell yas what, Night... yas unselfishly 'elp one 'undred citizens in Aussieland and when word reaches my ears on 'elpful yas 'ave been to my friends, then Ah'll agree to join yer new team. Until then, Ah'd suggest yas try to recruit whoever else yas 'ad on yer list. Joey Boy and Ah will be right 'ere."

            And that was it. I was in flight back toward the transportal arrival zone. I felt like shit because I struck out on my first hopeful. And worse, those of the criminal element wanted to be on my new team more than the heroes did. And that bothered me greatly. Did I have a villain's image? All I could do now was go home and sleep. I was a loser... again. Bye bye Cloud Nine. Every time I feel like I have scored a big win, the rug is pulled out from under me and I slam down on my face. Oh well... perhaps the team was a dumb idea after all.

            So there I lay in my bed in the Meta Star Tower penthouse apartment that was purchased specifically for me by Krypto and Rudolph. And even though the two were currently back in Terryville for the summer months, I had the penthouse all to myself currently. And I felt like crap. I didn't even want to make outings. I ignored phone calls and cries for help.

            When the week ended, I did get a visitor finally.

            "What died in here?" asked Wonder Dog as he opened the windows to allow fresh air into my room. He then dragged me out of bed and off into the bathroom where I was given a bath. "Why did you allow yourself to get so grungy like this? You aren't preparing for an audition on a show, are you?"

            I didn't want to unload my sob story on someone else. It wasn't fair to Damian. So I just quietly let him wash me.

            "You sit there and soak," he said. "I am going to get your laundry started. Phew... good thing I needed you, Harold, or else there is no telling when anyone would have checked on you."

            Sometime later, I was sitting in the sunlight on the penthouse deck while Damian fed me high class dog chow. "So why were you needing me, Damian?"

            "My producers want me to do a team-up with Night the Superdog in my own series," he explained. "One of your enemies teams up with one of my enemies in Angel City and we are joined by a new hero who is getting a free debut in my show. And after they debut in my show, you could have them guest star in your series too. Please say you are interested, Harold. My filming crew loved having you around the first time. Besides... you did say you liked Angel City. For me? Please?" And then he gave me the sad puppy eyes.

            The next day, we were in Angel City. Never let it be said that someone can resist the sad puppy eyes; they are lying if they make that claim. I posed while the make up crew made sure I got the right treatment. And everyone was just as friendly as they had been the first time. It was as if I had never left after my first visit. I was even starting to smile again. For some reason, being in Angel City always lifted my spirits. By the time the first scene was to shoot, I was back in full form and awaiting my cue.

            Don't you just hate it when the unexpected happens?

            For the second time in a year, the moment the director yelled action... I had just barely flown in to give my lines to Wonder Dog when all of a sudden, TWO werewolves attacked me from out of nowhere. The last time I dealt with werewolves was when the Wolf With No Name nearly killed me and got banned from the planet. Now I was being double teamed by two of them and they weren't giving me a chance to react to their strikes.

            The director was shouting for someone to call the police or even the other heroes, but fortunately Wonder Dog was right there with his magical powered body and he dove into my battle and knocked one werewolf not only off of me, but through an unprepared brick wall. But the werewolf was up again and charging right back into the battle.

            Wonder Dog and I were out-powered; there was no doubt about it. But then... I got to meet his new guest star. And let me tell you right now... it was love at first sight. As two gigantic snowballs clobbered the two werewolves, the magical mare herself made her appearance... Arcana, the number one stage horse sponsored by Zatanna. "Looks like you boys needed some help."

            End of Chapter Sixty-Six


              Chapter Sixty-Seven

              But then something happened that I had been missing a lot. An inky black fog overtook the battle zone and then came the voice I was ever so glad to hear.

              "From the dark side of Wolf Moon Bay..." A flash of lightning went off and a roll of loud thunder. "...comes the canine lord of shadows..." Another peal of thunder and flashes of light erupted from the darkness. "Darcadia..." a third blast of thunder silenced everyone in view of the scene. "...of the Night." Another thunder roll was heard. "And I hunger..." Lightning flashed a final time as a deep close up of his vampiric face was point blank with the two werewolves. "...for you."

              And poised beside Darcadia was a feline vampire hunter with a repeat loading crossbow which was loaded with silver bolts. "You can call me... Reliquary the vampire hunter. But today... werewolves are on the menu. No one attacks our ally and lives to tell the tale."

              As one of the werewolves leaped at Darcadia and Reliquary bearing teeth and claws, the other made his lunge at Wonder Dog, Arcana, and I. But he got stopped by the unexpected kangaroo tail slap to the muzzle sending him flying off to the side and into the side of a garbage truck. Kangaroo King had been watching the telly when he heard about the attempt to end my life. And now he was actually here. As the werewolf as starting to leap back into battle... he got slammed at star ship velocity by that Australian husky... Warpdrive, sending him flying across to the other side of the lot. Joey Boy was heard shouting, "Way to go!"

              A set of silver bolas shot off of the top of one building wrapping around the werewolves ankles, and then a female's words were heard, "Winds that blow so far and wide, send these werewolves to the other side!" And a gust of wind kicked up and pinned both werewolves to a wall and held them there. That's when a feminine jewel encrusted feline and a masculine white Great Dane in angelic gear descended from the nearby rooftop. "Arch-Angel." "And Egyptia." Then they both said in unison, "At your service."

              Darcadia pulled back the inky fog into himself as he and his feline companion came over to check on me. "Night is severely injured, guys. Those two elites from High Command pulled a whammy on our friend; they removed all of his powers. He can't do a thing at the moment. We need to get him to the Yuskay Groomers immediately. They can restore him to normal."

              As it turned out, it was worse than having my powers removed; I couldn't even speak English. I needed help badly.

              Hours later at Yuskay Groomers, the experts were again at work getting me repaired and my powers restored. It was a particularly nasty spell that had been used on me. It was one that normal mages wouldn't even touch, let alone talk about. But thankfully, the groomers were more powerful still. They are a great bunch to have around. They restored my voice first. Thank the gods for that. I couldn't function if I couldn't talk. Once my voice was restored, I asked them to change my transformation powers. I needed a new image and this was the time to do it. I had heard of a Toonmasters hero known as Super Night who was a humanoid black canine in appearance, but he wore a dark costume to cover his modesty. What I asked for was the Changeling ability to shift between Posture Problematic Black Lab, humanoid Black Lab, and human forms at will. All of my other powers would be accessible in all three forms. My humanoid and human forms would wear a new special uniform to cover my modesty (and making it so Krypto and Rudolph didn't ground me for being a nudist.) But I wanted an added set of defenses as well. I asked for the werewolf immunity (so none of their powers would work on me) and perpetual night control. And I wanted my eyes to glow light blue when I was angry. One of the groomers seemed annoyed over my requests and he asked me if I wanted the moon too. My answer was no because I didn't want to give Jimmy the Rat any yummy ideas about all that cheese in my possession. Nearly everyone groaned over my joke. But if I could make jokes, I must have been getting better.

              Finally, the Groomers pushed me out of their business where the others were all waiting for me. Yes, they had waited. Plus, I needed to talk to them.

              I looked over the line up from left to right... Wonder Dog, Arcana, Darcadia, Reliquary, Kangaroo King and Joey Boy, Warpdrive, Arch-Angel, and Egyptia. "First of all, I want to thank all of you for defending me. I hadn't done anything to earn your helping me yet... you still came to my rescue. As you know... High Command is trying to kill me because I dumped their offer to join them and I had the Hell Hound insertion they had implanted into me removed by the Yuskay Groomers. After the Wolf With No Name was banned from QC Planet, I thought that was it. But apparently banning one werewolf does not stop High Command. By defending me today, you have likely earned a spot on their hit list. This is not the way I wanted to pitch my team offer at you guys. But..." He sighed as I continued. " Kangaroo King already knows, I am trying to form a new superhero team. However, what I failed to mention to him during my pitch to him was that this new team needs to work outside of the red tape and even the union prefers to make use of such a team for pay. The team name I've chosen is a revival of an old World War II hero team called the Super Stars. We would be the New Super Stars. Their team lived all over the globe but could rely on assistance for when another of the team members' enemies were in their region. Effectively, KK, this would mean that you and Joey Boy could stay in Aussieland all you liked, but you would still be on the team. No monthly meetings, no silly 'mandatory team outings' crap... we would all just continue to do what we did before. With the added benefit of being on this team. I won't fault anyone for walking away right now; I had pretty much already given up on forming the team, but Wonder Dog cheered me up. So I figured... why not? One last pitch."

              Arch-Angel stifled a chuckle at that moment. "Dad told me that you were having problems finding team members for your superhero group, Night. I was on my way to offer my membership when I came upon this fight. Egyptia is... my girlfriend. As for who my dad is... you know him as Ace the Bathound." He winked with a smile.

              Kangaroo King released a sigh as he looked at me with an apologetic gaze. "'ad Ah known that was yer plan, Night, Ah would 'ave joined yas immediately. Ah was afraid yas were recruiting for a scripted team which Ah would never join. But since this is yer plan and Ah sorta owe yas for giving that ultimatum when yas came to see me... yas now 'ave Kangaroo King and Joey Boy on yer payroll. Not that Ah'm doing this for the money, but... some of my enemies are real pricks."

              End of Chapter Sixty-Seven


                Chapter Sixty-Eight

                Now that I had the core team, it was time to follow up on Streaky's suggestion. He mentioned that there were several deserving powered types in Jaded Shadow, which was not a nice place. In fact, it reminded me of a mix between black and white cartoons and full color Gothic. The overall theme just seemed to be nocturnal black and midnight blue. All I had to do was inquire at the Outcast Bar. When I arrived there, I encountered a hefty rhino bouncer with a patch over one eye who was on doorman duty. He didn't look happy and he had the look of someone who didn't take lip from anyone.

                "Night the Superdog?" he said with slight annoyance over my even approaching the place. "What do you want here?"

                "Streaky the Supercat said that I could inquire here at the Outcast Bar regarding powered types who didn't get a fair shake in getting into a serious hero team. I am recruiting for a new team and I'm not particular over who gets in as long as they want that chance. But if you want me to go away, I can do that. Maybe after I tell Streaky I couldn't get in, you can put up with Ace instead." And I turned to leave. Well, I started to until he grabbed my tail.

                "Um, no. Please don't. We don't need Ace coming around again. I'm Rollsteady, Rocksteady's brother-in-law. He gets the fame of being with the mutant turtles and I get stuck with being a bouncer here at the bar. Go on in, Night. And I've heard how the system has yanked you around. You probably deserve membership here more than anyone else." And he moved aside to allow me entry into the bar. The atmosphere within was what one might expect to see in a nightclub from one of those old black and white cartoons from the 1930s. The patrons looked similar to some of the most famous cartoon and anime stars of stage and screen except these people were obviously not the originals. Most, if not all, seemed as if they were at the bottom of the auditioning bucket and a majority looked drunk or nearly so.

                I then approached the bar where the bartender who looked like a Smokey the Bear reject stopped cleaning the glass he was holding when he saw me. "Streaky said I could find powered types here who deserved a chance on a real team. I am recruiting for a new non-unionized superhero group that I am forming. Could you give me some names to work with?"

                "Streaky sent you the right place, Night," said the bartender. "I'm Snookie the Bear, Smokey's cousin. That's Malfred Dog at the piano, you met Rollsteady at the door, and that's Kal-Em in the kitchen preparing the meals. In fact, Streaky told us to be on the look out for you and he told us why. We spread the word around for you and I can introduce them to you whenever you are ready."

                "Thanks, Snookie," I replied. "I'm hoping to get an even mix. And no, they don't all need to be canines and felines. As I said, an even mix is fine. Right now is fine with me."

                Snookie directed my right up on stage where a table and chairs were already set up for me. Once I arrived at the table, I unpacked the team name banner and hung it up over the stage, and then I set up a folding screen behind the table depicting the core members of the new team. Two ladies, the rest were male. Then I took my place at the recruiters chair.

                No one said recruiting like this would be easy. Maybe I was just lucky I got the hard core members to join simply because they were all together to hear the pitch at the same time. Or they knew that I might get attacked by High Command again. Or for Arch-Angel... his dad asked him to help me; a pity case.

                After two hours of sitting at the table reading one of my Myths text books it was becoming apparent that no one was coming. Despite Snookie saying that this was the right place, my butt was getting tired of sitting on the wooden chair. At that point I did get up and I started packing up. I could see the writing on the wall. No one was interested. For the first time ever, one of Streaky's ideas didn't pan out for me. But I suppose it was bound to happen eventually. I couldn't get depressed simply because the Supercat's suggestion didn't work.

                After cleaning up the stage area, I thanked Snookie for the use of the Outcast Bar and then I departed the nightclub. It was well after dark now and while I could have just flew home, I chose to walk through the city instead. As I was walking past a dark alleyway, I was grabbed lightning fast and pinned to the wall by a humanoid toon wearing a black trench coat and a rimmed dark rain hat. I could feel the mystic claws on my throat as he held me there. I knew what was holding me in place and I was afraid. And then his red glowing eyes slowly changed to yellow as I noted a bit of a toothy grin.

                "Sorry, Night," he said as he slowly lowered me back to the ground. "Times are tough for an out of work actor. Especially one who is stereotyped. I didn't hurt you, did I?"

                His voice sounded so familiar. I knew I had heard it before on TV. Then I remembered; super memory sure helps sometimes. "Thankfully, no... Maulin Brandfang. How did someone like you fall so far to resort to mugging people? You used to be one of the hottest werewolves in Studio City. You starred in The Dogfather movies. The residuals alone should have..." Then it dawned on me. Back when he was a star, the studio wolves often cheated the stars out of their residuals leaving the star to fend for themselves. "Oh I see. Come on... let's get you a meal and a bath. Only my friends, the Vagabond Hounds, are allowed to stink."

                "I'm not alone, Night," Maulin said quietly. "There are a few of us over at Club Lunar. It's an old condemned nightclub which we live in. We had no where else to go. It would have been nice to get the residuals but we were foolish back in the day. It wasn't until that werewolf in the Wolf Stars lawyered up when actors started getting treated decently."

                "Lead the way, Maulin," I said as I patted his leg. Hey, I'm in quadruped form at the moment so his leg was all I could reach. I certainly didn't want to pat his butt.

                End of Chapter Sixty-Eight


                  Chapter Sixty-Nine

                  Club Lunar didn't really sound familiar at all but as we approached the place which was located just outside of the city limits in a rather overgrown and forgotten forest, the stone walls with iron wrought spikes along the top began to tip me off that the place was familiar to me for some weird reason. "Say Maulin? What is beyond the stone fence there?"

                  "Oh, that used to be the old Lunar Eclipse Studios lot. When they folded under through failed filming projects and rumored embezzlement which led to bankruptcy, the new owners tried to capitalize on the memory of the lot by building a nightclub directly in the entrance to the lot. But good intentions were soon lost when the owners were reported to Ace the Bathound for a drug smuggling ring which was operating out of the basement. After that, the nightclub was closed and eventually condemned. The city has had the property for sale for the longest time but with its unsavory past... no one really wants to buy it. The city knows we live in the nightclub and don't seem to mind because we aren't committing a crime there."

                  "Lunar Eclipse Studios," I said as I wracked my memory for anything good that came out of the place. "I knew this location seemed familiar. They had one hit show during their first year called Yellow and White, the story of a highway construction team and all the crap they had to deal with. But after that show, no one heard anything ever again. You say it is for sale?"

                  The werewolf actor stopped and looked at me with a worried look in his eyes. "You aren't thinking about buying this place, are you? I mean, my friends and I live here."

                  "Oh don't worry; I would still let you guys live here. But I need a property for building my team's new headquarters. As you probably know, I am making a few TV series for USB, but if I had my own studio lot, I could easily get you and your out of work actor friends back into the spotlight. It could mean a decent paycheck, you know."

                  "The union was never too kind to us people."

                  "The old union is gone, Maulin," I explained. "Lord Paul and I set up an all new union that would review your old shows and grade them for quality. Then you would be getting Inactive Security Income if you chose to stay out of work. It is still a paycheck."

                  Brandfang then took me inside to meet the other out of work werewolves and a few other toons. Katharine Howlburn, Gary Hopper, Jean Simmians, Jeff Lionhunter, Bawhara Stanwick, Roobert Mitchum, Gingerclaw Rajars, and Laurence Olunarpaw. They were some of the most classic actors of their day and here they were... barely surviving. I had to do something for them.

                  After greeting the crowd politely and explaining what it was that I was wanting to do there, I got on my communicator and called Ace because he would be the most familiar with the property itself. Hey, if I want the place inspected the right way, call in the Bathound. He had been there before. And this would give him open permission to give the place the once over to make sure they were truly staying out of trouble. Plus, once word that Ace was sniffing around the place, there would hardly be any crime occurring there. Only someone stupid would attempt it knowing that Ace might catch them.

                  When the Bathound did show up, he had a property integrity team with him. These guys were the ones who examined not only the buildings but the land they sat upon as well. They even used sonar to discover underground anomalies to verify the structural, pardon the pun, soundness of the entire property itself. I stayed out of the way with the out of work actors. I had promised to help these guys and I didn't want to fail them due to red tape.

                  Finally, Ace approached me and placed one paw on my shoulder. "Good thing you called me, Harold. This place had at least three criminal operations being run out of the tunnels under the property and now for the really bad news. This property is a structural nightmare. Your new friends could have been killed because of seismic activity throughout the ground works of the entire plain this is sitting upon. It would be safer to raze this place entirely down to the core to prevent innocent people from getting hurt here. I know you were looking forward to setting up your team's headquarters on this property. But as it is right now, it is a horrible piece of..." He paused because he remembered that they were filming this property examination. "The bottom of an outbuilding." He shot a wink at the camera guys. "However, this is your chance to bring your new friends forward and get their interviews for the filming team so they can get back into the spotlight. The crew is already here, so use it."

                  I have to admit, Ace helped to prevent my depression from returning. The actors came first. I owed it to them and thus we began interviewing them for the filming crew. These old professionals are real troopers. Any chance to be on camera again literally brought some life back to their eyes and you could see it in their expressions.

                  The following afternoon, I met with Krypto, Rudolph, Ace, and Streaky on the sun deck of my Meta-Star City Towers penthouse apartment. Sometimes people forget that I live up there and Krypto, who actually purchased the place for me, had almost forgotten about it himself. The meeting was to discuss what to do about my planned headquarters. While homes were for sale, there was little land available for purchase which was structurally sound.

                  "I am sorry we popped your balloon over in Jaded Shadow," stated Ace who wasn't wearing his cape and cowl for a change. In other words, he had left the Bathound at home. "But you did call me to check the place out. If anything, you helped me to stop three crime rings that your actor friends were not even aware of."

                  I nodded my head as I chomped into an Arden's Pizza. As I might have mentioned before, if you want the best and the healthiest pizza around, go with Arden's. "Good thing I did call you instead of jumping the gun like I might have done in the past. You helped to stop me from getting into yet another depression I don't need to be in."

                  End of Chapter Sixty-Nine


                    Chapter Seventy

                    Krypto then said, "I've been thinking about your desire to have a headquarters, Harold, and I am not sure if you should bother to build one. And before you get upset over what I just said, just remember that none of your team mates live in the same city. You already gave them all permission to remain in their own regions and nearly all of them have their own homes. Thus knowing this, what were you planning on doing with this so called meeting place?"

                    The red-nosed reindeer chose to comment at that moment since I didn't seem to be replying. "I did some research on this team you named your group after, son, and what I found out is pretty important. The original Super Stars consisted of seven members whose leader lived in Carlisle, England. Captain Leo, The Leaper, Angelyn, Emerald Knight and his winged unicorn mount Merlin, Mystical Ninja, Colonel Sabre, and Black Eagle. The African lion man lived in Castle Lochmond; the stunt man lived in Hollywood; the preacher's daughter lived in San Francisco; the knight and his mount were from another dimension; the martial artist lived in Missouri; the Air Force pilot lived on an island in the Pacific; and the African-American trapeze artist lived in a traveling circus. Each of their homes had a room made over to house all seven members when those members were in the area. That room was solely the meeting room and no other rooms were designated to the team. If the original team could manage this, then why can't you, Harold?"

                    Lifting my head up from my pizza with a bit of cheese hanging out of my muzzle, I slowly slurped the cheese strand back into my mouth, chewed it, and swallowed. "You mean... I should simply do as they did? I hadn't thought of that." It was the one suggestion that truly never crossed my mind. Rudolph often had some good ideas and this wasn't any different. "Thanks for giving me that idea, mom. I guess that is what I should do as well. It would be costly to create a building that hardly anyone would be using."

                    "Now that we have that part decided..." started the white Kryptonian canine. "...I have some bad news that I am sure you guys won't like hearing. Superman is taking me on another space patrol tomorrow and that means I need someone to fill in for my patrols and the usual schedule."

                    Ace, Streaky, and I all groaned when we heard Krypto's bad news. Every time dad had to head into space all of the worst crap usually happened while he was gone.

                    "It won't be that bad, guys," said Krypto. "Superman is going to keep an eye on me the whole time." He could see that none of us looked convinced. "I'll bring a present back for you, Harold. I'll make it easier this time; you can do Ace's patrol with Robbie while Ace and Streaky handle Meta-Star City."

                    Ace coughed and interrupted immediately. "Hell no! I will do my own patrol with Night while Streaky and Robbie put Meta-Star City in its place." The super cat made a face as he commented. "Now wait a minute! I'd rather patrol with Thundermutt before I'd ever go anywhere with Robbie!" I couldn't help but to add my two cents into the mix. "Why don't you take Robbie with you, dad?" Krypto grimaced himself as he replied, "Superman would kill me for sure. Come on, guys... we have to get some sort of patrol arrangement set up."

                    I then decided to make an adult decision. "Dad... I will get Thundermutt and Robbie to help me with the Meta-Star City Patrol. Ace can do his own patrol by himself and Streaky can handle the dock district with Stretch-O-Mutt. Streaky... before you complain; docks... equals... fish." Yes, the cat's weak spot was his stomach. "If my patrol team gets in over our heads, we can signal Ace and Streaky on a dime. As for the filming of your show, dad, Thundermutt is an actor; his disguise ability is top notch. As for Robbie... if Ignatius tries anything stupid, I'll make him listen to Robbie's life story."

                    Everyone was looking at each other before falling over on the floor of my tower apartment, laughing. Even Ace was doing it; well, he wasn't in the cape and cowl at the moment.

                    The next morning, I finished breakfast and soon after I had struck my pose on top of police headquarters facing the street. I was soon joined by Thundermutt who was wearing his own hero costume as well as a rocket pack which he had been given as a gift from Krypto last Christmas. Robbie made his appearance and after a 'brief chat' (yeah, right!), the three of us began our team patrol through Meta-Star City. There was little trouble, thankfully, or word had gotten around that Robbie was with the canines on patrol. Sadly, Ignatius did end up causing some trouble and therefore tied up and with a gag over his lizardy snout, Robbie was instructed to tell the iguana his life story. Luckily, Lex Luthor was off duty that day so he was off at a local golf course where he would not be involved in the (cruel and inhumane) punishment that Ignatius was enduring.

                    With the bird entertained, I escorted Thundermutt over to Krypto's filming set where Kevin was waiting on us. A quick change later and the acting canine was wearing the Krypto disguise while I waited off set with the director. Any other day while my dad was in space, I'd be coated in white costume paint and wearing dad's spare gear. But Thundermutt was a pro at disguises and I didn't need to be gooped up this time. It really helps to watch a real actor in action. Sadly, it made me remember that I still had a lot to learn about acting myself.

                    When the filming session ended, I helped Thundermutt get cleaned up and then we went to a classy restaurant rather than a quick to eat hot dog stand. Another thing I had to remember was that the acting canine had an image to uphold and thus that meant eating in style. While we ate, I tried to dine as civilly as possible. I didn't want to embarrass my team mate at a fine restaurant. But for all my effort, perhaps it showed that something was on my mind for during dessert, the actor shot a question at me.

                    "What's on your mind, Harold?" He was eying me carefully as I released a sigh and tried to not stumble all over myself. "For all my efforts in my own show, I am still not as professional as you are, Thundermutt. If you aren't too busy later, could you maybe... help me polish my acting abilities. You are obviously the pro and I need to learn from someone."

                    With a smile and a blush, Thundermutt replied, "My crew and I will be on site filming my newest movie on Planet Starknight. If you want to learn the trade, why don't you come with me?"

                    End of Chapter Seventy
                    End of Episode Seven: The New Super Stars

                    Stay tuned for the next episode, Starry Knights