The heroes gathered in one great group in the underground hideout to prepare for the final assault on the villains. Through Lady Wonder, they had learned that their friends were being held in the subbasements of the very building the Sorcerer and his generals were using as their headquarters: the White House itself.
Batman and Tin Man were outlining the strategy of the attack. “Our most powerful, least vulnerable members will take the point,” Tin Man explained. “Storm King, Amazing Man, the Monster, myself, Superman, Wonder Woman, J’onn, and the two Green Lanterns.”
“Everyone else except Atom, Blue Jay, Beehive, Fadeaway, Fey, and myself will be the second wave,” Batman continued. “We will find a way inside while the battle takes up the villains’ attention, and free our friends.”
“We don’t know how prepared the villains will be for our attack,” Tin Man said. “We have to assume they know we’ve recaptured Titus Tower and the estate, so every moment is precious. We–“
The armored Assembler was interrupted by a blinding flash of light in the center of their hideout. Rather than fading, the light remained, a bright glowing nimbus.
“Sword of Mars!” Wonder Woman cried out. “We are attacked in our own–!”
“Whoa, cool it, sister,” a calm, almost laid-back voice came from within the light. “We come in peace, brothers and sisters. Save the violence for the evil dudes.”
With that, the light faded to reveal a gaunt man with long hair and a dark goatee. He was wearing a loose-sleeved shirt, tie-dyed into many colors and patterns, green-and-purple-striped trousers, and leather sandals. Several large medallions bearing strange inscriptions hung around his neck. He held his arms up in a beatific gesture. Several other figures stood behind him.
“Doctor Destiny!” Behemoth rumbled. “I mighta known!”
“I had wondered where Angor’s sorcerous guardian was in her hour of greatest need,” Doctor Gene said.
“Where I was needed most, brother,” Doctor Destiny said. “Just like always. There were forces beyond the veil who’d have liked to take advantage of Angor’s current state of unrest and conquer the place once and for all. I’ve been convincing them that that wouldn’t be such a good idea after all.”
“And we’ve been aiding him,” Romana the sea-maiden said, stepping out from behind Doctor Destiny. “But now, the Protectors are ready to join the battle!”
“I see many new faces among us, brothers and sisters,” Doctor Destiny said. “I welcome you all. Let me introduce my friends and fellow Protectors to you. Romana, the Golden Racer, the Shield Maiden, Moonwing, and, lest we forget, the Brute.”
Superman stared at the snarling, purple-skinned monster who stood with the Protectors. He wondered how much of their battle the creature remembered.
“Weird magician says bad guys used Brute,” the man-monster grumbled. “Made a slave of him. Brute doesn’t like that. Want to crush bad guys!”
“You’ll get your chance, grape-gums,” Moonwing said. “We all will.”
“May the cosmic forces grant us success this day,” Doctor Destiny said.
“Hear, hear,” Green Arrow agreed.
“Dr. Reed?” the man in the cell across from Mister Triumph said.
“Yes, Mr. President?” Mr. Triumph said in response. The villains had kept their three super-heroic prisoners in different rooms, to prevent them working together to effect escape, but the captive President Sam O’Hara they saw no harm in keeping in the same room with Mister Triumph.
“They’re going to come, aren’t they?” President O’Hara said. “Your friends, the heroes? They’re going to get us out of here?”
“They’re going to try, Mr. President,” Mister Triumph said. “They’re certainly going to try.”
“I hope so,” O’Hara said. Mister Triumph didn’t notice the gleam in O’Hara’s eye.
“I won’t be able to keep up the telepathic shield very long,” Doctor Gene said, “if I am to be of any use in this battle.”
“It won’t be long, Doctor,” said Vaughn Wendel, the Green Lantern of Angor. He and Hal Jordan used their power rings to transport the entire assemblage of heroes to the White House for the final assault on the villains. Their power made the conveyance invisible, while Doctor Gene and J’onn J’onzz strove to keep their minds shielded from the evil telepaths.
“Shouldn’t be much work keeping us hidden, anyway, Doc,” Bandicoot said. “Cerebello went down at Assemblers Estate, and he was the best mind-reader the bad guys had, wasn’t he?”
“As far as we know,” Basilisk said. “We want to leave nothing to chance.”
“White House in sixty seconds,” Green Lantern said.
“At last!” Behemoth said. “I’m ready for action!”
“As am I,” A-Man said. “I am ready to pound the feces out of them.”
Some of the heroes, mostly the Terran ones, stared at the yellow-faced android.
“Behemoth has suggested that I add colorful metaphors to my speech,” A-Man explained. “To seem more human.”
“Yeah, but you don’t really have a handle on it yet, Ames,” Behemoth said. “Keep tryin’.”
Within seconds, the gleaming structure of the White House leaped into view. It was structurally different from the similarly named edifice on Earth, but one glance was enough to know it for what it was — the home of the leader of a proud nation.
“Battle positions!” Tin Man cried. But before the heroes could attack, a defiant voice boomed out at them.
“Thank you all for coming together,” the Sorcerer’s mechanically augmented voice called out. “It saves us the trouble of tracking you down one by one!”
As if by magic, the villains appeared — scores of them. Sorcerer, Dynamo, Warlord, and Pale Rider stood in the front line. Behind them were dozens and dozens of costumed men and women. After the fall of Titus Tower and Assemblers Estate, the Sorcerer, expecting an attack on his headquarters, had recalled every villain in the field.
That didn’t worry the heroes quite so much, however, as the ten sleek, black warships floating in attack formation above the White House.
“Good Lord!” Silver Sorceress cried. “Those ships — it’s Tymuu’s army!”
“Tymuu?” the Flash echoed. But instantly, the information telepathically planted in his subconscious rose to the surface. Tymuu, the conqueror from the future who had come to this era to battle its heroes on many occasions. Always he had been defeated, and always he had come back.
“But… if that madman from the future is here…” Basilisk began, “…that must mean… oh, boy.”
“A-Man,” Behemoth said, “this may be a good time for a colorful metaphor.”
“Sir!” an anxious man shouted, rushing into the room. “Reports just came in! The big battle has started on the lawn of the White House!”
The man who had addressed the hidden meeting of followers assumed a grim expression. “Then we must act,” he said. “Is everyone with me?” Cheers of assent rang through the room. “We move!” he cried.
For tense seconds the heroes watched the scores of villains and the ten hovering warships. They were prepared to sell their lives as dearly as they could in the fight for freedom, because they were heroes. They were also human beings, and so they were just a little afraid.
“Red Tornado,” A-Man said, “do you not see what I do not see?”
“I do not,” Red Tornado said. “Our comrades speak of ships, and stare at the sky. But I see nothing there.”
“What?!” Tin Man cried. He instantly adjusted the visor equipment in his helmet, changing from ordinary sight to infrared. He still saw the ships, but just as he had before, not as heat-images. That should not, could not, be.
“Doctor Gene!” Tin Man shouted. “It’s a trick! The ships aren’t there!”
“A trick?” Doctor Gene narrowed his eyes, concentrating. In a blink, the ships vanished from his sight. “Tin Man is correct! The ships are illusory!”
“It has to be Brain Baron,” Basilisk conjectured, “the mutant master of illusion! He’s projecting the ships into our minds! But he couldn’t affect A-Man’s and Red Tornado’s cybernetic brains!”
“A mentally implanted illusion, you say?” J’onn J’onzz said, then closed his eyes in concentration. He telepathically felt around his own mind, seeking the source of the illusion. Finding it, the Martian Manhunter sent a bolt of telepathic force stabbing along the pathway of the illusion. Somewhere in the ranks of the villains, the heroes heard a scream; then the ships vanished.
“Cute; real cute,” Green Arrow grumbled through clenched teeth. “Gang, let’s congratulate ’em on such a neat trick!”
“Plan A didn’t work,” the Sorcerer called to his troops. “All right, then! Plan B!”
And with that, the battle was joined.
The Sorcerer had apparently studied the heroes of Earth, for he had chosen well when giving his orders for the attack.
Superman found himself trading punches with Siege Engine, a powerful armored colossus. The villain’s strength was no greater than Superman’s, but Doctor Gene’s evil half-brother gained his powers through magic, and thus Superman had no defense against it. The Man of Steel was driven back, inch by inch.
The Martian Manhunter came under attack by Incendio, a mutant who could control flame, manipulating it with the power of his mind.
“Seimene llaf — ullg!” Zatanna began an enchantment to swiftly end the battle, but her spell was choked off as her head was surrounded by a sphere of water, summoned by Flutek, a villain with the power to telekinetically control water. Silver Sorceress was instantly at her side, dispelling the aqueous sphere; Zatanna sputtered and choked up the water.
Wonder Woman and the Shield Maiden stood back to back, swords flashing like lightning. They tried to strike with only the flats of their blades, but in the melee an occasional villain screamed with a sliced arm or leg.
“You fight quite well,” Shield Maiden commented with a smile.
“As do you,” Wonder Woman returned the compliment.
“Perhaps when this is over, we — aaah!” At the Shield Maiden’s scream, Wonder Woman whirled to find her newfound friend struggling in the grip of an enormous woman whose long, muscular arms were covered with serpentine scales. Thanks to Doctor Gene’s telepathic implants, Wonder Woman recognized her instantly as Constrictress.
“Sister!” Wonder Woman cried. “Why do you not free yourself?”
“I — am forbidden — to use my strength — against women,” Shield Maiden groaned as Constrictress’ embrace grew tighter.
Wonder Woman smiled wickedly, turned her wrist, and drove the pommel of her sword hard into the serpent-woman’s forehead.
“I am not,” she pointed out, as Constrictress went down.
The heroes fought valiantly, but for every villain that fell, two more seemed to converge on the spot. The odds were overwhelming, and the villains were fighting to kill.
“Hey, Britt!” Bandicoot called above the din as his metal claws slashed through Glue-Gun’s eponymous weapon.
“What?” Basilisk called back as his optic beams blasted away at an amoeba-like creature spawned by Alchemio’s chemical potions.
“Been nice knowin’ ya!” Bandicoot called back.
Basilisk did not respond. The clawed mutant was only voicing the attitude shared by all, that this was a losing battle.
“This bites,” Tall-Walker said as he sat in a chair tilted back against the wall, the telescoping legs in his armored costume retracted to normal length. Coal Tiger of the Assemblers watched him from his cell, but said nothing.
“I’m with you,” Hop-Toad agreed. “Why should we get stuck in here on guard duty? All the heroes are out there, anyway!”
“Yeah,” Tall-Walker sighed. “A shame we’re missing out on the slaughter.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t say that,” came an unfamiliar voice.
The startled villains looked up and gasped at a small company of heroes standing in the doorway. Most of them they recognized; the man in a scalloped cloak and pointed cowl was a newcomer to them, as was the tiny man perched on his shoulder.
Hop-Toad swallowed audibly.
“Aaargh!” the Bladesman cried out as an energy-bolt from one of Triceratops’ three helmet-mounted projectors burned through his heart.
“Rene!” Behemoth cried, and swiftly avenged his old friend by wrenching Triceratops’ helmet off and clubbing him into unconsciousness.
“Don’t give up!” Aquaman cried. He turned his head in time to see the brown-garbed villain called Tefen striking at him with his powerful cybernetic tail. Bringing his sea-born reflexes and muscles into play, Aquaman seized the tail between his powerful green-gloved hands inches from his face, and with a powerful wrench, ripped it in half. Tefen felt the destruction in his mind from the cybernetic link to his tail and screamed.
“It’s no use!” Silver Sorceress swore, fighting off the attacking bats summoned by Leatherwing. “There’s too many of them! We can’t possibly–“
“For freedom!” came a loud battle cry.
“Look!” a horrified villain cried, pointing.
“No!” the Sorcerer swore. “It’s impossible!”
But it was true. The villains were under attack by ordinary people, men and women who had decided they did not want to live under tyranny. Hundreds of them, armed with shovels and tire irons and bricks and whatever they could get their hands on, charged into the fray. The villains, momentarily too surprised to react, were driven back by the attack.
And, most incredibly of all, leading the charge was…
“Captain Liberty!” Tin Man gasped. The familiar colorful figure leaped into the lead of the citizen milita, right into the heart of the fray.
“It can’t be!” Warlord gasped. “He was in the Crypt when we blew it up! He has to be dead!”
But he wasn’t, and his presence and the actions of the ordinary citizens of Angor rallied the heroes to newfound strength. The tide of battle swiftly turned.
Before long, it was over. There had been casualties on both sides, but the heroes had won the day. All the surviving villains were taken prisoner, held in a mass containment cell generated by the Green Lanterns.
“Have to find a more permanent way to contain them,” Vaughn Wendel said. “Special holding cells, that sort of thing.”
“Why don’t you just suck out the air in that green box, save us the trouble of having to go through all this again someday?” Bandicoot asked. Basilisk and Doctor Gene chastised him for this, but there were those among the heroes who couldn’t help but feel similar.
“Mitch, you old son of a gun, I don’t believe it!” Tin Man said, clapping his armored hands onto Captain Liberty’s shoulders. “How did you do it? How did you escape the destruction of the Crypt?”
“I was never in the Crypt,” Captain Liberty explained. “That was Cameo.”
“Cameo?” Behemoth asked. “The bad guy who can impersonate anyone?”
“Yes,” Captain Liberty went on. “I fully intended to turn myself in, but before I did, Cameo approached me. He had the foresight to see that, with the government clamping down on super-heroes, it was only a matter of time before they came after super-villains. So he offered his services. I asked him to impersonate me, take my place in the Crypt, while I remained free to do what I could.”
“So it was Cameo who died in the Crypt, not you!” Coal Tiger exclaimed.
“Yes,” Captain Liberty acknowledged. “He was an evil man, and even this last act was motivated by self-preservation, but he was still a human being, and his death is on my conscience, as well as those who believed they were following my example by turning themselves in.” The patriotic hero allowed himself a moment of silent contemplation. The others were silent, too, hanging on his words.
“When the villains attacked,” Captain Liberty went on, “I realized what I had to do. The greatest strength of any nation is its people. I knew that if I could find enough people willing to fight for freedom, we could bring the villains down.” Captain Liberty turned to the Justice Leaguers. “I never anticipated the help of the heroes from Earth. I don’t know how to express my thanks, Justice League. Any words I could use fall far short of what you’ve done for us.”
“It’s what we do, Captain,” Superman said. “Wherever freedom and justice are threatened.”
“Our world may never be the same,” Mister Triumph said, looking out over the battlefield. “A lot of good men and women died, and perhaps the role of the superhuman hero will never be what it was in the eyes of the people of Angor. But at the end of it all, we still have a world.”
“That’s got to count for something,” Batman said. “The heroes who died protecting it cannot have died in vain.”
“Amen, brother,” Doctor Destiny said.