by Martin Maenza
A red-haired woman in red tights and blue cape and cowl flew low across the watery surface of the Atlantic Ocean. “Now, let me get this straight, Oracle,” she said, talking into a small microphone fitted to her costume. “Batman actually picked me for this assignment? Are you sure?”
“I spoke to him in person,” Lyla said from her base of operations, “when I provided him with the information he needed on the various super-powered people from my Monitor files.”
“And he asked for me?” Superwoman inquired.
“Yes,” said Oracle. “His exact words were…”
“I can’t think of anyone better suited for this job besides the Flash,” Hal Jordan said as he stood in the Justice League satellite that orbited the planet Earth at 22,300 miles. Instead of his traditional Green Lantern garb, Hal wore the black suit with red and gold trim of the Darkstars, a uniform the Earth-bound Green Lanterns had adopted according to a contingent plan that took effect when all their power rings ceased working at the same time.
A young man dressed all in red listened to his fellow Leaguer. “Superwoman, huh?” the Flash said. “I guess if she’s good enough choice for Batman, who am I to argue? I just hope she’s up for the task.”
Hal put his hand on the young man’s shoulders. “Are you up for the task, Wally?” he asked. “I know you’ve been through the ringer lately.” (*)
Wally West smiled. “Hey, no problem, G.L. I had a rough bout with stuff last month, but things are A-OK now. You know us Flashes — we tend to recover really, really fast.”
Hal nodded. “Sounds good to me.” He handed the speedster two large sacks. “I’ll beam you down to the rendezvous point. You two will need these. Instructions are inside.”
A short time later, just south of Cadiz, Spain, on the banks of the Strait of Gibraltar, two heroic figures stood and each held a large sack. Superwoman let her bag sway, feeling the weight of the contents. “So, we basically have to distribute these devices that the JLA cobbled together, right?” the heroine asked.
“Yep, that’s about it,” the Flash replied. “They’ll outline who is needed for what parts of the plan to win this war against the alien invaders. All you and I have to do is deliver them to the right parties.”
“And that’s where this comes in?” Superwoman replied, holding a small flat panel device. “Oracle’s little travel itinerary?”
“I guess she figured this way we wouldn’t get lost,” the Flash said. “Not like I ever do. Still, I thought we could have a little fun with this boring task, if you’re up to the challenge.”
Superwoman put her hands on her hips and leaned forward. “Challenge? You’re on!”
“A gambling woman!” Flash smiled. “I like that! OK, then, here’s the deal. I’ll take Europe, Asia, and Australia. You get Africa and the Americas. First one to deliver all their boxes and get to San Francisco, California, wins.”
“Hey, that means I have more heroes to deliver to!”
“And I have more ground to cover mile-wise, so it evens out.”
“OK. What’s in San Francisco?”
“Your last stop, the headquarters for Titans West. Figured it’s as good a place as any for our finish line, I get to say hi to my old buddies, and you get to pay for my meal in Chinatown when you lose.”
“Me, lose? I don’t think so.”
“It’s a bet, then?”
“You got it! Hope your feet are as fast as your mouth, buddy!”
The two heroes shook hands on their friendly little wager. It would make the task of summoning troops for a final battle a little more bearable.
“Let’s get on with this, then,” Flash said. He took a runner’s starting stance as if he were in blocks facing north. Superwoman did the same, standing next to him but facing south. “All right, on three. One… two…”
“Three!” Superwoman shouted with a laugh and took to the air.
“Hey!” Flash started to protest. But she was off with a shot. “Ugh, fine! That head-start won’t help you.” And he, too, took off in a scarlet blur. The communications race was on.
Between the Congo and the Sudan, a community sat secretly hidden by an advanced energy screen. A large ape bound into the main chambers on his four appendages. “Grodd, I have a perimeter report for you!” the ape said.
“What is it, Kong?” the deep-voiced large leader said. “Have the invaders ventured into our region?”
“No, sir,” the ape replied. “Turns out a single figure flew past one of our sensors at a high speed, heading south. Appeared human.”
“Hmmm,” Grodd pondered. “Just one human, eh? Nothing to concern ourselves with yet.” And the super-gorilla went back to his plans. The residents of Gorilla City had accepted him as their leader in Solivar’s illness. Soon, it would be time to act.
Just past the Kalahari Desert, the Zulu man named Mbulaze ran amidst of herd antelope and felt at peace. With all that is going on around us, it is good to find respite with nature, the man thought. We often forget that this is their world, too.
Suddenly, Impala felt a tap on his shoulder. “Excuse me,” a melodious voice said.
The African hero leaped, and with his powers soared high above the herd with whom he took his other name. When he landed, it was in a defensive stance. “Who?” Impala asked. Then he relaxed when he saw the familiar symbol the costumed woman wore upon her chest. “The S-shield! You are an ally of Superman?”
“Yes,” Superwoman said, landing. “I didn’t mean to startle you. I have something for you, Impala. That is who you are, right?” She reached into her sack and removed one of the devices.
“Yes,” the hero said. “I am.”
“Good,” the woman replied. “This should give you all you need to know. Sorry I can’t stay and chat, but I’ve a long ways to go!” And with that, Superwoman took off.
Impala examined the device and activated it. After selecting a language with which he was familiar reading, he began to take in the details of the plan the Justice League was proposing.
A crimson blur left the building known as the Dome and moved through the streets of Paris. Man, I wish Doctor Mist hadn’t been in deep meditation, the Flash thought to himself. It would’ve made my job a lot easier if he could have contacted the rest of the Global Guardians immediately. Ah, well. So much for taking advantage of a shortcut.
He glanced at the device Oracle had provided for him and Superwoman. Checking his half of the list, his eyes widened. Hmmm, there are two more folks I need to locate in the city, he thought. One’s Crimson Fox. From what I understand, she’s a looker. And the other, whoa!
The Flash made a left at the Eiffel Tower. I hadn’t realized that Azrael relocated here after his split from the Titans a few months ago! Nightwing said something about him needing some time to find himself. Who would’ve thought that would be here in France? I hope he’ll drop the lone wolf bit long enough to lend a hand. The hero hurried toward his last two stops in the City of Lights.
On a secluded beach just south of Rio De Janeiro, a voluptuous woman with long, flowing green hair was lying on her stomach on a blanket, working on her tan. Suddenly, she felt a shadow cast over her. “Hey!” Beatriz da Costa exclaimed. “You’re blocking my sun!” She held the top of her skimpy bikini, which was untied, as she sat up.
She saw the blue boots in the sand that were worn over red tights. She recognized the costume as that of one of the American heroines. “What can I do for you, missy?”
“You’re Fire, right?” Superwoman asked.
Beatriz laughed. “How many women do you think are running around Brazil with green hair, sweetie?”
“I thought you were with the Conglomerate up in the United States.”
“Were is right,” Beatriz replied. “Things there were crazy of late, and then Gardner got totally out of hand when his power ring stopped working. I couldn’t take it anymore, so I came home for a break!”
Superwoman found the South American heroine’s attitude a tad selfish, but she kept her tongue and said nothing. Instead, she reached into her sack and pulled out another device. “I’m supposed to deliver one of these to you,” she said. “You’re needed.”
Beatriz caught the device, and Superwoman flew off quickly. The gust kicked up some sand, depositing the grains all over the woman’s large blanket. “Uh!” she said, brushing off the sand. Beatriz realized, whether she liked it or not, that her vacation was coming to an abrupt end.
Just outside of London, the Flash approached a sprawling stone manor that reminded him of something out of King Arthur. “Hey,” he said to himself, “that’s a different approach to the super-hero headquarters idea. Kind of classy in an old world sort of way.” He approached the front door, rang the bell, and waited, tapping his foot impatiently.
Finally, the door opened and a manservant answered the door. “Oh, my word,” Chivers exclaimed. “What can I do for you, sir?”
“I’m looking for the Paladins,” the Flash said. “I was told I could get in touch with them here. They’re needed.”
“I’m afraid that’ll be a bit of a problem,” a female voice said from behind the butler. The woman was dressed in a white costume with blue trim and had incredibly long, flowing blonde hair. “Flash, please come with me,” Godiva instructed the speedster.
Soon, the two were joined by the Knight and the Squire, the second men to carry those names in England’s heroic tradition. They were dressed in a medieval motif as their costumed identities would suggest. “Welcome to Wordenshire Castle, Flash,” the Knight said. “It’s an honor to have you here.”
“Good to meet you both,” Flash said. “Godiva said there’s a problem?”
“Yes,” the Knight said. “It turns out a good portion of our teammates are missing in action!”
“Missing?” Flash asked.
“Yes,” the Squire said. “Godiva was with them when it happened.”
“Do you think it’s related to the invasion?” Flash asked.
“No clue,” Godiva replied softly. “We have no idea where they are or even how to go about getting them back.”
“Still,” the Knight said, “you said the Paladins were needed. Even shorthanded, we’ll be glad to help where we can!”
The Flash nodded and handed them one of the devices. “I’ve got one in here for Jack O’ Lantern, too. I’d better get moving over to Ireland to drop it off.”
“He’s been helping out all over. I’ll get it to him,” Godiva replied. “He and I go a ways back due to our time with the Global Guardians.”
“Thanks,” said Flash. “That will help a lot. I hope to see you all again real soon.” And with that, the speedster took off once more.
A small speedboat sped down the waterway. At the helm was a determined man, and on the deck were two other men with guns, watching for the harbor patrol. “We’re free and clear once we hit open water!” one of the men said.
The boat was about to pass under a highway bridge when something dropped down fast. The men recognized the figure in gold and blue. “The Bushmaster!”
Thanks to his special gloves, the South American adventurer was able to catch hold of the rail as the boat nearly sped past. With acrobatic ease, he swung up onto the deck. Ignoring the hail of bullets, he kicked the first man in chest and knocked him overboard. “Yes, yes, it is I,” Bushmaster said with a smile. “Every woman’s dream and every criminal’s worst nightmare!” With a one-two punch, he took out the second gunman.
The driver of the boat cursed. Letting go of the steering wheel, he pulled his gun and opened fire.
Bushmaster sprang to the side to avoid the shots, pulling a gun from the holster on his left hip. “You missed! My turn!” He squeezed the trigger, sending a small projectile at the third criminal. A tranquilizer dart embedded into the man’s upper thigh. Acting quickly, the venom immediately forced the man into an unconscious state.
Bushmaster smiled, then turned to see the boat was veering out of control toward some large cargo ships. “Uh-oh,” he said as he scampered toward the controls. “Should have planned ahead.”
“Allow me,” a female voice said from above. Superwoman landed on the deck, taking the controls and cutting down the motor. “There, that should do it.”
The Bushmaster smiled. “Muchas gracias for the assist, pretty senorita,” he said coolly.
“De nada,” Superwoman replied. She tossed him a small device. “This is for you.”
The hero watched the woman soar off northward, and then he looked at the box. “Hmmm, interesting design,” he said. “I’ll check it out and its message later, after I get these drug-runners off to the authorities.”
Across the globe in the seaport town of Esbjerg, Denmark, the Flash caught up with another member of the Global Guardians. “You were lucky to catch me, Flash,” the short, blonde-haired young woman in the green mask said. “I was just about to head back to Atlantis to help out.”
“I’m glad, Little Mermaid,” the scarlet speedster replied. “You going to see Aqualad?”
“Definitely,” the heroine replied, too polite to mention that she now simply called herself the Mermaid. “Have any messages for him?”
The Flash handed her an extra device. “I’m pretty sure Aquaman is aware of the plan the other Leaguers drew up, but just in case you can take him one of these.”
“I’d be happy to,” the heroine of Denmark replied. And with that, she dived out over the water. As she did so, her two green leotard-clad legs came together and shimmered. By the time she plunged into the cold depths of the water, the legs had become a single appendage, a tail that helped her swim very fast through the water. Her head bobbed up above the surface, and she gave the Flash a little wave before ducking under again.
Flash waved back, then shook his head slightly. Leave it to Garth to be dating a fish-girl. Still, it’s nice to see him moving on after Tula’s death. He checked his list and the small timer on the upper corner that clocked his progress. Hmmm. I’d better move.
Superwoman checked the time on her electronic list as well. Doing good, she thought to herself as she moved past the Georgia border.
Let’s see — next stop is Memphis, Tennessee. Superwoman then turned slightly to the west but continued north. This Blue Velvet’s only been around a short time, but between Oracle’s information and my own knowledge of the costumed heroes and their secret identities of this era, finding her shouldn’t be too difficult. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Showcase: Blue Velvet: Dark Clouds, Silver Linings.]
Dresden, West Germany:
An alien craft dropped down to just above the treetops but continued to move fast. The attackers inside were fleeing the scene of a battle that hadn’t gone in their favor. “We must escape and bring more reinforcements!” the pilot said to the other in the craft’s small cockpit.
“Hurry, hurry!” said the other. “Before we end up like the others!”
The ship had reached the end of a small forest, when suddenly a large, black-winged creature appeared on their view screen. Astride the flying steed was a brown-haired, muscular man with Viking-like garb. The pair flew directly at the oncoming ship.
“Steady, Orkan!” the Wild Huntsman said to his mount as he released the reins and grabbed his mighty battle-ax from his belt. “Hold fast, my friend!”
Just as the horse and ship were about to collide, Orkan cut upward with a beat of his mighty wings. His master let out a loud battle cry and leaped off at the same moment, landing on the top of the small craft with a hard thud.
“What was that?” the aliens wondered.
The Wild Huntsman swung his ax, bringing it down hard upon the craft’s engine. His mighty mystical weapon sliced through the metal as if it were mere paper, sending sparks and flames into the air as the systems shorted out. Satisfied with the damage he caused, the Huntsman whistled.
Orkan swept on by, allowing his master the chance to leap once more upon the creature’s back. The two watched as the craft plummeted to the ground. It exploded into a ball of flames. “We’ve done well today, old friend,” the Huntsman said, stroking the horse’s mane.
Orkan jerked his head as if to point to the ground below.
The Wild Huntsman looked. “Indeed, the damaged ship has caused a brush fire!” Before they could swoop down to assist, a crimson blur appeared and ran circles around the flames. The backdraft of the super-fast movement was enough to put out the fire.
The Huntsman landed as the Flash approached. “Thank you, my friend,” the German hero said. “Your aid is much appreciated.”
“No problem,” said the Flash. He handed the Huntsman a device. “You can return the favor later. This will explain all.” And the scarlet speedster was off again.
A pair of unlikely figures walked from one of the government buildings together. The man was in good shape and a bit younger in appearance — deceptively so, since he was actually the older of the two. The African-American woman was big framed but carried a determined attitude on her face. They spoke in hushed tones, keeping their topic of conversation amongst themselves.
“Excuse me,” a woman’s voice said. Superwoman dropped from the sky and landed near them. “You’re Amanda Waller and Rick Flag, correct?”
“Who wants to know?” Waller snapped.
“Lydia?” Rick asked.
“No, Superwoman,” the costumed heroine replied. “Lydia’s going by Supergirl these days. Look, I don’t have a lot of time. You two are responsible for Task Force X and the Suicide Squad programs, right?”
“What?” Waller snapped in surprise. “How do you–?”
“Keep your voices down,” Flag said. “Both of you.” He pulled the heroine closer. “Look, I’m not confirming anything, especially here and now. But if you’ve got business with the two of us, let’s have it!”
Superwoman wasn’t intimidated by their bravado. “Look, special resources are needed for a special mission,” she said as she fished out a particular device from her sack. “Here! I was told this one was especially for you two. It indicates what operatives might be useful in the liberation of the Earth from the Alien Alliance. Batman believed if anyone had the pull to gather these super-criminals fast, it would be you two.”
Waller snatched it before Superwoman could hand it to Flag.
Flag shook his head. “Batman, huh?”
“Look, if you want to keep your little operations a secret, you’ll provide some help to the cause,” Superwoman said. “Otherwise, there just might not be any freedom left for anyone to be fighting for.” And with that, she started to walk off.
Flag leaned in to view the small display. Waller was already looking at the list.
“Hmm, I wonder if Comet’s team might be of help,” Flag said softly.
“I heard that,” said Superwoman, who was over thirty feet away. “And Vumania Island is the next stop on my list.” She gave Flag a little wink and flew off.