Justice Society of America: 1964: Missing in Action, Chapter 1: Mathematical Mystery

by HarveyKent

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“Is this thing on?”

“It’s a crystal ball, Hourman. It’s always on.”

“Well, I know that. What I meant is, is it recording?”

“Yes, it is capturing our images now.”

“Oh! Hello out there, JSA fans! This is Hourman and Doctor Fate, coming to you via crystal ball from Fate’s Tower in Salem, Massachusetts!”

“We are making this broadcast to answer a question many of you have asked in your fan letters to the Justice Society of America,” Doctor Fate said. “Namely, why don’t all active members of the JSA participate in all cases?”

“The fact is, most of the members are usually busy on personal cases and other activities,” Hourman said. “Any time the call to action goes out, every available JSAer answers it. But not all JSAers are always available!”

“This is so cool,” a young blond boy watching the broadcast on television said to his friend. “Isn’t it, Jerry?”

“Sure is, Roy,” Jerry answered. “I hope we get to see the Black Canary!”

“To give you an example of what we mean,” Fate said, “let’s take a popular case among our fans: our annual get-together with the Justice League of America in the summer of this year, 1964, when we fought the Crime Syndicate of America.” (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See “Crisis on Earth-Three,” Justice League of America #29 (August, 1964) and “The Most Dangerous Earth of All,” Justice League of America #30 (September, 1964).]

“Only five JSAers took part in that case,” Hourman continued, “Doctor Fate, here, the Hawkman, Starman, Black Canary, and Doctor Mid-Nite. So where were the other members of the team?”

“Through the magic of my crystal ball,” Fate announced, “we will be able to see firsthand the activities of the other JSAers during this case. Watch as we tune in on the first adventure.”


“I must say, I didn’t expect our troubles here to capture the attention of the Justice Society of America,” Dean Chalmers said as he walked down the university hallway.

“What, three professors vanishing without a trace?” the Atom asked. “You didn’t think that would merit our attention?”

“Maybe you thought we only fought super-villains and monsters from space,” the Flash said. “Can’t blame you there; that’s all that seems to get in the papers.”

“Um, yes, well,” Dean Chalmers said nervously. “In here, gentlemen. This is the room where all three professors were last seen.”

The middle-aged academic led the two costumed heroes into a small classroom. A large blackboard took up most of one wall; this was covered with mathematical symbols and formulae. The Flash and the Atom glanced at it.

“The first to vanish was Dr. Conrad Markesan,” Chalmers said. “He was one of our most tenured mathematics professors; he has been with Calvin College for over thirty years.”

The Atom nodded, remembering his days in Dr. Markesan’s classes.

“He was working on a highly complex algebraic equation, dubbed by some the Markesan Formula,” Chalmers continued. “This is it, here on the blackboard. Six months ago, he entered this room to work on the equation. He never left the room. About a month after that, Dr. Leonard Latimore attempted to complete the equation; he, too, was never seen again. Nobody wanted to touch the formula after that, until, just last week, Dr. Arthur Charing took a stab at it.”

“And he, too, is gone,” the Atom finished, scowling at the blackboard. “Interesting.”

“The police have been over this place with a fine-toothed comb, but nothing has been found,” Chalmers said. “It’s as though the professors simply… vanished.”

“I see. If you could leave us alone a while, Dean Chalmers, we’ll see if we come up with anything,” the Flash suggested.

“Yes, of course. I need to see how preparations are coming on the banquet tonight, anyway. We have a visiting dignitary from your own bailiwick of Keystone City, Mr. Flash — a Dr. Jay Garrick.”

“I’ve met him a time or two,” the Flash said. “Interesting fellow.”

“I certainly hope so. These out-of-town speakers can be such a bore sometimes. Well, I’m off, gentlemen. Contact security if you need anything.” Dean Chalmers made his exit, not noticing the Atom stifling a chuckle.

“So, what do you think?” the Flash asked, staring at the calculations on the blackboard.

“I don’t know,” the Atom said. “The formula seems to be the key between the disappearances, but I’m blowed if I know how.”

“Could it be some sort of… magical incantation?” the Flash wondered.

“That’s Doctor Fate’s area, not ours,” the Atom said. “I think we’d better approach it from a scientific angle.”

“Fair enough,” the Flash said, stroking his chin in puzzlement. “What’s this formula supposed to represent?”

“I think it’s a variation on the Einsteinian formula of matter-to-energy conversion,” the Atom said, staring intently at the symbols. “Let me see… yes, there’s a definite constant there… but this variable here seems off…” The mighty mite picked up a piece of chalk and began making notations on the blackboard. “Yes, that’s better. Let me see… if we take this formula here, and assign it the value of J, then insert it into the body of the equation there… hmm, this is fascinating. I think Markesan was really on to something.”

The Flash watched his old friend with growing caution. “Careful, Atom! We don’t know what happened to those other three.”

But the Atom was engrossed in the calculations. “Yes, and if we apply Pauli’s exclusion principle here… yes, it’s all coming together… just one more variable, I think…”

“Atom!” the Flash shouted as he watched the Atom disappear in an eye-blink.

The Flash ran his hands over the space where the Atom had stood moments before. Nothing was there.

He glanced at the blackboard. The portions of the formula the Atom had added were gone, wiped clean.

The Flash grimaced beneath his helmet. Well, where the Atom had gone, the Flash could go, too. He picked up a piece of chalk and rapidly scribbled the formulae back onto the blackboard. Nothing happened. What was wrong? Had he got an equation wrong somewhere? Trying to remember what the Atom had written, he began again.

He felt a sudden violent wrenching, as if an invisible hook had yanked him to one side. He looked and saw the Atom standing over the prone form of a giant, hulking behemoth of a creature, a mammoth of a man who must have stood twice the Atom’s height when he was standing. The Atom was massaging his right fist.

“Oh, hi, Flash,” the Atom said politely. “I see you followed me.”

“I sure did,” the Flash said. “Where are we?”

“Beats the heck out of me. But look around. Notice anything strange?”

“Strange?” The Flash examined their surroundings for the first time. Everything in this weird landscape seemed to be composed of sharp geometric shapes: cubes, pyramids, and octagons. There were no curvy lines, no asymmetry anywhere. Except the Atom’s sparring partner, the Flash thought; then he took a closer look, and did a double-take. The behemoth’s body was composed of millions of tiny cubes, locked together like pieces of a puzzle. The Flash saw that a number of cubes were missing from the point of the giant’s chin, presumably where the Atom had struck him.

“Atom…” the Flash said slowly, “…where are we?”

The Atom pointed a finger, and the Flash looked. “I dunno where we are, but maybe we can find out there!”

The mighty mite was pointing at a large pyramidal mountain. A perfectly rectangular cave opening yawned in front of it. Above the opening was a rhomboid sign, with angular letters spelling out CUBE MINE. “The only sign of intelligent life I can see. Come on!”

The two Justice Society champions headed toward the cave mouth. “Atom, wait!” the Flash barked, when they were within shouting distance of the cave. A huge purple serpent, made of three-dimensional octagons joined together, reared up in front of them, hissing. The Flash sped toward it, and the Atom could not follow the scarlet blur with his eyes; when it subsided, the serpent was tied in multiple knots, thrashing violently.

The Flash and the Atom entered the cave, and were startled by what they saw. Three middle-aged men, naked to the waist, stood hammering at the walls with miner’s picks. These “picks” were merely triangles fastened to the ends of rectangles. The pieces of the wall came away as perfectly-formed cubes, regardless of where or how hard the men swung their picks. A huge behemoth, similar to the one the Atom had flattened, stood by, supervising their work.

“Markesan, Latimore, and Charing!” the Atom hissed under his breath. “They’re being worked like slaves!”

“As you shall,” came a weird humming voice behind them. The Atom and the Flash whirled to see a huge man standing behind them. The man’s body was difficult to look at; the more you tried to focus on it, the less clear it became.

“I am Trigonomo,” the man announced in his weird humming voice. “This is my realm, and you shall never leave it.”

“Trigonomo?” the Flash repeated, disbelieving.

“Indeed,” the strange man said. “I am what you would call a mathematical progression. I created this geometric world and all you see in it.”

“And… who created you?” the Atom asked.

“You did,” Trigonomo said, smiling slightly. “You and others like you. Ever since the fundamental principles of mathematics were discovered, learned men have explored them, ciphering, calculating, formulating, postulating. They poured their concentration into the mathematical universe. That concentration pooled and formed me.”

“I don’t believe this,” the Flash declared. “Mathematics made self-aware? Impossible!”

“Is it? More impossible than a man who runs at the speed of light, or a dwarf made a marvel of muscle by radiation?” Trigonomo scoffed. “But enough conjecture. You two will make excellent slaves in my cube mine!”

“Nothing doing, algebra-boy!” the Atom declared, and rushed at Trigonomo, fists flying.

In the blink of an eye, however, the Atom was encased in a solid, three-dimensional hexagon, like a fly in amber.

“Atom!” the Flash shouted. “Let him go, you — you–”

“At a loss for words to describe me?” Trigonomo laughed.

The Flash burned with resentment; then an idea flickered in his head. He whipped the buckle from his belt, and began scratching symbols in the ground at his feet. At super-speed he wrote, the ground filling with symbols and formulae.

“What are you doing?” Trigonomo asked, straining to see. The Flash ignored him and continued scrawling symbols at super-speed. “No!” Trigonomo screamed, realizing what the Flash was doing. Out of the corner of his eye, the Flash saw the mathematical man rushing toward him. The Flash doubled his speed and continued his calculations. A blinding flash of light, and the Flash and the Atom were back in the classroom, the three professors with them, with all but the Flash looking confused.

“We — we’re back!” Charing exclaimed in delight.

“Back in the real world!” Latimore shouted.

“Flash — how’d you do that?” the Atom inquired.

“That strange mathematical equation somehow opened a door into Trigonomo’s world,” the Flash explained. “I simply wrote out the equation in reverse. That tossed us back into our world.”

The Atom shook his head. “Weird. I’ve been on some weird cases with the JSA, but this one tops them all!”

“You can figure on that,” the Flash said with a wink.


The scene shifted back to Hourman and Doctor Fate, standing before the glowing crystal ball.

“That was sure an exciting adventure, wasn’t it?” Hourman said. “And that’s what kept the Flash and the Atom from participating in our battle with the Crime Syndicate!”

“Not everyone was kept away by such a thrilling exploit, however,” Doctor Fate said, gesturing over his crystal ball. “Let’s look in on some of our other members!”

The scene shifted to an impressive hallway of marble, supported by Doric columns. At the end of the hallway were two marble thrones. Wonder Woman sat in one of them, her mother, Queen Hippolyta, in the other. A long line of women stood waiting to see them. In the line many famous faces were recognizable, including Giganta, Queen Clea, and Doctor Poison.

“Wonder Woman was on Paradise Island at the time,” Doctor Fate’s spectral voice came over the scene. “It was the annual parole hearing of Transformation Island, to determine which of the island’s inmates had been judged cured of their evil tendencies and ready to join the sisterhood of Paradise Island.”

The scene melted into a book-lined study, where a suave-looking man, his face obscured, sat in a comfortable chair, wearing a silk smoking jacket and reading a book on Freud’s interpretation of dreams.

“The Sandman, a founding member of the Justice Society,” Hourman explained in a voiceover, “had not yet come out of retirement, and thus was not officially an active JSAer.”

The colors of the scene swirled into a vast panorama, and Doctor Fate’s voice droned on.

“Now let us look in on another member of the JSA, and see what he was up to during our summer meeting with the Justice League.”

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