Jade and Brainwave watched the man calling himself the Balladeer. The townspeople circled around him with glazed, hypnotic looks on their faces, moving to his instruction.
“What are we waiting for?” Jade asked. “This may be a crazy alternate timeline, but a super-villain’s a super-villain!”
“Patience,” Brainwave said, holding up a hand. “I have a feeling this Balladeer will be dealt with any second now.”
“Huh?” Jade asked. “What do you–?” And then she saw it — a red and blue blur coming up the lane and gaining quickly. As quickly as her eyes could register the presence of the blur, it had resolved itself into a man, a man clothed in the costume of court nobles of the Middle Ages, in deep scarlet and midnight blue, with a golden lightning bolt emblazoned on his chest.
The Balladeer grinned wickedly as he saw the new arrival. “Ah, the Lord of Lightning! It never takes you long, does it?”
“I could say the same of you, Balladeer,” the Lord of Lightning countered. “You escaped the King’s gaol not a fortnight past, and already you’re back at the mischief that put you there!”
“You’ll not be taking me back to the gaol, king’s lickspittle,” the Balladeer sneered. He again strummed his lute and raised his voice in song.
“The rage you now are feeling
Is so powerful it’s frightening,
And the only way to stop it
Is to kill the Lord of Lightning!”
The blank expressions on the faces of the townspeople changed to blind fury. They swarmed at the Lord of Lightning, ready to tear him to pieces. With super-speed he avoided their grasp, but as soon as he avoided one, another was upon him.
“Ha-ha-ha-ha!” the Balladeer laughed. “Sooner or later, one of my slaves will catch you, Lord of Lightning! You can’t avoid them all forever, and I know you won’t fight back!”
But the villain’s chuckle of triumph was cut short by a beam of brilliant emerald light suddenly washing over him.
Brainwave’s head snapped around to stare at Jade when he saw the emerald light. But he saw that it was not her doing. She was staring wide-eyed into the sky. Brainwave followed her gaze and saw what she was staring at. A man was flying into the scene, a man in full knight’s armor, with visor down; the armor was all a bright emerald green and glowing. A green plume curled up and back from the top of his helmet. He held in his left hand a sword with a glowing green blade, and it was from this that the green beam shone.
“The Knight of the Verdant Flame!” the Balladeer cried. “Unfair! Y-you’re not supposed to be here!”
“Nor are you, villain,” the Knight boomed as his green beam formed glowing chains around the Balladeer’s arms and torso. “You are supposed to be in the custody of the King’s justice. And I shall remedy that situation anon.” The Balladeer thus subdued, the Knight landed in the square. The hypnotized townsfolk came to their senses with the end of the Balladeer’s song and wandered off in a daze. The Lord of Lightning stepped up to the newcomer.
“My thanks for the assistance, friend Knight,” he said affably. “What brings you to Stone Quay?”
“King’s business,” the Knight of the Verdant Flame said simply. “I come on an errand from King Franklin, an errand of great urgency.”
“Indeed? What would that be, my friend?” the Lord of Lightning asked. “May I assist you, as you have me?”
“I had hoped you would,” the Knight said. “For only part of my errand brings me to Stone Quay — the task of asking for your help.”
The Lord of Lightning spread his arms wide. “For the Kingdom, and an old friend, I am at your service.”
“As I knew you would be,” the Knight said, placing a friendly hand on the Lord’s shoulder. “You are indeed brave. It will be an honor to fight alongside you; aye, and die alongside you, if necessary.”
“Die, Sir Knight?” The Lord of Lightning said. “It’s as grave as that?”
“Aye, and more so,” the Knight of the Verdant Flame said. “The King’s spies in Germania report that Warlord Adolphus plans to invade the Kingdom, perhaps sooner than we can even act!”
“That’s grave, indeed, but hardly unexpected,” the Lord of Lightning commented. “He’s been threatening for months now! Surely our armies–”
“I have not told the worst of it,” the Knight said. “A traitor to the Crown has pledged his aid to Adolphus, one well known to both you and I — the evil one known as the Wizard King!”
“What, him?” the Lord of Lightning said, startled. “With his sorcerous might added to Adolphus’ armies, he may prevail, at that!”
“Which is why we two must stop him!” the Knight said vehemently. “Are you with me, my friend?”
“Aye, to the death,” the Lord of Lightning promised. “But there are others we may call, whose skills could be of service! Sir Falconer — Thane of the Hourglass–”
“There be not time,” the Knight said. “There was barely time to bring you into the cause! Come, we must be about this now!”
And the Knight shot into the sky, propelled by his glowing emerald sword. The Lord of Lightning followed on the ground, a scarlet blur.
Jade turned to Brainwave, all excitement and urgency. “Hank! Did you hear that? Warlord Adolphus — that has to be this crazy world’s Hitler! And — and the Wizard King! They’re going to start World War Two on this backward world! We’ve got to–”
“Hold it right there,” her lover said, holding up a hand. “We can’t interfere with this world’s history. You know that.”
Jade gaped at him. “What? You’re serious! I don’t believe this Star Trek Prime Directive nonsense you’re spouting! People could die, and we could do something about it!”
“But tampering with history — well, it’s just wrong, that’s all!” Brainwave protested. “What if some extra-dimensional time-travelers had decided to stop that train wreck your dad was in? He’d never have become Green Lantern, and you wouldn’t have been born!”
“Well, how do you know we weren’t meant to be here?” Jade demanded. “That we weren’t ordained to be the force that brings this world’s JSA together? After all, the lot of us traveled back to 1942 in our own timeline, and if we didn’t affect the outcome of history then–” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Man Who’ll Know Too Much,” All-Star Squadron #24 (August, 1983), “The Infinity Syndrome,” All-Star Squadron #25 (September, 1983), “Talons Across Time,” All-Star Squadron #26 (October, 1983), and “The Ultra War,” All-Star Squadron Annual #2 (1983).]
“All right, all right,” Brainwave said. “OK, I can see you’re going to have an argument for everything I say. What’s your idea?”
“You heard the Flash — er, the Lord of Lightning,” Jade said. “There are other heroes in this world. We enlist their help. Then we tag along ourselves, keeping out of sight unless we’re really needed.”
Brainwave was silent for a moment, thinking it over. “Sounds good,” he finally said.
“OK, here’s the plan,” Jade began, launching into her explanation. “I’ll use my power-pulse to send signals to the other heroes, putting them on the Knight of the Verdant Flame’s trail. They’ll think the signals came from the Knight himself, and follow them.”
“Can you do that?” Brainwave asked. “You don’t know where to find the other heroes!”
“I’ve seen Sir Falconer,” Jade explained. “I can visualize him in my mind, and my pulse will seek him out. The other one, Thane of the Hourglass, will be harder.”
“Maybe not,” Brainwave said. “When the Lord of Lightning mentioned his name, a mental picture of him came to the surface of the Knight’s mind, so strong that I got a glimpse of it. I can transfer it to you.”
“Wonderful!” Jade said. “I’ll start right away; there’s no time to lose!” Jade closed her eyes and imagined the heroic Sir Falconer she and Brainwave had seen in the village square. She sent out a beam of emerald energy from her power pulse, and it streaked into the sky to find him.
“OK, now for the ersatz Hourman,” Brainwave said. He mentally communicated the hero’s image to Jade. Jade saw the picture in her mind — a tall man in a black chain-mail bodysuit, covered with a golden yellow tunic and hood, a stylish hourglass hanging from a golden chain around his neck. She concentrated on this image and sent out another power-pulse beam. It, too, streaked into the sky.
In a hidden room somewhere in the village of Middlesex, a man threw punch after punch at a huge burlap sack filled to bursting with soil. The man was tiny by ordinary standards, barely topping five feet, but after a few such punches, the huge, heavy bag split its seams, spilling dirt all over the floor.
“Squire Smallbody!” a voice barked. “Are you dirtying up my clean floor again?”
“Sorry, Sir Falconer,” the small man apologized. “We need to buy a better grade of punching bag; these cheap things give me no workout at all!”
“You’d be better served testing your muscles against highwaymen than bags of soil,” Sir Falconer noted.
“Indeed?” Squire Smallbody shot back. “And who was it who captured the brigands what had kidnapped the Mayor’s daughter last month? And the month before that–”
The exchange was cut off by the appearance of a glowing green light, a floating halo of emerald brilliance in the air.
“Sir Falconer — what be that?” Squire Smallbody asked in amazement.
“I-I don’t know!” Sir Falconer said, awed. “It has the look of sorcery — aye, or the Knight of the Verdant Flame!”
“Perhaps its a signal from the Knight!” Smallbody said. “Perhaps he wants our help!”
“It could be,” Sir Falconer admitted. “I’ve never met the man, but words of his deeds have reached my ears. If he wants our help, he’ll have it!”
At the docks of the harbor of New Yorktown, a collection of roughly dressed thugs lay across the stank-smelling boards of a pier, unconscious. Over their prone bodies stood the man Brainwave had recognized as Thane of the Hourglass and another man, this one dressed in long purple robes and wearing a strange metal helmet, one with a long tube at the mouthguard. The two men shook hands friendlily.
“My thanks for your assistance, Duke of Dreams,” Thane of the Hourglass said. “Your arrival was, if you’ll pardon my joke, most timely.”
“’Twas my pleasure, Thane,” the Duke said. “Ruffians such as these must not be allowed to plunder the cargo of our merchant ships, else they–”
“Duke!” Thane gasped. “Look!”
A glowing ball of green light appeared in their midst, hovering before their eyes.
“Witchcraft?” Thane asked in awe.
“That — or the Knight of the Verdant Flame,” the Duke said.
“Oh, aye! I have heard of him,” Thane said. “If this is his work, what does it mean?”
“Perhaps he is trying to contact us,” the Duke offered.
“Well, he is known for routing the foes of the Crown,” Thane said. “If that’s his business, he will find Thane of the Hourglass eager to aid!”
The Knight of the Verdant Flame flew along, leaving a trail of emerald energy in his wake. The Lord of Lightning ran behind, a scarlet blur racing over the countryside. Jade and Brainwave followed at a safe distance, made invisible by Jade’s power pulse.
“Now, remember,” Brainwave said, “we keep out of any fighting unless it looks grim. We only intervene directly if absolutely necessary.”
“Right, right,” Jade said, dismissively. “Wow, this is exciting! Just think, Hank! We’re about to see the birth of this world’s Justice Society!”
Brainwave shook his head and sighed. Jen seemed to have lost all sense of the fact that they may never get home, never see their friends again.
“I recognize the land below us,” Jade said. “On our world, this is Long Island Sound!”
“So it is,” Brainwave agreed, looking. “Wonder what it’s called here?”
Before Jade could answer, the Knight stopped his flight, hovering in the sky. The Lord of Lightning came to a stop on the ground; the Knight lowered himself to just above his head.
“There,” the Knight said, pointing with his sword. He indicated a small fortress or castle, standing on the edge of the water.
“That?” the Lord of Lightning said. “‘Tis a small place; one would almost overlook it.”
“Which makes it a perfect place for the Wizard King to plan his evil schemes,” the Knight said. “I never would have thought to look for him there, had not King Franklin’s spies uncovered the truth.”
“If the Wizard King is in there,” the Lord of Lightning said impatiently, “why stand we here? Let us visit the King’s justice upon him!”
The Knight nodded agreement, and together they approached the castle. They had not gone ten yards, however, before armored guards armed with swords, maces, and all manner of medieval weapons boiled out of the surrounding brush, ready for battle.
“The Wizard King’s hired miscreants!” the Lord of Lightning exclaimed. And then he was invisible, a scarlet blur moving among the angry men, striking them in a dozen places at once. The Knight joined the fight as well, beams of emerald energy lancing from his glowing green sword to smite the men one by one.
Jade watched the fight with glee. “Look at that, Hank!” she squealed. “My dad’s a top fighter in any world, isn’t he?”
Brainwave almost commented that they did not know if this Knight of the Verdant Flame was this world’s Alan Scott; after all, on the world that called itself Earth-One, Green Lantern was a man named Hal Jordan. But he kept silent.
Suddenly, an ear-splitting shriek cut through the dusk sky, drowning out the clamor of battle. All eyes turned to the sky to see an enormous winged shape descending on them.
“A dragon!” the Lord of Lightning cried. “The Wizard King has set one of his hellish creations on us!”
Jade and Brainwave gasped in silence as the monstrous scaled creature swooped down at the heroes.