All Star Pickup Game

This is something that I wrote in the Nineties, so that means that there are a few 90’s pop culture references. So, in this little story, there is a bit of a competition between superheroes.

All Star Pickup Game

 

The thump of a basketball resounded throughout the empty space. The court stood, brightly lit in between zones of darkness on all four sides. The backboards glistened in the powerful lights, and the electronic scoreboard rang as each shot landed. The green numbers glowed brightly, not lending more illumination than was needed to see the score.

The two opponents moved steadily, with skills and stamina worthy of any NBA star. Rebound, fake and shoot; each man played to win. They only used half of the court, since there were only two players,

after all. This didn’t stop them from trying to get more points than the other.

Of course, the two weren’t ordinary men, out for a pickup game to have fun. The dark capes and cowls marked the duo as Batman and Robin, the crime-fighting team of Gotham City.

Batman stole the ball from his erstwhile partner and spun, releasing it quickly. Robin watched it sail into the basket, then grimaced. The Dark Knight was a point over him, and there wasn’t much time left. If he won again, Bruce Wayne would be insufferable.

Robin dribbled the ball expertly after having stole it, fending off the other man‘s attempts at grabbing the ball and trying to make him misstep. He glanced up at the clock and was appalled to see four seconds remaining. Batman’s grin was apparent, and a little smug. The Boy Wonder had to do something, so he did.

He lined up the shot, and ran to the basket. At the last moment, he leapt from the floor with cape luffing and smashed the ball into the basket. Batman, caught flat-footed, just stood and watched the younger man win the game. Robin let go of the basket, and landed lightly on the floor.

“And they say white men can’t jump!” Robin laughed.

The man in black shook his head and grimaced. He knew that line was coming. Batman strode off the court. He shook Robin’s hand and accepted defeat. Each section of the walkway lit up in a soft glow

as he trod on it. Robin followed, with the basketball under his arm.

“Personally, I think we could use some new competition.”

Robin glanced at him, wondering why he had said that. Wasn’t the Batman jealous of his privacy, and determined to protect it at any cost?

“Are you serious? Exactly who could we get to play, and would they really want to play?” he inquired, wondering if the older man had bats in his belfry. The Batman grinned. Twice in one day was unusual, so much so that Robin went on the alert. “Who, Bruce?”

Batman didn’t answer. He picked up a handset, and punched a number.

“Clark?… yes, it’s me… If you have the next few hours free, stop by… For what? I have a little pickup game planned… Yes, he’s here. A little disbelieving… a few minutes? Great..…

He listened for a moment.

“What’s that? I don’t think so. I’ll pound your Kryptonian butt into the ground like I did last time… Uh-huh, sure… Lois Lane? I don’t know… she’s a reporter… Yes, I know that, but she doesn’t fly around in tights and a bright cape, either…. You’re kidding. She was Ultra Woman?… Okay, bring her, but warn her about the usual things. I think we can let her in on the secret… See you in a few minutes.”

He replaced the phone to see his partner standing there with an open mouth.

What?”

Superman? You beat Superman playing basketball? Here? And how?!”

“He’s the Man of Steel, but Michael Jordan he ain’t. At least, not here. I’ve beaten him three times. He got lucky and beat me once, but that’s it. He’s really good at football, though.”

“Well, yeah. Nobody would want to tackle him.”

“He’s a big fan of the Bills.”

“Really? So am I. And how do you know him, and I don’t?”

The Caped Crusader looked at his partner. “Well, I met him about two years ago, but never had the chance to introduce him to you. He knows our secret identities, and I know his.”

“What?! Did he…?”

“No, he didn’t x-ray us. A good investigative reporter can figure out a lot, and me… well, you know me.”

“You said Lois Lane? She is hot! And she’s coming? Oh, man…” He trailed off, in an incoherent babble.

A gust of air interrupted the conversation. Superman appeared, with Lois Lane in his arms, blindfolded. She struggled to get down and he set her on the smooth floor of the Batcave. Robin gaped at her. With tight jeans and a t-shirt like that, he hoped she wouldn’t be playing. He’d lose in a heartbeat. He stood gazing at her nice figure, hoping he wasn’t drooling, until he noticed that the Man of Steel was watching him in a strange way. Batman seemed amused, tooas least, as amused at he usually appeared in uniform. Not counting the earlier amusement.

Superman took off the blindfold. Lois squinted at him, then looked around quickly. She couldn’t see the others, since they were in the shadows. Her whisper sounded loud in the caverns.

“Where are we?”

Batman stepped out of the shadows and that answered the question.

“The Batcave? I thought you were going to play basketball?”

“He is, Miss Lane… Or do you prefer Mrs. Kent?” She couldn’t reply. Her mouth was stuck open. Behind Batman, Robin too was having trouble, but with breathing. No wonder Superman had been

looking at him strangely. Her husband was Clark Kent, and he was…. Oh, God. Bruce had called him Clark. Clark Kent was rSuperman. He wondered if he should just go up and go to bed.

Lois, meanwhile, still trying to speak. “You… you know?” Batman nodded. She turned to the red-and-blue-clad hero. “And you didn’t tell me? I should….” Batman and Superman both leaned in to hear

what she said. “Ah… never mind. But, basketball??”

Batman spoke up to answer her question. “With his Kryptonian physiology, Superman may not be subject to a lot of things. However, Robin and I are. This is a good form of exercise, or something we

can do if we get bored. Kent there just can’t dunk a basket.”

“Very funny, Wayne. If I could use my floating powers in the game, I could. I suppose you want to rub it in. What about Boy Wonder Grayson?”

Lois creased her brow in thought, while the other three watched her.

“Wayne and Grayson? That sounds familiar…”

She stiffened. Superman shook his head and passed Batman a twenty dollar bill.

“Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson? Oh… my… God I gotta sit down.”

Robin got her a chair with amazing alacrity, and got one for himself close by. Superman grinned at Batman, watching Robin start to make a fool of himself. Batman shook his head and got two more

chairs. Lois smiled. She knew what was going on in the young man’s head. She moved just so, and the young man fell off his chair.

Superman looked at his wife with a disapproving eyebrow. Robin scrambled back into his chair and sat a little behind Batman.

“Now that we’re all seated, shouldn’t we get comfortable?” she asked. Robin shifted a little, unwilling to voice what he was thinking.

Batman interpreted the question correctly. “So you want proof of our identities?” He pulled his cowl back, and prodded the Boy Wonder to do the same. Robin did. Lois scrutinized them, then nodded. She then looked at her husband. “Well?”

“Well, what? Oh…” And he spun into a mild-mannered reporter.

“Wow!” Dick Grayson breathed. Bruce Wayne raised an eyebrow.

“That’s what I said, the first time I saw him do that. Show-off,” she added in a whisper, to Clark.

He thought for a moment, then decided to add a little something.

“How about we add another super-hero to the mix? And make it two on two?”

Bruce Wayne thought for a moment. “Is this someone who can be trusted, implicitly?”

“Yes, of course. Lois and I’ve known him for a long while. He can be trusted.”

“Who?!” This from Lois.

“Barry Allen.”

Bruce Wayne nodded. “The police scientist, in Central City. I know of him. Bring him along.”

Clark Kent nodded, then stood and spun into the red-and-blue. “If you’ll excuse me for a moment….” The others nodded and he disappeared.

Lois straightened her windblown hair and immediately started on Bruce Wayne. “You’re the Batman? You’re a legend! No wonder you have all those toys Clark is always lusting after! You can afford them and not even think about the cost!”

The billionaire smiled at the reporter. “I suppose. He likes some of my toys? Hmmm….” None of the subsequent prodding by Dick or Lois could pry out what he was thinking.

Dick decided to do something else. He might as well own up to it. “Ah… Lois?”

“Yes?”

“About how I was acting earlier….” Lois looked at him, waiting to hear what he said. Bruce was listening, too. “I made myself look stupid, gazing at you in front of your husband, didn’t I?”

Lois raised an eyebrow. “Yes, you did… but I’m used to it. Just don’t do it again, or Clark might have a word with you.” The young man gulped. He didn’t want a word with the Man of Steel, not without Kryptonite. She continued, now talking to Bruce, “Tell me which superhero Barry is, and why did he tell Clark and not me too?”

“You’ll see when he gets here, if he does, and as to why… I don’t know. I can only speculate. You see….”

* * *

Superman alighted in Central City and triggered the little button in the “no hurry” sequence. He hoped the Flash wasn’t doing anything important, but he wanted to play that game. Before his hand left the button, the man in red stood there. “Superman? What brings you here?”

“Not too much today. Are you busy, or can you spare the next few hours?”

“Sure. What for?”

“Are you interested in a friendly basketball game, in uniform?”

The Scarlet Speedster was confused now. “Huh? In uniform? I… Sure. I like basketball. Where, Clark?”

Superman looked and listened around. “The Batcave.”

The Flash’s eyes widened. “He plays basketball? Is he any good?”

Superman nodded. “He’s defeated me three times.”

“Well, that’s not too hard. You can’t dunk anything.”

“Thanks for rubbing it in. I think he’s played Bo Jackson a few times.”

“Sorry.” But Barry Allen really wasn’t. He was grinning. “Do I get to meet him out of costume?”

“You will; he’s the richest man there. Let’s go. You can follow me.” They took off.

Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne had rang Alfred for a meal fit for a king. Lois didn’t understand why, until he explained about the arriving hero’s physiology. “He eats like a horse because of his super-high

metabolism. He can burn off a double chocolate cake, with frosting and nuts, in about five minutes, if he’s exerting himself.”

Lois stared at him. “But what does all this have to do with him?”

“Barry Allen is from Central City, remember? It’s a long way, especially… running.”

Lois pondered this statement, while Bruce replaced the cowl. “He’ll be expecting the Batman, not Bruce Wayne,” he explained. Then the shadows swallowed him, and he disappeared.

“Spooky. You’re really spooky.” A deep chuckle sounded from nowhere, haunting the now-chilled marrow in her bones. She watched the spot where he was last seen and decided to keep that spot in

sight.

Superman arrived then. Lois took the opportunity to hug him. Then she looked behind him. “The Flash?! Barry?!” The man in the tight red suit grinned.

“Hiya, Lois. Clark here told me to expect a few questions.”

“I need to sit down again,” she groaned. “Who’s next, Peter Parker is Spider-man?” Superman traded looks with the Flash, which Lois didn’t see.

Flash looked around. “So, this is the Batcave. Nice and… roomy. Ah, where’s our host?”

Clark looked around, too. “I don’t see him. I see Robin, but I don’t see him.”

Robin came out and shook hands with the Flash. “Ah, guys, he does this to tweak a new toy. If Superman can’t see him, then it works. He’s here, somewhere. Batman’s given me a few heart attacks when he’s playing with it.”

Taking the hint, both Superman and the Flash started looking. After about ten minutes, they conceded defeat and turned to the other two. Barry spoke: “He’s well hidden. I can’t see him, and I see

things as fast as the boy scout here.”

The pair stood shoulder to shoulder. Lois sat watching the spot where he last was, and Robin was a little nervous. Better someone else should suffer, he thought with a small, smug grin. Two hands reached out and grabbed the duo’s shoulders. Superman zoomed up to the ceiling and the Flash shot over to the Batmobile. They remained there, trying to calm their racing hearts and racing minds, while Lois and the Boy Wonder collapsed in laughter.

The pair returned slowly and waited for the man of darkness to return. This he did in a somber manner. “I apologize for the shock, gentlemen, but I couldn’t resist.”

Superman spoke up. “You startled the hell out of us! Neither of us has any energy reserves left!” Flash nodded in agreement, a little shakily.

“That means we win by default,” Robin confided to Lois. She nodded. She never knew super-heroes were capable of such hi-jinks. Batman ignored the two sidekicks, and gestured to the side. There was a

table with a huge buffet, and a skylight opening to provide sunlight.

“Food for the Flash and his metabolism, and sunlight for Superman and his solar batteries. After all, I wouldn’t want you to lose because you have no energy, would I?”

Superman and the Flash looked at each other. “Oooh, that was low,” Lois said to her partner. Robin nodded. They watched the other two walk over to the table. Superman asked for a few peaches and

grapes, but the Flash got the rest. He ate at super-speed, and Superman guarded his peaches.

“Where does he put it?” Robin asked. “At least he’s got good skin tone.”

“I don’t think anyone would look at his face to determine that.”

Superman glanced up at that remark and looked down in time to see the man in red start toward the ripe peach he held. Superman decided to eat it before it got eaten by someone else. He was still spooked by the scare Batman gave him. It wasn’t expected, because the man in question was usually as somber as the grave.

Flash finished his meal. He wiped his mouth and straightened the table for Alfred. He looked to see if Superman had eaten the fruit, but it was gone. They looked at the court, where the Dynamic Duo stood. Batman was spinning the ball on his fingertip.

“Me and Robin against you two. And remember: no super-powers!” The ball never stopped spinning. Lois grinned, from her seat at half-court. Batman didn’t have super-powers, but he had an excellent grasp of psychological warfare. The Flash and Superman took their spots on the court.

The game began.

It was an epic battle. Superman, who couldn’t dunk a ball, bounced it off the backboard to the Flash, who could. It was good for two points, and stymied the other two. Of course, since they happened to be a great team, it wasn’t good again.

Being that Batman and Robin were partners, the ball was passed back and forth from one set of gauntleted hands to the next. Batman grabbed the ball and scored a three-pointer from the floor. Lois,

who found this more interesting than the usual games Clark watched, cheered her husband and his partner on. She didn’t know who would cheer on the home team, until she saw the sepulchral shape of the butler walking toward her.

“Miss Lane? May I?” He gestured to the seat next to her.

“Please! I can’t cheer for all of them!”

He chuckled dryly. He had brought popcorn for her, and a soft drink. They sat back and watched the battle raging on the court. Alfred confided to Lois that he had taught Bruce Wayne how to play

basketball, and that the younger man taught Dick Grayson. Alfred was too old to run around the court now, but he still enjoyed watching the games.

“Alfred, whose idea was it to put a basketball court down here? Wouldn’t that be a little out of character for the Batman?”

“Regardless of the persona that Master Bruce uses to fight crime, he is still human. I suggestedordered, reallythat he put this court here. This way, he and young Master Dick can bleed off stress and tension. It also provides the chance for others who share their fight to be with them, and let them know they’re not alone, no matter what costume they wear.”

Lois stared. This old man, a faithful servant, had the best interests of not only the Dynamic Duo at heart, but those of other heroes. She reached over and hugged him, then returned her attention to the game. Superman and the Flash were four points behind with ten minutes left. The players had agreed to not play out a four-quarter game, since that was ridiculous.

The home team had the ball, and pressed their leading advantage. Batman weaved through the Man of Steel’s attack, their capes providing a stark dichotomy. The Flash took the opportunity to steal the ball and score a couple of points. Then Superman took two free throws and sank both of them.

The buzzer sounded twice, giving them a two-minute warning. With the scores level at thirty-six points each, the two teams really poured on the effort. Not a basket was scored until Robin broke away with the ball and passed it to the Batman. No fool he, the man in black decided to emulate the younger man’s earlier success. Pounding his way to the basket, spinning around the Man of Steel and weaving around the Scarlet Speedster, his feet found flight and he slam dunked the unfortunate ball.

Superman grimaced. Batman and Robin would try to grab the ball and run out the clock. He didn’t want that to happen, and he didn’t want the game to go into overtime. So he took the ball and passed it to the Flash, who started weaving and letting the other two think he was going to the basket. As the clock ticked down to the last four seconds, he spun and shot the ball to the Man of Steel, waiting at the three-point line.

Superman didn’t pause. He released the ball at two seconds, and every breath in the Cave stopped. All eyes were on the ball, which suddenly seemed to be moving in slow motion. Lois willed it into the basket, but it would not be rushed. Robin willed it to be just short, but again, it would not be rushed.

The ball swished through the hoop a split-second before the final buzzer sounded. Flash shouted, “Yes!” and exchanged high-fives with Superman. Batman grinned at the two, because he had really enjoyed the game. Of course, he’d lost, but then again, winning wasn’t everything. At least in pickup games. Robin moaned a little, and walked to the edge of the court to the spectators after shaking hands with the victors. Batman followed soon after.

“You beat me againwith a little help, Kent.” Batman grinned.

“Well-ll, true. But just remember one thing.”

“What?”

“I still beat you. Here, let me see that ball.”

Batman handed it over, and watched Superman look toward the basket. He looked at the Flash. “I don’t think he’ll make it.”

“I don’t, either.”

Robin looked up. Superman had started toward the basket. “Twenty bucks says he does.”

“You’re on.” That was the Flash, with a smug expression. Lois and Alfred didn’t say anything, but witnessed the whole thing.

“Ditto,” the Batman agreed. Then they watched Superman gather himself, breathe in, and leap off his feet.

The ball went in. The molecular-bonded transparent aluminum backboard shattered.

Superman walked back with a happy smile on his face and noticed the shocked expressions on the faces of the Flash and the Batman. For that matter, on Robin and Lois. Alfred just shook his head. “What?”

Batman answered the Man of Steel’s puzzled question. “Never mind the fact that you just made the two of us lose twenty bucks apiece. That backboard should have withstood an anti-tank missile. And

where’s my ball?”

“Whoops.” Superman looked contrite.

Batman sighed. “Don’t worry about it. I’ve got spares.”

Robin was thinking about the easy forty bucks he won, when he spoke up. “You know, Bruce, I think we should have had Lois play with Clark here. Then we would have won.”

The other heroes had the same thought enter their heads at the same time, and it wasn’t about Lois playing. It was, “Uh-ohhhh.” They all took a few steps back, since none of them was sure that they

could withstand an all-out assault by Lois Lane. For his part, Alfred merely tsk’ed a few times.

Robin noticed. “What?” Actually, he didn’t have time to say even that before Lois grabbed him and towed him to the other side. She had found the spare ball and shot it toward the surprised young

man.

“Let’s see what you’ve got. I intend to massacre you.” Clark Kent knew the tone of voice. He sighed and motioned for the others to get comfortable. Robin wasn’t getting out of the hole he had dug for himself any time soon. The Boy Wonder’s protests went unheard as Lois proceeded to begin to beat the stuffing out of him.

Flash watched the game: Robin had decided he might as well play seriously, but it wasn’t helping. He turned to the man in blue during a break while the reporter danced around celebrating a particularly good shot.

“And you’re married to this Lois Lane?”

“I learned early on to do what she says.” Flash’s mask covered his face, but it was no large stretch of the imagination to picture an eyebrow rising. Alfred offered, in a dry way, to get a first-aid kit for the Boy Wonder. Batman said a broom and dustpan would be more appropriate. Superman chuckled. He well knew.

After thoroughly decimating Robin, Lois decided to really send him into a tailspin by kissing him on the cheek. She had seen that on a Mortal Kombat game and thought it would work for her. It did. The

younger man sank to his knees, begging for mercy.

Superman sighed and picked up the Boy Wonder. “Dick, are you sure you want Lois on my team?” Robin groaned. Apparently not. He took the young man to a seat and let him rest while the others talked shop. Soon, he was rested enough to join in and to accept the teasing Lois gave him.

Not long after that, though, it was time for everyone to leave. The Flash left first, since he had a long trip to make. Batman gave him a huge carbohydrate bar, and asked him to send a report on how it worked. Flash said he would and disappeared.

Next, Batman gave Lois and Clark a tour of his “toy” collection. The billionaire offered to give Superman anything there, except the Batmobile. Superman thought about it.

“Thanks, but I can leap tall buildings with a single bound. What good would this do me?”

Batman nodded, then opened a case. “Here’s something you might find interesting. I know even you can’t remember everything. Here’s a pocket computer that links with just about any computer network to gather or store information. Both Robin and I have the same thing on our belts, and I think you will benefit from it. It has a satellite link with the Batcomputer, and can access everything on it.”

Superman stared at it. It was barely bigger than a floppy disc.

“That little thing?”

Batman nodded. “Sure. It takes a little practice, but it’s yours if you want it.”

Superman didn’t hesitate. “I’ll take it!” Lois could see the gleam in his eyes. She knew he’d be playing with it for a while. She took it and stared at her husband. Batman grinned. Superman looked to the heavens.

“Bruce, how much did it cost?”

“For me, not much. It’s covered as an experimental design, so my R&D department paid for most of it. I’ll put the manual in the mail, as soon as I can get one printed up. Dick has the only copy, and he’s not giving it up. Take about four days.”

Lois looked at the two men. “Look, I hate to break things up, but I have things planned.”

Superman looked confused. “What do you have planned?”

“You’ll find out tonight,” she smirked.

Batman started walking back out, and the two followed. He set up a new game for the following week. He decided that, this time, he would beat both Superman and the Flash. In the meantime, he would

practice.

The End?

 

-JB Steele

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