by JSAGL and Starsky Hutch 76
New York City:
Maxwell Lord reached into his desk and pulled out a file folder. “Gentlemen, your first task for the Conglomerate is a recruitment drive. We need the best and brightest on our team. I’ve got a list of possibilities here. These two are your first assignment.” He handed two glossy photos to Ted and Guy.
“Hubba hubba! Check out the curves on this one,” Guy said, practically drooling over the photo.
Ted looked at his. “Hey, I recognize her. Wasn’t she with that international group — Global something or other?”
Max smiled his oily smile. “The Global Guardians, led by Doctor Mist. The two we’re interested in are–”
Guy slammed his hand down on the table. “Now wait just a friggin’ minute. You said best and brightest. These are some hot babes and all, but get real! We need some big ‘uns — I mean big guns, if we’re gonna be respected — like the Flash or Green Arrow or somebody who used ta be in the League.”
“You leave that to me, Guy. I have a few big names in mind, but these two are essential to my — our plan. You have to think of the big picture.”
“Uh, OK. Yer the boss, Max. What are their names again?”
“Green Flame and Icemaiden.”
The prison planet Takron-Galtos in deep space:
A lone figure crashed up through the ceiling, setting off the alarms. The robot guards attempted to subdue the fleeing felon, but they were quickly destroyed. He rocketed off at an incredible speed, one thought on his mind:
And Despero vanished from the sensors on Takron-Galtos. His destination — Earth.
Wally West, the new Flash — fastest man alive — ran slightly below the speed of sound through the streets of Central City. His mind was in turmoil as it had been ever since Barry Allen, the original Flash, died in the Crisis. He’d tried so hard to live up to the legacy of his uncle, but no matter what he did, he seemed to fall short of that goal.
His friends and teammates in the New Teen Titans tried to tell him that he was too hard on himself. That Barry had years in the uniform he now wore and that he couldn’t expect to be accepted in the role all at once. It did nothing to make him feel better, though.
It didn’t help matters that he’d lost some of his speed in the Crisis when the Anti-Monitor’s blast had cured him of the disease that was bringing him closer to death every time he used his powers. How was he supposed to be accepted as the Flash when he wasn’t even as fast?
The only one he could really talk to was Donna Troy, alias Wonder Girl, since she was now planning to take up the role of Wonder Woman after Diana’s death. Of course, she seemed to be having an easier time of it than he was, although she might just be hiding her grief well. In any case, she had the same spark of nobility that Diana had, and Wally was sure she would make an excellent new Wonder Woman.
He sped past a toy store. In its window was a display of action figures of the JLA. An idea suddenly hit him. He changed direction and began to speed toward Detroit. He hoped his friends in the Titans would be able to understand.
Rio de Janeiro:
The beach — sun, surf, sand, naked bodies. Well, almost naked, all except one. Tora Olafsdotter sat under a large umbrella, her hair covered in a white scarf, sunglasses, and completely covered in a white shirt and pants.
“I cannot believe you dragged me out here, Bea. These people are all naked!”
Looking up from her blanket, Beatriz daCosta, wearing a very small bikini, skin glistening in tanning oil, squinted at her friend from behind her sunglasses. “And your point is? Tora, I brought you out here so you could learn more about my people and my culture. Stop acting like some frigid old lady and live a little.”
“I am not old, and I can’t help being frigid. I’m an ice goddess, remember?”
“Yes, Tora, that’ll really attract a lot of men.” A shadow fell over Bea. “Hey, could you move it, please? You’re blocking my sun.”
“Sorry, I kinda like the view from here.”
Jumping up, Bea put her hand in the man’s face. “Look here, buster, I — hey, wait a minute. I recognize you. You’re that substitute Green Lantern, right?”
His face turning red, Guy Gardner replied, “No, sister, I’m the one, true Green Lantern.”
“OK, so what are you doing here in Rio, blocking my sun?”
“‘Cause you’re Green Flame, and your friend over there is Icemaiden, and I’ve got an invitation for you.”
Tora stood up. “What kind of invitation?”
“To the big leagues, sweetheart. I’m forming a new group to take the place of the now-defunct JLA. You interested?”
Bea looked at Tora. “What do you think?”
“What about Doctor Mist and the others? I mean…”
“Tora, we’re talking about the big time here. Front page news. The Guardians never get that kind of publicity,” Bea said as she turned to Guy. “OK, we’re in.”
“Sweet. Let’s go,” Guy said as he took to the sky, creating a power ring construct to carry Tora and Bea with him.
The planet Rimbor:
Known throughout the galaxy as the place to come to get anything, the traders of Rimbor were going about their daily, if somewhat illegal business. As a ship loaded with SilverAle approached orbit, a small object streaked toward it. The pilot tried to move out of the way, but no luck. The ship exploded upon impact, not even deterring the object for a moment. Despero would not be denied his revenge.
J’onn J’onzz was once again in the monitor room. “Thank you for the information, Batman. Let me know what you find out. J’onzz out.”
“Hey, J’onn!” Ralph Dibny’s head entered the room, a broad smile stretched across the Elongated Man’s face.
“Good afternoon, Ralph,” said the Martian Manhunter. “What seems to be the matter?”
“Nothing, actually. I just came to cheer you up.”
Smiling weakly, J’onn replied, “Ralph, I appreciate the gesture, but…”
“Ralph had something a little more substantial in mind than humor, J’onn.”
As the Elongated Man’s body entered the room, it was accompanied by none other than a very familiar face.
“So whaddya say, J’onn?” said Ralph, placing one elongated arm around the new Flash’s shoulders. “The kid wants to join up!”
“Perhaps the League is not as moribund as I imagined,” said J’onn, smiling.
The Sharpshooter Cafe, Star City:
Maxwell Lord sat at his table, coffee growing cold. He stared impatiently at his watch, not accustomed to waiting on other people. His attention was diverted by a statuesque redhead who was seated a few tables down. She was wearing a black dress, tight enough to have been painted on.
Watching her for a moment, Max saw her take her sunglasses off. The waitress approached her table as he was interrupted by a voice.
“Put your eyes back in your head, Max. She’s way out of your league.”
Max looked up as Oliver Queen joined him at his table. Max reached out his hand, which Ollie shook. “Glad you could make it, Ollie. It’s been a long time. Too long.”
“And whose fault is that? Once I lost my fortune, you stopped returning my calls. I would say that surprised me, but you never were someone with a lot of depth.”
“Are you ready to order, sir?”
Ollie looked up at the waitress and smiled. “Well, since Max, here, is paying, I’ll have the Lobster Newburg, a baked potato, and a Caesar salad. Coffee, too.”
“Just more coffee for me.”
As the waitress walked away, Ollie looked back at Max. “OK, Lord, I’ll bite. Why’d you ask me here?”
His snake oil salesman smile was at full blast. “Ollie, can’t two old friends just get together and talk about old times? How are things with you and Dinah?”
“Fine. We’re actually considering a move out west to Seattle. But that’s not what you’re here for, Max. What do you want?”
“All right, Ollie, I’ll get to the point. As you know, I’ve been wanting to fund a group like the Justice League for a long time, much as you did secretly all those many years ago. After the recent Crisis, the JLA is in dire straits. Some say on its last legs. I’m forming a new group called the Conglomerate to take the JLA’s place. And I need your help.”
“What? I don’t know how you found out about my funding the JLA when it first started, but there’s nothing I can do for you now. I can barely get by some weeks.”
“That’s not what I mean, Oliver. My new group needs some big name heroes to join it, particularly some former JLAers who can give my new group the legitimacy it needs. I want you and Dinah to join as Green Arrow and Black Canary.”
Ollie just stared at Max for a moment, dumbfounded. “You son of a bitch. When I needed a hand, you turned your back on me, and now you want me to help you? It’ll be a cold friggin’ day in hell before I ever help you legitimize anything.” Standing up from the table, he added, “I’ve suddenly lost my appetite.”
“You know, Oliver, I could leak your little secret to the press.”
“Go ahead. I’ve been thinking of going public, anyway. If a dim-bulb like you can figure it out, anyone can.”
Max watched Ollie leave. That went well, he thought to himself. He then noticed the redhead smiling at him. Max gestured to her to join him, and she did.
“Bad day?” she asked, sitting down.
“Well, it was, until you came over here,” Max said turning on the charm. “Let me order you a drink. Waitress!” Max said, looking over his shoulder.
She touched his arm. “Darling, look at me.”
Max looked at her and smiled. “I’m sorry, I haven’t even introduced myself. I’m Maxwell Lord, and you?”
She looked back at him a hint of worry across her face before she smiled. “L-Lia.”
“Well, Lia, what say we carry this conversation back to my hotel room?” Max said, staring intently into her eyes.
“Your nose is bleeding!” Lia said, looking even more concerned than before.
Max touched under his nose and found blood there. “Oh, God. Will you excuse me?”
As Max departed the table, Lia Briggs pulled a small device out of her purse. “We’ve got a problem, Batman. There’s more to this Maxwell Lord than meets the eye.”
“Head back to base, Looker. You can give me a full report here.”