by Starsky Hutch 76, Libbylawrence, Immortalwildcat and Martin Maenza
Moments of rest had been all-too brief during the invasion. Sleep was a luxury many of the heroes felt they couldn’t afford. The heroes who worked in groups at least had one advantage. They could work in shifts, letting some of them get rest when the others took over.
Koriand’r would have kept going if not for Nightwing’s insistence that she return to the tower for some much-needed rest and relaxation. “I don’t care if you are an Okaaran-trained warrior,” he’d said after she tried to use that argument on her one time too many. “Even the warlords have to sleep.” Reluctantly, she returned to the island.
Even though she was back didn’t mean she would be able to sleep, though. She knew this same war was being raged across the cosmos. She worried about what was happening back home.
As if in answer to her thoughts, a ship began to descend on the island. She took a defensive posture as it began to land in front of her. When its hatch opened, her expression immediately softened as her brother Ryand’r exited and raced to her, sweeping her into his arms.
“X’hal! How you’ve grown!” she exclaimed. “You’re a man now!”
“I thought I’d never hear you say that, sister!” he laughed.
He was followed by Primus and Kalista, who held the infant child she had been pregnant with in the last transmission she had received from them from Euphorix. “Oh, you brought the little one!” she exclaimed with delight. Can I hold him?”
Kalista handed the child to her and said, “His name is Magnus. I hope by the time he’s an adult, he will be able to set foot on his homeworld again.”
“The Spider Guild,” Koriand’r said, nodding in understanding.
“They’ve been driven from Euphorix,” Primus said, “but by the Citadel and their new allies.”
Koriand’r looked shocked. “The Citadel has Euphorix?! That means–”
“That the Citadel has a stranglehold on Vega,” Primus said grimly. “That’s why we’re here. The Omega Men want to do everything we can to help the heroes of Earth wipe out this Alien Alliance.”
Shortly after Superwoman’s brief visit and departure, Halo glanced over to Looker and frowned. The statuesque redhead was still filing her nails, or at least going through the motions; her luminous eyes stared off into space, and she paid little attention to her task. “Lia, when you hit bone you might want to stop,” said Halo with a smirk.
Looker tossed the file aside and snapped, “I’m a little distracted!”
“Sorry,” Halo said. “I was just kidding.”
Looker calmed down. “There’s something I need to tell you all. As you know, after my rebirth as Lia, my husband Greg found himself unable to accept the changes. He wanted me to be changed back to the drab and demure Emily and felt threatened by my marvelous transformation.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Agents of Change,” Adventures of the Outsiders #36 (August, 1986).]
Katana heard the mixture of bitterness, regret, and bewilderment in her tone, and she drew closer. “Lia, I know how much your separation and divorce from Greg hurt you. Has something else happened?” asked the Asian warrior woman.
Looker nodded tearfully and replied, “He’s gone! Greg has vanished!”
Metamorpho jumped up and said, “Aw, kid, I know what you’re going through! My Sapph–” he began.
Looker cut him off abruptly. “No, Rex! You don’t understand. You and your wife always were a sickeningly happy pair. I feel like Greg’s disappearance is my fault. His sister told me that he has not been seen in three days. I’ve been trying to keep busy. I hoped he would turn up, but the timing of his disappearance is different from that of the others. I want us to go look for him.”
Halo rushed over to her and embraced her. “Gosh, I’m so sorry!” she said. “You should have told us sooner. Of course we’ll help you, but we need to follow Batman’s plans first. Plus, we need to rescue Jeff and Brion, too. We know the aliens have them!”
Looker gently pushed the girl to the side. “I care for them, too, but I need to take care of this now. Will you join me in searching for him?” she asked.
Katana said, “We must deal with the larger issues at hand. The greater good must be served, no matter how painful it is for us as individuals.”
Looker snapped. “You heartless ice-maiden! I should have expected such a response from a woman who handles all her relationships with a sword!”
Halo said, “Lia! That’s not nice!”
Windfall frowned as she noticed Katana’s expression become grimmer and Looker’s own eyes flashed with anger. “You need to calm down!” she said.
Suddenly, Looker grabbed her head and fell to her knees. She gasped in horror as her body convulsed and then changed before their very eyes. The red-haired woman began to sob as she clutched her now overly large costume to her chest and stared up at the others in disbelief.
“She’s changed back ta her old self!” gasped Metamorpho.
Katana helped her to her feet and spoke with with a customary iron control. “Lia, you are upset. You spoke out of anger and fear. Are you hurt in any way?” she asked.
Lia shook her head and said, “Hurt? I may as well be dead! I’ve lost my powers. I’m nothing more than Emily Briggs again!” She ran off to her room to cry. The others let her go to be alone.
Later, after time in her room behind a locked door, Emily made a decision. I am no use to Greg or the team like this. I’m going to leave. I need to find some answers, to learn the truth about Greg’s disappearance. And I need to know if my life as Looker is truly over!
She put on one of Halo’s simple dresses; Lia had thrown away all of her old clothes after her initial transformation from an ugly duckling to a beautiful swan. She opened the door and listened down the hall; the others had gathered to discuss their role in the invasion offense to come. She considered saying goodbye face to face but turned and walked away silently, instead. It was not Emily’s way to be so direct. She left a note of explanation and walked away from her life as an Outsider.
In the smoking rubble of an apartment building in Seoul, Korea, Im Ho stood with clenched fists. He had spent the day bringing down the ships of the invaders and rounding up their ground troops. He was tired, and it felt as if he had been running for days. What seemed like hours to him turned out to be about forty minutes, once he focused his mind on matching his body’s speed to that of the world around him. Only when he brought his speed under control did he hear the noise of the city around him, the cries of the wounded and rumble of heavy arms fire. After that, he had worked his way through the wreckage of collapsed buildings, recovering those who could be helped, and the bodies of those who were beyond help. It was a doctor at a makeshift field hospital who finally told him to find a bed, to take a few hours to sleep. So Sergeant Major Im Ho of the Republic of Korea Air Defense Ministry had gone home.
But home was no longer there.
Seeing his home in ruins, he had gone through the wreckage at top speed, seeking anybody who might have been trapped. Thankfully, nobody was there. He had then cleared away the space that had once been his living room. He had few possessions that he really cared about, and he found the only one that really mattered. It was a framed photograph taken forty years before. It had been taken by an American soldier, one of many who had come to Pyongyang after the fall of Imperial Japan. Since their deaths when he was a teenager, it was all he had left of his parents. As he brushed the plaster dust from the glass over the picture, he spied a small chest that had been in a closet. He pulled the chest out from under a shattered door and opened it.
Reaching in, Ho pulled put a black cloth jacket. A matching pair of trousers were also in the chest. With a grim smile, not caring if any passerby saw, he stripped to his shorts and donned the black uniform. As he wrapped the jacket around him, he reached for the black cloth belt in the chest, but something else caught his eye. It was a golden silk sash, which his mother had at one time draped over the family’s Buddhist shrine. Since his conversion to Christianity during his travels in the United States, he had kept the sash hung over a painting of the Korean coast that an old girlfriend had given him. He wrapped it around his waist, tying it with the traditional double overhand knot.
“Most of the American and European heroes have their costumes; let this be mine,” he said. “I do not know how others go about these things, but there is one who might help me.”
Im Ho recalled the freak accident that had befallen Dr. Kimiyo Hoshi two years previously in Japan. It had been during the great Crisis on Infinite Earths, when the skies were turning red and other worlds seemed to appear. He recalled hearing how she had been struck by a bolt that appeared to originate with a star many light-years distant. He also recalled how, a short time later, a Japanese woman calling herself Doctor Light had appeared, and the man who had dubbed himself Neutron smiled.
“Yes, after I find a place to rest for the night, let me see if Doctor Light can give me any advice about handling my newfound powers.”
And so, for about a week, the super-heroes across the globe prepared for the upcoming battle per the instructions of the Justice League, which had been delivered by the Flash and Superwoman. As the battles raged on across the globe against the alien invaders, the heroes made sure to gather up what was needed for the upcoming counterstrike.
And, as the appointed day and hour approached, the heroes selected for two special missions met at a secret pre-disclosed location.
Batman looked out on those before him. Gathered were dozens of the most powerful heroes on the planet: groups like the Metal Men and the Darkstars; his allies from the Outsiders — Metamorpho, Katana, and Halo; from the New Titans — Artemis, Cyborg, Starfire, Raven, Hawk and Dove; from the Global Guardians — Fire, Ice, Jack O’Lantern, Olympian, Rising Sun, Seraph, Tasmanian Devil, and Thunderlord; from the Forgotten Heroes — Captain Comet, Starman, and Volar; and independents like Blue Devil, Doctor Light, Firehawk, Maxima, Red Star, Supergirl, Superwoman, Ultraa, and Vartox. Even some of the heroes from New Genesis — Mister Miracle, Big Barda, Lightray, Orion, Forager, and the Forever People — joined the cause. So too had members of the Omega Men who had recently arrived on Earth. Some villains were also among the group, mostly thanks to the efforts of Amanda Waller and Rick Flag in Task Force X. And, of course, a good portion of the Justice League of America members as well: Black Canary, Green Arrow, Firestorm, Flash, Hawkman and Hawkwoman, Martian Manhunter, Wonder Woman, Steel, and Zatanna.
The emerald archer approached the Caped Crusader. “You OK, Bats?” Green Arrow asked.
“I’m fine,” he said. “Good to have you back.”
“I wouldn’t have missed this throw-down! I helped Adam Strange clean out the scum on Rann; now I get to kick some butt for the home team, too!”
Batman appreciated his friend’s enthusiasm. They would need that. He glanced to the sky once more and waited for a moment. Then he turned back to the assembled who had been murmuring to one another. It was time.
“OK, people!” the Caped Crusader said. “The time for fighting the smaller battles is over. We can’t win this if we remain on defense only. It is time to take this fight to the enemy!” A number in the group nodded in agreement. “While many of our friends remain behind to monitor things here, all of you have been chosen to take this fight to space! That is why we’ve been gathering working spacecraft from the invaders. We’ll use their own vehicles to take the battle to them.
“We know that there is a large battle planet that the invaders are using as a base of operations on the fringe of our solar system. That is where their attack ships are originating. We need to go there and take this Warworld out! If we cut off their supplies, we severely cripple them.
“The Green Lanterns and a smaller group of you will slip past the blockade and head for Oa. We believe that a very big piece of this puzzle lies there. If they can find out what has happened to the Central Power Battery there, they can rally the Green Lantern Corps to help drive these invaders off!”
“Say, Bats,” Mercury from the Metal Men piped up. “Where’s Superman?”
“Aye,” added the Olympian. “His might would surely help us turn the tide.”
Batman diverted his eyes for a moment. He knew the power and respect his good friend carried. Superman was, after all, the greatest champion that the Earth had. He had been trying his best to avoid the conversation for fear of undermining the morale of the troops. But it appeared that there was no way to get around the point now that it had been brought up.
“Superman…” he began to say. “Superman, he–”
“Did someone mention my name?” a powerful voice said. Everyone turned to see the dark-haired man in blue, red, and yellow stride confidently into the room. He was followed by a few other individuals.
Most of the group assembled cheered as Superman joined Batman in front of the group. The two men exchanged firm handshakes. “I was worried, old friend,” Batman whispered. “Back to your old self again?”
“You know it, buddy,” Superman replied.
The Man of Steel turned to the group and spoke up. “Everyone! Working together, we can break the hold these invaders have on the Earth! We can stand up to their might and send them packing! Who’s with me?” He thrust his fist into the air.
The others did the same with a loud, rallying cry.