“So, are the test subjects ready yet? It’s been months. What is the status of Rudy and the others?” Alexis Luthor asked the image of the albino ape on her view-screen.
“The others? What in blazes are you going on about?”
Alexis was confused by the question. “I… you… the android from the future — the gold one! You and she had some world-shaking plan to destroy the JSA’s legacy behind the scenes, and you had me acquire test subjects for you months ago to supply her with super-powered androids! (*) Is this some weird test?”
[(*) Editor’s note: See DC Universe: Crawling from the Wreckage, Book 3, Chapter 5: Dark Dealings.]
“Golden… android? I must go, now! I’m sorry…” The contact was broken.
In his own lab beneath UltraCorp, the Ultra-Humanite pensively paced away from the main screen — more terrified than he had been since he had lost his humanity. If his memories had been tampered with, he would soon find out about it. He knew all about Rudy Jones, of course — part of the Parasite Project — but what had she meant by the others? He was determined to learn everything he could before he next spoke with Alexis Luthor. He would never be out of the loop in his own affairs again.
Smallville, Kansas, March, 1987:
“Jemi! What’s wrong?”
“It… it was just another headache — a bad one this time,” said Jemi Olsen, holding one hand to her head and squeezing her eyes shut. “Ugh… I don’t feel so good.”
“You look awful,” said her twin brother, Jimmy. “But then, that’s no clue that you’re sick…”
“Har-dee har-har. It’s gone now. Forget about it.” But Jemi herself couldn’t forget about it.
She’d had these headaches ever since she returned home days ago after being missing for fourteen months without any explanation. From her point of view, 1985 was only a few days ago. It would take a while for her and her family and friends to adjust to her missing year. And hopefully she would someday get some answers.
In the sky above Gotham City, all was normal — at least until the rippling started. The shimmer spread, growing brightly. Soon, three figures standing on a silvery disk grew more defined in the glow. Dressed in brightly colored uniforms, Kid Terrific (the girl with a thousand talents), WildCat (the man-panther hero), and Golden Boy (literally) surveyed the city.
Kid Terrific gave her time-cube a twist. “Perfect! We’ve reached the city of Gotham, 1988. Chrono-sensor gives 98% chance of it being the correct era that the adversaries will target, according to the Monitor. And if it’s not…”
“It’sss no prob if it’sss not,” rumbled WildCat. “Canary and the rest have no doubt found ’em at the year 2002 point and whupped their sorry, puny–”
“Ahem.” Kid Terrific’s eyebrow rose over only one eye. WildCat’s ears fell down.
“Uh, I mean, we planned well ‘n’ stuff. No matter what age the forebears are targeted in, we’ll prrrotect ’em ’til the window of opportunity for meddling passes!” Cat’s ears rose again, and he pumped his right arm. “Ski-dang! Hope the Huntress still wears the outfit with those high boots in this era… rrrow!”
Cathy Beamish sighed. “I’ll turn on the sensor. You with us, Sandy?”
The golden-hued young man was unusually quiet. Golden Boy looked at his leader with puzzled eyes. “I don’t know. Ever get the feeling that what you’re doing… is something you’ve done before? I feel… this seems familiar, somehow! I’m sorry.” He placed a hand over his eyes. “I’m probably just getting nerves.” A gentle hand touched his shoulder.
“It’s quite all right. This is the most important mission the Justice Legionnaires have ever attempted. But we will succeed — we have to.” Kid Terrific then closed her eyes, either meditating or possibly committing herself to the gods.
An athletic young woman in a bright yellow uniform beat again and again against the white, featureless walls — featureless except for the image of her three teammates above the skies of Gotham.
“It’s a trap! God, it’s a trap!”
Her knuckles were bloody — again. Shiny, buzzing machines healed her hands — again. She swatted them away and started sobbing from anger, exhaustion, and a sense of failure that grew sickening.
Outside the white room, in a soft lounge decorated in an opulent art deco manner, a white-haired girl dressed in red and black, and wearing a portion of a gold mask, smirked.
“Auntie Em, Auntie Em!” she said in a squealing falsetto, and laughed, again and again. By her chair, a wooden form shaped like some oddly armored man pulsing with a green light almost seemed to moan.
Mekanique’s otherwise-mechanical tone was cold, mocking. “This will hurt quite a bit!”
She pierced Theresa Knight’s flesh with an extractor, looking for the cosmic rod. Theresa almost didn’t notice the pain. She was all too aware of Horus behind the android, frothing and screaming as other androids prodded and stimulated his brain. Sometimes he gibbered in what she guessed to be Egyptian, and in Feitheran other times. She tried to care about him; it took her attention away from herself.
“Don’t look so forlorn,” Mekanique said, holding her metallic visage close. “Your friends will be here again sooner than you think. Time travel can do many miracles, and soon it will do the greatest miracle yet — a revision of the destiny of the JSA! And the Legion of Justice will be the main authors. You should feel proud that you warranted this attention.”
The android continued to drone on, and the pain grew worse. Must stay alive, Theresa thought at this moment, when she found the pain wasn’t so bad. If I die, things could get much worse… for… for… She then blacked out.
If one were to view the so-called trophy room, one could see a variety of exotic and interesting knick-knacks. Here a model of a futuristic city, there an image of an angry red-haired man in militaristic garb. The centerpiece was a tree — or at least it seemed to be a tree — grown in the shape of a man. Occasionally, it seemed to pulse with an emerald glow and moan.
This trophy was the object that a young woman — now wearing a stolen stealth cloak and creeping across the floor — was seeking. She was Canary, leader of a small squad from the twenty-third century. If one could see beneath the stealth cloak, one would see an attractive, athletic young woman with short blonde hair. She had finally found a way to escape her cell and figured out the location of this chamber.
Her team had a mission — warn the Justice Society of the post-Crisis years of an attempt to destroy the team and its legacy. Their mission had failed, and they had been captured. It was time to end that and get to the bottom of this mess. The first item of business was to free Greenfire. Drake Burroughs was the most powerful of them all and the most likely to get them out of this Godforsaken place as quickly as possible.
Canary reached out and tested the area. No force-field. Perhaps they thought the wood was enough. That would prove to be foolish of them. She pulled a packet out of her cloak full of an improvised acid. In a matter of moments, he would be free.
“Ah, you’re here again. Good.”
The tone was mocking and clipped. It was Mekanique.
“You might as well take off the stealth cloak; it doesn’t hide you from my scanners. My mechano-spatial powers can stop any move you try, like they did the last five times,” Mekanique said mockingly.
“Five times?!” Canary leaped away, trying to find cover or something that could work as a weapon. “I’ve just broken out!” And then she said, just because it was the sort of thing a Justice Legionnaire had to say, “Rotwang’s plan will never succeed! You may have captured my squad, but the rest of the Legion will warn the JSA and stop it!”
“Rotwang? Plan to destroy the JSA? Hmmm, you’ve forgotten all of it again, haven’t you?” Mekanique strolled casually around the various trophies, the artificial lighting making her gleam. She lingered by the image of the red-haired man for a moment, fingering it briefly. With her other hand she made a gesture. Time and space seemed to fold, and suddenly the tree containing Greenfire was covered in a field of energy. “I have not been following Rotwang’s orders for a very long time, though it suits my purposes to let him and others like that albino simian believe so. I have no desire to destroy the JSA, at least not directly. I tried it already and failed. No, my plans are much different.”
Canary, crouched behind a piece of art, cried out, “Why should I believe any of that?! You’re obviously lying!”
“And why do you say that? I can assure you I’m being quite truthful. You never believe me, each time you escape.”
“Stop saying that!” Suddenly, Canary burst from her hiding place and actually succeeded in knocking the android down. “This is the first time I’ve managed to get out!”
Mekanique shoved her off. “No, just the first time since the last mind-wipe that you’ve escaped. And I must say, you get louder after each wipe.”
Canary froze. Mind-wipe?
In an instant, bonds materialized about Canary’s wrists and ankles. Mekanique regarded her, seemingly bored.
“Must I explain it to you again? I suppose so. It’s a good way to test how deep the latest wipe went, tedious though that is. I must say, in the last few months that I’ve met you Legionnaires, you’ve shown yourselves to be depressingly active.”
“Few months? We’ve fought you for years!”
“From your point of view, and I suppose from mine. To me, though, you’re like reading a revision a later writer added to a story. Not a particularly interesting one, no offense, but you’ll serve your purpose.”
“What are you talking about?!”
“Time. My mechano-spatial powers not only give me great power over it, but insight into it. And as I said, you Legionnaires are fairly recent, even though you remember fighting me for years. You didn’t even exist until the paradoxes caused by the Crisis changed the future of Earth-Two. And your own history has been fluid even since that time. I know you’ll find this difficult to believe, since your own past has been revised since you first traveled back in time, but you had never even heard of me until shortly before your time-travel mission. You certainly haven’t been fighting me for years, except for in the current revised timeline, which has changed your memory — again. Hmmm, don’t give me that look. I’m only telling the truth. Ah, I see an opportunity to give you an excellent example. Hourboy, as you call him, is bringing his squad to the early twenty-first century. You’ll see what I mean.”
Mekanique gestured with both hands. Slowly, a screen materialized in the air. Despite herself, Canary was fascinated by what she saw.