Doctor Mid-Nite found the key effortlessly, but was shocked by what manifested from the key of Libra at his touch. A cloaked figure emerged from the darkness that seemed to follow him as he moved with the agility of an athlete.
“I am the symbol of the balance: balanced and controlled emotions and suppressed desires and feeling,” said an exact double for the blind gangbuster. “I am also the carrier of the scales. Blind justice, if you will, so of course I am you!”
“You are my evil twin, I assume,” said Doctor Mid-Nite as he prepared for a fight.
“Indeed! I am your dark side, man of the night!” He punched the real Mid-Nite, who was an instant too slow.
He sees in darkness, too! How do I beat him? wondered Doctor Mid-Nite as his double avoided a swift kick.
“You suppress your feelings for Myra! You avoid the light of emotional revelation. Can the night you prowl hide your emotions even from yourself?” questioned the figure.
They wrestled futilely for minutes, and Doctor Mid-Nite got an idea. “I admit it!” he cried with real passion. “I do keep my emotions inside. I do keep a clinic demeanor. My folks divorced when I was a kid. Relationships don’t come easy for me. I do love Myra! Hear me, I love Myra Mason!”
The double melted away as a burst of white light exploded from within his red-clothed chest.
Doctor Mid-Nite rubbed his eyes and collected the key. He had won, but he had brought up a lot of issues to think about.
Superman soared over Spain, scanning the surface with his keen eyes. “No obvious sign of the key, but the disk says it’s below.”
Landing in a dusty, empty field, he scanned the ground until he spotted lead. Ah, no doubt our key is under the lead, he thought. That may stop me from seeing the key itself, but I know where it’s at, anyway.
Superman ripped up the ground and the lead to reveal the bull-emblazoned key. He touched it, and, of course, the manifestation of the bull figure Taurus appeared.
“Great Scott! I guess I’d better just take this bull by the horns!” he quipped, gripping the charged creature and flipping him down.
Taurus twisted and slammed into the Man of Steel with surprising power. Superman fell down hard. Magic — it weakens me as always! he mused as his foe silently ran toward him.
A hard right hit the bull, only to have no effect on his snorting form. Taurus rammed Superman, and sharp horns cut at the almost-indestructible hero. He dodged quickly when he realized that his best blows were not helping him.
“This creature is stronger than I am!” Superman realized.
“Indeed, I am stronger, and I can show you the errors of your ways,” sneered Taurus the bull. “For years you’ve lived like the proverbial bull in the china shop, eh? Your every move could kill or destroy this frail world. Why, you’ve had to hide behind milksop guises to avoid bringing this mortal realm down around you like a giant crushing an eggshell! Use your alien power! Beat me if you dare! Or have you lost what guts you had?”
Superman had a quick temper as a young man, but for the very reasons the bull had mentioned, he had learned to control it, and now he watched his use of strength so as not to hurt the weak. Every punch was carefully pulled. Even his caresses for his wife Lois had to be tempered with constant care.
“No! I can’t beat you with the brute force you personify, but I can beat you with my brains!” he declared.
Superman sped around the creature until a whirlwind was created that blew him miles into the air and dropped him far across the country. A glow showed that the monster had vanished upon impact. Superman smiled ruefully and flew off with the key.
Hawkman choked as a pair of mighty hands wrestled him down under the water. He inhaled before going down and fought to stay alive. The water inhibited his use of the Nth metal, and his aquatic foe Pisces was making full use of this liability.
Where’s a nice bird symbol when you need one? he mused, elbowing the fish-man in the ribs.
“This started so well!” he recalled. The Pisces symbol had been on an old ship rusted and forgotten by most. The disk had led him right to the glowing key, and then the fish monster had attacked and dragged him overboard.
Hawkman slammed both legs into the beast and brought his powerful arms into play. Breaking the surface, he suddenly spun back down to catch the slippery foe. With a precarious hold around the scaly beast, he flew out of the water and soared aloft.
Higher and higher he flew until the fish gasped from lack of water and weakened like a fish on the sands. He let the beast pass out before he released his hold above the sea.
“He may have been a fish-man, but I feel as if I’m the one that got away!” he said as he headed for dry land.
Green Lantern wasn’t afraid of anything. Fear meant nothing to this hero, yet when the zodiac key of Virgo manifested in the shapely forms of Irene Miller, Molly Maynne, Wonder Woman, and the Harlequin, he had to admit that he was at least uneasy.
“What kind of magic is this?” he asked.
“We represent the women you have been close to in your life — those who loved you, and those you loved in return!” responded all of them in the same voice.
“You deserted me for that TV station! You hurt me, even if we did talk things out!” said Irene Miller as she tore at him like a Harpy.
“You ignore me, though I am so loyal to you!” claimed Molly as she clawed his arm as well.
“You befriended me, yet never really respected me as an equal, making me the JSA secretary!” fumed Wonder Woman as she slammed into him.
“You hide your feelings for me behind a mask!” said the Harlequin as she kicked him.
Green Lantern’s power ring flared helplessly as their magic drained him of his power. “I do respect you, Diana! I do care for you Irene. I’m sorry I hurt you, Molly!” he started as they pummeled him, and even his ring lacked the will to defend him, as if he felt somehow that he deserved it.
The battering continued until he snatched at Harlequin’s mask. It fell to reveal nothing more than a blank face.
“There’s no face, since I don’t know what you look like beneath that mask!” he cried in realization. “That means you all exist purely as I see you and know you in my mind! Then guilt formed you, and I deny the need for it! I deny you exist in these forms!”
The green ring flared, and fiery energy exploded to color his world anew in emerald green. They were gone when the fire retracted, and he gripped the Virgo key and flew off.
“I guess I do take Molly for granted, and I might have hurt Irene,” he said as he pondered what he had seen. “Never really saw Diana as a mere anything… at least not consciously. Maybe we JSAers did treat her like some dainty office clerk back in the 1940s but those times were like that!”
Inza Cramer Nelson watched silently as her husband or what was left of Kent Nelson floated in the air cross-legged in front of a glowing crystal ball.
“The orb reveals that dark magic threatens our world, and it is making foul use of Kent Nelson’s comrades in the Justice Society!” declared Doctor Fate in cold, inhuman tones. “They retrieve that which they know not what! Those zodiac keys serve not merely to lock out, but also to set loose! The ancient magic behind this drama reeks of an evil source, not of the good mage Arion!”
Turning to Inza, he announced, “I must be away about the work of the law!” Inza was left sadly watching and praying for her husband’s safe return.
All I do is rush head-first into a fight, thought Al Pratt as he fell twenty feet. It’s been over thirty years since I first became the Atom, and nothing’s changed!
The Atom rolled to a landing and immediately caught himself before his instinct to rush back up to battle the grinning Aquarius kicked in.
He’s right! I may earn a living as a physics prof, but I rarely let my mind govern me, he thought. I’m always ready for a fight. It’s my aggression that takes the lead. What did Terry say once? I let an inferiority complex force me to ever greater displays of raw courage and aggression.
Aquarius was transparent. The creature of water loomed over Atom in the deserted old factory. A watery fist slammed into him, and he knew from the past few minutes that grabbing or punching the beast would only lead to another fall through its suddenly liquid form.
“You can’t think! You are pure energy with no restraint, eh, little turbo!” sneered the manifestation.
The Atom said to himself, “Not this time. Al Pratt has a good mind. I’ll show him how good it is! I’ll fix you, ‘water-bearer,’ since that’s what your name literally means!”
Charging up for an atomic punch, the Atom whirled at the last second, and instead of hitting the creature, he ruptured the hanging heating pipes rusting overhead.
Boiling liquid shot above his head and hit the Aquarius beast, turning the liquid into misting steam, which the Atom quickly dissipated with a switch of the factory’s huge air-cooling jets.
As the creature’s form was scattered, Al whistled a happy tune and scooped up the zodiac key.
I’m the fastest man alive, and the Sky Pirate made me really delay in tracking down that zodiac key! mused Jay Garrick as he raced along after turning in the villain he had just beaten.
As a glowing image of Doctor Fate hovered ominously in his path, he stopped abruptly.
“Doc Fate! What brings you here? Did you think I’d need some small talk on the way?”
“I come in time, ironically, to stop you from finding the key you seek!” said Fate. “Those keys are not meant to merely lock, since they also unlock. I sense evil magic in this quest!”
“Well, Kara claims this Arion is her grandfather or something! Does sound a bit crazy, though!” he said, grinning.
“Starman and Wildcat were also halted just in time, so join me as we seek answers with the assembled team!” intoned Doctor Fate.