“Assemblers! Justice League!” a voice called out from across the lawn. The heroes’ heads turned to see President Sam O’Hara strolling toward them, Beehive right behind him. When Batman’s group had freed the imprisoned heroes, they joined the battle, leaving Beehive behind to guard the president. “It’s all over?”
“All over, sir,” Captain Liberty said, a trifle frostily. “And it never should have begun.”
“Oh, boy, I’ve been waiting for this,” Behemoth whispered to Green Arrow. “Cap is really gonna let him have it, for causing all this in the first place!”
Sam O’Hara stood before the scene of the carnage. He turned his head slowly, taking in the bodies lying where they had fallen, the imprisoned villains, the injured heroes.
Then he began to laugh.
The heroes watched in amazement as O’Hara doubled over in hysterical laughter. He paused to stare at the bodies again, then laughed all the louder.
Then he began to change.
Before the heroes knew what was happening, Sam O’Hara was gone. In his place stood a lean, wiry man with brown skin. He was bare-chested, wearing a headdress of emu feathers and a necklace of crocodile teeth. The feature that most drew the eye was his impossibly wide grin, which nearly bisected his head.
“By the great storm!” Storm King swore. “Bamapana!”
“Who the what?” Firestorm asked.
“Bamapana,” Storm King rumbled, the surprise gone from his voice, replaced by contempt. “The trickster god from the pantheon of my fallen predecessor in the Assemblers, Wandjina. He lives for the amusement he derives from watching the misery of others.”
“It was one of his ‘practical jokes’ that resulted in the formation of the Assemblers,” Tin Man added.
“And this was my greatest joke of all!” Bamapana laughed. “You should see your faces! Oh, it’s priceless!”
“You cosmic clown,” Behemoth rumbled, “where’s the real President O’Hara?”
Bamapana goggled at the giant Assembler and burst out laughing all over again. “Don’t you get it, you overgrown fool? I am the real President O’Hara! Sam O’Hara was never anything more than a disguise I wore to play this joke! Did you think I didn’t know exactly what the villains would do when I outlawed super-heroes? Or what flag-face over there would do when I outlawed mutants? You all played your parts perfectly!” The laughing god turned his grinning face to the Justice League. “Got to admit I didn’t count on you showing up, but you just added to the fun! That was priceless, Superman, the way you threw the Brute into the ocean! And Green Arrow, tossing Blacktop into a swimming pool! Hilarious! The stick-in-the-mud Assemblers never thought of that!”
“You caused all this,” Captain Liberty demanded, taking in the whole scene with a sweep of his arm, “all this death and destruction, for — for a joke?! Good Lord, what kind of creature are you?”
Superman and Batman exchanged a knowing glance. They had seen Bamapana’s ilk before.
“No kind of creature, Cappy,” Bamapana said. “I’m a god. I do what I like. It’s just that simple.” Bamapana did a little twirl and then made a sweeping bow toward the heroes. “Well, ta-ta, gang. It’s been too fun for words! And thank you again, Justice League, for the added spice to my game! I’ll have to come to your world sometime, have another joke with you! Be seeing you!” And with that, Bamapana vanished.
The heroes stood looking at the spot where he had stood for a long moment. A joke. The deaths of their friends, the destruction, the collapse of their government… all a joke. They would need a long time to deal with that.