#49: What Comes Before And Centre Nov 28, 2015 14:56:04 GMT -5
Post by HoM on Nov 28, 2015 14:56:04 GMT -5
Previously, in JUSTICE LEAGUE...
After attempting to frame the JUSTICE LEAGUE for a vicious attack on their satellite base, STORMWATCH were finally revealed to be a rogue operation and became wanted for their crimes.
After attempting to frame the JUSTICE LEAGUE for a vicious attack on their satellite base, STORMWATCH were finally revealed to be a rogue operation and became wanted for their crimes.
Before the day was through, CHLOE SULLIVAN-- the intelligence operative who provided the League with the vital information they needed to clear their names-- put the final nail in the organisation’s coffin by tracking them down and arresting every last one of them, including HENRY BENDIX!
Meanwhile, JACK MARLOWE and LORD MAJESTOS reveal their shared KHERUBIM history with THE GUARDIAN and the DAEMONITE threat is made clear. MARLOWE has a way of revealing the parasitic DAEMONITES to the world, and now all they need to do is pull the trigger-- but is the world ready for a potential war with a deadly threat from beyond space and time?
With all this in mind, please join us now for the continuing adventures of the JUSTICE LEAGUE--
JUSTICE LEAGUE ROLL-CALL:
|THE ATOM||THE BATMAN||BIG BARDA|
|BLUE BEETLE||CYBORG||DOCTOR LIGHT||THE GUARDIAN|
|HAWKMAN||MAJESTIC||MISTER MIRACLE||WONDER WOMAN|
“How does it feel to be a superhero, Majestic?” said the Guardian, as the red-and-white-clad alien he addressed stood on the edge of Laputa’s harbour, his cape flapping in the wind and his stylised helm under his arm.
“I want to do more,” said Lord Majestros. “And the name given to me, ‘Majestic’, it feels undeserved.”
“You’ve saved lives, you’ve supported the Justice League when we needed it. If you feel like you don’t deserve it, then earn it. But know that to those who know you, who work beside you, they believe in that name.”
Majestros smiled. “Do you all accept the names given to you by those you rescue?”
“You’d be surprised. That’s how Superman got his start,” said the Guardian.
“Hmm,” said Majestic. “What’s the agenda for the day?”
“Well, that’s the question. You’ve repaired the hole in the ozone layer. The irrigation of the Sahara is well underway. You’re changing the world in your downtime, and it makes uptime a thing of the past. Yet you insist on operating outside of the public eye. I know your reasons, but these ‘miracles’ occurring across the world, thanks to you, are going to start drawing attention.”
“As soon as I am spotted by the Daemonites, the game is up,” said Majestic. “Which is a good segue to--”
HALO CORPORATION, LOS ANGELES:
Stepping through the glowing orange portal system that allowed the Justice League to travel instantaneously from one point in the world to another, the Guardian greeted the CEO of HALO Corporation warmly. “Hello, Jack, how goes final preparations?”
Jack Marlowe-- CEO of HALO and an ancient alien cyborg-- looked up from his work station and shook his head sadly. “The disrepair the array fell into after Lord Emp’s death is being rectified, but slowly. A few days now, and then Majestros can trigger the system’s activation and the entirety of the Daemonite race on Earth will be revealed. We will enter a brave new world, free of their influence, or at least, one where they’re not allowed to hide behind their human masks.”
“It cannot come sooner,” said Majestic. “For them to survive and our people to be lost, that is an unacceptable twist of fate I can barely stand.”
“The man’s doing his best,” said the Guardian. “That’s all we can ask.”
Marlowe nodded. “I will inform you when the array is complete. Until then, you must stay out of sight, Majestros. Even though you wear that helmet now, if the Daemonites spot you, they may accelerate their plans--”
“Yeah, he knows,” said the Guardian. “Like you said, call when we can end this. Door.”
The Guardian and Majestic stepped through the dimensional portal and arrived back in Laputa. “You do realise I cannot stop my work, Guardian?”
“Sure,” said Harper. “But like he said, you have to be careful. There’s a secret war being raged, and we don’t know just how outnumbered we really are. When the time is right, when Marlowe finishes his work, we take up arms. But until then… we have to play the long game.”
“Difficult,” said Majestic. “But I shall try my best.”
Issue Twelve: “What Comes Before And Centre”
HoM / FLINCHUM / BOWERS
Kendra rolled off the bed with a loud thud and laughed dirtily as Katar scrambled to his feet in surprise.
“Are you all right?” said Katar. “That noise you made--”
“I think the back of my head just came loose,” said Kendra. “Oh, God. ”
“Oh, I see, sorry,” said Katar. He fell back on the bed and stretched out in the space available, but felt most comfortable when Kendra clambered back in with him, her leg crossing his own, and her body sliding up so he was partially clothed by her.
Kendra wiped the sweat off her brow and took a deep breath, the events of the last three hours or so taking it out of her, even with consideration toward the endurance gifted to her by long term exposure to Nth metal. “You know, you’re really going to have to find an apartment at some point, Katar.”
“I’m fine on Laputa,” said Katar. “It has everything I need.”
“Yeah, but it’s also home to an entire support staff and half a dozen superheroes throughout the year. It’s like you’re sharing it with half the world most of the time,” said Kendra. “There are plenty of places in Platinum Flats you could look at, or we could look at… or if you prefer St Roch… we can negotiate…”
Katar’s eyebrow piqued. “Oh?”
“Yes, ‘oh’,” said Kendra, swatting at the burly Thanagarian’s chest. “We’ve been together for a while now, had our ups and down, but we’re good, I think. Consistently good and or great.” She held her hand out in front of him, palm facing down. “That’s our baseline.”
“You’ve been thinking about this, obviously. Well-practiced hand gestures,” said Katar.
Kendra slapped her open palm down against Katar’s chest and whispered in his ear. “And yes, I’ve been thinking. We can find a place together, if you’d like. You sleep here most nights, and sleeping on Laputa leaves me feeling, I dunno, a bit exposed. You don’t know who’s walking the halls half the time, what with all the work they’re doing.”
“A place of our own,” Katar cranked his head forward and glanced around the wreckage that Kendra’s bedroom had become over the course of the last three hours. “Somewhere bigger.”
“Somewhere ours, yes,” said Kendra. “We can start looking tomorrow--”
Kendra’s phone rang and she searched under the pillow for where it had ended up. The screen showed a photo of Jonni Thunder drinking a margarita whilst wearing a tiny sombrero, and Kendra smiled as she remembered the night out that led to the photo being taken. Jonni had a similar photo of Kendra on her phone. Mutually assured embarrassment.
“Are you really going to take that?” said Katar. He started kissing Kendra’s shoulder as he started to position himself ready to work his way down…
“Hey Jonni, what’s up?” said Kendra, accepting the call.
Katar groaned and stood, working out the aches in his back with a few well-chosen stretches that Kendra watched avidly from her vantage point atop the bed.
“I assume you’re nowhere near a TV ‘cause we’ve got some kind of wind creature tearing up downtown. If you and your feathered friend aren’t too busy, care to drop in and take care of it? The girls are on a camping trip with Zenobia and Dawn, and I’m working surveillance on another job. ”
Katar looked over his shoulder at Kendra as she tucked the phone between head and shoulder and started to grab the scattered pieces of her Hawkgirl costume. “Yeah, we can be there in no time.”
Katar found his mace and smiled. “You’re going to need more than that,” said Kendra, throwing a pair of boxers at his chest.
WAYNE MANOR, GOTHAM CITY:
“Hello, Alfred,” said Diana, as she stood in the doorway of Wayne Manor. “Is Bruce home?”
“Miss Prince, what a pleasant surprise,” said Alfred Pennyworth. “Bruce is tinkering in the laboratory downstairs. Your presence might perhaps rouse him to join us up in the world of the living. I say perhaps--”
“Enough of that, Alfred,” said Bruce as he approached, wiping his hands clean of the accumulated dirt that came with the work he had been doing. “Diana, what a pleasant surprise.”
Alfred was somewhat shocked at Bruce’s appearance outside the Cave below, but gladly took Diana’s coat. She wore a strapless navy dress that cut off at the knee and she looked every bit as beautiful as you’d expect from a figure of myth.
“I haven’t seen you for a while, so I thought I might try my luck with a surprise visit,” said Diana. “I know how busy you are during the night…”
“I’ll prepare a pot of tea,” said Alfred.
“Gotham is having one of its turns,” said Bruce. “The Justice League comes secondary to my city.” He led the way through the winding rooms of the manor until he settled upon the library, where his father used to work while Bruce used to play. He liked it in there. The memories warmed him.
“That’s never in doubt,” said Diana. “And never in question. I understand your commitments.”
Bruce stood behind his father’s desk, his hand resting lightly against the oak of the surface. “Is there something you wanted to discuss?”
“Today is… well…” Diana didn’t look at Bruce, instead she wandered the shelves, gently brushing the tips of her fingers across the well-dusted tomes. “Quite the collection.”
“My father’s,” said Bruce, accepting her started sentence and change of conversational direction. “My mother’s art is kept in a number of the other rooms, but we auctioned a number of the pieces off for her favourite charities.” He rounded the desk and approached Diana. “It’s what she would have wanted.”
“You didn’t feel the need to keep them?” said Diana. “My mother… she… you don’t feel like the mementos connect you to her?”
“I have photos, and my memories,” said Bruce. “I know that I’m not the most… emotionally healthy person… but they sustain me. I like to think I do them proud.”
Diana turned and stood face-to-face with Bruce. “I’m sure you do, Bruce. You’re an amazing man. Even if you insist on keeping your friends at a distance.”
“Old habits,” said Bruce. “I am, of course, trying… and I would hate to think I push you away…”
“You don’t,” said Diana. “I know the truth.”
Diana looked down at Bruce’s lips, the distance between them barely anything. She leaned in and kissed him, and against his better judgement he returned the sentiment, pulling her close as he did so.
The two heroes parted and Diana smiled, tapping a finger against her lip as she headed toward the door.
“The truth, yes,” said Diana. “Definitely…”
“Something on your mind, Diana?” said Bruce. “Not that I’m complaining--”
“Life’s too short,” said Diana. “What are your plans for the evening?”
Bruce considered the question carefully before responding. “Patrol.”
“I might see you later then,” said Diana, leaving the room.
Bruce could hear her apologies to Alfred as she passed him in the hallway, and then his trusted manservant entered the room, holding a tray. “I would hate to think this is going to waste, Master Bruce?”
“Pour yourself a cup, Alfred,” said Bruce. He took a seat at the window that overlooked the manor’s ground. “What a strange day…”
“Well, let’s see what we’ve got,” said Scott Free. The world famous escape artist reviewed the active roster list, perusing the files to see who they could rely on should a crisis occur.
“Mera is in Poseidonis, royal matters requiring her undivided attention. That said, I don’t think the last mission agreed with her,” said Scott.
“She removed Henry Bendix’s arms with a sword made of water,” said Barda. “I miss her already.”
“Funny, my love,” said Scott. “And, let’s see-- Zatanna Zatara. Currently touring the country and unavailable for Justice League duty. I think she’s fine with that, though.”
“I have our tickets for the Metropolis show back home,” said Barda.
“Who else is available?” said Scott Free. “Obviously, James makes the call, but I’d be interested to know--” Barda plucked Scott out of his chair and threw him over her shoulder. “--I’m boring you?”
“It’s been nearly two months since Stormwatch dragged the Justice League’s names through the dirt, it’s been that long since there’s been a crisis requiring our attention. No Dark God spreading his influence across the world, no Kobra, no Stormwatch. Peace in our time, though I could scarcely believe it. Why are you wasting your time reviewing files? There are so many more enjoyable things we could be doing.”
Scott scratched his temple. “When you put it like that…”
“Holy crap,” said Kendra. Downtown was in chaos, but thankfully no one had been hurt. Debris spread from the bottom of the tornado that was currently running rampant across the streets, all the way out toward the city limits, where it had sprang from.
“There’s someone in the epicentre,” said Katar, squinting. “Jonni was right. It’s some kind of wind creature.”
“She’s rarely wrong, that one,” said Kendra. “What’s the play, Justice League boy?”
Katar ignored the dig. “We’re not going to smash this one over the head. If we get too close then we’re going to get sucked in and suffocate. So we need to do to it-- ”
“--What it would do to us,” finished Kendra. “Can you see the direction its spinning?”
“Clockwise,” said Katar. “You got it in you? Not too tired?”
“Don’t flatter yourself,” said Kendra. “I mean, do, because I’m not finished with you tonight. But yeah, I’ve got another spin left in me.”
“You’re a poet,” said Katar, as he flapped his wings and shot toward the sentient tornado, Kendra close behind.
The two Hawks went as fast as they could, flapping their wings as they went. They had to match the wind speed of the tornado or soon enough they’d be sucked into it and lose whatever oxygen was left in their lungs. Katar believed they could do it, and Kendra trusted him. The Nth metal was a limitless fuel source in a way, and if they willed it, they could achieve it, all they had to do was survive the experience. Unwind a tornado.
So, a Wednesday? thought Katar.
The tornado began to dissipate as soon as they hit 150mph, slowly unravelling as the thing inside it continued to trudge down the street. When the winds were clear, the shape became clear too, and the two Hawks were shocked to see the cause behind this chaos. A small child. The winds dissipated completely, leaving the girl alone, dressed in her pyjamas, looking completely harmless.
“What in Seven Hells..?” murmured Hawkman.
“Hey kid, are you okay?” asked Hawkgirl.
The girl, no older than eight, blinked and wiped her eyes sleepily. “I was dreaming.”
“Yeah?” said Kendra, kneeling beside her. “What about?”
“The whirly things,” said the girl. “They come every year. Scary and loud.”
“That was just a bad dream, child,” said Hawkman. “You’re awake now. Nothing’s going to hurt you.” He rummaged through his utility belt and found a small bracelet-like device. “Would you like a present?”
“Sure,” said the girl. “What is it?”
“A super-secret Justice League signal bracelet, for all our friends,” said Hawkman. He modified the size and shape of it so it was thin, silver, and would fit around her wrist. When it attached to her, there was a momentary hissing sound, and then silence. He leaned over to Kendra and whispered in her ear. “It’s a power neutraliser, courtesy of Niles Caulder. I learn from my mistakes*.”
*Hawkman is referring to the tragic events of Justice League V2 #2
Nodding in understanding, Kendra beamed and looked at the girl. “So hey, pretty girl, what’s your name?”
“Sarah,” she replied. “The doctor said I shouldn’t be afraid of the whirly things, but I still see them when I close my eyes.”
“The doctor?” said Hawkman.
“Yup. He said I could be like Wonder Woman,” said the girl. “He promised me all the adventures.”
Hawkman grimaced. “That’s… nice.”
The girl smiled. “Yeah. He was kind. Where am I?”
“Platinum Flats,” said Kendra. “Do your mommy and daddy live around here?”
The girl shook her head, confused. “I live in Blue Valley.”
“Why do I… oh! That’s smack dab in tornado valley!” said Hawkgirl.
“Shall we see what we can do about getting you home?” said Hawkman. He held out his hand and the small girl took it. “I’m sure your mom and dad miss you.”
From across the street, a small man smiled as he watched the events unfold. Even if the two Hawks looked at him they wouldn’t have acknowledged him, their perceptions twisted by the man’s abilities. One of his students had passed the first test. So what about the second?
“It’s crazy, absolutely crazy, how quiet the world has been,” said Angela Spica, the Guardian’s senior support scientist and renowned engineer. She was on the top deck of the main control building, chair out, basking in the sun’s rays. “I mean, no last minute rush to get some project finished. Laputa’s renovations are coming along nicely. I’m almost worried to say something, you know?”
Standing across from Angela was Cyborg, looking out across the ocean. “You’re not wrong. Even the Titans haven’t really got together much, other than to shoot the breeze and hang out. Pizza night is somehow lacking when it’s not following a big fight.”
“Yeah? I forget that the Titans started off as, like, what, a sleepover club? All the young sidekicks getting together and hanging out, fighting villains on the side?”
Cyborg smiled. “Aqualad, Kid Flash, Robin, Speedy and Wonder Girl. Bunch of lanky kids fighting the good fight. I came later, when they were older. Still, good times had by all.”
“Do you think there’s a difference? Between being in the Titans and the League?”
Cyborg considered the question and then turned, headed to the seat he had laid out for himself earlier. He sat down next to Angela, who lay on her stomach, her legs crossed at her knee.
“The stakes, maybe? Titans face some nasty stuff, for sure, but the League, they’re fighting… universes. Titans have battles, League have crises. I’m just a Detroit kid with a robot body who can do some stuff that only I can do, and right now I’m happy. Besides,” he stroked Angela’s arm, “I wouldn’t have met you if I didn’t accept a place on the team.”
“Well, count yourself lucky,” said Angie. “I’m a sucker for a tin man with a heart of gold.”
Batman loomed over the streets, a dark shadow lurking where evil dared manifest. He knew there were countless active threats in the city at the moment. The Joker, Ra’s Al Ghul, Two-Face. All loose. All ready to spread their own brand of madness and villainy across not only Gotham City, but the world. The others were locked away in New Arkham*, where they posed no further threat to the citizens of Gotham City.
*Back in Detective Comics #39, when acting as CEO of Wayne Enterprises, Dick Grayson had Arkham Asylum rebuilt as the ultra secure New Arkham
Commissioner Gordon sent word via the red phone to Batman informing him of the kidnapping of a mother and daughter, whilst the father and son were simply tied up in the house. The culprits ripped one side of the house to bits with hammers and axes, whilst leaving the other half perfectly intact. The facts were all there and it screamed an answer the Dark Knight didn’t want to hear.
Two-Face was back in town, and who knew what game he wanted to play tonight.
Johnny Ying Yang was currently suspended by the foot over the abyss provided by the two tallest buildings in Gotham. Ying Yang was a favourite of Two-Face’s since the early days. A stupid name. A stupid gimmick. A stupid full face tattoo. Such an odd way to separate yourself from the rest of the world, but Gotham City did things like that to people. Made them think that they were bigger than society. Batman was an example of that, someone who used the charge Gotham City placed inside its citizens for good. Johnny?
Johnny had wet himself five minutes ago.
“Where. Is. Two-Face? ” growled Batman.
“I-- I-- I-- I-- “
Not fast enough for Batman. He released Johnny, let him fall and fall and fall, and then the zip line attached to his foot retracted, dragging him all the way back to the top of the roof.
“Try again. ”
“He-- he-- wants you to know-- where-- he’s-- he’s-- in Warehouse 42-- the docks-- “
Facts flashed through Batman’s mind: 42. Binary number. 1010102. Typical.
Batman let Johnny fall, screaming, until he came to a stop an inch above concrete. Johnny stared at the ground, before the zip line was released and he crumpled up into a gibbering heap, ready for the GCPD to find him.
Batman was already on the move. The Warehouse district was across the city, and with one remote call to the Batwing, he was airborne, and a few minutes later, he descended, landing silently on the roof.
After scouting the location, he found the only entrance available to him-- an access duct on the north wall. He entered slowly, only for the floor to fall away and for him to slip down a tunnel…
Jean Loring Palmer, wife of the Atom and successful lawyer in her own right, wandered through the halls of the Justice League’s headquarters until she found the main laboratory. She was dressed for a night out, which was where she’d have actually been at the moment if her husband had returned her call to confirm their plans for the evening…
When she entered the laboratory, Jean saw what had kept her husband incommunicado.
Currently crawling across a large device of unknown purpose were Ray Palmer and Ted Kord, working away on whatever it was they worked away on. Monitoring their work from the bank of consoles and monitors beside them was Kimiyo Hoshi.
The woman otherwise known as Doctor Light caught sight of Jean first. “Hello, Jean. What brings you here today-- tonight--?” Hoshi looked at her watch. “Oh. Ray?”
Ray looked down from where he was working and smiled broadly, then the smile faded as he realised what had happened. “I forgot something important, didn’t I?
Not looking up from the open compartment of the device he was neck deep inside, Ted Kord spoke up. “Was that a rhetorical question, Ray?”
“What do you think?” said Jean, checking her watch
“I’m so sorry, my love,” said Ray. “We’ve been working all week on this, I thought we’d be done by now and time just got away from me!” He hopped down and landed near his wife, who shook her head. “Oh, honey--”
Jean’s expression shifted into a smile. “The table is booked for an hour from now. I dropped your suit off in your room before I found you. Go get washed up and we’ll make it with time to spare. I know you’re busy, but you have to get out of the lab sometime! I thought going on sabbatical would mean we saw more of each other!” She chuckled and kissed him on the cheek. “Don’t worry. I knew what I was marrying in to.”
“You’re far too forgiving,” said Ray. “I won’t be long.”
Jean shook her head as Ray hurried out, then turned to look at Kimiyo. “You should really get some air in here. I can smell the brain cells sparking.”
“Then we’re doing something right,” said Ted. “But yeah, Kim, what do you say? Wanna’ head out and grab a bite? I know a great place in Opal City for Thai.”
“Yes? And I know a great place in Bangkok for Thai,” said Kimiyo. “You’re paying.”
“It’s on,” said Ted. “Jean, thanks for the reprieve. This project is making my head hurt, but nothing a breather won’t rectify.”
“Yeah, yeah,” said Jean. “Have fun, kids.”
Batman slid down the tunnel, unable to get a grip on the lubricated interior as he plummeted to who knew where. He pulled a small device from his belt and triggered two long poles to shoot out of either end, and then he was wedged, stuck in place.
“BATMAN, THAT’S NOT HOW WE’RE GOING TO PLAY IT TODAY. YOU NEED TO COME ON DOWN AND SAY HELLO.”
Over the loudspeaker, Two-Face’s voice was broken glass cast across the gutter, and as Batman hung motionless inside the tunnel, machines began to blare on either side of him. Spikes began to move toward him, and if he stayed in place for much longer, they would pierce his flesh and kill him slowly.
“WHAT’S IT GOING TO BE? YOUR OLD FRIEND OR YOUR OLD FRIEND?”
Batman released his grip on the rod and continued his descent, narrowly missing the spikes as they slammed into each other just when he landed in a transparent plastic chamber at the very bottom of the drop.
There were two buttons mounted on a panel in front of him, and two hundred metres away, sat in two separate cages, were Lori Mitchum and her daughter Claire. Before Batman could act, a minor explosion rocked him and his suit’s electronics sparked. Some sort of EMP? Everything went dark for a split second before he blinked life back into his eyes. He was cut off from the world. Locked beneath the earth with a monster.
Speaking of whom, Two-Face reclined in a seat between the Mitchums, practicing his coin flips.
“Hello, Batman,” said Two-Face.
“Harvey, let the Mitchums go,” said Batman. “This doesn’t involve them.”
“Of course it doesn’t, Batman. It never does. They’re collateral damage. They’re caught in the crossfire. Their being here was decided by the toss of a coin. Mother or father? Son or daughter? Chance leads us to the strangest, saddest places.”
The panel in front of Batman held two buttons, one that led to the mother’s cage, the other to the daughters. He could see panels underneath their cages, hinges. Under the cages there were vats of chemicals, heavy fumes rising up around the plastic prisons.
“What’s it going to be, Batman? Mother or child?”
“No, not my name, try again,” hissed Two-Face.
“You don’t have to do this,” said Batman. “I can get you the help you need. You know this.”
Two-Face shook his head. “Of course I have to do this. Batman, I know you better than you think. You carry your scars in your chest, keeping them out of sight so the world doesn’t spurn you. I wear them across my face, and they make me pure. If you just fail, one glorious time, then not only will the damage bubble up for the whole world to see, but you’ll also know that Gotham City will never ever change, no matter how hard you try.”
“I refuse to believe that,” said Batman.
“Believe, disbelieve, two choices, completely binary,” said Two-Face. “I’m one, you’re the other. I’m not claiming to be your dark reflection like the Joker does on his worst days. I’m saying that I’m the ‘you’ that was freed from the constraints society places upon good men. One bad day. One moment of horror transforming my life into one of freedom. Make a choice.”
Batman reached for his utility belt and Harvey bolted out of his chair. “Nuh-uh, Batman. That little shocker you felt a minute ago was an EMP designed to take your toys out the equation. You even try and have a play and I release both the panels under the cages and both mummy and daughter take a chemical bath. Skin peel like my very own,” he ran his hand over his scarred face, “they might even survive. I hope not. This hurts like all hell.”
Before any more words could be exchanged or choices could be made, the wall behind Two-Face exploded. His men were scattered, knocked out by super-strength punches thrown at super-speed. Within a moment, the Mitchums were torn free of their cells, and immediately removed from the scene, and before Two-Face could act, he was lifted up by the throat by a bare hand.
“It’s over,” said Wonder Woman. She squeezed Two-Face’s throat and he gagged, lashing out against his attacker. He held up his pistol and fired point blank at the hero, but she deflected the bullet so that it shattered a portion of Batman’s cage. “You-- monster-- “
Two-Face’s eyes rolled up and Batman smashed through the wall of his cage, landing nearby. He could see the look in Diana’s eyes, something he hadn’t seen in her before. There was a bloodlust there, a wanting to inflict more harm on this damaged man.
“Wonder Woman, you have him, it’s over,” said Batman.
“This demon would murder a mother. A daughter,” said Wonder Woman. “They always do. They tear families apart. I’m sick of it. ”
Without another word, Wonder Woman released Two-Face and he fell to the floor, unconscious, drooling out of his scarred side as he landed with a thud. She looked at her hands, and then over at the Caped Crusader. She shot up to the roof of the warehouse, where the Dark Knight followed once he was sure the criminals they’d apprehended were properly restrained.
“I’m sorry, Batman,” said Wonder Woman. “It’s been a strange day.”
“Why?” said Batman. “What happened? Can I help?”
Wonder Woman looked up at the reddened night sky, the pollution streaked horizon so very unlike the worlds she was used to. Her eyes swam with tears that wouldn’t come. “Today is the anniversary of my mother’s death. I was powerless to stop it, and it haunts me every single day*.”
*Hippolyta died in Wonder Woman #2
“Diana--” started Batman. “I didn’t--”
“It’s been a few years, and it just feels… so fresh. Still. I don’t know what I was expecting. We see so much death in our line of work. The loss of friends,” she glanced down at Harvey Dent, “to life, to death, to the way that people simply transform as they grow older. We lose so much. And I just thought… I don’t want to ever live my life thinking… what if I missed out on an opportunity? To be happy. To make someone else happy through my happiness.”
Wonder Woman couldn’t help but laugh. “And to come here, with that in mind… I must be going mad. But…” She turned and approached Batman. She reached up to his mask, went to move her fingers beneath his cowl, but he stopped her, gripping her wrists in his hands. “You’re… one of my oldest friends in this world and I am so proud to know you. To see the man you were, and the man you are now. The things you do, that you continue to do, in the face of such constant odds, chaos and strife, they make you a man I--”
Batman pulled Diana close and kissed her, his hands gripping her sides as she moved in close in response. Down below, police sirens blared, and in the distance a police helicopter began to become audible. The two heroes parted, and Bruce pulled his mask back on. “Diana, I don’t know what to say, but--”
Wonder Woman put her finger against his lips and he stopped talking. “To be continued.”
NEXT ISSUE: Fifty issues of the Justice League celebrated in style as we return to our original numbering! When the tyrannical time travelling trickster TEMPUS begins his deadly endgame against the original JUSTICE LEAGUE, one team of the world's greatest heroes won't be enough-- this sounds like a job for the Justice Leagues…!
Meanwhile, The World Keeps Turning; Part 4
An Outsiders Adventure
At the bottom of a pit, where monsters used to fester, a group of heroes-- and they were heroes, no matter the labels the media gave them, no matter what terrible act led to the implosion and scattering of their members-- assembled at the behest of the woman who once led them.
The Outsiders were back in the game.
“Okay, so it’s been a while,” said Black Canary. “But we’re here, and we’re ready. What’s this thing you want us to do, Batwoman? What’s the play?”
“Bats wants us to play Challengers of the Unknown,” said Plastic Man, his body shifting into an approximation of one of the members of the titular science adventure team, hands clenched into fists and planted firmly onto hips. “Journey into mystery, knock on death’s door, do what we need to do and come out on the other side smelling like roses!”
Batwoman simply smiled. “Something like that.”
The Outsiders stood in front of the portal as the Red Tornado leaned through it, his computer brain best equipped to analyse the environment they were about to walk in. He leaned back, looked over to Batwoman and nodded. “It’s safe. No life signs within a hundred metre radius.”
“Not so mysterious,” said Black Canary, casting an eye at her ex-boyfriend, Plastic Man, as he reverted back to his usual form. “How’s tricks, Plas?”
“Boring,” said Plastic Man. “But I’m sure Bats is about to shake all that up, amiright?”
Huntress laughed and shook her head. “Not to be the pessimist, but to go back a step-- we’re about to go into the great unknown… because whatever’s beyond the range of Reddy’s scans is going to be waiting for us with open mouths, right? I’m all for levity, but like Canary said, what’s the play?”
Grace Choi stood next to her girlfriend, Manhunter, as the latter flexed her fingers around the staff she used to blast opponents with an electrical charge. They’d not been in their costumes for a while, not since the Outsiders and Las Vegas went through hell over a year ago. “You good?” asked Grace.
“My costume doesn’t fit anymore,” said Manhunter. Kate Spencer had moved to Gotham City with her son, and Grace had accepted the invitation to come with her. She’d been so focused on her new role as Assistant District Attorney-- a thankless task in Gotham-- that she had been concerned her relationship with Grace would flag, but Grace had always been there, no matter what, and it had been a relief.
“I told you that job was making you waste away,” said Grace, squeezing her girlfriend’s shoulder.
“Ah, what do you expect,” said Manhunter. “Gotham City and all.”
Batwoman cleared her throat, not out of nervousness, but due to the fact she hadn’t seen her friends for so long and yet when she called they came. She didn’t know what she was expecting, but the end result put a lump squarely in her throat.
“We go through that portal and we find out what’s on the other side. If there’s something bad… well, we deal with it.”
“Like we used to,” said Huntress.
“Like we used to,” repeated Batwoman with a smile. “So, Reddy, if you’ll do the honours?”
“It would be my pleasure,” said Red Tornado. “Like the good old days.”
The android stepped through the portal, followed by Grace. It was their standard procedure-- send the indestructible ones through first. Ten seconds later, Grace’s hand appeared-- a thumbs up-- and the others followed them through.
The team materialised inside what should have been an open air soccer stadium, the massive extending roof sealed shut and the air below hanging with a solid chill. “Where the hell are we?” asked Huntress. “…Excuse my language.”
“The air is stale,” said Tornado. “Uncirculated. There’s a pressure down here too. I think we are underground.”
“Underground? That’s crazy,” said Grace. “And what’s that say?” She pointed at the stands, where slogans were written in a vaguely Eastern European language.
Red Tornado’s eyes flashed as he scanned through his database. “It’s an East Slavic language, similar to Russian. Naliivan, the predominant dialect spoken in Naliiva.”
“I know that name,” said Black Canary. “The dictator who ruled the place with an iron fist-- Marshall Kafka-- went crazy, launched some kind of biochemical attack on his own people-- millions died. Afterwards it got sealed off by some secret society who established it as a safe haven for the super bad. They called it a ghost city. Couldn’t get in unless you were a ghost too.”
Batwoman wandered over to one of the tunnels nearby and checked out the graffiti across the walls. “Naliiva is where Kobra was taken down by the Justice League*. I think we just found a backdoor.”
*Back in Justice League V2 #7
“Weird,” said Manhunter. “This place is haunted by what happened. You can feel it.”
“All those people who died,” said Huntress. “I remember reading about it-- tens of millions, right?”
“And then super villains used this place to lay low when the heat was on,” said Batwoman. “But why is there a--”
Red Tornado held his hand up suddenly as he stared off into the distance. “There’s something here.”
“Something else other than this really creepy stadium that’s underground?” asked Grace.
“Dimensional shift,” said Red Tornado. He took ten steps forward and vanished from sight, then stepped backwards, a distortion of space rippling out as he disappeared and reappeared. “There are portals all over this place.” He gestured across the field. “Goal line, penalty line, half line, centre circle. Each is a different frequency of dimensional shift. Same on the other side.”
“Stay close,” said Batwoman, instinctively.
“Don’t have to tell us twice,” said Black Canary.
The team drew closer together, while Batwoman approached Red Tornado as he scanned the area.
“They’re not DNA locked, like the one in the Arctic,” asked Batwoman. “They must think that if you make it this far, you’re one of theirs.”
“So what do we do? We’re under a city where millions died, portals everywhere, a safe haven for the nasty, and we’re hunting a mystery,” said Manhunter. “Lots of potential booby traps and not much to go on.”
Black Canary squinted and could see the ripples in the air where Tornado had stepped through the portal. “Have any of those other portals been used recently?”
“How can we tell?” asked Grace. “Oh, you using your ninja skills and seeing something we can’t?”
“The ripple is hanging in the air, but I can’t see it in any of the others,” said Black Canary. “But maybe Reddy can?”
“Goal line,” said Tornado, pointing on the far end of the pitch. “The ripple is barely visible on even my sensors, but visible none the less.”
“Down the rabbit hole,” said Black Canary. “Bats, what do you think?”
“We’ve come this far,” said Batwoman. “What if this place is some network for the super bads, like you said, and we just missed one? I’m not going to let that stand.” She gestured toward Reddy. “Shall we?”
The Outsiders followed Red Tornado as he led them down a safe path down the soccer field and once they reached the active portal, Batwoman sent one of her sensor spheres through. When the results came back safe, Red Tornado leaned his head through to follow up.
“Everything looks fine. It’s dark,” said Red Tornado. “I’ll go through.”
“We’ll go through,” said Grace, patting him on the shoulder. The duo stepped through the portal and the air rippled in the stadium, and five seconds later… no wave came from Grave.
“Huh, that’s weird,” said Huntress.
“Weird? Something’s wrong,” said Manhunter, after ten seconds. “They should have--”
“Let’s go,” said Black Canary. Batwoman agreed and the team stepped through into the unknown.
Red Tornado was in pieces at their feet. Grace Choi was laying on the floor next to his head and torso. Standing in the middle of the room, surrounded by the debris, was a man in a stone mask, his emerald cape covered in blood, his armour covered in scratches and gouges.
“Hello, heroes. You shouldn’t have come here tonight,” said Lord Naga, the leader of the Kobra cult, the man everyone thought was incarcerated for life at the Slab before this moment. “But now that you’re here, shall we talk?” He cracked his knuckles. “Or are we going to do the usual dance?”
TO BE CONTINUED...
NEXT TIME: The OUTSIDERS face off against the threat of LORD NAGA, the man they thought defeated all those months ago by the JUSTICE LEAGUE. How did he escape custody? Why were there two of them when the dust cleared? Who is this mysterious third man? And is he the monster who threatened the world in the past? The OUTSIDERS return in 2016, so don't miss out!
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