“Oliver, does Effron the Sorcerer spell his name with an F or a PH?” Hawkman asked as he sat at the computer terminal aboard the Justice League Satellite.
“Two Fs,” Green Arrow replied. Hawkman thanked him and went on typing.
Green Lantern was on monitor duty. Hawkman was updating the JLA files on known superhuman criminals and their current status. A shrewd attorney named Jimmy Cockburn had gotten the charges dropped against most of the small army of criminals who had marched on STAR Labs in Los Angeles last summer, with the intent to attack Superman while he was recuperating there. (*) The League and other heroes had captured them before they reached the building; Cockburn had successfully argued that there was no proof of the villains’ intent, that they could have just been out enjoying the California weather. While some of them did have outstanding warrants for other matters, and some had violated the conditions of their paroles simply by being in the presence of known criminals — namely each other — many had gone free.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Justice League of America: Sick Leave.]
Green Arrow, the Flash, and Firestorm had volunteered to do some much-needed maintenance and clerical work. As he worked cleaning the heads of the video playback unit, the Flash started singing to himself, a popular song he heard on the radio.
“I’m just a gigolo, and everywhere I go, people know the part I’m playin’…”
Firestorm, recognizing the song, joined in as he sifted through paper documents received from various law-enforcement organizations, deciding which needed to be scanned into the computer system. Both young heroes, encouraged by each other, were soon singing more loudly than they had intended.
“Well, I’m impressed, you guys,” Green Arrow said, looking up from the memo he was writing to the warden on Takron-Galtos. “I wouldn’t have thought you kids had heard of Louis Prima.”
“Who?” the Flash and Firestorm asked simultaneously. Green Arrow muttered something inaudible and went back to his work. Hawkman grinned.
Suddenly, Green Lantern’s power ring blazed forth with emerald light. “Calling Green Lantern of Earth!” a voice came from the ring. “Green Lantern of Earth, come in! Urgent!”
“Who’s that?” Hawkman asked.
“It’s Vaughn Wendel,” Green Lantern said. “The Green Lantern of Angor!” Hal Jordan lifted his right fist to his face. “Green Lantern of Earth here! Go ahead, Green Lantern of Angor!”
“Are your Justice League friends with you?” asked Wendel, who had been the hero called Pulsar before joining the Green Lantern Corps. “I need to speak to all of you!”
“Some of us are,” Green Arrow called out.
“Get your whole team together, as quickly as you can!” Wendel cried. “This is an emergency!”
“Now, wait a minute,” Hal said. “If you need help, you’ve got it, but what–?”
“Please!” Wendel beseeched. “I don’t have much time! I can only tell the story once; please get everyone together!”
A silent beat passed as the heroes stared at one another, then at the ring. Then Hawkman silently nodded. His finger stabbed the top priority alarm button.
The entire Justice League of America would be present shortly.
Twenty minutes later, the communications area of the Justice League Satellite was crowded with men and women in bright costumes. The entire assemblage of the JLA was there, gathered around Green Lantern.
“We’re all here now,” he said to his ring. “Now, what’s the emergency?”
“Simply put,” Wendel said, “the planet of Angor has been captured — overthrown! We need the Justice League’s help to get our world back!”
“Overthrown?” Superman demanded. “How? By whom?”
“I’m going to tell the story with the ring,” Wendel said. “Let it cast images to go with my words, to give you an idea what happened.”
A glowing green image filled the room, the vision of the assembled heroes. It was a middle-aged man in a smartly cut suit, standing in front of a lectern, speaking animatedly and pounding his fist on the lectern. A banner behind him read, in huge letters, O’HARA FOR CHANGE.
“It began with the political campaign of an ambitious man named Sam O’Hara,” Wendel’s voice said. “Like many ambitious politicians, he found a cause to associate himself with, a cause to gather support of the voters. Like many such men, his cause involved bigotry and prejudice, playing on the fears and superstitions of the many and using a minority group as targets. No new story, that.”
“Damn straight not,” Green Arrow agreed. Black Canary shushed him.
“But O’Hara’s hate campaign was unique in its choice of target,” Wendel said. “Instead of blacks, or Jews, or homosexuals, O’Hara’s minority of choice was mutants.”
“Mutants?” Zatanna echoed.
“Yes,” Wendel continued. “Evolutionary anomalies; human beings born with superhuman powers, born with extra abilities their fellow men do not possess.” The ring image changed, showing a group of costumed men and women. One had huge wings, like Hawkman’s; another strange claw-like appendages coming out of the backs of his hands; another was covered from head to toe in fur. “Many mutants on Angor belonged to a group called Gene Factor, dedicated to bettering relations between humans and mutants. Often this involved battling those mutants who sought to use their power for personal gain, such as Dynamo and his Futurian Fellowship. But the public mistrusted mutants in general, and O’Hara fanned those mistrusts into roaring flame.”
The image changed to O’Hara, his hand on a book, being sworn in as president.
“It’s an unfortunate comment on the masses that O’Hara’s hate campaign worked,” Wendel went on. “He was sworn in as president a year ago. His first act was to pass the Mutant Registration Act. It effectively made any use of mutant powers illegal.”
“If that isn’t the most–” Green Arrow began, before being stared to silence by Black Canary.
“Of course, President O’Hara was unable to get the act through Congress without some concessions to the more liberal members of that body,” Wendel explained. “A rider was attached that exempted any members of the Assemblers, a group that acted under the auspices of the government. So, the morning after the bill was signed, Captain Liberty announced the new roster of the Assemblers. Every member of Gene Factor was on it.”
“Way to go,” Green Arrow chuckled approval. Black Canary’s glare indicated that this was her final warning.
“The president retaliated,” Wendel went on, “by cutting the Assemblers’ active roster down to seven members. Captain Liberty’s response was to change the membership every week, always rotating the mutant members, no mutant off the active list long enough to be prosecuted. Outraged, President O’Hara canceled the Assemblers’ government sanction. He used the powers of his office to outlaw all masked vigilantes, and ordered BARRIER — that’s a special espionage and law-enforcement team operating on the orders of the government — to bring in any such vigilantes.”
“The president outlawed super-heroes?” the Flash asked. “I don’t believe it!”
“It gets worse,” Wendel promised. “A special prison was built to house outlawed super-heroes,” he continued, and the ring showed an image of a bleak, powerful-looking, cube-shaped structure. “It had an official name, but we all called it the Crypt.”
“Did they catch any super-guys?” Green Arrow asked.
“Well, Captain Liberty turned himself in voluntarily,” Wendel said. “As a show of good faith, in hopes that relations between the super-hero community and the government could be restored. A few other heroes, mostly ones who had idolized Captain Liberty, followed suit. BARRIER agents captured a few others, mostly non-powered ones like Crescent Shadow, or low-powered ones like Black Dynamo and Steelhand. Then, of course, came what we now call the Hospital Horror.”
“The what?” Batman asked.
“The Hospital Horror,” Wendel said. The ring image shifted to a large metropolitan hospital, under attack by three costumed men. “Three very low-grade super-villains — their names are Moray, the Hedgehog, and the Gardener — attacked a hospital. Now, there’s plenty to steal at a hospital — money, drugs, expensive equipment. But nobody’d ever done it before. Hospitals were sort of off-limits, a kind of unwritten rule. But these three did it.”
“What happened then?” Hawkman asked.
“As always happens, super-heroes showed up to stop them,” Wendel said. “The Scarlet Spider, Swashbuckler, and two members of Gene Factor, Gabriel and Chilblain. The heroes arrived and engaged the villains in combat.” The battle scene played out in the power-ring image. “But it was all wrong. It was a sting. BARRIER had hired the villains, promised them presidential pardons if they helped trap whatever heroes they could. These three perennial losers would have done it for free, but they agreed to the government’s terms. Dozens of BARRIER troops converged on the hospital and captured all four heroes. Carted them right off to the Crypt, quick as you please.”
“Damn!” Green Arrow cursed. “This O’Hara guy makes Ronnie Reagan look like Captain Kangaroo!”
“It gets worse, I’m afraid,” Wendel said. “There was one thing O’Hara must not have counted on. When super-powers are outlawed, only outlaws use super-powers.
“After the Hospital Horror, the remaining free heroes were driven into hiding. We didn’t stay together in one group, for fear that being found by BARRIER would mean everyone getting captured. We stayed in four separate cells, keeping in communication with each other.
“We had no idea that, all the while we were hiding, the Triumphant Four’s old enemy the Sorcerer was organizing all the super-villains into a huge army to attack while we were laying low.”
Images blazed forth from the ring, images of carnage and destruction. The heroes gaped in awe and horror.
“There were so many villains,” Wendel explained, “they could attack on several fronts at once. And that’s just what they did. The Crypt and everyone in it was destroyed, reduced to rubble in seconds. The White House was captured, along with the deserted headquarters of the Assemblers and Triumphant Four. Raiding bands of villains sought out any heroes they could find; several were killed. Within twenty-four hours, the villains controlled the entire planet.”
“Blazes!” Green Arrow swore. This time, Black Canary did not try to silence him.
“I can see how the villains were able to wrest control of the planet so quickly, with the heroes in hiding and the multiple attacks,” Superman said. “But how is it you haven’t been able to strike back?”
“That’s what we’re planning to do, now,” Wendel explained. “We’ve been pretty divided on the plan of attack. Some of us want to use stealth, a carefully considered strike at their crucial areas of control, and even among that faction, there’s argument as to what those areas are. Some of us just want to ‘waltz in and bust heads,’ as a certain member of our team put it.”
“I can imagine which one,” Hal said, remembering his prior meeting with Behemoth, and how much the hot-headed hero had reminded him of his dear friend Ollie.
“And there are a few of us who want to do nothing, at least for the moment,” Wendel went on. “Who want to wait.”
“What?” Wonder Woman cried. “What craven coward would not want to attack at a time–?”
“The villains have taken hostages,” Wendel explained quickly. “Rather than killing heroes outright, they decided to take a few alive, imprison them against any uprisings by the heroes. They’ve got Mister Triumph of the Triumphant Four, Coal Tiger of the Assemblers, and Tempest of Gene Factor. We don’t know where they’re being held.”
“Blazes,” the Flash muttered.
“I’ve got everyone to agree that we should get help, reinforcements,” Wendel said. “I know it’s asking a lot, but we need your whole team. Will you help us?”
“Of course,” Batman said. “The Justice League is at your disposal.”
“Um, can I say something?” Steel asked, a bit nervously. “I’m all for helping, of course, but if all of us go, won’t we be leaving our own world undefended?”
“A good point,” Hawkman agreed.
“We’ll notify the Outsiders and Titans, and any other heroes we can contact,” Superman said. “Let them know we’ll be away. They can take up the slack in our absence.”
“I can notify the Green Lantern of the neighboring sector, as well,” Hal said. “Just in case.”
“Justice League, I don’t know what to say except… thank you,” Wendel said.
Twenty minutes later, the Justice League was rocketing through hyperspace on its way to Angor. Most of the team sat in a power-ring energy carrier built like a passenger airline cabin; Superman flew under his own power.
“Isn’t it weird, about Angor?” the Flash said, making small talk to ease everyone’s tension. “The place names, I mean. They have an America, and a Russia, and everything, just like we do.”
“Yeah, that is weird, all right,” Green Arrow agreed. He turned in his seat to face Red Tornado, who sat behind him. “Hey, Reddy, what do you think of that? Can that IBM brain of yours come up with an explanation for it?”
“Oliver, it would be impossible to formulate a hypothesis without the proper data,” Red Tornado explained patiently.
“Dammit, Reddy, I’m not asking for a precise calculation!” Green Arrow retorted. “Just your best guess! An educated guess, based on what information you do have. You can do that, can’t you? Or would that be too much like us dirt-crawling, flesh-eating humans for you?” Everyone knew Green Arrow was only needling his friend, and would have been the first one to defend the Red Tornado had anyone else said the same thing.
The android hero was silent for a moment, then finally spoke. “This is just calculating out loud, you understand.”
“Fair enough,” Green Arrow agreed.
“It has been shown that thought waves are sometimes inadvertently broadcast across dimensional space, where they are received by subconscious minds and manifest themselves as creative inspirations,” Red Tornado said.
“Yeah, sure,” Green Arrow acknowledged. “That’s how the Justice Society and other heroes on Earth-Two ended up as comic-book characters on our world.”
“Precisely,” Red Tornado said. “Perhaps the duplication of geographical assignations on the two planets of Earth and Angor is indicative that the process works across physical space as well as dimensional.”
“Whoa, wait a minute,” Green Arrow said. “Are you sayin’ that the people of Angor named their cities and countries because they subconsciously picked up thought waves from Earth?”
“Perhaps,” Red Tornado said. “Or possibly the other way around. Or, as a third possibility, perhaps both planets were influenced by another, extra-wordly or extra-dimensional, source.”
“Man, that’s heavy,” Green Arrow said after a moment, and turned back around in his seat.