“What the–?!” Wildcat looked around. “Where did they go?”
“They were never here, you simpleton! It was only I.” Those members of the Justice Society who were still conscious turned toward the voice. Standing alone at the door to their headquarters was the Thinker. “I knew my thinking cap could insert false images into your monitoring systems, but I doubt it could get through all of your defenses. No need to now!” Before anyone could react, he slipped through the door and slammed it shut.
“Dang it, how did he do that? I felt those cruds when I hit them!” Wildcat reached down to help up Mister Terrific, and the Atom did the same for Hourman.
“So, what do we do now, Mr. Chairman?” Starman asked as he and Hawkman picked themselves up from the ground. “We were brought down by a net that wasn’t there, and by now that lunatic has probably activated all of our defense systems.”
“Can’t we override them somehow, Ted? After all, you designed them.” Hawkman’s voice held no accusation, just a desire for a straight answer.
“I did set up a control panel in my vault back at company headquarters,” explained Ted Knight. “As soon as I get back there, I can shut them down or use them against him. It will take me a little while to get down to Opal City, though.”
“No, it won’t.” The Flash, after having quickly scanned the building for any possible weak points, or others attempting to join the Thinker inside, appeared at Starman’s side. “Let’s go. Use your rod to put a shield in front of you so the friction doesn’t heat you up.” With that, they took off across the countryside.
“Let’s see if we can get G.L. up and operating before they get back.” Hawkman crouched down by the unconscious Green Lantern and started gently shaking him. It took a few minutes for the emerald gladiator to come to his senses, by which time the Flash and Starman were back.
“No good, guys. He took everything off automatic and is controlling it manually. He is probably in the monitor room now, waiting for us to charge in after him.” Starman looked disappointed. “I’ll have to figure out a better way after we’re done here.”
The group of heroes huddled on their own doorstep, trying to come up with a solution. They were interrupted by a late arrival.
“Hi, guys! Sorry I’m late for the meeting. Say, you really should hold it inside instead of out here.”
Johnny Thunder’s observation, taken along with his pronouncement of the Badhnisian hex words cei-u, was interpreted as a command by his magical thunderbolt. In an instant, the members of the Justice Society were transported from the street in front of their headquarters and into the meeting room on the first floor.
“The defense systems are probably still activated, people! Watch out!” Hawkman issued the warning, yet almost flew right into the path of one of the building’s technological defenses.
“Hawk, remember the high-area stunners!” the Atom admonished the JSA chairman. “Remember, we put those in place to keep any possible intruders down on the ground.”
“Yes, and if you will recall, I was not in favor of them.” A smile belied the gruff tone of the winged crime-fighter. “Lantern, could you provide some shielding for us?”
Green Lantern, still groggy from the earlier blow to his head, complied. The group was enveloped in a glowing green globe, just as swivel-mounted energy blasters were deployed from hidden recesses on the walls.
“Where is he likely to be?” asked Starman as the blasters started firing.
“Monitor room. If he wants to turn our defenses against us, that’s the logical place for him.” Robin smiled under his bat-shaped mask. “Logical, if not quite correct.”
“True. We’ll head up there, but I want someone going down to the master control room to deactivate these things.”
“I can go, Hawkman, but what’s the deal?” asked the Flash. “I thought the controls were in the monitor room.”
“You haven’t been here as much lately, Flash. Since Robin became a member, he’s been taking a good look at our defenses and arsenal, and making some changes. He put a master override in a control room next to the underground hangar for the skimmer. It’s less obvious, for just an occasion as this.”
“Good thinking. I should be able to evade the blasters and handle that. Get upstairs and take care of the Thinker!”
The huddled group of JSA members made its way up the main staircase of the JSA Brownstone. At the same time, the Flash worked his way to the basement. Without the shielding of the globe of emerald energy provided by the Green Lantern, he had to constantly zig and zag through the building, running literally hundred of miles to cover the forty feet to the staircase leading down to the lower levels. He ran in a spiral, up the walls and over the ceiling, as he descended to the hangar level. In the great open area below, it was worse. Because of the vulnerability of the building to invasion through its garage, the defenses were more plentiful. It took him several minutes to cross to the room where the master system controls were located.
Upstairs, Johnny Thunder was struck by an idea.
“Why don’t I just have the T-bolt take this guy out?” He stopped in his tracks as the others continued forward. He continued speaking as the trailing edge of the green bubble passed through him. “I can do it from here. Say you, T-bolt, knock that guy up there — oof!” Johnny was struck by one of the energy bolts, and hit the floor, unconscious.
“That’s why, Johnny.” The Atom shook his head ruefully. “He’ll be OK down on the floor, right?”
“Yes. I set all the defenses to only strike at targets below two feet if they are moving. By the time he recovers, we should have the Thinker wrapped up,” Robin replied.
On the lower level of the headquarters, the Flash entered the control room. “No intruder systems in here, at least,” he sighed. Walking over to a control panel for a video display, he lifted the panel up, revealing a second control panel. Clearly marked was a series of toggles for the defense systems in each room. He flipped all of them to the off position, just as a beeping sound filled the air of the small room.
“Oh, my God! Joan! This will have to do, guys!” He sped down the tunnel normally used by the team’s Sky-Skimmer, vibrating through the door at the end which led out over a one-hundred-foot-wide drainage culvert.
Up in the monitor room of the JSA Brownstone, a series of indicator lights went from either solid or flashing green to a steady red.
“What’s happened? This can’t be right!” cried the Thinker, frantically flipping switches.
Joan Garrick lay in a hospital bed, her face pale and drawn.
“Where can that man be? Of all the times to be late, why does it have to be now?”
“Don’t worry, dear. We both know that Jay can get a little, ah, distracted at times. I’m sure he’ll be along shortly.” Joan’s father, General John Williams, Retired, patted her hand.
“Still, this isn’t a time when I want to be kept waiting.”
“Wait no more, my lady. Your knight has arrived!” In the doorway, the lanky figure of Jay Garrick leaned against the frame. “How could I even think of missing this?”
“Well, after the other day, how was I to know?” Joan raised an eyebrow. “I thought I was going to have to go through John’s birth all alone.”
“Well, Joan, that used to be considered normal,” said her father. “Heaven knows, they wouldn’t let me anywhere near the delivery room when you were born. Now, if everything here is all right, I’ll go see about the car.” With that, the elderly soldier left them alone in the room.
“So, what was it this time, Mr. Garrick? Earthquakes in Arabia? Super-villains in Sumatra? Crisis in Casablanca?”
“Nothing so dramatic, but much, much more important.” Jay reached behind the doorway and produced a garment bag. “After all, I can’t have the prettiest mother in Keystone City taking her son home wearing a bathrobe.”
“Hey, can I help it if you arrived two seconds after I hit the alarm, and you didn’t give me a chance to get dressed?” Joan slowly got out of the bed and stood to hug her husband. “You seemed awfully worried, like you thought you were late getting there. What was going on at the meeting when I called?”
Jay scratched his head and grinned. “Nothing we couldn’t handle. We had a visitor, is all, and with all the excitement, I thought that I had missed the signal.”
“No, for once, you were right on time. Now, why don’t you go see what’s keeping the nurses with John while I change.” She tugged on his shirt to pull him close enough for a quick kiss, then gave him a gentle push toward the door.
As Jay left his wife’s hospital room and walked toward the hospital nursery, he spotted a familiar face.
“Doc! How are you, Charlie?” Jay walked over to take the hand of Dr. Charles McNider, blind writer, medical doctor, and, unknown to all but a select few, the night-sighted mystery-man called Doctor Mid-Nite.
“Good morning, Jay. I’m glad I caught you and Joan before she checked out.” The blond doctor’s voice dropped low enough so others could not hear. “I’d like to run those tests on John, here, if you don’t mind.”
“Well, I think Joan has her heart set on going home this morning. How long will it take?”
“Only a few minutes to draw the blood. I can run the tests on that after you take him home.”
“Joan is changing now. What say we take John to the lab, and I can have him back up here before she realizes it.” Jay turned the blind doctor toward the nursery.
“You haven’t told her, have you?” McNider’s touch on Jay’s hand was light, for guidance only, even though it was done only for the benefit of others. His darkened glasses blocked enough light for his highly sensitized eyes to see clearly.
“No, she would just fret about it. I’ll wait and see if the tests show any sign that John has inherited my speed powers, then I’ll tell her.”
Jay led McNider into the nursery, where the doctor from New York City displayed his credentials to the nurses’ satisfaction, then they took the Garrick baby to an adjacent lab. The drawing of blood samples only took a few minutes, and by the time Joan Garrick opened her door, Jay was waiting for her, baby in hand.
As the meeting of the Justice Society of America adjourned, Doctor Mid-Nite signaled to the Flash that he’d like a private word with him.
“I finished those test, Jay. Here’s a copy of all the workups, if you’d like to go over them yourself.” Charles McNider smiled under his mask. Jay Garrick was one of the few people he knew who stood a chance of understanding the chemical analysis of baby John Garrick’s blood. “I have to say, it was one of the more interesting breakdowns I’ve seen.”
“Don’t let that assistant of yours hear you say that. You aren’t supposed to be seeing anything.”
“Myra? You know, Jay, I really wonder about her sometimes. After all these years, I figure it’s almost a certainty that she’s figured out that I’m Mid-Nite, but she continues to play along.”
“So why don’t you ‘fess up, pal?”
“If she weren’t married, I would. Now, though, I’m afraid it could come between her and her husband. She had quite a thing for Doctor Mid-Nite for years. No need to stir things up and all that.”
“If you say so.” Jay sat down at the big meeting table and started skimming through the reports. “Save me the suspense now, Charlie. What do you think — am I going to have a kid that starts walking at sixty miles per hour? Or is he going to grow up in the next six months?”
“None of the above. I compared his blood with both old samples of yours from the JSA records and your current blood sample. His blood does show some minute traces of the chemicals you absorbed from the hard water in college. Not nearly as much as your old blood sample did, though. I think it’s pretty unlikely that he’ll show any signs of super-speed as a child. However, there’s no telling what might happen when his body matures. Those chemicals could disappear from his system, or they could be multiplied enough to cause your powers to manifest in him.”
Jay took a long drink of water from the glass at his place and considered the implications. “This sounds like good news to me. If develops the speed later, he’ll be better able to handle it. Great. Now, I’d better get home before–”
“Hold it, Jay, there’s something else. Not about John. It’s about you.”
“Me? What’s wrong?”
“I don’t think it’s anything wrong, per se. Just odd. You see, I compared your old blood chemistry with your current sample. Did you know that the hard water elements have almost disappeared from your blood?”
“How can that be? Shouldn’t I be slowing down if that’s true?” Jay sat forward, elbows on table, chin resting on the balls of his upturned hands.
“You have slowed down a little, but not as much as this would indicate. It’s almost as if your speed is actually coming from some other source, and it was just the hard water that acted as a catalyst, allowing you to tap into that source.”
“That’s a possibility, Doc. Still, I don’t see where it makes that big a difference. Just so long as I can keep on running.”