by JSAGL and Starsky Hutch 76
Hank Heywood III stood in his grandfather’s office. On the wall hung a larger-than-life portrait of the old man himself. What an arrogant, pompous bastard, Hank thought. What kind of egomaniac would you have to be to have someone paint a portrait like this? He shook his head. That’s easy. The kind that would let your father serve in a war and die and turn your grandson into a walking metal freak.
Walking over to the desk, Hank noted that it, too, was larger than necessary. It was made out of mahogany, adorned with gold, and seemed as wide as a football field. Well, maybe not that wide.
On the desk were the usual trappings, plus something that struck Hank as odd: pictures. There was one of Hank, Hank’s parents, grandmother, and a picture of some people Hank didn’t recognize. They were costumed heroes to be sure, but none Hank had ever seen. He turned the picture over and saw some writing on the back: “1942: Me, Johnny, Libby, John, Sir Justin, Danette and Robotman. The best friends a guy could have.”
Granddad had friends? Hank knew that his grandfather had fought the Nazis on Earth-Two as Commander Steel, but he never imagined that anyone liked him.
The door opened, and a middle-aged man walked in — David Cranston, Hank, Sr.’s attorney. “Hank, I hate to bother you, but we’ve got a problem.”
“What’s that, David?”
“Are you familiar with the term hostile takeover?”
In his private chambers, Maxwell Lord was insufferably pleased with himself.
Max, you are definitely in a class by yourself. Everyone said you’ll never get a JLAer to join the Conglomerate, but you did. Naturally, I assumed I could convince Ollie, but this Firestorm kid is even better than I hoped. He’s got a higher profile than Green Arrow, and the sheer power that he brings to the group is staggering.
Max pressed the button on the intercom next to him. “Miss Wootenhoffer, I’m going downstairs to the sub-basement. If anyone asks, I’ve left and won’t be back until tomorrow.”
“Yes sir, Mr. Lord.”
“This puts a wrinkle in our plan, does it not? I had hoped that Firestorm would rejoin us here in the JLA. His matter-transmuting abilities would be invaluable in restoring the satellite.”
J’onn J’onzz looked up at the screen as Batman replied, “Everything is going according to plan, J’onn. This story’s not over yet, not by a long shot, so don’t make assumptions as to everyone’s final status. This is minor. However, we’re going to have to move the timetable of your press conference up.”
Dunking an Oreo in his milk, J’onn took a bite. “Agreed. I’ll talk to the key players, and we’ll convene at nine A.M. tomorrow.”
“Keep me posted, and J’onn?”
“You’re the leader of the JLA. Have faith in the decisions you make. I know I do.”
As the monitor went dark, J’onn ate yet another Oreo and finished his milk. “I thought I was the one who read minds.”
Later, J’onn Jonnz sat at the computer reviewing the JLA files, looking at the profiles of past members. Two fellow Leaguers peered over his shoulder.
“I can’t believe the kid would stab us in the back like that,” said Ralph Dibny, the Elongated Man, as Firestorm’s profile came up.
“That is an unfair accusation to make, Ralph,” J’onn said. “Membership had not yet been extended to him.”
“Yeah, Ralph,” said Hal Jordan, the original Green Lantern of Earth. “I’m sure if he’d known we were re-forming the old League, he would’ve joined in a heartbeat rather than hooking up with an imitation. If this Lord guy is anything like I think he is, he’s probably got the poor kid locked in with some sort of contract now.”
“I can assure you he is,” J’onn said.
Wonder Woman’s photo was the next one that came up. All of them grew silent.
“Man, it still hurts,” Ralph said.
“You aren’t kidding,” Hal said. “She had this light that seemed to follow her around wherever she went. I’d never met anyone like her.”
“I hear her husband took it really hard,” Ralph said, speaking of Steve Trevor, who had married Princess Diana of Paradise Island during the Crisis. “They were only together as husband and wife for five days.”
Hal whistled and said, “Who wouldn’t take that hard? The Justice League just won’t be the same without a Wonder Woman.”
“Truer words were never spoken,” J’onn said.
“Wally said Donna’s taking up the role,” Ralph said. “Perhaps we should offer her membership.”
“That’s a great idea!” Hal said enthusiastically.
“I’m afraid that won’t be possible!” a voice boomed from the doorway. All three turned and were shocked to see a statuesque black woman standing in the doorway wearing the uniform of Wonder Woman. “That is a matter she must take up with her mother.”
“Who are you?” J’onn asked. “And why are you wearing that uniform?”
“I am Nubia,” she replied, raising her chin proudly, “sister of Diana, Queen Hippolyta’s duly-appointed representative to man’s world, and the new Wonder Woman. I am here to join the Justice League of America.” Without turning to the others, she said, “You will leave us now.”
With that, the Elongated Man and Green Lantern found themselves unceremoniously shoved outside the monitor room by Nubia. Before they could react, they heard the door click and lock.
Ralph looked at Hal with a gleam in his eye. “Y’know, I could just stretch under the door…”
Hal’s ring started to glow. “No. Let her talk to J’onn. We still have to vote her in if he’s going to nominate her. I need to get back to the Corps before the press conference tomorrow.”
The two began to walk the corridors of the Bunker, walking past living quarters and training rooms, before reaching a room that no one truly liked to visit — the memorial room. Up until the Crisis, there had never really been a need for one. Red Tornado had died once before, but he had come back. This time, though, there were six statues in the room, and it was highly unlikely that any of them would return.
“Someone’s in there.”
Walking past the statues of Vibe, Vixen, Gypsy, Supergirl, and the original Wonder Woman, the pair found Wally West gazing at the statue of his uncle, Barry Allen, the original Flash.
“Kilowog did a nice job on these.”
Hal placed his hand on Wally’s shoulder. “You shouldn’t torture yourself like this, Wally.”
Wally turned to Hal, a man who was very much like an uncle to him as well. “I know, Hal. It’s just — Barry was as much of a father to me as my own dad is. I never even got to say goodbye, or tell him how much I love him.”
He managed to hold back most of the tears as Hal drew the young man into a hug. Standing back with a hand on each shoulder, Hal looked into Wally’s eyes. “You never had to, Wally. Barry knows.”
Ralph suddenly stretched between Wally and Hal. “OK, guys, enough of the mushy stuff. I’m starting to get choked up here, too.”
The trio exited the room, when a large noise emanated from the scarlet speedster’s stomach. Ralph’s nose began to twitch as he looked at Wally’s mid-section. “Good Lord! I think we’d better clear the room!”
Hal started laughing, as did Wally. “No, Ralph, that’s just my hypermetabolism kicking in. It seems like I’m eating all the time now just to keep up with it. You guys want to go grab a bite? I’m paying!”
“No,” Hal replied, “I’ve got to get back to Coast City. I’ll see you guys at the press conference in the morning.” An emerald glow engulfed Green Lantern, and he vanished through the roof.
“I’ll go, but how can a college kid afford your kind of metabolism?” the stretchable sleuth said as he stretched outside, “You win the lottery or something?”
Wally smiled. “Well, actually, I did!”
The fifteen spaceships of the space fleet of the planet Rann — or at least what was left of it — hung dead in the cold of space, some broken in half, others simply debris. One ship, though, was relatively intact, and that was the one that the approaching ship docked with.
Traversing throught the airlocks, two men and one woman in transparent containment suits entered. Sparks emanated from some of the walls; bodies laid broken everywhere. Entering the bridge, they discovered a few survivors.
“Alanna, Sardath, see how these people are doing. I’m going to see if their sensor logs tell me anything.”
As his wife and her father tended to the wounded, the transplanted Earth man Adam Strange worked the computer controls until the small monitor came to life. There was no audio, but he was able to make out a picture.
The tape showed two of the other ships engaging a hostile, and this ship moved in to help. The other ships were torn apart like rag dolls, and suddenly the hostile moved toward this ship. The view shook and then the screen went blank. Adam replayed the tape, this time slowing down to a frame-by-frame replay. This time, the hostile was easily recognizable.
The color drained from Adam’s face as he realized where the hostile was headed, and just who it was.
“Despero. Dear God, I’ve got to get ahold of Katar somehow.”