Earth was in a state of turmoil. Invaders from beyond the stars had come to enslave the planet, leaving death, destruction, and terror in their wake. Earth’s greatest heroes had risen to the challenge, but their numbers were depleted of their most powerful members. The Green Lanterns had been rendered powerless; Superman had been brutally beaten. But the other heroes soldiered on, because they were, in fact, heroes.
In Star City, the sound of fire trucks blared as the hook-and-ladder trucks raced by. Ever since the Gordanians broadcast their message, the streets had been in chaos. Rioting and looting was on the rise as many people tried their best to get their hands on everything they could before the world ended.
On a rooftop, a blonde woman in a dark blue jacket and fishnet stockings shook her head. “Sometimes I just don’t get it,” Black Canary said. “If the end of the world were near, there are more important things to think about than material needs.”
A man dressed in a green archer’s suit with blonde hair, mustache, and beard put his hand on her shoulder. “You’re preaching to the choir, pretty bird,” Green Arrow said. “Think you can hold down the fort until I get back?”
“I think so,” Black Canary said. “If not, I know where to get some help from friends.” She turned around and embraced her partner and now fiancé. “Do you really need to go?”
“Superman’s been acting like a one-man monitor board,” Green Arrow said. “And though he’s Mr. tough Kryptonian and insists he doesn’t need any rest, he’s still pretty beat up from that fight with Lobo. (*) It’s the least I can do to spell him from duty for a couple hours.” He started to step away from her and toward one corner of the rooftop.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Superman: Solitude Interrupted.]
A tube suddenly appeared out of nowhere as he approached. His JLA signal device was tuned to the transporter tube. “I’ll be back as soon as I can,” Green Arrow replied as he stepped into the tube. There was a hesitation, a slight bit longer than normal, and then he vanished.
Black Canary frowned. She had wanted to tell him that she loved him before he left. She reached for her communicator and opened the channel to the satellite.
“Superman here,” the Man of Steel answered. “What can I do for you, Dinah?”
“Can I speak to Ollie, Clark?”
“Ollie? He’s not here.”
Canary’s eyes grew wide. “What do you mean? He just beamed up.”
There was a pause. “Dinah, we’ve been having some system problems here. An alien ship opened fire on the satellite a few minutes ago. I was able to run them off with the defensive systems, though. Let me run a diagnostic on the transporter logs to find out what’s going on.”
There was another pause. A prayer ran through Canary’s head.
Superman came back online. “Dinah, I show a transmission from the Star City tube, but something interfered with the beam. He’s not here!”
“Well, where is he, then?” she asked in a panic.
“Dinah, I don’t know.”
Black Canary gasped silently. No! Not again! It couldn’t happen again!
The world melted into a haze of shimmering colors before the archer’s eyes. This happened every time he took the transporter tube. Most of the time he shut his eyes until it was over, but he would never admit that under torture. Oliver Queen had seen a lot of bizarre things since becoming Green Arrow, but some wonders that other team members took for granted still amazed him.
The multi-chromatic haze began to resolve itself into definite shapes, meaning the ride was just about over. As soon as he felt solid ground under his feet, Green Arrow took a step forward.
“OK, Supes, I’m tagging you out,” he said. “You can get back to — to — Supes?”
Green Arrow looked around. This was not the Justice League satellite. He was on a barren plain, a plain of dark red earth. Bizarre plants, the like of which he had never seen, grew in small patches of scrub here and there. Green Arrow felt dazed, disoriented.
“Toto, I don’t think we’re in Star City anymore,” he said glibly, trying to mask his own uneasiness from himself. “What the heck is going on around here?”
Suddenly, the silence was rent by a loud screeching noise. Green Arrow whirled on his heel and gaped. A large craft of gleaming purple metal hovered in the air behind him. It was the size of a cabin cruiser boat and hung in midair, with apparently no visible means of propulsion. It screeched at him again, and the differences in pitch and tone of the shrieks gave Green Arrow the impression that the ship was talking to him in a language he couldn’t understand.
“Um, no savvy,” the archer said, spreading his arms wide. “Klaatu baradas nikto?”
The only response was a burst of orange-yellow energy from a small gun turret mounted beneath the ship’s nose. Green Arrow barely had time to dive out of the way. He hit the ground, rolled, and came up running. He ran breathlessly, every step immediately followed by a scorching energy blast striking the ground where his foot had been seconds before.
“I don’t need this,” Green Arrow muttered to himself as he ran. “I really don’t need this!” He wanted to stand and fight, but he knew it would be hopeless. The ship would blast him to atoms before he could draw an arrow, quick as he was.
Green Arrow had run about two hundred yards, the ship in hot pursuit, when his foot struck a small stone. He went down hard into the maroon-colored dirt. He rolled over on his back to stare up into the gun turret of the purple ship.
“Dinah,” he whispered as he heard the hum of the blaster.
“Clark, you’ve got to find him!” Black Canary cried into the communicator. “Where is he?”
“Dinah, I’m doing the best I can,” Superman replied. “I’ve tried to track down his JLA communicator, but according to the readings, he’s nowhere on Earth! The Gordanians’ communications scramble might be fouling the readings…”
“What about off-planet?” Black Canary demanded. “Could the transporter have taken him to another world?”
“It’s possible,” Superman said. “I’ve tried a tachyon trace of the solar system and beyond. So far, nothing; but again, the signal could be fouled.”
“Clark, I-I have to know!” Black Canary demanded irrationally. “If Ollie’s — if he’s–” Black Canary broke down, then, and began to weep.
The Man of Steel’s mouth tightened into a grim line. “I’ll find him, Dinah,” he vowed. “I swear it.”
Green Arrow tensed, waiting for the blast. Involuntarily, he closed his eyes as he saw the brilliant flash. He waited for the searing agony of the energy blast. One second. Two. Nothing? Hesitantly, he opened his eyes and saw the gun turret of the ship, melted into slag.
“What the heeeyy!” Green Arrow’s question turned into a scream of surprise as he was plucked up from the ground and hauled into the sky by a powerful grip under his arms.
“What are you doing so far from home, Green Arrow?” a familiar voice above the archer’s head asked, shouting the question over the rush of air caused by their rapid travel.
“Adam Strange!” Green Arrow cried. “Man, am I glad to see you! I guess I’m on Rann, then?”
“Didn’t you know?” Adam asked.
“No, I had no idea,” the archer said. “I was trying to beam up to the JLA Satellite from Earth, but I ended up here instead!”
“The transporter beam must have caught a Zeta beam,” Adam mused. “It was time for one.”
“Wouldn’t be the first time that happened,” Green Arrow grumbled. “Lousy super-technology, breaking a man down into atoms like a jigsaw puzzle and putting him back together like Humpty Dumpty a trillion miles away!”
“Thank you, Dr. McCoy,” Adam quipped. “Well, you came at a good time, or a bad time, depending on your point of view. I was actually about to contact the JLA for assistance!”
Green Arrow felt them losing altitude and saw that Adam was heading for a tall mesa in the middle of a desert. His falcon-like eyes saw many people and small airships on top of the flat tableland.
“I’m probably all the JLA can spare right now, Adam,” Green Arrow said. “Earth has its hands full with an alien invasion!”
Adam blinked. “Earth, too? I thought it was just Rann! Green Arrow, we’re under attack by alien invaders!”
“Drone Ship Epsilon reporting, Commander,” a voice snarled through the communications system.
“Report, Epsilon,” said the commander of the invasion forces of Rann, sitting back in his chair aboard the command ship.
“I was on a scouting mission in the area natively known as the Urnol Desert, searching for the rebel base,” the drone ship pilot reported. “A being materialized in the desert and refused to identify himself to me. I–“
“Wait a moment, Epsilon,” the commander demanded, suddenly animated. “Did you say materialized?”
“Yes, sir,” the pilot confirmed. “One minute he was not there, and the next minute he was.”
“Interesting.” The commander pondered this. He had been briefed about the planet Rann and the zeta beams when the Gordanians had assigned him the task of conquering this planet. Had the beams brought someone from off-planet? A Terran, like Rann’s champion Adam Strange, perhaps? “Continue.”
“The being refused to identify himself, so I opened fire,” the pilot went on. “I would have destroyed him, but something wrecked my ion-gun and spirited the newcomer away, too fast for me to get a reading.”
“Describe this newcomer, the being who materialized,” the commander said.
“Human, bipedal, like the Rannites,” the pilot said, “but also like their off-worlder champion. He wore strange garb, Commander, all of one color — green.”
“Green?” the Commander asked, raising an eyebrow. Could it be?
“Yes, sir. And he carried some bizarre implement, function unknown. Long and thin, with some sort of wire strung from end to end. It–“
“Green Arrow!” the Commander cried, banging his fist on the communications console. “Epsilon, find him at once!”
“Thank Rao you’re all right, Ollie!” Superman said into the communicator. “We were all worried sick — Dinah most of all!”
“You tell her I’m fine, Supes,” Green Arrow spoke into his JLA communicator device. “Just happened to catch a zeta beam, is all.”
“I’m afraid you’ll have to remain on Rann until it wears off,” Superman said. “With the situation the way it is, we can’t spare any resources to pick you up!”
“That’s OK, Supes,” Green Arrow said. “It looks like I’m needed here, anyway! The situation has spread to Rann!”
“Great Scott!” Superman cried. “Rann, too? This gets worse!”
“I know,” Green Arrow said bitterly. “Regular Third Reich of Space, ain’t it? I’ll keep you appraised of the situation. Green Arrow signing off, 5-5-8.” With a click, Green Arrow broke the connection, then replaced the communicator in his belt. He turned to the expectant faces of Adam Strange, his father-in-law Sardath, and his wife Alanna. “Now, tell me what’s going on.”
“It happened two days ago,” Sardath explained. “The ships appeared from nowhere, raining destruction down on Rann. They primarily attacked the capital city of Ranagar.” The scientist lowered his eyes and went on in a choking tone. “The city was leveled.”
“Ranagar’s destroyed?” Green Arrow gasped. “I don’t believe that! Adam, you’ve protected the city from dozens of threats in the past! What happened?”
“Dammit, Ollie, don’t you think I’ve been asking myself that?” Adam demanded. Green Arrow could sense the rage in his voice, anger at himself. “But I’m not a soldier; I never was. I’m a scientist, an archaeologist. Solving puzzles is what I do. In the past, the invaders have had bizarre super-weapons with one fatal flaw that I’ve been able to figure out — a puzzle for me to solve. But these–! They just attacked swiftly, brutally. A blitzkrieg, they used to call it. We were caught completely unprepared. Most of us barely escaped with our lives.”
“We came here, to the Urnol Desert,” explained Alanna, who was very pregnant and expecting her first child in a little over a month from now. “We set up camp on this mesa. Father’s machines keep us hidden from the invaders’ sensor devices, so we haven’t been found. But we don’t know if we can fight back!”
“We can,” Green Arrow said, and Adam caught the possessive pronoun. “We can beat these aliens back where they came from! We’re the Justice League, Adam and me. It’s what we do.”
Adam Strange, who was really only an honorary Justice League member, extended a hand. “Thank you, Ollie. I believe what you say. Together, we can.”
Green Arrow wrung his hand firmly. “Then let’s get to it!”
“Sardath?” a young technician said, coming up behind the great scientist. Everyone could sense the anxiety in the young man’s voice.
“What is it, Baqshee?” Sardath asked calmly.
“The invaders’ ships swarm in the desert, sir!” Baqshee said. “They come close! Soon they will discover our base!”
“We have to lead them away!” Adam cried, slamming his fist into his palm. “Green Arrow, are you with me?”
“Of course!” Green Arrow responded. “What have you got, a one-man ship for me?”
“Not exactly,” Adam said.
“Yaaa-aaa-aaah!” Green Arrow cried, tumbling head over heels through the Rann sky. “Adaaa-aaa-aaam!”
“Quit clowning!” Adam shouted over the wind. “We’ve got to lead these ships away!” The young Earth-born archaeologist cleaved the air as gracefully as a hawk.
“Adam, I don’t know how to steer this crazy thing!” Green Arrow complained, trying to get used to the rocket pack. He tucked his legs up into his stomach as he flew.
“Arrow, you don’t have to do that!” Adam cried, noticing this. “The exhaust from the rocket-pack may look like fiery jet exhaust, but it’s just light and spent particles. It’s harmless!”
Gingerly, Green Arrow let his legs down. He felt no heat from the rocket exhaust and exhaled in relief. He found it easier to steer now. “OK. Let’s get them!”
“Drone Ship Omega reporting, Commander!”
“Have you found them, Omega?” the commander asked anxiously.
“We have not found the rebel base, sir,” Omega reported, “but we have sighted two fliers on rocket packs. One of them all in green!”
“Get them!” the Commander roared.
“Bogeys at ten o’clock!” Adam cried out, seeing the drone ship bearing down on them. “Let’s lead them away from the mesa, G.A.!”
“I’m your wingman, Maverick!” Green Arrow cried.
“Huh?” Adam responded.
“You know, from Top Gun — the movie?”
“Haven’t seen it,” Adam responded. “Let’s go!” Gracefully as a bird of prey, Adam Strange arced through the sky. Somewhat more awkwardly, Green Arrow did the same in a different direction. Three drone ships swerved off to follow Green Arrow; one went after Adam.
That’s odd, Adam thought to himself as he banked through the air, the drone ship in hot pursuit. Three ships go after Green Arrow, one after me? I’m the champion of Rann, and the invaders couldn’t know G.A. Could they?”
Adam purposely slowed down, allowing the drone ship to come closer and closer. Finally, he cut the power to his rocket pack completely, dropping from the sky like a stone. The ship, unable to stop quickly enough, sailed right over Adam’s head. As it did, Adam blasted the under hull with his ray pistol. As Rann’s champion had figured, the underbelly of the ship, not a usual target, wasn’t as strongly reinforced. In a shower of sparks, the ship crashed to the desert floor. Adam’s jets flared to life, and he arced into the sky again.
“The ship wasn’t high enough for the pilots to be seriously injured,” Adam mused, “but that’s one ship that’s out of the fight!”