by Martin Maenza, Libbylawrence and Immortalwildcat
On the edge of the solar system, just beyond the orbit of the icy planet Pluto, the Warworld kept its ominous eye on the events transpiring a number of planets away. Ships would come and go from this outpost, sending more alien troops to ravage the planet Earth. Just as was ordered, just as was planned — like precision clockwork.
And below the icy surface of the small Pluto that was crowded by the unnatural battle planet, some of the aliens of the Alliance were busy with even more insidious operations.
“Move it, meat!” a Gordanian guard barked as he herded a small group of humans out of their cells. One tall Caucasian male started to protest. Before a word could leave his lips, the reptilian alien shoved a battle staff into the man’s gut. The end of the weapon surged, shooting energy through the human flesh.
The Earth man fell over, his chest charred and his vital organs destroyed. He was dead.
One of the other guards laughed. “That’s showing them! But watch it: the disk-heads will be pissed if you kill off too many of them. You know how angry they can get.”
“What’s one crummy human more or less?” the killer said.
A brown-haired young man in the group of humans started to move to protest, to act, but an elderly man with white hair held him back with one hand, shaking his head negatively. Snapper Carr eased up and calmed down as the group was moved from one holding area to the other.
He’d gotten to know Dexter Fairfax, the grandfatherly author from England, during the last few weeks of being cooped up in a cell together. Snapper and Dexter and so many other people from all walks of life and all countries on Earth had been abducted by aliens. They weren’t told why. Luckily, they were being kept in fairly good conditions. They had places to rest, facilities to take care of bodily needs, and were even fed daily, though Snapper had no idea what they were eating. He wracked his brain wondering what this was all about.
Now that he and the others in his area were being moved, he figured it was maybe time to get some answers.
Still, the young man was angry with himself, too. For a few short years he was a mascot to the Justice League of America. Many considered him an honorary member. He was even at their Christmas party at the satellite last December. (*) In times of trouble, he had the means to contact the group with a special signaler the team had provided him, but it wasn’t on him at the time of his abduction. He knew that if he could just get a signal to Earth, that his friends would charge in like the cavalry and rescue everyone. But he would have to wait for an opportunity to present itself.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Justice League of America: Deck the Halls ’86.]
As their group rounded a corner, they saw another group also being herded in. Both would be brought together and placed in a large holding cell. This one lacked the comforts of their previous ones. “This doesn’t bode well,” said Amos Monroe, an elderly black man, after their guards had left the group.
Snapper glanced around at the faces — men, women, children, black, white, Asian, young, and old. There seemed to be no rhyme or reasoning behind those captured. This helped him rule out a plot against his old allies.
A cackling sound from the corner got his attention. He knew that wauk-wauk sound anywhere. Snapper made his way through the crowd to see an overweight man with a long pointed nose. “The Penguin!” he exclaimed. “What the hell are you doing here?”
“Buzz off, punk!” the criminal said. “I’m a victim here just like you, wauk-wauk.”
“I find that hard to believe,” Snapper said, scowling.
“We’re all victims,” a voice in the corner said wearily. “And before they’re through, the wheat will be separated from the chaff.” The man was huddled against the wall, facing it on his hands and knees.
“Shut up, you!” the Penguin squawked, poking the man in the ribs with his foot.
The man turned. Snapper saw his face and froze for a second. He knew that face. “Hal?” he asked in a whisper. “Hal Jordan?” The hair was a bit gray at the temples, but the chin, nose, mouth, and eyes were telling. Snapper felt his heart skip a beat. Maybe there was a chance after all.
Then the man spoke. “Don’t judge this book by its cover,” the man said. “I may look like that creep Jordan, but I ain’t him. I’m William Hand — plain old William Hand. And, if I get out of this hell-hole alive, I’ll find a way to be my own man again. ‘Cause it was looking like this that got me into this mess to begin with!”
It took a second for the name to register — William Hand, alias Black Hand, Green Lantern’s old foe. This whole stalag in space was getting crazier and crazier by the day.
And there was still the mystery to be solved of why they were all here. And how they all were going to get home, too.
The invasion had left few places untouched as aliens swarmed across places as far apart as the Gotham City suburb of Bludhaven and Auckland, the largest city in New Zealand. The results were much the same, as people reacted in different ways. Some people fled in fear, some tried to fight back, some risked their lives for others, and others saw the chaos as an excuse to try to enrich themselves.
In Bludhaven, looters smashed out windows and glanced left and right as sirens wailed and alarms cried out in the night. The police were far too busy with invasion-related dangers to respond in their normal manner. Thus, the city was defended by another type of hero. The Golden Wasp had been fighting crimes and saving lives for days. He was weary and hungry and felt like he needed a long rest, but in spite of the physical and mental fatigue, the costumed man fought onward for his adopted city.
“I hate to tell you this, but you gentlemen can’t park here!” he joked as he crashed into a gang of thugs who had raced on the curb outside a jewelry store for a smash-and-grab crime.
One of the punks gasped in surprise. “Who is that? Batman don’t get this far out!” he said.
The Golden Wasp bowed low and then, as he raised his head, he also lifted one gloved hand and fired a beam of energy. The punk fell backward as a stinging sensation filled his body. “I am the Golden Wasp, and you, sir, have proven yourself to be more astute than ever I would have guessed. I assumed you to be a witless dolt, when in fact you are clearly a man with a curious mind and a slight swelling!”
The Golden Wasp punched another of the thugs and ignored the other man’s cries until he had knocked the second robber to the pavement. He smiled to himself as he saw the final figure race for the car. “Run! That’s right! This is a tow away zone! Hurry before the meter maid comes! Let me save the poor girl some time and remove you from the area.”
He flew higher and kicked the man across the street until he hit a pile of trash cans. “Well, I may be cited for littering, but I can’t quite shake the scofflaw in me!” Golden Wasp said as he bent over to tie up the gang.
Glancing through the shattered display window, he saw the rows of rings behind their now-broken safety glass. He hesitated for a moment, then shook his head and flew off. He had been giving all of his time to keeping the streets safe and helping those in need since the invasion began. He had gained nothing for his efforts except the occasional thanks from a cop or a victim. He looked around and realized with a now-decreasing level of surprise that that was more than enough for the former super-villain once known as Killer Wasp.
On the isthmus between the harbors of Waitemata and Manukau in Auckland on the North Island of New Zealand, Khund raiders had been piloting hover-sleds across the waters in increasing numbers. They would have certainly overwhelmed the city’s normal defenders, except for the fact that they had been expected.
Jeremy Wakefield had envisioned the invasion with stunning clarity, thanks to his weird third eye. The blond hero known as Tuatara had grabbed his robe and explained the crisis to his wife Lucy. She was alarmed, but she showed very little fear. She was now used to her husband’s sudden nocturnal visions, and his glimpse into the future gave her very little cause for alarm. She knew that he would handle anything that came up. He always had before.
Thus, Tuatara had brought in a few of New Zealand’s other heroes to help him stop the Khund crossing. As the burly aliens shouted curses and made their way closer across the waters, they were attacked by a group of five defenders.
The flame-haired Lady Maxima, wearing a green and gold costume, hovered defiantly before them and gazed down her nose at them with a look of pure disgust. “Khunds! They are the scum of the universe!” she said as she posed before them with her hands on her hips. “They are good for nothing. They lack any hint of culture and offer one such as I a poor version of combat!”
“Almerac’s former queen! A fine bounty to the one who brings her down!” announced the Khundish leader. He received a stunning mental bolt that sent him flying from the sled into the waters below.
Maxima said, “He was not worth my time!”
A balding man in brown and gold laughed and used his own hyper-strength to knock one sled into the path of another. He grimaced as the Khunds fell off, and he shrugged in good-humored amusement. “Fear not, milady,” said the hero called Vartox, her husband. “I’ll make it up to you tonight. I will offer you a sport more to your liking!”
Next to him, the green-costumed Tuatara used his own agility to kick a Khund off a damaged part of the soaring bridge that spanned the harbor. He fought with a silence that was befitting one so given to visions and introspection.
The same could not be said for the sultry woman called Rata, who laughed with pleasure as her plant-based powers allowed her to send a barrage of thorns into the Khunds. She wore her customary costume of flame-red leaves, and she smiled broadly with every Khundish scream. “That will teach you devils to set foot on my earth!” she screamed. “You sicken me with your very foreign nature! You have no right to be here! This natural world is not for you! Not while I still breathe!”
Tuatara ignored her; she was rather mad. He knew that her inhuman metabolism made her care far more for plants than for people. He knew she would probably care very little if the invasion only harmed humans but left her precious plants and trees alone.
He felt more comfortable with the Maori woman called Takahe. She was brave, resourceful, and wonderfully human. She also made very effective use of her rather ordinary abilities. She could fly like the bird that gave her name. She did so through artificial wings. It was odd how the world had changed since Tuatara’s youth. Flight no longer seemed as spectacular a gift as it once had seemed.
Still, Takahe swooped agilely over the harbor and managed to cause several of the much-heavier Khunds to crash or fall from their sleds.
Thus, the heroes defended their home, and for all their valor against larger odds, their story was but one of many in the global conflict called the invasion. There would be many more.
A loud roar filled the air of the Ohio River. Coming from the west, it was punctuated with the high whine of energy weapons, the loud crunch of impacting metal and stone, and the crackle of arcing electricity. As it approached the juncture of the Ohio with the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers, the activity seemed to accelerate.
“Pick up the pace, Outsiders! They’re trying to bring this baby into Pittsburgh!” called a deep voice.
“I’m trying, Black Lightning, but it’s too strong for my tractor beams!” replied a light, airy, feminine voice full of determination.
There was a second roar, and a cyclone formed on the south shore of the river. It was joined by an upward-moving torrent of earth and stone, which accelerated as it met the swirling winds and arced up to strike the bottom of a massive gray battle-cruiser.
“Right on target, Windfall,” said a soft, drawling voice over the Outsider’s radio circuit. “You drove it right into the air rams for their engines.”
“Thanks, Looker! Geo-Force, are you ready for another strike?” came a young female voice.
“I am, but can you handle it, Windfall? You’re creating air currents stronger than anything I’ve seen you do before. Can you handle it?”
“I have to! Come on, let’s do this!”
On board the ship, one of the crew members turned from his sensor console. “Commander! I have two matches against the Dominion’s search list!”
“Two of them? Are you sure?” growled the large, reptilian figure in the command chair.
“Yes, sir! Bio-signatures are a definite match for the Earthers codenamed Black Lightning and Geo-Force!”
“Excellent. They are paying a bounty for any of these humans on their list. Prepare the energy bindings!” The commander reached down to punch a pair of buttons on the arm of his chair. “Fire control, prepare transport beams. Target the bio-signatures from Clarg Fnrazeg’s console, and place them in the high-power energy cells!”
Over the ship, a silvery glider descended from a plane far above. It dipped forward, spilling the air from its wings and diving directly at the ship. Mere feet above the hull, the glider wing dissolved into a cloud of gaseous particles, which quickly re-formed into a quickly-spreading pool of acid. “Sorry I’m late, gang!” came a voice that seemed to issue from the puddle of smoking liquid.
“That’s all right, Rex. If you can get through that hull, I can turn Halo loose on some of the internal components.” Black Lightning issued a quick order to the tall blonde in the color-splashed black costume. “Take Katana up with you. Her blade isn’t doing us any good on the ground, but she can take apart a good part of the ship with you!”
Halo changed directions and darted down to snatch up her teammate from the Jeep that she and Black Lightning were traveling in. Before she could reach the opening created by Metamorpho, however, she saw a new panel open up near the bow of the ship. “Watch out, they’re bringing out something new!” she called as she swooped up and over the craft.
“Geo-Force, can you toss something in there?” asked the team leader. His electrical bolts didn’t have the range to reach the ship, but the Markovian hero could use his control of gravity to toss smaller boulders great distances.
“I’m on it!” came the response. It was too late, however. The newly deployed weapon glowed briefly, then a beam of light shot out toward the ground. It struck Black Lightning, who didn’t even have time to scream before he vanished. Before the stunned Outsiders could react, the weapon fired again, this time striking Geo-Force with similar results.
“No!” screamed Windfall, raising her hands up to the hulking gray behemoth. The air around her hands spun and shot forth like a bullet of tightly swirling wind. It struck the weapon, ripping it from the ship before it could fire again.
The ship suddenly changed direction, tilting upward and picking up speed. Halo caught Metamorpho up in her tractor field along with Katana and brought them back to Earth to stand with their teammates as they faced the sudden and unexpected loss of two of their own.
All around the small Mediterranean nation, the sound of explosions and battles could be heard. They came from the sea, they came from the air, and they came from the coast of Italy. This island was used to all aspects of bloodshed; its history was practically written in it — from the early thirteenth century when Pope Innocent’s Crusades arrived there seeking recruits in a holy war to more recent conflicts on her shores.
Yet, oddly, in the largest structure on the island of Zandia, a woman was alone in a small vestibule. Dozens of small candles flickered in the evening air, casting an uneven glow upon the woman’s face, the only part of her body visible amidst dark black robes with red trim. Even her hair was covered by a traditional habit.
Mother Mayhem was down on her knees, praying.
Silently she thought, The world, it cannot end like this! Since his last battle with those champions from the United States over eighteen months ago, our Lord is not yet ready to rise up in power once more to smite the enemies of the Church!
Mother Mayhem dropped her head and clutched her hands tightly.
Brother Blood cannot help us now! A greater power must be relied upon to vanquish these alien conquerors. This world is not theirs to take! It must remain for the return of Blood! Only then, and only under his booted heel will it succumb!
An explosion echoed in the distance, as if to mock her very pleas.
Mother Mayhem merely prayed harder, hoping some divine revelation would come to her. None would come this day.