by Dan Swanson
“Scenario Three!” Canary yelled at her companions. They had practiced multiple variations of this attack last night. Scenario Three was for a case in which Rexford Tyler wasn’t present. Canary screamed, using her power like a battering ram, and Star Lass wrapped Vandal Savage’s legs in a yellow cocoon. Savage fell to the deck, but unbelievably, he kicked his legs, and the yellow cocoon shattered. The feedback of her powerful construct being so easily shattered stunned the energy-wielding heroine.
But Greenfire blasted Savage at that second, wrapping him in a tight green blanket of energy. Savage rolled off the carpet and onto the hardwood deck, and the blanket dissolved as the villain rolled across the wood, but Greenfire had accomplished his objective. The magical energy of the Starheart had drawn all of the remaining Cthulhu energy from Savage’s body. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See The Suicide Squad: Path of the Immortal, Chapter 11: Horror Unleashed.]
Savage rolled against the bulkhead, and his hand slapped against a secret switch. He couldn’t believe he was going to need a weapon to finish off these annoying fleas, but he was never without resources. A panel started to slide open in the wall. Canary sang an ultrahigh-frequency song, and the mechanism that was opening the panel froze. Savage reached into the opening and began prying.
Hawk Lad surged forward and slapped a device on the immortal villain’s back — and Savage disappeared, leaving the four Legionnaires stunned at the sudden conclusion of this battle, though it had not been totally unexpected. The device was another of those created by Timepiece last night, and it had ejected Savage from Limbo. Without the Cthulhu energy to sustain him in a time period in which he already existed, at worst, he would become a time phantom. At best, the Legion had hopes that he would cease to exist, just like his timeline.
“Bird lady!” Greenfire spoke urgently. “You need to check out the monitors in the control room!”
Canary opened her mouth to reprimand him for his use of the hated bird lady nickname. But she changed her mind and raced for the control room. Drake Burroughs had performed admirably today, as had the rest of her team. She would give him a pass just this one time.
There was a lot to see on the monitors. One of them was focused on another control room, and she could see Mekanique battling — wait, who was she battling? It had to be the Mekanique they had allied with — the real Mekanique — and yet the second android looked nothing like the other, who was called Futura. Instead, their Mekanique looked almost exactly like the original twentieth century Robotman. Gina wondered which appearance was real. Obviously, the real Mekanique had a very effective way of changing her appearance.
“It’s about time for us to clear out, boss!” Star Lass pointed to another monitor. This one showed Fabricator and Lightning-Master attacking the armored hatch to the gigantic hold in which the yacht was kept — the yacht they were on right now — and the rest of the Legion of Doom was swarming down the corridor behind them.
No, it actually appeared that Fabricator was creating some kind of casing over the hatch, and Lightning-Master was welding it in place. The two renegade Doom Legionnaires then turned to face their teammates and were almost instantly overwhelmed. There was no way to know how long the hatch would remain blocked, but then it didn’t matter any longer.
In the first monitor, they saw the real Mekanique drop to the deck, and an instant later, they were back at Knight Base. The subspace signal from Futura’s body had stopped. In less than a half a minute, the whole Limbo fortress would be destroyed. And there were still people aboard. But one of Canary’s contingency plans should be sufficient to save them.
“Gernsy! Transport the whole yacht back to Earth.” The beacon Rex had dropped, a device he had built the night before, was intended to give Gernsback a target to transport it and its surroundings out of Limbo in case of an emergency.
On November 7, 1988, the entire yacht appeared on Earth at the dock of an expensive private villa maintained by the Illuminati on the western shore of the Croatian island of Cres. The crew had quite a tale to tell about their mysterious disappearance in late February of 1987 and their over-twenty-month absence since then. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Showcase: The Second Death of Mekanique, Chapter 3: The Best Laid Plans.]
The skies over Gotham City, November 7, 1988 — the day before the Presidential election:
Kid Terrific, WildCat, and Golden Boy had just popped into existence, planning to find the Justice Society of America and warn them of the impending attack from the Legion of Doom.
Before Squad B could begin their search, another glowing fog appeared in the air, and Squad C — Hourboy, Chemique, and Teleteen — shimmered into existence.
“Looks like Gernsback finally has this time-travel stuff nailed!” Hourboy exclaimed in satisfaction. He guided Squad C’s flying disk closer to his teammates. “Has the fun started yet?” he asked. “We don’t want to miss anything!”
Canary and Greenfire popped into existence nearby. “Sorry, guys!” Drake said, but he sounded more gleeful than sorry. “The fun’s over, and you missed it all.” Yes, he was definitely gloating. “Let’s go back to Knight Base, and we’ll tell you all about it!”
The ancient sunken city of R’lyeh, 1986:
Air was screaming past him, and the white-haired Vandal Savage who had been known until recently as Joh Fredersen quickly recognized his situation. He was falling into a seemingly bottomless pit that was home to an ancient, immortal alien god, an incarnation of evil who fed off the life-force of its victims. This time, though, his guts were not leaking out through a shredded stomach. (*) He roared in laughter.
It is rare to find opponents who are not only as resourceful as those children, but who have such a wonderful sense of irony! he thought to himself with appreciation. “Legionnaires, I look forward to meeting you again!” He turned his attention to taking advantage of the current situation. After all, he remained Vandal Savage.
Now that the life-and-death action was over, many of the Justice Legionnaires were devastated at the thought that their entire universe had been erased from existence — along with everyone they had ever known, save their teammates. Several Legionnaires had to be restrained from attacking Rexford Tyler when he repeatedly expounded the single timeline theory, suggesting that not only was everyone gone, they had never existed in the first place. His brother Randall was one of them.
“So what does that make us? Did we just pop into existence at random, all of us at the same time and with shared memories? Figure out the probability of that! You might think Mom and Dad never existed, but I know better. Even if they don’t exist anymore, we aren’t ghosts with no past.” Even his joy that Rex was no longer confined to his chair was washed away in this white-hot anger at his brother.
It took the combined efforts of Golden Boy and Star Lass to hold him back. Once the two had cooled down, Canary suggested gently to Rex that he had better stop pissing people off, or he might regret it. Even though his ability to control his exoskeleton improved every day, right now there wasn’t another Legionnaire who still couldn’t pound him flat. And she couldn’t protect him all the time. Besides, they had enough grief to deal with at the moment.
Theresa Knight and Gina Lance, alias Star Lass and Canary, asked their most devoutly religious teammate Sandy, code-named Golden Boy, for instruction in the Auron religion. Both women knew of religion from their studies of history, but Amgov had outlawed religion in the Utopian States of America many decades ago, and they had no personal experience. Sandy didn’t expect the two to become worshippers of the Auron pantheon, but he could show them the benefits that he gained from his religion and teach them something about spirituality, and they might then be drawn to a human religion.
Randall Tyler and Cathy Beamish, alias Hourboy and Kid Terrific, sought relief in exhausting physical activity, practicing their personal combat skills together until they dropped with exhaustion. Randall suggested some less violent but equally exhausting exercises exactly once — Cathy wasn’t interested in being one of his conquests, and he could show bruises to prove that he got the message.
Strangely, Horus and Challenger, alias Hawk Lad and WildCat, spent a lot of time together in virtuality simulations, hunting strange prey on hundreds of alien worlds. Though their species were as close to natural enemies as two species that evolved on different worlds could be, they were both members of predator species, and as predators they dealt with grief much differently than their teammates. They even began to understand and respect each other.
Drake Burroughs and Rexford Tyler, alias Greenfire and Timepiece, privately resumed their never-ending arguments about the nature of time, until Gina caught them at it. She admonished them to drop both theories and come up with a new one that explained all the facts they had observed recently. But they way they felt, developing a new theory was too much work. Since Canary didn’t allow them to argue, they just clammed up and moped around.
Chemique, known to her friends by her nickname of Miqui, held up best of all — but only because as an artificial being she had conscious control of her emotions. She turned them down to the lowest possible intensity and spent most of her time conversing with Gernsback, the other emotionless being on Knight Base, and practicing new and novel ways to use her powers.
Tommy Tamare, alias Teleteen, the most shy and withdrawn of all the Justice Legionnaires, holed himself up in his room and lost himself in reading for hours on end. Since everyone was so preoccupied in their own ways, he was mostly left alone. He and Miqui hadn’t really talked since they kissed during their Stealth Squad mission back on Earth, and a troubling thought now went through his mind — what if she had already gotten over him?
Knight Base was a pretty morose place for about a week, as the various Legionnaires struggled to come to grips with their losses in their own ways. Then Randall brought up a topic that the rest of the Legionnaires had been afraid to discuss.
“Look, guys, this place is about as morbid as it’s possible to get, and I’m tired of taking my lumps from a girl, besides.” That almost got a laugh. They all knew that any one of them would take more than his or her fair share of lumps in a combat workout with Cathy. “We need to do something — anything. We’re not from the twentieth century, and I don’t think we should stay here. We’ve no idea what the latest timeline looks like. So let’s have Gernsback fire up the old time machine and hop back to our own time!”
The atmosphere around the table perked up a little, immediately. Everyone seemed to be interested.
“I thought we weren’t going to risk destroying any more universes by traveling in time again,” Cathy objected, somewhat weakly.
“There’s no risk of that when going forward in time!” Rex spoke eagerly. “That kind of thing only happens if you try to change your own past.”
“Right!” said Drake. It was the first time in a week that Rex and Drake had agreed on anything. “We could jump back to the twenty-third century and then never time travel again, in either direction. Let’s do it!”
For the first time since the end of the mission, there was the murmur of conversation around the table:
“Why didn’t someone mention it before?”
“What an adventure that would be!”
“I wonder what science will be like without Amgov to interfere?”
“Science, hell, I wonderrr what girrrls will be like!”
“I would’a suggested it sooner, but I thought you’d all be mad at me!”
“What if we already exist there?”
“Why not the thirtieth century?”
Canary banged a glass on the table. “I’m calling an emergency business meeting right now! We’ve got a motion in front of the group to go back to the future. Second?” She didn’t have to be formal all the time. All hands were raised. “Seconded. All in favor?” It was unanimous. “OK, we go tomorrow. It’s absolutely our last trip in time ever, and we’ll destroy the time-cubes when we get back and wipe the plans from Gernsback’s memory. You three–” She pointed at Theresa, Rex, and Drake in turn. “–had better forget everything you know about time travel, or you’ll answer to me!” They nodded. “One more vote. Do we stay here in the Solar System or go back to Knight Base’s original location?”
The asteroid belt in Earth’s Solar System won, at least for the time being. They could always make limited use of the boom tube later, if they needed to get away for some reason.
“OK, get some rest, get spruced up; most of you look like you haven’t had a shower in a week, and smell worse! And we go in fifteen hours from my mark — three, two, one, mark!”
“Oh, boy! Twenty-third century, here we come!”
To Be Continued