Justice League of America: The Martian Chronicles, Chapter 7: Like Old Times

by Libbylawrence

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Green Arrow shook his head in disgust as he looked across the room at a television news report.

“I just don’t get it! They can spend billions for outer space research, but they can’t spare a dime for the inner city?! People are dying on the streets, and the government — no matter which party is in power — cares more about glitzy headlines generated by space missions!”

A beautiful woman wearing a long blonde wig, blue fishnet stockings, high-heeled boots, and a dark costume placed one hand on his shoulder and said, “So, what are you going to do about it?”

Green Arrow stopped talking and stared at her for a moment before smiling broadly and pulling her into his arms. “Dinah, you have a real knack for putting me in my place,” he said. “I tend to run my mouth without taking time to consider there might be some practical good a guy like me could do if I ever shut up and get moving! I knew there was a reason I married you!” (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See Green Arrow and Black Canary: Let No Man Put Asunder.]

Black Canary kissed her husband and then stood up and stepped back. “I’d say you need to hit the mean streets of Star City and work off some of that adorable righteous indignation!” said Dinah Lance Queen.

Green Arrow nodded and switched off the television set. “You know me like a well-read paperback, lady!” said Oliver Queen, following her into the night after carefully checking the alley behind the florist shop to be certain they weren’t being observed. He did this almost automatically, since he had been a masked hero for years, and he knew the value of protecting his secret identity.

Sadly, for once the keen-eyed archer failed to glance upward, or he might have noticed the silvery lights of a sleek spacecraft partially hidden above the night clouds.

As Green Arrow aimed and fired a shaft with a strong silken line attached to its end, his wife prepared to follow him in an acrobatic swing across the city skyline. Black Canary crouched for a moment, then sprang upward in a series of remarkable flips.

But Canary gasped as her perfectly executed movements resulted in a landing within a net that bound her tightly and lifted her abruptly skyward.

Hearing her gasp, Green Arrow whirled to try to detach the net before it could reach a dangerously high elevation, but he was too slow and found himself ensnared within another trap seconds later.

Soon the couple was within the spacecraft, and as the nets seemingly dissolved, wrist manacles materialized to bind the couple.

Power dampeners! I can’t use my canary cry! thought Black Canary as she realized her vocal chords were numb.

They were on the bridge of a spacecraft, in which a large row of machines blanketed each side of the room, while several beings stood as if awaiting a military-style inspection. The couple faced an armored figure who stood mockingly before them, along with six other similarly clad figures.

Green Arrow frowned as he recognized several other costumed figures and their sinister-looking host. “So they got you guys as well!” he declared, recognizing the Flash, the second Atom, and Hawkman and Hawkwoman. The four JLAers wore manacles that matched the ones that held Green Arrow and Black Canary.

Placing her hands defiantly on her hips, Canary said, “Who, exactly, is our silent host? I can tell that you know him!”

“Oh yeah, I’ve had the pleasure,” replied Green Arrow. “He’s a cosmic fascist known as the Capsule Master. That is you behind that big ol’ Great Gazoo helmet, isn’t it, Vulkor?”

One of the soldiers stepped forward and raised a studded lash as if to attack, but the silent figure in the purple helmet raised one hand in command, and the soldier lowered his weapon.

“He captured all of us,” explained the Flash. “Apparently they already have most of the others. Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, and a couple others are unaccounted for, though!”

One of the soldiers removed his own half-helmet to reveal the green skin of a Martian. “Each of us was assigned to slay or capture one of you,” explained the soldier. “Our missions became all the easier when the legendary Capsule Master himself arrived and revealed that he had joined our sacred crusade! He used his scientific wonders to trap each of you, and he did it in a matter of minutes! Your world will fall to the Brotherhood with ease once we launch our main attack!”

Unlike the other aliens, Vulkor spoke in an oddly distorted tone of voice due to the design of his helmet. “You flatter me with your kind praise and effusive offerings, much like Greeks bearing gifts,” he said, turning his gaze from his men to Hawkman. “You do recall that phrase, don’t you, Katar?”

Hawkman smiled grimly and nodded slightly.

Stepping forward, Vulkor said, “Having secured you and drawn these would-be attackers to one place, I think we can drop the whole charade! Get them, fellow Leaguers!”

The Flash raced into super-swift action, disarming the Martians before they could react, while Green Arrow deftly shook off the suddenly loose and powerless manacles and shot two heat-emitting arrows toward the startled aliens.

The Hawks had similarly shaken free of the useless manacles, and with two skillful blows from their maces, they had stunned the greatly weakened Martians who had lost their ability to resist once Green Arrow’s flames drained their strength.

Spinning around, Black Canary bowled them flat with a canary cry, and in moments the battle had been won. “And that’s that!” she said with a beaming smile as she dusted her hands together.

“Okay, call me slow,” said Green Arrow. “I realized the fancy bracelets had lost their power all of a sudden, and I caught that whole Trojan horse reference you mentioned to Hawkman, but who, exactly, are you?”

The fake Vulkor removed his helmet to reveal the handsome and intelligent features of Adam Strange, the Earth-born champion of Rann.

“Adam?! Now I see what happened! You took Vulkor’s place and duped these Martians into letting you gather us up! Nice work, pal!”

Adam Strange smiled. “Exactly!” he said. “I’m sorry I had to temporarily immobilize you, but I couldn’t risk word spreading from one of their secret agents to another that I was aware of their plans and was posing as Vulkor. Sardath picked up some chatter via one of his communication probes, and it enabled me to ambush the real Vulkor before he could reach Earth. He’s being held securely on Rann!”

Hawkwoman said, “Adam, you’ve done a great job of luring these attackers into the open, but have you learned anything else from them?”

Adam Strange shook his head and said, “Nothing, except subsequently I did learn they have captured most of the JLA! I would have allowed this bunch to take us to their base, but I figured out that they weren’t planning to take any captives to the same place they took our friends. Time is running out before some major move on their part goes into play, and they were merely going to execute you!”

“I’ve been using their computer system,” said the Atom, alias Adam Cray. “I’m no expert, but between lessons from Dr. Palmer and Red Tornado, I’ve managed to pick up enough alien science on our satellite to at least access such a system. They’ve disabled the JLA communicators. That’s one reason Dr. Palmer and some of the Titans like Nightwing and Artemis are aboard now, working to restore some order and to keep the place secure!” Reviewing information at the computer console, he added, “I found a reference to something that roughly translates into ‘mind-knife’ in English! It sure sounds like they’re ready to strike!”

“I learned something more urgent after gleaning data from the Absorbascon,” said Hawkman. “They are holding some captives in a base hidden in the Andes Mountains. I wonder if our friends might not be there as well!”

Slamming his fist into his palm, Green Arrow said, “Well, let’s get moving! We can’t let these cosmic jaywalkers run wild!”

“That’s the old team spirit I’ve grown to know and love!” said Adam Strange.

***

Meanwhile, on New Mars, Martian Manhunter and Wonder Woman had joined J’onn Jonzz’s parents and Zook within the community meeting hall, where Martian authorities made an effort to come to terms with the bizarre truth of the danger their world contained. Several had listened intently as J’onn had finally explained the exact nature of the secret group and the threat they posed to the universe. Meanwhile, Captain Comet had joined other Martians in their efforts to reassure the freed captives and try to explain their plight to them.

“J’onn, much has changed since you were last here,” explained his father, R’bert J’onzz. “Following the failed invasion, the Marshal and all such military leaders were discredited. The Martian people made it clear that we longed for a return to the peace and prosperity of the golden age. You may trust the current leadership. They view you as a hero and will follow your lead!”

Zook piped in his opinion. “Manhunter, they know you great guy now! Who pretty lady?” As he rushed over to Wonder Woman, she placed one hand on the little creature’s head.

“I am Nubia, and I have heard much about what a brave fellow you are!” she said with a smile.

Zook grinned bashfully and twirled around on one foot. “Zook like Nubia!” he cried.

A burly Martian named R’onn R’ay stepped forward and said, “J’onn, I am the lawkeeper here. I will do everything I can to locate and secure the members of this Red Brotherhood. I want to assure you that they are rogues and do not represent the views of the Martian establishment!”

A second portly Martian hurried into the room. “We have assured the liberated captives that they are safe, and we have also secured the Robo-Chargers!” he said. “However, the prisoner has escaped!”

Nubia jumped to her feet. “By Hera, what kind of negligence resulted in such a loss?” she cried. “He was our main lead to finding the others!”

Raising one calming hand, J’onn said, “It is part of my plan. We will still find them. Do not give up!”

Jumping up and down excitedly, Zook said, “Manhunter know Zook can find them! Zook find them all!”

J’onn smiled in agreement. “Exactly! I ordered the guard to feign carelessness so our prisoner could slip away. I knew that once Zook had come into proximity with him, he could locate him again!” Turning to Nubia, he explained, “You see, Zook’s antennae senses unique electrical emanations from every living thing, allowing him to track anyone he’s met, as well as differentiate between a real individual and someone merely disguised as that individual.”

“That’s quite impressive!” Nubia said, smiling at Zook, who beamed at the praise.

“It like old times, huh, Manhunter?” yelled Zook.

Bending down, J’onn patted the little alien on the shoulder. “Yes, it’s like our old days together on Earth!” he added.

Zook suddenly looked glum. “Zook wish Earth air not give him germs!” he said.

J’onn nodded sadly as he stood back up. “I first brought Zook to live with my parents after I finished routing the Earthly agents of the Brotherhood who were using the Vulture group as a front. He had been developing illnesses caused by long exposure to Earthly pollutants, and even staying behind in our mountain retreat for long periods of time wasn’t enough to keep him safe.”

His mother J’unn J’onzz smiled warmly and said, “We love having Zook stay with us!”

Zook smiled up at her and gave her a hug. It was clear that the little alien was happy living with his friend’s family.

“It is so good to see you again, son,” said J’unn. “I only wish your brother T’omm was here. The boy has always lacked your steadiness. He has been back and forth from here to around the galaxy ever since he came of age! We never know where he is at any given moment!”

Zook suddenly giggled. “Zook know, but it big secret!”

Before J’onn could question the little orange alien, several figures approached the chamber. Captain Comet walked into view, along with several people close behind.

J’onn recognized Steel at once and rushed toward him, “Son, are you hurt?” he asked. “How long have you been here?”

“I’d just finished a case with Vibe’s sister when I was ambushed,” said Hank Heywood. “And I just woke up when Captain Comet pulled me out of the machine! He says we’re on New Mars!”

“If you’ve been a captive here,” said Nubia, “perhaps other JLAers have been switched as well!”

“I don’t think so,” said Steel, “or at least I didn’t see anyone else I knew emerge from those Robo-Charger things!”

Glancing over at a bald man in a purple costume and cape, J’onn said, “Sir, I feel as though I should recognize your costume, but I am at a loss!”

“I’ve been forgotten by most people,” said the old man. “I was the original Hyperman of Trombus. (*) My son took the role of planetary champion when he came of age roughly fifteen years ago. I was abducted by Jovians following my wife’s death a few months ago!”

[(*) Editor’s note: See “Superboy’s Lost Identity,” Superboy #144 (January, 1968).]

“When this is over, we’ll help you all regain your former lives,” vowed Captain Comet. “I promise you we will!”

“We must hurry and track our escaped prisoner!” said Nubia. “Lives on Earth may depend upon it!”

“Nubia is very much a woman of action!” J’onn remarked to his approving parents.

The heroes hurried out as Zook gave a high-pitched squeal and led them through the night toward a rocky embankment.

“He’s below, Manhunter! Zook can tell! Zook can always tell!” he whispered excitedly.

Martian Manhunter nodded and said, “Good job, Zook! Those tracking antennae are as capable as ever!”

“You betcha!” said Zook.

They charged forward and closed in on a group of twelve startled cultists. Some were Martians, while others appeared to be Mercurian or Jovian. Some Martians phased out of reach, but others had been too slow to escape.

Hyperman grimly brought the rocky slope cascading down to cut off some of the gang, but they merely turned invisible.

“They there! Zook knows!” he said.

Nubia smiled grimly. “Allow me to bring them into the open!” she said. “I’ve meant to try this trick before!”

Spinning her golden lasso in a wide loop, Wonder Woman allowed it to stir up a cloud of dust that swept across the closed space and coated several invisible figures.

Diving forward, the Manhunter from Mars knocked one of the dusty villains to the ground as Steel tackled two of them and began pounding away at them with a sudden fury.

Having slipped by the aliens, Captain Comet was rapidly studying a series of documents that he’d found within a base concealed behind the seemingly solid wall of the canyon. “I’ve found their lair!” he said, but shook his head sadly as he scanned the materials. “These ruthless brutes have systematically abducted innocent people from across the universe and either killed them or imprisoned them so they could replace them with shape-shifting doubles. The whole plan has been going on for years, and we would never have known about it if the Marshal hadn’t felt so betrayed by his people that he told the truth!”

As J’onn joined his friend, Comet looked up and said, “We’ve got to get back to Earth! This document spells it all out! They mean to strike against the planet immediately in case of discovery. They know we’re on to them, or they wouldn’t have been guarding the city portal. They must have had more than one spy within the prison. When the Marshal told me his story, I unwittingly set into motion a plot that might kill millions! I won’t allow that to happen!”

Using his telepathy to verify that his friends had defeated the aliens, Martian Manhunter nodded as Captain Comet rushed out of the base. “I am with you, friend!” said J’onn. “We’d better return to Earth before it is too late! The others may follow us if they wish!”

“We have them all!” said Nubia. “They won’t escape again! What’s wrong, beloved?”

“They’re about to strike on Earth!” said an alarmed J’onn J’onzz. “We’d better get a ship and return. We can’t wait for the shifting tower to align for another phase!”

Looking over at Zook, he said, “Zook, tell the others we will return. Have Hyperman and the freed captives help to contain these prisoners and round up any others that this group implicates!”

Zook nodded. “Will do, Manhunter!”

With a last glance back at the loyal little alien, J’onn J’onzz carried Steel and Nubia skyward as Captain Comet activated his jets and blazed into the heavens.

To Be Continued in Superman: Gotcha!

To Be Continued in Batman: Meanwhile, in Gotham City

To Be Continued in Green Lantern: The Parallax View

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