Justice League of America: 1975: The Forgotten Crisis, Chapter 2: Comparing Notes

by Libbylawrence

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Batman and Starman found themselves in Egypt, where it was the middle of the night, after Batman had deduced where one of the locations the Manhunter from Mars plucked from the minds of the All-Star Squadron members was at in the isolated desert. They now made their way to a pyramid.

“It figures that this would be where that image that was so strong in your mind would originate from,” said Batman. “You all say you were taken from 1943, and that means time-displacement as well as movement through space. These pyramids stand as an all-too-obvious image of the ancient world juxtaposed uneasily with the modern one.”

Starman nodded. It was uncanny seeing this man at work, who was so very like his own Batman. Perhaps this one was a bit more taciturn, but otherwise he had all the traits Ted Knight associated with the Batman he knew. “The gravity rod is detecting a high level of cosmic power around the pyramid, and that means trouble… unless the old Egyptians had stellar heating in their palaces,” said the man of night.

The two heroes made their way toward an opening and stepped across. Seconds later, Batman shouted a warning and brought Starman down to the ground as a huge blade swung across their doorway, narrowly missing Starman.

“That was too close!” said Starman, frowning. “Let me get rid of any other unwelcome surprises,” he said, and the cosmic rod pulsed with brighter light and heat to melt away any traps ahead of them.

“That hieroglyphic represents Ptah, the opener of the ways in old myth,” said Batman. “He was a seeker of knowledge and rewarder of the innovative. I suppose time-travel would fall under his domain.”

Then a dwarf entered from the shadows that reflected the wall behind him, as if he was not truly present. His eyes were wide but seemingly endless in depth. Stars and comets hurled by darkness within his two eyes as if they were gateways to beyond. He stared even more widely, and the two heroes felt themselves being drawn into his range as if by a magnetic field.

Batman shouted, “Don’t let him bring us into contact with him! I suspect he is toxic. Notice the faint glow from his body.”

Starman smiled in spite of the danger. “You’re good! I’ll generate enough of a gravitational field around us with stellar power that he won’t have a chance.” He did so, and the glow not only anchored them, but drove the little man backward in fear.

Batman frowned. “He’s not human. No eye movement when you brightened the rod’s glow. No disturbing of dust or webs when he passed by them. I’d say he’s more plastic than Ptah.”

Starman took Batman at his word and blasted out at the little figure, which shattered into metal pieces. “A robot! You were right. So why lure us here? Death trap in case we failed to kill you?”

“That’s my guess,” said Batman. “Unless there is something hidden here that transmitted your stellar blast elsewhere, too — absorbed it for other uses. That would mean we’re dealing with a cunning foe.”

***

Aquaman and Captain Triumph made their way to a ship miles below the surface, and they communicated via radios. Aquaman led the way as Lance Gallant, alias Captain Triumph, followed.

“Uncanny how your body resists oceanic pressures like this,” said Aquaman.

The blond man smiled and replied over the radio, “We have our secrets.”

Aquaman stopped as they peered within the old husk. “This craft was a beauty in its prime. No doubt that it is the ship in the mental image the Martian Manhunter pulled from your mind, though.”

Captain Triumph said, “We always wanted to be pirates as kids, didn’t we?”

Aquaman realized he was not the person being spoken to. “Are we not alone?

“I’m sorry,” said Triumph. “I’m never alone. My brother Michael’s ghost is with me — merged with me, in fact. That’s where I get the we pronoun.”

Aquaman nodded. “I assumed you were royalty using a royal we.” Captain Triumph frowned, and Aquaman said, “A joke? Humor doesn’t come naturally to me.”

“You’d never know it,” said Triumph kindly.

“My own brother — half-brother — and I could never be that close,” confessed Aquaman. “We were at each other’s throats all the time growing up. He’s even vowed to kill me, in fact. It pains me deeply. I wish I could somehow just get through to him.”

Lance said, “I can’t imagine what that pain is like. When I thought I had lost Mike, I went mad — for a while — until he spoke to me, and I saw that he was still with me. Now I am never alone. I don’t need to worry about other friends or relationships, since he’s always there for me.” Aquaman wondered if that was healthy, either, but he said nothing.

They saw movement in the murky depths, and a squid appeared. “Stop, my brother of the deep!” ordered Aquaman telepathically.

The creature merely snaked out its limbs and tangled the two within a crushing embrace. “He’s not responding to my commands. He doesn’t even have a mind that I can detect,” muttered Aquaman as he pitted his mighty muscles against the crushing force.

Captain Triumph gritted his teeth. “Must be a robot, then, so that means I don’t have to hold back.” He dug his hands into the creature and peeled back metallic shielding. He struggled harder, ripping out the machinery that operated the metal beast.

“Good work!” said an admiring Aquaman. “You must be in Superman’s class of power.”

“True,” said Captain Triumph dismissively. “Now let’s find the master behind this thing.”

They swam deeper within the ship and found nothing. “We came this far so you could show off your power and I could uselessly mentally probe a robot,” shrugged Aquaman. “I wonder just who is doing the leading here — us or our foe?”

***

Manhunter was not impressed by Superman. He knew that the Metropolis marvel was like the one of his own world and had world-shattering powers, but to the trained tracker, fighter, and hunter, the man still lacked a warrior’s instinct. He accompanied the hero to South America, where he felt more at home as they entered the dense rainforest, and came at last to a small, crumbling ruin.

“My x-ray vision shows movement within and a high level of energy — powering something,” said Superman.

Manhunter nodded. “I sense something is amiss, too. We’re definitely not alone.”

As they entered, the age of the long-fallen glories of ancient America contrasted sharpely with the Man of Tomorrow’s colorful costume. “Great Scott!” cried Superman as a huge warrior appeared before them and hurled a spear with unerring skill.

Manhunter was already in motion as it shattered against Superman’s skin. He rolled across the floor and charged the vision from an ancient and violent past. He dodged a bolt of fire that issued from the warrior’s hand, and Superman smashed through the robotic figure with grim efficiency.

“How’d you know he was a robot?” asked Paul Kirk. “X-ray vision?”

“More like super-hearing, which detected the sound of gears within his chest,” said Superman, smiling.

“I suspected as much. What was his purpose?” Kirk wondered. “Merely to keep us back or kill us?”

Superman admired the keen instincts of Manhunter, but was a bit put off by his almost total coldness and lack of emotion. Even at his most intense, Batman wasn’t this bad.

***

J’onn J’onzz, the Manhunter from Mars, waited as Amazing-Man touched the ancient tiles and became as solid as the mosaic that so elegantly decorated the floor of the Byzantine palace.

“So why was this place in my head?” asked Will Everett, the Amazing Man, as he shoved the broken death-machine aside. “Obviously it was a trap, since no sooner did we arrive than we were jumped by that nutty robot.”

The Martian Manhunter had no reply. He was certain this exercise in combat was not seriously designed as a threat. They were too strong for it. He did suspect that a reason lay behind bringing them there and getting them to display their unique powers. But more pressing on his mind was the young athlete beside him. He said he was the only black super-hero on his world. J’onn knew of none, as yet, on the JLA’s world. It was impressive that Will had achieved so much so early on in the twentieth century, when things were even more racially tense than in his own era.

Still, Will had mixed emotions. He believed he could make a difference as an example for young people everywhere who would look at him and believe that all men were equal and could contribute greatly to society. However, he also carried a bitterness at how his own Olympic glory had failed to bring him the income other white athletes earned through endorsements or even acting.

“So how’d you do it?” he asked. “How did a big green giant from Mars fit into normal life?”

The Manhunter from Mars said, “I have not, as yet. I have only recently taken to displaying my alien form publicly. I can change my shape and looks, and thus I hid for a long time and posed as a human named John Jones.”

“I don’t think that says much for progress on your world, and it sure don’t promise much social change on mine, which is thirty years behind yours,” said Amazing-Man.

The Martian Manhunter again had little he could say.

***

While the four teams investigated the locations placed within the minds of the dominated JSAers by the Lord of Time, the remaining heroes merely talked. The Lord of Time had only intended for one of two things to result from his plan. The JSA would either defeat his old foes or lead them via the images he planted within their minds to locations where their powers would be fully cataloged by his hidden scanners. The data would then be used in future battles, and he would win. He had not bothered to plant such lures in the minds of the other heroes, since he had already gained data on Wonder Woman, the Flash, and Green Lantern from a battle even they did not recall.

Now he was through with his pawns, and he calculated that with the return of the heroes to their proper time and world, all memory of the encounters would also disappear. Yet, he thought as he smiled, this forgotten crisis would have far-reaching effects when next he met the JLA and used the data he had gathered.

***

Firebrand, alias Danette Reilly, had opened up to Green Lantern. His charm was evident, and she admired his utter fearlessness. In some ways, Hal Jordan reminded Dann Reilly of her daredevil brother, Rod. He, too, cared little about risks. “How do you do it?” she asked. “Risk your life across the universe for beings not even remotely humanoid, or so I gather from the stories you told me?”

Green Lantern smiled. “I do it because it needs to be done, I’m good at it, and I like it. I have never looked at being different as being bad or wrong, so the alien looks don’t deter me from helping. I find folks are folks all over space. You meet good ones and bad ones, but all have worth and value.”

Dann impulsively kissed him, as he encapsulated much she wished to develop in herself. After Pearl Harbor, the redheaded heiress had harbored a hatred for all Japanese because of the pain and death they had inflicted upon her brother and his peers. It took the realization that it was a loyal American of Japanese descent who had saved Rod’s life during that same crisis to snap her out of it.

Hal lifted her chin gently and said, “Listen, honey, I’m spoken for — and you must have a special someone back home, too.”

She blushed and nodded with an effort at being demure at last.

***

Elsewhere, the two Flashes compared careers. “You are the role model I based my name and career on,” said Barry Allen. “You have no idea what a hero and legend you are to me through the comics.”

Jay Garrick smiled. “Right now we’re about the same age, and though when my world hits your time I’ll be an old man, I hope I will still be remembered. I like the idea that a simple man doing his part could inspire others. I guess that’s me at the core: I believe one man can make things better. Simple human decency goes a long way with me. I guess I must seem old-fashioned.”

Barry smiled. “You? Never! The Flash is always ahead of his time!”

***

Wonder Woman and her counterpart shared much. “My Steve Trevor can’t see me as Diana, for being blinded by the allure of Wonder Woman,” said Earth-Two’s Diana. “I imagine movie stars or royalty often have the problem of never being too certain if one loves them for their warts and all, or because of their title and their glamor.”

“I know!” said the Earth-One’s Diana. “My Steve is a dear, but I wonder if I can ever get close to him as plain old Diana Prince. My mother is against it totally. It is so nice to talk with you. I miss my Amazon sisters.”

Wonder Woman of the JSA said, “I never had a true sister, and you make me feel the want of one very much.” They hugged and later talked for most of the day.

***

Sargon the Sorcerer had been stuck at the Secret Sanctuary in the company of Snapper Carr, the teenage mascot of the JLA. This young man was, in the sorcerer’s opinion, about ten times more annoying than even the JSA’s Johnny Thunder, constantly snapping his fingers for no good reason at all. Sargon occupied his time as best he could by reading a book and doing his best to ignore the constant chatter and finger-snapping coming from the boy. The only result of this meeting would be an intense distaste for the Justice League that would last long after his memory of the meeting was erased.

The Earth-Two heroes did flicker back to their world not long afterward, and all memory of the meeting faded from both teams.

Continued in DC Universe: Times Past, 1943: The Space-Time Gambit, Book 3: Timeline War

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