“We’re over the coordinates you gave me, G.A.,” the young pilot called to his passenger. “Say, there is an island down there, after all!”
“I told you, Sparky,” Green Arrow said, checking the straps on his parachute. “Just tell me when to jump.”
“You’ll radio me when you’re ready to be picked up, right?” Sparky asked.
“Sure will. And thanks again for the lift, Sparky. I wish you’d let me pay you.”
The pilot shook his head. “You captured those thugs that were trying to strong-arm me for protection money, remember? As far as I’m concerned, you’ve paid. OK, get ready to jump… now!”
As the parachute billowed out behind him and Green Arrow drifted slowly to the star-shaped island, he mused thoughtfully on the events that brought him there.
Starfish Island, the ace archer thought to himself. Where it all began. Where Green Arrow was born. (*) Man, it feels like a hundred years ago! It’ll be good to walk that familiar soil again. Might help me get some of my perspective back. After that courtroom fiasco with the Lightning Bug and his lawyer, I need it! (*) With slime like that working their tails off to put the bad guys back on the streets, I wonder just how much good guys like me actually accomplish. Ahh, nuts! I think like this about once every couple of years. All I need is some time away, to rethink things.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Green Arrow’s First Case,” Adventure Comics #256 (January, 1959) and Green Arrow: Courting Disaster.]
Once on the island, Green Arrow packed his chute and began walking, exploring the deserted chunk of ground that had been his home for over a year.
He was understandably unprepared for a sight that greeted his eyes as he reached the top of a wooded hill.
“Blazes!” the archer gasped. “Who put that there?”
Green Arrow dropped to the ground and watched the spectacle below. At the base of the wooded hill was a clearing, and in this clearing now stood a building. It was a cube-shaped structure of stone, painted in shades of green and brown to blend in with the island foliage, and thus it was invisible from the air. The emerald archer watched as men in gray coveralls entered and exited the building, some pushing hand trucks stacked with boxes or cylinders. Green Arrow’s falcon-like eyes spotted a length of pipe extending from the building down into the soft ground. He followed the line of the pipe’s direction and quickly came to the sea. He saw the water slightly discolored in the area where the pipe must emerge.
“Damn! Even here?” Green Arrow grumbled to himself. They’ve gotta spoil everything with their so-called progress and their mechanization! Wonder why it’s so secret, though? I’m sure I would’ve remembered hearing something about this, if it had gotten any news coverage. And they’ve obviously gone to a lot of trouble to keep it hidden. Methinks Mrs. Queen’s favorite son had better check things out more closely!
Green Arrow waited until nightfall. When all was dark, he left his vantage point atop the hill and crept slowly, quietly, toward the building. The year spent on this island had not only made him the world’s greatest archer, but an excellent hunter and tracker as well. He moved as silently as a shadow and soon was within a few feet of the building.
No guards, no fence, Green Arrow thought to himself. Someone’s pretty overconfident of their unknown status. Still, I’d better keep alert for more subtle security measures.
Just then, as Green Arrow scanned the blank stone wall of the building, something seized him around the neck — something with a grip like iron, that squeezed his windpipe with just enough pressure to keep him from crying out.
Green Arrow reacted swiftly to the surprise attack. With a perfectly executed judo throw, he hurled his assailant over his head. The man landed on the ground several yards in front of the archer. Green Arrow had a stunner-arrow notched in his bow and aimed at the man before he noticed who it was.
“Aquaman?!” Green Arrow said, lowering his bow. “Blast it, what’s the idea of putting the strong-arm on me?”
“Green Arrow?” Aquaman asked, surprised. “I’m sorry! I didn’t realize it was you. I noticed you trying to sneak into this building, but I didn’t know who you were.”
“I thought you could see at the bottom of the ocean,” Green Arrow said, extending a hand to help his longtime friend to his feet. “This should be like bright daytime to you.”
Aquaman smiled at that as he accepted the hand. “Guess my mind was on other things. I’m trying to investigate this factory, here.”
“What the heck is it?” Green Arrow asked, looking at the cube-shaped structure.
“That’s what I’m trying to find out,” Aquaman said. “Fish in the area have been dying, because of waste chemicals dumped in the water. I did some checking, and no public or private industry or military organization is registered as having a facility here. That means this is something clandestine, probably outlawed. But what brings you here?”
“Remember when I told you my origin? How I was stranded on an island for a year, taught myself archery to survive?”
Aquaman’s eyes grew wide with understanding. “You mean, this is that island? I had no idea!”
“Yeah, looks like Tom Wolfe was right, doesn’t it? Well, let’s see what we can find out by snooping.”
“Say, Ollie,” Aquaman whispered as the two longtime comrades crept around the side of the building. “I’m worried that our scuffle may have betrayed our presence here. Do you think that’s possible?”
Suddenly, bright lights flashed on, illuminating the spot where the two JLA champions stood. A dozen men with rifles ran into view from around the corner of the building, calling for them to surrender.
“It’s possible,” Green Arrow quipped as he brought his bow around. In one fluid motion he drew an arrow, notched it to the bowstring, drew, and fired. Straight and true, the arrow flew to its target. In a sound of shattering glass and a sizzle of electric sparks, the bright light went out.
Aquaman waded into the armed guards like a tidal wave, fists pumping furiously. The sudden darkness and the swiftness of their foe caught the guards unprepared; like tenpins they went down. One of them managed to aim his rifle at Aquaman’s back; Green Arrow quickly dispatched this threat with an electrified arrow to the rifle barrel. In moments, all the guards lay on the ground, unconscious.
“Is it me, Ollie,” Aquaman asked, “or are they not making thugs like they used to?”
“Dinah and I were discussing this not long ago,” Green Arrow said. “I think we’re weeding out the weak ones. Like Darwinism; we’re improving the strain or something.”
“Well, someone’s still hiring the weak ones,” Aquaman commented. “Let’s go find out who.”