Justice League of America: Between Sea and Sky, Chapter 1: First Strike

by HarveyKent

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“And if we can scale down the size of the tachyon-displacement vellicator 1/37 per linear foot, we can fit it into the outer ring thusly.”

“Hm. Sub-molecular physics can be problematical, though. What if we used a viridium alloy for the casing of the power source?”

Ralph Dibny chuckled as he heard Superman and Hawkman’s conversation. He sat at the monitor screens in the Justice League of America’s mountain headquarters, for this was his turn on monitor duty. The Kryptonian and Thanagarian friends stood at the meeting table, bent over a set of blueprints incorporating the best technologies both their alien civilizations had to offer. They were planning the repairs of the Justice League Satellite, which had become almost wrecked by Despero shortly before their conflict with him, and Elongated Man guessed they were having as much fun in the planning as they would in the actual rebuilding. (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See Justice League of America: Pyre, Chapter 3: Impact.]

“Perhaps we can offer some assistance, Clark, Katar?” a deep voice boomed. Heads turned to watch the Martian Manhunter and Nubia, the new Wonder Woman, enter from the audio-visual room.

“J’onn, Nubia! I didn’t know you were here,” Hawkman said warmly. “Sure, come and kvetch. We’ve already got technology from Earth, Krypton, and Thanagar incorporated into this thing. Why not throw in Martian and Amazon discoveries?”

Superman raised an eyebrow at Hawkman. “Kvetch?”

“I learned it from Ollie.”

“J’onn and I were just recording the details of our battle with the Royal Flush Gang for the archives,” Nubia explained. “They attacked a new casino that just opened outside Middletown. We made short work of them.”

“Thank you again for deflecting the Ace’s flame-thrower, Nubia,” J’onn said warmly.

“That’s what teammates are for, J’onn,” Nubia said, smiling. “I want to thank you again, all of you, for accepting me into the League. I have some very big boots to fill; I know Diana was one of you from day one, and you loved her like a sister.”

“We all miss her,” Superman said somberly. “Many good men and women fell during that battle. Diana is just another one that my powers couldn’t save. My foster parents, the Kents, Barry, Kara — I’ve seen many a dear friend go. Sometimes it’s more than a Superman can bear.”

“Heads up!” Elongated Man shouted before anyone could reply to the Man of Steel’s comments. “Bogey coming in fast!”

“What?” Superman snapped, and he was at the monitor screen before the sound of his voice could travel the same distance.

An elongated finger pointed to a fast-moving blip on the radar screen. “Something just appeared out in space, just outside Earth’s orbit — and it’s headed for us faster than anything I’ve ever seen before, present company excluded!”

“Good Lord,” Superman said, his Kryptonian brain rapidly calculating angles and trajectories. “If this thing maintains its present course, it’s going to strike right h–”

Before Superman could finish, the Justice League headquarters was rocked by a terrific impact. The ceiling burst, and rubble flew in all directions. Five pairs of eyes stared through the dust and debris to see a fierce-looking, white-skinned giant standing in their midst, snarling.

“Have found you! League of Justice! Now have revenge!” the giant growled in clipped phrases.

“H’ronmeer’s breath!” the Martian Manhunter gasped. “It’s Korge!

“Who?” Nubia demanded. Her perusals of the Justice League archives had not led her to this entry yet.

“I am Korge!” the giant snarled. “God of rage! Defeated by League! Imprisoned by Martians! Free once more! To seek revenge!” (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Last Angry God,” Justice League of America #115 (January-February, 1975).]

“In your dreams!” Superman snapped and launched himself at Korge. His hope was to strike before the giant could use his powers, but it was not to be. Before the mighty Man of Steel could reach his foe, the rubble of the headquarters’ ceiling all around him turned glowing green, and his body was racked with waves of pain.

“Korge remembers you! Man from Krypton! Kryptonite can hurt! Make you dead!

“Ralph, get Superman out of here!” Hawkman hissed under his breath. “Get him to the med-lab! Let us deal with Korge!”

The Elongated Man nodded and reached out his arms to the fallen Superman. Korge swatted Elongated Man away, however, and the pliable hero struck the far wall. When he tried to stretch again, he found that he could not. His body was as pliable as ever, but his costume of stretch rubber had turned to solid, immobile steel.

“Rubber-man stopped! Cannot stretch costume! Now make dead!

“All at once, Leaguers!” Martian Manhunter cried. “He can’t stop us all at once!” That was all Nubia and Hawkman needed; as one, the three stalwart champions leaped into battle. With one wide sweep of his mighty arm, Korge knocked them all aside. Nubia struggled to rise from the corner where she landed, but Korge’s giant hands shot at her like striking cobras, grasping both her wrists in one of his giant claws. When he released his hold, her Amazon bracelets were fused together. A gasp of horror on her face, she fell to her knees.

“Amazon now helpless! Bound by man! Lost all strength!”

Before Hawkman could twitch a muscle, his wings and anti-gravity belt flowed around his body like water, then quick-changed into solid steel.

“Hawkman now defeated! Own wings imprison! Fly no more!”

Martian Manhunter had been hurled into a corner by Korge’s blow. He now stood there with his back pressed against the wall, as the floor two feet in front of him burst into white-hot flame.

“Wall of fire! Keep Martian prisoner! As Korge was!”

Korge turned his snarling, fanged visage toward the Elongated Man, who lay in the corner where he fell. His muscles were tense, his mind preparing for action. He was ready to stretch out of his costume and engage the creature that had just defeated four Justice Leaguers. He didn’t know what he could do, but he had to try.

But Korge would not fight him this day. “You go free!” he snarled. “Tell other Leaguers! Come face Korge! Entire League come! Fight Korge here! If not come! Within six hours! Korge will kill! One leaguer each! Hour until League! Come face Korge! Come face death!

As Korge finished speaking, Ralph felt his costume change back to normal. He looked at his friends, imprisoned and helpless. How could he leave them? And yet, what could he do if he stayed? The rest of the League needed to help. All the strength they had would be needed to defeat this foe.

“I’ll be back,” Ralph promised his friends. “I’ll be back with help!”

Martian Manhunter gazed at Ralph through the flames; his expression was a grim one, a respectful one. “Go, Ralph. We’ll be all right for now. Go and warn the others about Korge!”

Unable to look at his friends’ agony any longer, Elongated Man raced out of the room as fast as his elongated legs could carry him. He heard Korge’s booming laughter behind him as he pressed the triple-priority alert on his Justice League communicator. Every Leaguer alive on Earth would hear that signal and answer. He prayed they would be in time to rescue their friends.

***

Meanwhile, two men communicated by video-screen. Both barely concealed their grins of sheer delight.

“Our plan is working as we hoped it would,” one of them said. “Korge has captured the Justice League’s headquarters, and one of them has been sent to bring the others.”

“Excellent,” the other man said. “With the one particular Leaguer thus occupied, we can put Phase Two of our plan into operation. And from there, the world will fall before us both!”

“We shall divide Earth between us, my friend,” the first man said.

“Yes, and even the mighty Justice League shall not stop us!”

The two men laughed then, delighted with themselves. Korge was only the first strike in what would become the greatest war the world had ever known.

***

Alfred Pennyworth was a gentleman’s gentleman. For years, he had been majordomo to one of the world’s greatest crime-fighters, Batman. He prided himself on maintaining his unflappable air and calm control in the most harrowing of situations.

This was a situation to try even Alfred’s demeanor. It was to his credit that he did not flinch once.

Let me see, Alfred thought to himself, Miss Canary requested the herbal tea… Master Aquaman the distilled spring water… and was the Pepsi Light for Master Lantern or Master Arrow?

A council of war was going on in the Batcave. Elongated Man’s triple priority alert had been answered. Justice League members past and present had gathered in the Batman’s secret headquarters. Batman himself sat at his computer console, having called up the file on Korge. Green Lantern, the Flash, Zatanna, the Elongated Man, Aquaman, Green Arrow, and Black Canary stood around behind the masked manhunter, watching the screen intently.

“Lantern,” Batman said, “you were there for the first battle with Korge. Anything to add to the computer file?”

“No, it’s pretty concise,” Green Lantern said. “Near as we could figure, he’s the most powerful telepath and telekinetic we’ve ever encountered. He can mentally sense a person’s powers and weaknesses, then transmute matter to exploit those weaknesses.

“We beat him before by switching powers and taking him by surprise,” he added. “Say, maybe I can use my power ring to disguise us as each other, catch him off-guard?”

“Wouldn’t work,” said Aquaman, the only resident telepath. “He’d sense our powers and weaknesses underneath any disguise.”

“Well, we have to do something!” Zatanna said impatiently. “Our friends are at his mercy while we stand here and debate!

“Charging in half-cocked won’t save our friends either, Zee,” said the Flash, the youngest of the group. “We need a plan, a strategy. And we’ve got the world’s best strategist on our side. Right, Bats?”

“Your faith is touching, Wally,” Batman said grimly, “but let’s hope I prove equal to it.”

***

Meanwhile, in the Justice League headquarters, Korge reclined in a meeting chair that he had altered to his size. He had found the pantry area of the headquarters and had devoured most of a roast chicken intended for Katar and Shayera’s anniversary party the next day. Chicken bones littered the floor around him. Wonder Woman and Hawkman sat on the floor, writhing in their bonds. Superman laid in a corner, his skin tinged green from kryptonite poisoning. Martian Manhunter stood against the wall, staring grimly through the flames. Korge had made them just strong enough to keep him prisoner, but not to kill him.

“Soon you die!” Korge spat at the Manhunter, a chicken bone flying from his teeth. “Your friends come! One by one! They will die! Then Korge will! Have his revenge!

“How did you escape, Korge?” the Martian Manhunter asked grimly. “The Justice League left you imprisoned back in the vault we Martians found you in. How did you get out?”

Korge laughed, a deep, rumbling laugh like thunder. “How Korge escape? You are fool! Your own people! Let Korge out! Martians open vault! Korge walk out!”

J’onn could not mask his horror. “They what? No! They would never!

Ha!” Korge barked. “Martians also want! Revenge on League! Want planet Earth! Let Korge out! So Korge help! Destroy Justice League! Then Martians come! Take over Earth!”

The Martian Manhunter gaped in horror.

***

Back in the Batcave, the strategy session was interrupted by Batman’s communicator screen ringing. “Excuse me, everyone.” He turned to the screen controls, then a look of puzzlement came over his face. “Arthur, I think this is for you. The signal is coming from your headquarters in New Venice.”

“What?” Aquaman asked. “Let me see.” The sea king strode to the communicator screen, then activated the receiver. Instantly, the face of his beloved wife Mera appeared. She wore a mask of fear.

“Mera! What is it?” Aquaman gasped, seeing the horror on her face.

“Arthur! It — it’s awful! We — we have a call from Atlantis, from the throne room of Poseidonis!”

“Patch it through,” Aquaman instructed. Mera did so, and her face vanished, replaced by a grinning visage — a dark-haired man, evil written all over his face — evil and triumph. Aquaman gaped.

“Narkran!” he gasped.

“Ah, Your Majesty, you remember me. I am touched. All those years I languished in Poseidonis’ prison, you never even favored me with a royal visit.”

“What is the meaning of this?” Aquaman demanded. “Where is Vulko?”

“Oh, Aquaman, can you not guess?” Narkran asked. “Even in prison, I had my followers. There were those who shared my views, my vision of Poseidonis’ place in the world! They met in secret, growing larger and stronger every year. And six months ago, when I was finally released, I took my place as their rightful leader.

“One of them had discovered ancient texts, describing pre-cataclysm technology. Using that technology, we built a communication system the likes of which Atlantis had never seen! We remembered the Earth-Mars War and knew where we could find someone willing to help us! (*) We established contact; for many months I held councils with the Marshal, and we formulated a plan! We would strike on the coattails of another worldwide invasion, which the Martians had known would happen! While the world was still licking its wounds from the first failed invasion two weeks ago, our second invasion would strike while world defenses were weak!” (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See “War of the Worlds 1984,” Justice League of America #228 (July, 1984), “War of the Worlds 1984, Part Two,” Justice League of America #229 (August, 1984), “War of the Worlds 1984: Part Three: Blessed is the Peacemaker,” Justice League of America #230 (September, 1984), and Captain Comet’s Rehab Squad: Strange Visitors.]

Aquaman’s rage grew and grew with every word. Behind him, the faces of his fellow Leaguers also wore stark expressions.

“The Marshal, too, has his followers. Many of your fellow Martians feel you deserted them by choosing to remain on Earth after the Earth-Mars War. And the Marshal told me about Korge — a delightful fellow, that. He, too, was itching for revenge on you and the JLA!

“My followers and I were prepared to take over Poseidonis; all we needed was a distraction to keep you from rescuing Vulko at the last moment. Korge provided that. When your precious JLA sounded the clarion call, you deserted Atlantis once more and answered. Now it has fallen under the rule of Narkran and the New Atlantean Front!”

Aquaman had been gripping the back of a console chair the entire time. Batman heard the metal crunch under the sea king’s anger-induced grip.

“The Martians are going to attack now, my former liege,” Narkran continued. “And they will have full Atlantean support as they attack! Between us, we will bring the land-crawler nations to heel! The Martians can have them; a measly twenty-five percent of the planet. Once that is accomplished, they will help me conquer the other undersea nations of the world! Tritonis — the Idyllists — the Sareme — all will fall before me!

“So thank you, my once and former king, for responding just as predicted! And as sovereign ruler of Poseidonis, I hereby banish you from the city! If you come within swimming distance of the dome again, you will be executed! And that goes for Mera and Garth, as well! I just wish that bitch Tula had survived the Crisis, so that I could kill her! Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!”

With that, Narkran signed off. Aquaman let out a bellow of rage and launched a punch at the Batcave wall, knocking a four-inch indentation into the concrete wall.

“Guys, he wasn’t kidding!” Green Arrow cried from his position at a radar screen. “When Narkran made that boast about the Martians, I checked our deep-space radar! There’s a whole fleet of ships headed this way — estimated time of Earthfall, forty-two minutes!”

For a long moment, silence reigned in the Batcave.

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