“Zowie! Finished!” Snapper Carr cried as he tapped out the last few characters on the computer keyboard. “The ever-lovin’ Justice League’s battle with that far-out femme fatale, the Queen Bee, has been entered into the computerized files!” (*) As he hit the enter key, Snapper theatrically shook out his hands. “Cray-zee! I know these computerized case files make it super-simple for the members to search for data they need on past cases, to help ’em solve future cases, but man! It sure is murder bein’ the groovy guy who has to enter all the data!“
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Drones of the Queen Bee,” Justice League of America #23 (November, 1963).]
“And don’t think we don’t appreciate it, Snapper,” a friendly voice came from the doorway of the Justice League of America’s communications room.
“Huh? Yee-oww!” Snapper cried, leaping out of his chair. “Swingin’ satellites, I thought I was alone in here! You’re gonna scare a guy out of ten years’ growth!“
“Sorry, Snap,” Green Arrow said, strolling into the room. J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter, walked in behind the archer, a smile on his green face.
“Keen! The ace archer and the Martian Manhunter! What’s up, guys? Somebody call an emergency meeting?”
“Nothing like that, Snapper,” J’onn said. “Green Arrow and I just finished a case together, and we stopped by headquarters to record it in the files.”
“I doubt the Capsule Master will ever be seen again,” Green Arrow said, “but you never know.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Wanted: The Capsule Master,” The Brave and the Bold #50 (November, 1963).]
“Far flippin’ out!” Snapper said, his fingers snapping with his excitement. “You two green guys doing the Superman-Batman thing, becoming a team on your own?”
Green Arrow chuckled. “Not quite, Snap; we just–“
“Calling the Justice League!” A woman’s urgent voice came through the JLA communicator, interrupting the archer. “Calling the Justice League! Urgent!”
“Cowabunga!” Snapper cried. “A distress call comin’ thru our ever-lovin’ communicator!“
“But who is it?” J’onn asked. “I don’t recognize the voice!“
“Calling the Justice League!” the woman’s voice continued. “This is a matter of life and death! Please respond!”
His mouth a grim line, Green Arrow snatched up the microphone. “Green Arrow of the Justice League responding.”
There was a moment’s hesitation, then the woman’s voice again. “This is Kalpyrna on the planet Dryanna,” the voice said. “We need the Justice League’s help!”
“Dryanna?” Snapper asked. “Wasn’t that the planet that star-hopper Carthan was from? The one who kidnapped you last year, G.A.?” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Doom of the Star Diamond,” Justice League of America #4 (April-May, 1961).]
The archer waved Snapper to silence. “What is the nature of your emergency?” he asked. “How can we help?”
“I have no time to explain!” Kalpyrna protested. “If I am found at this communicator, I will be executed instantly! I have only seconds. I must bring you to Dryanna!”
“Bring us to Dryanna?” J’onn repeated. “But how? We have no ship–“
“Go outside your headquarters and stand one hundred yards from the entrance,” Kalpyrna instructed. “Hurry, please! I have only a few moments!”
Green Arrow shot a glance at J’onn. The Martian nodded simply; Green Arrow returned the nod. “Acknowledged, Kalpyrna. We’ll be there!”
“Thank you!” Kalpyrna cried. “Kalpyrna signing off!”
“The Justice League signing off,” Green Arrow responded.
“Wailin’ wombats, G.A., you’re not really gonna go to Dryanna?” Snapper asked. “Like, what if it’s a trapperoo?“
“What if it’s not?” Green Arrow asked. “If someone really needs our help, we can’t take the chance.”
“Besides, I think we can handle any trap,” J’onn said. “We have so far, you know.”
“True, so true, J’onny Magoo,” Snapper agreed, fingers snapping madly.
“Come on. She said she had a small window of time!” Green Arrow cried, sprinting for the entrance to the Justice League’s cavern headquarters. He raced outside, just in time to see J’onn phasing through the cavern wall. Involuntarily, Green Arrow shuddered. It still made him uneasy to see the Martian do that.
“A hundred yards, Kalpyrna said,” J’onn said, taking his stance in the indicated spot. “I wonder how–“
All of a sudden, a crimson beam of light stabbed down out of the sky. It washed over Green Arrow and J’onn J’onzz, bathing them in its brilliance. Slowly, like the image on a television screen that had been turned off, the two champions began to fade from sight. When they were gone completely, the crimson beam vanished.
“Far freakin’ out!” Snapper cried.
The Martian Manhunter and Green Arrow had no sensation of travel. When the crimson beam stabbed down, all they could see was brilliant red light. When the light turned off, they could see again instantly. And they saw they were no longer outside JLA Headquarters. They were in some kind of laboratory full of super-sophisticated scientific equipment.
“What?” a female voice gasped. They looked and saw a beautiful young woman with long, chestnut-colored hair garbed in the bizarre accoutrements the JLA champions remembered Carthan having worn. “Only two of you? W-where are the other Justice Leaguers? Superman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman?”
“I’m afraid we were the only two at the headquarters when we received your call,” J’onn J’onzz said.
“Oh, no!” Kalpyrna cried. “This is hopeless! Only two to free an enslaved world?“
“Kalpyrna,” Green Arrow said, “we may only be two, but we are Justice Leaguers. I promise you we will do everything in our power to help.”
Kalpyrna softened, hearing the confidence in the archer’s voice. “If only you can!” she gasped. “Oh, you will, won’t you? You will free us?”
“We will try,” J’onn said. “What has happened? When Carthan left us, he had gone to wrest the throne of Dryanna from the warlord Xandor. Did he fail? Or has Xandor returned to power?“
Kalpyrna laughed mirthlessly. “He succeeded!” she declared. “That is why I dared to contact you with the forbidden intergalactic communicator; why I risked the experimental tachyon transport beam to bring you here!”
“I don’t understand,” Green Arrow said.
“It is very simple,” Kalpyrna said. “Carthan sits on the throne of Dryanna — and he is a worse tyrant than Xandor ever was! It is he I have brought you to dethrone, his oppression I beg you to free my world from!”
Green Arrow and J’onn J’onzz stared at each other a moment, then back at the young woman before them. “Carthan?” J’onn asked. “He’s become a despot?“
“I can’t believe that!” Green Arrow declared. “He — he seemed honorable, heroic!“
“Did he?” Kalpyrna snapped. “He kidnapped you, placed you in a cage with bars of lethal radiation! He knowingly unleashed menaces that could have destroyed your planet!“
“But he knew the Justice League would stop those threats,” J’onn pointed out.
“Did he?” Kalpyrna demanded. “How could he know that? He knew you would try, but how could he know you would succeed? Would you have risked such destruction for your own ends?”
J’onn opened his mouth, then closed it again. He had no reply for that.
“I believe you have a saying on your planet,” Kalpyrna continued. “Forgive me if I don’t get it precisely correct, but isn’t it ‘Power corrupts, and total power corrupts totally’?“
“Something like that,” Green Arrow said with a frown, remembering what his comrade and friend Green Lantern had told him about a former Green Lantern named Sinestro.
“What do you want us to do?” J’onn asked. “How can we help you dethrone Carthan?”
“Carthan is building a super-weapon,” Kalpyrna explained. “A weapon so terrible he will be able to smash planets from a distance with but the touch of a button! If he is allowed to complete this weapon, he will be unstoppable!“
“Then he can’t be allowed to complete it,” Green Arrow declared. “Tell us how to stop him!”
“The weapon is being assembled in three separate factories,” Kalpyrna explained. “You must destroy those factories — wipe them out completely! Leave no stone standing on stone! That is the only way!“
“What of the workers in these factories?” J’onn asked.
“The factories are completely automated,” Kalpyrna said. “You need not worry about loss of life. But the factories are guarded by powerful defensive devices! You will have to overcome these to destroy the factories!”
“We shall,” J’onn promised her.
Kalpyrna gave the two champions from other worlds maps of the locations of the three factories. She watched them leave, J’onn flying in Dryanna’s atmosphere and Green Arrow soaring on a borrowed sky-sled. As the heroes left, the beautiful woman hung her head in shame. “Forgive me,” she whispered, a single tear trickling down her cheek.
As they soared above the roof of the laboratory where they had materialized in Dryanna, J’onn and Green Arrow flew alongside one another.
“All right, the three factories are located in places called Moloko Valley, the Desert of Madness, and the Plain of the Eternal Fires,” Green Arrow said, consulting his copy of the map. “I’d better take that last one; sounds like it would be dangerous to you, J’onn.”
“I know,” the Martian champion agreed. “I’ll take the Desert of Madness. Then we’ll rendezvous at Moloko Valley and take that one out together.”
“Agreed. Good luck!” Green Arrow called, veering his sky-sled to the east.
“To us both!” J’onn called, banking to the west.
In minutes, the Martian Manhunter’s flight brought him over the desert marked on the map. He saw the low gray cube of the factory building plainly.
“Not much effort taken to hide the factory,” J’onn mused. “I suppose Carthan is sure of his power!” J’onn streaked down to the desert, landing next to the building, or so he thought.
“What?” he cried, staring at the empty space. “The building was here, and now it’s gone! I couldn’t have miscalculated my landing that much — could I?”
J’onn turned, looking for the building. He saw it behind him. “There it is! Now, then…” The green-skinned hero flew across the burning desert to the building and watched it vanish before his eyes.
“What is going on here?” J’onn asked. He stood in the middle of the desert, feeling the winds whipping the sands about his legs, looking around for the factory building. He saw it appear to the east, then vanish again. It appeared again to the north, then vanished.
“I see why this is called the Desert of Madness!” J’onn cried. The wind kicked up suddenly, and J’onn put a hand to his eyes to shield them from the sand. When the wind died back down, he lowered his hand but noticed something glittering in his palm.
“Ah, I see!” J’onn said. “This sand is actually tiny crystals, not silicon grains like on Earth! It acts like millions of tiny mirrors, casting reflections of objects that shift as the wind blows the sand! Again, no wonder this is called the Desert of Madness!”
The Manhunter from Mars closed his eyes and let his Martian telepathic brain send out its signals. There were no human minds in the factory for him to touch, but there was another way to use his mental powers. He sent out probing signals, like the sonar of a bat, until he could sense where the building was. Keeping his eyes closed, he flew in that direction until he was struck by a powerful bolt of energy.
Green Arrow expertly banked the sky-sled over the landscape of Dryanna. “Good thing I took those snowmobile lessons that winter in Aspen,” the wealthy crime-fighter mused. “This thing isn’t at all dissimilar to a snowmobile in terms of control!“
Following the map, Green Arrow soon came upon a low, flat plain of blackened, scorched earth. Geysers of fire leaped high into the sky from vent holes in the seared crust.
“Kind of like the geysers in Yellowstone Park back on Earth,” Green Arrow said, bringing his sky-sled in for a landing. “Except these are flammable gas, containing some chemical that ignites in the atmosphere like phosphorous!“
Green Arrow got out of the sled about a hundred yards from the low stone building that housed the weapon factory. Got to be careful, Green Arrow thought as he crept close to the building. Kalpyrna wasn’t able to tell us what sort of protective devices guard these factories. No one who’s tried to sabotage them has ever returned to tell of it! Got to be constantly on my guard!
The ace archer approached the building cautiously, constantly zigzagging and darting among the flame-geysers, hoping to avoid being spotted by the detection systems. Soon, he was within ten yards of the building, and he dared hope he had escaped detection. Then a brilliant flash of white light blinded him momentarily. He dropped to the ground, keeping low, while his sight returned. When his vision cleared, Green Arrow looked up at the factory building, a building that was now about twelve times larger than it had been before.
“Either that factory’s lent new meaning to the term high-rise,” Green Arrow joked to keep his own calm, “or I’m in big trouble!“