FDC presents "The Grand Illumination"
Jennie-Lynn Hayden, surrounded by a sparkling corona of green light, soared above the rooftops of Appollyon City. She had no particular destination in mind, and occasionally she would alter her flightpath on a whim, now banking left or right to cut across a section of the city she hadn’t flown over yet, now ascending higher and higher until even the aerial antennae and lightning rods of the city’s tallest skyscrapers were far below her. The pattern was deliberately meandering and eventually, when she’d had enough, would put her more or less back where she had started.
She was wearing her costume, the black, white and green bodysuit that distinguished her as the superhero known as Jade, but the costume was only tangentially related to her lazy, aimless flying, in that it was the most aerodynamic outfit she owned. Unlike many superheroes who had come before her or since, Jennie-Lynn had never needed to worry about preserving a secretive dual identity, or concerned herself with sticking to mundane modes of transportation when in her street clothes and only taking flight or utilizing her other powers after she managed to locate a hiding place and garb herself as her alter ego. Being born with green skin and matching hair rendered the very concept of a secret identity fairly moot. The world knew that Jennie-Lynn Hayden was Jade, had known ever since she had first presented herself as a member of Infinity, Inc. and all the way through her time in the public eye in roles from JLA reservist to the ill-advised Blood Pack days to primarily being known as Green Lantern Kyle Rayner’s girlfriend and lending time to the roster of the modern incarnation of the Justice Society.
But there were times when Jennie-Lynn wanted nothing to do with Jade, nor with any of the trappings of being a full-time superhero or a back-up superhero or another superhero’s mint-green arm candy. She had just returned from Pleasant Valley, Long Island after attending the funeral of Johnny Thunder and now was one of those times. All she wanted was to feel the sun on her face and the wind in her hair as she spread her arms wide and defied gravity. All she wanted was to fly, high and fast, on her own, costume trappings a mere afterthought. Just Jennie-Lynn in the sky.
A terrified scream reached her ears and Jennie-Lynn knew in less time than it took to formulate the thought that Jade’s place in the world was not so easily denied. Energy powers gave her the ability to help people in trouble, and if that in and of itself didn’t amount to an obligation to do so as well, the nature of her heart did. Jennie-Lynn Hayden had been arcing gracefully through the skies of Appollyon City for the simple carefree rush of the moment, but Jade clenched her fists and dove down to find the source of distress as the screaming became louder and more insistent.
In a moment, Jade was alighting on a rooftop – or what was left of one. The top floor of the building looked as if it had been worked over by a determined swarm of small, angry wrecking balls. More likely, as Jade knew all too well, she was looking at the handiwork of a superhumanly strong meta-villain’s fists.
She scanned the wreckage and soon found a likely cause, looming over a group of people who had probably once called the building home. Coated in plaster and brick dust that was darkened in places by blood, the group was a mix of adults and children, perhaps two or three families all told. The menacing figure that had backed them all to a corner of the building was almost seven feet tall, bulging with muscles, wearing combat boots, khaki trousers and a white tanktop along with a white muslin bandana on his head. His skin was a harsh deep orange, with dark blue circles around his biceps emblazoned with white stars.
Jade had no idea who the cretin was, but she knew the type. The nice thing about the majority of new supervillains, fresh from discovering their metagene, was that they were half-defeated before the fight even began, undone by their own arrogance and inexperience. All Jade needed to do was push a few buttons and clean up the resulting mess. “Pretty unsporting way to throw your weight around,” Jade called out. “Maybe at the Slab you’ll find some sparring partners who can dish it out, too. I hear the hazing on new bad guys is pretty intense.”
The brute slowly turned around, and Jade could see that his face was the same dark blue as the armbands imprinted on his flesh, with another white star positioned between his eyes. The dark blue continued in a wide stripe down the middle of the man’s chest, with one more star on his sternum, and Jade finally made the visual connection: his skin was patterned like a Confederate Stars and Bars flag. In the same instant she realized that one of the families cowering behind the villain was Korean, and the others were African-American. She hadn’t interrupted a random rampage, but some kind of neo-Nazi hate crime.
“Ain’t you supposed to be dead?” the man asked Jade laconically. Without waiting for her to answer, he reached into one of the nearby ruined walls, snapped off a length of copper water pipe, and threw it like a spear at Jade’s head with enough speed to generate a deadly force of impact.
Jade reacted quickly, blasting the pipe with sufficient energy to render it into a cloud of coppery glitter. But the pipe had been aimed straight at her eyes, and the flare of green light that accompanied its obliteration blanketed most of her field of vision. Her attacker had made the most of that critical moment, following up immediately with another projectile. By the time Jade was aware that a mangled section of steel I-beam had been hurled at her, it was already smashing into her leg.
Jade bit down on the pain, fearing her kneecap might be shattered. She could hover above the ground and keep her weight off her leg, but the injury was the least of her worries. She was facing someone who was both strong and clever, and quite possibly a complete sociopath, but most disturbingly of all someone who seemed to recognize her in a way that made her skin crawl, even though she was positive she had never seen him before.
What was going on?
Jack Nimball crawled up a tottering pile of overturned display stands as he returned from the deepest corner of the gargantuan shipping crate. He somersaulted at the top of the pile, and slid on his back down the other side of the mound, dislodging a small avalanche of action figure packages as he descended. Coming to a rest on the toy-strewn floor in the sub-basement of an anonymous Metropolis building, he giggled dizzily for a moment and then abruptly stopped as his face crumpled in consternation.
He held an action figure in each hand and held them out in front of his eyes. On the left, a six-inch figurine of a woman in skintight black with a shamelessly plunging neckline, red boots and a red belt. Small translucent plastic flames adorned her shoulders, and a tiny choker with a pentagram cameo encircled her neck. Her hair was fiery red, drawn back in a swooping ponytail. In Nimball’s right hand was a figurine of a blond man with a similar costume, also skintight black and with an inverted arrowhead-shaped panel over the chest revealing flesh-colored plastic, The male figure had neither boots nor belt, but was accessorized with a vinyl cape, black lined with red, while a white pentacle was painted on the doll’s forehead.
Nimball considered his latest finds. The woman was called Witchfire, at least according to the package he had extracted her from, while the man was Sargon. As soon as Nimball had seen them together he had imagined a coven of magic users and begun searching through the contents of the orange metal shipping crate for a Zatanna action figure, to no avail. The closest he had come was a tuxedo-clad action figure called Zatara, which Nimball was fairly certain was Zatanna’s father’s name, although the toy in that package had been of a child young enough to be Zatanna’s son.
“Zatanna! Zatannnnnaaaaaaaa!” Nimball whined plaintively, twirling the Witchfire and Sargon figures madly in his thin, dirty fingers. “Where is Zatanna?”
Zatanna Zatara carefully descended another flight of wooden steps in the central stairwell of her Appollyon City apartment building. She held a stuffed canvas laundry bag against her chest with both arms, and was unable to either see her feet or hold the banister. Zatanna could scarcely remember the last time she had gone so long without having any of her stage costumes drycleaned, but she had recently concluded a run of sold-out engagements with no days off to speak of, and while each show had been triumphant, towards the end her wardrobe had come under an unrelenting assault of bad luck. An autograph-seeking fan spilling a ripe-smelling daiquiri down Zatanna’s shirt; a normally reliable bunny rabbit choosing an inopportune moment to experience gastrointestinal distress; a stray mental transmission from a command performance of the Royal Demonic Fear-Choir of Pandemonia in Hell, which had distracted Zatanna just enough to cause her to toss her jacket into a dirty mop bucket just off stage left instead of onto a levitating coatrack at center stage; suddenly Zatanna did not have an unstained ensemble to her name.
It would have been simple enough for the sorceress to cast a spell on her stage costumes and render them magically immaculate, but she enjoyed supporting the local businesses of Appollyon. It made her feel like a part of the larger community. The fact that the owner of the Klean-Eaze was a big fan and always happy to see her certainly didn’t hurt, either. So, dressed in a Scare Tactics t-shirt, jeans and sneakers, Zatanna reached the front entrance of the apartment building, braced her laundry bag on her hip, and opened the door.
Standing on the threshold of the building were two individuals Zatanna had never seen before, a red-headed woman and a blond man. Both wore skintight yet revealing black costumes with slightly different cuts, and both wore nearly identical mindless expressions. Their eyes glowed with scintillating mystical energies. “Where … is … Zatanna!” they spoke in monotone unison, lurching forward with arms extended, zombie-like.
Zatanna recognized magical mind-control when she saw it. She took a step backwards and yelled, “PANS TUO FO TI!”
Hovering a dozen feet above the ruined uppermost floor, Jade clenched her fists and pointed them in the direction of her glowering opponent. She fired a wide ribbon of dark green light, which sailed harmlessly over the head of the muscular villain and extended past the edge of the building, near the huddled and terrified families who had once occupied the devastated apartments. “Everybody down, now!” Jade shouted, as the solid energy path formed a slide down to street level. Shaking with fear, the parents nevertheless rose and helped their children onto the glowing green ramp. The brute with the Stars-and-Bars-patterned skin snarled in disgust and looked quickly back and forth between the escaping families and Jade, as if trying to decide which he would derive more satisfaction from smashing with his fists. Then he spotted something down the street from the building, and smiled wickedly.
Jade’s eyes followed his line of sight and she gasped. A huge winged dragon, larger than a city bus, with pale leathery wings, blood red horns and glittering white scales, flew towards her energy slide. The dragon’s jaws opened wide, revealing a scabrous tongue and menacing rows of teeth. As the beast approached, Jade could just make out a rider seated between its wings, wearing an immense set of white and red armor with draconian stylings.
The dragon closed on the slide and twisted its serpentine neck in preparation for a final lunge and snap of its maw, which would eviscerate all of the fleeing victims at once. As the dragon’s head came forward, however, it crashed into a colossal kite shield formed of fiery green light, and a moment later the families reached street level and began to scatter. The dragon pulled back and flapped its wings mightily to rise higher in the air, closer to the source of the sudden apparition. Poised above his city, garbed in the green trousers, red blouse and regal purple cloak he had donned long ago as Earth’s first Green Lantern, Alan Scott patiently awaited the monstrosity.
Jade breathed a sigh of relief at her father’s timely arrival and released her connection to the escape slide. She turned immediately to the villain who had caused the destruction surrounding her and projected a coiling stream of green light that wrapped around her opponent.
“Girlie, you know this ain’t gonna hold the likes o’ me,” the brute scoffed, already straining to flex his muscles against the energy confines.
“I figured as much,” Jade admitted. “And I don’t know who you are or where you came from, but there’s something else I think I can guess about you, just based on the way you fight.” With that, Jade snapped her arm out to the side emphatically. The glowing bonds whipped through the air at jade’s mental command, simultaneously lifting the flag-skinned man off his feet and spinning him like a top. The villain flailed his arms but could neither regain his balance nor stop his own momentum, as he spun first past Jade and then over the edge of the building. He plummeted to the street far below.
“You can’t fly,” Jade concluded, then shot upwards to join her father. She had dumped the villain on the opposite side of the building from the families she had provided the escape chute for, and optimistically assumed the families could find safe shelter before the stars-and-bars bully could catch them on foot. And, hopefully, before the dragon could snap any of them up in its nightmarish jaws.
As Jade closed on Green Lantern’s aerial position, the dragon bared its cuspate grin aggressively. Green Lantern emitted waves of emerald flame from his ring which coalesced into a gigantic broadsword, blocking the approaching lines of razor-edged fangs. The dragon clamped its jaws around the glowing green blade, and Green Lantern heaved against the oversized hilt in an effort to pry the weapon away.
“Can I lend a hand and pay you back for showing up right when I needed you?” Jade asked at his side, her fists crackling with viridian energy.
“Absolutely,” Green Lantern agreed, “but I think we’re actually better off with Puff here distracted by the sword in its mouth. See if you can immobilize it by pinning its wings.”
“You got it,” Jade nodded, throwing out her hands and unleashing twin emerald bolts which pierced the upper edges of the dragon’s wing membranes and then twined together in a tightening spiral.
The dragon’s rider rose higher, standing on the creature’s ridged spine as it screeched in protest, and gestured toward Jade. “Forget about me?” the man taunted from behind his helmet’s facemask, as he blasted Jade with a roaring column of flame shot from his armored gauntlets. Jade braced herself within her protective green aura, which deflected most of the fire’s searing heat, but the sheer force of the blast knocked her backwards through the air.
“Who are these people?” Green Lantern demanded, letting go of his energy sword and floating towards his daughter.
A blur launching itself from a nearby rooftop caught Green Lantern’s attention, but he only had time to pivot slightly before the shape was upon him, a massive, vaguely humanoid figure grappling with him in mid-air. His assailant was gruesome, like a hybrid Frankenstein and Missing Link, and every bit as powerful. Its skin was an unhealthy green color, its patchy hair lank and black, and it sported pointed ears, a demonic tail and batlike wings under its arms. It wore only a filthy red loincloth, bandages around its forearms and shins, and a necklace of small skulls.
“Who are we?” the simian monster hissed mockingly. “We are the same as we always have been, hero. I remain the Green Ghoul, just as White Dragon and Rebel are no different from when last we met. And we continue to embody the ideals of the Fourth Reich … just as surely as we represent your doom!”
Zatanna set down two of the mugs of tea she was carrying, keeping one for herself. Sargon and Witchfire, seated on Zatanna’s couch, took up a mug apiece; Witchfire immediately blew on the steaming Oolong and took a tentative sip, while Sargon seemed to immediately forget about the cup in his hand, as if he had claimed one only to be polite after it had been offered.
Zatanna settled into an easy chair facing the couch and took a deep breath. “All right, it’s not that I don’t believe you both, and this certainly wouldn’t be the first time I’ve dealt with involuntary crossings from one manifestation of reality to another. I just want to make sure I understand what we’re dealing with here.”
“That’s fair,” Witchfire nodded.
“So, you were in San Francisco,” Zatanna resumed, pointing at Witchfire, “and you were in Nashville,” she indicated Sargon, “and neither one of you was dealing with anything remotely mystical at the time, just having a telephone conversation or browsing through a used record shop, not even in costume. But you both saw bright lights wrapping themselves around you and felt yourselves accelerate like you were being shot into space. And after that you don’t remember anything until I dispelled whatever enchantments were controlling you at the front door of my building?”
“More or less, yeah,” Sargon agreed. “So what do you make of all that?”
Zatanna sighed. “I have no idea, other than believing that it can’t just be random coincidence. Something specifically went looking for you and something sent you looking for me. The fact that I’ve never heard of either of you before, and that both of you claim to know me but had never heard of Appollyon City when I told you where you were, doesn’t lend itself to many other explanations besides the two of you originating from an Earth parallel to this one, similar in certain ways, different in others. But why you, why here, why now … those answers I don’t have. What I do have is a sick feeling that the answers add up to something bad for all of us.”
“So how do we get those missing answers?” Witchfire asked.
“Good question,” Zatanna acknowledged, and then paused to take a sip of tea. “Maybe … maybe we can leverage the fact that I’m more mystically attuned to this dimension, while the two of you would be more sympathetic to your home dimension. Someone out there somewhere is bridging the two Earths, and if the three of us work together to find the bridge, maybe we can trace it back to the source.”
“I’m game,” Sargon offered.
“Me too,” Witchfire agreed.
“No time like the present, then, to form a power circle,” Zatanna said, setting her mug down and sliding to the living room’s Turkish rug, where she quickly folded her legs into a lotus position. Witchfire and Sargon followed suit, seating themselves on the floor and joining hands with one another and with Zatanna. “wohS su eht tniop erehw owt sdlrow tcennoc!” Zatanna chanted, as Witchfire and Sargon closed their eyes and pooled their mystic essences with Zatanna’s own.
Zatanna’s consciousness expanded beyond the limits of her physical senses, carried by primal currents that were as ghostly as the afterimages of blossoming supernovae and as resonant as the humming of atomic particles in their orbits. An iridescent apparition coalesced in her mind’s eye, as she knew it did in Sargon’s and Witchfire’s, a pale and flickering skyline that communicated its name from the city’s heart to Zatanna’s own: Metropolis. And from within the spiritual manifestation of Metropolis, Zatanna perceived harsh, discordant rays snaking upward toward the overarching vault of existence, only to fall back again moments later like glaring comets running in reverse, tails first, heads containing disoriented figures which were deposited roughly around the world. The area of Metropolis from which the unnatural bolts arose was shrouded in secret darkness.
“wohS su eht eno dniheb eseht stnempartne!” Zatanna invoked stridently. The picture in her mind’s eye blurred and melted, reforming in the image of a smaller community situated in flat, dusty land, which nevertheless spoke its name as adroitly as any city: Riverrock. Near the edge of the town, like a tenebrous wart, a pulsing shadow a thousand times deeper and darker than the one in Metropolis occluded Zatanna’s mystic sight. “wohS su eht eno ohw sedih ni eht krad!” Zatanna commanded, straining to extend her awareness to the other side of the mystical veil blanketing that small area of Riverrock. A cold sweat broke out all over her body as her perceptions met the shadow’s resistance. A smell like burning pitch suffused her mind, and her skin crawled with phantom sensations of spider legs and hot needles. All at once the feeling of predatory jaws clamping around her throat seized her, and the impassable shadow at the center of her attention exploded violently into blinding negative light.
Zatanna’s jaw clenched and her back stiffened as she fought off the mystical counter-assault, but Witchfire screamed and Sargon howled, both at ear-splitting volumes. All three connections within the power circle broke simultaneously as Witchfire and Sargon went limp, their hands slipping from Zatanna’s just before they sprawled backwards across the floor like discarded mannequins.
Zatanna’s eyes were blurred with stinging tears and her breath was ragged, but she crawled across the floor to Witchfire and then Sargon. The other two magic users were still alive, but comatose. Zatanna surmised that they were both still weakened by their transdimensional abduction and mental enchantment, and had suffered that much more from the counter-assault as a result. For her part, Zatanna felt unfathomable weariness in every bone in her body, while in her soul she could not deny the urgency of finding out who was concealing themselves in the nest of magical shadows in Riverrock.
She would need more help, and not of the strictly mystical variety. She needed to gather her strength and get out of the apartment and find …
Zatanna’s gaze fell on the laundry bag she had dropped by the front door once she escorted Sargon and Witchfire up to her place. The laundry bag still contained all of her stage costumes, all of them unwearable. “Oh, Sheol and Tartarus,” Zatanna cursed.
“I have come to one unavoidable conclusion,” Green Lantern mused aloud, arching his back in an effort to break the grip of the bestial creature grappling him.
“And what might that be?” the Green Ghoul sneered, tightening the brace of its legs around Green Lantern’s midsection.
“I am sick and tired of Nazis!” Green Lantern shouted. “Fourth Reich? It’s been sixty-five years since we mopped the floor with the third one! Let it go!”
The Green Ghoul snarled furiously and wrapped its claws around Green Lantern’s throat with murderous intent. In the process, the Green Ghoul released Green Lantern’s arms, which had been pinned painfully to his sides. Green Lantern raised his ring hand and from the fabled jewelry’s face an enormous emerald bald eagle’s head emerged, its beak opened in a raptor’s scream. The beak closed savagely on the Green Ghoul’s slope-browed skull, and the Nazi monster halted its attempts to strangle Green Lantern, scrabbling instead at the luminous eagle.
Green Lantern flicked his wrist and the bird’s head tossed the Green Ghoul away. Like a blazing verdant fountain of light, Green Lantern rose through the air, seeking out Jade. He spotted her, a block to the south, floating warily. White Dragon’s namesake mythological mount was beating its huge wings and ascending toward Jade, and Green Lantern could see that the armored flame-wielder had found the time to pick up Rebel as an additional passenger. The muscle-bound secessionist held a heavy cinderblock in each hand, ready to utilize them as projectiles as soon as Jade was in range.
Pouring on the speed, Green Lantern arrived at his daughter’s side in mid-air. “There’s something very wrong about all of this,” he insisted.
“You mean besides the fact that these guys are clearly psycho?” Jade asked.
“Yes, besides that,” he confirmed.
White Dragon had reined his beast to hovering halt the moment Green Lantern had overtaken him en route to Jade, and seemed indecisive until the Green Ghoul joined his fellow members of the Fourth Reich. “We outnumber them, and we outmatch them!” the monster bellowed. “For the Fatherland’s sake, strike them down!”
Green Lantern set his jaw determinedly and raised his ring high above his head. A column of roiling green power jetted upwards and shaped itself into a trainman’s signal lamp fifty feet tall. The flared aperture on the face of the lamp shone a cone of dazzlingly bright light on the Nazis, who shielded their eyes too late and were blinded. Screaming wordless fury, Rebel tossed a cinderblock, which Jade easily disintegrated with a well-timed green blast.
“Nice one, Dad,” Jade complimented, “but I doubt it’ll work twice, and as soon as their vision clears they are going to come rip our heads off.”
“They can try,” Green Lantern stated defiantly, then cast a sidelong glance at his daughter and noticed the angle at which she held her leg. “Jennie-Lynn …you’re hurt, aren’t you?”
“I can manage,” she insisted, unconvincingly. “We don’t have much choice.”
“No, I can handle this,” Green Lantern countered. “You pull back and I’ll guard you …”
“RIA, NRUT OT REBMA!” a cry shot through the Appollyon skies, accompanied a moment later by a vertiginous shimmer that blanketed the Green Ghoul, rebel, White Dragon and the flying reptilian steed. In an instant the Nazis were held fast within a gigantic asymmetrical glob of translucent yellow-orange goo which floated above the city streets in mystical disregard for gravity.
“Zatanna!” Green Lantern exclaimed, turning around to greet their savior, then suddenly stopping short.
“Uh, Zee, that is you, right?” Jade asked, her eyebrows skewing quizzically.
“It’s me,” Zatanna avowed. The magic user was wearing a vinyl sleeveless catsuit in a shade of baby blue that shifted nearly to black depending on how it caught the light, as well as a flowing red cape with a high collar that forced her to wear her long raven tresses in a ponytail on top of her head. “Don’t let the retro threads fool you. It’s, ah … laundry day.”
“I don’t think anybody minds which costume you wear, especially when …” Green Lantern began, but halted as Zatanna’s head slumped forward and she began to fall to Earth. Jade dove immediately and caught Zatanna, then flew her toward a nearby rooftop, followed quickly by Green Lantern.
“Zee? Zee, are you all right?” Jade asked once the trio was standing on the roof.
“I’m … I’m fine. Or I will be,” Zatanna promised. “Right now I’m pretty much spent. I barely had the power to fly here, and I wouldn’t have even been able to find you if it hadn’t been for your king-sized green beacon, Alan. I probably shouldn’t have cast that transmutation, but I needed to free you up, immediately.”
“What?” Green Lantern asked. “Zatanna, what are you talking about? What’s going on?”
“That’s the problem, I don’t know exactly what’s going on,” Zatanna admitted. “I tried to find out using a far-seeing spell with a power circle, and I’m the only one from the circle who isn’t in a coma now. There’s someone or something very powerful and very up to no good, using some lethal mystical defenses to keep their secrets hidden. Whoever they are, they’re behind the party-crashers like your ugly sparring partners. But I’m afraid that’s not the worst of what they’re going to unleash before they’re done. Unless they’re stopped.”
“I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt, Zatanna,” Green Lantern offered, “but if I understand what you’re saying, how can I help? You don’t know who it is or where they’re hiding.”
“Not exactly,” Zatanna shook her head. “I don’t know who, but I do know where. The mystical defenses are set up in a very specific location. Riverrock, Wyoming. You need to go there, Alan. Right now. I don’t think they’ll be expecting a non-mage to have tracked them down, that’s your best chance for catching them off-guard and undoing whatever they’re planning.”
“All right,” Green Lantern nodded. “Just let me get you home … or would a hospital be better?”
“No, Alan!” Zatanna raised her voice. “Go! Now! Before this gets any worse!” She waved her hand weakly, the gesture somehow encompassing the recent struggle with the Fourth Reich, the mystical mysteries that had so drained her already, and possibly all life as they knew it.
“But …” Green Lantern protested.
“Dad, I’ve got this,” Jade interjected.
“Jennie-Lynn, you’re …”
“I know, I know,” Jade rolled her eyes. “I need medical attention too, but I can still fly, and I can carry Zee, all right? I’ll get us both to the hospital. You get to Wyoming, find out who’s dumping Nazis on our doorstep, and kick their butt.”
The set of Green Lantern’s jaw bespoke an imminent parental lecture, but an inhuman yet somehow feminine voice interjected: “Call to all JSA members, call to all JSA members. Assemble immediately at headquarters. Acknowledge this message to activate teleportation.” D.I.N.A.H., the artificial intelligence of the Justice Society’s Higher Authority satellite, delivered the relay message through Jade’s and Green Lantern’s team communicators.
“Oh, awesome,” Jade rolled her eyes. “As if there wasn’t already enough going on today.”
“It’s probably all connected,” Zatanna reminded her. “But Alan, I am begging you, let the rest of the Justice Society handle whatever’s come up. Go to Riverrock!”
“Do it, Dad,” Jade nodded resolutely. “I’ll go up to the Higher Authority as soon as I drop Zee with a good doctor …”
“You’ll do no such thing,” Green Lantern countered, “until you have a doctor see to that …”
“Eenk … eb … delaeh …” Zatanna interrupted, her voice fading to a whisper by the third word. She swooner against Jade, while a flare of soft golden light enveloped Jade’s leg. As the glow faded, Jade flexed the limb tentatively, then kicked it vigorously.
“Wow, Zatanna, you should bottle that,” Jade smiled.
“No more … arguments?” Zatanna pleaded, her voice a weak croak.
Green Lantern hesitated briefly, scowling, then nodded brusquely and set off in a rapid westward arc, leading with his glowing emerald ring. Jade cradled Zatanna in her arms and glided in the opposite direction, towards Wingate Memorial. “I hope wherever this Riverrock place is, it’s not that big,” Jade said. “Sounds like Dad doesn’t have much time to knock on every door looking for your boogeyman.”
“He … doesn’t,” Zatanna agreed, resting her head on Jade’s shoulder. “But he’ll … think of … something. He … has to.”
“Or what?” Jade pressed.
Either too tired to speak, or too unwilling to answer, Zatanna made no response.