The Virginia was tasked with taking the Joker back to his home universe to spend some time in Arkham. He didn’t offer resistance on the way, just sat in his cell in the Virginia’s brig. The ship then arrived in Gotham and landed by a dockside hangar. Commissioner Gordon was there with the Gotham City Police and, surprisingly, Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy. Batman, Arsha, the Joker, Megumi, Bashoon and her parents then left via the stairs extending from the ship’s port side. The Joker had a slight smile when seeing Harley in the crowd. When they got closer, Batman spoke to Commissioner Gordon to explain what happened. Harley and Poison Ivy then approached the Joker. “So, how are things for my favorite girl?” he asked, attempting his usual grin.
“You know,” remarked Harley to Poison Ivy, “it only pains me just a smidge to tell my Ex what happened lately.”
“Wait, Ex?!” protested the Joker. “What’s the idea?!”
“The idea is,” explained Harley, “and this is no joke, I’ve decided it ain’t worth it to pine over someone like you. In simpler terms, I’m breaking up with you!”
“WHAT?!” wailed the Joker. “BUT WHY?!”
“Well, if you want the insane answer first,” replied Harley, “you haven’t called me in five years!”
“I HAVE BEEN WITH SHOCKER RIFT!” roared the Joker.
“Oh, and you didn’t think to use their technology to contact me?!” argued Harley.
“Do NOT do this right now!” snarled the Joker.
“Now that the insane answer’s out of the way,” continued Harley as she put on glasses and pulled her headdress off to reveal blonde hair in a bun. Her demeanor changed to that of a normal angry woman and her voice matched. “You led me down a rabbit hole that cost me my job, my family, my life, EVERYTHING!” she hissed. “Lately, I’ve developed split personality between the looney you made and the woman the looney once was, Harley Quinn and Harleen Quinzel, respectively. Thankfully, Pamela here,” she gestured to Poison Ivy, “got me some help and now I have my doctorate’s degree again, I fight crime instead of causing it, and I’m happily married to Pam.”
“BUT SHE’S BARELY HUMAN!” protested the Joker. Harleen took off her glasses and let Harley come to the surface.
“She’s more human than you, Joker,” she hissed.
“OH, YOU DIRTY…!” the Joker didn’t get far in his slur towards Harley as Megumi placed her hand on his neck. “…What the hell are you doing?” he asked.
“Vulcan nerve pinch,” replied Megumi.
“Not there,” answered Batman. “You do it where the shoulder meets the neck, like so.” He demonstrated on the Joker and the Clown Prince of Crime collapsed.
“Arkham is sending a truck to pick the Joker up tomorrow,” reported Commissioner Gordon. “We need to be ready.”
“We’ll be taking turns watching the clown while the rest of us sleep,” directed Batman.
“I’ll take first watch,” offered Megumi.
The night went on as Megumi handed off the watch to Batman, then he turned it over to Mrs. Barmek. He had just shut his eyes for 20 minutes before he heard a noise. “BWAAAK! BWAAAK! BWAAAK! BWAAAK!” Everyone woke up.
“What was that?” asked Commissioner Gordon.
“Who’s bwaking?” inquired Mr. Barmek.
“Where’s Ma?!” yelped Bashoon. That answered Mr. Barmek’s question as everyone dashed to Mrs. Barmek’s position. It was just her screaming “BWAAAK!” over and over.
“The Joker! Where is he?!” demanded Batman, stopping Mrs. Barmek’s “bwaking” as her husband put it.
“I don’t know!” replied Mrs. Barmek.
“What do you mean you don’t know?!” wailed Commissioner Gordon.
“You were guarding him!” snarled Megumi.
“He must have slipped away while I was asleep!” guessed Mrs. Barmek.
“Asleep?!” snapped Mr. Barmek. “Who said you could fall asleep?!”
“Ma, come on!” cried Bashoon.
“I couldn’t help it!” snarled Mrs. Barmek, annoyed that her husband and daughter were getting on her case. “I was tired! I couldn’t get any rest on the ship!”
“The ship!” repeated Megumi and Bashoon as they got an idea. They both took off towards the Virginia.
“If the Joker gets away, we’re finished!” warned Commissioner Gordon. “Come on!” Everyone took off in pursuit.
“WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE WORLD?!” protested the Joker as he fiddled with the Virginia’s controls as best he could while still handcuffed. “After all the trouble I go through, you would think I’d get something that works!” This routine of grumbling and fiddling lasted a good 10 minutes before he heard the bridge’s door open.
“Going someplace?” panted Megumi’s voice. The Joker looked up to see her and Bashoon catching their breath.
“Apparently not,” he muttered. “I couldn’t get the impulse engines online.”
“That’s because I disabled the induction matrix before we got you out of the brig,” gasped Megumi.
“Then why did you chase me?” asked the Joker.
“Because my major is in history, not engineering,” replied Megumi. “Come on, let’s go.” The Joker made his way to the two women and they all walked into the hallway as everyone else arrived.
“It’s all right,” assured Bashoon. “No harm done.” Everyone breathed a sigh of relief.
“Thank goodness,” bid Arsha. “I almost forgot my chess game in the craziness.”
“Oh yeah?” asked Megumi. “Which side are you?”
“Black, you?” quizzed Arsha.
“Same,” revealed Megumi. “Right now, I’ve got a Knight at Queen’s Bishop 4 after 13 moves.”
“…You too?” asked Arsha.
“…What do you mean me too?” pondered Megumi. They were on the ship’s stairs at that point in time. As they came down, the Joker started snickering. “Joker?” asked Megumi. The Joker’s snickering then grew louder, and louder, and louder still until he was fully laughing. Batman then noticed a device on the Joker’s neck and the residue of a telltale green liquid!
“HE’S BEEN POISONED!” he warned. Everyone had a good idea as to what the poison was, liquid Smylex! The Joker then stopped laughing, his legs gave way, and he fell down the stairs, the rictus grin still wide on his face. Batman checked for his pulse, then growled when he couldn’t find it. That growl confirmed the suspicion on everyone’s mind; the Joker was dead, killed by his own concoction. As the reality of the situation sunk in, a song from the opera, Pagliacci, played.
“Recitar! Mentre preso dal delirio, (Act! While in delirium,)
non so più quel che dico, (I no longer know what I say,)
e quel che faccio! (or what I do!)
Eppur è d’uopo, sforzati! (And yet it’s necessary… make an effort!)
Bah! Sei tu forse un uom? (Bah! Are you even a man?)
Tu se’ Pagliaccio! (You are a clown!)”
“And such a clown he was,” mused a voice that gave many a good guess as to who administered the Smylex. Hiro stepped forward as he cut the music. “A pity, really,” he mused. “Ah well, at least he still died laughing. I’d laugh too if it weren’t so tragic on how he let himself get captured. …Ah, what the hell? I’ll laugh anyway!” Hiro’s laugh filled Megumi with rage.
“That was unnecessary!” she snarled. “We needed him alive!”
“And I needed that failure dead!” dismissed Hiro. “Besides, I did the people of Gotham a favor. Their greatest threat, your greatest enemy,” he pointed to Batman, “is no more. Gotham is that much safer!”
“Killing is an escape!” shouted Batman as he charged. A rift then opened behind Hiro and he slipped away! Batman landed on the ground as the rift closed. A tablet then appeared from a smaller rift and played an audio message from Hiro.
“If this message is being played,” it began, “then it means Megumi has no intention of staying out of my way. I must admit, I’m a little disappointed at that, but not surprised. So, I reiterate, stay out of my way. Caan is mine. I know you’re a little preoccupied with the 3V2R, so focus on that while I destroy Caan.” The tablet then exploded, leaving the group with a feeling of being robbed.
Megumi, Arsha, and Optimus had everyone reconvene on Vorton to discuss what had happened. The meeting lasted a good hour before Rusty got a signal. “It’s one of the contestants,” she reported. “She’s trying to reach Megumi.”
“Patch it to my room,” directed Megumi as she departed. She arrived at her room and saw the caller. “Ah, Beatrice, I presume,” she greeted.
“The same,” replied the caller, Beatrice the Golden and Endless Witch. “I must say, I doubt I’d be as brave as you to take down Vortech on my own.”
“I didn’t exactly do it on my own,” corrected Megumi. “I had friends.”
“Well, I’m afraid your friends cannot interfere in our bout,” chuckled Beatrice. “The Chizarans just announced it. We’re the first bout of Round 2.”
“Oh?” asked Megumi. “Tell me, what do YOU intend to do with First Place Prize?”
“With the Master Wand,” replied Beatrice, “I shall become more powerful than even Bernkastel and Lambdadelta and keep the game between me and Battler!”
“You clearly like games,” mused Megumi. “Tell me, how good are you at finding something?
“Fairly decent,” answered Beatrice. “You’re challenging me to find an object somewhere?”
“I am!” replied Megumi. “If you can find my old crown in an hour without magic, you’ll win.”
“Very well,” declared Beatrice. “Our battlefield?”
“You pick,” offered Megumi.
“How about somewhere on your college?” mused Beatrice.
“Perfect,” confirmed Megumi. “I know of an old building that’s used for all sorts of storage. Messy enough to hide my crown.”
“Excellent,” praised Beatrice.
“The challenge has been set, the terms have been agreed upon, and the chance of victory is agreeable for both sides,” declared Azuliterii’s voice. “Azevordem, the blue-green princess of Chizara and the water leader, will be judging. Tomorrow morning, your fight begins! Prepare and make ready! Good luck!”
“May the best woman win!” wished Beatrice. She then remembered something. “Are you aware of Vortech having followers?”
“Mr. Flufferkins told me to watch out for them, yes,” replied Megumi.
“One of his followers is Furudo Erika,” warned Beatrice. “She’s learned more about multiversal travel and was loyal to him. She WILL seek revenge.”
“Thanks for the tip,” bid Megumi. “See you tomorrow.”
Optimus was waiting by the airlock for the Ark, waiting for his opponent to arrive. He soon saw who it was. It was an anthropomorphic ferret woman in a black dress that hugged her curves and carried a red feather boa with a red rose in her hair. “Ms. Furella, yes?” quizzed Optimus. The ferret woman gave a judgmental scoff.
“You’re my opponent?” she remarked dismissively.
“Name’s Optimus Prime,” introduced the Autobot. “I would have figured you would know that already, given that you have my dossier.”
“I don’t really like someone like you,” she answered. “You don’t know how the world works.”
“Try me,” challenged Optimus.
“You people don’t leave the rest of us alone,” Ms. Furella explained. “You’re ignorant of how power works, thinking it’s your duty to help those worse off than you.”
“Well, it IS my duty,” mused Optimus, “and my privilege.”
“See?” groaned Ms. Furella. “You think there’s joy in helping others without considering how YOU can benefit.”
“Yes, your dossier mentioned your worldview,” remarked Optimus. “It didn’t exactly serve you well this past year.”
“It looks like you DID read my dossier,” chuckled Ms. Furella. “So, why the subterfuge?”
“It was for your benefit,” snarked Optimus before he recited the dossier. “International Prostitute and Spy; Ms. Furella. Well known for the various assassinations of all the World Leaders after the Great Rising for animal life. She intends to control Earth for her benefit, but her sister has thwarted her recent attempts to…”
“That wand will ensure I won’t be questioned!” interrupted Ms. Furella. “I will have the whole world as my harem! The humans will finally learn their place! You, machine, will be scrapped once I claim my prize!”
“Name your contest, then,” declared Optimus.
“I know how to find you,” remarked Ms. Furella. “You hide in vehicle mode; I will find you within 30 minutes.”
“Our battlefield?” asked Optimus.
“I won’t give you home turf advantage!” answered Ms. Furella. “We’ll use my home city of Washington DC.”
“Fine by me,” replied Optimus.
“The challenge has been set, the terms have been agreed upon, and the chance of victory is agreeable for both sides,” declared Rojenthi’s voice. “Naratelto, the orange princess of Chizara and the fertility leader, will be judging. Tomorrow afternoon, your fight begins! Prepare and make ready! Good luck!”
“Farewell, junkheap!” laughed Ms. Furella. She vanished in red light.
“Catch you later,” muttered Optimus grimly.
Arsha was in her ready room, awaiting her opponent’s call. As she waited, she hummed the Mid-realm’s anthem. “That sounds pretty,” praised a voice. Arsha yelped in surprise and whirled around to see Ultragingana in human form. “I apologize,” she bid. “Sneaking up on you was rude. I’m Ultragingana.”
“I’m Arsha,” returned Arsha once she found her voice.
“You run a rather tight ship, according to your dossier,” recalled Ultragingana.
“We let our hair down from time to time,” replied Arsha. “I heard you have your own ship.”
“Yep, the Osaka,” confirmed Ultragingana.
“How well are you at war games?” asked Arsha.
“I like to consider myself competent with war games,” answered Ultragingana.
“Then how about we put our command skills to the test?” offered Arsha. “We’ll hold a war game and see who could win against who in a fight. No actual weapons fire, both of us must acknowledge a hit on our vessels, and no other ships may assist. This is strictly between the Endeavor and the Osaka.”
“And our battlefield?” asked Ultragingana.
“Optimus has graciously granted his airspace as our battlefield,” replied Arsha.
“Isn’t he fighting a war?” recalled Ultragingana.
“He is, but his troops will monitor the fight as well as our judge,” assured Arsha. “If their enemies try to interfere, our judge can keep them at bay.”
“Then let’s do this!” declared Ultragingana.
“The challenge has been set, the terms have been agreed upon, and the chance of victory is agreeable for both sides,” declared Rosadera’s voice. “Griforina, the cool-grey princess of Chizara and the air leader, will be judging. Tomorrow afternoon, your fight begins! Prepare and make ready! Good luck!”
“See you soon!” bid Ultragingana. “May the best commander win!”
“Let us both give it our all!” agreed Arsha. Ultragingana then vanished in pink light. When she left, the door chimed. “Come in,” bid Arsha. Megumi and Optimus’ holo-form then came in. “Megumi! Prime!” greeted Arsha. “What can I do for you?”
“I need you to help me out here,” requested Optimus. “What moves did you make in your chess game so far?”
“My game?” asked Arsha. “Let’s see, Pawn to Queen 3, Pawn to King’s Rook 3, Pawn to King’s Knight 4…”
“Pawn to King 3, Pawn to Queen’s Bishop 3, Knight to King’s Bishop 3, Pawn to Queen 4,” continued Megumi, spooking Arsha.
“King’s Knight to Queen 2, Queen to King’s Bishop 3, Bishop to Queen’s Knight 5, Bishop to King 2,” Optimus went on.
“Rook to Queen’s Rook 2, Pawn takes Pawn at Queen’s Bishop 5, Knight to Queen’s Bishop 4,” all three had finished together.
“And the color of the pieces that made those moves on three,” declared Megumi. “One, two, three!”
“Black,” all three said together.
“How is that possible?” asked Arsha. “We’re playing the same game, making the same moves, and on the same side!”
“Something’s wrong,” muttered Megumi. “I’m getting a certain…feeling, like I don’t know who’s moving the white pieces, but I feel like I met our mystery opponent before.”
“We need to research this between our rounds,” declared Optimus.