by JSAGL and Starsky Hutch 76
The JLA Bunker, Detroit:
“Penny for your thoughts?”
“Hmm?” Hank Heywood turned around to see Dale Gunn, the caretaker of the Bunker, current headquarters of the Justice League of America, approaching him. “Oh, morning, Dale. I was just thinking about everything that’s happened — the Crisis, Grandfather disappearing, Vibe, Vixen, and Gypsy just–”
Dale Gunn put his arm around Hank. He could see how this was tearing him up. “It’s OK, son. You can say it. They’re dead — probably killed by that antimatter that killed so many others. At least they died like they lived, as heroes.”
“Yeah, I suppose,” replied the young man, whose called himself Steel after his grandfather. A lot of good people had died during the Crisis on Infinite Earths. After a moment’s pause, he shook the thought from his mind and asked, “So where’s everyone else?”
“Well, Sue took Ralph out to shop,” said Dale, speaking of Ralph and Sue Dibny, the Elongated Man and his wife. “We’re kind of low on supplies at the moment. And J’onn is still in the monitor room.”
“Still? He went in there two days ago.”
The monitor room:
“No, I understand, Kal. Is there anything I can do to help?”
The image on the view screen looked back at him with weary eyes. J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter, had never seen Superman look this tired or defeated. Just weeks ago, the kryptonite asteroid upon which Argo City of Krypton once existed was thrown into Metropolis by a vengeful Mr. Mxyzptlk. Superman managed to break it into millions of much-smaller pieces, but that left Metropolis contaminated with particles of green kryptonite. If it had not been for the fact that much of Argo City was made up of anti-kryptonite, which affects non-powered Kryptonians but does not affect super-powered Kryptonians, Superman might not have been able to accomplish what he had. As it was, it would take a long time and a great deal of work to free Metropolis of kryptonite. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Phantom Zone: The Final Chapter,” DC Comics Presents #97 (September 1986).]
Managing a weak smile, Superman replied, “I appreciate the offer, J’onn, but we’ve got it under control. Hal’s had the Corps out here for a few days, and I think we’ve got the worst of it done. The worst of the kryptonite radiation has been all but eliminated, and thanks to a suit that Hawkman made for me, I’m doing all right. You concentrate on rebuilding the League. I can’t join you right now, but if you ever truly need me, I’ll be there for you. Superman out.”
J’onn looked at his notepad. It was not encouraging.
- Aquaman — rebuilding Atlantis.
- Atom — lost in the wilds of South America.
- Batman — rebuilding Gotham City, and still busy with the Outsiders.
- Black Canary and Green Arrow — not sure at this point.
- Firestorm — not sure.
- Flash — deceased.
- Green Lantern — too many responsibilities with his Earth-bound Corps.
- Hawkman and Hawkwoman — assisting with the rebuilding of Metropolis.
- Red Tornado — MIA since the Crisis.
- Superman — rebuilding Metropolis.
- Wonder Woman — deceased?
- Zatanna — in mourning after her father’s death.
Dunking an Oreo cookie in his milk, J’onn sat back in his chair. He had received a brief message from the Justice Society of America of Earth-Two just after the Crisis on Infinite Earths, but all further transmissions were unsuccessful. (*) At some point, he thought, I’ll have to get back up to the satellite and see if I can salvage the Transmatter Cube. The JLA and the JSA had used the device for years to travel between their parallel universes.
[(*) Editor’s note: See DC Universe: Crawling from the Wreckage, Book 1, Chapter 1: Retirement.]
So the League consists of three, now — myself, Steel and Ralph. H’ronmeer preserve us. That’s just not good enough. J’onn held up a picture of Gypsy, whom he thought of as a daughter, and whom he realized must now be dead. Vibe, Vixen, Gypsy, Barry, Diana, and Supergirl had all died on his watch. Was it even worth it to rebuild the League? How many more deaths must be on my conscience?
J’onn clicked the monitor off. Silently he rose, walking down the hall. Time to sleep, he thought, and dream of red sands and silent stars.
“Hank, there are some other things that we need to discuss.”
Looking up from his breakfast, Hank Heywood asked, “Like what?”
Dale Gunn sat down next to the young man whom he considered a son. “With the old man missing and presumed dead…”
“We don’t know that, Dale. He had Mekanique with him. She could have saved him.”
“Hank, listen to me. The old bastard is gone, and that leaves some important things unattended, such as your grandfather’s business — and his estate. With him gone, it’s all yours.”
Standing up and walking across the room, Hank muttered, “Like I really care.”
“Hank, besides his business interests, your grandfather was a very wealthy man. The estate he left you is considerable.”
“Your grandfather’s personal assets are over five million dollars.”
Hank Heywood’s jaw dropped.
New York City:
“Sir, your ten-o’clock appointment is here.”
“Miss Wootenhoffer, it’s twelve noon. Tell him he’ll have to wait.”
Suddenly, the office door exploded inward in an infusion of emerald light. “Hey, pal, you asked me here, so now you’re gonna see me.”
The man behind the desk showed no sign of anger; instead, a broad smile crossed his lips. Another man was sitting in front of the desk, not quite sure what to make of it all.
“Mr. Gardner, how wonderful to have you here. Please, come in, have a seat,” he said, adding under his breath, “as long as you don’t break it, too.”
Guy pointed to the other man. “Who’s this geek?”
“Ah, yes, it seems that one of us is forgetting his manners.”
Guy looked at the man behind the desk. “Was that some sort of crack?”
The insufferable snake-oil salesman smiled again. “Guy Gardner, meet Ted Kord. Ted, meet Guy Gardner, the one, true Green Lantern.”
“Hmm. I’m starting to like this jerk. So, who you supposed to be, Ted? Nerdman or something?”
“Actually, Guy, we’re here to discuss who you‘re supposed to be.”
Looking suspicious, Guy grabbed the snake-oil salesman, his power ring underneath the man’s chin. “Let’s start with you, wise guy. Who the hell are you?”
Extricating himself from Guy’s grasp, the man straightened his tie and suit. “The name, Mr. Gardner, is Maxwell Lord. And I have a proposition for you.”
The JLA Bunker:
J’onn J’onzz awoke from his nap and walked to the hangar where he saw Hank Heywood staring outside, upward into the sky. “How are you doing, Hank?” he asked with concern. The young man had been through so much lately.
“I guess you heard I inherited my grandfather’s fortune.”
J’onn replied, “I had heard something on this matter, yes.”
“I’ve been doing a lot of thinking,” Hank said. “A lot’s happened here. This place holds a lot of memories for me. Not all of them good. Some pretty painful, in fact.”
“If you feel you need to take some time off, or leave altogether, I’ll understand,” J’onn said.
“No, it’s not that. I’m more committed to the League than ever. But I think it’s time the League went back — up there,” Hank said, pointing up to the sky.
New York City:
“Thanks to the Crisis, the Justice League is in shambles,” Maxwell Lord said. “Most of its members are either dead or missing. Even its current benefactor is missing, and a kid who hasn’t even been shaving all that long is running the show. I give that company a year.”
“Tell me something I don’t know,” Guy Gardner said, making Ted Kord chuckle.
“It’s time for a new team — one to show the world what a real team can do. I’d like you and Ted to head up this group. After you gentlemen make the scene, the JLA will seem like ancient history.”
“I like your style, Max,” Guy Gardner said. “I’d be happy to lead this little shindig of yours.”
“I don’t know about this,” Ted Kord said, running a hand through his shaggy head of hair.
“Trust me,” Maxwell Lord said, frowning and holding one hand up briefly to his nose. “I knew your father, and I know you. You’re no desk jockey.”
“Huh. You’ve got that right,” Ted Kord said, suddenly making up his mind. “I guess I’ll give it a try.”
“Great,” Maxwell said, rising out of his chair and extending his hand. “Welcome to the Conglomerate.”