Having decided from Hawkwoman’s report that there were no other ships grounded in the area, Steel, Superman, and Green Lantern decided to take an optimistic, yet cautious approach. “It is possible that they only landed because of trouble with their ship,” said Steel.
“Not damn likely,” muttered Green Arrow, sulking after Hawkman’s observation.
“I think we all agree with you, Arrow. Still, we’ll try the friendly approach first. Superman, Green Lantern, you try making contact first. You two are the best known of any of us off-planet.” Steel looked around at the others. “The rest of us will lay low and back you up in case the Gordanians attack.” Hawkman lifted his mace in one hand, letting it fall to smack his left palm loudly with the shaft.
“What about me?” asked Flea Flicker. “Y’all want me in on the fight?”
“We need you to hang back on this one,” answered Steel, pulling something from a pocket and handing it to the local hero. “If things go badly, use this to call for help. It’s a JLA communicator; push that button, and you’ll be talking to the Martian Manhunter at our headquarters.”
“Kinda like the fellows calling for the air strikes in ‘Nam, right?”
“Exactly!” replied Green Lantern.
A moment later, Superman and Green Lantern stepped out of the shelter of the evergreen trees and into view of the ship. Before they could even try to hail the occupants, alarms started to sound, and several portals opened on the ship to disgorge several dozen hulking warriors in golden battle armor.
“Same old Gordanians, always ready for a fight,” observed the Man of Steel.
“That’s OK; so am I,” answered the emerald gladiator, taking to the sky as a glowing green force-field sprang up around him.
“That’s our cue, folks!” said Steel as he, Black Canary, and Green Arrow charged from the woods. Hawkwoman drew a pair of blaster pistols as he husband arced upward, then quickly dived toward the ground with his mace poised to strike.
“Full spectrum on the blasters!” shouted the largest of the Gordanians. “The Kryptonian is here!” He took aim at Superman and fired a scintillating beam of multicolored energy at him.
Great Scott! thought Superman as he was knocked back a step by the blast. I actually felt that!
Black Canary turned toward a group of four of the aliens and opened her mouth. Her hypersonic canary cry issued forth, but had little effect. Sound-dampening armor, she realized. Without hesitating, she focused her cry downward. The ground at the aliens’ feet heaved upward and knocked them off their feet.
“Here, pretty bird, let me gum up the works a little.” Green Arrow fired at the downed Gordanians, the arrow erupting in a spray of quick-drying, heavy-duty adhesive. “Should hold them for a few minutes, at least.”
Green battering rams appeared near several of the portals in the ship, attempting to drive many of the emerging alien warriors backward. Green Lantern’s efforts were hampered by the golden battle armor they wore, as his ring’s lone weakness rendered it useless against the yellow-hued armor itself. Emerald tentacles reached to uproot trees to use as clubs against the aliens.
Above, the Thanagarians were a study in contrasts as Hawkwoman flitted from one position to another like a great hummingbird, her pistols blazing forth with precise, stunning shots. Her mate took a more primitive approach, diving into the fray with abandon, his mace connecting with heads, bodies, and weapons on each strike.
Steel waded into the battle, trusting in the armor of his costume to deflect the bulk of the Gordanians’ attacks. The micromotors powering his metallic skeleton allowed him to easily lift the massive aliens and hurl them into their comrades. Though unwilling to use lethal force, Steel wasn’t hesitant about using the mass of the Gordanians’ bodies as a shield against their blaster fire. He felt no pangs of regret when a warrior he threw at the commander was gutted by fire from his intended target.
Flea Flicker watched from the shelter of the heavy pine trees. He understood the reasons, spoken and unspoken, why the League had asked him to stay out of the fight. As it was, he would have felt better having his shotgun with him as he watched the battle unfold. From his unseen position, he was the first to realize the tide was turning against the heroes.
“Concentrate fire on the Kryptonian and the Oan pawn!” shouted the Gordanian commander. “Bring them down, and the others fall with them!”
“That’s what you think, gruesome!” shouted Green Arrow over the sounds of the battle. A narrow shaft with a narrow point flew at the commander, slipping through a small gap where the upper arm met the shoulder. Striking resistance, the mechanism within the arrow activated, driving two-dozen one-inch needles outward and into the commander’s flesh. A second arrow stuck a smaller warrior next to him and erupted in a burst of propane-fueled flame.
Black Canary found herself attacked from either side. She grabbed one of the aliens by the cross-belts on his chest-plate and pulled as she dropped onto her back, sending him crashing into the second attacker. As she rolled to her feet, she saw a third taking aim at her. She tucked into a roll, and the shot passed over her head. When she came up again, it was into the path of an energy blast aimed at Steel.
“No!” cried Green Arrow, turning to spot the Gordanian who had felled his love. The alien grinned as he trained his weapon on the archer. Before he could pull the trigger, an emerald shaft flew into the barrel of his weapon, and the rifle exploded as he fired.
Green Lantern was dividing his attention between holding back further reinforcements and uprooting the ground underneath those already outside of the ship. He saw a pair of smaller ports open, and he moved to force the covers back into place. The additional task made him pause in his flight, and a pair of yellow-tinged energy beams from below penetrated his protective shield. The first lanced across his left thigh, and the second grazed his skull. The logs blocking the exits from the ship fell as the emerald clamps holding them in place faded away. Unconscious, Green Lantern plummeted briefly before his power ring’s automatic defensive measures kicked in to slow his descent.
Meanwhile, blaster cannons emerged from the two newly opened ports and tracked the movements of the pair of winged Thanagarians. Several shots lanced out, and Hawkwoman watched in horror as one struck her husband, and he was lost to view as his wings exploded in a flurry of metallic shards. Her horror quickly changed to relief as she saw him falling slowly, his ninth metal belt bearing his weight, and his mace still gripped in his right hand. She darted skyward to avoid a shot from the blaster cannon, turned, and fired at the port from which it was fired. A wasted shot, as she realized the cannon was part of the ship’s armament.
“Superman, get up in the air!” shouted Steel.
“Can’t!” said an obviously weary Superman. “Red solar energy in those beams, sapping my powers!” He turned to punch one of the alien fighters, his strength still far greater than that of his foes.
Steel turned and grabbed another Gordanian, dragging across the front of himself and sending him into a cluster of fighters. “G.L.’s down; there’s more coming out of the ship! I’m calling J’onn.” He reached for the emblem on his chest to activate his communicator, but a burst of fire from eight different warriors struck him and Superman, leaving them both lying on the ground.
“Gather them and take them into the ship!” cried the commander. “Those last two can’t harm us.”
Two Gordanians hauled Hawkman up off the ground. With a cry of fury, Hawkwoman tossed away her spent pistols and drew a sword from its sheath on her back. She dived at the warriors as they dragged her husband between them. They glanced at her, then at each other. With a roar, they threw Hawkman into the air, where he crashed into his wife. They both landed unconscious on the ground.
Green Arrow was the last Leaguer left standing, and he was running out of arrows. One of the Gordanians looked down at the still form of his comrade whose weapon had exploded, noting the green shaft still visible in the wreckage of the weapon. He turned and snarled at the archer. “R’laak is dead because of you.” Slowly, deliberately, he strode toward the emerald archer. “You can join him in death.”
Green Arrow reached back to his quiver to find he had but one arrow left. Before he even drew it, he knew what it was. “Aw, nuts,” he said as he nocked and fired. The boxing glove arrow flew true, struck the Gordanian, and dropped to the ground.
The Gordanian paused and looked down at the arrow, then looked up again. “Wasn’t that supposed to explode or something?” he asked as he closed the distance with the archer.
“Umm… No, not really.” Green Arrow gripped one end of his bow, took a few steps forward, and swung it like a club at the alien. The Gordanian raised an arm to block it, the reinforced fiberglass splintering on impact. The Gordanian then brought that arm down on Green Arrow’s head.
As soon as he had seen Superman fall, Flea Flicker pulled out the communicator the JLA had given him. As he backed away from the scene of the battle, he pressed the button, which lit up. “Hello. Is anybody there?”
“This is the Martian Manhunter. Who am I speaking to?”
“Umm, this here is Flea Flicker, and I was with Superman and the others. Things just went to hell in a hurry here, and the JLA folks is all been captured by them Gordanians.”
“I have already called for other members to join you. They should be arriving within fifteen minutes, as will I.”
“Good. The sooner the better.” Flea Flicker emerged on the highway near his truck. An idea struck him. “Maybe,” he said to himself, “I can get some help here a little sooner than that.”
He reached into his truck, turned the key to switch on battery power, and grabbed a microphone. “Breaker, breaker, this here is Everybody’s All-Star, and I’m looking for any hunters out there within ten minutes of the old Jenkins place. We got ourselves a situation out here, and we need all the firepower we can get, and I mean pronto.”
A few responses came back over the Citizens Band radio, and he gave a brief rundown of the situation. “Some more heroes are heading down here, and they frown on guns and killing, but they’re gonna need all the help we can give ’em. Y’all get down here and work with them.”
“What about you, All-Star?” asked a voice that Flea Flicker recognized as Mark Grey, one of Willett’s top hunters.
He hesitated just an instant. “I’ll be doin’ what I do — playing hero.”
Flea Flicker returned to the site of the battle. As he thought they might, the Gordanians had left a few outside, gathering up their wounded. Near the edge of the woods, he saw was he was looking for: the Gordanian who had been gutted by one of his own people’s shots. He dragged it into the trees and set to work with a large knife he had grabbed from his truck.
Saw this once on one of the hunting shows, he thought as he pulled the skin and armor of the dead alien over himself. The Gordanians were returning to the ship. Hoping none of them looked too closely, he followed them in.
Inside the ship, Flea Flicker listened and tried to determine where the most activity was happening. As he passed a gangway leading downward, he heard the name Green Lantern in a burst of indecipherable grunts and whistles. He went down and found himself in a large holding area with over two dozen transparent cabinets that looked large enough to hold a single person in each. That size estimate was verified by the fact that six of them were occupied by the fallen Justice League members. The unconscious Black Canary was being placed into a seventh cabinet, a metal band fastened around her throat and the lower part of her head.
At the center of the room stood a console with a small panel for each of the cabinets. Each was labeled with a symbol that corresponded with identical symbols on the cabinets. Once Black Canary was placed in her cell, one of her captors pressed a large silver button on the panel for her cell, and the front of it closed.
Two Gordanian warriors stood by the console, while six more stood at intervals around the room. Flea Flicker slipped in through the doorway and copied the posture of those standing against the walls.
Unable to understand the Gordanians’ conversations, he studied the JLA members in their cells. Superman was slumped unconscious in his, bathed in a dull red light. Likewise, Green Lantern lay at the bottom of his cell. Flea Flicker could just make out a green glow around Green Lantern’s injuries, but it was barely visible through the glowing yellow that filled the cell. Steel was conscious, but apparently immobilized with his arms held stiffly away from his sides. Hawkman and Hawkwoman were imprisoned without their wings and harnesses, which were laying on the floor outside of their cells. Likewise, Green Arrow’s shattered bow and empty quiver lay just outside his cell, though within his sight. Flea Flicker suspected that, as soon as he freed one of the Justice Leaguers, their captors would respond quickly. Therefore, it was important that he release the hero who could do the most to get the others freed.
There was a commotion in the passage outside the prison chamber. As several of the Gordanians turned toward the door, Flea Flicker made his choice. He focused on one of the control panels, squinted his eyes, and used his power. And he prayed that he’d made the right choice.