Hourman and Wildcat sat across from one another in a slightly uneasy silence. The man of the hour knew he could always fall back on boxing as a topic of conversation, but he wondered if that was really much of an effort. He had known the former world champ for years, yet they had perhaps mingled together socially less than any other pair of their teammates.
“Ya know, your kid’s a good fighter,” said Wildcat. “I saw him sparring with Sylvester when I visited their Stellar Studio headquarters. He’s got moxie.”
Hourman smiled and said, “High praise, indeed, coming from you, Ted! Rick was often getting into one scrape or another, but I never really gave him formal training.”
Before Wildcat could reply, a buzzing sound interrupted their conversation. They jumped up eagerly and rushed to a security monitor. The view screen revealed an elderly man in a black suit.
“Insurance guy, I bet!” joked Wildcat.
Hourman shook his head. “No, that’s an old foe I recall all too well. T.O. Morrow!”
Wildcat shrugged. “Some nerve to just waltz up to the door!”
Hourman nodded. “He’s going to get a welcome, but not the kind he wants! I’m going to let him inside.” He pushed a control, and soon the elderly man stood before them.
“Thank you for seeing me!” he cried. “I know I must sound like something out of Bester, but the entire world is in danger. I need to warn you before it is too late!”
Hourman frowned. “I should have noticed before. You are much older than the Morrow we fought. You must be the T.O. Morrow of our Earth! The evil one came from Earth-One!”
Wildcat groaned. “Not more of that cross-Earth stuff!”
Hourman smiled. “You should mind that less than many of us. (*) Professor Morrow, that is your name? What is the danger you want to warn us about?”
[(*) Editor’s note: See Wildcat: Lost Heroes.]
Professor Thomas Oscar Morrow shook his head wearily. “I invented a device that allows one to view the future. I used it and saw there may well be no future! The Earth is destined to be destroyed sometime in the future, unless the Justice Society can save it!”
Later, they would wonder exactly what had started the chain of events that so threatened their world. The answer to that question would depend upon how one determined which event set the scheming of their foes in motion. Some would say it could all be traced back to Alexei Luthor’s mad genius, while others would argue that the famed Crisis on Infinite Earths was to blame. For the sake of beginning this tale, the murder of Ultra-Man is as good a place to start as any.
Gary Concord, man of the future, or man of a future, had trapped the evil Madame Mayhem in his suspended animation foam. (*) He had known with the certainty of a man who had survived numerous remarkable adventures that the brilliant but mad woman was helpless. He was correct; however, he did not count on the arrival of a coldly calculating being who combined the worst of man with machine to form a hybrid most deadly in purpose and power. He materialized aboard Concord’s rocket ship and silently melted the imprisoning foam that had held the woman in red.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Showcase: Miss Terrific: The Return of Madame Mayhem, Chapter 2: Mr. Weed’s Agent.]
She wasted no time once her agile body could move again with its amazing prowess and stealth. The deceptively beautiful redhead closed in on Concord and snapped his neck. “Murder is a hobby of mine!” she laughed girlishly as she turned to her rescuer. He was handsome but inhuman, as circuits and wires protruded from his skull. He displayed no emotion at either her deeds or her words. He merely nodded and analyzed her like a machine.
“The most probable outcome of rendering you free was Concord’s swift murder at your hands,” said the artificial being known as Brainiac. “Now I offer you an alliance of sorts. If you help me achieve vengeance upon those who destroyed my world, I shall, in turn, give you power such as even your keen and warped mind can little imagine!”
She smiled and said, “Keep talking, tall, dark, and handmade!”
The assembled might of the Justice Society of America waited tensely as Professor Morrow explained himself more fully.
“I must confess to being confused by Hourman’s apparent recognition of me as an enemy!” he said. “I have lived all of my life in harmony with society as a man of science. I completed my time-scanner only recently. My goal was to predict disasters or learn of futuristic medical breakthroughs to benefit the world. Imagine my horror when the scanner showed me only a void! The world was not conquered — the Earth was missing! I can only assume it met with some nightmarish destruction.”
Power Girl rolled her eyes. “Look, pal, we’ve all been to the future. The future may differ from one timeline to another, but it does go on. You probably need to adjust your cable or something.”
Doctor Fate stood up and looked down on the blonde Kryptonian. The composite being’s expression was concealed by her gleaming helm. She spoke in a tone that allowed little debate or frivolity. “Young Kara, you must know that all such possible futures are exactly that in nature — possible!” she said.
Power Girl frowned and thought, Sheesh! Inza’s becoming as stiff as her hubby. Seems weird to see those curves on Doc Fate and hear that voice. Although Kent and Inza Nelson had been joining together to become the usually male Doctor Fate for more than a year now, Inza still rarely took the lead; when she did, Doctor Fate’s form became decidedly female.
The Sandman nodded. “I lack Starman’s expertise, but I’ve been to an alternate dimension or two, and I believe anything is possible.”
“We have indeed been to the far future and have been menaced by more than one futuristic foe,” added Hawkman, “but to be safe, I’d say we had better follow up on Professor Morrow’s fears. Can your device pinpoint exactly when the danger begins?”
Carter Hall’s wife, Shiera Hall, sat by his side and listened as he took command with his characteristic calm. Carter’s ready for any threat, be it a thug with a knife or some cosmic invasion, thought Hawkgirl. Still, it would have to happen now, when I was hoping for a real vacation with sun and surf! She sighed.
“I can only say what my device showed,” said Professor Morrow. “It revealed a void but could not date when such a void would exist!”
Wildcat smiled. “Sounds like your do-hickey was like a VCR flashing twelve o’clock!”
The Atom grinned. “Seriously, this comes at a time when I’ve had some weird experiences, too. Do you know about the quintessence theory? It is a bit radical. It suggests that some dark matter or almost sentient energy is constantly at work in the universe, speeding up expansion.”
Green Lantern frowned. “Sentient energy? You make it sound like the Starheart itself. How does it relate to Morrow’s threat?”
“And they call me the impatient one!” said the Atom. “I was reading a journal in which an author suggests that this energy which has always been around is actively working for some purpose that may be detrimental to the universe.”
Green Lantern nodded. “That does sound like the magical energy the Guardians of Oa sent into our universe eons ago. I know it is not dark matter, but in terms of its almost human awareness and purpose, it conforms to the source of my own power.”
“Friend Lantern, I have detected an increase in mystical energies of late as well,” said Doctor Fate. “Perhaps the same source has produced the increase in dark matter activity the Atom read about.”
“Can we trace these different energy build-ups?” asked Superman.
“Fate and Green Lantern could surely whip something up,” suggested Red Robin.
The Huntress whispered to Power Girl as their friends worked feverishly. “Kara, you seem oddly preoccupied. What’s wrong?” she asked.
Power Girl shook her head. “Can’t a girl do some thinking without being treated like the village idiot?”
“Sorry,” said the Huntress. “Again I ask, what’s wrong?”
“Try to have a private thought around a Bat-child!” said Kara Zor-L. “I’ve been reading up on the Supergirl who was from Earth-One,” she began. “She was also from Argo City, but her–” She was interrupted when a shout caught her ears.
“Thanks to some help from Diana, we have detected some disturbing facts,” said Green Lantern.
Wonder Woman smiled modestly. “I merely drew upon some of Paula’s work on Science Island. The Magic Sphere technology and her space transformer rely on not entirely unrelated principles. The screen shows points in time in which serious levels of energy may be detected. The energies are what Doctor Fate and Atom spoke of earlier. They are not literally dark matter and magic, but are a new combination of the two and other unknown energies. We surmise their build-up at these different time periods could lead to the end of the world!”
“Right, Wonder Woman,” said Green Lantern. “I’d wager the scientist Atom read about detected the energy source that exists currently and mistook it for the more familiar quintessence or dark matter.”
“My orb of Nabu may tell me more,” said Doctor Fate. “It, too, was drawn to the energy but responded only to the mystical nature of it.”
“Well, we should split up and try to contain or stop the energy increases!” said Hoourman.
Hawkman grinned slightly. “That’s my line, old friend!”
Doctor Mid-Nite frowned. “But wait — do I understand you to say that the other energy levels are in the past and the future?”
Doctor Fate nodded. “Indeed so! One energy pulse is in the ancient world, and one is in the future.”
Johnny Thunder shivered as he contemplated the end of the world. “Say, we can’t let the world end before it’s even started!” he said.
Superman clapped him on the shoulder gently. “Well said, Johnny. If the world is destroyed by such an energy-field, then it little matters when the destruction occurs. We’ve certainly faced time travelers before.”
“Then, as Hourman suggested, we divide and conquer!” said Hawkman.
On board Gary Concord’s ship, the artificial man called Brainiac turned to Madame Mayhem with his normal passive expression. “I fail to comprehend why you had me place those energy signals in such a manner,” he said. “They are not a threat to the universe, nor do I understand why you involved Morrow.”
The redhead smiled. “You lack human emotions. As a synthetic man raised instantly via a gestation pod after your microverse was destroyed by Superman during his battle with your ‘father’ Leonel Novak, you cannot feel hate or desire revenge. (*) You merely follow a directive to destroy Superman and all he values. Thus you needed me. I feel so very deeply! I also understand these heroes. I know their motives and how they think. My father, or my alternate timeline double’s father, was one of their members. (*) They need very little to push them into dividing up into teams and risking all to save the world.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See Power Girl: Kara’s Quest, Chapter 6: Heir of the Micro-World and Justice Society of America: Vanity Fair (Play), Chapter 2: The Strange Case of Miss Terrific and Madame Mayhem.]
Brainiac nodded. “My creator little realized when he abducted Superman to the microscopic world he ruled after leaving the service of Alexei Luthor that the Kryptonian and his cousin would accidentally destroy the world. Thus he desperately sent my gestation pod via electronic means to safety. This process robbed me of humanity. Still, as you say, I need to see Superman die. That is my goal.”
Madame Mayhem crossed her legs and said, “Leave emotions to me. I can play upon these heroes like the Fiddler with his magical instrument. Thus I tricked Morrow into thinking his broken device saw a time in which the world had been destroyed. His sincere passion convinced them to seek out the energy signals I had you plant through time. Now, while they divide up, we conquer!”
“Very well,” said Brainiac. “Still, I almost crave your passion. Perhaps I may achieve a form of humanity, if my plan goes well.”
In a lush, prehistoric valley, Johnny Thunder, Power Girl, Red Robin, the Huntress, and the Sandman materialized in a flash of brilliant pink light.
“Stone Age: home of dinosaurs and nubile cave girls!” spouted the Thunderbolt in the manner of an old-time elevator operator as he hovered nearby.
“Actually, if dinosaurs are around, then humans are not,” noted the Sandman.
Johnny shrugged. “My T-bolt has been watching too much TV!”
“Hmmmph! That Great Gazoo has nothing on me!” sniffed the Thunderbolt.
Red Robin smiled and said, “Good work, Johnny. The T-bolt brought us directly through time to the location of the first energy pulse. The device G.L. cobbled together confirms that this is the right place.”
Johnny smiled. “Thanks. I figured he could do it!”
Power Girl scanned the horizon and said, “OK, OK, let’s get this thing taken care of before we get attacked by some T-Rex.”
The Huntress bent low over the weird pulsing sphere before them. “Red Robin and I should be able to attach the neutralizer as G.L. suggested.” She clipped a flat green object against the side and watched as the light dimmed abruptly.
“It’s like they didn’t pay their light bill!” said Johnny.
The Sandman smiled beneath his mask. “Exactly. Still, the larger question remains to be answered.”
Red Robin agreed readily. “Who planted this thing here, and why? I almost suspect it was a diversion. I mean, stopping the pulse was all too easy.”
Power Girl sighed. “You are right, Boy Wonder! I guess we need to get back and see what evil scheme has unfurled during our trip.”
“Hey!” said Johnny. “My T-bolt can bring us back at the second we left. Say, you should take us directly to the goon who planted this thing!”
The Thunderbolt pulsed, and they were gone. I did so want to see Power Girl dressed as a nubile cave girl! he thought.