by Immortalwildcat and Martin Maenza
A private jet streaked across middle America bound from California to Ohio. Aboard, a small group of costumed heroes relaxed.
“Man, I’m glad you were able to have the plane fly out to L.A. to pick us up, Brion. I don’t know about anybody else, but I’m ready for about thirty hours of sleep!” The young lady known as Halo lay in a reclined seat, eyes closed, arms draped to either side of the seat.
“I know what you mean, Gaby,” said Black Lightning, using the young heroine’s real name. “After the battles at Warworld and out at Pluto, I hoped we’d be able to relax a little, but Superman had to be guarded during his recovery.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Justice League of America: Sick Leave.]
This perked up the blonde girl. “Oh, don’t get me wrong, Jeff. It was an honor being part of the defensive team around STAR Labs during Superman’s recovery!” Her eyes went a little unfocused as she visualized, for the umpteenth time, the Man of Steel rising at last from his bed and thanking the assembled heroes. “I’d do just about anything for him.”
“Yeah, I bet you would!” said Windfall with a sly grin.
“Girls,” said Katana, looking up from where she sat cross-legged on the floor of the plane, cleaning and sharpening the sword from which she took her name. Nothing more was needed for the two teenagers to settle down.
“Umm, we may not be finished for the day yet,” came the voice of Brion Markov. The tall, handsome prince known also to the world as Geo-Force sat at the front of the cabin, monitoring a communication console. “It sounds like there’s still a small group of Gordanians causing trouble in Midway City below.” He pulled the mask of his costume back up over his face. “I’ve ordered the pilot to take us down, and requested emergency clearance to land at Midway City International.”
Fifteen minutes later, the Outsiders closed in on the skirmish between the Gordanians and a force composed of Midway City police officers, Army Reservists, and National Guard members.
“Looks like the Gordanians have been cut off from their ship,” noted Black Lightning. “Let’s keep it that way. Geo-Force, bring up an earthen wall between the forces and drop the Gordanians down into the ground. Halo, stasis field on the commanders as you spot them. Windfall, take out those antennas so they can’t call for help. Most of the aliens have left already, but let’s not take chances!”
“Shall I try to let the local commanders know what we’re doing?” asked Katana, her sword of little use in the midst of the large-group tactics the team leader was suggesting.
“Like you read my mind, Tatsu. Halo, let her down here.” The shimmering bubble that carried most of the team split, a smaller section forming to lower the Japanese woman to the ground amidst a cluster of officers.
Geo-Force brought his arms around in front of him and concentrated. Invisible waves of geomagnetic force drove into the ground, bending the rock and dirt to his will. As the earth heaved, it was joined by a blast of ice from off to his left.
“What the–?” he asked, turning to see what was happening. A small flying craft was in the air, closing quickly. At the controls, a tall, swarthy woman dressed in red and yellow drove with one hand while the other directed the stream of ice to coincide with his efforts. Sitting slumped in the seat beside her was a female form in a similar costume, with her face and hands wrapped in bandages.
“Hawkman and Hawkwoman may not have returned yet, but I forgot about Midway’s other heroes,” said Black Lightning, looking around for a sight he was sure he’d find. Sure enough, down among the Gordanian forces a shimmering figure of black energy fringed in light streaked from one warrior to another. Wherever it passed, weapons exploded in the hands of their wielders. “Halo, be careful! I don’t know how Negative Woman’s energy will react with your stasis aura! Geo-Force, that ice won’t last long in this heat, but you can use it as a base to build on!”
“I’m on it, Lightning!”
“Got it, chief!” responded Halo. In the skimmer, the lady known as Celsius turned to see who had spoken the title by which her late husband had been known. Recognizing the knot of heroes, she smiled.
Above the green-skinned soldiers, a cluster of metal rods and coils flew on unnatural wind currents. With both their communications and their weapons neutralized, and their movement hampered by a combination of earthen works and ice, the Gordanians were quickly captured by the human forces.
Landing well away from all of the activity, two sets of heroes compared notes. “We got back a few days ago. I guess we weren’t on someone’s call list for helping Superman,” said Celsius, with a trace of disappointment in her voice.
“To be honest, I didn’t know the Doom Patrol was still around. I haven’t heard of you folks for a couple of years,” replied Black Lightning. He noticed Negative Woman, now back in her bandaged body, shaking her head as he mentioned the Midway City team.
“Oh, the Doom Patrol is back in business, but we aren’t part of it,” replied Celsius angrily. “It would appear that Elasti-Girl’s husband has co-opted the name for a new group he has formed. (*) Not that we’ve used it for a long time, anyway.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See The Doom Patrol: All Fall Down.]
“I remember hearing of the original team when I was growing up, and I heard that there was a new group. What happened?” asked Windfall.
“Let’s just say we had some personality conflicts. First Robotman went off to find the killers of the original group, then after the Crisis, Tempest left to return to practicing medicine full-time. That left the two of us, and we have been working with STAR Labs to see if there is a way to reverse Valentina’s condition.” She indicated Negative Woman. “Unsuccessfully, I might add.”
“Wow, and I hear people say that heroes are supposed to have it easy!” said Windfall.
“So what are you planning to do now?” asked Geo-Force.
“We haven’t figured that out yet,” replied Negative Woman, speaking for the first time.
“I have an idea, if none of the other Outsiders object,” said Black Lightning. Looking around at his teammates, their smiles told him that they’d had the same idea. “We’re a bit shorthanded right now, especially since Metamorpho is taking a leave of absence to help his wife get over her ordeal.”
“You are offering us a place with your group?” asked Celsius.
“Absolutely!” said Halo. “Just think, we’ll be the only super-team where the girls outnumber the guys!“
In a satellite 22,300 miles above the Earth, a pair of female figures materialized in the transporter tube. One was a raven-haired beauty dressed in a blue and white costume with a long cape. The other was a dark-skinned woman with red hair, some of which was beaded in back, wearing a matching orange top and pants.
The other current occupant of the satellite headquarters stood upon their arrival. “Zatanna, Mari!” the green-skinned Martian Manhunter said. “What brings you here?” His blue cape swirled about him as he approached the pair in greeting. The dark-skinned woman tensed slightly.
Zatanna put her hand on Vixen’s shoulder. “I’ve been helping Mari put her personal life back in order since you and Wonder Woman found her in China last month,” the magician said. (*) “I think she’s coming along well.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See DC Universe: Invasion, Book 2, Chapter 2: Home.]
Vixen, who had been quiet, lifted her head. “Zatanna has been a good friend,” she said softly. “I am starting to remember more about my life — where I grew up, how I had been a model.”
“Good,” said the Martian Manhunter. He felt a bit bad that things had been so chaotic with the invasion and all. He thought of Mari, as he did with the other young members who joined the team while they were stationed in Detroit, as one of his children. When they hurt, he hurt. “Is there any way I can help?“
“Mari is ready to understand more about the rest of her life,” Zatanna explained. “I thought perhaps reviewing the Justice League records, from the time she was a member, might help there.”
“Of course,” the Martian agreed.
Vixen had been staring off at the windows that looked out over space. “May I…?” she asked.
“Oh,” the Martian said. “Of course.”
The woman started to walk toward the view-port. The sun was illuminating Africa and Europe as the blue-green orb slowly turned beneath them. “It’s so beautiful,” she said.
“That’s right,” Martian Manhunter said. “You’ve never been to the satellite before. Please, take your time and enjoy the view.” Vixen nodded and continued to look down at the Earth below.
Zatanna quietly motioned for the Martian to join her across the way. “I think this will help, J’onn,” she said in a soft whisper. “Steel visited us the other day. She felt a little uneasy with him at first, but things got a bit better. She’s hardly the strong, confident woman we both once knew, but she seems to be getting there.”
The Martian nodded. “Has she indicated to you any more about what might have happened to her?”
Zatanna shook her head. “No. Whatever it was, it was traumatic. I think she just needs more time. I think maybe her mind is blocking that out, whatever it is, and that’s why she was having problems at first even remembering any of us.”
“Perhaps you or I–“
Zatanna shook her head again. “I don’t think we should interfere until she is ready,” she said. “Though magic and telepathy might answer the questions, we can’t do that. Not until she wants those answers. And right now, I don’t think she does.”
J’onn J’onzz nodded. “Agreed. Maybe the archives will make her feel more comfortable, make her realize that she is welcomed and belongs here.”
“I agree,” Zatanna said. “And, when she’s ready, we can call a special meeting to reinstate her as a Justice League member.”
“My thoughts exactly.” They both then watched as their friend Vixen continued to try to get her bearings. It was a bittersweet homecoming indeed.
Deep in the jungles of equatorial Africa somewhere between the Congo and the Sudan, a new day dawned on a hidden civilization. The population arose like any other morning, and the natives made their way from the Residential Zone to the Agriculture Zone and the Industrial Ring. They were all content to be working toward making Gorilla City stronger, despite recent events.
But those recent events did concern certain parties, for the Chamber of Advisors was already very involved with an emergency meeting. Seated around the large table were six apes: Tredlar, Velstaf, Sapre, Kong, Bulldozer, and Ace. The latter three were actually once men from the outside world, transformed to apes by the current ruler of Gorilla City, Grodd. (*) Kong and Bulldozer had been members of the Gang, a team of villains who fought the original Supergirl, while Ace had been part of the Royal Flush Gang. The last figure stood before them as they all listened intently to a transmission coming from a special radio at the center of the table.
[(*) Editor’s note: See The Secret Society of Super-Villains: Gorilla Warfare, Book 1.]
“Can I return home, your Excellency?” the voice on the radio asked.
“Not yet,” Grodd snarled. “We still need representation at the United Nations. We need to make sure that our interests are fully protected, so that we know whether the world of the men can be trusted not to seek us out without our knowledge. Men cannot be trusted.” Kong and Bulldozer shifted uneasy in their chairs at that last comment.
“Understood,” said the reluctant ape on the other end of the broadcast. “Creppen out.” And the transmission ended.
“Grodd,” said Tredlar, one of the seasoned counselors, “did not man’s world help us when those invaders were near our borders? Did that not show that ape and man can work together for a common goal?”
Grodd furrowed his brow, recalling the events of several days before when he was forced to call in aid from Doctor Mist and other human heroes of the African continent. (*) “That was an extenuating circumstance,” he said in his gruff voice. “It would have not served our interests to be enslaved by attackers from space nor for the Earth to be destroyed by them. Now that the crisis has passed, we shall return to our previous course.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See DC Universe: Invasion, Book 3, Chapter 13: Beast.]
The other apes nodded and rose from the table, and three filed out of the room. Only the three transformed humans lingered behind.
“Uh, Grodd?” Bulldozer asked cautiously. “May we have a word with you?”
The super-gorilla paused. “Go ahead.”
“Well,” the ape said, “it’s just that, well, Kong and I were wondering when or if it would be possible for us to return home. We assisted you in gaining your position, and it all seems to be going well. We just thought, well, perhaps our service to you was over.”
Grodd leaned back on his legs and considered. “Hmmm, you are correct in that my people have accepted my leadership. Fending off this latest attack has cemented that. They hardly even think of poor comatose Solivar anymore.”
“Right,” said Kong. “You’ve got what you wanted. You have a loyal following now. You really don’t need us.”
“True,” Grodd said with a sparkle in his eye. “Ace, are you of the same inclination?”
“No, Grodd,” the taller ape said. “I am happy to remain here, to serve you.”
Grodd considered. “Very well, then,” he finally said. “Your point is taken. You two are no longer of any use to me. Prepare for your departure, then.”
Bulldozer and Kong looked at one another briefly in disbelief. They couldn’t believe that Grodd would agree to their idea so quickly. Oh, they had hoped, but they thought it might take more than this.
“Thank you, Grodd!” Bulldozer said. “We shall be ready very soon. Come, Kong!” The two left the chambers.
When they were gone, Ace turned to Grodd. “Can they be trusted? They know the location of the city and might share it with others when they return to the United States.”
Grodd smiled wickedly, his sharp teeth glistening. “I never said that their departure would be from the city. I was thinking more along the lines of this spiritual plane, if you follow me.”
Ace smiled. “I follow you.”
“Good! You will accompany me then as we dispose of the two fools. I will not tolerate those who do not fully endorse my plans.”