“Quite a turnout, eh, guys?” the Flash said to his two lifelong friends as they stood atop the slowly moving parade float. The street was lined with people, five and six rows back. Civic City police did their best to keep order, while everyone was straining to get a closer look at their heroes. Some even reached out to touch them.
“I’ll say,” Hawkman responded. “I’m not much for the limelight, but I have to admit this feels pretty good.”
“What we do is all for them,” Green Lantern said. “Nothing wrong with letting them show some appreciation.”
“Hey, guys — do you hear a motorcycle?” the Flash asked, straining to hear.
“No, I don’t think — wait, there it is,” Green Lantern said. “Seems far off, but getting closer. Probably part of the parade; maybe a police escort?”
“Funny, I don’t see one,” Hawkman said, shading his eyes with his hand and scanning the street. “I’ve got pretty good eyesight, you know, and I can’t spot a motorcycle anywhere.”
“It’s really loud now,” Green Lantern noted, looking around. “Sounds like it’s right on top of us! But I can’t see it, either!”
“Uh, guys — try looking up!” the Flash said. Green Lantern and Hawkman immediately gazed skyward and saw something they found hard to believe, even after decades in the super-hero community.
“Who the devil is that?” Hawkman asked. The JSA members saw what appeared to be an outlaw biker riding a motorcycle — but riding it through the sky.
“Heads up, heroes!” the biker called out as he hurled something from his perch in the sky. The people on the float ahead of the JSA’s — a float depicting the ten original JSA members turning over a Panzer tank — saw the object heading for them, and leaped off their float just in time. For the object was a bomb that blew the float into a million fragments on impact.
“Why do we always get gate-crashers?” Green Lantern sighed, and took to the sky in a blaze of emerald light. The motorcycle executed an impressive aerial loop and came out meeting the Lantern head-on.
“What’s up, gran’pa?” the man on the cycle yelled. “They let you out of the home special for today?”
“If there’s one thing I hate more than a young punk, it’s a young disrespectful punk,” Green Lantern declared, preparing to snare the biker in an emerald cage. Before he could act, though, the biker drew a strange-looking pistol and fired. A jet of brownish mist came from the barrel and enveloped Green Lantern in a cloud.
“Good Lord!” Green Lantern cried, fighting to remain aloft. “It’s sawdust particles in a fine spray! Coated with adhesive! Sticking to my costume — and my ring!” Wood, of course, stopped Green Lantern’s power beam cold. In seconds, his ring was completely covered with the tiny wooden particles; he wavered in the air like a wounded eagle, then began to plummet.
“G.L.!” Hawkman cried, and zoomed into the air to rescue his friend.
“I hate these aerial fights,” the Flash growled to himself. “I always get left out of them!”
“Don’t worry about the fight up there, Flash,” came a voice from the crowd. “You’ve got enough to worry about down here!”
The Flash looked in the direction of the voice. He saw a man in the front of the crowd shed his overcoat to reveal a colorful costume with a lightning-bolt motif not unlike his own.
“Oh, so there’s two of you now?” the Flash asked. “And what do you call yourself, son?”
In answer, the young man extended his hands. Electricity leaped from his fingers and struck the float where nanoseconds earlier the Flash had stood. Jay Garrick watched the float burn as the man laughed.
“I call myself Fusebox,” he said. “Appropriate, don’t you think?”
The people on the floats scattered as the battle erupted. While Hawkman was helping Green Lantern to safety, the flying biker bombed two more floats. The Flash dodged two bolts launched by Fusebox before a third caught him a glancing blow to the leg. The shock paralyzed his leg, and he went down hard.
When Green Lantern was safely down, Hawkman took after the biker with a vengeance. The biker, however, touched a control on his cycle, and the exhaust pipes began belching a thick, purplish gas. Hawkman’s vision was obscured, and the gas had an anesthetic quality as well. He tried to fan the gas away with his wings, but it clung to them and to his costume. He was forced to land.
“This is as far as these floats go,” Fusebox announced, turning the full fury of his electric blasts on the street. The pavement quickly melted into tar, trapping the floats.
“What floats?” the biker called, zooming in low on his bike. As he passed each float, he tossed a bomb that reduced it to rubble. “I don’t see any floats.”
Before any of the JSAers could sufficiently recover to give chase, Fusebox had leaped onto the back of the flying motorcycle, and both villains were gone without a trace. The Flash came to groggily, shaking his head and looking around at the burning carnage that was the first annual Justice Society of America Day Parade.
The Gotham City crowd marveled at the fine details of the marble statues. Batman stood in all his dark nobility. Mister Terrific smiled at the audience, the laugh-lines around his eyes just visible through his mask. Green Arrow’s keen eyes looked out over the crowd; you would almost swear he was looking right at you. The sculptor was a true genius of his art.
Three flesh-and-blood heroes stood among the statuary. A lectern had been set up at the entrance to Heroes Park, and it was flanked on either side by the legendary Superman and the Patriot, the former Star-Spangled Kid. Red Robin stepped up to the lectern to address the audience.
“It has been said that man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends,” Robin began. “The heroes you see represented by these statues are the greatest examples of that truth. For decades, they fought to defend the defenseless, protect the innocent, and preserve democracy. When the time came to sacrifice their very lives for the concepts they held dear, they were not found wanting. None hesitated to give all they had for the cause they fought for — for justice. Today we open Heroes Park to honor these brave men and women, to remember what they did for us all.”
“My, what a pretty speech,” came a female voice from above. All heads darted up in the direction of the voice. They found a young woman in a green costume, sitting in a tree.
“Yeah, the bird sings real pretty, doesn’t he?” came a male voice. A young man in a similar costume was seated in another tree. “But you know what I hate? All these statues spoil the view of the greenery!”
“We can’t have that, can we?” the woman asked. Almost before her words ended, the ground began to shake. The crowd watched in horror as something huge burst from the ground behind the heroes. Many were reminded of the giant sand-worms from Dune. Closer inspection, however, revealed these things to be plants — vines two feet around, twisting like serpents. In seconds, all three heroes were entwined in the vines.
Straining his muscles, Superman burst the vine that held him. For a moment he remembered a day when he would have effortlessly shredded a vine twice this thick like tissue paper, but he quickly put that out of his mind and got down to business. He took to the air, rocketing toward the woman in the tree. The woman, however, took a handful of red dust from a pouch on her belt and, as Superman got close, blew it into his face. She giggled as she watched the dust multiply, covering the Man of Tomorrow. As it grew, it was seen that this crimson dust was a fungus of some kind. Superman writhed, twisted, and fell to the ground.
“Superman!” Red Robin cried as he strained against the plant tendril. “That woman just kayoed Superman with some kind of fungus!”
“Hang on, Robin!” the Patriot said. The force-field projected by his cosmic converter belt was slowly expanding, pushing away the plant-tendril. “I’m almost fr–”
But then the plant flung the Patriot like a baseball. Unable to check his flight in time, the young hero collided with the statue of his old teammate in the Seven Soldiers of Victory, the Crimson Avenger. The marble statue broke in half, and the Patriot fell amid the ruins, unconscious.
“Now that’s what I call a Patriot missile!” the young man in the tree joked. Red Robin was held fast by the plants, unable to move a muscle. He watched in horror as the plants demolished the marble statues, one by one. As a final gesture of contempt, the plants snapped the head off the Batman statue and dropped it at Robin’s feet.
“That’s what we think of your Heroes Park,” the young woman said, dropping to the ground from the tree. Her male counterpart did the same. The woman then blew the crowd a kiss, and then the plants began pumping clouds of pollen into the air. The onlookers were blinded, many tearing and sneezing from the pollen. When the cloud cleared, both green-costumed strangers were gone. Broken pieces of marble were all that was left of Heroes Park.
Cameras clicked and whirred, flashbulbs popped, and television cameras silently recorded as the All-Star Youth Center in New York City was about to be opened. The brand-new building stood shining with chrome and glass, a bright red ribbon stretched across its doors. The Atom and Wildcat stood on either side of a wooden lectern. Doctor Mid-Nite stood at the lectern, addressing the audience.
“Within each of us is the potential for greatness,” said Mid-Nite. “If that potential is nurtured and encouraged at an early age, nothing is impossible. It has long been the goal of organizations like the Police Athletic League and the Campfire Boys and Girls to discover that potential in our youth and allow it to flourish. We of the Justice Society of America feel that, when we go into battle against criminals, costumed or otherwise, it means society as a whole has failed. Those whom we prevent from turning to crime in the first place, these are our successes. Thus this All-Star Youth Center, hopefully the first of many, will provide a place where young people can experience many different activities and interests, and hopefully spark some–”
“Make way for the entertainment!” called a loud, gruff voice with a thick Liverpool accent from the crowd. All heads turned to see a young man with an electric guitar making his way through the reporters and spectators. He was dressed in leather and metal, in the style of a heavy metal musician. His guitar was not plugged into anything, and no cord led from it. A very attractive young woman walked behind him. Before Doctor Mid-Nite could say a word, the man walked up to the lectern and whirled to face the audience.
“And now, for your listening pleasure,” he announced in his thick accent, “we present Death Metal!” With that, he began attacking his guitar with a vengeance. Sounds poured out of it; Mid-Nite realized its power source and speakers must be self-contained. The sounds were awful. Twisted, shrieking screeches echoed from the instrument, grating on Mid-Nite’s nerves. They made him feel angry. How dare this young upstart come here and ruin his speech with that racket? He had a good mind to–
“Move aside, Doc,” Wildcat said gruffly, shoving Doctor Mid-Nite away from the lectern. “Where do you get off always making the speeches? Other people can talk, too, you know!”
Mid-Nite fumed at this effrontery. “Oh, and I suppose an uncultured pug like you wants to make a speech? Listen, bruiser, when I want a punch thrown, I’ll let you know. Meanwhile, let those of us who can spell make the speeches!”
“Why, you pompous blowhard!” Wildcat growled. “If you weren’t a blind bat, I’d make you eat those words!”
“Don’t let that stop you, you punch-drunk gutter-cat!”
“Shut up, the both of you!” the Atom snarled. “Think you’re so big, don’t you? Pipe down, or I’ll cut the both of you down to size!”
“For your elaboration, runt,” Mid-Nite addressed the Atom, “the article ‘the’ is never used with ‘both.’ I guess you’re a little short on your English skills.”
With that, the three-decades-long friends fell to blows. They were so intent on tearing each other apart, they didn’t notice that the crowd was doing the same thing; the gathering had turned into a riot.
“You’re on, love,” the musician shouted to his female companion over the din. She winked at him and stepped up to the front of the building. As she gazed at the window of the Youth Center, scarlet beams of light shot from her eyes. The beams melted a hole in the window and struck the interior of the center, setting fire to whatever they touched. The woman repeated this step with four more windows; soon, the entire All-Star Youth Center was in flames. The JSAers and the crowd continued to battle in front of the inferno.
Finally, the musician stopped playing. “Good night, New York!” he shouted, making the sign of the Devil with his fingers, before he and the young woman walked off.