Justice League of America: 1983: When Comes the Conqueror, Chapter 4: From Here to Eterno

by Libbylawrence

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The South American hero named Bushmaster led Batman to a window in the skyscraper at the heart of Caracas, Venezuela, in which the scientist lived and worked. The two men gazed down upon a city in crisis. “My friend, you come at a fortunate moment,” began Bushmaster. “I could well use any help you might offer. Doctor Mist alerted me to a real threat and told me to expect help from your esteemed League. I wish this beleaguered country had such a force for good.

“You see before you a city full of crime, homelessness, ignorance, vice, poverty, and corruption,” he continued. “The problems that are common to all urban areas are exacerbated here because the government is in flux. The elections due to be held this year hold little hope for positive change. The traffic jams are major problems, because there was no planning for the expansion and development of the city’s means of transportation. Over three hundred battered old buses still carry people around the city, and most industrial bases are now located outside the area in the nearby cities of Guarenas or Guatire. Homeless youths roam the streets, and many turn to crime. I am a man with many burdens, and this latest crisis is but one more weight I must carry for my poor people!”

“Perhaps your allies in the Global Guardians could assist you,” suggested Batman. “My Justice League friends and I have all helped out in one another’s bases from time to time. I will help you if I can. I know a wealthy American who might be willing to finance an agency for social improvement here.”

“Thank you, amigo,” said Bushmaster. “I do not mean to sound like such a defeatist. In truth, the crusade is one I embrace. I will fight for my country and do so as one man alone if necessary.”

“Bushmaster, I understand you feel that you are personally the target of this scheme by the Conqueror,” said Batman. “You work here as Bernal Rojas, an expert in the fields of robotics, bionics, and something of a naturalist, correct?” He had recalled what his allies the Knight and the Squire of the United Kingdom had told him when they first teamed up with Bushmaster during the formation of the Global Guardians. (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See Secret Origins: The Global Guardians: Times Past, 1982: Heroes of the World, Unite! Chapter 5: Moonlight Serenade.]

Bushmaster smiled and said, “Si. I am a man with many interests. It was the love of nature that led me to try to duplicate the abilities of the many reptiles and amphibians of the world through use of robotics or bionics. As Bernal Rojas, I own this lab and am rather well-known here for my interests, although as you say, my identity is a secret to the public.”

“I see an alarm light!” said Batman. “Your home is being invaded from above!”

Bushmaster turned to see the blinking light, and he cried out, “You are right! But what type of threat strikes from the sky itself?

“An all-too familiar one, although I’m surprised to see him in this part of the world,” said Batman, pointing to where a portly man in a black tuxedo and top hat was descending from a huge blimp hovering overhead. The criminal known as the Penguin used one of his trademark umbrellas to slow his descent. “Penguin!” said Batman as he reached the top of the building. “I suppose you think working for a would-be world-beater is a step up?”

The Penguin grinned and laughed, “Waugh, waugh, waugh! It pays to have friends in high places, don’t you know? Or do you ever mingle with anyone who actually likes to leave the Batcave?” He landed with surprising grace and raised the umbrella until it was aimed directly at Batman’s chest.

Batman whirled one of the bat-shaped projectiles he called batarangs at the weapon and kept moving even as the umbrella was knocked away from the Penguin’s hand.

“Allow me to bring down this foul fowl!” said Bushmaster, firing a small gun but frowning as the Penguin deflected the projectile with another rapidly produced extending and spinning umbrella. “He’s skillful, all right! That odd little man countered my venom-gun entirely!”

“Odd little man, eh?” remarked the Penguin. “Ironic words from a gentleman who dresses like a overgrown worm!

Batman rolled across the roof and tackled the Penguin, but his attack came seconds too late, for the bird bandit’s gang above had released two weapons of their own from the hovering blimp.

Bushmaster and Batman found themselves caught in bands of metal that wrapped around their chests and held them tight. “Waugh! My fine feathered fiends are skilled marksmen. Not even you can escape from the coils if you can’t reach your infernal utility belt!” said Penguin as he saluted his gang with a twirl of his raised umbrella.

“Can’t reach my belt, but I still suspect there’s a way out,” said Batman.

Bushmaster grinned and said, “Right! Just like so!” He suddenly flexed, and the metal band shattered as his exo-skeletal costume expanded rapidly. He darted forward and used his now-free hand to slice Batman free of the binding coils.

The duo moved rapidly, and as Bushmaster made his way to attack the gang in the blimp, Batman swung down to crash into a window and confront the Penguin as he pilfered the bionics lab below. “Game’s over, Penguin!” he said as he hurled a magnesium pellet at him and then knocked the dazzled crook across the room as the blinded Penguin rubbed helplessly at his eyes.

Confound you! You unman me, sir! How can a blind bird fight a brutal bat?” he said before falling to the ground in defeat.

Meanwhile, Bushmaster had scaled the blimp via suction cups that matched the clinging abilities of some lizards and then entered by blasting open the cabin door via his venom-gun. He used his heightened senses to locate the three-man crew, then calmly charged into battle and allowed their gunfire to bounce off his protective, terrapin-like costume.

Bushmaster dropped one crook with a blast from his gun and then grabbed the other two by extending his reach like some lizards with stretching talents. He slammed their heads together and nodded in approval as they fall flat.

Batman waved to him from below as he piloted the blimp to a landing and signaled to his friend that all was well. But he frowned as he thought about the problems the solo hero faced in his crime-laden home. Bushmaster is a good man, he thought. Seeing his plight makes me all the more thankful to have occasional help from Robin, Batgirl, Superman, and the JLA.

As he pondered the situation, he and his ally were also drawn away by the power of Doctor Mist.

***

The JLAers and their Global Guardian allies all found themselves drawn away from their victories to a city well-known to most of the Americans. “Metropolis!” said Superman, recognizing his home base. “Great Krypton! Why has he brought us back here? Is this where we’ll find the Conqueror?”

Batman shook his head, moving closer to his old friend. “Not the Conqueror, old chum, but one of his toys,” he said, pointing to where a massive figure loomed into view as it approached from above.

The being was obviously robotic in nature and had an orange coloration. The robot’s face — for it possessed something of a humanoid-looking face — was oddly expressive, and the emotions it displayed were anger and hate.

“Eterno the Immortal!” Superman said, astonished. “I thought I’d seen the last of that powerhouse years ago!” (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See “Eterno the Immortal,” Action Comics #343 (November, 1966).]

“It’s a good thing Doctor Mist healed my wounds,” said Aquaman. “We’re going to need all our strengths to handle that monster!”

“Superman, I’ve never heard of Eterno,” said Wonder Woman. “What is it?”

The Man of Steel was about to reply, but the huge robot spoke first. “I am Eterno the Immortal! I am the greatest creation of the mighty race called the Xan. Those beings were the ancient rulers of this pitiful orb. The Xan lived a billion years ago, and all their glory died with them except for me. I alone survived due to the fact that the lethal space poison that eliminated my creators could not harm a synthetic being. I survived until enemies of the Superman revived me and attempted to use me as a pawn in their plans of revenge upon him and his kind!”

“By Zeus!” said the Olympian. “Due to our efforts, the Conqueror’s minions failed to assemble another such robot, but apparently he had a spare!

“Or perhaps we were all on a wild goose chase this whole time,” suggested Fleur-de-Lis.

“Doctor Mist would have known better than that, wouldn’t he?” said Green Arrow. “Or he is another big talker without the skill to back up his words?”

“Well,” said Little Mermaid determinedly, “we’re not going to let him conquer this city any more than Superman would stand by and watch him dominate our homes!” She flew into the sky directly at the robot. It was clear to Aquaman that the spunky girl wanted to prove something, if not to him than to herself after her trouble with Grendel.

Aquaman tried to grab her, but she was moving too fast for the sea king. Before the blonde youth could reach Eterno, the robot swatted out at her like a giant dismissing a gnat from the sky in a gesture of disdain, but he failed to make contact. Wonder Woman had already dived forward and snared the flying girl in her magic lasso, pulling her to safety out of the reach of the giant’s hand.

“Thank you! He could have crushed me!” gasped Ulla Påske as Wonder Woman helped her step away from the battle for a moment.

“Don’t thank me,” said Wonder Woman. “Thank Artemis for guiding my aim.”

“That walking transistor on steroids needs to be taken down, fast!” said Green Arrow.

Fleur-de-Lis said, “So use your giant robot arrow, oui?”

Green Arrow ignored her jest as he fired three shafts into the air, then nodded as the wires wrapped around the robot’s leg. “Let’s see how he stands up to a high-voltage pedicure!” he said.

Eterno glanced down as electrical current surged into him from the wires, but he merely ripped them aside and fired a red beam directly at the heroes.

“Those destructo beams can stun even me!” said Superman as he hurled himself between the others. The beam hit the Man of Steel, and he collapsed as Batman tried to carry his friend to a safer location.

“We need to get the area clear!” cried Aquaman. “There are innocents around!”

“I think we might be too late!” said Fleur-de-Lis. Then the French beauty jumped off the roof and flipped through the air until she hit a hanging awning and bounced off it to soar across the street. She managed to grab and carry a fallen woman to safety seconds before rubble cascaded down from the robot’s steady march.

The woman wept and said, “Thank you! Thank you so much!

Fleur smiled and said, “You are welcome. Now get to safety!”

Batman, Green Arrow, and Bushmaster were helping to evacuate a burning building as Wonder Woman hurled her gleaming tiara at the robot’s red eye sensor, shaking her head as her weapon managed to do nothing more than bounce off the creature. “Hera help me — what can stop him?” she cried.

“Where’s Doctor Mist?” yelled Green Arrow. “This is his mess, and he should be here to help clean it up! What kind of heartless creep is he, anyway?”

As a weary Bushmaster emerged from the flames, he said, “What can one man do against such a giant? My weapons are useless, but perhaps my knowledge of robotics may help! Is there some way of interrupting his power source?”

Superman shook his head as he fought to stand unaided. “He has internal power of alien design. The Superman Revenge Squad tried to use him as a weapon, as he said. All of those particular members ended up dying at his hand when he turned on them!”

“I can’t just stand here and let him kill people!” said Godiva, flying higher with her hair in the form of wings. She then called out to the giant, “‘Ello, Luv. Would you fancy ‘avin’ a nice cold shower?” She used her hardened hair to smash a water tower’s already weakened supports until the tower fell directly over the huge robot.

Eterno the Immortal ignored the waters and the rubble and aimed another ray beam at the British beauty. She was carried to safety by the flying Olympian, who said, “Never fear, fair lady — the speed of Euphemos will serve to remove you from his beams!” Indeed, the super-fast hero from Greece managed to avoid the destructo beams in the nick of time.

Godiva smiled and said, “Thank you. Remind me to give you a buss on the cheek later on!”

“I know how to stop him, but it’s not going to be easy,” explained Superman. “The last time he was beaten, the Revenge Squad encased him in the exact alien substance that had trapped him eons ago when his creators the Xan died out. But even moving at super-speed, I’m not going to be able to gather the necessary ingredients in time to stop him before someone gets hurt!”

A woman with raven-black hair that reached her hips suddenly emerged from the ground, passing directly through the earth without creating any sign of her arrival. No dirt or soil or grass was disturbed. Sitting astride a huge white horse, she wore a golden tunic and sandals with straps that wrapped around her legs and reached each knee. An elaborate torque covered her throat. “Superman, Doctor Mist has sent me to you,” she said in a heavy European accent. “He knows of your plight. My powers will be what is needed. Think of the elements needed for the substance. I will do the rest!”

Superman obeyed as his allies fought to occupy or distract the giant Eterno. Instantly, the woman spread her elegant hands and closed her black eyes. Eterno the Immortal then stiffened like a broken toy as the air around him changed into a glowing blue substance.

“He shall not fall, since I have turned the air into a hardened version of the absorbium,” she said. “He is totally helpless and shall slumber thusly for eternity! I will place him beneath my sacred spot of Sarca, west of Prague. He will not trouble you again. So swears Libuše, the maiden princess of Vyšehrad!

“I’ve… heard of you, but I thought you were a myth,” said Superman. “As I recall, you defended and ruled what we now call Czechoslovakia in ancient times. You had power to move through the ground and all other classical elements, and you could work alchemical magic! That’s how you managed to turn oxygen into the alien substance called absorbium!

The black-haired regal figure nodded and said, “My powers weaken with every moment that I am away from my native soil. Thus, I bid you farewell!” She vanished along with the captive Eterno the Immortal, and Superman turned back to his allies.

“Amazing!” said Wonder Woman. “I suppose Earth has many defenders even our records fail to account for with any accuracy! She reminded me of my sister Amazons.”

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