A beautiful woman paced the deck of her space-cruiser. She wore a purple jumpsuit and boots. Her skin was green, and her flawless face was framed by cascading blonde curls.
“Analysis: Alternate designates are unreliable. Each follows his or her own agenda in spite of my carefully orchestrated plans. Error: Failure to take human emotions into account. Prognosis: Success, although not as originally envisioned.”
She spoke these words in a modulated voice that sounded like honey or music. But the dulcet tones did little to mask the lack of human feeling in her luminous green eyes. Her name was Genia, and she was a woman scorned. The Earth would possibly pay the price for her pain.
Genia strolled over to the command chair, her high heels clicking as she spoke new orders directly to several figures. “Raptor, the new name and costume suits one so filled with darker emotions,” she said to the double for Hawkman, whom she had retrieved after his battle with the true Hawks.
“Indeed. I am filled with the desire to erase my shame at the hands of this world’s Shayera,” he said in a voice like that of the heroic Hawkman. “She will be mine after I slay her husband!”
“I also will kill the Man of Steel and the new pretenders to the title Supergirl,” said the Eradicator. “Then I’ll go to Rokyn and send that world to a fiery death like the one that Krypton met far too late!”
She smiled at his passion, enjoying the humans with their petty emotions, even if she scorned such feelings, or so she claimed. “What of you, pretty bird?” she asked a blonde woman in a revealing costume of feathers and fishnets.
“The Magpie will do the job as well as any!” vowed the pretty woman.
“Indeed you will, Dinah Lance. And Black Arrow? Shall you find your mark as well?” she cooed.
A man in black drew a gleaming shaft from a quiver. His clean-shaven features displayed anger. “I’ll obey you as long as it suits me,” said the man named Oliver Queen.
“Fine; you all know what I demand,” said Genia as she tossed her blonde locks and idly caressed a computer screen with long fingernails.
Central City was the scene of numerous battles between costumed rogues with colorful names and a brightly suited champion who rode the lightning in his speed and certainty. Oddly enough, the battle that occurred this morning featured such combatants, but their roles were reversed.
The Pied Piper desperately played with an ornate pipe as a whirling figure in red, gold, and black drew ever nearer on hurricane-force winds of his own creation.
“You’re pathetic,” sneered the man in the altered Flash costume. “You challenge me with musical notes? You try to slow me down by sonic attacks? My speed excels that of sound itself!”
His name was Speed Fiend, and he once had another name: Barry Allen. But his features beneath the mask would not be recognized as Allen’s, because he had been damaged by a foe and altered by experts in Gorilla City in his own timeline. He had been a hero, but he had been wrongly convicted as Barry Allen of murdering Professor Zoom. That had made him an outcast, even with his altered face. His former allies had hunted him relentlessly, even as his bride-to-be had suffered in a mental institution. He was full of anger, and Genia had brought him here to unleash it. He started to pummel the Pied Piper, who was too slow to counter the spinning attack.
A shadowy figure jumped from the shadows to separate them. “Hold it, friend,” said a grim, dark-clad hero who dared face the maddened Flash. “I know you think you have the right to do as you wish in this city, but it has other defenders, too. One sees all the evil done here, even by you — Argus sees all!”
The man in black was quick and agile, and he was a skilled fighter, but how much good could any man do against a foe who could attack in the blink of a second? Argus shoved the Pied Piper aside and held on as the Speed Fiend vibrated toward him with shattering force.
A child gasped as the broken pavement opened at her feet. She toppled forward and fell toward certain doom.
Speed Fiend spotted her fall. To him, every second played out in slow motion. He could easily save her in any one of a hundred ways. All these methods occurred to his super-rapid thought processes.
Instead, it was up to Argus to spin out over the gap and snatch her close to his agile body and land hard to cushion her impact. “It’s OK, honey. You’re safe now!” he said.
“I don’t do that anymore!” was the final phrase uttered with a mixture of contempt and anger by the Speed Fiend before he vanished.
Piper gasped and rubbed a broken arm. “He’s totally cracked!”
Argus nodded. “And we’re going to need help to tame that whirlwind, too.”
Officer Stacy Sheridan frowned as she posted a parking citation on a Chevy in Star City. She was a tired woman who had put in long hours to rid herself of the stigma of having a father in charge of her precinct.
She frowned as a woman raced up to her on a speeding motorcycle. The woman had flowing blonde hair and a pretty face, although a feathered crest masked her eyes and rose above her forehead. She wore a low-cut white body-suit with a V-shaped neckline. Her bare legs wore fishnet hose, and her red boots ended in high heels.
The woman laughed at Stacy’s surprise. “What’s wrong, honey? Can’t find the right code for a babe like me?” mocked the woman.
“Hold it right there!” said Stacy as she reached for her gun. It was instantly kicked out of her hand by the high-kicking blonde called Magpie.
With a cry, Stacy was also flipped over the blonde’s shoulders and was quickly pinned to the ground with Magpie’s knee across her chest.
“I wanted nothing more than to be a cop when I was a little girl,” she shouted. “They didn’t let me in ’cause they were scared a mere woman might show them up. I see times have changed. Too bad for you, dear. Because I hate all cops, and you are just another cop to me!”
She slammed her fists down and left the battered officer alive but badly injured. She kicked her once more and rode off laughing into the Star City night.
Aboard the JLA Satellite were assembled Superman, Batman, Hawkman, Hawkwoman, Black Canary, Aquaman, Elongated Man, and Red Tornado.
“Batman and I each recently fought Brainiac and encountered various beings from alternate timelines,” said Superman, while Black Canary crossed her legs and listened patiently. “I’d wager the Eradicator is such an alternate-timeline version of me, and the evil Hawkman a similar counterpart of Katar’s. Brainiac can’t be behind it, because he was removed from the known universe by Blackstarr.”
“But you figure the portals he opened might just have allowed these evil twins to slip through?” asked Black Canary.
Batman nodded. “Exactly, Canary. In fact we’ve even been able to pinpoint the locations of six such temporal anomalies. They have a detectable energy about them due to the means by which they were brought over.”
“So we divide and conquer!” said Aquaman.
“Obviously, but perhaps illogical,” asked Red Tornado.
“Huh?” said Elongated Man.
“That’s how we always do things,” Canary said.
Elongated Man grinned. “I see Reddy’s point. Maybe we should switch foes?”
Batman smiled grimly. “Good plan. Let’s act upon it.”
Speed Fiend tore through the streets of Central City and raced directly up the walls of the Central City Mental Hospital. He smiled as he reached a room on the top floor. His entire search had taken less than thirty seconds.
He saw a still woman sleeping in a bed. Her reddish blonde hair fell in gentle, cascading curls across her shoulder. She tossed and turned, mumbling, “Barry.”
Speed Fiend removed his mask to reveal the altered features that were once those of Barry Allen. Touching the woman, he softly said, “Fiona?”
She opened her eyes and her mouth, and a sonic blast at full proximity and close contact slammed the startled speedster into the floor. Rolling out of the bed, she revealed fishnet hose and boots under her green hospital gown. She shook off the wig and revealed her own dark hair and pretty features as she rubbed away at the makeup Batman had designed for her.
“Barry, I’m so sorry,” Black Canary said softly. “It’s was the easiest way… and the hardest.”
As a red-and-blue-costumed figure stood on the roof of the Daily Planet, another powerful figure landed. The Eradicator smiled coldly. “Kal El! I refuse to call you Superman! That’s the name I associate with my happy times. That’s the name of a hero.”
“What happened to make you hate your own heritage?” asked his double.
“The Zone. The villains of the Phantom Zone escaped,” he said with a haunted look in his shaded eyes. “They killed everyone I loved — Lois, Lana, Jimmy, Perry, Kara. That’s when I realized that the only way to safeguard the Earth would be to eliminate all things Kryptonian. How could even Lex Luthor or Brainiac hurt me more than those fiends from the doomed world did?” He turned to Superman and said, “So, come. Fight and let me finally end your own never-ending battle!”
The Eradicator punched at Superman but gasped as his powerful swing stopped short of the dodging figure in his path. “By Rao, fight me!” he yelled. He charged the other Superman, who snaked wildly out of his path and opened a box.
“Gold kryptonite!” gasped the Eradicator as his powers vanished and the rubbery features of Ralph Dibny resumed their normal form.
The Elongated Man nodded sadly as his rubbery arms encircled the now-powerless Eradicator. “It’s the only way to keep this Earth safe from a mad Kryptonian,” he said. “Don’t you see? In your zeal to avenge your losses, you became what you hated most. A threat from the planet that died long ago!”
He led the captive and beaten Eradicator toward the nearby transporter. I just beat a Superman on my own, yet I sure don’t feel like celebrating, mused Elongated Man. In fact, for once this crowd-pleasing crusader is glad no one was around to watch.
Raptor could not rest until he had killed his double and possessed Shayera Hol. He could think of nothing except his two desires. He needed to beat the one and own the other. As he flew toward the Midway City Museum, he smiled in anticipation of both eventualities. His black and gold costume gleamed as he reached the city landmark.
Genia did good work, he thought. No one else could so easily replicate the weaponry and gear of my homeworld.
Slipping inside the skylight, he listened intently and heard the soft hum of a woman’s voice. She sang a ballad of Thanagar about a pair of doomed lovers who committed suicide by jumping off the crystal waterfalls rather than allowing their parents to separate them. He sighed. “Soon, my Shayera, you’ll love me like my poor lost love did.”
Raptor saw the fiery tresses and curvy form he knew so well. She sat leaning over the study’s desk. He rushed forward and grabbed her long hair.
But it came free from what turned out to be a lifelike mannequin, filling his eager hands with a wig. He gasped as a sharp, whirling projectile sliced off his wing harness. The darkness grew as the lights switched off, and he shouted, “Batman, I know your tricks! Curse you — this is not your fight!”
Raptor flew higher and searched the dark room. “I can still kill you,” he said. “I’m stronger. I can still fly. My wings merely allow me to steer. My belt gives me the power of flight, foolish man!”
Batman said nothing. He merely slugged the Thanagarian with all his might.
Raptor reeled back and grimaced. “I still stand. I took your best shot, and I still stand!” He grabbed the swirling cape and slammed against Batman as they crashed into the wall.
Batman kneed him and flipped him up and over his head. He remained above the Caped Crusader and clutched for his throat. Batman’s back was to the discarded ebony wings that lay in the floor where his batarang had severed the harness.
Raptor grinned, and the wings moved slightly off the floor. As they fought, Batman spun Raptor around and clicked a device in his own belt. Raptor screamed and fell to the carpet, dazed and unmoving.
Batman bent over him and checked his vitals. “You’ll recover,” he said. “I merely used a device of the real Hawkman’s to jam the cybernetic controls in your helmet so that you’d receive extreme vertigo-inducing feedback when you tried to summon your wings.”
Meanwhile, in Star City, Aquaman emerged from the waters and dragged a stunned Black Arrow to the dock.
“As good a shot as you are, even you couldn’t beat the pressure below when I brought you to the bottom of the Star City lake,” he said.