by Starsky Hutch 76 and Martin Maenza
Adrian Chase, dressed all in black, entered the run-down building through the skylight. The Phantom Empire had become one of his chief projects since donning the mask of the Vigilante again. He had been tracking this particular branch of the racist organization for quite some time, and his leads had finally taken him to their hideout.
He stayed close to the wall as he moved down the hallway toward the stairs. A huge man sporting a crewcut and an Uzi came out of a doorway. Vigilante recognized him from the FBI’s Most Wanted list — a sadistic killer, just like most of the men in this building. He fired a shot from his revolver that sported a silencer. Thwppt! The huge man slumped to the ground, never knowing what hit him.
Vigilante moved further into the headquarters, taking in his surroundings. He looked in a room when he heard a television blare. No one was there. When he spotted a Nazi flag decorating one wall, he jerked it down in disgust. Where is everybody? he thought to himself as he moved further into the compound. Something obviously had everyone’s attention. Only one guard in a place this size was unusual; there should have been at least a few people going about the day-to-day business of running a white supremacist terrorist cell.
Something apparently had most of the hate group’s thugs occupied. He could hear voices the farther he went. They were cruel voices, taunting and shouting at who ever it was they had gotten their hands on. It sounded like the scumbags were having a real party.
The Vigilante crept up silently, moving in for a closer look. He couldn’t simply peer in the door, so he looked around for a safe vantage point. He spotted a place where it looked as if someone had driven his fist through a wall, so he peered through the hole for a glimpse of what was happening in the next room.
The room was filled with skinheads swilling down beer and basically raising hell. They were all cheering and gesturing to whatever was taking place in the center of the room. Vigilante was almost afraid to see what was happening, but the crowd began to part, giving him a better view of the proceedings.
“All right! All right! Quiet down, everyone!” an unseen voice commanded. “Buford, carry on!”
A large man with tattooed arms and a shaved head walked into view. “Are you seriously gonna sit there and try to tell me that ain’t an alien?” the large skinhead said, pacing in front of a ragged group of meta-humans. Vigilante recognized them from news reports as the Hybrid. His question appeared to be directed to a blue-skinned man, Pteradon, who was chained to a chair. His head was a strange, oblong shape, and his wings were pinned painfully behind him. “Answer me, you blue-skinned, winged freak!” He backhanded the winged captive, jarring his head roughly to the left and splitting his lip.
“Kush meer in tokhes,” the winged man spat.
The room grew silent. “What’d you say to me, freak-boy?” the large, tattooed skinhead said.
“He’s a Jew,” someone gasped. A round of, “Jew! Jew! Jew!” went through the crowd.
“He ain’t no Jew!” Buford shouted over the crowd, quieting them. “He’s a damn dirty alien!” His arm swept the group of captives: the blue-skinned winged man, two normal-looking women, a yellow-skinned woman, and a purple-skinned man who appeared to be bleeding profusely from several wounds on his scalp. “They’re all a bunch of dirty damn aliens!”
“This’n sure was,” a scrawny skinhead in camouflage pants and suspenders said, gesturing with a bowie knife to the purple-skinned man who lay slumped forward in the chair he was chained to. “Just look what he did to poor Bobby.” Everyone’s gaze drifted to a stone skinhead who was locked into a permanent expression of terror. “He don’t seem ta be able to turn nobody to stone, now that that all of them snakes’ve been cut off o’ his head, though!”
“How many aliens you know speak Yiddish?” someone else in the crowd said.
“It’s one of their damn alien tricks!” Buford said.
“Maybe you’re both right,” said a voice from out of view. Vigilante watched as the owner of the voice walked into view. He was a middle-aged man who walked with a cane.
“I don’t follow,” Buford said.
“I think we’ve stumbled on something much bigger here,” the middle-aged man said. “We all know the Jews control the media. I bet they’re only reporting part of the story. This invasion is actually the work of the Jews — because they’re aliens and always have been! That’s what the great Führer was trying to protect us from all along. And they killed him for it!”
This drew a chorus of enthusiastic shouts from the crowd. “But we’re onto them now. Ain’t we, boys?” the middle-aged man said, straightening as he talked. He drew even more enthusiastic shouting from his young throng of followers. “We’re not gonna let the mongrel races from outer space lull us into sitting idly by while they take over our world!”
“Hell, no!” came the cry from his audience as they hung on his every word.
“Mishugena,” the winged alien said, shaking his head.
“Pteradon,” the normal-looking woman next to the bleeding purple man cautioned.
“What did you say?” the middle-aged man said.
“You think you scare me?” the blue-skinned man said. “Gayn cackn ofn yam!”
“I dunno what he just said, but it don’t sound good,” Buford said.
“How would you like us to do to your wings what we did to your friend’s unholy hairdo?” the middle-aged man threatened.
“Leave Pteradon alone, you fat tub of guts!” spat the younger of the normal-looking women, known as Touch-N-Go. “You wouldn’t be so tough if Prometheus and Behemoth hadn’t gotten abducted!”
“The beaner’s got a mouth on her,” Buford said.
“Beaner?” the middle-aged man said. “I thought you said they were nothing but stinking aliens and not mongrel races?”
“And I thought you said they were both,” Buford said.
The middle-aged man walked over and grabbed ahold of her headband and pulled it down to Touch-N-Go’s neck. He looped a section of broom-handle one of the skinheads used in riots and began to tighten it around her neck. “I’m through with playing games. I want answers! You’ll tell me what your alien masters’ plans are, or you’ll watch this alien bitch die!”
“We don’t know anything,” the older woman said. “We already told you!”
“Kiss your little friend goodbye, then!” the man said, tightening the garrote on Touch-N-Go’s neck.
Suddenly, Vigilante burst into the room and fired a shot into the middle-aged man’s hand, causing him to let go of the broom handle. Touch-N-Go fell to the ground, chair and all, coughing furiously.
The middle-aged man grabbed his hand, grimacing in pain, and shouted, “Get him!”
Vigilante dived behind a sofa, hefted up the gun he had lifted off the guard, and fired a round at the charging skinheads, dropping them like flies. Those that survived jumped out of windows or ran out the back door.
The middle-aged man soon found himself alone.
Vigilante walked up to the man. He had his cane raised as if he meant to fend him off with it. Vigilante raised the Uzi and hit him with the butt of it, knocking him unconscious. After a brief search, Vigilante found the keys to the locks that held them chained to their chairs. “So what’s your story?” he asked them.
“We were trying to help innocent bystanders from being hurt when the aliens attacked,” said the yellow-skinned female, whose codename he learned was Scirocco. “But they turned on us. They assumed we were aliens as well. That’s when the Phantom Empire managed to get ahold of us. They kept us so drugged up that we couldn’t use our powers to escape.”
“Our two most powerful members were abducted by the invaders,” Touch-N-Go said. “Otherwise we would’a been able to take them!”
Harpi leaned over the prone form of the purple-skinned man known as Gorgon and said, “We have to help him! We’ve got to get my husband to a hospital!”
Vigilante removed a glove, leaned down, and felt his neck. There was no pulse. The man had bled to death. “I’m sorry. I’m afraid there’s nothing we can do for him. He’s dead.”
The woman pulled the still form of her husband to her and sobbed. The others looked down sadly.
“What will you do now?” Vigilante asked them.
“I’m going back to Israel,” Pteradon said. “With all that is happening, my country needs me. The Hybrid died with Gorgon.” He opened the door and took to the skies.
Vigilante looked back as the Greek woman continued to sob, cradling her husband in her arms. The other two sought to comfort her, but she was inconsolable.
Since the day the spirits of the wrongfully slain had chosen a spoiled, rich man’s son as their champion, Adrian Chase had made a point of leaving the earth-shaking events to the big guns like Superman and the Justice League of America to concentrate on the street. Occasionally, those big events had a way of way of filtering down to where he operated. When it did, it wasn’t always pretty. But this time, it seemed even uglier than usual.
From various points on the Earth’s surface, alien crafts lifted into the sky and rocketed toward the upper atmosphere. While this sight wasn’t uncommon in the recent weeks, this time things were a bit different.
Manning the controls and seated in back weren’t alien forces returning to base after an exhaustive battle crushing the lives and spirits of the Earth people. No, these ships were occupied by some of the world’s greatest super-heroes, ready to take the battle to the aliens.
“Thanagar-One to Darkstar-One,” Hawkwoman said from their ship as her husband piloted the craft. She used the special frequency-scrambler to disguise the broadcast as so much noise. Only the other ships in the attack armada were able to match the changing cycles. “Are you ready?”
“Copy that, Shayera!” said Hal Jordan on the other end. “Just as soon as we clear the atmosphere and break away, we’re off to Oa! Hopefully, given Warworld’s position, we’ll be able to slip by past the dark side of the Moon.”
“Good luck and godspeed!” Hawkwoman replied.
Sitting next to Hal Jordan in the cockpit of his ship, a dark-skinned man smiled. “God speed is right,” John Stewart said. He glanced back at the small crew assembled in their ship. It included the rest of the Earthbound Green Lantern Corps whose power rings were burned out; they now dressed in the black and red Darkstar uniform the group had adopted. The dark-skinned Valura Tur-Thol of Rokyn was the only one still dressed in a traditional Green Lantern uniform; the Kryptonian conversed with the red-skinned Katma Tui.
“We’ll get to Oa this time,” Hal said firmly as he piloted the ship. “Thanks to a little help. You ready to go back there?”
A blond-haired man with perfect features dressed in white stood from his seat between Green Arrow and Black Canary and moved easily toward the front of the ship despite the weightlessness of space. “Indeed I am,” said Lightray of New Genesis. “Just say the word, and we’ll have you in a Boom Tube straight to Oa. Right, Mother Box?”
A little device attached to his belt pinged in a melodic way. The amazing technology was light-years ahead of anything Hal Jordan had seen, and he was glad to have it on their side.
Batman sat in the cockpit of another ship piloted by Cyborg. “How are we doing?” he asked the young New Titan.
“Just fine, just fine,” the half-man, half-machine replied. “Once I got a handle on these alien systems, it was easy enough to interface with them. Like hot-wiring a Chevy.”
“Good, Victor,” the Caped Crusader said. Nightwing had spoken highly of Victor Stone, and Batman could see why. He suddenly put his hand to his ear and then adjusted the knobs on the panel before him.
“Problem?” Cyborg asked.
“Not with our fleet,” Batman said, his expression turning quite a bit more serious. “But I’ve picked up a stray transmission from the alien vessels. Something about transporting more prisoners — to Pluto!”
“You think that’s where they’ve got the kidnapped people from Earth?”
“Its possible, Cyborg.” Batman glanced to the back section. Those on his ship were Supergirl, the Atom, Mister Miracle, Katana, Metamorpho, Ice, Thunderlord, the Metal Men, and Hawk and Dove. He did some quick thinking in his head; it was a small group, but it would have to do.
Batman turned back to the communications systems and switched to their special frequency. “Gotham-One to Metropolis-One!”
“We read you, Batman,” the voice of Superwoman said on the other end. “What’s wrong?”
“Superwoman, tell Superman I’m taking my ship out of formation!”
“Why?” It was the voice of his old friend. “What’s wrong?”
“I’ve got a lead on the kidnapped people of Earth,” Batman said. “We’ve got to head to the edge of our solar system to rescue them if we can!”
“Do you need more support?”
“No. The primary focus has to be Warworld! You need all the big guns for that! You just clean up the major threat first. We’ll go sniff about Mickey Mouse’s pet.”
“Roger that! Good luck, Batman!”
Batman ended the transmission, thinking they just might need it.