by Martin Maenza
On the steps of the Acropolis, the Flash met with a man dressed in a white tunic with the legendary Golden Fleece as a cape and mask. “And that’s the situation,” he said, handing the Greek hero one of the devices. “I hope we can count on you.”
“Aye, Flash, indeed you can!” the Olympian said. “Like a modern-day Jason and the Argonauts, we all shall travel to the farthest reaches to fight for that which is right.”
“Excellent,” said the Flash. “We appreciate your support.”
“May Hermes grant you his speed, O modern-day messenger!” the Olympian said as the speedster took off west once more.
There is Smallville, Superwoman thought as fields of grain swayed in the wind below her. Even though Superman has grown up and moved on to Metropolis, they still have billboards at the edge of town noting that this is the hometown of Superboy. She hoped that once things settled down that maybe she, Clark, and Jasma could take a trip out here. Kristin Wells really wanted to know more about Clark Kent and where he grew up.
As she streaked past nearby Metropolis on her way up the Eastern Seaboard, Superwoman couldn’t help but keep thinking about that city’s greatest hero and the man she loved. I hope Superman’s doing OK in Rokyn, she thought. Even after the beating he got from Lobo, he still was determined to help the Kryptonians there. She pushed away any negative thoughts; she knew he’d return to her and the Earth soon.
Just then, a message tone sounded in the earpiece within her mask. She opened the communication channel. “Superwoman here,” she responded.
“It’s Batwoman,” the voice on the other end replied. “How’s it going?”
“Just coming up on Gotham now.”
“Then keep on moving, girl,” Batwoman replied. “I’ve heard from Batman directly and will be happy to pass the plan along to all our allies here.”
“Great! That will save me a bit of time as well. Now, it’s up to New York.”
And with her super-flight, soon the skyline of Manhattan beckoned ahead of her.
In Israel, normally Chaim Lavon would split his time between his daily identity and his heroic one. Since the advent of the invasion, he spent more time clad in the mantle of Elijah and carrying about the staff of Moses. Still, even in the role of the Seraph, the powerfully built man with long, flowing black hair found the need to teach the children.
In a torn-out shell of a building, left damaged by attacks of alien craft, he sat in the dirt with a half-dozen children around him. Their eyes were intensely focused on the man as he spoke to them of lessons and scripture.
“Ahem,” a voice came from the opening where a door once stood. All the students turned to see the brightly garbed figure of the Flash. “I’m sorry if I am interrupting.”
“It is all right, my son,” the Seraph said in English, rising to his feet. “How may I assist you?”
“Your help is needed,” the speedster said, handing him one of the devices.
“I see,” the Seraph said. “These powers were given to me by God himself to do his work, and defending creation is one of those duties. I will gladly aid in the efforts to turn this horrible tide.”
The Flash nodded, then looked down to the children. He expected them to be more frightened, more concerned given everything that was happening in the world around them. Yet here they sat, peacefully listening to the man. “You certainly have a way with the children,” he said.
The Seraph smiled. “In times of trouble and anguish, we often turn to scripture for strength. Did you hear any of the lesson as you arrived?” Flash shook his head no. “It was from Leviticus 26: 7-9. ‘And I will give peace in the land, and ye shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid: and I will rid evil beasts out of the land, neither shall the sword go through your land. And ye shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword. And five of you shall chase an hundred, and an hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight: and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword.’ Tell me, son, who could not find strength in those words?”
“You’re right,” the speedster said. “Thank you for that. I’m sorry I have to rush off, though. I have others to contact.” The Seraph nodded, and the Flash was gone again.
“You can count on our team,” Nightwing told Superwoman.
“Good,” the woman of steel replied. “This is a major effort, and we’ll need everyone to pull it off.”
“I can contact my stepfather,” Changeling said.
“Mento has his health back and is back in action?” Artemis asked.
“From what I’ve heard, he’s formed a whole new Doom Patrol,” the green-skinned hero said.
“I’m sure all help will be appreciated,” Superwoman replied. She glanced at the time. “Sorry, I’ve to got to keep moving. I’m racing Flash on this mission. First one to San Francisco wins.”
“You tell Wally we said hello,” Artemis added.
“Will do!” Superwoman said, and she took off.
The Flash was covering a lot of ground fast as he moved through Asia.
It was good to see Leonid again, he thought about his brief stop in the Soviet Union to deliver the information to Red Star and the Rocket Reds. He and I used to butt heads so much when we were younger. I guess we’ve both done a little growing up.
He glanced at his list. Speaking of old associates, Gan and Tavis are on my list, too. I wonder what Thunder and Lightning have been up to since the Titans last saw them.
The Flash glanced up, and something odd registered off the corner of his eye. Normally, when he ran at top speeds such as this, the world about him seemed to stand perfectly still. It was something he had to learn with his speed powers, to adjust his perceptions, too. But if something were moving at super-speed also, it would stick out.
That seemed to be the case now as he passed through Korea on the way to Japan.
Hmmm, the Flash pondered. No one on Oracle’s list matches that description out here, but that definitely was someone moving at super-speed. No time to chase him down now, but perhaps that’s something I need to follow up on later.
The Flash ran out across the Sea of Japan and headed toward Kyoto. That’s where he would find the Rising Sun, the first of his two stops on the island nation.
Her next stops were relatively close together, given all the miles she had already covered so far. It was good to see Firehawk again, Superwoman remarked about her stop in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I enjoyed working with her, albeit briefly, last year. She crossed the Ohio border and headed toward the large city at the southern end of the state.
Hmmm, Superwoman thought curiously. The Outsiders are now in Cincinnati? I could have sworn the history books said they operated out of California for a time. She shrugged her shoulders. Ah well, sometimes little facts fall through the cracks. No big deal. She landed at a large estate, one which had the Markovian crest patterned in the front iron gates.
Soon, she was inside and meeting with the members of the team. The two teen girls, Halo and Windfall, seemed down as Superwoman arrived, but their mood soon perked up. Looker had given the woman of steel the once over, then went back to filing her nails.
“I hope the Outsiders can help,” Superwoman said, giving Katana one of the devices.
“Of course,” the Asian woman in red and yellow replied. “We’ve been in touch with Batman, trying to locate our missing teammates.”
“Missing?” Superwoman asked in surprise. “Who?”
“Black Lightning and Geo-Force,” replied Metamorpho, the living man of elements. “They got snatched by those alien creeps! Probably like the other people that’re missin’ around the globe!” He was visibly upset, in part because his wife Sapphire was among one of many people unaccounted for.
“Batman’s tracking their signal devices now,” Katana explained. “He believes they might have gotten taken to that Warworld at the edge of the solar system.”
“That’s one of the planned targets for attack!” Superwoman said. “If they’re being held there, we may have to plan for a rescue operation, too!”
“We’ll discuss that with Batman when we speak to him later,” Katana said.
In her lab in Tokyo, Dr. Kimiyo Hoshi received an unexpected visitor. “And that’s pretty much the deal, doctor,” the Flash explained to the Asian scientist as she looked over the readout on the device he provided her. “We’ll need all the heavy-hitters we can get, especially for the two missions in space. The Justice League believes your powers will truly benefit the mission.”
The woman in the white lab coat paused for a second and considered.
Finally, she spoke. “I am not as… active… as some other heroes,” Dr. Hoshi said. “However, if I am truly needed… I will help.”
“Thank you, doctor,” the Flash said. He bowed slightly and took off.
Dr. Hoshi went to a small storage cabinet at the far corner of the lab, undid the lock, and opened it. Inside was her white costume, the one she wore when she went into action as Doctor Light. It was time again.
As she left the Great Lakes far behind and moved through the Midwest, Superwoman couldn’t help but think about her last two stops in Michigan and her brief jaunt up north. “It’s too bad Hyperman was unavailable when I stopped in at Toronto,” she said to herself. “I’m glad to hear about the government’s plans for a new Canadian super-hero team, though. That certainly seems to have a lot of potential.”
As I suspected after my encounter with Fire, the Conglomerate team seems to be in disarray in Detroit, she thought. Only Animal Man and Ice remained holding down the fort. Guy Gardner was off with the other de-powered Green Lanterns, trying to use technology to get to Oa. Ice was about to return to her native Norway to see if she could do any good there.
On the other hand, I was surprised to see Celsius and Negative Woman still active in Midway City. I half-expected them to be working with Changeling’s stepfather’s new group in New York, but Celsius seemed to have no knowledge of that. In fact, she seemed visibly upset to hear about a new group being formed.
Superwoman rocketed through the Midwest, passing through Missouri and Kansas. As she did so, she used her telescopic vision to get quick glances at one of the places she passed.
Central City truly honors the Flash, she thought to herself. There is the Flash Museum, devoted mostly, for now, to the memory of Barry Allen. The populace really has great pride for its hero. And that extends over to Wally West now, too.
Superwoman then turned south, needing to get her mind back on her mission. “Next stop is an Indian reservation in Oklahoma,” she said. “That is where Owlwoman of the Global Guardians lives.”
The Flash checked the time on his list. “Oh, great, just great!” he grumbled to himself. “I spent all that time scouring the Outback to try and locate Ultraa. If he weren’t high on the list of needed resources, I would’ve just given up.
“Then, three city stops — Brisbane, Melbourne, and Sydney — just to touch base with the members of the Bushrangers, and now I have to stop at Tasmania, too! Who knew Australia was so teeming with heroes?”
The Flash arrived at the home of Hugh Dawkins, known better to the world as the size-changing powerhouse named the Tasmanian Devil. “Well, mate, I was expectin’ you,” the big man said. “Heard through the grapevine you’s passing out some information for an upcoming brawl. You can count on me to knock around some alien skulls! Gotta pay back those creeps for the mess they made down here last year!”
The Flash handed him a device. “Sounds good to me,” the speedster replied. “Glad to hear you’re ready and raring to go!”
The man slapped the Flash on the back hard. “How’s about a lager to wet your whistle before ya go?”
“Gotta pass, big fella,” the speedster said, heading for the door. “I’ve still got to hit New Zealand before a long sprint across the Pacific.”
After a quick stop in Dos Rios, New Mexico, Superwoman made her way into Colorado. Her destination loomed before her as the great range of mountains rose quickly into view. “Thanks to Oracle’s reference, this will be easy,” she said, flying toward one particular peak.
“Challenger Mountain, dead ahead!”
Wellington, New Zealand:
The Flash stood slack-jawed, staring at the man in the green and yellow costume. “Let me get this straight,” the speedster said, glancing about the room. There was Maxima, the flame-haired warrior queen from Almerac; Vartox, her powerful alien consort; Rata, a young heroine who wore leaves of fiery red to match her attitude; and Tahke, a winged beauty. “You all got together because you were expecting me, right?”
“Kind of slow on the uptake, isn’t he?” Rata said snidely.
The man in green and yellow smiled behind the mask that fully covered his face. “Yes, Flash, you were expected,” Tuatara said. “My ability to see through time let me know you would be arriving to deliver some important information to us.” He held out his hand, waiting to receive it.
The Flash was about to give the device to him, but then took it back at the last minute and held it to his forehead. “OK, Karnac,” he said jokingly, “just tell me what it says first.”
“Enough!” Maxima said, lashing out and grabbing the Flash’s wrist unexpectedly. She took the device and handed it to the man who led their little assemblage. “We’re willing to offer our assistance, but we’re not here to play games.”
Vartox came over to Flash, who was still rubbing his wrist. “Forgive my love, friend,” he whispered to the speedster. “She’s a bit on edge is all.”
“Good to know,” said Flash. He then thought of something. “Say, Tuatara, if you can see through time and predict the future, can you tell me something? Who’s going to win this little race between me and Superwoman?”
Tuatara closed his eyes for a second and concentrated. Everyone watched him for a moment, especially the Flash.
“Well?” the speedster asked impatiently.
Tuatara opened his eyes and smiled. “Better hurry,” he said. The Flash frowned and bolted off in a rush. Tuatara chuckled. “Karnac, indeed.”
At Verner Brothers Studios in Hollywood, California, Superwoman handed out her second to last device to an azure-colored powerhouse with white horns and sharp teeth. “Here you go,” she said. “I hope we can count on you.”
“I’m not a full-time super-hero,” said Blue Devil, “but the Justice League knows they can count on me in times of crisis. And this extended sci-fi convention with actual aliens certainly qualifies.”
A young man came running up, visibly excited. “Danny! Superwoman’s here?!” Gopher exclaimed. “All right!”
“Ease up, buddy,” the stuntman-turned-freak said. “She’s just here to invite me to a little cosmic clash is all!”
“All right! I’ll go suit up!” Gopher exclaimed.
“No way, small fry! This ain’t no place for Kid Devil!”
“Oh, geez, B.D.!” the young teen exclaimed. “Here I’ve been training with Titans West and everything, and you still treat me like a second-hand sidekick!”
“You still got a long way to go, Gopher,” Blue Devil said as he mussed the kid’s hair with his big blue hand. “Don’t be in such a hurry to grow up.”
Superwoman laughed at the exchange. The two had a big brother/little brother sort of relationship. Then she recalled what Gopher had said.
“Titans West!” she exclaimed. “Sorry, I need to fly!” And she took off heading north.
The Flash poured on the speed as he ran up and down the hills of the city by the bay. “Gabriel’s Horn, dead ahead!” he said. “Best I make this entrance a little discreet.” He darted into a side alley and then began to vibrate himself at a high speed. Soon he was able to drop through the ground, passing his molecules safely into the hidden lair below. As the Flash stopped moving, he heard a voice.
“About time you got here, West,” Hank Hall said. “We’ve been waiting on you.”
“Hank, be nice,” Dawn Granger chided him as she sat next to him at the meeting table in the Titans West headquarters. “He’s come a long way. Let him catch his breath before he starts trading insults with you.”
The Flash shook his head. “What, is everybody turning psychic now?”
“Nope,” said Mal Duncan as he entered the room. “Nightwing buzzed us a little while ago and told us you’d be stopping in. Figured I’d call together as much of the team as I could. The Eagle, Oceana, and Air Wave should be along in a bit.”
The speedster looked around. “So, I guess I beat Superwoman, eh?” He started to smile, thinking he’d won the bet. Hank started to chuckle. Dawn kicked him under the table. “What?”
“Sorry, Flash,” a female voice came from the next room.
Wally turned around to see Superwoman joining them with a big smile. “What? No way you got here before me!”
“Afraid so,” she said. “I was just in the bathroom.”
“Oh, no!” Flash said.
Mal patted his old friend on the back. “Ease up, Wally. I know a great Chinese place that delivers. We all can relax a bit while we wait for the food.”
The Flash forced a smile. “You’re a pal, Mal.”
The black man smiled back. “Yeah, I’ll spot you the money to pay for it. You’re good for the cash.” The others started to laugh.
“What’s so funny?” Karen Duncan said as she stepped down the stairs that led from the bar above. “Don’t tell me you started the party without us?” As Mal’s wife made her way down, another female figure descended the steps as well.
The Flash turned and saw the second woman’s face. “Fran?” He rushed over. “Oh, my God, Fran!” He embraced the blonde. “I’ve been so sick with worry about you for the last two months! I thought you’d been kidnapped or killed! Where have you been? Oh, God, I missed you so!”
Frances Kane was visibly awkward with this sudden reunion with her boyfriend. “I — I missed you, too,” she said softly. “We can talk later, alone, OK?”
The Flash felt her move from his embrace a bit. He stared her in the eye; she was visibly upset but tried to hide it. Here he was practically jumping out of his skin because he was excited to see her, and she seemed so cold, so distant. “OK,” he said, “OK. We’ll talk later, then.”
This was neither the right time nor the right place. First, there was a world to save. Then they could repair their relationship — if there was anything left to repair.