Later, after some of the heroes in question had been summoned, and Superman, Green Lantern, Batman, and the Martian Manhunter had performed their own special examinations of the victims via super-senses, mind-scans, power ring exams, and simple questioning, the caped crusader emerged from the med lab.
“You are exactly right about the clear connection between them all,” said the Batman. “Gordon is my friend. Lois has been linked to Superman for years. Ferris Air certainly has always been a frequent scene of battle between Green Lantern and various foes. We know, of course, that Tom’s actually a close friend to the Lantern. Linda has publicly flirted with the Flash on more than one occasion.”
The Martian Manhunter added, “And perhaps most damaging of all, Chief Harding was my employer during my years posing as an Earth sleuth named John Jones. I suspect our foe not only used mind-control drugs or devices to force these people to act as they did, but he also has either read their minds or our own without being detected.”
The transporter glowed as the Flash emerged and glanced at the others. “I’m sorry I’m late,” he said. “I was delayed by a flood outside Civic City.”
“Flash, a friend of yours is here,” said Hawkman. “Like we said when we first contacted you, Linda is only one of several associates of ours who fell under some trance and acted the role of super-criminal.”
The Flash frowned and said, “Linda’s a sweet girl, but we’re not all that close. She did do a number of stories about me, and I could see why that might link our names together in the same way Lois Lane’s name is associated with Superman’s.” Hurrying forward, he asked, “Where is she? I want to help her if I can. You did say she was unhurt?“
“Yes, but the message she and the others carried was clear,” said Batman. “Someone wants to cause us pain. The whole battle at Ivo’s was meant to do more than just pay him back for refusing to help the real criminals. That was merely an added benefit. They framed him in some way with creations he has never even made.”
They led the Flash back into the med lab, where the six silent figures rested under the watchful eyes of Hawkwoman, the Atom, and Green Lantern. The Flash took Linda’s hand and said, “Linda, can you hear me? You’re safe. It’s going to be OK.”
“Ivo’s mind yielded nothing but terrible hate for us,” the Martian Manhunter said. “My powers of telepathy could do nothing with him. I left him gibbering in his cell. As for our friends, here, I can sense no clue of who did this to them. Their minds were given a powerful directive, and that same order precluded any independent act or word. Having completed their mission, they have simply shut down like toys bereft of energy.”
“Maybe that mission hasn’t ended yet!” said Superman, pointing at the victims.
They all now sat up and spoke in unison. “Now, master!” they shouted.
Suddenly, Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, the Atom, the Flash, and the Martian Mahunter vanished from the satellite. Before their friends could react, the victims blinked and gasped as they emerged from their trances.
Lois Lane recovered more swiftly than the others as she recognized the JLAers and said, “What happened? I was sipping coffee at the Planet a moment ago! What am I doing here dressed like this?“
“Calm down, Lois,” said Hawkwoman. “All of you are safe. You’ve been the victims of a plot designed to bring some of your friends together at the same time and place, among other things. Some pre-programmed trigger activated within your minds when those specific heroes came together.”
“Yeah,” said Green Arrow. “When Flash showed up and joined Bats and the rest, they all came out of their hypnotic states.”
“Everything has been serving more than one purpose,” said Hawkman. “The robot distracted us from something else at the museum or in the city. Use of robots predisposed us to expect more robots when we fought these poor folks. We might have harmed them by accident and thus hurt our friends as well. The whole robotic design scheme came from Ivo’s work in some unknown way and was meant to lure us to his lab to punish him for not joining this new threat against us!”
Black Canary had been talking softly and reassuringly to the other victims, and Gordon, Baxter, and the rest responded in kind.
“I don’t like being make a fool of like this!” said Gil Baxter.
“I never expected to be involved in something like this!” said Henry Harding. “I mean, after John left under the circumstances he chose.” He smiled and said, “Yes, I figured out his secret even before you all formed your group. I just never let on to him that I knew of his alien nature.”
“I don’t think we can learn more from them,” said Hawkman. “Whatever power controlled their minds has freed them now that they’ve helped him capture Superman and the others.”
“Superman’s in trouble?” said Lois. “I want to help!”
Tom Kalmaku added, “Right, and G.L. shouldn’t have to suffer because of me.”
“Your loyalty is inspiring,” said Hawkwoman. “I doubt you could all help, though. I believe, from what Lois said earlier, that some drug was slipped into your drinks or meals, and that compelled you to go to the person who turned you all into faux rogues.”
“This is all beyond me!” said Gil Baxter.
“This would make a great story, but I don’t even know the basic facts yet,” said Linda Park.
“Don’t worry, lady,” said Green Arrow. “We’re gonna find the answers real soon.”
In a modest but comfortable condominium in New Orleans, a beautiful black woman yawned and sat up in her bed as her eyes adjusted to the morning light. Wearing a brief white tunic, she stood up and walked over to a shower with the grace of a huntress.
Nubia smiled as she smelled the aroma of the Martian Manhunter’s favored fragrance. “J’onn, my love, I did not hear you return. Did you find the solution to your friend Harding’s curious behavior?” she asked as she saw her lover step out of another room.
The huge green alien had an appearance that would startle or frighten many, but to Wonder Woman he was handsome, caring, and every inch the man of her dreams. She admired him for many reasons, including his compassion and sensitivity. She also relished his courage and strength. No Amazon, especially one raised by Mars, would ever care for a man who was not strong.
He smiled and took her into his arms in a passionate kiss, which ended abruptly as her mind was subjected to an invasion as pervasive as the more physical attack on her body. She shoved him aside in shock.
“Hera’s eyes! You’re not J’onn!” she yelled as she dived at the Martian, but she fell down hard as his elongated arms cut short her leap. She rolled across the room and stood up to fight anew as the faux Martian Manhunter spoke for the first time.
“No, I am not your J’onn! I am E’d R’sen, or Eddie Orsen, as you Terran worms might pronounce the name. But for all practical purposes, I am the only Martian Manhunter this world now possesses!”
He vanished from sight and stepped closer to the Amazon princess, only to receive a devastating kick as she attacked her unseen foe. “Your scent betrays you!” she cried. “Using J’onn’s fragrance was a fatal mistake!” She slammed into him with thunderous blows as he flickered back into view and struggled to choke her.
Wonder Woman was forced backward as his strength and leverage wore her down. Her costume and weapons were out of reach, since even the sword she kept by her bed was across the room.
Still, she was an indomitable warrior, and she refused to give up. She wrapped her legs around his hips and hurled him over her head. She heard no impact from his landing and realized the reason as powerful hands reached deeply into her hair and pulled her into the air. “He’s flying!” she said between gritted teeth.
Bringing both palms together, she struck his head, and he cried out in pain and dropped her to the ground. She jumped across the room and grabbed her sword. “Now come forward, you cowardly jackal!” she cried. “See how a daughter of Hippolyta battles!”
The Martian stood his ground and blasted her with his vision, but her flashing blade deflected every beam, and she drew closer to her foe with a grim confidence etched on her face.
“What did you do to the true Manhunter?” she demanded.
“Your lover is lost to you,” cried the villain from Mars. “He will die in space, as befits one of his pacific nature!”
Wonder Woman sliced at him, and he avoided the blade by altering his body to a twisting, snakelike form that evaded her even as she suddenly brought the sword down on a metal frame and caused sparks to fly into the air. He backed away as he reacted to an instinctive fear of fire.
Nubia smiled and backed up toward a table, where a light rested on the corner. “I will burn this domicile around us to bring you down!” she said in a tone that concealed her real reluctance to damage J’onn’s home.
The flames flickered as she ignited a table and lifted it over her head. “The League stands together!” she shouted. “When you dare to harm one of us, we all fight back! You can’t threaten J’onn and escape my anger!”
A furious blast of wind snuffed out the flames as an unseen figure ripped her sword away, and five newcomers surrounded her.
She sank to her knees and looked up to see men dressed like Batman, Green Lantern, the Flash, Superman, and the original Atom. However, Batman had a beard, Superman had a blond crewcut, and there were obvious facial differences in the others as well.
“What madness is this?” she said.
The Green Lantern forced her to the ground with a green hammer created by his ring. She fought back, but even her strength could not easily resist the added power of this odd new Superman as he rammed one boot into her back.
“It’s not madness!” said the blond Superman. “It’s exactly like your earlier boasts about your friends. You see, I have friends, too. We work as a unit. We’re not your Justice League, but rather, think of us as a Lawless League!”
They laughed harshly and attacked her once more.
Elsewhere, Professor T.O. Morrow turned to the Key and said, “Phase one has certainly gone well for us. My future scanner enabled me to locate and steal the Ivo robots from our own future when he will, in fact, build such automatons. Since it hasn’t happened yet, he had no idea how someone could have stolen creations he had not yet even thought about making.”
“He owes us a debt of thanks,” said the Key. “No doubt this will inspire him to build them. Plus, it pushes him firmly on the correct path of revenge against the League. Much as I orchestrated Sonar’s return to power, I also am gratified to see another villain resume his rightful mission!” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See The New Titans: The Zandia Solution, Prologue: The Summit.]
Doctor Destiny grinned ghoulishly and said, “And your psycho-chemicals brought Lois Lane and the others directly to your Key-Men. From there, it was simple for our alien ally to mind-control them and force them to assume the roles they played so well. Using the motif of the old Royal Flush Gang was a rather gracious little gesture to that assembly as well.”
The Key inclined his head slightly in recognition of the other rogue’s praise. “Thank you,” he said. “I know Despero will enjoy making use of those specific heroes.”
“And by eliminating them, it paves the way for your own little plot’s success, eh, Doctor Destiny?” said Morrow.
The skull-faced genius agreed readily. “Indeed, it is the stuff that dreams are made of! Already my protégés are regaining awareness of their former roles through my manipulation of their dreams and alteration of their fates via my wonderful Materioptikon.” He laughed madly.
“It was a delicate balance, my friend,” said the Key, “making reality out of what truly never happened.”
“Don’t forget,” said T.O. Morrow, “that it was a tip from the Lord of Time that alerted us to the fact that this little adventure was once briefly part of our timeline before things were altered so that it became nothing more than a dream!”
“Never belittle the power of dreams!” said Doctor Destiny. “I have turned those individuals back into the men they once or never were! It is a shame that the esteemed Lord of Time’s condition precludes a more active role in this affair.”
“We don’t need him or his computer,” said Morrow. “My own devices will suffice. Already my newest creations are helping Faust with his part of the plan.”
Doctor Destiny nodded eagerly and said, “I almost pity Aquaman, but not quite.”
Their laughter echoed through the hidden base as dark schemes grew to bitter fruition.