FDC presents "Variant Covers"
“Jay, it's for you!” Jay Garrick looked up from the workbench in his basement, where the parts of a lamp lay scattered on the bench top. “It's Doctor Emerson, from the Sunshine Nursing Home.”
“I'll get it down here, honey. But hang on the line, would you?” No sooner was the last word out of his mouth when Jay was standing at his desk at the other end of the basement. He picked up the phone. “Good evening, Doctor.”
“Mr. Garrick, I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but your friend has passed away.”
“But, we were just there this afternoon. What happened?”
“I'm not sure, but as you know, we still have a lot to learn about Alzheimer's disease. I've seen this before, the patient is relatively alert and speaking, then an hour later, they've slipped into a vegetative state or passed away.”
“I see. Was it peaceful, at least?”
“He shows no signs of distress, if that's what you mean.”
“That's good to know. I'll let his friends and family know, and take care of the arrangements.”
“Very good, sir. I'm very sorry, Mr. Thunder will be missed here very much.”
“Tuesday? Of course, I'll be there, Jay. Not only was Johnny one of us, but he was there right from the beginning. What about family? Are any of his brothers still alive?”
“No, he was the youngest, I think the last one to pass away was over ten years ago.”
“What about nieces or nephews?”
“There were a few, but they're pretty much scattered all over. I've tracked down a few, two of them will be coming. And Peachy, of course, with her family.”
Alan Scott leaned back in the chair in his office. “Well, it's likely to be a crowd, anyway. I'll talk to Rick, he should be the one to co-ordinate the JSA's participation. I call Mathilda, and see if she wants to come up from Florida.”
Three days later, Pleasant Valley, Long Island
“Holy cow, I can’t believe the crowd here, guys!” Wildcat gave a wry smile as he looked out at the crowd gathered in the cemetery after the funeral service. “Probably just as well Johnny wanted to be buried here with Daisy, I don’t think we could fit all these folks at Valhalla.”
Hawkman stood tall and stoic next to the former prize fighter. “Then it would have been a memorial service someplace else, Ted. Which might have been just as well.”
“It doesn’t help that Johnny never hid his identity. Still, when you consider how much he bumbled around, it’s kind of awe-inspiring to see how many people he helped out over the years, who came back to pay their respects.” The colorfully-clad Green Lantern nodded to indicate the greater part of the crowd, standing back behind rope barriers that had been erected thirty feet from the grave site. Those attending the funeral who were not close friends of John Thunder had been asked to stay behind the barriers. This resulted in a crowd, thirty deep, encircling the smaller group of friends and family. The service had started with an invitation for those whose life had been affected by the deceased to step up to a microphone and briefly say what Johnny had done for them. It was intended to last a few minutes, but after an hour had passed, the minister had asked that further tributes be offered after the service.
“I think Johnny did quite a bit of adventuring outside of the Justice Society,” offered Black Canary. “From what Mom always told me about him, I’m not surprised. Johnny always did have a big heart.”
“Your Mom knew him better than any of us,” added the Flash. “He was really just coming into his own when the power of the thunderbolt faded in ’47. When he got the power back later on, I think he tried to make up for lost time.”
“Yeah, Dad mentioned that to me a couple of times,” said Hourman. “Johnny was working for one of the TylerCo labs for nearly ten years, and he and Dad used to get together at least once a month.”
“What about the t-bolt? Anybody know what happens to him now?” asked Obsidian, standing next to his father and sister.
Jay shook his head. “I never saw or heard anything about the thunderbolt after Johnny’s health started going downhill. If Johnny couldn’t remember to call him forth, he’s probably stuck in his home dimension, or wherever he resided when Johnny didn’t need him.”
Alan Scott spoke up again. “Folks, this may not be the right time, but it’s pretty rare that we’re all together. There’s a matter I’d like to discuss with everyone now that the funeral is over. Shouldn’t take more than a half-hour or so. I took the liberty of booking a couple of meeting rooms at the Holiday Inn near here, so we can meet privately while our spouses and friends can wait in the other room.”
“Sure, Al, I don’t have a problem with that. Abby said she was hoping to meet up with some of the JSA wives, see how they deal with all this stuff.” Wildcat nodded toward his ladyfriend and gave her a smile.
“This is getting serious, isn’t it Ted?” asked Black Canary.
“Well, I don’t know that-“
“I’m just teasing,” chided Canary. She turned toward Green Lantern. “Since I’m not actually a JSA member, I’ll give this meeting a pass.”
“Actually, I think we’d all be happy if you’d join us, Dinah. There’s always a place for you in the Society.” Green Lantern turned toward a broad-shouldered man with curly red hair who looked uncomfortable in his dark gray suit. “That goes for you as well, Pat. I think we were all surprised to see you here, but Stripesy is always welcome here.”
Pat Dugan smiled and shrugged. “I ain’t heard that name for a while, but seeing as Johnny was one of the folks that helped rescue me and the rest of the Legionnaires, I figured I ought to show up, show my respects and all.”
“If this is official business, I guess I better call the meeting to order,” said Rick Tyler, otherwise known as Hourman. “Alan, you’re the one who asked for the meeting, so why don’t you take it away?”
“Thanks, Rick. Some of you may have already heard, the Green Lantern Corp is moving their headquarters off of Earth, and returning to Oa.”
“Yeah, so what’s the deal. You finally going to join up with them?” asked Wildcat, eliciting a few laughs around the room.
“No, my concern is the Higher Authority. As most of you know, Kyle Rayner and I created our headquarters with a combination of the Oan power ring energy and my own Starheart-based energies. So long as the Guardians were based here on Earth, I wasn’t concerned about having that energy cut off. But with them being countless light years away, there is a possibility that our headquarters could lose integrity.”
“You mean it could break up?” asked Hourman.
“Possibly. Particularly if I was incapacitated.”
“Just as well,” huffed Wildcat. “Aww, c’mon, guys. Sure, we’ve been trying to be more pro-active, but does it really make sense for us to be sitting up there in space, instead of down here in the good old US of A?”
“You know, Ted, I’ve seen the logs for the teleporter system. For someone who doesn’t like it, you use that system more than anybody else on the team,” said Jay.
“Sure I do – my motorcycle can only take me so far. But can’t we keep a teleport system running and still have our meeting place down on the ground?”
Several voices spoke up arguing the pros and cons of the question, until a calm, modulated voice was raised enough to be heard over them all. “My friends, please! I may have a solution!”
Hourman turned to look across the room. “Mr. Knig – I’m sorry, Ted. What’s your idea?”
Ted Knight rose slowly from his chair. “I know David will dispute this, but I’m a bit of a sentimental softie. While visiting New York a few months back, I happened to notice that the old Belmont Hotel has shut down, and the building is up for sale.” A few heads looked up as he spoke. “Now, I wasn’t there, but I know that the first meeting the Justice Society was held in the Belmont I always thought it a shame that there wasn’t so much as a plaque commemorating the event there, and I certainly didn’t want to see it torn down or made over into something unrecognizable, so, I bought the building.”
“You’re suggesting we move our headquarters there?” asked Obsidian.
“Sure. Alan, you told me how you and that younger Green Lantern were able build all sorts of computing abilities and the teleport system into the satellite itself. You could duplicate that in the upper levels of the hotel building, and keep the satellite up there for the orbital communications aspect. Transfer this artificial intelligence that runs it into the new headquarters.” As usual, when given the opportunity to solve a problem, the former Starman’s mind was racing faster than most could keep up. “It goes without saying that I’d be happy to help out.”
“I don’t know that an old motor jock can be much help with this job, but I’d be glad to lend a hand if it’s needed,” said Pat Dugan, leaning back in a chair at one side of the room. “Would be good to get back into the mystery man circles again, ya know?”
Nods of assent went around the room. “So, we’ll start working on this in the next week or so.” Hourman looked around the room, seeking objections. “Then, unless someone else has anything they want to bring up, I guess we’re done here.”
It was late afternoon as Ted Grant and Abby Walker drove northward on Interstate 81 towards Syracuse. The further they’d driven from New York City, the heavier the clouds became. Ten miles south of Cortland, rain started falling.
“Told you we should have taken my car,” remarked Abby as she glanced warily up at the Jeep’s cloth roof.
“You know I feel like I’m riding in a clown car in that thing,” answered Ted. “Besides, I did get a new ragtop for this thing last month. You’ll be warm and dry till we get home.”
“Hopefully we’ll miss the worst of this storm.” Abby looked past Ted, out the driver’s side window. “Looks like lightning over there.”
Ted turned to look just as a brilliant flash lit up the sky. “Damn, I guess so – wait a minute!” Ted hit the hazard flashers on the Jeep and pulled off to the left side of the highway. “There’s a couple people up there. That ain’t lightning.”
As he unfastened his seat belt, Abby laid a hand on his arm. “And what do you think you can do? Last time I checked, that cycle in the back didn’t fly.”
“But it will get me underneath them, and I can make sure that whatever’s happening doesn’t spill over for folks on the ground.” He got out of the Jeep and went around to the back. Abby did the same, grabbing a backpack from behind her seat.
“All right, but here, you’ll need this.” She reached into the pack and pulled out a large cat-mask. Ted yanked the motorcycle up and off its brackets. “Just as well you got this cycle, your regular one wouldn’t handle those fields too well.”
Ted pulled the mask over his head. “You head on up to the next exit, and I’ll catch up to you there,” he advised as he leaned over to kiss her cheek.
A quarter mile away, above the ground, two costumed figures faced off against each other.
“Court! What the heck are you doing?” asked one, an eight-foot tall robotic figure in red, white and blue.
“I, I don’t know! It was as if, I just had to take that shot at you!” The smaller figure was a teen-aged girl, clad in a blue costume of bike shorts and a long-sleeved, bare-midriff jersey with a matching mask. She held a golden staff with a crooked head, which was glowing brightly in the gloom of the storm. “I, I think I’m going to-“
SHRAACK! A bolt of stellar energy arced toward the massive robot. Jets in the soles of its feet ignited, sending it out of the path.
“Aww, jeez, it’s happening to me, too, kid!” A panel on one of the robot’s arms opened, revealing a small missile launcher. “Down!”
The girl dove toward the ground as a fist-sized warhead streaked over her head. It continued past her, striking the ground with a muffled “Whumpf!” Looking down toward it, the girl spotted a costumed man on a motorcycle.
“Wildcat! C’mon, Pat, maybe he can help us out!” She pointed the staff toward the ground, and it pulled her downward.
“Just a sec, kid. I’m putting all of S.T.R.I.P.E.’s armament on safe mode. Let me know if you’re feeling the urge to attack again.” The robot followed the girl down to the ground.
“Wildcat! Man, am I glad to see you!” called the girl as she touched down a yards from the now-quiet motorcycle.
“Huh? Do I know you under that mask, kid?” Wildcat got off the bike, but kept some distance between himself and the stranger.
“Know me? C’mon, Ted, we’ve been working together in the JSA for a couple of years. It’s me, Stargirl!”
“Hold it, Stars.” The robot touched down next to her. “The voice print is close, but it’s not an exact match. This is an imposter.” Panels on each side of the robot slide aside, revealing weapons pointed at the dark-clad hero.
“Thanks for bringing me over, Mr. Knight, Mr. Dodds. I was afraid to ask about Dad’s things, but-“
“It’s all right, Peachy,” replied an elderly man in a motorized wheelchair. He smiled at the middle-aged woman standing in the middle of the JSA brownstone’s trophy room. “There’s been talk for years about converting this into a museum, let people see the history of the Justice Society, but nobody ever seems to get around to it. The active members moved a few things up to the new headquarters, but that was mostly having to do with current cases. Of course, anything related to cases Johnny worked on, you’re welcome to it.”
“That’s wonderful. You know, you guys were his family for a long time, even after he adopted me, and later when he and Mama Daisy got married. And I really appreciate how you looked after him while I was in Europe these past few years.” Peachy Pet Thunder walked over to a display case, her wavy blonde hair falling over rounded shoulders. “I’ve been thinking of writing a book about him.”
“That would be great,” said Ted Knight, stepping up next to the older woman. “Most of the younger heroes never got the chance to meet him. It would be good to-“
The former Starman was interrupted by a crackling sound, followed by the four bodies tumbling to the floor of the Brownstone.
“Yo, Jen, I told you to be careful with that- what the hell?” The speaker was a young man of African American descent, dressed in loose-fitting jeans and a gray hooded sweatshirt. He looked around, and when he spotted the others he shrunk back a little. “What the hell? Who the fu-“
“Delightful! Back among the land of the living again!” Everyone turned toward the odd figure pulling himself up from the floor. So far as any could tell, it was an empty red suit, with a matching theatrical mask hovering above the collar where a person’s face would be. “And who do I have to thank for that?”
“Sorrow!” The third newcomer, a teenager with beaded braids in her dark brown hair, which was only a bit darker than her skin, jumped forward and burst into a cascade of electrical arcs. “Don’t know how you beat death, but you ain’t hurting anybody here!” She flung her hands forward, and bolts of lightning crashed into the apparent ghost in their midst. As she did so, a second young lady, this one with pale, freckled skin, long red hair and wearing a long, shapeless green dress, extended an arm and a whirlwind issued forth, sending the ghost back into a wall.
“OhmiGod, what just happened, I was at the farm talking with King Chimera about all that fuss with Magog, and all of a sudden I’m back here with you guys and Johnny Sorrow is back from the dead again and who are those people and why are they looking at us so funny?” The words came out in a rush, as if it were her speaking that was powering the winds that kept the suit pinned against the wall.
Decades of experience had given Ted Knight an instinct for gauging situations. It was not infallible, but he had come to trust his hunches, and the hunch that came to him now was manifested in a glowing golden sphere that formed around the empty suit. As his hand came out of the pocket of his suit jacket, a glowing rod became visible. He gestured, and a barrier spring up between the suit and the three youngsters, and another to separate Peachy Thunder, Wes Dodds and himself from the newcomers.
“Someone better start talking now, and explain who you are and how you got in here,” directed the former hero.
“Huh? You going crazy man? I’ve been in the JSA for over a year now, and I ain’t ever seen you guys around here.” The young man looked from Ted Knight to the globe of fire. “Uh, ain’t you gonna turn that thing solid so we can’t see his face?” As he said this, the captured man reached up to pull at the disembodied mask. “Oh, crap – SO COOL!”
Static electricity filled the room, then gathered into a small pinpoint of purplish-pink energy. In less than a second, this grew and formed a humanoid-shaped being of electrical energy. “T-bolt, send Johnny Sorrow far away from here, where he can’t hurt anyone.”
The strange, flickering figure looked around, seeming confused, then focused on the red suit. “Of course, oh lord and masterful dude!” There was a flash, then the sphere was empty. “Hmmm, that didn’t feel quite right.”
“Hold it!” Wes Dodds raised his left hand, and which held an odd pistol with an oversized barrel. “Everybody just slow down, and let’s get some explanations here, before I have to calm you down.”
“Look, we got things under control now, so just chill!” said the young man before turning toward his companion. “Well, almost under control. You can turn off the sparks now, Lightning.”
“Umm, Ted, isn’t that Johnny’s thunderbolt?” asked Peachy.
The energy being turned toward her. It visibly brightened as it’s face subtly changed shape, becoming both more human, and familiar to those in the room. “Peachy? Aww, gee, it’s good to see you kid, but weren’t you – I mean, aren’t you-? Aw, nuts, I don’t know what I’m trying to say!”
“Papa Johnny?” asked the older woman. “Is, is that you?”
“Well, that’s a tough one.” The thunderbolt stood upright, one hand seeming to stroke its chin. “Something tells me that you aren’t the Peachy I knew, and I know Ted and Wes are de– oh!” The bolt turned toward the two younger people in the room.
“C’mon now, Jen. Remember what Jesse told you. Just try to relax, and picture the sparks as a suit that you take off and put in the closet,” said the young man.
“I’m trying, Jakeem.” The aura of electricity around the young woman flickered and dimmed, flared once, then disappeared. “I did it!”
“Great! Now we can try to figure out who these old folks are and why they don’t know who we are.”
“I think I know the answer to that,” said the thunderbolt. “They’ve never seen us before.”
Wes, Ted and Peachy all shook their heads.
“Yeah, that’s what I figured. When I zapped Johnny Sorrow out of here, it was hard. Like the magic wasn’t right, but then I realized that it felt like the old days, before the Spectre tried wiping out all of the magic.”
Wesley frowned. “Wipe out magic? The Spectre?”
“Yeah, he went a little nutso last year,” said Jakeem. “But, why is it different? Ultra-Humanite or Degaton messing with the time stream again? That is getting sooo old, man!”
“No, not this time. I think we got pulled sideways through reality. Parallel worlds and that sort of thing.”
“Oh, you mean like the Superman that came from another world, and he wasn’t really our Superman, but Granma said he was a lot like a Superman that she used to know a long, long time ago?” The girl in the green dress looked around. “Wait, this isn’t the Brownstone, is it? Not ours, anyway. This looks like the old one, before the Gentleman Ghost’s army tore it all apart.” Her eyes grew wider. “But, if this isn’t our Brownstone, then where’s Granma?”
“Ted, do you understand what they’re talking about?” asked Peachy.
“Actually, I do. But maybe a couple of introductions are in order.” He turned toward Jakeem. “You say that you’re in the Justice Society? Are you and this thunderbolt somehow related to Johnny Thunder?”
“You might say that!” said the thunderbolt with a grin. “In our world, I died, and Jakeem here asked the t-bolt to save me somehow. So the bolt drew me into itself, and we’ve been kind of sharing headspace in here.” The bolt pointed at its own head. “Johnny Thunderbolt, that’s me! And my boss here is Jakeem Williams, aka Jakeem Thunder, aka J.J. Thunder.”
“Yeah, what he said,” added Jakeem. “And the chatterbox there is Cyclone. And this here is Lightning. No relation.”
“I think I know you,” said Lightning, pointing at the two older men. “At least, I saw your pictures when I was going through JSA case records. You’re the original Starman, aren’t you? And Sandman?” Ted and Wes each nodded in turn. “This is so weird. But, I don’t know you.”
Wes gestured with one hand while laying down the gas gun with the other. “This is Peachy Pet Thunder, the daughter of, ah, our Johnny Thunder. Do you know how you got here? And who was the suit that showed up with you?”
“That creep goes by the name of Johnny Sorrow. He’s messed with the JSA a couple of times. But the most recent time, I heard he was destroyed in that weirdo place where he got turned into a freakazoid in the first place.”
“The Subtle Realm, he called it,” added Lightning. “If you’ve ever read Lovecraft, it’s along the same lines as the realms he wrote about.”
“Sounds like you have somewhat broader interests than your friends,” said Wesley, smiling as he turned his wheelchair and ushered everyone into the meeting room so they could sit down.
“Yeah, well, when both of your parents are teachers, you end up being a reader.” She stopped. “Do you even know my Dad here?”
“Who is your father?” asked Peachy.
“Black Lightning. But he’s never worked much with the JSA, at least, not in our world.”
“I’ve heard of him, but never met him. Never heard anything about him having a daughter.” Ted then turned toward Cyclone. “And who is this grandmother of yours? Another member of the Justice Society?”
“Well, not really, I mean, she was there when you guys first got together and all, but she never really joined, but she worked with some of you, and when she got into trouble with those mobsters you all helped her out and got her in the witness protection program and looked after our family and all, even if you weren’t able to stop T.O.Morrow from kidnapping me and all that weird stuff he did, but you rescued me and when Granma was able to come out of hiding, some of you guys went and got her and brought her back and she became the caretaker of the Brownstone and that’s how I got into the JSA and-“
“Stop. Please. Just tell me, who is your grandmother?”
Cyclone looked around. “Didn’t I tell you?” When everybody in the room shook their head, she shrugged. “Oh. I thought I did. She’s Ma Hunkel, the Red Tornado.”
“Hey, guys, I’ve been getting this odd feeling every couple minutes.” Everyone turned towards the thunderbolt. “I can’t describe it in any way that you’d understand, but I think there are others crossing over from our universe to yours. Lots of others.”
“Damn, I’m glad you talked me into hitting the streets this afternoon!” cried Hourman as he waded into the crowd of rioters along the Mexican border in New Mexico. “I hate dealing with the crowds and the press, and this was just what I needed!”
“Yeah, it sounds wrong, but I felt relieved when I saw that news report,” said a shadow that slid up out of the ground to catch a stream of bullets being fired into the crowd. “I think the border patrol is getting a little over-zealous, though.”
“Well, we don’t know which of the people here are seriously concerned about illegal immigration, and which ones might be illegal themselves trying to slip through. Just be careful and subdue them without hurting anyone, okay?” Hourman felt the power surging through his body as he lifted a pair of men and leaped over the crowd to deposit them near a makeshift holding area.
“Follow your own advice, boss,” said Obsidian, following it with a silent prayer that the JSA leader could keep his harsher tendencies in check. He heard a crackling sound behind him. Turning, he caught a glimpse of a fading sunburst around four men. Even as the glow faded, he saw them start to battle with each other.
“For all your fancy armor and weapons, you cannot take down a true master of the art of killing,” said a small man with black hair and beard, dressed only in sandals and loose, Asian-style trousers. His speech pattern was stilted, as if he was saying words that weren’t his own.
“Your skills are nothing compared to the might of a true American hero!” said a hulking man in gleaming red, white and blue armor that looked familiar to the Justice Society members. Like the first, his speech seemed un-natural, and he also moved slowly, as if something was holding him back.
“Don’t know what kind of bushwa you’re selling there, Steel, but let’s take these jokers down then assess the rest of the situation.” The third man was, in the mind of Obsidian, like something out of a bad cartoon. He was a large, well-built man, in golden half-armor that was blinding in the sunlight. His helm had huge ram’s horns curling up and back that should have thrown him totally off-balance. He was firing indiscriminately with a staff that sent bolts of searing energy at the bare-chested man and the fourth newcomer, a tall, thin man in a black trench coat and a white mask with black concentric circles on it, as well as at pretty much anything else that moved.
“*smack*” said the trenchcoated man as he threw himself on the ground. He pulled out a pistol, pulling the trigger as he muttered “*blam*” several times in quick succession. The man in the golden armor ducked under the shots then leaped toward the bearded man.
“Looks like things just got a lot more interesting, Hourman!” called Obsidian as he melted into the shadows on one side of the border checkpoint, then re-appeared a hundred feet away.
“Good to see you here, Obsidian,” shouted the armored man as he took three kicks in the back of his head from his opponent. Though small, the bearded man struck hard enough to rock the bigger man even through the armor that covered his head. “See if you can get under this little monkey, I’ll drive him into your shadow portal!”
“Who made you the boss around here, mister?” answered the shadowy hero as he melded into the twisted shadows on the ground. While he didn’t like a stranger barking orders at him, at least what was said made sense to him. It seemed pretty obvious that the big man was accustomed to giving orders. The horned man, as Obsidian thought of him, turned and brought an arm down in an attempt to smash the smaller man to the ground. However, the martial artist was no longer there. As the big man looked around, he felt a pull on the staff that he carried. Instinctively, he fired it, blasting the rippling dark pool of shadow on the ground.
Hourman jumped and came down next to the patriotic-themed figure. “He called you Steel, right? As in, Commander Steel?”
“He was my grandfather. They call me Citizen Steel.”
“How are you against bullets?”
“They don’t leave much of a mark on me.” Citizen Steel looked over where the trench-coated gunman was now re-loading his guns.
“*schlack* *snick* *click*” muttered the odd man as he ejected a magazine and loaded another into the pistol.
“Mind if I give you a lift?” asked Hourman, not waiting for an answer. He grabbed Citizen Steel, straining to lift him off the ground. “Damn, you’re heavier than you look!” Summoning the full power of the Miraclo that coursed through his veins, Rick Tyler heaved the bigger man up and threw him at the gun man.
“It will be good to be home after today,” said Joan Garrick, speaking to the man in whose arms she was zipping through the mid-west. “It’s been a long couple of days.”
“We could have come home yesterday and run back up for the funeral today,” answered her husband Jay.
“No, it was good to spend the evening with Molly and Alan. Though I am a little concerned about this pregnancy of hers.” (*see All-American Comics 16-17 for more information*) Joan barely had time to notice that they were passing through Central City before Jay abruptly stopped. She blinked, and realized they were on the bridge connecting Central to their home town of Keystone City. “Jay, what-“
A loud crackling sound assaulted her ears as their speed dropped low enough for sound to be perceived. She turned to see a burst of light, in which four people suddenly appeared.
“Brute force against elemental powers. Let’s see which one wins out,” said a dark-skinned woman with long blonde hair. As she spoke, she stomped the pavement and sent shockwaves through the bridge.
“Sure, blondie, let’s see how strong you are when you’re breathing water again!” said another woman, this one clad in skimpy black leather, with short, ragged red hair and, in Joan’s opinion, far too much make-up on her pale face. She raised her hands, and a sparkling haze emanated from them in the direction of the blonde.
The dark-skinned woman’s eyes widened. “Oh no, not again you don’t!” She leaped backwards, executing a flip in mid-air, but was snagged by an extended arm that appeared to be made of some type of metal. The sparkling effect faded away when it got about thirty feet from the red-head.
“Shift, what are you doing, helping out Shimmer?” said a massive woman, also with red hair and vaguely oriental features. She grabbed a car that had already been vacated by its driver, and hurled it at the woman in black.
“I, uh, I don’t know, but I have to – ugh!” The fourth person, who may have been male, barely looked human. His body seemed to be a composite of different materials, his face a chalky white that didn’t seem quite solid. As he spoke, he was pulling the dark-skinned blonde in with one metallic arm, stretching himself impossibly high on legs of steel to divert the flying car away from its target.
“Go,” said Joan as Jay set her on the ground. “I’ll get away, and call the JSA!”
The Flash sped forward, unsure of which, if any, of these four presented the least threat to himself, his wife or his city. The one who responded to the name Shift looked like a long-time hero named Metamorpho, but didn’t act like him. He was shaking his head, as if coming out of a daze, and his face split in a grin. The pale-skinned red head looked like the most dangerous threat at the moment, so he sped toward her.
“Huh. No more urge to help Little Miss Leather-and-Lace!” said the multi-colored shapeshifter.
“A Flash? Oh, good, I’ve been wanting to try this one out.” The goth-looking woman gestured, and Jay found himself with no traction under his feet. A quick glance downward showed a coating of mercury in a twenty foot wide pathway before him.
“Thunder?” asked the big woman.
“On it!” The blonde leaped into the air, higher than any would expect. Despite Flash’s speed, she was actually leaping ahead of him. At the peak of her jump, she suddenly accelerated and came down ten feet in front of him. She landed within the patch of mercury, but she hit with enough impact that she neither slid nor bounced. There was a loud boom as the bridge flexed and buckled. The Flash was thrown into the air by the impact, and she caught him as he came down.
“Thunder, is it?” asked the speedster as he realized just what she’d done. He glanced back to see the other three were all prone on the ground. “I’m guessing Morticia Adams there is the only threat, right?”
“Yeah, I think you probably know her, goes by the name of Shimmer, from the Fearsome Five.”
“I remember her, but she didn’t look anything like that. But she’s been dead for a couple years.”
Thunder leaped again, then set the Flash down on the ground. “She got better.” She raised her voice. “Grace, fall back! Shift, see if you can wrap her up, or distract her!”
The bigger woman, apparently called Grace, growled, but followed directions. The bizarre Shift leaped, his body becoming a translucent gas as he moved. Part of the gas cloud elongated and wrapped around Shimmer’s head, becoming solid once more with the dark, dull sheen of pure iron. His other arm and his legs became copper coils, wrapping around her body and binding her arms at her sides.
“Now, ladies!” shouted Shift, his voice coming from somewhere amidst the twists and turns of his contorted body. Thunder jumped again, this time coming in laterally to smash into Shimmer from one side. As she was flung away from the impact, Grace met her with a double-fisted blow to the chest that bent the slender villain over double.
Flash tipped his silver hat back on his head and smiled. “I’m impressed. The three of you work pretty well together. Have you been working together for a while?”
Thunder cocked her head and looked at him. “For a year or so. But you knew that. We met when Superboy-Prime and Alex Luthor tried to wipe out everything, remember?”
“No, I’m pretty sure I would-“
“Interesting, old foe. One of my projects picked up on the disturbances around the world yesterday, and I knew if I monitored my old friends in the Justice Society, sooner or later I would find one of these other-world refugees.” Flash and the others looked up to see a floating platform. Upon it, a massive man with a mane of long black hair stood grinning as he held a bizarre weapon on them. “Good of you to sort out the do-gooders from the ones that might just be useful, Garrick!”
“Savage! What have you got to do with this?”
“Until now, just an interested observer. But I have been able to pluck away a couple of the parties involved. Just as I’ll take this little morsel.”
“You won’t get the chance!” said Flash as he went into motion. However, he had only traveled a few feet when he was struck down by a widely-dispersed beam of light from the weapon.
“No, sadly, even you cannot outrace light.” The platform descended, and the big man reached down to grab Shimmer from where she had fallen. Grace, Thunder, Shift and Flash all lay motionless on the ground. “I suppose I should kill you all now, but where is the challenge in that? And for one such as Vandal Savage, what is life without a challenge?”
“Now, hold on, Robby, no need to go setting off the fireworks here.” Wildcat held up his hands in a placating gesture as he looked around for something to dive behind. “If my voice doesn’t match your records, I think I know why. Let me take off this mask, nice and slow, okay?”
“His name is S.T.R.I.P.E.” said Stargirl, keeping her rod leveled toward Wildcat. “Go ahead, if you want.”
Wildcat pulled his mask back, revealing a broad, handsome face topped by a thick mane of dark brown hair. “If I’m not exactly the Ted Grant you’re expecting, it might be because of the accident that let me shed fifty-some years of hard living.”
“Oh, wow,” whispered Stargirl. “I’ve seen pictures, but I didn’t have any idea…”
“Holy cats!” uttered S.T.R.I.P.E. “You look like you did when we met in ’42!”
“We’ve met? Not in my memory.”
The chest plate of the robot split down the middle, revealing a cockpit within the robot’s body. A big, burly man with blazing red hair unhooked a safety harness and dropped to the ground. “Yeah, we did, but I was using a different moniker then. You might remember me as-“
“Stripesey! Pat Dugan, of course, I should have figured out the motif, but what’s with the new Star-Spangled-Ki-“
“That’s Stargirl. I gave up the Star-Spangled Kid name last year.”
“But I just seen you a couple hours ago at Johnny’s funeral, Pat. You never mentioned any of this, unless…”
“Unless he’s not the same Pat Dugan you know. I’ve been through this before. Tell me, Ted, whatever happened to President Luthor?”
“President Luthor? As in, Lex Luthor? How in the hell would a creep like that wind up as President?”
Stargirl turned toward Pat. “See? We’re not in our own world anymore.”
“Well, that’s just great. So what do we do about it?”
“Figure out how we got here, if we can. See if there’s a specific reason we’re here, and if so, we take care of it. Then work on getting home.” Stargirl turned back toward Wildcat. “Whenever this has happened before, there’s always been some major emergency or crisis going on. You know anything about that?”
“Missy, I’m just a slugger and a medical student. But I just came from a gathering of most all of the surviving JSA members, and a lot of other super types besides, and nobody mentioned anything like that. But how about we round up the Society and find out if there’s anything new going on.” Wildcat pulled a cell phone from a hidden pocket in his suit. “Lemme just let my lady know that I won’t be following her home right away.”
Stargirl turned toward Pat and grinned, then they both broke out laughing.
“Peachy, I think it’s best if you leave. We’ll take care of Johnny’s things later, all right?”
The heavyset woman smiled. “Of course.” Peering around Ted Knight at the other heroes left in the room, she added “And I want to talk to you, Johnny, as soon as this is all cleared up.” The t-bolt nodded and waved as she went out the door.
“Now, let’s get up to the Higher Authority and call in the troops.” Wesley Dodds wheeled over to an ancient-looking computer terminal, flipped a switch on the counter next to it and spoke. “D.I.N.A.H., immediate call to all members, active and reserve, assemble in HQ. Evacuate all persons in 20 foot radius from myself to HQ.” He looked around with a sheepish smile on his wizened face. “Did I phrase that right, Ted?” The former Starman smiled and nodded.
“ACKNOWLEDGED. STAND BY FOR TRANSPORT.” Wesley, Ted, Cyclone, J.J.. Thunder, Lightning and the t-bolt all dissolved in a shimmer of light, leaving the old JSA headquarters in darkness.
The quintet re-materialized 22,300 miles above the earth, in a glowing green chamber. As he walked out of the room, Ted Knight stopped, looked around, and asked “D.I.N.A.H. where are the other members?”
“Wildcat already acknowledged the call and is transporting up with two others. Starman-Mikaal is coming up under his own power, and states that Starman-Jack is occupied tracking down a lead on the Mist. Hourman and Obsidian are engaged in a skirmish on the US/Mexican border in Texas. Flash is not responding to his communication device, but a distress call from his spouse indicates a possible attack.” The voice came from all around. “Green Lantern has just left Apollyon City at high velocity, vectoring west-northwest. Jade reports she is involved in a critical matter in Apollyon City, but will report when and if she is able. No other members have responded.”
“Give me satellite visual on Flash’s location.” A portion of the wall flowed like liquid, then formed a large video screen. Its green-tinged image zoomed in from a view of the planet to a view of the central United States, then zoomed in further on a split metropolitan area. A bridge spanning a river between the two halves of the city was centered in the screen. As the image magnified, several figures became visible, lying motionless on the ground. As details became apparent, Ted heard a gasp behind him. He turned. “Someone you know?”
Lightning pointed at the dark-skinned female lying near the Flash. “That’s, that’s my sister!”
“What about the other two,” asked Wesley.
“They’re friends of hers, they’re on the Outsiders.”
“D.I.N.A.H., transport Flash and three metas in his vicinity to the Higher Authority.”
“Give me visual on Hourman and Obsidian.”
The image shifted, zooming out to a view of the North American continent, then zooming in again on a checkpoint along the Mexican/US border.
“Hourman and Obsidian, I know. Any idea who these others are?”
Cyclone pointed to the screen. “Magog is the one with the horns, and Citizen Steel is the one in the red, white and blue, they're both in our JSA. I don't know who the other guys are, do you?”
“I've never seen them.” Ted touched a spot at the bottom of the screen, where there was a transparent button with a camera on it, and the scene froze. “D.I.N.A.H., run visual recognition scan on faces in still shot, faces in sectors B-13 and J-15.” He looked around. “I love this new technology!”
“SCAN INITIATED. ESTIMATED TIME TO COMPLETION: SEVEN MINUTES.” The still shot shrank down to a corner of the screen, and the live video feed resumed.
“Wow, look at Magog throw that skinny guy around!” Jakeem laughed. “He's always acting so tough, that's just so whack him beatin' up on that little guy.”
“You missed the part where that little guy kicked the bridge support down.” Lightning was studying the screen. “Wildcat lent me some DVDs on different fighting styles. I've seen him use moves from at least six different ones, just in the last two minutes.”
“Damn, girl, don’t you do anything but study?”
Cyclone looked up at Ted. “So, aren't we going to help them out?”
“Let’s see if we can. D.I.N.A.H., can you launch an attack on individuals on planet surface?”
“UNABLE TO INITIATE ATTACK WITH SUFFICIENT ACCURACY TO PREVENT COLLATERAL DAMAGE. RELAYING INFORMATION TO MEMBERS WITH POTENTIAL FOR INTERVENTION.”
On the screen, a pair of blue-white beams came into view. One shot towards the small bearded men, the other toward the man in the black and white mask. Both came at their targets from behind, and struck at high velocity.
“Cool!” yelled Jakeem as the two men dropped to the ground.
As the beams faded from view, a blue-skinned man streaked into the image.
“Looks like the cavalry is here,” said Obsidian, as he moved to envelope the now-unconscious little man before him in his shadow form. “Good to see you, Starman.”
“I got the message from D.I.N.A.H. as I was responding to the all-hands call to the Authority. Ted Knight is there and he wants us to wrap this up.” Rick Tyler was already wrapping a steel beam around the man who had withstood to impact of the apparently-metallic Citizen Steel.
“A present for me? Really, you shouldn't have!” All heads turned to look up at the source of the booming voice. “And you really don't need to wrap it up for me.”
“Savage! Did you send these two?” Obsidian formed back into solid form.
“I don't think he did,” replied the big man in the horned helmet. “Don't let him-”
A loud hum cut off his words, and the two unconscious figures disappeared, re-appearing on the floating platform bearing Vandal Savage and the villains he had snatched earlier.
“Don't let him do that?” said Obsidian, as he, Starman, Hourman, Magog and Citizen Steel also faded from the scene.
“Sorry for the unannounced teleport, guys, but I thought it was best if we got everyone together. D.I.N.A.H. Has a fix on Savage's hovercraft. We'll do better going after him after we compare notes.” Ted looked at Hourman. “At your discretion, of course, Mr. Chairman.”
Hourman laughed. “Like I would question your judgment? Do we have anyone else coming?” After Wes Dodds shook his head, he looked around at the mixture of familiar and unfamiliar faces. “All right, everybody, I want everybody present in the meeting room in five minutes!”
“Um, where is the meeting room?” asked Citizen Steel.
The voice of the satellite's artificial intelligence responded by forming beacons along the corridor, pointing the way.
“Hourman, I guess you don't know me, sir, but I have background in military combat situations. If you would like me to take charge of planning the attack on Vandal Savage, I'd be glad to take that assignment.” Magog was standing upright, and Rick Tyler had the impression that the man was seconds away from saluting him.
“Magog, is it? Look, I'm guessing that you and your friend are from another, parallel universe or something, right? And you're both in the JSA?”
“Umm, more or less,” replied Magog, suddenly looking downward.
“Well, I don't know how things are done in your JSA, but here, we welcome all the help and expertise we can get. And if we know in advance that we're going into an attack, we get everybody's input on it.”
“Yes, sir!” replied the big man, snapping back upright.
“And for God's sake, you don't have to call me sir!”
“You did it, didn't you? You actually went and called yourself Lightning.” The young woman called Thunder looked up at the taller, thinner girl dressed in jeans and a short top. “Did you tell Dad?”
“Yeah. After all, he's the one that set things up for me to join the JSA, so he's been keeping tabs on me.” Jennifer Pierce grinned. “He thought it was funny after you called yourself Thunder.”
“He did, huh? How did he do that when he’s in prison? When did all this happen?” Anissa Pierce sighed and pulled off the blonde wig that covered her short black hair.
“Right after you broke him out last year. Around the time you stopped wearing the wig and the technicolor outfit, and let your hair grow out. You don’t remember any of this?”
“What are you talking about? This is the look I’ve had since I joined the Outsiders.”
“No, you were wearing an outfit kinda like Dad’s when I saw you last.”
“At least he agreed to let you try the superhero thing. I know he was righteously pissed off when I started.”
“He learned. Give him credit for that.” Both girls turned toward Grace Choi as the muscled red-head came walking in. “Hey, most men are too pig-headed to learn anything, seems like.”
“I wonder if he got caught up in this?” asked Anissa.
“I don't think so,” replied Jen. “Mr. Dodds said there's a Black Lightning here. It sounds like anybody that comes across, it's because there isn't a duplicate here.”
“Almost, kiddies.” The three women turned to find Wildcat standing behind them. “One of the folks I came across, the one in the tin can called S.T.R.I.P.E., is already here. In fact, just saw him a couple hours ago. The only thing is, the one in this world hasn't had a costumed identity for over five years.”
“Pat, this is creepy. What if we can't get back?” Stargirl sat in the JSA's meeting room, feet up on the chair and her arms around her knees. “What happens to Mom? And Patty?”
“They'll get by, kid. Your Mom is a tough woman. And she knew something like this could happen. We talked about it the night she discovered you were running around with the cosmic converter belt.” Pat Dugan sat down next to his step-daughter and laid an arm around her shoulders. “But we'll get back. Shoot, kid, Jakeem is here with the thunderbolt, they ought to be able to zap us right back there, just as soon as we figure out just what the heck is going on.”
“You really think so?” asked the teenager, looking up into the big man's bright blue eyes.”
“Sure. Wonderful thing about magic, kid. Even if ya don't understand it, doesn't mean that it don't work.”
“Courtney!” Courtney and Pat were bowled over by a slender young woman who came rushing into the room. “Nobody told me you were here why didn't they tell me oh geeez, now I know things are going to work out because it always works out when you're here I'm so glad to see you!”
“Good to see you, too, Maxine,” replied Courtney as she hugged the younger girl. “Wildcat brought us up a few minutes ago. But we can't talk now, looks like everybody's coming in for the meeting.”
Hourman took his customary spot and rapped on the glowing green table with a matching mallet, which disappeared as soon as he put it down. “All right, folks, let's get down to business here. We've got something of a mish-mosh of folks who may or may not know each other. Not to sound like my first grade teacher or anything, but let's go around the table and introduce ourselves. To keep things straight, if you're from this world, say you're from Earth Prime. If you came here from another world, say you're from Earth X.” He looked around and saw everyone nodding. “I'll start. Hourman, Rick Tyler, Earth Prime.” As he spoke, he pulled away the hood that covered his face.
“Ted Knight, former Starman, Earth Prime.”
“Wesley Dodds, Sandman, retired, Earth Prime.”
“Stargirl, Courtney Whitmore-Dugan, Earth-X.” Courtney grinned at the shocked expression on her step-father's face.
“Uh, S.T.R.I.P.E. Pat Dugan, Earth X.”
“Wildcat. Ted Grant. Earth Primo.”
“JJ. Thunder, Jakeem Williams, Earth X, and this is Johnny Thunderbolt.”
“Lightning, Jennifer Pierce, Earth X.”
“Thunder, Anissa Pierce, Earth X.”
“Grace Choi, Earth X”
“Umm, Shift, ah, Rufus Mason. I guess I'm from Earth X, right?”
“Obsidian, Todd Scott, or Rice. Earth Prime.”
“Magog. Lance Corporal David Reid, USMC. Earth X.”
“Citizen Steel. Nate Haywood, Earth X.”
“Flash, Jay Garrick, Earth Prime.”
“Starman. Mikhal Tomas. Earth Prime, at least now I am.” The blue-skinned alien looked around to see if there was anybody else...
“Skyman, Sylvester Pemberton. None of the above.” Everybody turned towards the doorway, where a dark-haired man in his early thirties stood in a white, blue and red bodysuit.
“Sly!” Pat Dugan jumped up and ran over to grab Skyman in a bear hug. “Wildcat said you had died on this world, too! Where the hell did you come from?”
“It's a long story*, but let's just say that there was another splinter in the time stream, and leave it at that, okay? Power Girl heard the alert go out, and sent me. She’d already set me up with access codes to the satellite.”
Hourman glanced at the senior JSA members for affirmation, then waved the newcomer in. “C'mon, the more the merrier. Have a seat.”
One wall of the meeting room shimmered and shifted, becoming a video screen. It showed a view of the north eastern United States. Flash started speaking. “D.I.N.A.H. has been tracking Savage’s craft since its last stop in Texas. It has been tracking steadily northeast, and seems to be heading towards the Catskill mountains. We know he has at least three others with him. One is known to us on this world, a woman known as Shimmer who can temporarily transmute elements and compounds. The other two, who were battling with Hourman and Obsidian as well as, um, Magog and Citizen Steel, are unknown to us.”
“Um, Flash, I recognize them.” Lightning sat with her hand in the air. “The guy with the mask is called Onomatopoeia, and the other is called Drakon, but I think that’s just his last name. They both fought Green Arrow and Drakon, he, he…”
Thunder stepped up behind her sister and laid both hands on the younger girl’s shoulders. “Drakon killed our cousin, Joanna. He’s an assassin, and she was investigating corruption on a construction project in Star City. He was hired to get her out of the way.”
Flash was flustered for a moment at this revelation. “Ladies, I am very sorry about your loss. But you need to know, the Justice Society does not get involved in retribution or revenge. If you are looking to stop this Drakon solely because of what he did to your family, then it might be better if you sit this mission out.”
“I can’t speak for Jennifer, but I’ve been doing this long enough to keep my personal feelings out of it.” Thunder glanced at Grace. “I’ve seen people in this business, they get involved with each other, they find a personal connection with a villain, whatever, but if they let that connection control their actions, they’re screwed. I saw it happen in the Outsiders. I won’t let it happen to me.”
Lightning looked up. “I’m more interested in fixing what’s sent us here. And I want to be part of it. I’m tired of sitting on the sidelines all the time.”
Wildcat spoke up. “Looks like Savage is slowing down, maybe heading for a landing.” He pointed toward the screen.
“As soon as we get a location, we’ll get as much information as we can from the Higher Authority’s surveillance systems and plan our attack.” Hourman glanced at Magog. “It appears one of our newcomers has some military background, so, Magog, your input on this planning may be vital.” There were a couple of muffled groans around the table.
As the screen zoomed in to follow Savage’s craft, D.I.N.A.H. announced “PRIORITY COMMUNICATION COMING IN.” A multisided video monitor formed in the center of the room.
“My apologies for intruding upon you, but I desperately need your help!” The speaker on the screen was tall, broad-shouldered, with alabaster skin and a face that few could bear to look upon.
“Zauriel! We have something of an emergency, but-“
“Your emergency is but one aspect of a far greater crisis, Hourman! The newcomers that I see amongst you are but a symptom of a disturbance in reality, one that threatens this universe and others beyond! I ask that you join myself and others in an assault on the source of the disturbance. We will meet in Metropolis in thirty minutes.”
Hourman spoke for the JSA. “We will send some of our number to help out.”
“Very well. We have need of as much power as we can amass. I will meet you there.” The screens went blank, then disappeared.
Hourman looked around. “I’m going with Zauriel. I may be the chairman here, but I have less combat experience than most of you. But these new powers I’m developing may be useful. Anybody else?”
Flash stood up. “I’ll go with you. I’ve fought Savage so many times, he knows me like a book. By taking me out of the formula, it may stir things up a bit for him.”
“What about us?” Stargirl stood up, cosmic rod in her hand. “It seems like we are a part of the problem. Won’t we have a better chance at getting home if we’re also part of the solution?”
“If Sorrow has linked up with Savage, I want as many people on our team as I can get who have dealt with him before.” Magog slammed a fist down on the table. “We can’t be splitting our forces up like this.”
“Not quite how I’d have put it, but I agree with Magog.” Hourman looked around again. “Flash and I will represent the JSA. I’ll keep an open line to D.I.N.A.H. so the rest of you can join us as soon as you’ve kicked Savage’s tail back into prison.
“Wildcat, as senior active member, I’m leaving you in charge,” said Hourman as he moved to join the Flash at the doorway. “Godspeed, folks.”
“Good luck!” called Wildcat as the pair left the room and headed for the transporter.
The JSA’s attention was drawn to the screen as a bulls-eye appeared over a building set into a mountainside to the northwest of New York City. The view zoomed in to show a normal-seeming house with a large garage, and some older barns and utility buildings behind it. Computer-generated outlines started to appear, sketching a larger structure hidden beneath the ground.
“Satellite’s sensors are detecting an underground structure. No data from the area’s building permit databases, and considering who we’re tracking, it’s safe to say that this is one of Savage’s hidden bases. Likely a mix of concrete and steel.” Wildcat looked at Magog. “Any thoughts?”
“Dugan, you got anything in that suit of yours like a bunker buster?”
“Nah, light armor piercing, enough to go through an armored car, is about as strong as I go. Didn’t design it for attacking buildings.”
“Maybe I can help with that.” Heads turned toward the doorway once more. This time, a short, slender woman with green hair and skin stood, looking battered and weary. “I got the message, came as soon as I could make sure Zatanna was all right.” (*see All-American Comics Annual #1 for more information) “Dad’s on his way to deal with part of this problem that-“ she looked around at the several unfamiliar faces in the room. “This problem that we appear to be having right here.”
Magog looked around at the assembled heroes. “Jade, Starman, Jakeem, and Thunder, you’ll be with me on frontal assault. Skyman, do you have the converter belt that our version used?” Sylvester Pemberton nodded. “Then I want you with us, as well. Stargirl, I want you to take Lightning, Grace, Shift, Obsidian and Wildcat inside. S.T.R.I.P.E., Cyclone and Citizen Steel are on perimeter, keep an eye out for Savage and the others getting out, and holler like hell if you see them. Speaking of which, Wildcat, do you folks have extra communicators? I don’t think ours are compatible.”
Ted Knight replied that he knew where they were and stepped out of the room as Stargirl spoke up. “You want me to lead a group into this place? I don’t get it?”
“I know you. I’ve seen you work with others, you have a talent for leading, whether you realize it or not. That’s why Power Girl wanted you with us, remembers? Of the others that I’m sending in with you, Lightning is the only one I’m at all familiar with and, no offense Jennifer, but you aren’t ready for this kind of responsibility.”
“You got that right!” said the young girl.
Magog turned towards the two men dressed in black at the table. “Wildcat, Obsidian, I know you’re both more experienced. To be honest, I had trouble with your counterparts in our world. I know people here are different than the folks I know, and I don’t know how either of you feels about leading a strike force. I want somebody whose abilities I’m confident in at the head of this. Any objections?”
Obsidian simply shrugged, while Wildcat replied. “Kid, I wouldn’t have done it the same way, but I like your reasoning. We got any differences, hell, we can settle them in the gym later, all right?”
Ted walked back in with a box in his hands. “Latest issue from Kord Industries, I want everyone using one of these. D.I.N.A.H. will be tracking all of your locations and can give us an immediate fix on each other.”
“Excellent. One more thing: from what some of you have told me, when we crossed over into this reality, some of us felt compelled to fight with each other, or to side with people who would normally be our enemy.” Several heads around the table nodded. “Be on the alert. Keep an eye on your team-mates. If it looks like someone is falling under the control of somebody else, alert the rest of the group. If we have to take steps to neutralize one of our own, try to do it without hurting them, but take them out of the fight. Now, let’s get ready, people, I want to move out in ten minutes!”
D.I.N.A.H. spoke up again, announcing another arrival. Eyes turned toward the transporter, expecting one of their costumed teammates or associates. Instead, a tall, broad-shouldered man with wavy red hair stepped out, still wearing the dark gray suit the JSA members had seen him in earlier. “Umm, hi, I heard the call go out for help on this gizmo Hourman gave me earlier. I ain’t exactly suited up in a while, but figured I might be able to lend a hand?”
Stargirl’s eyes opened wide as she stared at Pat Dugan, the doppelganger of her stepfather.
“They will find us.”
“Of course they will. I have not lived this long by being foolish.” Vandal Savage turned from the wall-sized display screen showing a panoramic view of the area outside of his sanctuary. “And while I can appreciate the skills of your fellow dimensional refugees, we do not constitute a force strong enough to take on the Justice Society.”
“Of course. But they are enough to lure in key members of the JSA, so that I might take a look at them.”
Savage turned to face his companion. “Look at them? What does that – oh.” Savage smiled as he recalled Johnny Sorrow’s description of the effect his visage had on others. “So, what you are proposing is merely a first skirmish in a long-term campaign.”
“Of course. The Justice Society should have no idea that I sought you out. You gathered up the other crossovers from my home dimension without me, and we have left them unaware of my presence. Simply position them so that the JSA is driven to this secondary command center, and I will take out as many as I can before you and I stage a strategic retreat.”
“Leaving a weakened Justice Society for us to deal with at a later time.” Savage turned back toward the screen, his heavy brow furrowed in thought. “Excellent.”
His thoughts were interrupted by a klaxon sounding throughout the bunker. Savage studied the screen briefly, then ran to a computer console. “Directly above us! They’re coming straight down.”
“Get your instincts under control. We have a plan, let’s stick to it.” Sorrow faded from view, his voice fading with him. “Get the others, and guide the heroes to me.”
Three thousand feet above Savage’s compound, Starman, Skyman and Jade exchanged glances. “Ready?” asked the blue-skinned alien.
“Oh, hell yeah,” replied his green-skinned companion while Skyman’s only response was a growing nimbus of light around his hands. Twin battering rams erupted from their hands, the product of their wills, the magical energy of the Starheart, the Cosmic Converter Belt and the gem embedded in Mikaal Tomas’ chest. The beams streaked downward with their creators following behind.
“You sure about this?” asked Jakeem Thunder, looking doubtfully at Thunder as they both stood on a platform provided by the Thunderbolt.
“Don’t worry kid, I’ve done this plenty of times,” answered the dark-skinned, blonde-haired Thunder. With a loud whoop of excitement, she jumped from the platform. Johnny Thunderbolt pointed a finger at her, and a bolt of energy shot forth. Her falling body moved faster, accelerating faster than gravity alone could account for.
The surface buildings hiding the compound were destroyed in the initial energy blast from Starman, Skyman and Jade. Two seconds later, Thunder struck the devastated ground with enough force to shatter the remaining foundations and plow down through three levels of labs, arsenals and storerooms.
"Looks like we're in, gang," said Wildcat as Stargirl carried her team down into a copse of trees near the crater.
"Yeah, not that they left much to get into." Stargirl studied the landscape before them. "Over there. Looks like it was a basement, steps leading down. Obsidian, go shadow and take point. Shift and Lightning, you're right behind, you're our strikers. Everyone remember, you cannot look in Sorrow's face."
As the group moved down the stairway and below ground, Grace glanced at Wildcat. "Ever feel like an afterthought?"
"Don't worry, kid. No matter what fancy powers and gadgets get thrown at us, sooner or later there's somebody that needs punching."
From the shadows to his right, a fist shot out. Instincts born of over half a century of experience kicked in, and the former prizefighter leaned back in time to avoid the punch. Grace spotted his movement and her left hand came up as she turned. There was a meaty smack as she caught the fist. She felt its owner pull back, but held on. There was a jerk, and his body twisted as a foot shot up to kick her in the head. As she saw the foot swing up, she heard an expressionless voice say "*thunk*"
"We got company, people!" exclaimed Wildcat. "Light would be good now."
The stairwell lit up, thanks to the glow of Stargirl’s Cosmic Rod. Lightning started to flare up near the front of the line. “Dim it down, girlie,” said Shift. “I don’t think Obsidian works well with bright light around him.”
The light revealed that the stairwell was open on both sides, and beyond the railings were dozens of armored troops. Grace looked down to find the trenchcoated Onomatopoeia, his fist still held fast in her own, bringing his leg around for a second kick to her face.
“Go ahead, skinny. It’s not like the first one actually hurt.” There was a quiet *skrunch* from the oddly masked man as she swung him up and away from her. She let go after hearing a similar sound from his wrist.
Stargirl spoke softly, enough for her communicator to pick up her voice without being heard by the attacking soldiers. “Obsidian, cloak Lightning and Shift, take them forward. Find Sorrow and Savage.” At the head of the JSA column, darkness swelled, and two heroes disappeared from view. Stargirl swept her weapon over the one side of the chamber, bolts of stellar energy streaking forth to send soldiers crashing back against the wall. On the other side, Grace and Wildcat waded into the fray in a more personal fashion, with fists, feet, elbows and knees striking in a rapid cadence. Duraplast armor cracked and joints snapped under their onslaught, even as the energy beam weapons of the armored fighters proved too slow for combating the pair of experienced brawlers.
Not far above, Thunder was prowling the shattered remnants of the house on which she’d landed. She kept her body density increased and stepped carefully, wary of any movement in the ground under her feet. She had seen the group in which her sister was working head down through an exposed basement area. Unable to re-join the group in the air above her, she contemplated whether to catch up with Stargirl’s team or join the group watching the perimeter.
“Oh, this is just too ironic for words.” Thunder jerked around to find a single man standing about twenty feet behind her. He was not an imposing figure: short, slim, with a head seemingly too large for his body. But her blood still ran cold when she saw the man who murdered her cousin. “Will you scream like she did, as you die?”
“I don’t plan on you being around to find out,” replied Thunder in a low voice as her feet moved out into a fighting stance. “You’re a big man with a defenseless woman, but how are you against someone who can seriously fight back?”
Drakon’s eyes darkened. “So, the little lightning bug wants to fight?” The lithe assassin reached out with one hand and stripped a handful of twigs from a denuded bush. “Silly little girl, you really should have run.”
Thunder looked down for a second, then looked up with a grin. “Silly little man. If you’re going to try throwing splinters like darts, you should try it with someone who isn’t invulnerable.” The dark-skinned heroine launched herself into the air, willing her density to its lowest as she jumped. At the highest point in her arc, she once again increased her density and came down at the now-moving Drakon. He was already forty feet away when she struck the ground with a resounding crash that buckled the ground and sent rubble flying in every direction. Drakon brought up both arms to protect himself from the stone and wood fragments filling the air. Quick movements of hands and feet shattered pieces before they could strike. Under cover of the cloud of flying rubble, Thunder leaped again, this time coming down on her target. Drakon struck the ground under Thunder’s boots, his head smashing into a large rock.
“From what Dad told us about you after Jo’s death, I’m not trusting you even if you are knocked out.” Her foot came down hard, twice, once on one knee cap, then on the other. “Try chasing us around now, asshole.”
High above, in the air above the wrecked compound, more soldiers were on the attack, in armor equipped with jet packs and chest-mounted blasters. “Pick your targets and fire at will,” commanded Magog as the black-armored troops swarmed upwards towards the JSA members. Bursts of plasma from his staff picked out individual troopers in mid-air, destroying their jet packs or blasting the armor off of them.
“What are you doing?” screamed Jade as her arms swept in a wide arc, a swath of emerald energy sweeping dozens of the attackers up into an airborne gelatinous cube. “You’re killing them!”
“In a mass attack like this, you can’t play nice, Jade!” growled Magog. “Believe me when I say, they’re not going to show any remorse over killing us!”
“Makes no difference, Magog,” called Skyman as he forced several of the troopers down to the ground with a wide-spread stellar-powered force field. “I don’t know about where you came from, but where I’m from, the only time the JSA killed was when we were left with no choice. And I’m never going back to that.”
“Didn’t you learn from what happened with our own JSA?” called Jakeem, riding the Thunderbolt and directing the 5th dimensional djinn to immobilize any attacking troopers in the area. “Guys, this fool got himself kicked out of the JSA, ‘cause he’s more soldier than superhero.”
“While I don’t disagree with his sentiment, I agree that it is not how the JSA operates,” said Starman slowly, concentrating on pinpointing narrow beams of energy from the jewel in his chest to knock attackers away without rendering them unable to stay aloft.
“What is this, a debating society? We’re in a battle, people!” Magog glared with his one good eye, the featureless orb where his other eye should have been sparking with unearthly energy. “If you want to win, you have to be willing to-WAH?” The armored, heavily muscled warrior jerked from an unseen impact to the side of his head, sending his shot harmlessly up into the air. In the seconds it took him to recover, the T-bolt gestured and knocked the staff from Magog’s hands. The big man plummeted earthward. Fifty feet from impact, a bolt from Skyman’s cosmic converter belt knocked the bigger man sideways to land in a small lake. Jade plucked the staff as it fell, and secured it to her back with a glowing green harness.
“Let’s mop up the rest of these idiots, and thank whoever for that lucky shot that distracted him. And keep an eye out for Savage and Sorrow!”
Far below, Cyclone smiled as she lowered her hand and swept around the edges of Savage’s compound on a small whirlwind. “Guess they didn’t realize how far their voices were carrying on the air currents,” murmured the slender red-headed teen. She glanced back to see Citizen Steel standing near a tree along the lone road leading away from the compound, scanning the countryside. On the opposite side of the now devastated property, S.T.R.I.P.E. cruised at low altitude. She turned her eyes downward, looking for any signs of movement in the brush surrounding the battle scene.
“Somebody please tell me they’re kidding, sending a kid in a witch costume out here.” Cyclone turned toward the mocking female voice, seeing a tall, slender woman in tight black leather pants and halter, with short-cropped red hair and heavy make-up. “I mean, seriously? Not even the Titans ever looked this lame.”
“Lame, huh? That’s what everyone tried to call me at school,” replied Cyclone as she gestured with one hand and sent a vortex of swirling air down at Shimmer. The cone of rotating air solidified into a mass of gleaming metal.
“I’ve wanted to try that for a long time,” sneered the element-changing criminal. “Stopped that little tornado cold.”
“Yeah, well, try stopping this!” Twin cyclone erupted from the young lady’s hands, looping around in a wide arch to come at Shimmer from opposite sides.
“Oh, please, you think this hasn’t been tried before?” Crystalline barriers spring up to either side of Shimmer, building themselves up from the molecules of surrounding air in a glittering cloud.
“Probably. But usually by people who couldn’t do this!” A third whirlwind sprung into existence directly in front of Cyclone, and surged rapidly toward Shimmer. Before the Fearsome Five member should react, it slammed her first up into the air, then drove her down to the ground on the opposite side of the compound, landing near Citizen Steel.
“What the-?” murmured the hulking red, white, and blue-clad hero. He turned toward the woman sprawled on the ground, concern etched on those parts of his face visible under his cowl. “Are you okay?” he asked, reaching a hand toward her.
“Nothing a few tons of steel brought down on her head wouldn’t- oh, speaking of steel?” Shimmer looked up and recognized the young man before her. “I read about you when you first showed up, and I’ve been waiting to try this!”
A shimmering corona surrounded Steel, and he found himself stripped of the metallic shell that normally encased his body. Looking down at the small woman who now held his bare hand, his look of concern changed to one of anger. “What did you do to me?”
“Just changed that armor you were wearing to inert gas – nice tighty whities, by the way... And if what I’m sensing is right, I can do the same to your metallic bones.”
“Wrong answer,” yelled Steel, swinging an open hand at her. It connected, sending her flying thanks to the unbridled strength that he normally kept under control only with the help of the armored shell she had destroyed. Her second arching flight within minutes caught the attention of S.T.R.I.P.E.’s sensors as she hurtled toward him.
“From what I’ve heard about her, need something that acts fast, but that she won’t see coming,” thought Pat Dugan as he piloted the armored suit. Large fingers moved with surprising dexterity over a custom-designed control panel. Twin ports on the upper arms of the robotic suit slid open, and a spray of small, powered darts shot out. “Those darts were designed for bringing down large animals. Ought to knock her out quick enough.”
Several of the darts struck before the pale-fleshed red-head struck the ground. S.T.R.I.P.E. kept one set of sensors locked on her position to warn if she got up again, then turned his attention back to watching for other stragglers from the fight.
Down below, Grace squared off against the oddly-silent Onomatopoeia as Wildcat and Stargirl battled Vandal Savage’s armored troops in the open cavern. Flashing bursts of cosmic energy and blaster fire threw erratic shadows across the scene, while Wildcat slipped from shadow to shadow taking down individual fighters with expertly-placed punches and kicks. “If it ain’t some cosmic battle, it’s all out war,” muttered the former prize fighter. “Whatever happened to simple street brawls?” He ducked under a beam of searing energy and swung his right leg in a wide arc. Striking the attacker’s knee, he heard a snap and a scream, and smiled as the next blast from the trooper’s chest-mounted weapon shot up into the air and struck one of the other armored fighters.
“Okay, I get it. You’re not big on witty chit-chat. But you could say something besides sound effects!” Grace Choi blocked a knife-hand strike by Onomatopoeia to her throat and returned with a solid punch to the smaller man’s rib cage. She heard ribs crack even as he uttered a raspy “*SNAP*” and fell away from her.
"Any luck, guys?" asked Stargirl over the comm circuit as she swept a group of troopers aside with her cosmic rod.
"Quiet, so far," answered Obsidian. "Lightning says she feels something odd in the air, though. Her communicator-"
"Burned out. Yeah, forgot to warn you about that." Stargirl ducked back as a blast of sizzling energy shot past. "Gotta run." She swung the rod with one hand and fired three quick blasts while a flurry of glittering energy stars erupted from her other hand. Haven't used those in a while, she thought. Each trooper struck by one of the stars found his armor immobilized as the power supply shorted out.
"Nice move, kid!" Wildcat glanced back over his shoulder. "How ya doing, Grace?"
The big woman held a limp body in her hands. "Well, he hasn't provided sound effects for the last three punches, so I think he's done. Can you pin him down, Stars?"
"Not like Green Lantern, but here." A beam from the cosmic rod fired up into the ceiling, sending hundreds of pounds of rubble cascading down onto the unconscious Onomatopoeia. "That's about for these losers. Let's catch up with the others."
"Not far," said Lightning.
"You think it’s this Sorrow guy?" asked Shift.
"Yeah, I've seen him once, and felt the same way.
"And you think this will work?" asked Obsidian from all around them.
"I think so. If not, we hit him with everything and yell for the others." Lightning felt odd directing the others. In nearly a year in the JSA, she had been little more than a weapon, firing lightning bolts where someone else told her. With this "other" JSA, she was finding a group where she fit in much better. "Get ready."
Obsidian's shadow flowed outward and around the bend in the corridor. It opened into a sparsely-furnished room where a man in a red business suit stood. "Ah, yes, still sulking in shadows, Obsidian? Just you and the little sparkley against me?" He reached up to pull away the mask that covered the gleaming light that occupied the space where his head should have been.
Floating in gaseous form. Shift kept just enough ferrous material in his mass to stay close to Lightning as they moved closer within Obsidian's shadow. Abruptly, Obsidian expanded to include Johnny Sorrow. Shift changed his form, becoming a rigid sphere enclosing Sorrow, Obsidian and Lightning. “Now!” said Obsidian.
There was a loud crackle, and the inside of the sphere was blindingly lit up by Lightning, revealing the opaque reflective surface of the sterling silver sphere Shift had formed. There was an agonizing scream from Johnny Sorrow that broke off as his now-stiffened form dropped down against one side of the sphere.
“Wow. It really worked,” said Shift as the sphere melted away and took human form.
“The last time the JSA fought him, they discovered that seeing his own face turns him to stone. For a while, anyways.” Lightning looked around. “Where’s Obsidian?”
“I’m here.” A gray shadow moved along the floor. “Too much light, too intense. But I’ll recover.”
Shift allowed one hand to extend and flow down to the floor. “Here, can you slide onto this?” he asked. As the pool of darkness flowed onto the disk of metal formed by the shapeshifter, Stargirl came flying up behind them.
“Any luck – oh, yeah, I guess so.”
“Damn them all to hell!” Vandal Savage turned from the monitor displaying a defeated Johnny Sorrow. “I had thought the prospect of facing unfamiliar foes from another world who were acquainted with their own JSA would provide and advantage, but the JSA had their own allies from that same world. Time to exercise the better part of valor.” He walked to a platform in the center of the underground chamber and examined a control panel on a pedestal in the center of the platform. “Good. Their mindless destruction did not seal off the exit shaft. Now I just need to be sure most of the heroes are in no condition to follow, and provide a distraction for those who can.”
A glowing dome formed over the platform as it sunk down below the floor.
“That’s everybody except Savage. Everybody topside! Help Jade’s team out with the troops!” Stargirl burst upward from the underground levels with cosmic rod blazing. A pair of armored soldiers came at her, only to find themselves forced down to the ground and their electronics shorted out. “Perimeter folks, that means you, too!”
“I thought Magog was in charge up top?” questioned Lightning as she, Shift and Obsidian made their way upward.
“Your comm unit was already shorted out. Sounds like he went a little nuts and Jade put him down.” Shift’s oddly morphing face broke into a grin. “Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy, you ask me.”
“Stargirl, I’m getting a major energy surge, about 100 yards south-southeast of your position,” said Ted Knight over the communications circuit. “D.I.N.A.H. can’t identify it, but she read a similar surge when Savage struck down Flash and the others.”
The young heroine looked in the direction indicated and saw the rubble starting to shift. “I see it. Jade! Skyman! Starman! Concentrate fire on the foundation near the-“
There was a blinding burst of light all around the superheroes. Several of them started to fall from the sky, while Jade and Stargirl were held aloft automatically by their powers. Vandal Savage’s flier emerges from the rubble and hovered for a moment as he surveyed the scene. “Perfect! A wide-dispersal optical surge, powerful enough to induce paralysis via the optic nerve. Fare well, Justice Society. I have no doubt that we will meet again.”
“Not so fast, Savage!” The immortal villain turned to see the robotic S.T.R.I.P.E. flying down toward him. “That gizmo doesn’t work through a remote imaging system.”
“No, but this should do just fine!” Savage stabbed down at the control panel, and a pair of missiles launched from the flying platform. They streaked directly at the massive robot, exploding when they got within ten feet of it. “That should keep you occupied.”
The platform streaked upward and toward the east. Behind it, Pat Dugan struggled to regain control of his robotic craft as he tumbled backwards from the dual explosions. “C’mon, S.T.R.I.P.E., give me a position on that creep.” He smacked one of the rack-mounted processing units, and the screen above his head lit up. “There ya go. Let’s see, rockets are on-line. D.I.N.A.H., I’m in pursuit, scramble anybody else you can raise and track my position.” Rockets in the feet of the robot ignited, and Pat felt himself thrown back in the webbing of the compartment in the robot’s chest. He was rapidly catching up with Savage when the radar display showed a second target separating from the first. “Give me an analysis on that, S.T.R.I.P.E.”
As information flowed on to the screen, he heard Ted Knight speak... “Savage just launched a missile. D.I.N.A.H.’s sensors show enough explosives to blow a half-mile crater. It’s headed for Albany. Pat, break off from Savage, you need to-“
“Intercept, yeah. I’m on it.” Dugan’s big hands moved deftly over multiple control panels. “Oh, hell.”
“What is it, Pat?”
“I need help here. I can catch it, but I’ve got nothing to take it out. Those shots from Savage took out the weapons systems. Defensive forcefield is on-line, but only about forty percent power.”
“The only folks awake on the scene can’t move fast enough. I’ve sent out calls on the JSA, Justice League, Titans and all other known groups’ frequencies, but I’m not getting any responses.” Ted paused. “I’ve still got my cosmic rod, I can-“
“Don’t do it, Ted. I’ll handle this.” Pat adjusted his trajectory, aiming for a point slightly below the arc of the missile. “It ain’t like I’ll be the first of the Legionaires to go out this way.”
“Pat, don’t!” It was a new voice on the circuit, but one that was far too familiar.
“Last thing I need now is my own voice trying to talk me out of this, Dugan!” Pat’s left hand reached over to another touch panel. “Incoming file for you, Dugan. You said you wanted to get back in the game, here’s an option for you. And Pat?”
“Yeah?” The other Pat Dugan’s voice was low, resigned as he watched the display on the JSA’s satellite, showing S.T.R.I.P.E.’s path relentlessly closing in on the deadly missile.
“Tell Courtney I love her.”
Amidst the ruins of Savage’s compound, the attacking heroes were crawling to their feet. Stargirl shook her head as found herself hovering a few feet off the ground thanks to the cosmic rod’s safety overrides. She heard the last few seconds of the conversation between the two Pat Dugans, and the meaning of it sunk in. She flung up the arm holding the cosmic rod, flying away from the scene in an eyeblink. “Noo! Pat!” She homed in on his position as relayed by the JSA communicator, streaking through the air at over two hundred miles per hour. Far ahead, she saw a pair of speck in the sky. As she raced towards them, she could see the glow of rockets on each one. She was willing the rod to short forth a burst of cosmic energy when one of the specks surged ahead of the other, followed by a massive fireball. “No! God, no, Pat!”
Stargirl caught up to her stepfather quickly enough to capture all of the wreckage before it fell to the ground below. She dropped to the ground with it, using the rod to force an opening in the mangled robotic shell. Inside, she found her step-father hanging limply in the web harness that normally protected him from the jostling movement of the exosuit. “Pat! Can you hear me? Are you-?”
“Hey, kid,” wheezed the big man, one eye fluttering open. “Not the smartest move, eh?”
“No, not smart, just damned brave.” She reached up to release the harness, but he stopped her.
“Don’t, Court. I’m done, just too dumb for it to sink in yet. When you get home, you tell your Mom-“ Pat Dugan choked, then coughed several times. “You tell her I love her. You take care of her, okay?”
“I will, Pat. Oh, Pat, I’m so sorry for all the-“
“No regrets, kiddo. No regrets.” His eye looked upward. “Whattaya know? Sly, Lee, Wing, it’s been a long time.” Pat’s head slumped down, and he let out his last breath.
An hour later, the combined forces of two Justice Society teams, along with members of another world’s Outsiders and the Skyman of yet another world were once more gathered on the Higher Authority. While one group discussed what to do with the still-unconscious Magog, Courtney Whitmore sat in a smaller meeting room with Jakeem Williams and Maxine Hunkel.
“This isn’t real. This is like the time Degaton killed my family, we’re going to fix the time stream or go back to our own dimension, and Pat’s going to be okay.” Courtney looked up at Maxine, tears running down her cheeks. “Right? That’s how it’s going to work, right?”
“Yeah, maybe, I,I,” Maxine stumbled over her words, speechless for once in her life.
“Look, Court, I already had the T-bolt try, but he can’t bring people back to life,” added Jakeem. “I ain’t had him try to take us home yet, ‘cause Mr. Knight says there’s a whole bunch of people trying to figure out how we got here, and how to fix the trouble it’s all causing.”
There was a knock at the door. Both friends looked to Courtney, who nodded her head, then Jakeem opened the door. He immediately started to close it when he saw who was there, but Courtney spoke up. “It’s okay. I think we need to talk.” She looked at Maxine, then tilted her head toward the door. Maxine and Jakeem stepped out as a somber-faced Pat Dugan stepped in and sat in one of the chairs.
“Look, Stargirl, I, I really don’t know what I can say to help you through this, but I can’t stand seeing you broke up over what’s happened.”
Courtney took a deep breath and blinked back further tears. “First of all, it’s Courtney. You don’t have to be formal with me. And I really appreciate what you’re saying. But seeing you, it-“
“It reminds you of him. I know, and I’ll step out if you want.”
“No. It’s weird, seeing you here, and knowing that my Pat is gone.” Courtney reached for a tissue from a box on the table next to her, blew her nose, wiped her eyes, and tossed the tissue into an overflowing trash can. “Pat, do you have a family?”
“I got a son, Mikey. His mom left us not too long after he was born.”
“What about a girlfriend?”
Pat was silent for a long moment. “That’s were thing start to get really strange. Y’see, for the past year or so, I’ve been seeing this lady, out in L.A. Barbara Whitmore.”
The name hung in the air between them for a moment. “That, that’s my mother’s name,” whispered Courtney.
Pat looked down at his hands, then spoke in a low voice. “She told me, she was pregnant years back, but lost the baby. Said she always wondered what her child might have been like.” Pat looked up at the ceiling. “Guess I could give her a pretty good idea, couldn’t I?” He looked back down at the young woman. “If, for whatever reason, you’re not able to go home, I’d like you to meet her. That is, I’d really like her to meet you, to see what a wonderful person her daughter might have been.”
Courtney blushed. “I, I think I’d like that, Pat.” She shook her head, trying to re-compose herself. “What about you? You said something earlier about getting back into the hero business. Going to bring back the Stripsey name? Especially since Sylvester’s double is here.”
“Nah, everyone who said that was a stupid name, they were right. But, yer Dad sent me something before he, before-“
“Before he died.”
“Yeah. I checked it a little while ago. It’s plans for a new version of S.T.R.I.P.E. Not as bulky, more like a suit than a vehicle. I always did pretty good with a soldering gun and a welding torch. That is, if you don’t mind.”
“I think that was his intention. Would seem criminal not to do it.”
Pat stood up. “You gonna be okay?”
“I think so. Guess I better come out so we can all figure out what happens from here.”
“Yeah, when I came in, Wildcat, Jade, Sylvester and the old timers were discussing what to do with that Magog fellow you brought along.”
Courtney rolled her eyes as she pulled her mask back up into place. “Believe me, they were trying to figure that out back in my universe.”
But, this isn’t the end. Go check out the rest of Dangerous Toys, to see what all is going on in and around the FDC Universe while this story is taking place. Then, keep your eyes open for the launch of Infinity, Inc! Who will be on the team? Where will they be located? Who is calling the shots? Only time will tell, my friends.
For those of you still reading the mainstream DC comics, I should point out that the various heroes were not taken from their home universe at the same point in time. The Outsiders were taken just at the start of Infinite Crisis, just before breaking Jefferson Pierce out of Iron Heights. While the JSA members were taken just after the first story arc of JSA All-Stars.
As always, comments, gripes and accolades are welcome, at FDCwriter@hauntedparsonage.us