Justice League of America: Pyre, Chapter 1: One Punch

by JSAGL

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Continued from Justice League of America: A New Beginning

As the Martian Manhunter collapsed in Adam Strange’s arms, J’onn Jonzz’s memories of the past weeks flooded Adam’s mind in a desperate attempt to make the planet Rann’s number one adopted son understand what had gone before.

***

Happy Harbor, Rhode Island, weeks earlier:

J’onn J’onzz watched the tapes over and over again. If nothing else, Batman was definitely the most observant human he had ever met. Indeed, in each tape showing the illustrious General Glory, the hesitation was more than apparent to those who knew to look for it. The question was — who was the General really? Whoever he was, it was someone with immense super-strength and an equally strong will.

He noticed something else in the tapes, too. Apparently, not all the members of the Conglomerate were pleased with the General’s presence. J’onn could see in Guy’s face the resentment. According to the information provided by Fire — Beatriz daCosta, formerly Green Fury of Brazil — Guy had been pushed aside as leader by Maxwell Lord in favor of the General, and he was not happy about it. Bea was unable to provide any information about the General, either, other than that his name was Lobo and that he’d apparently sought out Max on his own accord.

Another thing J’onn noticed: Some of the battles in which the Conglomerate fought seemed to almost be staged. In their first mission, the Conglomerate foiled a terrorist plot to take over the United Nations Building. They succeeded, but observing the GBC news footage, J’onn noticed something that seemed odd. There was a movie company special effects truck shown leaving the scene just after the Conglomerate arrived. J’onn had checked with New York City Hall. There were no movies being filmed in the area that day.

A few weeks later, the Conglomerate faced off against old JLA foe Amos Fortune. They made a good showing against Fortune, but that rotund villain conveniently disappeared before the police could take him into custody. Curiouser and curiouser.

J’onn’s reverie was interrupted by a beep on the monitor board. It was Steel.

“Hank! I trust that you have good news.”

“J’onn, do I ever. We were able to fend off Lord’s takeover attempt with a little help from an unexpected source. Seems my grandfather did a good turn many years ago for a Dr. Thomas Wayne — made a big donation or something to a medical clinic — and, well, Bruce Wayne helped to get Lord off our back by attempting a takeover of Lord Industries!”

A smile crossed J’onn’s face. For all his stoicism, Batman was an old softy at heart. “That is good news, Hank, but it must have cost both you and Mr. Wayne a considerable amount. Will you still be able to fund JLA operations?”

“That’s the thing, J’onn. The old bastard was declared legally dead yesterday, and a package arrived from a law firm in Texas by FedEx today. Seems ol’ Commander Steel bought some stock in a few companies back in the ’50s from a couple of little companies — IBM and Xerox.”

“And?”

“Well, I had the stock appraised, and… well, my net worth is sitting at somewhere between one-hundred-and-fifty and two-hundred-million dollars. I think I can afford to help out.”

***

Conglomerate Headquarters:

“I’ll kill ya, ya fraggin’ bastiches! Nobody messes with the main man and lives ta tell about it!”

Down the hallway, Antoine and Etienne ran for their lives with Lobo — or General Glory in this case — hot on their tails.

Aaahhh! Help me! He’s insaaane!

The General managed to grab Etienne’s bow-tie and yanked him back, causing the little man to fall to the ground. He stepped over the quivering mass of flesh.

“Say yer prayers, girly man, ’cause yer about to go in two different directions — or at least parts of you are.”

“Lobo, stop!

The self-styled main man whirled around. “Who the frag? And just how are you gonna stop me, little girlie? Yer afraid of yer own shadow! Haw-haw-haw!”

Without another word, Tora Olafsdotter — the second Icemaiden of Norway who was now known as Ice — pointed a hand at Lobo, who instantly became encased in ice.

“I’m… I’m… n-not afraid of you, you big bully,” Ice said, her lower lip quivering.

She heard a rush of footfalls down the hall and saw Guy Gardner, Bea daCosta, and Ted Kord — the Beetle — running toward her.

Tora! What happened, sweetheart?” Fire asked as she put her arms around Tora.

“It was Lobo — he was about to hurt Etienne!”

Guy stepped toward the suspended figure of Lobo, his ring blazing. “I’ve had about enough of this worthless piece of–”

The ice suddenly cracked, and Lobo was free once more. “I heard that, ya spineless bastich! Let’s go — me and you, right now!”

“Guy, no!” Ted yelled, but he found a green force-field barring his way.

Guy and Lobo stood nose to nose, neither one backing down. “Yer mother wears fraggin’ army boots,” said Lobo, “and yer breath smells like cheese!”

“Oh yeah, well, my mom got those boots off your mom after she kicked her ass!” said Guy. “And who’s talking about smelling, anyway? You smell like week-old socks.”

“If it weren’t for that ring, I could kill ya right now. Too bad you gotta hide behind it.”

“I’ll tell you what, clown face, I’ll use the ring to give me the same strength as you, and we’ll go at it mano-a-mano. No tricks.”

“All right, Gardner. Ya may be a wimp, but I’ve never known ya ta lie. Let’s go.”

Guy began to glow green, his power ring bringing him up to Lobo’s power level. “Let’s get this–”

Without warning, Lobo’s fist made contact with Guy’s face. Guy stood there for a moment. He blinked, and then he fell backward to the ground, unconscious.

Behind them, the green force-field faded. Bea and Tora rushed to Guy’s side, but Ted was in no condition to do so.

“One punch! One punch! Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!” Ted laughed so hard he almost went into convulsions.

Lobo looked over at the Beetle with a grin worthy of the Joker. “Don’t laugh too hard, bug-boy, ’cause yer next!”

Fire and Ice stood up, blocking Lobo’s path. “No you don’t, General.”

Lobo stopped for a minute. “You fraggin’ dames got some balls on ya, that’s fer sure, but if ya think that just ’cause ya got a pair of–”

Enough!”

Max appeared at the end of the hallway. He quickly moved past Ted, who was wiping the tears from his eyes. Max gently pushed Fire and Ice aside and stood face to face with General Glory.

“General, one thing we do not do is assault our teammates. You will refrain from doing so ever again. You will follow all my instructions to the letter, and if you do not, I will personally kick your rear myself. Now, I want you to go to your quarters until I summon you. Do I make myself clear?”

Lobo stared at Max for a moment. His body jerked as though he was fighting something inside himself, and then the reply came. “Yes, sir.” And with that, Lobo returned to his quarters.

“Ted, you and Tora take Guy to the infirmary and make sure he’s OK. Bea, I need you to–”

Fire reached up with a tissue and wiped under Max’s nose. “Max, your nose is bleeding.”

“Oh, so it is. Must have been the stress of yelling at Lobo.”

***

Happy Harbor, Rhode Island:

“And that brings us up to date on the Conglomerate thus far. Katar, your progress on the restoration of the satellite?” J’onn J’onzz asked, turning to his Thanagarian co-chairman.

“We are nearly complete,” said Katar Hol, alias Hawkman. “Thanks to the help of Hal and the Corps, we expect to have the satellite one-hundred-percent operational by the end of next week.”

“Excellent. In that case, I hereby declare this meeting of the League adjourned,” J’onn said as he banged the gavel down on the table.

The members filed out of the meeting room. Hawkman and Hawkwoman headed to the transporter and returned to the JLA Satellite. The Flash was back in Central City before J’onn even banged the gavel. Green Lantern was on his way back to Coast City for a little rest and relaxation, while Ralph and Sue Dibny headed to their room for a little private time.

***

In the lounge, Green Arrow and Black Canary were involved in a deep discussion.

“Why not, Dinah?” said Oliver Queen, the Green Arrow. “What do we have to keep us in Star City?”

“I don’t know, Ollie,” said Dinah Lance, the Black Canary. “My business, for one. I’m just not sold on the idea of moving. I opened that shop after I first came here from Earth-Two, back when I thought I was my mother. It has a lot of sentimental value to me.”

“Dinah, I understand that, but we can sell the shop and buy a bigger and better one in Seattle.”

“And what about the League?” asked Dinah. “Happy Harbor’s a lot closer to Star City than it is to Seattle.”

“Right. And I’ve already talked to bird-brain, and he said that we have an existing teleporter tube in Seattle. He said it’ll be reactivated just as soon as the teleporter is back at full capacity.”

Dinah looked at Ollie for a moment. She loved this man more than her own life, but she couldn’t shake the negative feelings she had about the idea of moving to Seattle. Something about it just wasn’t sitting right with her.

***

Maxwell Lord’s office:

“Mr. Lord?”

Max pressed the intercom button. “Yes, Miss Wootenhoffer?”

“There’s a Mr. Sajak here to see you.”

“Send him in.”

A man wearing a trenchcoat and glasses entered Max’s office and closed the door behind him. He took a seat across from Max and removed his glasses. “I’m here for my… paycheck.”

“Mr. Sajak? Could you have chosen a more obvious name?”

The man leaned in closer. “Amos Fortune answers to no one, Mr. Lord. You promised me one million dollars in exchange for staging that fight with your super-team. I’m here to collect.”

Reaching in his desk drawer, Max withdrew a check and handed it to Fortune. “One million dollars as agreed upon.”

Fortune stood up and put his glasses on. “A pleasure doing business with you, sir.”

As he left the office, Max contemplated his next move. I’ve orchestrated a phony terrorist attack, paid off a couple of small-time crooks, and even gotten a former JLA villain to go up against my team. Now what do I do for an encore?

***

The infirmary:

Guy Gardner lay on the bed, still unconscious after his encounter with General Glory. Beside him sat Tora Olafsdotter, alias Ice, patiently waiting for Guy to stir.

“Oooh… my achin’ head…”

Guy!” Tora exclaimed, leaping up from her chair. Unfortunately, as she leaped, she struck the monitoring equipment, which in turn fell on Guy, hitting him in the head and knocking him back into unconsciousness.

“Uhh…”

“Oh, no!”

***

A few hours later, Ted Kord took his turn watching over Guy. Bea daCosta had taken Tora out shopping, if only to prevent her from injuring Guy further. Finally, the one, true Green Lantern stirred again.

“Oooh… my head…”

The Beetle pulled his chair next to Guy’s bed. “Whoa there, big guy. Take it easy. Don’t try to sit up too fast.”

Guy steadied himself on his elbows for a moment and then looked over at Ted. “How long have I been out?”

“For about eight hours now. How you feelin’?”

Guy took his hand and placed it on Ted’s, squeezing it. He broke out into a big grin. “I think I’ll be just fine. After all, accidents do happen. I just hope the General didn’t hurt his hand. And thank you, Ted, for staying here with me. Your friendship means so very much to me.”

Ted just stared at Guy in shock and muttered, “Oh… my… God.”

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