An oddly shaped, scarab-like blue flying craft soared toward a government facility. The nuclear research facility looked especially sedate and clinical when compared to the colorful occupants of the Blue Beetle’s craft, the Bug.
Ray Palmer (the Atom of Earth-One) turned to his larger namesake, Al Pratt (the Atom of Earth-Two), and said, “You know, it’s great to have you here on Earth-One, but I just wish we could sit down and talk when there wasn’t a multi-Earth crisis hanging over us.”
Al Pratt grinned. “Yes, I know it’s rare that I can exchange opinions with someone who shares both my careers — physics and costumed crime-busting. Hey, do you like boxing?”
Ray shook his head. “Not especially, but I could learn to be a good spectator with the right guide.”
Al mused that it was a nice change to be around a super-hero who was shorter than himself, even if Ray’s six-inch height was subject to change.
Despite his guilt about thinking of other women than his wife, the Blue Beetle began idly wondering if his Bug had impressed the Black Canary. He couldn’t help but find her attractive. Still, he found himself also enjoying a sort of bond with the dark-tressed Huntress.
“So you also were shaped in your heroic role by the loss of a costumed mentor?” she said.
He nodded. “I’m not the first man to call himself Blue Beetle. One of my best friends died wearing his own version of the costume, and he was the second man to call himself the Blue Beetle. He was a few years older than me when we were roommates in college, and I always thought of him as my mentor. I try to honor his memory with all I do.”
The Huntress nodded intently. “My late father was a mystery-man, too, one of the greatest on my Earth. It’s hard to live up to his legend.”
The Black Canary leaned over to the Blue Beetle and said, “I can admire that sentiment. I worked for years with the legends in the JSA and hope to embody their ideals with my current group, the JLA.”
The Beetle said, “You certainly do embody them well!”
Green Arrow said, “Hey, pal, do you still appear on the Power Company kid’s show on PBS?”
Blue Beetle shrugged and retorted, “Aren’t you that Warlord guy from the cheesy film?”
The Question shook his faceless head. This is why I prefer to work alone, he thought. I can get the job done without dealing with other’s egos.
Black Canary placed a hand on Green Arrow’s shoulder. “Why are you riding these two so hard?” asked the lovely blonde. “It’s not like you to kid to this extreme.”
Green Arrow said, “Maybe I don’t appreciate my woman flirting with that bug-brained bozo!”
The Canary threw up her hand in anger. “Listen — I am my own woman! There is no Green Arrow’s property stamp on these fishnets!”
As they landed amidst the chaos of costumed figures and frightened, overwhelmed soldiers, the Huntress spotted someone and frowned. “I think I see the reason these heroes are bickering so, and his name is Roger Hayden.”
Al Pratt, the Atom, jumped out of the craft. “Hayden? That’s the Psycho-Pirate, all right. I’d know his Medusa Mask anywhere. He controls other folks through emotional manipulation. Kind of a drastic version of my old enemy, the original Psycho-Pirate, who only based his crimes around emotions. I’ll shut him down.”
He charged forward, only to be attacked from all sides by leering, laughing, multi-colored thugs.
That madcap laughter reminds me of the Joker, mused the Huntress. Thank goodness he’s still in his cell back on Earth-Two.
The Psycho-Pirate stared at her vacantly, and she gasped as her keen intellect fought a feeling of stupor and confusion.
Blue Beetle said, “Question, those are the Madmen from our world!”
Green Arrow hastily drew a shaft and sent it toward the tumbling louts as they dodged the Atom’s punches. A net expanded to snag two of them even as three more darted away. “These creeps jump around like maniacs,” mused the Emerald Archer. “Like the Creeper on caffeine.”
Black Canary suddenly kissed the Beetle passionately as Hayden switched emotions and victims. “I love you!” said the blonde bombshell.
Blue Beetle, whose real name was Ted Kord, grinned as he gently pushed her back, remembering his wife Tracey. “Oh, how I wish I knew that guy back in college,” he said.
He had just leaped forward to attack the Psycho-Pirate when the Huntress, Black Canary, Green Arrow, and the Question were all rocked into his path by a sudden explosion.
Ray Palmer, the Atom, rode out the shock wave and glowered as recognition set in. “That one-man human bomb is Neutron. He fought Superman.”
Indeed, the yellow-suited alias of Nathan Tryon was powered by atomic energy, and his so-called nuclear punch had sent the heroes reeling. “You punks aren’t worth my atomic fists!” he said with a sneer beneath his helmet.
Al Pratt shoved past the Madmen, saying with a grin, “I just happen to have atomic fists of my own! This is your lucky day, buddy.”
The Black Canary leapfrogged over a tumbling Mad Man and kicked him in the head. She spun around and kicked a second one as he leered at her. These guys are really annoying, she thought.
She rolled across the pavement and rose into a tackle that brought down the nearest Mad Man. “You boys need a makeover — starting with your faces,” she said as she decked one.
The Huntress fired a line up and over a high beam and swung directly into the Psycho-Pirate even as he used his emotion manipulation to try to make her cry. Instead, she she kept her eyes tightly shut and slugged him without looking.
“No good — I have allies!” he cackled as three more Madmen swamped her, and she gasped as she opened her eyes.
The Blue Beetle suddenly fired his strobe gun in Green Arrow’s face. “Gah! What’s the matter with you?” muttered a blinded Green Arrow. “Has that wacko got you under his spell?”
“Now you can’t see him, so he can’t manipulate you,” the Beetle explained. “Fire at my directions. Three o’clock to your left!”
Green Arrow whirled and obeyed. His shaft slammed into the Pirate and knocked him flat.
“Good shot!” smiled the Beetle as Green Arrow rubbed his eyes.
“Not too bad a plan of your own,” the emerald bowman admitted.
Neutron slammed into the Atom of the JSA even as the Huntress knocked a soldier to safety. “My punch is pure atomic power!” said the helmeted heel.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” said the Al Pratt as he blocked the foe’s swing and connected with one of his own. “I’ve heard that three times since we met. Thing is, if you can’t fight, then that punch is useless. Now, me, I can fight!” He proved his point by driving home two more blows.
Ray Palmer, the Atom of the JLA, increased his mass and slammed into another Mad Man. There must be a dozen of these maniacs, he guessed as he shrank beneath a punch and grew again to drop his shocked foe.
The Psycho-Pirate tried to catch the Blue Beetle’s eye as a look of fear crossed his expressive face.
The Question suddenly confronted him after knocking down a Mad Man. “Let’s see how your mask holds up next to mine,” he said, grabbing for his foe and releasing a strange gas from his belt even as he slapped a pliable mask across the face of the Pirate.
“You’ve robbed me of my power!” whined the Psycho-Pirate as he struggled to peel off the extra mask of the Question. “Without my features being visible, I can’t use people!”
“You also can’t remove the mask until I release another chemical,” said the alter ego of Vic Sage, “and, scumbag, I’m not about to do that until I remove a few of your teeth.” He pummeled the villain to the ground and waved his allies over. “I just sank the Pirate.”
Green Arrow sent a gas arrow into the midst of the scrambling Madmen as Black Canary, the Huntress, and Blue Beetle kicked, punched, and shoved them together. The villainous group fell stunned, and the heroes congratulated each other.
“You know… about that kiss earlier…” the Beetle said to the Canary.
“Forget it!” said Green Arrow. “Don’t push your luck.”
Neutron reeled as one after another of the original Atom’s blows hit home.
The JLA’s Atom shouted, “Look — the nuclear missile silo!” He indicated the silo above them as it flickered out of view.
“It just vanished!” said the Canary.
“It must have been teleported away,” said Ray Palmer. “We were distracted by the goons from three Earths while their boss took what he wanted. I fear this bodes ill for us all.”
“This has the Ghost written all over it,” said the Question.
Blue Beetle nodded. “The Ghost is a major baddie on our Earth who uses teleportation.”
The Huntress said, “The Atom just knocked out Neutron.”
“Good,” said Black Canary, “but I think our work has just begun.”