Justice League of America: To Conquer the Stars, Chapter 2: Hosted Heroes

by Libbylawrence

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Meanwhile, at WGBS Studios, Jimmy Olsen prepared to talk with Lana Lang. I sure hope Lana will be OK, he thought. Her odd behavior and that alien language she used has me worried. I can only do so much by checking up on her. I’d say it’s time for Mister Action to take the direct approach.

Greeting a young security guard named Wally Gurheim, he frowned as his keen eyes detected what appeared to be a cloud of energy swiftly floating toward the blond guard. “Got to help him! Get down!” yelled Jimmy as he leaped across the room and tackled the startled Wally.

The security guard fell as the cloud settled briefly around Jimmy’s head before vanishing. Jimmy said, “Sorry, Wally. I thought I saw something falling upon you from above!”

Wally got up and nodded, but he looked hurt. “Sure, Olsen. Sure.”

Jimmy nodded and stood up slowly. “That bizarre cloud! I wasn’t seeing things. Feel kind of funny.”

Before the redheaded reporter could find Lana, he heard a scream and turned to see a scene of battle. “Huh? I heard and saw that fight, but it’s all happening miles from here across the city. I’ve developed super-senses!” he realized. “Must be due to the cloud that touched me.”

Turning to run out of the building, Jimmy soon found himself rocketing over the Metropolis skyline. “Flight! Enhanced speed! What can’t I do?” he gasped as a broad smile brightened his face.

The fight Jimmy’s suddenly super-senses had detected had begun moments before in the city’s lovely park. By chance, Jimmy’s object of concern, Lana Lang, had been directly to blame for it.

***

The pretty redhead had been strolling through the park in an effort to clear her troubled mind. Lana wore a white halter top with a black miniskirt and heels, showing no sign that she realized her outfit was different from her traditional tastes. She merely walked and tried to fight the frightening murmur inside her head. I’m going mad! she thought. That voice keeps popping up in my mind. Alien words and emotions not my own are coming out. I am not in control of my own body or mind!

A pair of seedy thugs saw her state of distraction and decided to make her a victim. “Hey, legs! You need some TLC?” called one. The other man pawed Lana roughly, only to choke as she gripped his throat and tossed him across the length of the park.

Superman caught the man in mid-flight and breathed a sigh of relief that he had returned to the city in time to see it all. “You’ll be OK after a nice stay in jail,” he said as he dropped the thug into the arms of a pair of police officers below. “I’ll be back with a statement!” he said as he waved to the officers and flew toward Lana.

“Great Krypton! Lana’s become super-strong!” he said, hearing her yell in an alien tongue and seeing her kick the other mugger in the face with stunning force. I can’t say I know that alien tongue, he thought. Landing, he spoke softly and reassuringly to her, “Lana, it’s me. Calm down. Let me help you.”

Jimmy dropped in from above at that moment. “She’s become some alien or worse. I’ve changed a bit myself,” he explained. “Her words are from the language of a destroyed world called Almerac!

Superman blinked in surprise as his friend Lana continued to speak in the odd language while his pal Jimmy frowned and said, “Hey, how’d I know that?

***

Soon, Superman, Lana Lang, Jimmy Olsen, Hawkman, Hawkwoman, Green Lantern, Karb-Brak, and Aquaman were aboard the JLA Satellite along with Zatanna, Black Canary, and Wonder Woman. Jimmy eagerly watched the others, enjoying his time on the famed satellite, while Lana remained quiet.

“Superman, am I crazy?” Lana said softly as she clutched his arm. “I can only recall my fight in the park as if it happened in a dream. I keep hearing alien voices and seeing myself as someone else!”

The Man of Steel comforted his childhood friend and said, “We’ll get to the bottom of it all, Lana. Never fear.”

Hawkman cleared his throat and spoke. “The Absorbascon tells me that Lana was speaking in Almerac’s tongue. Earth was visited by its ruler a while back. Her name is Maxima. Captain Comet told me about her from his encounter with her earlier this year. (*) It appears as if Miss Lang is somehow channeling Maxima.”

[(*) Editor’s note: See Captain Comet’s Rehab Squad: A Cosmos Imperiled.]

Black Canary crossed her legs and said, “You mean this Maxima is dead?

Jimmy shook his head. “No, my beloved lives. She is merely a captive of a powerful fiend who has also imprisoned my body.”

Superman smiled slowly. “Vartox? Is that you somehow using Jim as a host?”

Jimmy spoke in a deep tone and replied, “Kal-El, I knew that if I could but use my hyper-powers to project my mental essence to Earth via the link I once shared with young Wallace Gurheim, I could summon your help. (*) Tynola II is no more. I have lost yet another world. The tragedy robbed me of my very sense of self, but I did manage the mental projection I sought to achieve.”

[(*) Editor’s note: See “Lost On a Comet,” Superman #390 (December, 1983), “Who Stole the Newswoman of the Year?” Superman #391 (January, 1984), and “If a Body Meet a Body,” Superman #392 (February, 1984).]

Superman clasped his shoulder. “My old friend, I know the pain of losing a world, but only you have lost more than one. I’ll help you in any way I can!”

Jimmy spoke in his own voice. “But Vartox linked with me by accident when I got in the way of his effort to link with Wally. I’d say his lady friend Maxima has bonded with Lana as well, but lacked the power to make herself fully aware of the situation.”

Green Lantern said, “Karb-Brak, here, spoke of an evil that threatened worlds!”

Hawkwoman added, “My research via the JLA computers shows that other planets have suffered terrible loss of life. The deaths form a path from Tynola II onward through space.”

“That path would lead to your world in the Andromeda system!” said Superman.

Karb-Brak answered readily, “Exactly. When the elders of my world learned that he was coming, they sent word to me and sent me here to get you. Though my allergy keeps me off my home, I am ever loyal to it!”

“My powers are not what they were before my effort to save the Key,” said Zatanna, “but I can still try to bring Maxima’s mind to the surface, if that would help Lana.”

“Please try, Zee,” said Superman.

Zatanna crossed the room and placed her palms on Lana’s face. “Amixam, etanimod. Anal peels!” she said, speaking her backwards magic spell.

Lana blinked and ripped Zatanna’s hands off her face. “Such effrontery, to handle a daughter of Almerac!” she shouted.

Superman pried her hands away from Zatanna and said, “Maxima, Vartox is here linked mentally to Jimmy. Let us help you. Just what happened to destroy your adopted home and leave you two as mere mental essences?”

Lana stood tall and held her head in a regal manner. “Vartox? Beloved, can you truly be within so paltry a form?”

Jimmy frowned. “OK, lady, watch your mouth! I do work out!” He then said in Vartox’s voice, “Maxima, these people are our allies, as Captain Comet was. They will stop our foe and avenge the people of Tynola.”

Karb-Brak said, “You must stop him from reaching my world.”

“Speak clearly, as befits a warrior!” demanded Nubia. “Who is this enemy who has destroyed worlds?”

Lana replied in a voice not her own. “Starbreaker!”

***

The team, minus Hawkman who continued his monitor duty, soon journeyed through space in search of the marauding Starbreaker.

Nubia snorted in disgust. “I would learn more about this Starbreaker. I marvel that one male could create such awe in seasoned warriors like yourselves.”

“We were not with the team when Starbreaker attacked the first time,” explained Zatanna. “He almost defeated them all, because he is something of a cosmic vampire. He fed off their very super-powered energies.” (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Coming of Starbreaker,” Justice League of America #96 (February, 1972) and “The Day the Earth Screams,” Justice League of America #97 (March, 1972).]

Hawkwoman nodded. “Captain Comet said you had trapped him by cutting off his ability to drain new energies after tricking him into depleting those he had stolen.” (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See Captain Comet’s Rehab Squad: Maxima Impact.]

Vartox said through Jimmy Olsen’s body, “So we did, but he recently broke free, and we learned that he had been feeding continually off my own hyper-powers. I blame myself for his actions. He took enough to free himself, and he ambushed us. My bride Maxima and I were enjoying wedded bliss when he struck. He contained our bodies, but as you know, I managed to project our mental essences to Earth.”

“I met Vartox long ago,” explained Karb-Brak. “He brought me to live on Tynola II under an assumed identity after an unsuccessful attempt to return me to my own world. (*) I’d thought myself cured and able to rejoin my own society, but being surrounded by the super-powered people of my homeworld proved too much for me even after a brief exposure.”

[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Super-Hero Who Refused to Hang Up His Boots,” Action Comics #475 (September, 1977) and “The Attack of the Anti-Super-Hero,” Action Comics #476 (October, 1977).]

Maxima said through Lana Lang’s body, “I have lost my world, and I want blood! This Starbreaker has harmed a group that was under my sworn protection. I would see him suffer!

Black Canary whispered to Zatanna, “Seems odd to hear such fiery words from TV’s Lana Lang!”

“If we want to free our captive forms from that rogue who is using them as living batteries, we need to liberate them,” said Vartox. “I can lead you to where he has placed them. It appears as if he has fed from our energies and those of the poor natives of Tynola II, Staryl, and other worlds already, but his relentless march of terror continues.”

“We can split up,” said Green Lantern. “Some of us will free your bodies, and the rest will try to head off our galactic Lugosi!”

Wonder Woman nodded and approached Lana. “Lady Maxima, as a warrior princess of the Amazons, I vow to aid you gain your freedom and a sense of peace for your fallen subjects,” she said. “I know of the pain and guilt that accompany leadership.”

Maxima nodded and said, “Your Amazons are famous for their prowess, although I have never encountered them.”

Hawkwoman continued to pilot the craft as they waited in silence.

Jimmy spoke in his own voice. “Superman, what’s wrong? Something I — I mean Vartox said upset you.”

Superman turned to his pal and said, “Staryl was the home of a woman I could have loved.”

Jimmy frowned and said, “I’m sorry. Want to talk about it?”

“Her name is Luma Lynai,” explained Superman. “We met and had something of a whirlwind romance. I saw in her so many of the traits I admired and loved in Kara. Luma was very much like an adult Kara. However, in spite of our mutual attraction and shared super-powers, I could not live on her world, nor could she leave her people unprotected. We parted as friends with the potential to have been much more.” (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See “Superman’s Super-Courtship,” Action Comics #289 (June, 1962).]

“She sounds swell,” said Jimmy. “Maybe she’s OK. I mean, people like you are pretty tough!”

Superman smiled ruefully. “Thanks, Jim. Let’s hope you’re right.”

“If she is a true warrior worthy of your trust, then surely she has survived!” Maxima said.

“Maxima is cold,” muttered Hawkwoman. “I wonder what Vartox sees in her.”

Black Canary whispered, “He admired her spirit and her beauty, and perhaps when they were together she kept a civil tongue in her head. Still, look at Green Arrow and me. He’s got a way of rubbing everybody the wrong way, but I love him anyway.”

Aquaman remained silent and thought of his own wife and their unborn child. He hoped to return home soon and find them safe. Nubia’s thoughts were of the combat that awaited them and of the Martian Manhunter for whom she had grown to feel a strong affection.

“I’ve fought Starbreaker before, as have Aquaman, Canary, Superman, and Hawkwoman,” said Green Lantern. “He’s dangerous because, like a vampire of myth, he can sap one’s very life force.”

Karb-Brak interrupted and said, “My world is full of super-powered beings. My allergy to such powers has kept me in exile. He could feed off my people and receive mighty powers!”

“We’ll stop him,” vowed Aquaman. “First we need to restore our allies to their bodies. Perhaps, while some of us do that, others can try to slow him down.”

“Agreed,” said Green Lantern. “I suggest Superman, Black Canary, and Hawkwoman accompany Maxima and Vartox, while the rest of us and Karb-Brak battle Starbreaker.”

Superman replied, “I agree, although rest assured that I’ll join your battle as quickly as possible!”

“So shall we all, son of Krypton!” declared the ever-defiant Maxima.

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