by JSAGL and Starsky Hutch 76
The ruthless bounty hunter called Lobo stood upon the asteroid Appellax 9 watching his fish as they frolicked innocently in the vacuum of space. Fish was what he called them, even though they were in no way remotely related to the aquatic animal. They didn’t live in water, and they looked more like dolphins. Whatever they were, he enjoyed watching them. They brought peace to his tumultuous soul. He would stand completely still for hours watching them as they swam through space, the light of passing comets playing off his swirl-patterned, multicolored bodysuit. This was how the most-feared bounty hunter in three galaxies came to have pets.
“Here ya go, fishies,” Lobo said, prying off the top of the barrel with his bare fingers. “Daddy’s brought home din-din.” He hefted up the barrel and began waving it in their direction, allowing the zero gravity to carry the feed in their direction.
As the fishies began to swim toward him and the food, something screamed past, tearing a vicious path through the serenely innocent space dolphins and killing several of them.
The other fishies began to gather around their fallen cousins, their mouths opening and closing. Though the vacuum of space could carry no sound, he imagined he could hear their anguished bleating. His mind was flooded with a bright red, blinding rage. He jumped on his cycle and cut a path of pursuit after Despero toward the planet Earth.
Hank Heywood came into the boardroom behind his grandfather’s attorney. Inside, Hank saw a veritable sea of sports coats, ties, and gray hair.
David Cranston spoke up, “What’s the latest?”
A small, mousy-looking man adjusted his glasses. “It’s not good. We finally found out who’s behind the takeover attempt.”
Hank stepped forward. “Well, who is it? Who’s trying to steal my grandfather’s company out from under me? I’m the major stockholder here. I need to know!”
“We only just found out this morning. Have you ever heard of Maxwell Lord?”
The planet Rann:
Back on the surface of the planet, Adam Strange was in Sardath’s lab, attempting to raise the planet Thanagar, with little result. Frustrated, Adam banged his hands on the control panel, and the monitor screen came to life — just barely.
Behind the static, Adam could barely make out the face of Andar Pul.
“Skrereerke — Adam — zzxkjrrskk — barely — srkkkfkkksome creature — destroyed srkxxz–“
“Andar, I can barely hear you. Can you boost your signal? I need to warn you. I need to find Katar.”
“Skkrrkzkzzk — satellites destroyed — skrrrzzxx — wait — something’s–“
And the screen went dead. Adam said a silent prayer. Without the Thanagarians, there was no way to reach Hawkman and warn him that Despero was coming. After what had happened in even the barest contact with Rann and Thanagar, he shuddered to think of what Despero might do when he got to Earth.
That was, unless he could find some way for Sardath to drain him of the Zeta Beam energy. That would send him back to Earth, but would there be enough time?
Andar Pul cursed silently. They had only just begun making headway in restoring Thanagar after the equalizing plague, after the antimatter wave that threatened to destroy them all and caused riots in the streets that killed thousands, and now this. Their ships had detected the creature on a collision course with their planet, so naturally they mobilized their defenses. The creature destroyed them with ease, taking out most of Thanagar’s orbiting satellites, as well. Of the few that remained, one was a communications satellite, damaged, but operational. That was twenty-four hours ago.
Five minutes ago, their last observation post spotted yet another creature approaching Thanagar. There would be no stopping this one. Fortunately, the creature bypassed Thanagar at the last minute, following the exit flight of the first, but not before destroying the communications satellite in the process. The observation post sent back a picture of the second attacker, and Andar Pul thought at first it must be a joke. The picture showed what appeared to a Velorpian, a race long since dead, riding some sort of two-wheeled conveyance. They must be working for Hyathis or Kanjar Ro, he thought, and they’ve left Thanagar defenseless before an invasion.
“That bastich thought he could lose me by jumping a wormhole,” muttered Lobo, the last Velorpian. “I lost him for a little bit, but I’m not the best there is at what I do for nothing. No one hurts my fishies and gets away with it. No one. Least of all some stupid red bastich with a fin on his head.”
Outside the rebuilt Capitol Building, D.C.:
Wally West looked out over Washington, D.C., which had been repaired by Superman and others after the Phantom Zone villains attacked it only a couple of months ago, just before Mr. Mxyzptlk dropped Argo City on Metropolis. The sight was truly incredible. From the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial, just being in the city itself made him feel a little small. All around were two-hundred-plus years of American history, and the JLA was here today to make sure that it was still an active part of that history.
“This is Jimmy Olsen, reporting to you live for WGBS, here in our nation’s capital. As many of you recall, it was only a few days ago that billionaire industrialist Maxwell Lord announced his new group, the Conglomerate, as the heir apparent to the Justice League. Today, we see some past and present members of the JLA here on the steps of the nation’s capital. It looks like the current leader of the JLA, the Martian Manhunter, is about to take the podium. Let’s go live to him now.”
J’onn J’onzz stepped up to the microphone, clearly uncomfortable speaking in front of so many people, but what he had to say today could only be said by him. “Good afternoon. For those of you who do not know me, my name is J’onn J’onzz, and I am the current chairman of the Justice League of America. During the recent Crisis which plagued us, the JLA lost a number of good people: Vibe, Vixen, Gypsy, Wonder Woman, the Flash, and Supergirl.”
Pausing for a moment, J’onn continued, “Indeed, by the end of the Crisis, the membership of the League had dwindled to just myself, the Elongated Man, and Steel. Obviously, the League could not continue with only three members. Despite what you may have heard from unreliable sources recently, the League has not shut down. What this unreliable source has forgotten is that the JLA is more than just a team. It is a family. Like all families, it grows and changes, but it never truly ends. To that end I would like to announce the return of the members you see before you on the stage today.”
J’onn gestured his hand as he read the roll call. “Black Canary, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Hawkwoman, and Zatanna. They will be joining me, the Elongated Man, and young Steel, who could not be here today. We are also welcoming two new members on board today, whom I will introduce after this message, which another of our membership asked me to play for you.”
On the screen behind the League, the face of Superman popped up. He was clearly weary and not in top form, but nonetheless, he riveted the crowd’s attention like no other.
“My fellow Americans, I wish I could be here with you today, with my good friends of the JLA, but the demands on me in Metropolis are too great right now. J’onn has spoken to you today about his family, the members of the JLA. I consider them my family as well. They have seen me through the good and bad times for many years now, and I encourage you to support them as you would me. Even though I cannot be an active member, I am proud to be a reserve member of the JLA. I will be there for them when they truly need me, just as I know they will be there when you truly need them. God bless you all, and thank you.”
The image grew dark, and the crowd went wild with thunderous applause and cheering.
Green Lantern whispered into Hawkman’s ear, “I’ve got to hand it to J’onn — having Superman record a message was a stroke of genius.”
Hawkman just smiled. “Indeed, and that’s not all.”
As the roar subsided, J’onn continued, “In keeping with the League’s tradition of family, we are proud today to welcome two new members into the fold. The first is the former Kid Flash, Wally West, who has stepped into the shoes of his uncle, the late Barry Allen. I am sure that Wally will do the Flash legacy very proud.”
Wally raced out and waved to the crowd, who once again gave a loud roar of approval.
“The other is also a relative of a League member who has perished. May I present Nubia, the sister of the late Princess Diana, who shall now take her sister’s mantle as Wonder Woman.”
Nubia, dressed in full Amazon regalia, walked onto the stage and took her place next to Zatanna. Once again, the applause was thunderous.
“I will now open the floor to a few questions.”
J’onn pointed to a reporter.
“Mr. J’onzz, Lois Lane, the Daily Planet. Will this new League still be stationed in Detroit? And what about the other League members not present today, particularly Batman and Firestorm?”
“To answer the latter, Miss Lane, Batman will continue as an advisor and reserve member of the League. He has his hands full with the recent problems in Gotham at the moment.” He referred to the criminal populations of Gotham City being set free in a massive prison break, as well as the rampage of Swamp Thing shortly thereafter that had plagued the city’s infrastructure with overgrown vegetation. “Firestorm has chosen to join the Conglomerate, and we wish him well. As to the question of our headquarters, we have decided in the best interest of the League to leave Detroit and relocate to our original headquarters in Happy Harbor, Rhode Island.”
“Mr. J’onzz: Vicki Vale, Gotham Gazette. Will you continue to be the leader of the JLA?”
“I’m glad you asked that, Miss Vale. We voted last evening, and I have been unanimously re-elected as the chairman of the JLA. But in the event of my absence, I have chosen a deputy leader who I feel is fully qualified to lead should the situation arise. My deputy chairman, Hawkman.”
As the winged wonder took the podium, a voice rang out from the back of the steps, “Now wait just one freakin’ minute!” Green Arrow rushed to the podium, his eyes ablaze, shaking his fist like a madman. “What the hell do you mean bird-brain is the deputy leader? I didn’t come back to the League to play foot-soldier for this fascist.”
Hawkman got up in Green Arrow’s face as he yelled back at him, “Fascist? You small minded, egotistical–”
J’onn pushed them apart, “Green Arrow, Hawkman — enough!”
“You got that right, greenie. I’ve had more than enough. I quit!” Oliver Queen turned back up the steps and grabbed Dinah Lance’s hand. “C’mon pretty bird, let’s go.”
Black Canary pulled her hand out of Ollie’s. “No.”
Green Arrow whipped around, clearly confused. “What did you say?”
“I said no! You’re behaving like a little child. The League is my home, and I’m not leaving just because you have this idiotic feud with Hawkman. Now go over and apologize.”
Oliver just stared at Dinah for a moment. Without another word, he walked down the steps and disappeared into the crowd.
Wally looked at Ralph Dibny, both of them more than a little embarrassed. “That went well.”
“Oh yeah, I’m sure that just did our rep a lot of good.”
Maxwell Lord’s office:
Grabbing the remote and clicking the press conference off, Max drummed his fingers on the desk, then pressed the intercom.
“Yes, Mr. Lord?”
“Cancel all my appointments for this afternoon. Call Guy and have him round up the troops. We’ll be having a special guest here in a few hours.”
Max leaned back in his chair. “This ought to be interesting.”