Pat Dugan stood beside a grieving Johnny Thunder. Around the pair were assembled the sorrow-filled faces of Infinity Inc. A graveyard marker read: “Sylvia Pemberton Thunder: A Love as Bright as Stars Above. 1927-1988.”
Power Girl approached Thunder. “John, I know you and I never saw eye-to-eye, but you know how close I was to poor Sylvia. I am so sorry about this. If it makes it any easier, I won’t rest until I have tracked down Grundy, Bones, and Harlequin for what they did.”
He turned to the blonde woman and said, “Kara, I know you and Pat will avenge my wife, but for now, all I can do is mourn.”
She nodded and turned to Dugan as tears streamed down his face.
“You know, Sylvia, the Kid — I’ll always think of her as the Kid — taught me to read,” he said. “I owe all I ever became to that brave girl. It ain’t fair that she died like this!”
Power Girl hugged the big man silently.
“No! No! No! This is wrong! It did not happen that way! I know better! Someone has messed with the time-stream again!” raved an old man in a place outside of time. “The question is, how does even a time expert like Mr. Weed fix this one?” he said to himself.
“Sylvia? That shapely blonde was Jonni Thunder. She was the detective, not Pemberton. He was Sylvester — the Star-Spangled Kid and the Patriot. He led Infinity Inc. He never died at the hands of those villains. I don’t recall that they ever even assembled like that video shows.
“Obviously, the first thing to do is find help. I need help. I can’t do it myself, due to age. But I can direct those who can! The best heroes of all can set things straight. The JSA — yes! They will fix time, but I can’t let them know how much depends upon them. If they learn how time has been altered, they might say or do something that could increase the flaws. I have to outwit the greatest heroes of all time! What a nightmare!” He sighed.
Oliver Weed sat at his desk and tossed down a stack of tapes. “I’ve got it! The precise time in which they can restore the time-stream would naturally be when they were travelling within it to begin with! The Knodar situation is what started it, but now I see a darker force behind it. When Sylvia died, the team called Infinity Inc. broke up, and they all suffered dire fates.
“Jade lost her powers and became a mere trophy girlfriend. Lyta and Hector died in weird ways. Obsidian went mad and joined Ian Karkull — how out of character! No one knows what happened to poor Norda. Beth Chapel, Yolanda Montez, and Brainwave were brutally killed. Rick Tyler became terminally ill. On and on it went, with some madman even slaying six of the JSA themselves! So, obviously the Skygirl murder was just the start of a plot to rob Earth-Two of its heroic legacy.
“If I just switch Jonni and Sylvester back to the way they were before old Knodar played his trick, then what effect would that have on later events? Too risky. I detected the taint of time-tampering much earlier after I went through the JSA’s tapes. That jerk Per Degaton made things sooo confusing! Thank goodness I first detect the tampering after his time. The moment things were manipulated by unseen forces came when that mad Dr. Doome, after he became the Nebula-Man, sent the Seven Soldiers of Victory back through time, and they had to be rescued. (*) That is where I’d better start!”
[(*) Editor’s note: See DC Universe: Times Past, 1943: The Space-Time Gambit, Book 3, Chapter 2: Birth of the Nebula-Man and “The Unknown Soldier of Victory,” Justice League of America #100 (August 1972).]
Mr. Weed was Earth-Two’s resident expert on time travel. “I first detected a flaw or error in the timeline when a petty thug named Knodar tried to get revenge upon the Patriot and his lady friend Jonni Thunder by casting them adrift in the time-stream. His own bumbling led to his swift defeat, and somehow, instead of being lost forever, Patriot and Jonni merely exchanged lives or roles in this timeline.
“The woman we know of as Jonni was raised as Sylvia Pemberton and eventually led the exact crime-fighting career that we remember as being Sylvester’s, while he led hers and is now a male detective with energy powers. This flaw led me to look ahead, and I saw Sylvia’s death. This led to the destruction of the entire heroic future of the world, as every successor of the JSA met death, madness, or change. I realized that someone with malign intent was directing these seemingly random events with the goal of ridding this world of heroes.
“You see, I want to send the Justice Society to correct these errors in time. I determined that the exact moment in which it would be best to send them would be the second they each rescued a Soldier of Victory. At that point they were already in the time-stream. If I send them from that moment, and they fix things and are then returned to the moment when they all returned, then nothing shall be disturbed, and much shall be gained.”
“Can’t you just switch Jonni and Sylvester and fix it that way?” asked his computerized aide, H.G.
“No! I assumed as much, but trust me when I say that doing so might just lead to the same ending, only with Sylvester dying as Jonni did in that twisted timeline,” said Weed. “Accept my word that, if those events go on unchanged, there will come a dark day in which the only surviving JSAers will be the Flash, Green Lantern under another name, and Wildcat.”
“Speculation: the Society can make things right if they go to the moment when this evil guy started monkeying around with time, and that happened during the Seven Soldiers case, according to your data,” said the robot.
“True. I find your speech increasingly colloquial, H.G.! Still, that is my plan. See the screen before you? It shows the heroic JSA united with the Justice League of another Earth setting out to find the time-lost Seven Soldiers of Victory at the bequest of a mysterious being named Oracle, whom Doctor Fate summoned. I’ll just pluck them from the second they succeeded and send them to fix the time flaw. I assume that may involve battling a mastermind who lurks behind the scenes.”
“Mr. Weed, who is Oracle?” asked H.G. “He does not register on any history of Earth before or after that one case. Surely that is odd.”
“A very good point. I do not know!” said Weed. “But he hides much. I can only say that his actions enabled the JSA to restore heroes to Earth and eventually led to young Pemberton’s founding of what would prove to be one of the successors of the legendary JSA: Infinity Inc.”
H.G. spoke again. “So I infer that his motives were benign. Without Pemberton being brought alive and vital to the modern era, it is possible that Infinity Inc. would have taken a different path entirely. He gave them leadership and a headquarters.”
“Hmm…” said Oliver Weed. “Was it a benign being who led to the first time-displacement of Pemberton and his allies, just so he could be restored as a young and wealthy man in the modern era to found the team that succeeded the JSA?”
“Surely it was due to the malice of the evil Dr. Doome, AKA the Nebula-Man,” offered the robot.
“So I assumed, but what if someone put him up to it in the first place without his awareness? This gets us nowhere. Right or wrong, I act now!” said Mr. Weed, pushing a button.
At that moment, the Justice Society members, along with the rescued Seven Soldiers of Victory, found themselves drawn from the midst of time travel and deposited in an alternate timeline.
“What happened?!” cried Weed. “The result was not my doing. They did not arrive where I expected, and the switching of Sylvester and Jonni in our modern era is unaltered. I have been tricked. The JSA and the Seven Soldiers as they were back then have been abducted to some odd possible future, and I had nothing to do with it. H.G., we are being manipulated ourselves, and I fear we may have accidentally helped this mystery man take the heroes for some evil purpose all his or her own!”
The robot was silent.
“I see the JLA heroes were left in mid-transit, so only those of Earth-Two are needed for this weird scheme,” mused Weed.
“What has become of them?” asked H.G.
“I simply do not know! Forgive me, but I wonder if I’ve just ruined the future of my world!” said a grim Weed.
The Justice Society of America and the recently rescued Seven Soldiers of Victory found themselves in a ruined and desolate Earth. The two groups immediately clustered together as the group also known as the Law’s Legionnaires, consisting of the Shining Knight, Green Arrow and Speedy, the Vigilante, the Star-Spangled Kid and Stripesy, and the Vigilante, joyfully reunited with one another.
The Justice Society, consisting of Doctor Fate, the Sandman, Hourman, Johnny Thunder, Starman, Doctor Mid-Nite, Wonder Woman, Wildcat, and Red Tornado, compared notes.
“Our allies in the JLA weren’t brought along to this place,” noted Doctor Mid-Nite. “What could that mean?”
“I don’t know, but it looks like we all succeeded in locating the time-tossed Seven,” said Hourman.
Starman frowned. “I do not trust that Oracle. So much seemed wrong in our conversation with him. It occurs to me now that we were acting oddly.”
“Indeed!” said Doctor Fate. “He was not known to me before some mental image flashed through my brain like summer lightning after a storm.”
“You acted like he was someone you went to college with!” joked Wildcat.
“No — medical school!” quipped Johnny Thunder.
“Wait,” said Wonder Woman. “If he was not known to you, and he just was a sudden image in your mind, then perhaps much of what he said is untrue.”
“That would explain why we ended up here,” said Starman. “It could have all been a trap!”
“The Soldiers sure seem happy, though!” announced Johnny.
As the JSAers looked on, the Soldiers of Victory did clasp each other’s hands and expressed the concern such close allies would feel for one another.
One of the JSAers joined them as the Sandman shook hands vigorously with Crimson Avenger, for the two were old friends from college. In fact, Lee Travis had invented the gas-gun that Wes Dodds used along with the wirepoon.
“Lee! Good to see you!” said Wes. “I searched for you for a while after you vanished back in 1948, when I wasn’t trying to cure poor Sandy.”
“I appreciate that,” said Lee. “To me it’s like I was only gone for days. I am so sorry about poor Sandy. You mean to say he’s still not cured? I’ve always felt partially to blame.”
“You’re not! But what of poor Wing? Is he… lost?” asked Sandman.
The Crimson Avenger frowned. “I fear the worst. Poor brave and loyal man!”
The Shining Knight said, “In truth, I wonder what foul magic has brought us thusly to this place of woe?”
“I suspect we’ll find out soon enough,” said Green Arrow. “From what the JSAers told me, we’ve been missing for decades! All our friends must be gone. This is not our world in more ways than one.”
Speedy gasped. “That kind of talk won’t win any battles, G.A.!” He mused what was wrong with his old mentor.
The Star-Spangled Kid and Stripesy exchanged glances. “Mater and Pater and Merry… even Art must be dead by now!” said Sylvester Pemberton.
Stripesy hit him on the shoulder. “We don’t know that! With time travel, anything is possible!”
The Vigilante brooded. When he was first sent into the past, he had ended up in the Old West for a few years and had an opportunity to inspire the legend of the original Vigilante of that time, whose guns he wore, thereby becoming the only Vigilante there had ever been. The paradox had made him wince. But a second exposure to a fragment of the Nebula-Man had sent him even further back in time to the ancient West, long before Columbus had even discovered America, where he’d finally been rescued. He soon realized that while his partners had spent only days or weeks in their respective time periods, he was the only one to spend years in the past, and he was probably now older than all of them.
The Sandman turned to the JSA and said, “Another thing that smells rotten is how we all drew a blank on who the Seven Soldiers were! Lee, here, was one of my closest pals! As I just told him, after he vanished, I searched hard for him. I sure didn’t forget him!”
Johnny snapped his fingers. “Yeah! Now that you mention it, it was only when I was around the Oracle that I couldn’t recall Green Arrow and the rest. It’s like he deliberately muddled our minds so we’d not question being sent back in time.”
Starman whistled. “Good idea, John. I think we’ve been pawns in some larger game!”
Wonder Woman gasped, “Great Hera! Look! This Earth is occupied, after all. Here comes a decidedly unwelcome welcoming party!”
A group stormed the hill to face the heroes.