Justice League of America: To Conquer the Stars, Chapter 1: Attack of the Human Germ

by Libbylawrence

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The roll call:

  • Aquaman
  • Black Canary
  • Green Lantern
  • Hawkwoman
  • Superman
  • Wonder Woman
  • Zatanna
  • and a cameo by Hawkman.

***

The Binder Awards for Journalism were being presented in a large ballroom at the Mooney Plaza in Metropolis. Among those notable figures from the worlds of print and television news sat a group from the famed Daily Planet. Jimmy Olsen adjusted his tie and glanced at his unique watch.

“Boring speakers don’t really constitute a reason to activate your signal watch, Jim,” whispered an elegantly gowned Lois Lane.

Jimmy grinned at his fellow reporter and shrugged. “Maybe not, but the food is bad enough to qualify as a crisis of the digestive kind!”

Lois smiled and replied, “I admit the combination of bad catering and dull speakers makes me almost envy Clark. Even though he is up for an award for his work from his old WGBS days, he could not attend due to a pressing story for the Planet.”

Jimmy nodded his agreement. “Give me Intergang or giant rats any day over clips of Steve Lombard’s gridiron glory days!”

Lana Lang stopped at the table as she moved toward the WGBS table nearby. The striking redhead wore a strapless red minidress and high heels. She greeted her friends with an air of detachment.

Bored, Lana?” asked Lois.

Lana tossed back her elaborately curled coiffure and sighed. “You said it, luv. Who knew that an old college buddy of Lombard’s would swing the panel’s vote and give him the award of excellence in sports reporting? He’s eating up the attention.”

Lois glanced toward the grinning broadcast sports reporter, who was receiving an icy stare from reporter Meg Tempest, whom he had just pinched from behind. “Well, Steve has had his ups and downs,” said Lois. “I knew he’d bounce back after purchasing that used car dealership. It’s a good thing Morgan Edge rehired him.”

A waitress accidentally bumped into Lana Lang as the redhead bent to adjust one spiked heel. “Sorry, Miss! I wasn’t watching–!” began the girl.

“You ignorant wench! I would not give a clod like you the position of stable hand for the Monoxian deersteeds in my stable!” shrieked Lana as she slapped the startled girl.

Lois jumped up and touched Lana, who jerked free of her hand and glared at the Planet’s famed reporter with scorn. “Never presume to soil one such as I with your common touch!” Lana cried as she stalked out of the hall.

Meg Tempest had reached their table, and she gently comforted the crying waitress as Jimmy and Lois exchanged worried glances. “Did you hear that?” asked Meg, a perky girl reporter. “Lana’s flipped. What’s a Monoxian deersteed? Has Lana been switched with her evil twin from Neptune or something?”

Jimmy smiled wryly. “Well, speaking from personal experience, I’d say it’s something even worse.”

***

Meanwhile, in New Venice, a figure crashed into the waters and emerged amidst steam as extreme heat boiled the waters. He scrambled ashore and wiped his glowing eyes with a pale white hand. His red mane of hair and unruly muttonchops marked him as odd. His purple and yellow costume and alien features marked him as one from another planet. His mad stare and superhuman strength as displayed when he carelessly shattered a pier with sheer force marked him as a menace.

The residents scattered as he approached, and a murmur arose as they looked for their champion. “Aquaman! We’d better summon Aquaman!” cried one woman.

The alien merely cried out as if in pain and rubbed one hand across his sweating brow. “Must stop the pain before it’s too late!” he groaned.

***

At Ferris Aircraft, a costumed man in gold called the Puppeteer was bored. He had been hired to mentally control Carl Ferris, the co-owner of the company, and to occasionally spur the old man to acts of spite against Green Lantern. However, the Puppeteer’s mysterious boss Mr. Smith had a secret room of bizarre equipment, and the Puppeteer occupied himself at times by using the alien viewers to scan the nation. It was almost a form of futuristic cable TV.

He frowned as he saw Green Lantern by the side of a costumed figure he did not know. They were fighting a fire at an offshore oil refinery. “Heard the Lantern call the new jerk the Futurian,” he mused. “Never heard of the guy. Maybe I should take control of him and have him slap the Green Lantern around a bit.” But after adjusting the controls, and readjusting them, his mischief was frustrated. “Odd — nothing’s happening. My device has no control over him. I guess he’s got a secret or two of his own.”

Then he adjusted the alien scanner and saw the weird being emerge from the waters of New Venice. This creature is perfect. He’s half-mad with disease or illness now, thought the Puppeteer. I’ll just plant a desire to get Green Lantern in his disturbed mind and watch the games begin. Oh, I know Smith wants G.L. alive for some reason of his own, but I can always make the white-faced goon give up if he should get the upper hand with the emerald crusader.

***

Meanwhile, in deep space, a floating humanoid figure seemed oblivious to the cold of space as he floated along with a meteor shower. He was handsome and wore a costume of red and blue. He remained inert as the space rocks occasionally shattered upon contact with his body. For a moment something seemed to stir within him, as if he had been touched ever so briefly by something capable of awakening even his seemingly dead form. For a moment he moved and then fell still again.

***

That morning, Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane huddled close in a corner of the busy Daily Planet Building.

“Lana’s been acting like a real diva for days now,” said Lois after a visit to the Galaxy Building. “The whole crew is scared to death of her. She tossed a high heel at Josh yesterday!”

“She has been neglecting her other interests, too,” said Jimmy. “She missed one interview and never showed up at a photo shoot for glamor and the news industry.”

Lois whistled. “That makes me even more worried. Lana would never miss a chance to pose for the photographers of a fashion magazine!”

“I felt like a real sneak checking up on a pal, but everything seems to fit,” said Jimmy thoughtfully. “Lana Lang is not herself. I did some checking on recent Superman cases, and none involved her. I was ready to suggest that some weird adventure of my pal’s must’ve led Lana into trouble of one form or another, but there’s no evidence to support that. Maybe she’s under some creep’s control. Brain Storm could sure manipulate a person from afar. I should know!”

Lois nodded. “Or an alien double? I’ve had those before!”

Jimmy grinned. “Who hasn’t? We’d better get Clark in on this as soon as possible. He knows our Ms. Lang better than anybody.”

***

Back in New Venice, the alien was rampaging in fury or madness or pain. Regardless of the cause of his actions, his raw power and the heat he generated were both proving to be dangerous to anyone who drew too close to him.

A child fell in his path, and the crowd gasped in concern. “He’ll be crushed!” screamed a woman.

Then a rugged figure in orange and green erupted out of the waters and landed in front of the alien. He scooped up the fallen child with a gentleness belied by his rippling muscles. He handed the baby to its mother and smiled reassuringly at them both. “Easy, little fellow,” he said to the child. “You’ve had enough sightseeing for one day!”

“Aquaman! Thank goodness!” cried the woman.

Turning to face the oncoming alien, Aquaman frowned as the alien bowled him over with apparent ease. “Suffering Shad! You’ve got plenty of muscle, but then again, so do I!” he declared.

Feeling the nearly overwhelming heat given off by the alien powerhouse, Aquaman rose quickly to stop him. He’s like a living oven! Drying me out at record speed! mused the aquatic hero. “These folks are counting on me to reign in our unwelcome visitor, and I won’t fail them!” he vowed, and wrestled with the raging alien.

“The fever is taking me!” cried the alien.

Aquaman delivered three swift blows and staggered the alien, even as his foe’s appearance began to alter, and reddish coloration flooded his features. He’s sick! Maybe if I can calm him down, we can settle this peacefully, thought Arthur Curry. I’d hate to hurt someone who could not help himself.

The sea king nodded grimly. His pain is so evident that I can feel it. I can sense his motives are not what his actions would make one think. He is not acting out of spite but out of some illness.

He received a right cross and felt the heat increase. Suddenly, the alien flew off at super-speed and left the hero alone to receive the cheers of his appreciative friends. “He did it! I knew Aquaman could take that monster!” said a man.

“Aquaman, what was that thing?” asked another of the relieved citizens.

The champion of New Venice turned to the man and said, “I don’t know, but I aim to find out!”

***

Aquaman soon found himself aboard the JLA Satellite, where he was greeted by Hawkwoman and Hawkman. “Sorry to be so abrupt, but I need some info on a character I just battled,” he explained. “He was radiating heat and seemed to be ill instead of malicious.”

Hawkman nodded and quickly brought up an image on the computer. “Did he look like this?” he asked. “This is an alien Superman fought before who suffered from some allergy of sorts that drove him into fevered rages when he came near super-powered beings.”

Aquaman glanced at the image and nodded eagerly. “That’s my sparring partner — this Karb-Brak! (*) Odd name, but then some of the Atlantean names would seem odd to most folks, too.”

[(*) Editor’s note: See “Superman, You’ll Be the Death of Me Yet,” Action Comics #460 (June, 1976).]

“Not to mention English to a Thanagarian,” Hawkman added. “Even with the Absorbascon, it took us a while to understand some nuances of English. I mean, look at words like present. It can mean entirely different things.”

Aquaman nodded and asked, “Katar, can you trace this Karb-Brak? His fever was radiating intense heat.”

The winged wonder worked silently and said, “He’s heading directly for Coast City!”

“Beam me down!” said Aquaman.

“Need some help?” asked Hawkman.

“Certainly.”

Hawkwoman shook her head with a smile. “Ah-ah-ah! You’re the one on monitor duty, so this time your shapely spouse will do the flying.”

Hawkman received a kiss from the feathered femme fatale as she rushed past him. “Be careful, Shay,” he said.

“Always,” she replied, following Aquaman to the transporter.

Soon, the pair of JLAers were witnessing a brawl between Green Lantern and the alien called Karb-Brak in Coast City.

Green Lantern had been the target of the alien from the moment the Puppeteer had taken control of the sick alien’s mind. Following the commands of the unseen Puppeteer, Karb-Brak had raced away from his fight with Aquaman to find and destroy Hal Jordan. Hal had been on patrol in his costumed identity when the pale alien had crashed into him without warning. He had cushioned his and the alien’s fall with a huge energy pillow, and now he exchanged blows with the super-powered alien.

“Don’t recognize this race. Ring, can you identify his place of origin?” he asked.

“He comes from Overworld in the Andromeda Galaxy. The fevered condition is unique to this individual,” responded his power ring’s artificial intelligence.

Green Lantern nodded and ducked a powerful left as he restrained the alien in a green-hued straitjacket. “Look, buddy, I don’t know why you’ve picked me as your whipping boy, but nobody messes with a Green Lantern!” he said.

As Karb-Brak struggled with the energy creation, his fevered form exploded into red-beaded spheres. “Great Guardians! He’s become some kind of human germ!” gasped Green Lantern.

Hawkwoman and Aquaman rushed up at that moment and joined their friend. “G.L., you’ve hit the nail on the head!” said Aquaman as he fought the blinding heat. “He’s sick, and his fever is what drives him into ever-greater displays of power and madness!”

Green Lantern created a skintight energy aura around the alien and said, “Perhaps if I contain his heat, we can find a way to heal him!”

“Good plan,” said Hawkwoman. “Plus, if you isolate him from exposure to our atmosphere, it may enable his body to shake off the initial source of his sickness. According to the files, he’s allergic to super-powered beings of a certain kind.”

Green Lantern concentrated, and his energy aura rippled over the alien in a particular pattern. “I tried a bit of primitive bloodletting, if you will. I tried to use my ring to drain his contaminated system of the infection like an old-time doctor using leeches!”

The process seemed to work, as Karb-Brak returned to his normal form and gasped for breath. “I beg your help!” he pleaded. “I seek Superman! Only he can save my people! Our world is in peril, and other worlds have already fallen to a great evil. My people sent me a message in my place of exile and begged me to return here to find one who could save our world. Thus, I came here only to fall victim to my old malady and then to suffer from some madness that drove me to seek and kill the Green Lantern!”

“Many of my foes have the capacity for mind-games as well as the malice to orchestrate such an attack,” said Green Lantern. “We can bring you to Superman, but are you sure his powers won’t make you sick once more?”

Karb-Brak shook his head. “Not if your filter has done its job, as I sense it has. I should be fine.”

“If an entire world is in peril,” said Hawkwoman, “we’ll need our friends.”

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