by Martin Maenza, Doc Quantum and Immortalwildcat
Salaak and Ch’p quickly summoned the remaining Earth-bound Green Lanterns to the Citadel — or at least those that they could get ahold of. “Arisia will be back from Hawaii in the morning,” the smaller one said to those assembled. “I couldn’t raise Hal at all.”
John Stewart, sitting next to Katma Tui, nodded. “We can reach him via the Justice League, if need be,” he said. “What he’s up to is rather important personally, so I’d rather leave him be until we have a better handle on things. What about Guy?”
“Hmmmph,” Salaak snorted. “Gardner is being his usual arrogant self! His response was, and I quote, ‘If you pantywaists in the Corps can’t handle your own mess, then the one, true Green Lantern will come bail you out. Until then, you’re on your own!’ End quote.”
“How rude,” Katma said.
“Typical of Guy,” John said. “He has a lot of issues he needs to resolve.”
“Forget that poozer!” Kilowog said, his image and voice coming from a monitor screen. In the background was the laboratory that he had been using in the Soviet Union, where he continued to assist with the Rocket Red program. “In the meantime, we’ve got our own problems! My ring went out, too, so that’s why I’m contacting you guys this way. I could rig up something and be there soon.”
“Hold that thought for a bit, Kilowog,” John said, taking charge in Hal’s absence. “We’ve got three of us with failing power rings.” He included, of course, Driq in that number. “This has got to be more than just mere coincidence or an isolated event.”
“You biggies think it’s something bigger?” Ch’p asked.
“Maybe,” John said.
Suddenly, all four of their power rings began to glow brightly. Kilowog noticed their expressions. “What is it?” he asked, leaning closer to the monitor to see better.
“Its an alert,” Katma announced. “From Oa!“
“That’s weird,” Ch’p said. “How often do we get those?“
“Rare,” Salaak grumbled. “Something big must be up for the Honor Guard to contact us this way!”
“We’ll, let’s see what they have to say,” John said. And with that, his ring created a viewing screen to reply the message from their fellow Corps members far away in space.
On the power ring-created screen appeared a group of several Green Lanterns, among them the two members of the Honor Guard who were normally stationed at Maltus — K’ryssma and Apros. The other Lanterns seen in the group were recognized as Teacher, Dalor, Meadlux, Hollika Rahn, and Stel, but some were unfamiliar to the Earthly Green Lanterns.
Meadlux was an imposing Green Lantern who was bald, had blue skin, and wore small glasses over his eyes. He appeared much like a larger version of a Guardian, which was why he once posed as one during a psychodrama played upon Hal Jordan a few years back. (*) He was, in reality, a judge and lawmaker on his planet, and he was also one of the most trusted of the Green Lanterns, although few knew of his reputation. He addressed the screen.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Off On a Tanjent,” Green Lantern #169 (October, 1983).]
“Fellow Green Lanterns: As you can see behind me, several members of our valiant Corps have gathered here at Oa to discover the reason behind the failure of our power batteries. But Oa has been cut off completely from all contact, and it has been sheathed in a veil of utter darkness which our light cannot penetrate. Few of us have enough energy left in our power rings to make the journey back home, let alone continue the investigation.”
As Meadlux spoke, some Green Lanterns in the background could be seen taking off and fleeing Oan space. “Do not attempt to come to Oa through the use of your power rings. Conserve your power and ally yourselves, if you can, with other Green Lanterns through conventional means. We have no idea who is responsible for the blacking-out of Oa, but we fear that something much worse is to come. Those of us whose planets have longer cycles will be remaining in Oan space as long as possible, but many of us are gathering on Mogo as we speak. Prepare for the worst. May the light of the Green Lantern shine upon all of you once more.”
At that, the communication screen blacked out.
June 18th, 1987:
Twenty-two-thousand, three-hundred miles above the Earth’s surface, the satellite headquarters of the world’s greatest super-team orbited. This watchtower kept one eye ever vigilant on the blue-green orb below and the other to the stars around it.
On monitor duty this night was J’onn J’onzz, the Manhunter from Mars. The green-skinned alien massaged his temples as he cycled through the monitors that kept tabs on situations on the world below. For once, there seemed to be no major catastrophes that would require him to summon together a grouping of the members of the Justice League of America. Suddenly, he felt two firm but cool hands join his own. “Aaahh,” the Martian said, relaxing as tapered, dark-skinned fingers massaged his lobes. “That feels nice.”
“I am so glad you approve,” Nubia said softly in his ear as she leaned closer. The dark-skinned woman, who was raised on Slaughter Island to be a fine warrior, was dressed in the red, white, blue, and gold garb of one of this world’s celebrated heroines. She proudly wore the mantle of Wonder Woman, one that she’d taken over when her sister Diana had be reverted to a child nearly two years ago. (*) “You seem awfully tense of late.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Final Crisis,” Crisis on Infinite Earths #12 (March, 1986) and Justice League of America: The Final Chapter, Chapter 4: The New Wonder Woman.]
“I am not sure why myself,” J’onn said. “Just some strange feeling. It is probably nothing.”
“I could help you relax later when we return home,” the woman said playfully. “Perhaps a long, hot bath for two?” Though in battle she was a seasoned warrior, there was another side to the woman, a side she had been working on of late, and the Martian was the pleased recipient of such practices.
Suddenly, a light on the monitor board lit up red. The Martian Manhunter straightened up in the chair to tend to it. “A problem?” Nubia asked.
“Maybe,” J’onn said. “Maybe not. Our sensors for the solar system have picked up a message from an approaching vessel.” He activated some switches, engaging the inter-space communication channels, and spoke into a small microphone on the board. “This is the Justice League satellite orbiting the planet Earth. Please respond.”
There was some crackling on the other end, and then the signal got stronger. “Yes, no trouble meant by we,” the communication systems translated the alien tongue as close as it could. Superman, Green Lantern, and Hawkman had programmed it with as many alien dialects as possible, those encountered by them over the years. Still, occasionally a few new ones cropped up. “Travel far. Homeworld no more. Seek stop, then move on.”
“Understood,” the Martian said. “Can we assist you in any way?”
There was a pause before the response. “No. Good now.”
“Very well,” J’onn said. “Justice League satellite out.” He terminated the transmission.
“That’s odd,” Nubia said curiously.
“Not really,” J’onn said. “Often ships pass through the solar system en route to other planets and worlds. Even though we protect the Earth, we have a reputation in the galaxy for aiding other worlds as well. It is our duty to respond to any communications, at least so we understand the situation. There is not always a need to rush to someone’s aid or to stave off an invasion.”
Nubia nodded. Though the team name included of America, they truly did have a mission that encompassed the whole planet and beyond. She also had to remind herself that not every alien visitor was necessarily a hostile one. The fact that a number of the Justice League members, including the man she currently loved, came from other planets was a good example of that. “I suppose you are right,” she said. But a part of her, the warrior-trained part, would always keep her guard up just in case.
“I have a few more hours before I am relieved by Ralph,” J’onn said. “If you would rather return home, I can wake you when I arrive.”
“No,” Nubia said. “I will wait here with you. There are things I can catch up on in the library.” And with that, she retired to the level where the research materials were kept. J’onn nodded as she went, then returned to the monitoring station.
June 20th, 1987:
“Come on!” a burly voice with a slight reverberation yelled. “Hurry!” Tree branches crashed aside as the form rushed through the heavily wooded area. “We can’t let him get away!”
“I’m right… uh… behind you!” another male voice called.
“Look!” a female cried. “Up ahead! A clearing! He’s heading for that clearing!”
“We can all see that!” snapped a third male voice in an irate manner. “Our visual receptors are just as good as yours, Tina!” The red-skinned Mercury stretched out of the brush, followed by the shiny Platinum. The moonlight glistened off her metallic shell.
The large and powerful Iron burst through a grouping of trees. The slow but dependable Lead plodded out right on his heels. “Where did he go?” Iron asked, taking the lead.
“There!” Tina exclaimed, pointing a finger across the way. A large figure wrapped from head to toe in robes moved toward a large mass of brush. Over its slumped shoulders, the figure carried an inactive Gold, the yellow-shelled leader of the Metal Men team. “We have to stop him!”
The four robots darted across the field, just as the tiny Tin appeared at the edge of the woods. “G-g-guys, wait up-p-p,” he stammered in his timid manner. An owl hooted in a nearby tree, causing him to jump a bit. “O-o-ohhh, I hate sc-sc-scary forests!” He scampered after his friends.
“Stop!” yelled Iron. “Drop our friend now!“
The figure stopped at the sound, but his eyes, barely visible between the wrappings about his head, seemed confused and a bit scared. Within a moment, Iron was upon him. Instinctively, he dropped his prize and swung his massive fists to defend himself.
“Whoa there,” Iron said, forming his two hands into manacles that caught the figure about the wrists. Not knowing the man’s capabilities, the robot didn’t want to hurt him with excess force. Instead, he latched onto the wrists and lifted the robed figure into the air. “Let’s just calm down and talk about this.”
The figure said nothing but squirmed, trying to get free. He swung his feet out to try to strike the robot in its chest. Lead merely extended his arms after the first blow, keeping the kidnapper at bay.
“Feisty one, isn’t he?” Mercury asked. “I wonder why he was after Gold.”
“No clue,” said Platinum, who rushed to their fallen leader’s side. “Maybe we can ask Gold if I can get his attention.” After failing to get any response to visual stimuli, she ran her fingers across his outer shell. She then found, near the back of his neck, a small device. “Aha, here’s the culprit. But it seems to be attached.”
“Oh, allow me, you silly twit!” Mercury snapped as he joined her. Examining the small box, the robot made a decision. “Let’s see what happens if I short this baby out!” The robot wrapped its fingers about the box and turned up his temperature. As he started to hit his boiling point, he transferred the heat into the device. After a few moments, it started to spark and then came loose.
Gold’s eyes snapped open. “Hello? Where am I?”
Platinum smiled at him. “You’re among friends.”
Suddenly, there were blasts that came from the covered pile of brush. The robots ducked and dodged them. “W-w-we’re under att-t-tack!” Tin stammered.
“Everyone… uh… back!” Lead said. He expanded his body up into a protective field to block the rays.
Iron glared at his prisoner. “Friends of yours?” he asked. “Well, tell them to stop, now!” With that, he stretched his arms above the shield and hoisted the kidnapper into view. The figure squirmed as some as the shots whizzed past his head. Then, in some indecipherable tongue, he shouted to those near the brush.
The blasts stopped.
“What d-d-did he s-s-say?” Tin asked.
“I don’t think he’s from around here,” Platinum said. Iron lowered him down, and the female robot reached for the robes. Unwinding the cloth for his head, she revealed the figure’s puss-covered, gray misshapen features. “He’s not human.”
“He’s downright ugly!” Mercury said.
“You’re one to talk,” Iron said.
“He must be some kind of alien of sorts,” Gold concluded. He then glanced at the brush pile. “And that must be his ship and mates in the crudely camouflaged craft.” Indeed, bits of metal could be seen under the branches and leaves.
“What did they want you for?” Platinum asked.
“No clue,” Gold said. “But maybe we should see if we can bridge this communication gap and try to help them out.”
June 23rd, 1987:
In a large, European-styled home in Cincinnati, Ohio, a small group of young people sat around a table in the dining room. “Uno!” cried three of them at once, much to the chagrin of Gaby Doe.
“Drat, I always forget to call it when I’m down to my last card!” The slender blonde teenager reached for the stack of cards on the table and drew five of them from the top of the stack. “Your turn, Brion.”
Brion Markov, Prince of Markovia, grinned and placed a card down on the discard pile. “You may add four cards to your hand, Lia, and the new color of play is, hmmm, how about green?”
“Humph!” the red-haired beauty said as she took the required cards.
The card game continued until they were interrupted by a soft, yet unmistakable voice from the next room. “Outsiders! We have a call from Rex!” They all rushed to join their teammate in the living room.
“What’s wrong, Tatsu?” asked Gaby as they found her hanging up the phone.
“It’s his wife. Sapphire Stagg-Mason has disappeared without a trace!“
Several hundred miles away, the Batman was investigating another disappearance. “Nobody knows what the hell happened, Batman,” said Police Commissioner James Gordon. “Last night, just before midnight, the power went out throughout Arkham. Five minutes later, it came back on. The staff did a check of all cells, as per standard procedure. They found three patients missing.”
“Which three?” asked Batman as he watched the surveillance tape of the hours leading up to the blackout.
“Jervis Tetch, Oswald Cobblepot, and Louis Illyanowicz.”
“In other words, the Mad Hatter, the Penguin, and Louie the Lilac.” Batman shook his head. “A mind-controlling madman, a bird-obsessed would-be mastermind, and a flower-loving petty thief. Why would anybody go to that kind of trouble to break those three out, and just those three? And what happened to the lock-down systems?”
“Everything worked the way it should. In case of a power outage, mechanical locks engage on all cells. In case of a fire alarm, a backup circuit with its own power source opens them up. There was no fire alarm, and all of the locks were still engaged when the power came back on.” Gordon paused to light his pipe. “Sounds like one of those alien abduction stories that are all the rage. Have to say, if aliens took those three away, I’d be among the last to complain.”
“That wasn’t Louie the Lilac, though, Commissioner,” Batman’s voice held a darker tone than usual.
“What do you mean? The tapes showed him entering the cell after dinner.”
“Louie has been resting comfortably in Metropolis for the last five days. I had word of a possible break coming up at Arkham, and I arranged for someone to take his place.”
“Who in his right mind would have the nerve to impersonate an Arkham patient?”
“I don’t believe you’ve met him before. His name is Christopher Chance.”
The red-haired heroine in a blue cowl and cape and a red-blue costume stood on the tarmac of Metropolis International airport. The area had been cleared when a certain plane was forced to make an emergency landing. Luckily, she was flying on patrol and was able to assist.
Superwoman stood near the steps of Air Force One. A black-suited man with black sunglasses approached her; he wore shades, despite the fact that it was nine in the evening. “Miss, thank you for waiting,” Agent Green said. “He’ll be with you in a moment.”
Superwoman nodded as she saw a figure step out of the plane. The President of the United States personally wanted to speak to her. Having met him a year ago in Washington, D.C., she was a little less nervous. (*) Still, it was always a thrill for her to talk with figures she’d studied and taught about in her history courses in the twenty-ninth century. As the older man approached her, she nodded and acknowledged him. “Mr. President.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See Birds of Prey: Capital Offense.]
The actor-turned-politician took her hand. “Superwoman, it’s good to see you again, my dear,” Reagan said. “It’s almost like you’re my own personal guardian angel.” The heroine blushed slightly. “But don’t let Nancy know, OK?” He winked.
“Just doing what I can,” Superwoman said, thinking of how she saved the plane from a near-fatal encounter with a freak lightning storm. “Is there something more I can do for you, sir?”
“In fact, there is,” the President said. “My son Ron has an… uh… friend who has turned up missing.”
Superwoman recalled seeing the President’s son on one of those weekend late night sketch comedy shows. He’d done a skit that spoofed a movie, with a scene of him dancing around the White House in his underwear. Clark had to explain the reference to her. “I know of your son,” she said. “But his friend is missing?“
“Without a trace,” the President said. “Happened a few days ago while they were in Miami. The Secret Service who guard Ron are stumped. They have no clue how it happened. Neither does Ron. I was hoping maybe you’d check into it for me, as a personal favor.”
“How could I say no?” Superwoman said. “I’ll see what I can do.”
The President gave her a hug. “Thank you, my dear. You are such a good American.”
But these weren’t isolated incidents. All around the globe, people from all walks of life had been disappearing suddenly and mysteriously over the past few days or so.
In New Orleans, Louisiana, Amos Monroe had vanished. The bald black man with white facial hair, a self-professed con artist in his late fifties, failed to show up at the altar for a wedding to a rich elderly woman he was about to swindle.
In Tel Aviv, Israel, ten-year-old Moshe Levy never made it to school.
In Madrid, Spain, red-haired fashion model Carlotta Rivera kept photographers waiting three hours for a swimsuit shoot. Finally, her manager checked her hotel room. Her clothes and bags were still there, but Carlotta was not.
In Innsbruck, Austria, a bald ski instructor in his mid-thirties was reported missing. Fritz Klein went out for a run on the slopes after his morning class and never returned. The ski patrol scoured the mountain for days but failed to locate him.
In his hometown of Tunbridge Wells, England, elderly children’s author Dexter Fairfax never showed up to a signing party for his latest book. Many children under ten and their parents were disappointed.
Johnny Adler, a black-haired and mustached businessman who graduated a few years before from Elford University, was to meet a client out of the country. (*) He boarded the plane in the U.S. but was missing when the plane landed in Ontario, Canada.
[(*) Editor’s note: Johnny Adler previously appeared in “To Order is to Destroy,” Teen Titans #31 (January-February, 1971).]
Mike Tempest, a former Golden Gloves champ once known as Tiger Force, was supposed to meet some buddies in a bar in Las Vegas. The middle-aged red-haired man never showed up.
And in an apartment building in Southern California, a brown-haired young man scurried around his apartment looking for his badge. “Man, I’d lose my head if it wasn’t attached sometimes,” he said. Then, like a flashbulb, it hit him. “Of course!” He snapped his fingers twice. “I left it on my jacket last night.” He rushed over to the laundry pile in his bedroom and retrieved the plastic card. The name on it read Lucas Carr.
“Now, where are those keys?” Snapper said.
Suddenly, the room was filled with a flash of light. “What the–?!” the scientist and former mascot for the Justice League exclaimed. The glow filled the room, wrapping around him.
And when it faded, Snapper Carr was gone.