by Immortalwildcat and Martin Maenza
Reflected light twinkled over the harbor as a strong wind blew out of the southwest. Six pairs of eyes gazed out over the expanse, all of them eventually coming to rest on a strange statue near the mouth.
“OK, can someone explain to me why they have a statue of a lion with fins on it?” The question came from a tall, broad-shouldered being who stood motionless looking out over the water from a hotel balcony.
“Singapore is the lion of the sea, Iron. It’s their national symbol,” answered a handsome figure of gleaming golden metal.
“Really? And here I thought their national symbol was a cheap transistor!” snapped back the tall, thin red figure who looked down a long nose at the others. “Seems like they’re all over the place now!”
“T-t-take it easy, M-mercury. You c-c-c-can’t blame them if they m-make most of the electronics on the muh-muh-market,” stammered the fourth member of the group.
“Come on, fellas, can’t we just enjoy the view while we wait for Doc to get back from his meeting?” They all turned to see a gleaming silver female figure in the doorway.
“Sure, Platinum, ummm, I just don’t think they could stand the quiet,” replied the last, a short, squat figure of dark gray.
“You may be right, Lead,” answered Gold, slapping his ever-stalwart companion on the shoulder. “Besides, if Mercury were actually agreeable to anything, somebody might think there was an impostor among us!”
“Har-har-har, Gold. Very funny,” muttered the irascible member of the Metal Men.
Just then, the door of their hotel suite opened. Six heads turned to see their creator, Dr. Will Magnus, stride into the room. “Doc, what’s the matter?” asked Platinum before he could say a word.
“You mean you haven’t heard?” asked the incredulous inventor. “Earth is under attack! We’re going to Japan; that’s the closest landing point that I’ve heard of so far!”
“I’ll fire up the jet, Doc!” said Gold as he exited via the balcony. His ductile body easily allowed him to stretch up to the rooftop where their saucer-shaped jet craft was parked.
At Our Lady of Lourdes Church in the heart of Gotham City, two young men passed out bedding to people who wandered in off the street. The city had been hit pretty hard by the attacks as well as the sharp increase in crime. Many of Gotham’s homeless felt less safe on the streets than they had before. And in times of trouble and fear, they turned to the churches to receive aid both material and spiritual.
The two men stood behind a table with folded items before them. On the floor were some large cardboard boxes, too. Both of the men had dark hair; one was in his early twenties, and the other was in his late twenties. The latter one also wore a black collar about his neck.
“Man, things have sure picked up lately, eh, Frankie?” the young man in blue jeans and a dark red T-shirt said.
“Most definitely, Leo,” Father Francis Barone said to his cousin. He gave an elderly woman a blanket and pillow.
“Bless you, father,” she said with a smile. He smiled back and made the sign of the cross over her.
Francis then turned back to his cousin. “How’s about you? I certainly expected you to be busy with other things.” He emphasized the last words to imply Leo’s activity as a costumed hero. “I certainly expected you to be too busy to help out down here at the church.”
“Never too busy for that,” Leo Barone said. “Besides, mama raised me right. Gotta help out in whatever way you can. My other talents aren’t the impressive kind, know what I mean?” Leo’s unspoken words were referring to his Wildcat identity, a persona he picked up based on a hero he read about in the newspapers growing up. Leo had donned a similar costume and mask to hunt down a killer earlier in the year. With Batman’s aid, he had succeeded. (*) Now, he occasionally put on the costume to fight crime, though Gotham really didn’t need his help often, with all of Batman’s allies running about. “It’s not like I’m Superman or the Flash or anything like that. I’m just an average Joe, you know?”
[(*) Editor’s note: See The Brave and the Bold: Batman and Wildcat: Cats.]
“Don’t sell yourself short, Leo,” the young priest said. “God moves in mysterious ways, and we all have to use our time and talent to serve in the best way we can.”
Leo nodded. “Yeah, you’re right, like always.”
In the throne room of the undersea kingdom of Atlantis, a small group met for a rather urgent meeting. “And that’s the news I have from above,” Aquaman said, recounting the most recent situations relayed to him from the Justice League satellite.
“That ties in with what Titans West and I encountered over a week ago off the Pacific rim,” Aqualad said. “The aliens that were hiding their earthquake equipment in the oceans must have been part of some preliminary squad.”
“Indeed,” the white-bearded Vulko said. “Perhaps there are more of them out there. I doubt we’ll get much help from the surface world on this. Our representatives at the United Nations confirmed things above are not nearly as unified as they would like.”
“The oceans have always been ours to protect,” Aquaman said, “and protect them we will!”
“I can have the troops readied for you immediately,” Vulko said.
“Good. I will contact Arion.”
“Perhaps I can get assistance from Ulla and Dolphin. Oceana from Titans West might help us, too.”
“Oceana?” Aquaman asked. “Who is she?“
“I think you met her once,” Aqualad replied. (*) “Her real name is Lisa Morel. She has abilities very similar to ours.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Aquaman Meets Aquagirl,” Adventure Comics #266 (November, 1959).]
“Hmmm,” the sea king said with a slightly raised eyebrow.
An infant’s cry caused all the male heads to turn toward the red-haired Mera and the bundle she held against her chest. “All this talk has awoken Nautica,” the mother said. “I should take her to the nursery.”
Aquaman hurried over to his wife’s side and gazed down at his daughter. Her eyes, full of innocence and helplessness, stared back at him. She stopped her crying and gurgled. He smiled back at her. This world will be a better place for you, I swear it! he thought to himself.
With a roar, a saucer-like craft took to the air over Singapore. As it lifted off, a transparent dome rose from the back to cover the occupants in the open cockpit. “We should be able to reach Japan in a couple of hours, Doc. I’ll see if I can tune in any reliable reports on what’s happening,” said Gold as he set the controls for the jet.
“You’ll probably find that it’s a couple of big, fat, cigar-shaped ships, firing at random targets on the ground,” said Mercury.
“How do you figure that, Mercury?” asked the massive Iron.
“Be-because that’s whu-what’s c-c-coming right at us!” screeched Tin as he pointed out over the harbor.
Doc Magnus and all of the Metal Men turned to look in the direction Tin was pointing. Two massive ships were coming in from the seaward end of the harbor, blasting away at buildings on the shore and ships on the water. Without a word, Gold dropped the dome and handed control of the craft over to Will Magnus. Their creator took the saucer high over the alien ships, and he watched as they dived over the sides to attack the ships with no care for their own safety.
The first ship found itself attacked by Iron, Platinum, and Tin. The silvery female of the team stretched herself out, probing for openings in the shell of the alien craft. Tin pulled himself forward, forming his fingers into small, sharp needles to gain purchase on the unearthly metal of the ship. Iron moved toward the back, forming his hands into massive hammers to smash the engines and control rudders of the ship.
On the other ship, Gold wrapped himself around what appeared to be sensor arrays, blinding the ship. Mercury liquefied himself to flow into minute gaps around a service hatch as Lead morphed into a huge hammer on a swivel base and smashed in another hatch.
“Th-that’s what I’m l-looking for,” said Tin as he spotted a pair of laser ports. He wrapped around one, then stretched over to grasp the other. Applying a slow, steady pressure, he was able to pull them toward each other. The bursts of coherent light that continued to come from them grew closer and closer, until they crossed each other. Tin, keeping a close eye on them, jumped free just as the feedback destroyed the two blasters. “D-don’t these g-g-guys know, you can’t cross the st-streams?” he said with a grim smile on his clownish face.
Amidships, Platinum was insinuating herself into the ship’s electronics system. “Fortunately, their systems use similar principles to Earthly electronics. Therefore, if I cross-connect a few key junctures here, and here, and here–” She paused as she heard inhuman screams erupting around the ship. “–I can purge their air systems for a moment and knock out most of the creatures onboard.” As she snaked out the way she came, she felt the ship starting to drop. She glanced back and saw Iron holding one of the engines in his giant hands as the other fell away.
“Time to make an exit, Tina!” he called. Iron stretched a hand up to grasp their hovering airship. Tina stretched on arm out to wrap around his waist and the other to the front to clasp Tin’s hand. As the alien ship dropped away to fall into the water below, Iron and Tina both retracted their extended bodies to draw them all up to join Doc Magnus. Lead and Mercury both entered the second ship in their own way.
Lead held the hatch he had broken down before him, in case the aliens used some type of energy weapon that could affect his incredibly dense body. “Ummm, I hope they’re smart enough to build their ship with something their own weapons can’t damage,” he murmured as he stalked the corridors. His makeshift shield worked, as he was fired upon to no effect. He kept his eyes open for anything that looked like a part of the ship’s control or propulsion systems. Whatever he found, he ripped from the walls.
Mercury slid through the corridors, wrapping around Khundish warriors and hurling them up to the ceiling hard enough to knock them out before tossing them back behind him. He spotted a figure sitting at a console with headphones on and recognized it as a communications console. Ignoring the officer’s protests, he drove himself directly into the console. It exploded in a shower of sparks, the energy backlash surging through the ship. “That should keep them from calling for help. I hope,” he said as he slipped out of the room.
Gold felt the surge of energy as he further disabled the ship’s sensors and communications array. Having already extended the thin tendril into a crack to wrap around the ship’s frame, the surge grounded itself back into the ship, setting up a feedback loop that quickly built into a massive electrostatic charge that overloaded all of the electrical systems. Everything from engines to life support, weapons to lights, shut down simultaneously.
Feeling the ship start to drop, Lead and Mercury quickly evacuated. Lead dropped into the bay with a huge splash, followed by Mercury. Gold dived down to wrap an arm around Lead’s form, then reached back up to the surface to form a buoy on the water for Doc Magnus to locate. Once there, Iron helped to lift the heaviest of the Metal Men into the saucer.
“Looks like we’ve got this one licked,” said Iron, watching the two ships drop into the water.
“Umm, I don’t think so,” replied Lead, pointed out to sea. The others turned to see a third ship, three times the size of the first two, coming right at them.
“X’hal! This is crazy!” Starfire said as she blasted the brick and mortar of the flaming apartment building. Her star-bolts atomized the materials, creating a new exit to the upper-floor death-trap. “We should be handling the bigger threats instead of doing the firemen’s jobs!”
A young red-haired woman thrust out her hands, creating a crystalline slide from the opening to the street level. A number of the trapped victims, one by one, slid down the creation to safety below. “I agree,” said Kole Weathers. “Surely our powers are better suited for other needs.”
Jericho silently helped those on the street move away from the flaming structure. People in the crowds assisted. He signed something to his dark-haired teammate, who was using a handheld radio to keep tabs on the situation.
“The firefighting crews are being kept very busy,” Nightwing said. “We’ve just got to pitch in wherever we can!”
Starfire and Kole landed next to their leader. “We need to strike at the heart of the problem!” the orange-skinned beauty said, slamming her fist hard into her other hand. “If the Gordanians and others are behind this invasion, we need to hit them hard!” The Tamaranian heroine had past experience with the reptilian race, and not a very pleasant one. She had been their captive for a number of her teenage years as part of an agreement to keep her homeworld safe. She knew what they were capable of and did not want to see the Earth fall victim to their power.
“In time,” Nightwing said.
Suddenly, Starfire was pelted with some fruit in the back. “X’hal! What’s this?“
From the crowd, a number of angry, hate-filled voices were shouting at her as more items flew through the air. Kole immediately put up a defensive shield of crystal to block the projectiles.
“Get out of here, alien!“
“We don’t need your kind!”
“Strike her down!“
“Her friends, too! Alien sympathizers!”
Jericho frowned and signed something. Nightwing nodded. “Agreed,” he said. “Kole, Starfire, we’re leaving.”
“What?!” Starfire exclaimed. “How dare they attack us when we’re just trying to help?”
“We’ll deal with it later,” Nightwing said. “Right now, everyone’s on edge! They don’t think straight and will lash out at the easiest targets!”
“But is leaving the right answer?” Kole asked.
“For now, it’s best,” Nightwing said. And the quartet took off in the sky, aided by the two female members of the New Titans who could fly.
Six bulky figures trudged through the ice and snow of the Arctic regions near the north pole. The winds were whipping fiercely, and their golden armor barely glinted through the wall of white. “Carble frag!” one of the soldiers grumbled. “This is crazy!”
“Quiet!” barked the leader. “Quit your complaining!“
“But, sir, we already lost Grzzith and Brrron!” Indeed, two of the troops had fallen through some cracking ice; the subzero temperature of the water and the weight of the armor dragged the two down to the murky depths below where they drowned. That was only an hour ago.
“Its got to be around here somewhere!” the leader yelled above the howling wind. “We’re locked on the coordinates that Lobo provided! Since he couldn’t finish off Superman, we will!“
One of the soldiers near the back leaned in toward another. “Yeah, right. And Lobo can be so trustworthy.”
“I hear you,” the other said. “He’s probably back in a warm cell on Takron-Galtos laughing his fool head off.”
“Sir, I’m getting some strange readings up ahead one hundred meters,” one of the soldiers said.
“Let’s investigate!” The squad moved slowly through the waist-deep drifts toward the source of the peculiar readings. After a while, they were nearly on top of them. “Could this be coming from the Fortress?“
There was a rumbling in the region, and the ground beneath the squad’s feet shook before giving way. The six were caught up as the ice and snow beneath their boots sank, and they fell far down into a very deep cavern. Their bodies tumbled upon one another as they hit the floor along with the snow and ice.
Weary groans came from the men. The leader scrambled to his feet, looked up, and realized the sheer walls and the great height to the opening were not an option. Glancing around the cavern, he noticed a small tunnel to the south.
“Get up now!” he barked, kicking some of the men. They started to rise.
One took off his helmet for a moment, revealing the green reptilian skin of the Gordanian soldier. “Where are we?”
“A hidden entrance to Superman’s Fortress, of course!” the leader said. “Come!” And the six Gordanians trudged on down the small tunnel.
After some time, it started to get warmer in the cavern as it wound down and around. They all removed their helmets. “Stay alert!” the leader commanded.
Eventually, the tunnel opened up. They reached the edge and peered over the opening carefully.
Below them was a lush jungle that stretched out for miles. In the sky, an orb beamed down warmth like the sun. It reminded the aliens a little of their homeworld.
“What is this place?” asked one of the men.
The leader frowned. “I don’t know, but we’re about to find out! Move out!“