by Vendikarr DeWuff
Jared Stevens hung up the phone, then pressed his index finger to his left temple. Alexander Lane had insisted on implanting a communication device on Jared for emergency communication. He doubted it would work, since as the mighty Scarab he was nearly invulnerable, but it slipped in under the skin easily. Times like these, he was grateful to have the implant.
“Monitor, it’s Scarab. (*) Emergency,” he said. Moments later, he heard the sound of the Monitor’s voice in his inner ear, and Jared continued.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Showcase: The Book of the Scarab.]
“I just got a call from Carter Hall’s dig foreman, Musaf. He was attacked bringing supplies back to Carter’s dig in Tunisia.” He paused, then said, “Yes, it is our business. Carter was on a dig to find the lost temple of Tanit, the chief Carthaginian goddess. Ring any bells?”
He waited while Monitor checked something, then replied, “Yes, the Blade of Tanit is one of those legendary artifacts that someone like Marsh may be after. Is it on your list?”
Alexander went to consult his computer, loaded with data the Monitor had accumulated from billions of parallel universes and alternate timelines of those universes across the multiverse, while there still was a multiverse. Seeing as mystical artifacts seemed to exist on multiple worlds, it was a handy thing to have.
“It is? How bad?” He paused to listen. “That bad…? OK, I need a pickup here at my home and–”
Before Jared could even finish the sentence, his doorway shimmered into a black pool, and out stepped Alexander Lane, successor to the Monitor.
“Let’s go, Jared,” said Alex. “No time to waste.”
“OK, let me get my coat. Hope this one isn’t as bad as the last case. Battling centuries-old vampires was not in the job description.”
“And who gave you a job description? End evil is what your beetle told you. Sounds like vamps apply.”
“Remind me never to tell you anything again. OK, let’s hit the road.”
The doorway shimmered black once again, and the two men stepped through, hoping they were in time to help the legendary Hawkman.
“Come out, Mrs. Hall,” called the man outside. “Your husband’s in our hands now. Just come out so we can get the artifact.”
Shiera Hall paced inside the ancient temple. When the gunfire had started, she and Carter were deep in the temple, finishing the break-in to the main chamber. When none of the diggers made it back to assist them, they moved forward to find out what happened.
They had heard the gunfire and saw that the handlers were being imprisoned in the corral built for the camels. Dirty animals; she had never liked them in any of her lives.
Carter thought it was just a band of raiders and flew out to stop them. Having those damn natural wings of his had made him a little too cocky lately. (*) He told her to guard the artifacts and said that he would be right back.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Justice Society of America: Ragnarok Aftermath, Chapter 1: Taking Flight.]
She had seen bursts of energy while Carter flew out, but now she knew that he was in their hands. Shiera knew her husband would find a way out of any trap he was in; it was what he did. She decided to move back into the temple and see what she had to arm herself with.
In the main chamber was the altar and racks of spears on the walls. The funny thing was that the blade wasn’t even here. She and Carter had expected to find it on or near the altar, but nothing.
“Shiera,” she heard, and she turned toward the doorway. She hadn’t expected to hear that voice, but there he was: Jared Stevens.
“Jared! I’m so glad to see you.” Then she noticed a second figure stepping through the doorway. “Alexander Luthor? We thought you were dead!”
“No, not dead, just laying low, Mrs. Hall. I have taken the place of the Monitor, and I watch this world. And to answer your next question before you ask, Jared and I have been working to collect artifacts of power, to keep them out of the undeserving hands.”
“Well, Alexander, sorry to disappoint you, but the Blade of Tanit isn’t here. It may only be a legend.”
“Not exactly, Shiera,” said Jared as he walked toward a rack of spears. “One of my abilities is that I can sense magic. And right over here…” He pulled one off the rack. “…is your Blade of Tanit. They must have mounted it into a spear to keep the Romans from getting their hands on it during the Second Punic War.”
He tossed the spear to Shiera, who took firm grasp of it. “Great. Now let’s go get Carter.”
“Where is Carter? Musaf called me and told me about being attacked while bringing supplies.”
“We have been sieged here for a day or two. Carter went to rout who he thought were bandits or raiders. But it appears to be a bit more than that. There is someone out there with an energy weapon. It’s likely there’s an army out there.”
“Shiera, stay here with the spear. Alexander and I will figure out a way to free Carter and your diggers,” Jared said, then began to formulate a plan.
“Alex, I’m going to fly out and see about Carter; you drop in on the camel pens and get the workers free,” said Jared Stevens while walking up the stairs. “Take them to Tunis. That should be safe enough.”
“I can handle that. Plus, it should cause a diversion. You might just be able to get Hawkman free,” replied Alexander Lane, the Monitor.
Jared nodded as he lifted into the air. Alex formed a black portal in the doorway and stepped through. He appeared seconds later at the rope markings that made up the corral. He shouted and waved to the workers to follow him. Many seemed hesitant but walked through the doorway to freedom. Alex then looked up and saw Jared streaking high into the sky. Alex smiled, then saw Jared hit by a multicolored energy blast.
Curious, Alexander tapped a command into his wrist link to the Monitor computer system and then focused the device at the energy blast. The advanced sensing device began analyzing the blast and comparing it against the various energy modes found in the Monitor’s database.
Alexander stood there lost in his readings when he was shaken back to the real world by a shout and a round of gunfire. Alexander created a new portal and returned to the main chamber where Shiera Hall was waiting.
Scarab ached from the blast that knocked him from his flight, but he managed to keep from slamming into the ground. He silently cursed the beetle embedded in his chest for only giving him a partial invulnerability. He sure could use Superman-level invulnerability, he figured. But then he had an edge even on the Man of Steel. He was invulnerable to magic.
And since he had been affected by the blast, Jared knew it wasn’t magical. He flew closer to the man who had blasted him and saw that he wasn’t carrying any weapon. Jared moved closer to check on Carter. He saw that Hawkman was imprisoned in a steel mesh net. It explained why Carter hadn’t rescued himself. Carter wasn’t going to be cutting himself out of the net anytime soon.
The regular troops then got into the act and began firing bullets at Jared. This he could handle. They bounced against his skin like mosquito bites — irritating but not deadly. Jared decided on the direct approach. He flew at the strangely garbed man who appeared to be the leader and knocked him to the ground. He then grabbed the netting holding Carter and flew back toward the temple opening. He tore the steel netting apart as he flew, allowing Hawkman to fly free. But suddenly Jared was dropped by another energy blast in the back.
“Scarab, it’s so good to meet you,” said the leader of the mercenaries. “Mr. Marsh was hoping you would be here. You’ve ruined his expeditions in the past, and he wanted to put an end to it.”
“Oh, and who are you? Just want to make sure I know who I’m gonna beat. My friend keeps a list of these things, and I want to get the name right,” Jared said with a smug attitude.
The smile on the leader’s face dropped, and a flash of anger covered his face. But as quickly as it appeared, it was again replaced by a confident smile. “Name is Neonic. Power is blasting you with neonic energy. Can also fly and have super-strength, but why show off like some people?” replied Neonic.
Scarab walked closer, saying, “So you can dish it out, but can’t take it?” Jared then hit Neonic, sending him several feet back.
“Rush the temple, men; get me that knife. I’ll take care of the tough guy here,” said Neonic as he rose to his feet.
“I don’t think so,” said a voice behind Neonic as he saw the shadow of a winged man cast over him. He turned just as he was smashed by Hawkman’s fist. “Let’s get back to Shiera,” called Hawkman as the two men flew toward the temple, trying to outrace the advancing mercenaries.
“Mrs. Hall, we really should leave.”
“I am not leaving without Carter. I have never deserted him in my life, and I am not about to start now,” replied Shiera Hall as she took a position behind the sacrificial altar. “So you just grab a weapon and get ready to defend this temple.”
“Mrs. Hall…” started Alexander.
Shiera cut him off. “Please, call me Shiera. And now get down; the first of them are in the temple.”
The two heroes took a position behind the altar as three mercenaries entered the room with guns drawn. Shiera took the ancient shield she found on one of the walls and threw it at the advancing men. She connected with one, who then fell into a second, knocking both of them into the wall. The third took aim with his pistol as Shiera lunged over the altar, and she struck him with the base of the spear that contained the Blade of Tanit. As the man staggered, she swung backward, the blade accidentally breaking the man’s skin.
Shiera felt a shudder throughout her body, and in her head she heard, “Blood?” She shook her head and again struck the man with the blunt end of the spear. Again in her head she heard, “More blood.”
“What?” she said aloud before she realized she didn’t hear anything. The man she fought went down, and she stared down at him, spear at the ready.
“Mrs. Hall — Shiera — more are coming. Back behind the altar,” Alexander said, tugging on her arm. She took the spear back away from the fallen man and followed Alexander behind the altar. Two others entered the room, and Shiera rose to the attack.
“Shiera,” said her soulmate, and Shiera moved forward to hug her husband.
“Getting too old for this, aren’t you, Carter? You usually don’t need rescuing,” she said teasingly.
“Well, I rescued Jared, too, so it evens out.”
Then from the doorway, another voice was heard. “Very touching reunion, but I do have my work to do. Please turn over the blade and Scarab, and I can let the rest of you walk out of here,” said the mercenary called Neonic.
“I’m sorry, but I cannot leave either behind,” replied the man in gold calling himself Monitor.
“Oh? And how are you going to avoid it?” asked Neonic.
“Like this,” said Alexander as he created a portal against the far wall of the temple. As the portal began to take form, Alexander was hit by a blast of Neonic energy and collapsed. The portal began to shimmer strangely but went unnoticed by the others in the room.
“Carter, Shiera, follow me,” called Jared as he grabbed his friend and went through the portal. Shiera and Carter moved quickly into the shimmering doorway and, as they passed through the doorway, collapsed.
More of Neonic’s men entered the chamber, and he called to them, “I want everything taken out of here. They may have left the blade behind.” But to himself he thought that wasn’t very likely. Scaring archaeologists was one thing, but he needed more practice before he took on heroes again.
Several hours later, one of the soldiers reported to Neonic that all the artifacts had been removed from the temple, and no blade had been found.
“Fine. Get me Mr. Marsh on the radio. He’s definitely not going to be happy about this.”
Jared exited the portal, expecting to find himself at home or in Tunis. Instead he crashed headfirst into a tree. Not exactly hurt by the impact, he was knocked backward and crashed to the ground, the body of his unconscious friend toppling on him.
Then two additional bodies landed on him, as Carter and Shiera Hall exited the portal and tripped over him. Not being able to do anything else, they began laughing, then untangled themselves. Carter leaned over and checked the sleeping Alexander Luthor.
“He’ll be fine. Vitals are normal. I don’t think Neonic let loose with a full-powered blast.”
“I think you’re right,” replied Jared, holding his head. “He didn’t seem the killer type. He’s just a hired gun, so to speak.”
“Where are we?” asked Shiera. “This looks like the Amazon Jungle in Brazil… but it feels wrong.”
“You’re right, hon. The sound of the jungle sounds wrong. Jared, what do you think?” He looked over at Jared, seeing him slumped against a tree. “Jared, you OK?”
“I feel like I have a hangover. My sensitivity to magic is working overtime. This place is thick in magic. I haven’t felt like this before.”
“Then we’re definitely not on Earth. Our Earth may be magic-rich compared to other Earths in the multiverse, but not to the degree that you feel. Is it possible Alexander moved us to another world?”
“It’s not in his power,” said Jared. “He told me he hasn’t been able to move between worlds since the Crisis.”
“It must have been that blast he took,” added Shiera. “It hit as he was forming the doorway.”
Jared replied, “I suppose, but the problem is — if it took Neonic’s energy to get us here, where is here, and how do we get home?”