The roll call:
- Black Canary
- Elongated Man
- The Flash
- Green Lantern
- Martian Manhunter
- Wonder Woman
- with special guest stars Batman, Green Arrow, and the Conglomerate.
Happy Harbor, Rhode Island:
It sat proudly, nestled in the hills of Rhode Island. Outwardly, it resembled nothing more than a mountain, but inside it was home to legends.
“This is to be our headquarters?” Nubia, the new Wonder Woman, said as she batted the cobwebs away from her. “This is a pit, unworthy of any denizen of Patriarch’s World, much less an Amazonian Princess.”
“Diana didn’t seem to think so,” Dinah Lance, the Black Canary, replied as she moved past Nubia.
“OK, now I’m totally confused,” the Flash said as J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter, flipped on a light switch. “I thought J’onn said we were moving back into the satellite, and now we’re here in some underground–”
“My friends, we are home,” interrupted J’onn.
As the lights came up, the meeting room of the Secret Sanctuary was revealed in all its glory. There was a little dust and debris here and there, but it did nothing to diminish the feeling of awe.
Around the table were nine chairs, each emblazoned with the symbol of the member to whom they belonged: Superman, Batman, Aquaman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, the Martian Manhunter, Green Arrow, and Hawkman.
“Hey guys, look at this — it still works,” the Elongated Man said as he stretched over to the table and touched something — a tiny chair that suddenly rose from the table and floated in midair. “Damn, I wish Ray was here,” he said, speaking of the Atom, who had left civilization to live amongst an alien race of six-inch-tall, yellow-skinned humans in South America.
The group was silent for a moment, some lost in the nostalgia of it all, some not sure what to say.
“Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m not about to set up shop in a filthy cave,” said Zatanna the magician. “Htlif dna emirg, hsinav.”
And suddenly, everything old was new again.
“J’onn, you didn’t answer my question,” the Flash said excitedly. “I thought we were moving back into the satellite.”
J’onn took his place at the table. “We are, Flash. In fact, Hal, Katar, and Shayera are inspecting the satellite now in order to make repairs, but until then, we shall need a new base of operations, and I am content to let Maxwell Lord think that we are moving here.”
“Assuming that Red Tornado didn’t completely trash the satellite,” muttered the Elongated Man.
“In any event, there are some tasks that need to be performed. Nubia, you and Zatanna will scout the entire complex and make sure that we are secure. Ralph, you and Sue need to set up the living quarters, while Wally moves the equipment in from the jet. Dinah and I will be testing the equipment to make sure we are operational.”
As the others left, Dinah turned to J’onn. “Have you heard from Ollie yet?” She hid any worry she felt about her lover, Oliver Queen, the Green Arrow, but the telepathic Martian Manhunter could sense her unease.
“No, but that may mean he is still playing out our scenario. While I may mistrust Lord, we also have someone on the inside who is looking out for him should anything go awry.”
“Oh, so now all of a sudden we’re good enough for ya?”
Green Arrow found himself nose to nose with Guy Gardner. On the other side of the table, the Beetle watched in amusement. At the meeting table, Sargon the Sorcerer sat, wondering why he ever agreed to join this group in the first place. Fire and Ice watched with some concern, while Buddy Baker, better known as Animal Man, was on the phone with his wife, Ellen.
Firestorm walked toward the two, thinking to break them up, but the Beetle reached out his hand.
“Let ’em alone, kid. They’re two grown men. They just need to work it out.”
Firestorm hesitated for a moment. “Ronald, much as I am loathe to say it, I agree with the Beetle. Green Arrow can take care of himself.”
“Professor, it’s not Ollie I’m worried about.”
And as Green Arrow and Guy continued to argue, the door opened, admitting one Maxwell Lord. “Well, I’m glad to see everyone’s getting along so well. Guy, shut up and sit down.”
Guy was about to argue with Max, when he suddenly felt compelled to do as Max said. “All right, fine, but there’s no way Robin Hood, here, is joining this damn team.”
“Is that why you’re here, Green Arrow? To join the Conglomerate?”
“If you want me, though Gardner here makes me wretch almost as much as Hawkman does.”
Animal Man stepped up. “If you ask me, Max, I think having someone of Green Arrow’s experience–”
Max cut him off. “I didn’t ask, Baker. The decision’s made, and the answer is no!”
“Say what? Max, you practically begged me a few weeks ago to join up, and now you’re turning me down? What the hell is wrong with you?”
Taking his place at the head of the table, Max propped his feet up and lit a cigar. “Just how stupid do you JLA people think I am? That meeting between you and me, G.A. — that was a setup orchestrated by your pal, the Batman. I must say that Looker provided a pleasant enough distraction, so much so that I didn’t recognize her until after the fact.
“I wasn’t sure what Batman’s game was until I realized that Looker — the telepathic witch — was doing recon while I was busy with you,” continued Max. “Fortunately, I have my own safeguards, so she didn’t get too much information out of me. I knew you’d try again, but Batman didn’t realize I was on to you. So you staged that little tiff with Hawkman for my benefit, hoping it would lead you straight on to the team. Well, let me tell you somethin’, old friend — Maxwell Lord is no one’s fool. Now get out before I personally throw you out.”
Green Arrow headed to the door, but turned before he left. “You win, Max, but these guys will wise up to what you really are, and when they do–”
“Goodbye, Green Arrow.”
Green Arrow slammed the door behind him. The Beetle walked over to Firestorm and looked at him intently. “What about this schmuck, Max? He’s probably one of Batman’s stooges, too.”
Max sat up and put his cigar out. “Actually, Ted, I thought of that, but I can assure you he checks out. Firestorm may be powerful, but he’s not the actor that the Arrow is. If I weren’t as resourceful as I am, the archer might have pulled it off, but no one ever gets the best of Maxwell Lord. No one.”
And as Green Arrow headed down the street in his car, his JLA signal device beeped. “I’m out, J’onn. Max fell for it, hook, line, and sinker.”
“Dinah and I are glad to hear it. Our operative is still in place then?”
“Oh, yeah. Old Max’s ego won’t let him even think that anyone could pull one over on him. Hell, they even accused Stormy of being a plant.”
And back at Conglomerate Headquarters, Max’s secretary Miss Wootenhoffer rushed in with news of a terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. “Your first mission, gang. Let’s make it one for the books!”
As she boarded the Conglomerate’s new ship, Beatriz DaCosta smiled inwardly. Let them all think I’m dumb and shallow, but Batman and J’onn never would have asked me to do this if I was.