Justice League of America: Off on a Tangent, Chapter 1: Brains and Pawns

by Libbylawrence

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Captain Comet smiled as his pretty cousin Zinda Blake, the pilot known as Lady Blackhawk, executed a perfectly steered roll in his skimmer. “You’ve taken to flying the skimmer as well as you ever did conventional planes,” he said.

Lady Blackhawk smiled back and said, “I had a great teacher!”

Comet then frowned as a sudden pain shot through his skull.

“What’s wrong, Adam, honey?” asked the blonde Zinda.

“Nothing,” he said. “Just an odd sensation. I’d call it a migraine if I was vulnerable to those. I’ve never been sick a day in my life. Not even a cold! It felt like a powerful presence within my head. Just the merest brush with another mind. I’d almost say someone was trying to contact me by mental telepathy, but the mind seemed more powerful than any telepath I’ve met.”

They continued their flight without any other disturbance.

***

Meanwhile, in another dimension tangentially connected to Earth-One, a handsome black man frowned as his wife Lola drew near. “What is it, baby?” she asked.

“Nothing,” said Harvey Lee Dent. “Just an odd sensation, like my mind touched another highly evolved mind. But, then, that’s crazy. How many men of the future could there be, anyhow? I’m the one and only Superman.”

Lola smiled. “And what about your highly evolved wife?”

Harvey grinned. “Oh, you are definitely not a Superman!

***

On that tangent dimension’s Earth beneath the Pentagon was housed a thoughtful man. He had been called many names, but the one he used most now was Deadman. He turned to his loyal aide.

“Gravedigger, I fear the Dark Circle has learned of our efforts to bring them down. We need to bring this long crusade to an end. Perhaps it is time to openly confront them.”

The black man called Gravedigger shook his head. “That’s way too obvious for a crafty devil like you. What’s really on your mind?”

“We rid ourselves of them all at once,” said Deadman. “I’ve acquired the Roddenberry devices we spoke of. They may free us from all further concern about our black-magic-using brethren. The covert Nightwing group has been formed of rival subgroups for too long. If I can draw the Dark Circle out and activate the Roddenberrys, then our world will be rid of their ilk.”

Our world?” said Gravedigger. “You mean there are others? You plan to send those fiends to some unsuspecting other world?”

Deadman grinned a ghastly smile. “Certainly, there are worlds enough for all. We can’t worry about the possible other dimensions out there. Let the heroes of those realms deal with our problems.”

***

Earth-One:

A beautiful blonde in a red blazer, miniskirt, and high heels calmly entered the cluttered office of Professor Barry Metzger at Lake Shore University. He glanced up over his crooked glasses and said, “Uh, yes, miss? How may I help you?”

The shapely blonde leaned over his desk and said, “Just watch my eyes, Prof!” Her blue eyes shifted colors in an hypnotic pattern, and the startled psychology professor fell into a trance of her design. “Your self-imposed barriers are breaking,” cooed the woman called Brains. “Free your mind and join me in a blissful alliance.”

Slowly, as his eyes widened, his form altered. His body grew narrow just as his head swelled. Soon, the mild-mannered professor resembled nothing less than a Hollywood-designed alien. His bald head was larger than a normal human skull, and he spoke via telepathy.

“You have reawakened my true self. You have brought forth the Future Man. I sense you are more than human, too — or less! You are a machine/human integration; fascinating! You deliberately seek to convey an extremely feminine appearance to make up for the fact that beneath that façade you are more computer than woman.”

Brains frowned. “I have assimilated the Matrix-Prime system into my natural form. That took time and pain and strength of will. Now, Future Man, I seek power, and you can aid me.”

He smiled. “Intriguing…”

***

In the tangent dimension, a gorgeous blonde giggled as she rocketed across the city, periodically creating cartoonish sol-hols — solid holigrams — as she made her way to school.

Her name was Lia Nelson, and as the much-celebrated Flash, she was adored by many and stalked by a select few. She had been born in space and possessed amazing powers due to the fact that she was largely composed of pure light. Her sol-hols were but one of Lia’s many skills.

“Like, this is such a totally Poppins day!” mused the teen. “And I started it so majorly bummed, what with mom pulling one of her senior moments. She can be sooo Martha Stewart. Wear your hair like this, be sure to say please and thank you! Don’t hang with Emerald Archer!”

Lia smiled. “Nebula Unfolding is playing tomorrow. With their retro-Atomicks sound, I just have to make the scene. ‘Course, Daddy may be wanting to play one of those quality time/capture and subdue games of his!”

She flew higher and wondered if she should change her outfit. With her command of the sol-hols, she could instantly alter her outfits in the blink of an eye.

“Maybe the bubble skirt with the boots?” she mused.

Then she spotted a flying figure. Atom — rad! she thought as the handsome hero blazed into sight.

“Lia, the Secret Six need you!” said Adam Thompson as he used his energy powers to catch up to the super-fast girl. “Plas and Spectre have already reached our satellite.”

“Like, that satellite is a true sanctuary,” said Lia. “Mom hates it. She says we should be high profile. This in spite of the fact that we are operating in major X-Files mode! She’s a Kathie Lee wanna-be prime!”

Adam grinned. “I think I am beginning to understand you. Lia-speak is not my native tongue, you know.”

She smiled, and they soon entered the satellite headquarters high above.

From space, the atomic destruction that had turned the Southeastern United States into the bizarre Atlantis and the Sea Devil archipelago was more of a scarred blur.

Lia saw Atom pause inside, and she followed to greet the dour Manhunter and her cyber-hound. “Scooby!” giggled Lia as she stroked the hound of metal.

Don’t call him Scooby!” snapped the Manhunter as her containment suit modulated her voice but not enough to mask her irritation.

Spectre stepped out of the wall and grinned as the bubbly Flash and hard-as-nails Manhunter went through their usual routine.

Atom waved to the odd, bio-responsive form of Gunther Ganz — Plastic Man. “What’s the crisis?” Adam asked. “Fatal Five loose again?”

“Nope,” said Plas. “Big activity near Europe. Meridian, I wager.” He referred to the black magic group who waged war with the American counterpart Nightwing.

“If they are being this open,” said Atom, “then we’d best be careful!”

***

The Superman, Harvey Lee Dent, had joked past his concern to keep Lola calm, but he could not rid himself of what his evolved mind had discovered.

“Another dimension like ours to a degree, yet different,” mused the ex-cop-turned-problem-solver. “I’d love to check out the place. The mind I contacted so briefly was nearly as powerful as mine, although the poor guy doesn’t realize his potential.”

He turned to his friends, Wonder Woman and the dark knight next to her. “I can readily believe you when you speak of realms beyond our own, for mayhap my own lost Lady Tasmia was a demon from some such infernal domain!” said the armored Bat Man, Sir William.

Wonder Woman, in her inhuman scaly armor, pondered the implications. “I do wonder if such realms are out there, and if so, do they know of us, or do they benignly dream on, blissfully unaware of the fact that they are not alone?” mused the warrior-woman and philosopher hybrid from the planet Gotham.

“Whoa, whoa! Don’t get started on one of your Hamlet grooves, Di!” Harvey said. He called the alien Di as short for Dichotomy. It was his way of dealing with her dual nature.

“‘Tis good to share boon companions as you two, for I’ve sorely missed the days I once knew as one of noble Arthur’s paladins of the Table Round!” said the armored Bat Man.

***

A group of sinister figures in robes watched from afar as many costumed figures approached a particular building.

Etrigan of the Dark Circle turned to Ra’s al Ghul, Madame X’hal, and Bane. He grunted as the Creeper groveled before them. “You have betrayed us because Gravedigger took your soul. Still, by warning us of this trap, you have earned an immediate destruction!”

The Creeper begged for mercy as they coldly exchanged opinions.

The woman called Bane hissed, “If the true Brother Emerald Eye has been found, then we cannot allow anyone else to claim it; however, if this worm’s warning is true, then it is all a clever trap designed to lure us in and rid our enemy of us all in one fell swoop.”

“It is truth — I swear it!” whined the writhing Creeper in his mystical chains. “Gravedigger and Deadman want to ruin you all!”

Madame X’hal smiled. “In any case, we are best served by allowing our pawns like the Fatal Five and Warlord’s army to investigate the site.”

“Indeed,” sneered Etrigan.

They watched as the band of villains encountered the sudden arrival of the Secret Six.

“Atom is here. Why has he showed his glowing face here?” asked Bane.

“Where there are so-called villains, so will there be heroes… and anti-heroes!” choked the Creeper.

He indicated Gravedigger’s own band of mystical agents, Nightshift, which had been sent in as backup in hope that the true Dark Circle would be drawn to the trap.

Deadman watched as well from beneath the Pentagon, and he smiled coldly as he activated the Roddenberry devices he had placed under the site.

A flash of brilliant light erupted. It was followed by total darkness and then the sight of an empty chamber.

Madame X’hal cursed. “It was a trap! We would have been dispersed through the cosmos had we entered yon chamber!”

“I told you,” whined Creeper. “I saved you all! Save me now!”

“Our villainous pawns are gone to suffer whatever fate Deadman had planned for us,” smirked Etrigan.

***

Beneath the Pentagon, Gravedigger cursed.

“Why’d you allow Atom and my team Nightshift to come here?” he shouted. “We’ve lost them, too, and done nothing but rid this world of some costumed creeps!”

“The loss of your agents is unfortunate,” said Deadman, “but I needed them there in case our plan had lulled the Dark Circle inside. They are our only magic-using allies. They simply got too close. We had no way to know the range of the Roddenberrys.”

Gravedigger said nothing. He turned away in disgust.

***

Later, the heroes of the Justice League of America received several startling visitors as the other-dimensional heroes called the Secret Six entered the satellite.

Hawkman frowned as he faced the phasing form of Atom and the brilliant lightburst that formed into the teen called Flash. Seconds later, the ghostly Spectre (Taylor Pike) stepped out of the wall itself as the Plastic Man (Gunther Gannz) and the madcap Joker joined the grim Manhunter and her cyber-hound.

“How did you people bypass our security?” said the winged wonder. “In any case, it will do you little good. We Justice Leaguers frown on gate-crashers!”

His wife Hawkwoman rose as the odd newcomers attacked. “By Polaris! This robotic dog is as fierce as a Thangarian tigra-cat!” she said as she swept back to avoid the dog’s metal jaws.

“Justice League, eh?” said Atom. “You hero-haters have changed your looks, but not your brashness! We’ll see just who is the gate-crasher!”

Manhunter swung her fists toward the Elongated Man, who dodged with ease as his rubbery form snaked out of her reach. “I’m used to having my women loud and gabby, but you do make a nice change!” he quipped as he roped one arm around the Manhunter.

The female Joker tossed an extending bludgeon toward the spinning Black Canary, who barely avoided the punch-line.

“Nice wig! Who am I fighting, the Gabor sisters?” she joked as she arched her back wildly.

Canary noticed her weird costume and figured the woman obviously knew a thing or two about wigs and makeup. She jumped over the swinging punch-line and kicked her in the chin.

“Only my hairdresser knows for sure!” she said. “You can call me Black Canary.”

The female Flash frowned as she created a sol-hol cage around the struggling form of Aquaman. “Hate to get all Blackwell on ya, but like, you’ve gone totally call girl chic, Canary!” she said. “Those feathers make the carrot-top seem more like Hawk’s partner!”

Hawkwoman is his partner, and I suspect our Canary is not the one you know,” said the robotic hero called the Red Tornado. “You’ve passed over from one dimension to another, according to our computer readings of the residual energy within you!”

The JLA’s Flash vibrated aside as Atom lunched for him with an increase in his mass. “Molecular control! I was doing that as a child!” said Adam Thompson.

“Funny, so was I!” joked Wally West.

Plastic Man engulfed Hawkman even as he slammed against the bio-responsive form of the green-hued hero.

“Other dimension!” said Plastic Man. “That explains why the interior of our satellite is different. This is not our headquarters. It’s just in the same position as ours, but in a new dimension!”

Atom stopped as the Flash delivered around a hundred punches in a second, none of which hurt the powerful hero.

“Hold it, team!” Plastic Man called. “Joker! Drop that giant powder-puff!”

The Joker flipped around and said, “Awww! Just when I was about to Mary Kay the Tweety-Bird babe!”

Hawkwoman shrugged. “I prefer the natural look!”

Spectre stepped out from where he had vanished. “This bunch are all heroes, too. We’re on their turf. That weird energy flash in the building must have brought us here!”

“Truce!” said Aquaman. “We’ve met heroes from other realms before. Let’s talk this out.”

The teen Flash smiled. “Sure, dude. Like, you are sooo totally buff!”

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