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Mascot to the Rescue!

Peter David

  Mascot to the Rescue!

  By Peter David

  Drawings by Colleen Doran

  To the fans and their legendary sense of

  humor about themselves…I hope



  1 The New Kid in School

  2 Terror of the Misstermind

  3 The Secret Stash

  4 “In the Next Shocking Issue…”

  5 Inside the Home of Dreams

  6 Meanwhile, Back Home…

  7 Danger Rides the Rails!

  8 Mom and Dad Hit the Road

  9 Things Get a Lot Worse

  10 Attack of the Mercs

  11 The Long Arm of the Law

  12 On the Road Again

  13 Mascot Cornered

  14 Special Delivery

  15 Mascot Meets His Maker

  16 The Last Stand

  17 Homecoming

  18 Danger from Above


  About the Author and Illustrator



  About the Publisher



  Kelsey Markus didn’t know Mascot was going to rescue her that bright Monday afternoon. She was much too busy abandoning hope that things were going to be different at Demarest Elementary School to recognize a rescuer when she saw one. But as the first kid snickered at her, and then another and a third, she realized bitterly that she should have known nothing would change. It was going to be just like it was when she’d gone to Essex Elementary. She was starting over. She was “the new kid” again.

  “Move it, lard butt,” said one boy, shoving past her to get out onto the playground during recess. She staggered to one side, and then a crowd of boys came in from that side, pushing her the other way. “Beach ball!” called out one of them, generating even more laughter. The teachers tried to restore order, but the damage had been done.

  Kelsey was fat. She knew that. They had mirrors around her house. She didn’t make excuses for being overweight. She loved to eat. It wasn’t much more complicated than that. Some girls loved to eat and they never gained a pound, and no one made fun of them. So obviously (she reasoned) the whole eating thing wasn’t really the problem. It was the gaining part, and that was simply bad luck.

  She didn’t know how much she weighed. She’d stopped using a scale back in third grade. Instead Kelsey tried to focus on the important things: Her father and grandparents and family all loved her. And she knew she was a good person. She was certain of it. So why should anything else matter?

  Still…it was tough being the new kid in school, especially since they were already well into the school year and she’d just moved into town. She wasn’t stupid. She knew the harsh truth of things—a fat girl got made fun of, and no one wanted to be friends with someone who got made fun of—but she had been hoping that Demarest would be different somehow.

  But no: same old, same old.

  Kickball, tetherball, even an impromptu game of tag—she tried to join in but wasn’t welcome. She could complain to the teachers, but what would be the point of that? Telling on other kids would squash any remote chance of making friends.

  She would have loved it if once, just once, someone had needed her for a team.

  “You goin’ to the bake sale?”

  She was sitting on the bottom rung of the jungle gym, her heels rocking back and forth on the ground. She looked up, and up, at the large boy who had addressed her. He looked short, but his chest and arms seemed pretty muscular.

  Kelsey stopped rocking and studied the boy warily. She suspected he already knew the answer to the question; his asking it was simply a formality, part of an endless ritual of bullying with which she had become all too familiar. “Why?” she said guardedly.

  “That means yes,” the boy said smugly. He put out his hand. “Gimme the money y’got for it.”

  Automatically her hand went to her right hip pocket, tipping him to precisely where she carried her money. The boy, whose name was Fred, saw the gesture and smiled the sort of cruel smile that only boys named Fred who are about to steal money could smile.

  “Come on,” he said. “It’s not like skipping a meal is gonna kill you.”

  Several of Fred’s pals came up behind him to watch the fun. They wanted to see the fat girl cry.

  Kelsey closed her hand tightly on her pocket, trying to send Fred a clear signal that she was not going to be as easy as all that, and perhaps it would be best for him to back off. Strands of her thick, curly brown hair fell in front of her eyes and she pushed them aside, not wanting to break eye contact.

  If he received the signal, he gave no sign. Instead, quickly glancing around—presumably to make certain no teachers were heading their way—Fred abruptly lunged for Kelsey, grabbing at her pocket.

  Kelsey’s weight actually gave her some advantage—she thrust forward and sent Fred staggering off balance. But she was at a bad angle, perched as she was on a rung of the jungle gym, and Fred had enough leverage to press his advantage.

  That was when things suddenly became very strange.

  “Get your hands off her!” came a loud, reedy cry.

  Everybody looked up.

  There on the branch of a large oak tree just above the jungle gym, perched like an eagle about to swoop, was a very thin boy. He had a shock of blond hair, a round face, and freckles. Most curiously, he had a domino mask drawn on his face across his eyes. Apparently he had used a black Magic Marker. He was sporting a blue Windbreaker and was gripping either side, stretching it out so he looked as if he had wings.

  “I said get your hands off her!”

  “Make me!”

  The boy obliged, shouting, “Justiiiiice!” as he leaped into battle.

  What Kelsey, Fred, and the assorted boys saw was a crudely masked boy in a tree, who was barking orders—or perhaps simply barking mad.

  The young would-be hero, on the other hand, saw things very differently. This is what he saw:

  The valiant Mascot, scourge of evildoers, pauses in his patrol of the city. A cry for help? It is like a beacon to him, summoning him to the rescue. From high atop a building, Mascot crouches upon a ledge and spots a young woman in distress. Five massively built thugs, each dressed in telltale costumes of green and gray, surround her. Clearly they work for the Humiliator, the scourge of Metaplex. Mascot fumes over the sheer audacity of the Humiliator, who apparently thinks he can get away with whatever he wants. Well, Mascot will show him, you can just bet he will.

  Shouting his rallying cry of “Justiiiiice!” Mascot leaps from the building ledge. The evil minions barely have time to react before Mascot crashes into them.

  He sends them sprawling and bounces to his feet like a jack-in-the-box. Without slowing down, he charges the nearest of the thugs and hits him so hard and so far that the bad guy leaves his shoes behind as he goes flying. Mascot continues to move like a blur, fists and feet everywhere. The bad guys are begging for mercy.

  Kelsey had been so startled by the boy’s sudden arrival that she had fallen back between the bars of the jungle gym and landed heavily on the ground. She scrambled to her feet just in time to see the masked boy drop from the tree and land squarely on Fred.

  Fred staggered from the impact, but he was far bigger and taller than the boy and so had little problem twisting quickly and sending the boy spilling to the ground. The impact ripped the boy’s right trouser knee. He rolled and bounced to his feet, hands poised in a reasonable facsimile of a boxer’s stance. “Hello, boys,” he called out with boundless confidence as if he were not, in fact, outnumbered. “In case you’ve forgotten me, I’m Mascot…which means I’m good luck! But not for you!”

  This prompted snickers from several of the boys. “Mascot” vaulted toward Fred once more. He covered half the distance, and then Fred brought his fist around in a slow arc and landed a punch squarely on Mascot’s chin.

  Mascot went down and Fred let out a yelp, not because Mascot had injured him, but because the bone-on-bone of his knuckles against Mascot’s jaw hurt a lot. Mascot, meanwhile, didn’t seem to register that he’d been hit. Instead he got to his feet and, grabbing one of the other boys by the shirtfront, managed to catch the boy by surprise.

  That was as far as Mascot’s luck carried him. Rallying over the indignity of being, albeit briefly, incommoded by a twerp with Magic Marker on his face, the boys converged on Mascot and proceeded to pummel him to the ground.

  Kelsey tried to come to Mascot’s aid, but the crossbars of the jungle gym blocked her. Unsure of how she had managed to slip in, she found herself unable to get back out. Her bulk was holding her prisoner. She started pushing her way through and got stuck halfway. So she watched helplessly as Mascot went down beneath his enemies’ fists.

  The most curious aspect of this already supremely strange sequence of events was that Mascot appeared oblivious to the thrashing. Instead he flailed away, connecting every so often with punches that had no power behind them, and he kept shouting, “Had enough? Oh, you want some more? There’s plenty more where that came from!” as if he were actually winning.

  Kelsey finally managed to pull herself out, falling on her face. Before she could intervene on Mascot’s behalf, however, there was the sharp sound of a whistle slicing through the air. Coach Gaffney, who was playground monitor that day, sprinted across the school yard, running with his characteristically perfect precision of motion as he continued to blow his whistle.

  Fred and his boys hotfooted it out of there as quickly as they could, leaving Mascot flopping around like a beached carp. Mascot tried to stand, managed for a second or two, and then fell forward again. He shook his fist in impotent fury and shouted, “That’s right, run! Run because you hear the police sirens, same as I do! But you tell the Humiliator this isn’t over! Not by a long shot! Or my name isn’t Mascot!”

  “Your name isn’t Mascot!” said the irritated Coach Gaffney, grabbing Mascot by the back of his shirt and hauling him to his feet. Gaffney’s round and normally red face grew even redder as he studied the damage Mascot had sustained. He moaned as he saw the bloody nose, the scratches, and the lower lip that was beginning to swell. “Uh boy, look at those shiners!” he said. “I’m gonna hear about this….”

  Kelsey spoke up as she dusted herself off. “I think that’s Magic Marker, actually.”

  Gaffney took a closer look and sighed impatiently. “Josh, for crying out loud, what did you do to yourself?”

  “They did it to him!” Kelsey said in protest. “He was trying to help me—” She stopped, and a slow smile spread across her face because she couldn’t recall the last time that had happened. “He was trying to help me,” she repeated, hoping that Coach Gaffney would understand.

  Mascot—or “Josh,” as Gaffney had addressed him—said darkly, “The forces of evil are never ending.”

  “So is this nonsense with you. Come on. Let’s get you to the school nurse, again.” He started to walk, then stopped and called to Kelsey, “You too. Mrs. Farber is probably going to want to talk to you, find out what happened.”

  The name didn’t mean anything to Kelsey, although she was pretty sure it wasn’t the principal’s name. She nodded and fell into step alongside Josh.

  Other kids were approaching, curious, pointing and laughing. Gaffney waved them aside, threatening all manner of detentions and punishment for anyone who chose that moment to get in his way. As he did so, Kelsey saw that Josh was staring at her fixedly. “What?” she demanded, suddenly feeling even more self-conscious than she usually did.

  “Of course,” he said. “I’m an idiot.” That much Kelsey could have told him from what she’d already observed, but then he lowered his voice and continued, “It’s all right. Your secret identity is safe with me.”

  “My what?”

  He put a finger to his lips, said, “Shhhh!” and then added so softly that she could barely hear him, “There are enemies everywhere. We’ll talk later.”

  Of all the ways that Kelsey could have guessed her first day at school would go, this was one that had never occurred to her.



  Mascot, one of the two greatest heroes of Metaplex—next to Captain Major, of course—doesn’t even bother to struggle in the chair that’s holding him tightly bound. He glares defiantly at Misstermind and sneers. “Do your worst. Scrape out all my thoughts like ice cream with a spoon. I won’t tell you anything, and just you wait until Captain Major comes bursting in here to rescue me. Then you’ll see what’s what.”

  Misstermind moans softly. She may be beautiful, but Mascot isn’t the least bit moved by her charms. He knows she is the enemy, and however much she may try to dig her fingers into his brain, she’s going to find that there’s nothing there.

  “I’m your friend, Josh,” she tries to assure him.

  A pathetic trick. She thinks that she has figured out his secret identity and is trying to trick him into confirming it. Fortunately, Captain Major has taught him well, and such obvious tactics aren’t going to work. “Sorry, lady,” he says icily. “I don’t know any Josh.”

  Mrs. Farber leaned back in her chair, tilted her horn-rimmed glasses back up onto her head, and rubbed the bridge of her nose. “Josh…Josh, please…I know this is all a game to you.”

  “If fighting the forces of evil is a game,” Josh said defiantly, “then call me the undefeated champ.” He was sitting with his arms behind the back of the chair as if they were tied there.

  The door to Mrs. Farber’s office opened and a tired-looking woman with blond hair stuck her head in tentatively. There was an expression of knowing dread on her face. “Oh, Josh,” she said with a groan, “what now?”

  Mrs. Farber gestured for her to come in. “Thanks for coming over so quickly, Mrs. Miller.”

  “Well, when the school guidance counselor calls and says it’s an emergency, how could I not?” She came around the chair and was now looking closely at Josh’s face. “What did you do?” She drew her fingers across the top half of his face. “Why is it all red and sore around your eyes?”

  “It’s my mask,” Josh told her. His voice had changed: There was none of the thundering bravado that had been present earlier. Now he just sounded like a nervous kid. “I mean…it was….”

  “He drew a mask on his face with Magic Marker,” Mrs. Farber said, not sounding amused. “The nurse managed to wash it off with some heavy-duty soap. She tells me the rash should disappear in a day or so. He was playing superhero again.”

  “Yes, I figured that out. But did you have to draw on those bruises too, Josh? People will think I’m the worst mother in the world.”

  “They’re real,” Josh said proudly.

  His mother paled.

  “He was actually,” Mrs. Farber said with grudging admiration, “somewhat heroic today. Some boys were picking on a girl and Josh came to her rescue. But,” she added regretfully, “then the boys roughed him up.”

  “Oh, Josh.” His mom sighed, touching his bruises tentatively. “How do you get yourself into these things?”

  “She needed help,” Josh said in a very small voice.

  “Josh,” said Mrs. Farber, “why don’t you wait outside so I can talk to your mom for a few minutes?”

  Josh nodded and went outside, closing the door behind him. His mom sank into the chair he had just vacated and shook her head.

  “Mrs. Miller,” began Mrs. Farber.

  Josh’s mom said, “Please. Call me Doris.”

  “All right…Doris.”

  Mrs. Farber was holding a pencil between her fingers, and she started tapping it on the top of her desk. “Doris, this business with Josh…it’
s been going on for some time now, hasn’t it? This pretending to be a made-up superhero—”

  “Oh, he’s not made up,” Doris told her. “Well…not by Josh, at any rate. It’s a comic book. Here, look,” and she pulled out from her large carrying bag a gaudy-looking magazine.

  Mrs. Farber didn’t pick it up. Instead she sort of cocked her head and looked at it sideways for a bit. “I see,” she said, in that way that clearly meant she didn’t really see at all. “And has he always had such an interest in these…things?”

  “Much more so since his father left,” said Doris, with that faint sigh she always gave whenever she mentioned the divorce. “He enjoys his comic books. He really gets into them.”

  “Perhaps…too much.”

  Doris raised her eyebrows. “What do you mean? It’s harmless—”

  “Harmless! Doris, he’s jumping off tree branches, getting into fights, and calling himself Mascot. Aren’t you at all concerned that he’s losing track of what’s real and what isn’t?”

  “No, I’m not,” Doris said defensively. “What’s so wonderful about the real world anyway? So many terrible things happen. At least he’s reading! At least he’s spending his time doing something other than hanging out on the internet, which”—and she raised a stern finger—“I don’t let him anywhere near, just so you know.”

  “Yes, that’s probably for the best. Doris…look,” said Mrs. Farber. “I think Josh has some very serious issues, and it seems to me that you’re not dealing with them.”

  “He’s my son,” Doris said, her back stiffening, “and I’ll do what’s right for him.”