The Martian Manhunter tumbled along the crystal sands of the desert, landing like a damaged aircraft. His ribs ached from the energy-blast, but he was not seriously hurt.
“Rather effective defense system,” J’onn J’onzz mused. His powerful green fingers grasped a rock, lifted it from the desert floor, and threw it toward the factory. Another energy-bolt stabbed out from a hidden gun-turret and obliterated the missile. J’onn nodded once. He picked up two rocks and hurled them from different directions at once. From two different spots, energy-bolts blasted the rocks into dust.
“Yes, a very effective defense system,” J’onn said. “But perhaps I can turn it to my own advantage!” The Martian champion knelt on the desert and began rubbing his hands back and forth across the crystal sands, faster and faster.
Unless I’m very much mistaken, J’onn thought as he felt the crystal sands melting under the ever-increasing friction of his hands, those beams are some kind of coherent light not unlike a laser. And if I’m right, well, this should help me deal with them!
In minutes, J’onn’s rapidly moving hands had melted and fused the crystal sands into a giant convex glass shield. Holding it firmly by the edges, J’onn took to the sky and flew directly at the building.
Again a dazzling energy-bolt shot out; J’onn tilted the glass shield, caught the bolt, and reflected it back at the building. There was a loud sound like a thunderclap, and the bolt tore a huge hole in the side of the building. Bolts shot out from two other hidden ports; J’onn swiftly deflected them with his shield, rending more holes in the factory. In moments, the building was a burning mass of ruin.
“That takes care of one factory,” J’onn mused, satisfied. “Now to rendezvous with Green Arrow at Moloko Valley!”
Green Arrow struggled to his feet, staring at a pebble that was now the size of a boulder to him. “Now I know how the Atom feels!” the brave archer joked, still trying to keep the horror of his situation at bay. But there was no escaping the enormity of it; the factory’s defense system had reduced him to a few inches in height.
Suddenly, a geyser of flame spouted from a hole in the scorched ground not ten feet from the now-minuscule archer. The gust of heated wind created by the blast bowled the tiny hero over like a leaf, sending him tumbling head over foot across the terrain. So fast was his flight that he became disoriented, losing all sense of direction. When he finally came to a stop, he shook his head to clear the dizziness and looked up. The factory appeared normal-sized again.
“Whew!” Green Arrow breathed a sigh of relief. “The shrink-ray’s effects must last only as long as I’m in range. But how can I get close enough to do any damage? It’ll even shrink my arrows as I fire them!”
The archer paced up and down a few paces, pondering the problem. Then a solution struck him.
“There’s one thing the shrink-rays don’t seem to affect,” he mused. “The ground around it! But maybe the rays just don’t go down that far; I’ll have to check.” Green Arrow picked up a chunk of dirt and hurled it with all his strength. It landed a couple of feet short of the factory wall but did not shrink.
“Pay dirt, you should excuse the pun!” Green Arrow exclaimed. The archer immediately set to work. He broke open the small storage-bulb of his water-jet arrow and mixed the water with the strange Dryannite soil. Once he had a thick paste of the soil, he coated the heads of his three blockbuster exploding arrows with them. One by one he fired them from his bow; as they entered the shrink-ray’s field, the shafts were reduced to mere toothpicks, but the explosive heads were protected by their coating of Dryannite mud. Carried by inertia, they struck the factory in three strategic spots and exploded with great force, bringing down two of the factory’s walls. An experimental arrow-shot confirmed that the explosions had disabled the shrink-ray; Green Arrow finished the job with a barrage of incendiary and acid arrows. In minutes, the factory was in ruins.
“Scratch that weapons factory,” Green Arrow said, satisfied. “Now to meet the Martian Manhunter at Moloko Valley!”
“My lord Carthan!” a young man in official garb cried, racing into the throne room of the palace.
“What is it, Lanwil?” Carthan demanded. “Have our enemies attacked?”
“I-I do not know, my lord Carthan,” Lanwil stammered. “But we have lost contact with two of our weapons factories!”
“Lost contact?” Carthan repeated. “How is that possible?“
“My lord, the only way it could happen would be…” Lanwil paused, fearful of voicing it. “…would be if the factories… were destroyed.”
“Destroyed!” Carthan roared. “My scientists assured me that the automated defenses were impregnable!“
“I am only reporting what the instruments show, my lord,” Lanwil said meekly.
Carthan snorted. “Which factory remains?“
“Moloko Valley, my lord.”
“If two factories have been destroyed,” Carthan considered, “can the third be far behind? Summon Golbos. Have him gather a company of his finest soldiers and meet me on the roof-port in ten dyrs! We leave for Moloko Valley!”
Carthan stormed out of the palace, headed for the armory.
“Green Arrow!” J’onn J’onzz called out to his friend as he flew through the skies above Moloko Valley. Green Arrow banked the sky-sled closer to his comrade’s flying form. “How did you make out at the Plain?”
“Mission accomplished,” Green Arrow reported. “And you at the Desert?”
“The same,” J’onn said. “Now we’ve just the Valley factory to deal with.”
“And there it is below,” the hawk-eyed archer said, pointing at a rectangular building of blue-gray stone. “Shall we approach from different sides or go in together?”
“I say together,” J’onn advised. “The better to handle the defense systems, whatever they are.”
“Agreed,” Green Arrow said, nodding. Together the Justice League champions headed for the ground. On foot they approached the factory.
“Let’s keep on our guard,” Green Arrow suggested. “We have no idea what form the defense systems will take.”
“True,” J’onn said. “Our experiences with Dryannite science so far only tells us that anything is possible.”
“Their scientists do seem to have wild imaginations, don’t they?” Green Arrow agreed.
Before J’onn could comment on that, a brilliant burst of blue light flashed out from the factory. Both champions were temporarily blinded. J’onn rubbed his knuckles against his closed eyes, trying to clear the sparks. When he opened his eyes, he gaped in shock at what he beheld: a man dressed in an avian-inspired costume, holding a deadly-looking weapon.
The Falcon! gasped the Manhunter from Mars, recognizing his costumed adversary from Earth.
Green Arrow shook his head, clearing the colored spots from before his eyes. He looked up and immediately tensed into battle mode when he beheld a man in a bizarre green and blue costume. The Clock King! Green Arrow thought. Don’t know what he’s doing so far from Star City, but I’ll ask him after I catch him! In a single fluid motion, the archer drew an arrow, notched it to his bow, drew the string, and fired. The arrow sailed over the Clock King’s head, releasing a net of powerful nylon mesh that fell over the villain.
“A net-snare!” J’onn mused as the Falcon’s weapon fired a projectile that burst into a net over his head. “Pretty tricky, but it won’t hold me!” The green-skinned champion’s Martian-vision blazed forth, burning the nylon fibers to ashes. “And now for the Falcon!” Inhaling deeply, J’onn aimed a blast of Martian breath at his avian adversary.
“The Clock King has improved his gimmicks!” Green Arrow acknowledged, watching the villain burn away the net with a laser-beam from his wristwatch. Then the clock-hands on the criminal’s mask began spinning at an amazing rate, sending a burst of high-velocity wind directly at Green Arrow.
“My lord Carthan,” Golbos said, peering into the long-range scanner on the control deck of their airship, “the saboteurs have arrived at the Moloko Valley factory. However, the hypno-ray has done its work, and they are fighting each other!“
“Excellent!” Carthan said, striding up to the device. “Let me see these saboteurs with my own eyes!” Carthan’s glee turned to horror as he stared into the scanner. “What? What treachery is this? The Justice League of Earth? Here, on Dryanna? How can this be?“
As Carthan watched the Martian Manhunter and Green Arrow battle, his bewilderment slowly turned to burning rage. “The Justice League!” he growled. “I thought them my friends! They helped me escape imprisonment on their backward planet; helped me triumph over the false ruler Xandor! And now they come to betray me! Well, I will not have it! Destroy them!”
Before his lieutenants could move to obey his command, the great general Golbos pointed out the view-port of the ship. “My lord Carthan — look!“
“What?” Carthan roared. “Who is that?“
A second, smaller ship arced into view. From its gun-turrets, jagged bolts of translucent blue lightning stabbed down, washing over J’onn and Green Arrow. The two champions cried out in shock as the bolts struck them, then looked at each other in surprise.
“Wha–? J’onn!” Green Arrow cried. “I was — I mean — I thought you were the Clock King!“
“And I thought you were my enemy the Falcon,” J’onn said. “It seems this factory’s defense system is some kind of hypnotic device!“
Green Arrow pointed to the sky. “We’re under attack! That ship’s coming in too close to be doing anything else!”
“I will handle the ship,” the Martian Manhunter declared, taking to the skies. “You handle the factory!“
“Right,” Green Arrow said, drawing an arrow.
“The green-skinned one is attacking!” Golbos cried.
“Ram him!” Carthan demanded. “Drive him into the ground!” Without hesitation, Golbos moved to obey.
J’onn did not slow down; he rocketed up to meet the ship, grim determination written on his face. Like two Terran drag-racers playing chicken, hero and ship zoomed straight for one another. Golbos drove the ship down, knowing it would ram the flying hero and destroy him. With a grim smile, J’onn turned immaterial and passed through the ship. Golbos fought to turn the ship up in time, but it was no use. The belly of the ship smashed into the hard-packed soil of Moloko Valley, metal twisting with a rending shriek.
“Used up all my blockbuster arrows at the last factory,” Green Arrow mused grimly, “but let’s see what this one does at a strategic point!”
Calculating the architectural stress points of the factory, Green Arrow let his arrow fly at a lower corner of the building. The arrowhead was filled with a freezing chemical that rendered the stone as brittle as glass. Unable to support its own weight, an entire corner section of the building collapsed, opening up the factory like an eggshell. A barrage of electro-shock arrows then turned the interior of the automated factory into a sparking inferno.
J’onn ripped the hatch doors of the ship open like tinfoil. Green Arrow covered Carthan and his lieutenants with drawn arrows. “Come on out, nice and slow,” Green Arrow ordered. One by one the Dryannites obeyed with raised hands. Carthan was the last to exit.
The second ship, the one that had shocked J’onn and Green Arrow out of their trance, landed nearby. The hatch opened, and a single form exited.
“You?” Carthan gasped in shock. “You betrayed me?”
“I’m sorry, my love,” Kalpyrna said, “but I had no choice.”
“My love?” Green Arrow repeated. “You mean, you and Carthan–?”
“I was his betrothed,” Kalpyrna explained. “But rule corrupted him. He would have dragged Dryanna into a war ten times more bloody than any ever waged by Xandor! He would stop at nothing less than conquering the entire galaxy! He had to be stopped!“
“You have stopped nothing!” Carthan snapped. “My men are still loyal to me! At the palace–“
“The palace is now held by those who love freedom,” Kalpyrna declared. “I had tried to bring the entire Justice League here to dethrone you. When only these two showed up, I sent them to destroy your factories, knowing it would bring you and your soldiers out of the palace. This gave the freedom fighters — of whom I am the leader — ample opportunity to capture the palace.”
Holy cow! Green Arrow thought to himself. This girl’s as crafty as Carthan himself! She duped us! Well, maybe that’s the norm on Dryanna.
An hour later, Green Arrow and the Martian Manhunter stood in the laboratory where they had first materialized on Dryanna.
“My thanks to you both, Justice Leaguers,” Kalpyrna said. “You have brought freedom to Dryanna. You will never be forgotten.”
“Freedom is more easily won than it is held,” J’onn J’onzz said in the tones of one who knew. “See that you are always on your guard against tyranny rising again.”
“We shall,” Kalpyrna promised. “And now, with the warm thanks of all Dryannites, pleasant journey back to Earth.”
Kalpyrna pulled the switch, and the brilliant red light enveloped J’onn and Green Arrow again. When it faded, they were again outside JLA Headquarters.
“That was certainly an adventure,” Green Arrow said as they walked back to the headquarters entrance.
“Indeed,” J’onn said. “And frankly, I’ve had enough of it for one day. I’m looking forward to things getting back to normal.”
But as the two champions entered JLA Headquarters, a bizarre sight met their eyes. Their companions, the Flash, Aquaman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, and the Atom, were watching over five captives: the Flash, Aquaman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, and the Atom. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Decoy Missions of the Justice League,” Justice League of America #24 (December, 1963).]
“Back to normal?” Green Arrow sighed. “Around here, just what would that be?”