by Dan Swanson
The Kent farm outside Smallville, February, 1987:
Legion of Justice Squad B now stood before the Monitor of this current age — a young man calling himself Alexander Lane, who was originally Alexander Luthor Junior from the parallel world of Earth-Three and who had been raised in a matter of days from infancy to adulthood by the original Monitor.
Cathy Beamish, alias Kid Terrific, the leader of Legion of Justice Squad B, explained their mission to the Monitor in his small laboratory home on the Kent farm, which appeared from the outside to be nothing more than an ordinary barn.
“We know that Mekanique, Vandal Savage, and the Legion of Doom plan a surprise attack on the Justice Society of America. They plan to catch the JSA off-guard and destroy the team, and then take over first the United States and then the world. They are trying to restore the timeline in which Vandal Savage, in the guise of Joh Fredersen, ruled the world from his soulless, futuristic metallic city of Metropolis, where Rotwang created Mekanique and programmed her with her goals.
“In our own timeline, Savage rules the future under a different guise — General Urbane — and using a different form of government, which we call Amgov. Over the next two-hundred years, Amgov will rewrite history, and virtually nothing we were taught about your current era turned out to be true. We are trying to determine where the weak spots in history are so we can warn the JSA before they are attacked. Our own research has identified several of these weak spots, and we have dispatched other teams to those places and times.
“Our own mission was to contact you and see if you could help us locate other weak spots, or perhaps even help us discover the exact moment of the attack. Unfortunately, our time-cube malfunctioned, which brought us to our current situation.”
“Actually,” Alex contradicted her, “you were extremely fortunate that your time-cube malfunctioned. The malfunction enabled me to alter your destination and save a life — a very important life to you in particular, seeing as you would not have been born if Stanley Beamish had died over in Vegas.”
Cathy acknowledged this with a smile and a nod. “Even my best module on time travel hasn’t helped me understand the grandfather paradox. So, can you help us?”
“I believe I can!” Alex replied eagerly. “Based on the Monitor’s records of events on millions of other parallel Earths throughout the multiverse before the Crisis — and my own research since — my computers suggest that there is a 98.4 percent probability that the attack you are anticipating will occur on the night of the 1988 Presidential election. Everyone, including the JSA, will be engrossed in election returns and election analysis and exit polls. Mekanique and Savage will be able to achieve total surprise.”
Without any warning, the squad’s new friend Jemi Olsen screamed in pain and collapsed to the ground. But even before her friends could reach her, she stopped screaming and passed out. Her face was colorless and totally drained of blood by the intense pain. Kid Terrific took command, keeping her teammates back while she examined the unconscious teenage girl. Meanwhile, Alex had pulled out a small handheld device much like a tricorder and was scanning her.
“I can’t see any sign of injuries,” Cathy said, sounding worried. “Her pulse and breathing are really fast, and her body temperature is way low, and her skin is clammy. She’s in shock from the pain.”
Alex sounded worried as well. “There’s an unusually large amount of residual chronal energy in her body. You pick it up during time travel, but it usually drains off quickly when you return to your normal time. But the charge in her body isn’t leaking away as quickly as it should, and her metabolism just reacted violently as it attempts to adjust.”
“What can we do forrr herrr?” asked WildCat. Cathy had noticed that Cat seemed smitten with Jemi, though it was hard to tell — Cat always seemed smitten with each new human female he met.
Alex scanned again. “Already more of the chronal energy has drained away. At this rate, it will be totally gone in, oh, another couple of days. She’ll probably be OK, but if she has another attack, I’ll get some of the JSA on it once they return. They’ve a lot more experience with this kind of thing than I do. David Knight might be able to drain the energy easily with the cosmic rod, for instance.”
“Let’s make her comfortable and see how she reacts when she comes to,” Terrific added. “I’ll ask Gernsback to see if he can get any suggestions from Rex or Theresa.”
Golden Boy carried the unconscious Jemi to a small makeshift that had been set up by Alex Lane for Stanley Beamish. With Cathy’s ancestor already in the autodoc, the room was crowded, but they managed to lay Jemi on a cot. She came to while Cathy was bathing her face with a damp washcloth.
“Ugg! That hurt a lot, it did!” Jemi said, sitting up with a start. She looked around at her new friends, crowded into the small room. “But I feel great now! What happened?”
WildCat and Golden Boy explained, while Kid Terrific and Alex continued to discuss the Justice Legionnaires’ mission.
Kid Terrific was very concerned. “Election eve 1988’s not one of the dates we’re already covering. We’ll have to send a message to Gernsback to have the other teams meet us in 1988, and we’ll be ready!” She turned to her team. “We’ll be leaving as soon as the message is sent!”
She turned back to Jemi, who was sitting on her cot, watching the displays on the medical machine that was healing the badly injured Stanley Beamish. “Jemi, I’m sorry you got caught up in this. I should have been more careful.”
Jemi smiled back at her. “Hey, how many cub reporters get to travel in time and save a life? I’m just worried I’m going to have nightmares for the rest of my life, seeing Stanley lying there in the bathtub covered with blood.”
WildCat spoke up. “You werrre very brave to help us, Jemi Ol-son. I hope I can see you again.” He was practically purring now.
“Watch out for him, Jemi — he sheds!” Cathy laughed. “Cat, once we get back to our own time, I doubt any of us will ever be coming back here again. Anyway, all, we gotta go! We’re off to November 7, 1988!”
“Gernsback, initiate,” Cathy said to the air. Her time-cube came to life with a glow, and the air crackled strangely. Golden Boy and WildCat moved closer to Kid Terrific. The glow enveloped the three Legionnaires and then vanished — and they were gone.
Alex Lane turned back to Jemi. “I really need for you to keep everything that happened today involving me a secret. Nobody is supposed to know I’m the Monitor.”
“Sure, Alex, I promise! But what about the Legionnaires? Can I tell people about them?”
“If you want. But people will think you’re nuts.”
“Yeah, they will,” she laughed. Especially Jimmy! she thought. “OK, Alex, you can count on me!” She frowned and wondered — how long had she been gone? Was Jimmy concerned about her being missing? “Alex, I have to go make sure nobody is worried about me. I’ll come back to look in on Stanley later, OK?”
“Sure.” He paused a second to look at her, then spoke sternly. “And, Jemi? If you have another headache, be sure and let me know. As the Monitor, I’ve got some contacts who can help if you need it.”
“Thanks, Alex! Gotta run!” She skipped out the door, anxious to see how wild a story she could get Jimmy to believe. But it can’t be any wilder than the truth! The Monitor, whose emotional maturity had been stunted by his unnatural growth, had forgotten to mention something that would have been quite important to her. Jemi Olsen, a friend of Superboy’s, had gone missing in late December, 1985, and had been considered a missing case up until the present — February, 1987. All the local authorities, as well as Superman, Superboy, and Power Girl had searched for her for a little over a year in vain. But to her, she’d only been gone for a couple of hours or so. And the Monitor was unwittingly responsible for her being missing, since he had relayed the time-traveling Legionnaires from late 1985 to early 1987 in order to save Beamish’s life.
Alexander looked down at the young, unconscious busboy and wondered if the young man’s heroic destiny had been altered when Mekanique had manipulated Ape-Face into mistaking him for Stretch O’Brien and almost killing him. The Monitor’s records of the future were good but not exhaustive, and he did not know the answer. Alex wondered if this event would, by some twist of fate, be the catalyst that changed the ordinary Stanley Beamish into the hero he knew he would eventually become.
It was a routine meeting of the All-Star Squadron. There were twenty-seven members in attendance, while another thirty or so members of the loose-knit group had other obligations.
The co-chairman Hawkman called the meeting to order, but before any business could be transacted, members started to disappear — not by walking out the door, but by popping out of existence. With popping sounds, Johnny Quick and the Flash were first to go, then Doctor Fate and the Spectre, and then, like popcorn, a handful, and then the rest in a series of pops so close together and loud that it sounded like a machine gun. Less than three seconds after Quick disappeared, the room was empty.
“That went better than expected,” a satisfied voice mused, seemingly from empty air. “Funny, I would have expected such an experienced group to have responded more quickly.” But there was no one left to answer.
Arrival was more chaotic. The entire group appeared somewhere out of thin air about ten feet in the air. The various members tried to react, but they were so close together that they only got in each others’ ways. Some of the fliers managed to shoot into the air, and the Flash and Johnny Quick were able to gain their balance and blow up a quick air cushion, but that actually made things worse as the few All-Stars who had managed to land on their feet were swept into the general pileup.
Before they could even begin to figure out where they were, a giant face appeared high in the sky. Perhaps twenty feet long, perhaps one-hundred-and-thirty feet off the ground, it was the face of a gleaming golden robot — a female robot. Many of the All-Stars immediately recognized the giant who was leering down at them.
“It’s Mekanique!” someone shouted.
“Spread out!” Hawkman shouted in his most authoritarian voice. “We can’t let her attack us in a crowd like this. Find cover and tune to Channel 5.”
As the All-Star Squadron members untangled themselves, the giant taunted them, her voice powerful enough to send many of the non-powered members rolling across the pavement. “Hear me, All-Star Squadron! I have brought you now to this city of the future… where you will meet your death at the hands of Mekanique!” As she laughed, the buildings shook. “HA-HA-HA-HAAA!”
They were in a park in a strange city. The sun was shining brightly, except when Mekanique blocked it out. The buildings all looked like as if they were made of silver or gold, with smooth, gleaming walls, and darkened windows. Flying vessels were streaming from the city, and crowds of civilians were jamming the streets, screaming and fleeing from the marauding giant. She laughed again and deliberately strode toward the All-Stars, stomping her feet and crushing thirty or so civilians with each stomp. The rest screamed even louder and scurried in other directions.
The Flash and Johnny Quick ran through the crowd, helping as many people as they could keep their feet. Doctor Fate and the Spectre bent their efforts toward evacuating the city. Johnny Thunder actually made himself useful and said, “Say, you’d think we could help these people out of the city somehow!” And the Thunderbolt was carrying more people out of the way.
“Fliers, to me!” Green Lantern used his ring to make a giant megaphone. “Attack!”
“No!” yelled Hawkman. “Evacuate the people first, and then we’ll deal with the giant!” But nobody could hear him over Green Lantern’s amplified voice.
Air Wave, Hawkgirl, and Starman flashed into the air toward Mekanique’s head. Plastic Man launched himself into the air with his patented slingshot move, then flattened his body into an airfoil shape. Amazing-Man touched a rubber sample he kept in his belt and imitated the pliable hero. Six fliers flashed around the giant robot’s head, some attacking, the rest attempting to confuse her. She seemed invulnerable to green beam, gravity rod, and electrical attacks. Hawkgirl’s mace made no impression whatsoever. Moving faster than anyone could have imagined, Mekanique snatched the plastic heroes out of the air and into her mouth. Their screams only lasted for a few seconds. Enraged, the remaining fliers circled and attacked again.
The whole time, Hawkman was screaming over the radio link. “Fall back! Regroup! Break off the attack and rendezvous on my signal.” But his comrades were too enraged to listen to him. Only the Shining Knight obeyed his orders and fell in next to him. The two of them swept low over the heroes on the ground and tried to get them organized.
The heroes stuck on the ground ignored their flying comrades and assembled into groups for their own independent attacks.
The Human Bomb and the Atom unleashed an explosive touch and atomic punch on one of the giant feet. Bones shattered in the Atom’s fists, and the explosives had no effect whatsoever.
Green Arrow, Firebrand, and the Sandman blasted at her midsection with an explosive arrow, flames, and a gas-gun firing corrosive gas, respectively, with equally dismal results. The unknown metal of Mekanique’s skin seemed to be as invulnerable as that of Superman, notable by his absence.
Hourman, Robotman, and Liberty Belle attempted to lift the other foot from the ground and topple the giant robot. As they grabbed the giant foot, Mekanique lifted it and shook it violently, and the three super-heroes flew off and smashed against nearby buildings.
The six weakest heroes were climbing buildings nearby to leap onto the giant from higher floors or throwing lines with grappling hooks toward her waist and arms. Mekanique reached out and grabbed them, one by one, and squeezed, and Batman, Robin, Mister Terrific, Wildcat, Doctor Mid-Nite, and the Guardian were no more. The Guardian’s golden shield clattered to the pavement below.
The giant laughed, and the sky shook. “HAAA-HA-HA-HAAA! All your vaunted powers are useless against me!” Her eyes glowed, emitting red beams, and as she turned her head, the beam swept across the fliers, and they were gone. Pieces of buildings vanished as well, and the upper floors began crashing to the ground. Many of the remaining civilians were crushed or died under a hail of stone, metal splinters, and shrapnel being hurled through the area.
Stunned by their grotesque losses, the remaining All-Stars finally heeded Hawkman’s pleas to retreat and regroup. Twelve of Earth’s greatest heroes were gone forever, while three more were knocked out of the fight, at least temporarily. Twelve were left demoralized, disheartened, confused, and full of deadly anger over the deaths of their friends and teammates. Instinctively, they turned to Hawkman, their leader through so many deadly missions in the past.
Yet he was as stunned as any by the loss of his mate. He had just seen Shiera vaporized in a red beam along with some of his best friends, and for once, he had no further orders to give. The remainder of the team looked at each other in stupefaction. Who would lead them now?
“Say, you know, we could sure use a battle plan right about now!” Johnny Thunder seemed bewildered, and then the Thunderbolt appeared, dressed as an Army general.
“You shoulda asked before, boss!” he chided Johnny. “I got us a winner right here!” He unrolled a scroll, and the remaining heroes gathered around and read avidly.
“Damn you, Thunderbolt! These are the plans for the Battle of Ypres in World War One!” the Flash complained.
“Well, if these aren’t suitable, I have hundreds of other battle plans you might like. After all, Master John didn’t specify which battle.”
And then it was too late. An avalanche of giant hammers seemed to smash down on the group as Mekanique fell to her knees and began pounding the heroes flat with her fists. The Spectre grew to giant size and attempted to grapple with the robot, but she seemed to be immune to magic. She grabbed the giant Spectre and tore off his arms, legs, and head, and then used the giant, magically invulnerable torso to smash the rest of the JSA. Only Johnny Quick managed to escape.
Mekanique quickly turned to the three unconscious heroes she had shaken off earlier. As she reached for Liberty Belle, Johnny flashed by and snatched her away. Mekanique shrugged and stepped on Hourman and then Robotman and crushed them into the ground under her heel.
A deadly game of tag then ensued. Mekanique swung her energy beams this way and that, and Johnny was kept so busy dodging and protecting Liberty Belle that he couldn’t take the time to attack. Finally, he grew tired and zigged when he should have zagged, and a beam took his left arm off at the shoulder. Johnny fell to the ground, and Libby wrapped her arms around him. She clung to the injured speedster and looked up to see a giant gold foot closing in.
“No!” she screamed, “NOOO–”
And then there were no more heroes left. Mekanique stood tall, threw back her head, and laughed again. “HAAA-HA-HA-HAAA! HA-HA-HA-HAAA!”