High above the Earth in the JLA Satellite, a somber gathering was taking place.
“I simply can’t believe it! A whole building, pamf! Gone, right before his eyes.”
“Sshhh, Ollie, he’ll hear you,” said Black Canary.
“I could whisper it on the Moon, pretty bird, and he’d still be likely to hear me.” Green Arrow saw the look on his lover’s face, and his tone softened. “All right, I’ll keep my mouth shut.”
“It had to have been some type of particle beam that instantly broke apart the molecular bonds of the building and everything in it,” suggested J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter.
“Sure, but then why did it manage to destroy just the building, and not the ground beneath it, or even the sidewalks around it? I mean, I know I’m not real strong on this stuff, but it seems like it would have had to create some type of chain reaction for that narrow beam to have wiped out something that big.” Firestorm paused to catch his breath. “So why didn’t the chain reaction continue on to other matter that was connected?”
“Ronald, that was an impressive bit of theoretical reasoning. You’ve been paying attention,” came a voice inside the young hero’s head.
Echoing the sentiments of Professor Martin Stein, the second Flash — Wally West, student of physics — considered the idea offered by the younger man. “You raise an interesting point, Firestorm. Most chain reactions continue until there is some external event that stops them. That, or they reach a critical mass where the reaction runs out of control, usually with even more disastrous results. Thankfully, it didn’t reach that stage in Metropolis.”
Throughout the JLA Satellite, video monitors played and replayed the scene of the Daily Planet Building’s destruction. Digital enhancement circuits were called into play, enlarging specific elements of the recording, clarifying them, and providing a better view for those seeking clues to the nature of MadFire’s destructive power.
Elsewhere within the orbiting headquarters, Nightwing and Robin walked together, the older hero acting as a tour guide for the younger.
“Shouldn’t you be helping them analyze those tapes that Alfred sent up, Dick?”
“No. The way I’m feeling now, I can’t pay attention to the details of those tapes well enough to be any help.” Nightwing ushered his young charge into yet another room. “This is the monitor and communications center. All of the video signals are being fed through here, even as fresh video and data streams are sent up from locations all over Earth. The computers monitor the information feeds for key words and images, and sound an alert if it seems like trouble.”
“What’s the board over here with all the cities listed? Calls for help?”
“That’s the status board for the teleporter system. Each light represents one teleport station. That’s why there are three lights for Gotham, four for Los Angeles, and three for–” The New Titan stopped in mid-sentence. His young counterpart started to question him, then realized what was wrong.
“Dick, all of the Metropolis tubes are showing green. But didn’t you tell me before, that one of them was on the Daily Planet Building?”
“It is, Jason. And it’s still down there somewhere, and there’s power to run it!”
Moments after Nightwing and Robin realized that the JLA transporter on the roof of the Daily Planet was still operational, the communications center of the Justice League satellite was filled with heroes, all talking at once.
“There has to be some way to trace the signal!”
“Where’s Hawkman? Surely he can trace the signals of his own technology?”
“I’m not sure. He called in and said he’d be here shortly, though.”
“What are we waiting for? Why don’t we just use the teleporter and beam ourselves there?”
“I think Superman is trying to select the right pairs of people to go. The tubes only handle two at a time.”
“OK, here’s how we’ll play it: J’onn and I will go in first, followed by Wonder Woman and Firestorm.” Across the room, Nubia nodded her approval, looking over at the young man who would be accompanying her. “Green Lantern, you will trace our signals and lead everyone else in.” Superman glanced over at the emerald gladiator and saw agreement in his eyes. “Now, whoever managed to steal away that building has several dozen hostages at their disposal, and their safety is paramount. Understood?”
Every single head in the room nodded agreement.
“We don’t know what we’re going to be facing down there, so keep your eyes open. Now, let’s head down to the main transporter room.”
As the other heroes discussed how to take advantage of this new discovery, Robin was elsewhere, studying the videotapes of the Daily Planet’s apparent destruction.
“Let’s see, feed this into the video digitizer, run it through a synchronization filter, step the playback speed down to two frames per second, let the Cray do an inter-frame interpolation to fill in the gaps so we have a regular thirty-frame-per-second playback, and we can literally see what’s happening each split second.” His fingers danced over keyboard and videotape shuttle controls, until he leaned back in the chair and laced his fingers behind his head. “That will take a couple minutes to process. I wonder what everyone else is up to?”
Minutes later, Robin surveyed the results of his computer enhancement. “Whoa, dude! I gotta tell the others about this!”
He took off at a sprint through the corridors of the satellite.
“Let’s get this show on the road, J’onn.”
“Batman, engage the transporter at–“
“Wait! Don’t go down there!” Robin flung himself through the crowd of heroes, shoving them out of the way as he dived for the control panel of the transporter. “You’ve got to see this first!” He quickly typed in a series of codes on the communication screen at the control panel, so that his enhanced video played back on it.
Batman was the first to spot it. “He didn’t destroy the building — he shrank it.”
“Great Scott!” said Superman, coming over to view the tape for himself. “Incredible! First the building shrinks down, and then it disappears, to be replaced by a full-sized copy.”
“The copy is painted to look like the original, but there are no reflections, and the surface is grainy, as if made of sand or something similar,” added the Martian Manhunter.
The Flash added his own observation. “Of course! By directing a charged beam at a low-density construct, MadFire was able to disintegrate it without affecting anything around it!”
“Does it matter how the building was taken? Surely there is no need to change our battle plan! Let us commence the attack immediately!” cried Wonder Woman.
“No, Nubia, this changes things. We have no way of knowing if the teleporter can compensate for the difference in size.” Green Lantern projected a holographic image of a teleporter cabinet for all to see. “If we send anybody into that cabinet, they might materialize at their normal size.” Powered by his imagination, the green-hued cabinet glowed and suddenly exploded outward as figures of Superman and J’onn J’onzz appeared, twenty feet tall. “We might very well kill everybody in the shrunken building. Unfortunately, Ray Palmer has been missing for quite a while now, or he would be able to beam in there himself as the Atom.”
“How about you, J’onn? You could shape-shift down to a size that would be safe, couldn’t you?” asked Batman.
“No, even I must maintain a certain minimum mass.”
“I think I know somebody,” said Robin. “Nightwing, Flash, what say we give Changeling a call?”
Gar Logan looked around at the heroes gathered in the JLA Satellite. In addition to the Justice League, most of the New Titans had joined the force preparing to recover the lost Daily Planet Building.
“So, you understand what you’re to do, right, Changeling?”
“Um, yeah… I mean, yes, sir, Batman!” said the anxious teen, more aware of the intense stare of the Darknight Detective than of the dozens of others observing him. “I’ll change into a dust mite in the teleporter cabinet, teleport into the cabinet on the roof of the Planet, check my size relative to my surroundings, then activate one of two radio beacons on my belt. Beacon A will signal that I came through without shrinking; Beacon B will indicate that the teleporter shrank me to match the scale of the Planet Building. I’m to move away from the cabinet, into the building, as fast as I can, and try to find Jimmy Olsen. I’ll give him the gingold vial that Elongated Man has provided and the Elastic Lad costume that is tucked in my costume.”
“Good. Any extra assistance we can get in there when we attack will help.”
Near the back of the crowd, Artemis leaned over to whisper to Nightwing, “Great Hera, Dick! I’ve never seen Gar answer a question so straight before!”
Nightwing smiled. “Batman has that effect on people.”
Batman spoke up. “As many of you already know, we have made a change in the plan due to the addition of the New Titans to the strike force. Green Lantern will still transport most of the team, but Raven has also offered to teleport a group in as soon as we have ascertained the location.” He glanced at the young empath, a noticeable flicker of uncertainty in his eyes. “Any of you who feel comfortable with this mode of transportation, please assemble in the next room so she can select those whom she feels she can safely take with her.” Raven turned and walked from the room, followed by the Flash, Artemis, Nightwing, Steel, and the Elongated Man.
“Very well,” said Superman. “Now, if Changeling tells us that we can safely use the teleporter, we’ll follow the same sequence that we originally planned. If not, Green Lantern will have to get us there as quickly as possible. I, for one, will teleport with Raven if we cannot use our own system. Anybody else?” J’onn J’onzz shook his head; Nubia and Firestorm nodded in assent. “I understand, J’onn. You will join us under your own power.”
“That’s it, then. Ready, Changeling?” Batman’s finger poised above the controls for the teleporter. Changeling seemed to disappear, before his voice came over the communication circuit.
Batman pressed his finger against a control button. The cabinet hummed and glowed for a moment, then fell dark and silent.