The Blue Beetle relied upon his Olympic-level physical strength and agility alone since his flying craft the Bug and his BB gun weren’t operational near the magic nexus that allowed an invasion from Fairyland. He kicked down a kobold — a sprite known in German folklore — and said, “So, come here often?”
Hawkman grinned. “You love to joke as you fight. That’s healthy, if annoying for your teammates.”
Blue Beetle said, “It’s my coping mechanism. How about you? You fight like you really were the Egyptian hero you claimed to be when we all swapped tales at JLA Headquarters.”
Hawkman nodded as he brought his mace down across a ridged backed monster. “I was… or am. Ah… reincarnation grammar is tricky. In fact, I wondered about the earlier Blue Beetle you spoke of. If he used an ancient scarab, then perhaps there is such a relic on my world, too.”
Blue Beetle helped him stop a charging green-skinned beast and said, “Yeah! I wonder if the mentor I spoke of is even alive and well on this Earth? I mean, could he have a counterpart, too?”
As they discussed the multiverse and the questions it raised, they calmly fought horrid creatures spawned by dark magic.
The young Japanese woman known as Tyger knew she was out of her depth. Yet she treated each new monster as if it was merely another mugger or criminal to defeat. She retained her calm and fought well; still, she wondered if her sensei, Judomaster II, or his own sensei, the original Judomaster, had ever faced such bizarre threats.
Her name was Nanako Kuri, and she was the latest heir to the legacy of the famous Judomaster. She was, in fact, the last student her sensei would ever teach. Her sensei was Tetsuro Tanaka, who as a youth had been Tiger, the crime-fighting partner of the original Judomaster during World War II. In the 1950s, the grown-up Tanaka had a career of his own as the Tiger, Japan’s first costumed crime-fighter. And in the late 1960s, Tanaka took on the identity of the second Judomaster and even had his own teenage partner, the second Tiger. Unfortunately, after a few years together, the two had a falling out, and Tanaka vowed never to teach his mastery of the martial arts to another student. But that was before he met the young Nanako Kuri.
No one knew how she did it, but something in Nanako must have impressed Tanaka enough to change his mind. As the granddaughter of General Shimachi Kuri (known during World War II as the Tiger of Tokyo), Nanako grew up with tremendous confidence in herself and her abilities. Had she simply shared her grandfather’s patriotism and love of her country, Tanaka might have been slightly impressed. But it was Nanako’s genuine goodness and humility that truly touched the elder martial arts master. And so Nanako became the very last — and possibly greatest — student of Tetsuro Tanaka. By 1977, she was ready to make her debut as Tyger, Japan’s first action-heroine.
Doctor Fate was surrounded by a nimbus of golden power in the shape of the ankh. He concentrated and reached out to probe at the dimensional rift like the surgeon he was beneath the helmet. He sought how best to close this raw wound upon the cosmos. Through will and magic, he vowed to succeed.
Within the hole, the deathly pale Lorelei hissed in rage. “Conquer this world for me, and I shall let you live through another night!” she screamed.
A hole in the sky, leading to the Land of the Nightshades, was gaping in this universe as well. Although Nightshade had only known of the Incubus, she now learned that the Incubus had been deposed years ago by his twin female counterpart, the Succubus. It was the evil Succubus who now ordered her own inhuman troops forward, just as her other-Earthly counterparts did with their own.
Nightshade punched an ogre in the chin and kicked him flat as she hoped that perhaps this fluke opening brought about by the united mind powers of the Troll King, Lorelei, and Succubus might enable her to finally rescue her long lost sibling. She prayed so as she fought the monsters.
Next to her, Black Canary helped a frightened child find safety as she handed her to a policewoman. “Thanks — she’ll be safe now,” began the blond officer, who gasped as she caught sight of Black Canary’s features. “Why, we could be twins!” said the policewoman, whose badge said Lance.
Black Canary realized that this cop was her Earth-Four counterpart. She nodded and said, “Be careful out there.” She spun around to kick down a gnome and eyed the raw opening between realms warily. If this Land of the Nightshades is anything like what we experienced in my JSA days at Fairyland, she thought, then we’ll be in big trouble if all that magical power spills out any more than it already has.
Wonder Woman of Earth-Two lifted a hulking tree creature over her head and hurled him directly back into the portal, where he blocked the path for his allies. “Great Hera! That beast reminded me of the plant people I once fought on a strange planetoid in the 1950s.”
The Son of Vulcan sliced through the thorns that entangled him and connected with a right hook that dropped the dryad that had tried to trap him. “Aye!” he said. “But Hera’s help is exactly what we need. I’m using her servant Argo’s many eyes to see past that rift. It is growing, and I fear our allies in Sunuria are running out of time.”
Diana nodded. It amazed her that this man, whom she had wrongly believed tainted by the touch of Mars, was in fact so greatly in communion with her Olympian gods and goddesses. He surpassed even the Amazonian heritage in his personal and immediate link to all she valued.
In Sunuria, the Ghost swept by the controls for the three nuclear missiles obtained on three parallel Earths. Each was locked in a pattern that would cause it to detonate at the portal point on one of the three Earths. The Ghost was a criminal scientist named Alec Rois, a genius in the matter of teleportation, and he had the three weapons hanging in an ethereal limbo between worlds. He alone could activate them at will, and his mind was now in the hold of the three united magic kingdom rulers.
Green Lantern created a huge vacuum with his power ring and used it to sweep the warrior women. Power Girl kicked down the wall, while Superman erupted through the floor, and Captain Atom dropped down from above as the two Atoms entered as well, followed silently by Doctor Mid-Nite.
“Warrior women of Sunuria!” roared the Ghost. “Obey your master and kill these invaders!”
Captain Atom approached his old foe in an attempt to plead with him. “This isn’t like you — you want to rule, not to destroy! These women made you their master and their captive because they think you are the heir to their idol, the Faceless One. Let me free you from them and from the hold the Succubus and her allies have on you!”
The Ghost said, “If I could only see you die, then gladly would I see the world burn around you!”
Superman scanned the fortress. “Interesting. The weapons are just beyond traditional reach, but if I vibrate at the precise frequency, I may be able to touch them while Captain Atom occupies the Ghost.”
Meanwhile, the warrior women were badly outclassed by the two Atoms. Ray Palmer shrank to microscopic size, then erupted to full size in their midst. He noted the idols they possessed and heard Captain Atom’s words. He had an idea.
Power Girl used her super-breath to blow the squad of warrior women down the hallway as she strutted forward. “This is too easy!”
Firestorm merely pointed his hands, and the weapons carried by the nearest squad of women turned to dust. “Like sands through the hourglass,” he quipped. “You gals like your soaps, right?”
Ronald, that was a sexist comment, chided Stein.
Firestorm shrugged. “Sorry! My political correctness deserts me when I fight hoards of Amazons for the fate of three-plus worlds.”
Peacemaker whipped out a pellet, and a bright, blinding light caught three of the warriors and left them helpless. He hurried forward to assist Doctor Mid-Nite as the blind hero battled more of the Ghost’s minions.
Captain Atom knew he was playing a fatal role. He could occupy his old enemy better than anyone else, yet even his atomic might was useless against a foe who held three world’s fates in the palm of his glove. Still, the greatest hero of Earth-Four did whatever he could to save his home. “Ghost, you know this is not what you want,” he said. “These women think of you as their god, and you want nothing more than power in the world beyond their home. Come with us. I’ll free you from them.”
The Ghost hesitated. He was a pawn under the united mental sway of the three magical realms’ rulers, and he knew it. Still, what could he do? He was as much a victim as he was a ruler here.
Superman neared a missile and grew alarmed as his slightest touch sent it vibrating at a different frequency. Great Krypton! This Ghost is a subtle fiend. He keeps the weapons just a fraction out of anyone’s reach, mused the man of steel as he tried again and again to match the correct frequency that would allow him to touch the nuclear weapons.
Green Lantern listened as Ray Palmer, the Atom, whispered his latest scheme. The Lantern nodded and flashed his power ring. Instantly, all the heroes had blurred features like those of the masked Question back on Earth-One.
The Atom of the JLA yelled, “Surrender or know the anger of your god! The Faceless One and his Pantheon have returned!”
The warrior maids saw these altered heroes and knew them to be even closer to the lore and legends of their fabled ruler than even the white-masked Ghost. As one they fell to their knees, and their collective hold upon the Ghost faded away. When he suddenly found himself no longer a prisoner of the women of Sunuria, he was able to begin fighting the hold the three beings of magic had upon him as well.
“Atom, help me!” he urged.
Captain Atom yelled, “Turn over the nukes!”
The Ghost shuddered as his hands activated them against his will. “Too late!” he cried. “Curse them — they used me!”
Superman returned and said, “They’re armed, but you can get rid of them via your teleportation device. Send them into deep space.”
The Ghost nodded and obeyed. The nuclear weapons faded away, and if they exploded at all, it was in the cold void of uncharted space. Smoke began to coil out from the Ghost’s costume. “My internal teleportation system burned out, but I’m free,” he said.
Captain Atom led him to freedom as the women remained behind in awe of the altered heroes they believed to be their Faceless Ones.
“OK,” said Power Girl. “Now can I have my face back? This is getting a bit old.”
Firestorm winked at Green Lantern. “Maybe, just maybe your ring ran out of power, huh? She may have to stay that way for a while.”
“Very funny!” said Power Girl as all of their features returned to normal.
Superman turned to the Earth-Four villain. “You’ve proven yourself a hero, and a man.”
The Ghost smiled. “I am free after years of slavery. They worshiped me but would not let me leave their cursed valley. Each time I escaped to live in the real world for brief times, they would bring me back.”
Doctor Mid-Nite said, “So have the magical portals been shut?”
Superman stated, “The JLA Satellite signal says they have closed. Doctor Fate, Son of Vulcan, Zatanna, and the rest did the job. Once we had rid Lorelei, Troll King, and the Succubus of the means by which the portals could be opened, they lost all hold on this world and the others, too.”
“Not quite,” said Ray Palmer, the Atom. “I’d wager we have a little more work to do.”