The Green Lantern of Earth, Kyle Rayner.
Princess Koriand’r, the tamaranian known as Starfire.
M’gann M’orzz, also known as Miss Martian.
Jaime Reyes, the wearer of a mechanized suit and bearer of the name Blue Beetle.
The demon, Etrigan.
Kara Zor-L, Power Girl.
And the villainous mastermind known as the Riddler, searching for a second chance.
Together, they have gone to the desolate planet of Mars with one purpose in mind – to stop Bizarro from destroying Earth along with his new friends, the white martians.
Together, they are the Justice Society of America.
“In brightest day, in blackest night, no evil shall escape my sight. Let those who worship evil’s might, beware my power… Green Lantern’s light.”
Kyle Rayner took a deep breath as a brief spark of light illuminated, then orbited, his ring, before finally fading into the symbol that adorned it. He looked up with a sheepish smile at the other members of the Justice Society of America that were currently present – Starfire, the tamaranian; the new Blue Beetle, Jaime Reyes; and M’gann M’orzz, also known as Miss Martian.
“Oh, I do so enjoy the oath,” Koriand’r said cheerfully, floating up to gaze out the top of their small bunker, out into the harsh red wasteland of Mars. “I wish I had something like that. It’s always so delightfully dramatic.”
“Heh, yeah, kinda. Honestly, and don’t say this to the other GL’s, okay? But I get chills every time I say it.” Kyle smirked and hovered up beside the tamaranian. Jaime had made the team a small fortress made out of extensions from his suit – the camouflage should be enough to keep them out of Bizarro’s gaze. Honestly, Kyle was terrified of him, he wasn’t ashamed to admit that. Against Clark, he at least had half a hope to create green kryptonite radiation with his ring, but the JSA database stated quite clearly that neither green radiation, nor magic, had any effect on Superman’s dark clone. That’s why, even with the firepower they had here, they were still waiting for the most powerful member of their team.
In addition, they had white martians to deal with. Bizarro had arrived here not long ago, searching for a new home (and “imperfect sister to Earth”), and the white martians had… taken notice, to say the least. Once a few of their elders learned the way the great gray beast spoke (and there were some mishaps beforehand) they had begun to manipulate Superman’s dark mirror. They planned to use his great power to rebuild their empire… and then, do destroy earth, their next great conquest.
“Is she going to be here soon?” M’gann asked, pouting slightly. Speaking of white martians. She was sitting in the dusty red earth, arms wrapped around her knees as she gazed up at her teammates and fellow heroes. “We can’t do this without her… w-we’ll barely be moral support even with her here.” Miss Martian had never been confident in her abilities, formidable as they were. It showed, and that only served to unnerve the rest of the team.
“We’re going to have to be more than that,” Kyle said with a deep sigh, the emerald corona around him fading as he settled back to the ground. “Even as powerful as she is, Kara is no match for Bizarro. Superman only defeats him using his wits and his… well, grace. We’ll be hard-pressed to match that, even with five of us here.”
“I suppose,” Miss Martian replied, glancing up at the sky and sighing herself. She was afraid. Bizarro was stronger and faster even than Superman, who was a legend. Their hopes of exploiting his drastically few weaknesses were… not great.
“Do not worry, martian native,” Starfire said, turning her head and smiling broadly down at M’gann. “We have reinforcements, we will assuredly succeed.”
“That is easy for you to say, hermana,” Jaime grumbled, his eyes still closed. Keeping these camouflaged walls up was straining, especially with his suit constantly urging him to attack. No amount of persuasion would convince it that even should he relinquish control, they would be no match for the foe they were to face here.
“Bizarro not make old world! Bizarro save Earth from Mars!” Another shout, far-reaching across the thin atmosphere. They had been going on for the last few hours, as their enemy ripped apart old pieces of martian technology and architecture, smashing them together in a desperate hope to make something he could call comfortable, or at the very least, destructive. Bizarro was a tortured soul, and everyone in the JSA knew that. He wasn’t stupid and evil, like everyone claimed. He was twisted and confused. He did what he thought was right, and thus it weighed on the heart of every decent hero who tried to face him. In Bizarro’s eyes, they were the villains, monsters who pursued him relentlessly, determined to take every bit of happiness he tried to create for himself. They all knew it, and they all mourned the little piece of humanity they lost when they attacked and exiled him, time and again. But they had to keep going, and now, with the white martians behind him, he would be more difficult to stop than ever. They needed Superman, or the Martian Manhunter… but both had better things to do with their time. So they had a few reject Titans, a Lantern, and some other assorted misfits.
“I do hope she will arrive soon, amigos,” Blue Beetle continued, gritting his teeth but opening his eyes again. “I cannot hold this up much longer, and I do not know how much time we have before the uh… hombre grande out there decides to destroy Earth. The suit is picking up a lot of technological disturbances from deep underground, so we know the natives are up to no good. Why do they want to destroy Earth, anyway?”
“Would you want to stay here?” M’gann replied, gesturing at the flat crimson ground.
“It won’t be much longer. Kara said she had a few things to clear up before she was able to get out here, but it isn’t like she’s not the fastest one of all of us.” Kyle used his ring to create a loveseat, nudging it with his foot to make sure it was on solid ground before flopping down into it.
“Run or hide while you still can… arrives the Demon, Etrigan!” There was a massive plume of fire and dark smoke that seemed to gasp to life out of the atmosphere itself, almost swallowed by Mars’s lack of oxygen before a familiar form could appear. He was a… reserve member, to put it lightly, of the JSA. But he was powerful, and he would be needed. Etrigan’s tall, powerful, armored form now stood in the center of the four heroes, his head held high and his long horns on display, tattered cape billowing behind him – courtesy of the lack of gravity.
“Ah, greetings, Mister Etrigan!” Kory said with a light smile, waving casually before glancing back out the top of their bunker.
“Greetings, alien. Along with… the rest of you.” Etrigan snarled. Due to the distinct circumstances of their location, each of the team knew that Etrigan would be more volatile than usual. Jason Blood, the demon’s “better half”, would not be able to survive in space for any length of time. Thus, he was forced to stay put in a place none of the JSA had great desire to mention. “This Bizzarus creature—“
“Bizarro,” Kyle corrected helpfully.
“—When does he show his face? When shall we destroy him?”
The Green Lantern took a deep breath, laying his head back on his makeshift sofa. “To the first – we have no idea. To the second… never. Bizarro isn’t evil, and since he shares some twisted form of Superman’s morality, he will never cease to resist the temptation to be. He is confused and he… he deserves mercy. Without him on Mars the natives will fall back into obscurity, lacking the knowledge to repair green martian technology.”
“Wait,” Blue Beetle asked with a strained grunt. “How is Bizarro repairing anything, man? He is dumb as a sack of fritatas.”
“The white martians are attempting to do through brute force what they have failed to do through skill. Their attempting to create weapons through trial and error, mostly using Biz’s flame breath. That’s why it’s taking so long for them to come up with something. But once they finally do create a suitable war machine, and with Bizarro behind them, even the Justice League will be hard-pressed to stop them from taking over Earth and building a new paradise there.”
Etrigan nodded his head down and began to pace back and forth across the bunker, arms folded neatly behind his back. “And how do we have this information?”
Kyle smiled. “Our very own inside man…” he gestured to Miss Martian, still huddled against the side of their mechanical shelter, “…happens to be a girl.”
M’gann raised one hand to signal herself, offering a weak, though somewhat ashamed, smile of her own.
“Ahaaah. You puny Earth ‘heroes’ have finally learned the art of deceiving your enemies,” a wide grin spread across Etrigan’s face, his pacing pausing when he hit the other site of the fort. “Delicious.”
“NOBODY WILL FEEL BIZARRO’S HAPPINESS!!!”
“I think that the fact that we have to translate it makes it more disturbing once we figure it out,” M’gann commented at Bizarro’s continuing rants.
“I believe you are right, though it is not as if—“ Jaime’s reply fell short as all of the JSA glanced up at a sudden sound, too close to be Bizarro. It was the sound of sound kind of ship, or shuttle.
“…This Kara person… does she not fly?” Starfire commented questioningly, swerving up and out of the little fort, her glorious crimson hair streaming out behind her. “Hello? Large shuttle? Who resides in you?”
A soft hiss of steam was released as the lid to the shuttle opened up. A long, powerful, female leg, bare but for a tall blue boot, stepped out amidst the fog. Following it was Kara Zor-L – Power Girl. “Miss me?” she said playfully, a smirk curling her lips as she stepped out onto the dry, scarlet earth of Mars.
“Very much, yes! You are quite needed here,” Kory smiled and zoomed upwards, pointing towards the virtually invisible bunker. “The rest of the team are there!”
“Cool, oh, and by the way? I brought somebody with me. Hope you guys don’t mind.”
Rayner’s ears pricked up and he soared out of the fort, settling to his feet beside Power Girl and the capsule she had arrived in. “You brought someone with you? Why? Who?”
Kara held her hands up and took a deep breath. “Okay, you guys, don’t get mad. This guy is on our side, alright? And we need him. This team, well… none of us are really big thinkers. We needed one, and one was available….”
Another silhouette began to emerge from the small ship, his face obscured by a helmet. He was wearing a suit of lean body armor, painted a dark green, and with a large black question mark adorning the chest. As all of the smoke cleared, the rest of the slowly-emerging team could see that the faceplate of his helmet was somewhat transparent, revealing a lean, dark-haired face.
“I’m wearing a green powersuit, I have a summer home at Arkham Asylum, and I don’t belong on Mars… who am I?”
"Peej...? I hate to sound disagreeable, I really do. But what is the Riddler doing in the Justice Society?” Kyle gave Kara a concerned look – she was the leader of this team, and had been for a while now. She was strong, smart, trusting, and the other members of the JSA loved her. Or, in the case of some, were in love with her. But letting Edward Nigma on the team was nothing short of insane.
“I know what this looks like, I promise,” Power Girl smiled softly, that cheeky grin that made it so difficult to disagree with her. “But I recently had a long talk with Eddie here. He’s seen things… he’s made decisions. He’s changed his mind.”
“To not be a villain?” Kyle attempted, still frowning. “He’s been one of Batman’s prevalent foes for years. Hell, two years ago he nearly dismantled the Green Lantern Corps by manipulating one of the Guardians to commit suicide.”
“In my defense,” Riddler spoke up, taking a single step forward and sinking his mechanical boot into the soft red earth of Mars. “He had problems already.”
“Look, I—“ Power Girl began, spreading her arms helplessly. She knew that this decision would be a hard one for the team to stomach, even if she was confident that Riddler would be an asset to the team. However, she was interrupted by a clawed hand on her shoulder.
“I’m proud of you,” Etrigan said with a grin, squeezing the kryptonian’s shoulder gently. “It’s about time one of these teams of heroes found a leader that can make hard decisions, and take risks for the sake of the cause.”
“You… you think he should stay?” Kyle said incredulously.
“Absolutely. I have read on this man, back when Jason and Bruce were… companions, of a sort. He is intelligent and ruthless—“ Edward bowed gracefully at this comment, a smirk on his lips, “—and he will do what has to be done. Our team lacks a… what would you call it… a ‘Batman archetype’, a brain behind all of our brawn. I understand some of us are intelligent in our own way. But a mastermind will be helpful against our foe.” Etrigan smiled and turned, circling the power-suited Riddler with a predatory gaze, as if he was weighing the man. “Did you truly make a Guardian of the Universe end his own life?”
“Perhaps. Though I do try not to brag.”
“…Excellent. Maybe you will do the same for this Bizarro fellow. Lucifer knows, with the team we’ve scraped together, that’s the only way we’ll defeat him.”
“He’s coming, you know…” a new voice entered the conversation. M’gann’s. “We’ve dropped the shields and he’ll see us. He can see us anywhere on this planet.”
Starfire tilted her head, confused for only a moment before realizing. “Bizarro. You are right. He will come and find us an—“
“Have you come to help Bizarro? Because Bizarro… am very happy if you are.”
Before they had even realized it, their foe was standing before them in all of his dark glory. His strong-jawed, chalk-colored face was twisted into an expression of hatred, his dull crimson eyes gazing out at each one of them through Mars’s dark atmosphere.
M’gann cleared her throat. “He, uh, he thinks we’ve come to hurt him… and he’s upset.”
“Yes!” Bizarro roared suddenly. He seemed to strain his mind for a moment, gritting his teeth and gazing at the others. “If you do… not leave… Bizarro… I… will… destroy, you all.”
Jaime’s eyes widened suddenly as he crept over to stand behind Power Girl, only taking a cursory glance at her backside before turning his wide, lensed eyes to Bizarro’s gloomy visage. “He is learning,” he whispered.
“It was only a matter of time,” Riddler said, casually stepping forward and holding his arms out in a non-threatening posture. “If we can learn his method of speech, it only seems natural that, even with his imperfect mind, he would eventually realize the nature of ours.” The green-suited man turned to the powerfully-built, violet-caped, white-fleshed creature and offered an insincere smile. “Dearest enemy Bizarro, we have not come to help you. We wish you the greatest sadness and hope that none of your plans work out the way that you… do not want them to.”
Bizarro narrowed his eyes and lashed one hand out, swatting Riddler away effortlessly, shattering the front plates of his armor. A serious hit would have destroyed the oxygen tubules that flooded the power suit… Edward knew that, and was grateful that his life remained intact. However, when he managed to open his eyes, pain coursing throughout his entirely-human chest, he saw Superman’s twisted clone standing above him.
“Your hollow words mean… nothing, to Bizarro.”
“Why must I love coffee so intensely?” Victor whispered silently to himself, swishing the little plastic straw through his cup to stir the sugar and cream in. “Every time I drink it, I feel that it must be poor for my health. Perhaps my heart. Yet, every time the opportunity arises, I still find myself drinking it… overcome by temptation, or perhaps the desire for temptation. The curious need to give in to man’s great weakness, oblige the darkness inside of myself, for philosophy’s sake.”
He took a deep breath and raised the cup to his lips, taking a sip of the pale brown brew and releasing a sigh, almost a whimper, of satisfaction. “Is giving in to this temptation worth it all? Is it worth it to anyone?”
A simple cup of coffee made him think this way. Victor Sage questioned everything, he couldn’t help himself. Every single factor of life and the universe, whether extraordinary or mundane, made him ask.
“Excuse me, sir? Do you need something?” The diner waitress inquired as she stepped past the auburn-haired man, barely picking up a few traces of his inquisitive rambling. “More coffee?”
Vic smiled softly. “Yes ma’am,” he answered politely, draining the last of his mug before handing it to her. He asked these questions because he was The Question. If he didn’t ask, didn’t inquire, didn’t notice every small detail… he wouldn’t be one of the best detectives in the northern hemisphere.
“Back off, Biz!” came a loud shout as Power Girl rushed forward, slamming her fist into the white-skinned man’s chest. The blow served only to stagger him, but not harm him – that was all she needed for now. Even in that suit, co-designed by Edward Nigma and John Irons at Starrware Labs, Riddler wasn’t a powerhouse and never would be. His body was thin and slight, athletic but frail. Minimal damage to the suit would injure the man beneath it, and Bizarro was more than capable of causing minimal damage.
“You dare to harm Bizarro? You are… a fool.” The massive man skidded to a halt, digging his violet boots into the ground beneath him and growling deeply. “I… have come here to escape your Earth. You do not want me there, so I have come somewhere that I am accepted. Why do you chase me, even here?”
“Amazing,” Riddler whispered as Jaime whizzed to his side, his suit quickly flicking out a seemingly endless array of tools for the purpose of repairing Edward’s armor and flesh. “He is learning, he is communicating in normal English. I can see the strain on his face… he wants us to understand him.”
Bizarro glared quickly at Riddler, a brilliant blue stream of cold bursting from his eyes. Jaime barely managed to deflect the beams in time before Starfire rushed into the kryptonian, barreling him backward.
“You believe you can defeat Bizarro?!” he snarled, swatting the tamaranian away like a fly – she was barely caught in time before drilling into Mars with her own body, by a massive teddy bear created by Kyle. She giggled and leaned into it.
Power Girl was rushing back now, leading with a fist that made the thin air around it sizzle. Bizarro tilted one arm at the elbow, bringing his own palm up to snatch the oncoming blow.
Kara’s eyes widened.
“Weak… too weak for Bizarro,” he grumbled, and twisted his body at blinding speeds, fastballing Power Girl outwards, towards the nearby blackness of space. “All of you… are too weak.”
“You’ve fought your last, o savage clone… now your last breath shall be my own.” A deep, rumbling voice came from behind him now. Bizarro curled his top lip and arched a brow, and just before the demon, Etrigan, could loose his breath of Hellfire upon Superman’s dark mirror, Bizarro let out his own belch of flame. Both currents of open heat collided, smashing against each other like a battle between two dragons. Etrigan splayed his arms out, leaning forward and blasting forth the scarlet fires of hell while Bizarro continued to unleash his stream of flame breath. The crimson earth beneath them began to scorch and melt as both monsters locked each other in a non-contact, infernal grapple.
“It’s beautiful,” Kory remarked, her emerald eyes wide as she floated up from her landing spot.
“He can’t do it,” Kyle said, narrowing his eyes. “Where’s M’gann?”
“She was with the Beetle fellow, last I saw.” Starfire smiled helpfully and turned back to Etrigan and Bizarro, still in the clutch of that fiery grapple. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes for just a moment, focusing and smiling before flinging a rapid volley of starbolts at their enemy.
Bizarro’s eyes turned from the demon one second too early. At speeds that Etrigan could not comprehend, much less match, he zipped backwards and to the side, dodging both starbolts and hellfire and speeding towards Starfire, one fist extended.
Starfire didn’t have time to even throw her hands up, but fortunately for her, Kara came zooming back from the dark orbit she had been sent to, ice crystals still flaking off of her as she tackled the chalk-skinned ‘villain’. Bizarro roared out and quickly switched their positions, slamming Power Girl to the ground and slamming unbelievably fast, absurdly strong punches into her face again and again. The first few hits did very little, small bruises – but as she tried to push him off, Bizarro’s blows became more and more unbearable, making her skull feel like it was bursting from the inside. Something about this beast of a kryptonian, something about the process that brought him into being – he was too strong and fast, even for her. Struggling to fight back, even to bring a knee into Bizarro’s ribs – but his blows landed too hard. She realized now what they League had said when they mentioned Bizarro being even more powerful than Superman.
“Let go!” Kyle shouted, and a stream of green light showered forth from his ring, forming into… what appeared to be… Godzilla. Bizarro snarled and arched his back, bringing back one massive hand to swat at the beast with incalculable power. It was shattered instantly, but it bought Kara time. Two crimson beams drove out from her eyes, blasting into Bizarro’s chest and sending him hurtling backwards.
As the savage clone brought himself back to his feet, the team circled around him. Power Girl, her face puffy and swollen with bruises; Green Lantern, still gripping his ring-hand and reeling from the strain of having his construct destroyed; Starfire, looking haggard and shaken; Etrigan, looking no worse for wear; Ridder, his armor more-or-less repaired; and Blue Beetle, his suit still fitting its accessories back together.
“We don’t want to fight you, Bizarro,” Kara said firmly, which earned her a glare from the demon – he still believed he had been winning. “Please, just let us talk. Let us be as ambassadors to you and the people of Mars. Diplomats.”
“Bizarro has heard these words before. I do not believe you.” He straightened his back and glared, cracking his neck as he stared down the other kryptonian.
“Where is M’gann?” Jaime spoke up, glancing around at the team present. It was always possible that she was using camouflage, but the suit would have picked that up.
“Maybe she has changed sides… maybe she realizes that Bizarro is the victim.” The huge, pale beast of a man crinkled his nose slightly, turning in a slow circle to gaze upon all of his enemies. “Maybe one day, you will too. This is last warning – leave Mars, and leave Bizarro alone. And Bizarro may not destroy you.”
With that, he was gone… just like that. He was so fast even Kara’s eyes could barely track his movements. He was a blue-and-purple blur across the wastes of Mars.
“M’gann… you have been gone for a long time. Such a long t-time. Yesss. It is good to see you return.”
“Okay, forget Bizarro for now,” Power Girl said, dusting herself off and trying to set the tattered parts of her costume as modestly as possible. “We have to find M’gann. We couldn’t beat him without her… not that we were exactly ready for him. But we have to find out wherever she’s gone, and find her. She may even have information.”
There was a soft clearing of a throat, and a small puff of sulfurous gas snaked its way out of Etrigan’s mouth. He took a step towards Kara and leaned in slightly. “…If I may. Even if we locate the martian, we will be left exactly where we started out. The Beetle could barely hold up his shields long enough for all of us to arrive – we need shelter, a base of some sort. Basic strategy would suggest that we split up – one group searches for your martian friend, and the other finds a suitable place for us to fight Bizarro.”
“What kind of place like that will we find here?” Kara sighed, hanging her head slightly. “Mars is barren. What little of it still remains is doubtlessly secured by the white martians.”
“That… is not necessarily so!” Starfire held up one finger, her eyes widening in excitement from this opportunity to be helpful. “I was conversing with the martian native, and she claims that the majority of white martians are agoraphobic! There is a chance that some green martian structures may remain intact on the planet’s surface.”
“And even if we do find a shelter, how do you plan to conceal it?” Riddler said. The man was sitting on the ground now, little gadgets swiveling and twisting out of various parts of his suit. John Irons and himself had designed it to be vampiric, in a sense – contact with Jaime’s Blue Beetle suit had enhanced it in multiple ways, though that hadn’t been the plan. If he could get his hands on martian technology and lock interfaces with it, he could learn a great deal about potential planning, or at least whatever power the natives had behind them.
“Etrigan, could your magic do something to help? Maybe assist Jaime in some way?” Kara glanced behind her. In the thin gravity of the red planet, her capelet was billowing casually behind her, drifting back and forth into her peripheral vision distractingly.
“Magic and tech normally don’t go well together, hermana,” Jaime spoke up.
“Perhaps the Green Lantern could be of assistance?” Riddler mused. “Create an engine of some sort… if Etrigan can fuel it with power, and your little blue friend can direct it, it may be able to create a massive cloaking field, perhaps one that could even be passed through without knowing we are inside.”
“I… think I could do something like that,” Kyle spoke up, stepping forward to create a full circle of the present JSA. “I may need some advice on how to design an engine that harnesses magic though. John was always the one who was good with gadgets.”
That’s enough power for particular manipulation. I can feel it now. It will be delicious.
“Si?” Jaime clucked silently as the voice of the Scarab invaded his mind.
Indeed. We can definitely do it.
He slapped his forehead. “Dios mio, you’re right! With the power of a Green Lantern and a high-ranking demon behind me, I could channel that energy into a permanent cloak! We could set up a solid base and then come and go as we please!”
Power Girl glanced back again, narrowing her eyes and swatting her cape back behind her. “Then it’s settled. Etrigan, Green Lantern, Blue Beetle, Riddler – I need the three of you to find a suitable, defensible base, and do your best to cloak it. When you finish the job, I want you two—“ she extended one hand, forking out her index and middle finger to point at Kyle and Jaime respectively. “—To use come and find me, and help me look for M’gann. Etrigan and Edward will stay behind and keep watch for us in case we don’t find the base, start making it defensible.”
The kryptonian turned to Starfire. “Kory, you’re coming with me. You’ve spent the most time with M’gann and you know more than I do about Mars. We’re on the rescue mission.”
The team nodded solemnly and remained silent, aside from Koriand’r, who released an elated “Marvelous!”
“R’aih,” M’gann breathed out. “I… how did you find me? How did you get me here?”
“I’m not without my wiles… no, n-not without my wiles. Haha.” R’aih circled her predatorily, gazing down at the green-skinned girl. He was different than the other white martians, seemed less… savage. A dark gray longcoat brushed along the floor with each step, and long, feeler-like tendrils dangled from the back of his head, seeming like long, bristly white hair. The chamber they were in was dark and sandy, red grains of martian soil drifting across the outside of the cave when any puff of feeble wind gasped out from the planet’s thin atmosphere.
“Why.” R’aih paused his pacing and turned. His eyes were… not right. So many things about him weren’t right for a member of his race, but his eyes stood out. They were a gleaming, iridescent blue, like pools of water so cold, that only their depth prevented them from becoming ice. “Why have I chained you here, and bolted Haze Emissors to your skull? Why have I whisked you from your chivalrous companions, holding you here with… w-with little me… why have I done these things…?”
Miss Martian inhaled gently, looking down at her chains, the manacles that bound her wrists. She carefully began to shift the structure of her hands, raising her eyes back to R’aih. He couldn’t see what she was doing. She was close, just another… centimeter, she could slip a hand free, enough to attack with—
As the shape of her wrist shifted, became small enough to slip through, there was a quiet beeping sound, an alert. A thin steel bolt rocketed outward from either side of her manacle, lancing through her distorted wrist. She gasped and grit her teeth against the pain, and then the little bolt began to… vibrate, in a way. Energy coursed through it, drilling into her flesh and touching every nerve, pulsing its way along her spine to her brain.
“AHHHHHHHH!! AHHHAHH, NOOOO! NO, PLEASE, NOOO!!!” M’gann shrieked as the frequencies touched her brain. The frequency, the sensation… it burned. It had every aspect of martian weakness, the intense physical heat, and the psychological knowledge of fire, a vision of the flames coursing across her eyes as the vibrations burned her.
“Why?!” R’aih continued. “Why do you wear this filthy green skin? Hm? W-why do you do it? Why did you forsake your people, and flee to earth? You cavort with dreaded enemies! And now, little… l-little M’gann…” the white martian’s head twitched to the side slightly, and he drew close, locking his long, gnarly fingers around her throat. “Now you know that you can never leave Mars. Ever… ever again… h-haha. The Haze Emissor will prevent you from shapeshifting – did you truly believe I did not know who I was up against? That I do not know how to bind a fellow martian? Your powers may be special… m-may be s-special… on earth… but here… you are nobody. Just M’gann M’orzz. A traitor.” A slow, sinister grin spread across his face, and he pivoted his hips sharply, smashing one palm across Miss Martian’s cheek. “…And now… and… n-now… you will suffer for your betrayal. I loved you… like my own daughter. And you would have the nerve to call the Manhunter your… y-your uncle. You are… d-disgusting, to me.”
Atrocitus had a dream. A good dream, solid. A dream that the Red Lantern Corps could be soldiers in a war against evil, their unbridled, infinite, life-giving and death-bringing frenzy a weapon against those deserving of it. It was a good dream.
But Atrocitus, leader of the Red Lantern Corps and creator of the Red Power Battery, was a fool. A powerful warrior with a strong heart, yesss… yes, he was. But he was a fool. He did not truly know how to harness such a power as rage, and he made mistakes. He tried to create lieutenants, tried to crystallize sentient thought out of fury so dominant that no thoughts could drown it. He created sentient, intelligent, wrathful officers that he could not control, to help organize an army of mindless animals, alien creatures with so much power, and so much rage in their hearts, that they could destroy a civilization in a day.
That was an army he had tried to direct with his moral compass. He had pointed his wild dogs and said “bite!”, and somehow believed that they could be aimed. That the mindless frenzy they embodied could be controlled by a single desperate man and a few spiteful lieutenants.
Not that all of his cohorts didn’t see the good in what he was doing. Over time, some found that a serenity could be found – a sort of righteous calm amidst the rushing ichor in their corroded veins – when the Red Lanterns directed their anger against evildoers. When they used their all-consuming hatred to destroy the wicked and bring about a change for good, to bring justice, or at least balance, to the type of wrongdoings that had made them the way they were.
Bleez was one such Red Lantern.
She had seen the good of Atrocitus’s mission, but she could not stand behind him as he attempted to fire his loose cannon at the world and hope it hit the bad guys. The Red Lanterns could never be used as an army. They were never a Corps.
But alone, she could seek that sensation. That glorious feeling of righteous fury that set her mind at ease, let her forget her pain and replace it with hope and satisfaction. She could feed her addiction to vengeance.
Alone, she could be a hero.
“You’re sure this is going to work?” Kyle ran a hand through his lank black hair, giving Edward Nigma a hesitant look. The quartet of individuals had finally found an ideal location for a home base not long ago – as Starfire had said, there had ended up being quite a few abandoned structures on the planet’s surface. Most of these buildings were crumbling at best, showing signs of the great martian war that had taken place around them. At least, those that weren’t all-out razed by the white martians after that war had ended, and they had taken their civilization beneath the crimson ground of Mars.
Then they had found it, though – a squat little chunk of architecture, unsightly as anything. Etrigan claimed that it had been a bunker of some sort, judging by how new it looked. Odds were it had been built during the war as a green martian barracks, designed to withstand the war.
Riddler turned his head to face the Green Lantern, a look of distaste coming over his lean features. “Of course I’m sure. If I wasn’t sure, I wouldn’t have said it out loud.”
“Yeesh, take it down a notch, man,” Jaime grumbled under his breath, creating a massive, steady wind-gun to blast away the dust, debris, and on occasion, chunks of dead martian, from the floor of the little bunker. The curiously circular contraption that passed for a door had long since fallen down, and this place had been collecting vermin and junk from all over the planet for years.
Edward twisted his lips slightly. “Eh… sorry. Not used to teaming up with people that I don’t expect to shoot me in the back, or worse.”
“Just because you don’t expect it, is no reason to let your guard down…” the demon whispered into Eddie’s ear with a sinister smile as he passed by, inspecting the place for structural weaknesses he more than expected to find, not that he had the tools to repair them. The bunker was worn out but it would work – it wasn’t as if a fully functioning base would protect them from someone like Bizarro, anyway. If they were found here, then this place would be written off faster than they could say ‘darn’.
“…I like you,” Riddler grinned subtly as the demon passed by, before turning back to Kyle. “Alright, let’s see if you’re as good as they say.”
“…They say I’m good?” Kyle said, dumbfounded as to who, exactly, Riddler had been talking to. Not that he was sure he wanted to know. He cleared his throat, however, and obliged, making a fist and extending his hand. There was a brief puff of energy that blew his lank black hair backward as his green ring began to brightly glow, a beam extending from it and slowly forming it into something that crudely resembled a car engine.
“How charming. I see you’d make a terrible mechanic, as well as a second-rate lantern. We need something to funnel energy through, you simpleton! Something that the Beetle can interface with, something that can hold a charge!”
“Well how the hell am I supposed to know? I blast aliens with anime girls, I’m not a mechanic.”
“Alright, we have to actually work together with this, guys,” Blue Beetle attempted, a few thin coils extending from the abdomen of his scarab-suit. Tipping each was a small plug, not extremely unlike a television cable but, obviously… different. “Think you can make a socket, essay?”
Kyle nodded and furrowed his brow, the vague engine he had created beginning to shift somewhat. A series of small ports appeared in the side of it, which Jaime immediately tested by letting the cables slither into it.
This doesn’t seem like it’s going to work. I don’t think the Lantern has the knowledge or imagination required for this type of interfa—oh my, well. That seems to work.
“Well, there’s one half of the equation…” Riddler mused. “Etrigan, what would you say is the most efficient way for you to create an energy source?”
“An energy source? I’m not one of you… robot-people. Best you’re getting out of me is hellfire.” Etrigan sneered and cracked his neck to the side, striding back over to the makeshift engine Kyle was holding onto.
“Hellfire it is then. Mr. Rayner, can you create some sort of centrifuge? Something that will rotate rapidly when a current is forced against it?” Riddler paced idly around the trio of men (or boy, in Jaime’s case), closely observing the machine and making a few simple calculation in his mind. “Something that won’t crumble against Etrigan’s flames. Something that can funnel energy into the outlets.”
“Something like… this…?” Kyle used his free hand to seemingly “direct” the energy of the ring, concentrating hard as he constructed a three-dimensional disc, thin green cables circuiting from it to the outlets. At this point, he was throwing science to the wind and using his imagination. Hey, if I think it should work, then it should work, right? “Try it,” he grunted, his eyes still narrowed as he focused on holding the design.
“Good sir,” Riddler gestured to Etrigan, who immediately let loose. After his match with Bizarro, he had been itching to burn something, and he immediately leaned forward to blast a massive gout of demonic heat from his mouth. The centrifuge began to spin, faster and faster as the powerful flames slammed into it, funneling their way through a complex matrix of tunnels that only led themselves back into each other. Within moments, the emerald machine was a blur, and Jaime’s eyes went wide.
“I got it… I’ve got it… hahahaha!”
Energy levels approaching 300%. You should quickly find an outlet for this power.
“Alright suit, can we do… nngh… particular manipulation? A permanent cloak?” Jaime grit his teeth tightly, the gauntlets of his suit pivoting into emissors.
Positive. Attempt at particular manipulation would be a success.
“Then let’s do it!”
“No! No cake for you!” Creeper grinned darkly, slamming his fist into the back of the last thug and knocking him down for what he guessed would be a good long while. “Honestly, what kind of WEIRDO tries to rob a bakery? I mean, for real?”
The yellow-skinned animal of a man lifted himself from his crouch, delivering a swift kick to the man’s ribs. “Or is this a diamond store? It is, isn’t it? I always get confused with these things. Oh well, all’s well that ends well, huh little guy?” The ski-masked man decorating the pavement let out a quiet groan.
“Guess you just picked a bad day to do crime. It’s important for you to know that crime is naughty, and has also been shown to be high in cholesterol. I’m doing you a favor, you know. You’ll thank me later.” Another quick toe-jab towards the man’s ear, and Creeper turned, tossing his enormous, ragged, red feather boa dramatically around his shoulders (despite the fact that it was already there). “Now, what else deigns to challenge the Creeper on this most auspicious of nights? Some crime, perhaps?”
He leaned dramatically to the side, cupping one hand to his ear and listening to Gotham’s night air.
“Is that you, crime?!”
A lonely cricket chirped from a nearby baseball field.
“Silent treatment, then?!”
“Ah, I see. Perhaps it’s just time for bed then.”
Moments later, the green-haired beast crawled up the side of a massive, red-brick apartment, flinging open a second-story bathroom window and slithering in past the curtains. He trudged his red-booted feet in through the bathroom, and into the apartment’s master bedroom.
“Nappy tiiiime…” he cooed pleasantly, dragging the boa off of him as his body began to shrink and change, his lean, powerful muscles fading and his skin shifting back from that stark gold.
He was Jack Ryder again by the time he hit the bed, and he was also fast asleep, snores echoing through the apartment and drifting out the open bathroom window.
It had been hours, but it felt like days. Everything she tried, whether she attempted to shapeshift free of her bindings, phase out from under them, or use telepathy to battle with R’aih on even ground, those bolts would catch her, just in time, and she would let out a scream of the most sincere agony.
R’aih wasn’t even asking questions. Since that first brief conversation (which had mostly consisted of M’gann crying out in pain and begging for it all to stop), the twitchy white martian had remained silent. He paced around her, that spastic smile curling the side of his mouth. When he would get close, or his body would jerk in the right, aggressive way, Miss Martian would panic and try to escape once more, and then the pain renewed itself.
She bit down on her lip and remained still. This had been the longest break from the pain so far, and though R’aih continued to silently pace and grimace, she stayed still. She could do this.
“What do you have to gain from this, R’aih? All of this… Bizarro, everything. Reports said you were trying to destroy earth—“
“Your new home?” R’aih spat.
“Yes. My new home. Why would you destroy it? Mars is yours. You are the rulers of your domain, you don’t need war.”
R’aih glared hard at her, one of those stark blue eyes twitching open and shut like a broken baby doll’s. “And endure a lumbering beast among us? Destroying homes instead of building them? Killing people instead of saving them? If earth goes, he goes. And if he goes, then we can have the peace we’ve fought for. We destroyed one civilization, and we won’t hesitate to… to… d-destroy another! Earth is where he wants to be, not here!”
“You… you mean Bizarro? He’s the reason you’re trying to get him to destroy humanity… so that he’ll go back to earth!” It all clicked. It had seemed so silly before, but they were right. Bizarro didn’t care about Mars, he considered the earth to be his home. If nobody was there to send him away, he’d stay there forever.
“Marvelous! Finally she understands, finally it all makes sense to slow-witted little M’gann. Maybe one day you’ll—“
R’aih’s litany was cut short as a starbolt sent him hurtling across the cave, tumbling behind Miss Martian and barely gathering himself. He glanced up at the cave’s entrance to see two amazonian silhouettes.
“How… h-how did you… h-how d-did you find me, here? This is the most remote—“
“Kryptonian vision, bitch,” Power Girl growled as she soared into the cave. M’gann’s heart lifted in her chest at the prospect of rescue – just until R’aih lunged in, taking firm hold of the bolts encased her neck and hooked into her spine and skull.
“One more step… and the… the t-traitor… dies.”
“You don’t have to do this,” Kara said, narrowing her eyes at the hunched, stuttering white martian that had both hands gripped around M’gann’s collar. Power Girl knew nothing about the way the collar worked, but R’aih certainly did, and so did Miss Martian. The look in her soft eyes, the look of terror, of an unflinching reality that she had already faced and was in no mood to face again, stayed Kara’s hand.
A slow smile spread across R’aih’s face. “Do you see, M’gann? Your new… your… your n-new friends are too weak to save you from me. From little… l-little R’aih. A simple Haze Emissor. An anti-martian interrogation weapon built during the war, will save you from their weakness. They have no clue how to circumvent such a simple tool before I can destroy you…” The martian man dragged the back of his fingers across M’gann’s soft, emerald skin, caressing her even as he held her life in his hands. “Beautiful little niece.”
Starfire held up one finger, gently clearing her throat. “Ahem, martian native, it may be in your interest that we mean no hostility against your planet, or your people. We have merely come to bring about a relocation of the imperfect kryptonian that you have been housing, the one going by the name of Bizarro and currently smashing nuclear missiles in a hope to create what he deems to be a planet-sized explosion.”
Kara glanced at the tamaranian princess, then offered a nod. “Yes. While Mars and Earth have been on unsteady terms, we leave those negotiations to Kal-El, Batman, or the Manhunter. The JSA has no desire to interfere in planetary politics.”
R’aih’s face seemed to drop, a look of stunned contemplation washing over him. His grip loosened slightly on the collar to the Haze Emissor – but not enough. “You’re here for that savage? You’re going to leave the white martians in peace?”
“If they allow us to,” Power Girl said firmly. Her eye twitched to the side, picking up the senseless hovering of her capelet within her peripheral vision. In a flash of inhuman speed, she ripped the little red garment off and tossed it out of the cave, growling mildly. “Stupid tiny cape.”
Koriand’r’s body remained still, hovering just behind Power Girl and keeping her jade gaze locked on R’aih. Her fingertips glistened with violet crackles of energy, but not too brightly. She had to be careful.
“Maybe I…” R’aih whispered. “May… m-maybe…” his fingers loosened further on the collar, and he straightened his back slightly, looking down from M’gann’s flowing red locks, up to Kara’s stoic, red-eyed glare.
“…No. This isn’t about you, or Bizarro. This is about her, and… and h-her being punished for leaving me alone in this… th-this… w-w-w-w-wasteland!” The white martian finally screamed out, bringing his hand to the side to quickly turn a dial on the side of the collar. At least, what he believed to be a dial. When the slim cylinder became suddenly encased in a vibrant emerald sheen, R’aih’s eyes widened – it could not be turned. Not anymore.
“I certainly hope I’m not late to the party?” Kyle Rayner said with a wide grin as he slid into the cave, still shrouded in the green aura of his ring. Jaime settled down onto his feet behind Kara, a small, complex-looking satellite swiveling shut into the gauntlet of his blue armor.
“You’re just in time!” Power Girl roared, blasting forward off of her feet and charging towards the shocked martian man, slamming one fist into… or, well… through… his chest. R’aih slithered backwards, having become intangible the instant the Green Lantern had made his presence known.
Kara shouted out and lashed forward with another volley of strikes, and each time her fist passed through R’aih’s body harmlessly. “Dammit!” she yelled out, zipping forward at kryptonian speed and trying to simply bull-rush the martian – again, she ended up unscathed on the other side.
“Ridiculous,” R’aih sighed. “I thought… k-kryptonians were supposed to be the defenders of earth. They’re pitiful.” A swift, vibrant beam of crimson energy slid forth from the martian’s eyes, lancing into Power Girl’s open backside and sending her sprawling, the martian heat vision searing a hole in the back of her outfit and scorching the skin beneath.
“Not so fast, puta!” Jaime and Kyle both flew forward launching quick attacks of their own. While the Blue Beetle armor began to produce lasers, cannons, buzzsaws, and any other destructive piece of machinery that Jaime could think up, Kyle forged a tight cage out of volatile emerald energy, slamming it down around R’aih. The martian merely snickered, another blast of energy slamming forth from his slim, dark, beady eyes and blasting Kyle backwards, the cage dissolving immediately.
Kara attacked again, this time with her own wave of heat vision, which passed harmlessly through R’aih’s pale, nearly-transparent figure. Another one of those wicked, superior, yet… damaged, little grins, as the white martian sped through Power Girl’s own body in a volatile charge, violent ions of his passing sending Kara collapsing to her knees with a short scream of exhaustion and pain.
“Now, now… n-now….” R’aih turned to the Blue Beetle and attacked with a volley of punches that were harmless, only serving to distract. Their speed, however, and the look of sadistic mania in R’aih’s eyes, kept Jaime on the defensive, throwing up shield after shield that never deflected anything, only getting him flustered before—
A blast of violet energy rocked into R’aih’s body the instant that his eyes narrowed and began to glow, sending M’gann’s captor sprawling backwards. Starbolt after starbolt drilled into his body as he tried to recoil, his slim form shriveling with pain until Koriand’r finally sped forward, launching a vicious kick to the side of the skull that left R’aih solidly unconscious.
With a satisfied smile, the tamaranian turned to face the other three heroes (and a bound M’gann), allowing herself a sigh of contentment. “…He became solid each time he used his energy vision. Just had to wait for the right moment.”
“What are you searching for, insect?” Etrigan growled, leaning his broad, armored back against the harsh stone walls of the little bunker. One clawed finger worked and wiggled between his thick fangs, peeling out the occasional carcass of a bug he had tried to eat. So far, he had been satisfied by none of them.
“Ahh, my simple friend,” Riddler glanced back at the demon with a grin tightening his cheeks, an array of small, holographic screens hovering in front of his faceplate. Each screen varied slightly in detail, but they all said the same thing – ‘scanning…’. “I am looking for a way for us to win this pitiful little skirmish without all of the nonsensical punching and kicking. As I mentioned earlier, this suit is… parasitic, in nature. Specially designed by a Mr. John Henry Irons (a keen mind, by the way, if… elegant) and myself to integrate itself into any form of technology via a universal interface… including that of the martians. Apparently your ‘Power Girl’ called in a special friend for a little help on that particular bit – ahaaah, and bingo.”
Etrigan cocked a ridged brow, shuffling in his armor and bringing one hand behind himself to scratch helplessly at his own back. “What have you found?”
“It, my friend. That is to say, precisely what I expected to find.” There was a soft glow and whir in the gauntlet of Ed Nigma’s armor, and a thin, bright beam of light lanced forth from it, carving gently into the floor of the bunker. The old martian rock slowly crumbled, falling away bit by bit and revealing what could only be the generator of the building.
“An old engine. That was what you expected to find? My my, I would have thought that if that suit of yours had an electric juicer built in, you would have been able to power it on your own.”
Riddler shot the demon a cool, knowing glare, before releasing a strand of slim tendrils similar to the ones he had used to interface with Jaime. The tips adjusted, almost mutated, before locking into the old machine that had been dwelling beneath the bunker. “More than an engine. An energy device that interfaced with others of its kind – martian technology is all linked via a sort of network not entirely unlike the human internet—“ he turned to face Etrigan, who was standing again. The demon’s broad, flat features carried a perfect expression of restrained cluelessness. “—Not that I expect you know much about that.
“In any case, they were linked through the martian’s natural telepathic abilities, acting less as a machine and more as a shielded psionic link to their tech. Passcodes that could not be located within the mind of the martian attempting to login to the network would lock that martian out of whatever program he was attempting to access.” Riddler took a long, silent breath, his eyes focused on the display within his faceplate and seeming to stare through the demon standing before him. “I am not a martian, and do not have telepathic abilities. However, I have the ability to do what martian technology never safeguarded against. I can hack – or at least, the suit can, under my guiding hand. Within a few minutes, I can access the codes to whatever green martian technology I desire, activating and deactivating programs as I desire. And, since the unimaginative white martians seem to have built all of their technology around that of their green superiors… that means I own this planet’s simple interfaces as if I had built it all myself.”
“Then you can deactivate their weapons and shields. Nullify the white martian race as a threat, allow us to focus on Bizarro?”
“Far, far better. I can turn those very same weapons on the Man of Steel’s imperfect clone… we can kill him with the very same weaponry he’s been trying, and failing, to use.”
A slow, sinister smile spread across Etrigan’s face, baring his moist fangs. “I like you.”
I’m not normal. I’m not human. I’m not a hero.
I’m the daughter of a being that will be the end of this world – something that has been described as a demon. The term really doesn’t fit… not him. He’s more than a demon or a monster, so much more than that. He’s a threat to more than just earth, he bows to no master. His name is Trigon, and he’s coming.
I have heard his call, ringing in my ears, and I have resisted it through long years of meditation. He wants me to be his first Scion, his first servant in his next rampage against the mortal realms. But I have not heeded his call.
My name is Rachel Roth, and I was born in a parallel dimension called Azarath. I can no longer wait for the Call of Trigon to be heard, for if I do, it will be too late. If I’m going to protect this world from him, I will need help.
“Bizarro… will… DESTROY YOU!”
“That means he isn’t going to destroy us, right?” Kyle said hopefully as he, Power Girl, Blue Beetle, Miss Martian, and Starfire sped away at their top speed away from the manic roars coming from behind them, back to the bunker where, as far as they knew, Etrigan and Riddler still were.
“Nope,” Kara hissed as she rushed by, grabbing onto Jaime’s arm and yanking him along, urging him to keep up. “He’s learned. He knows how we work now… I suppose it was only a matter of time.”
A dull blue glow in the distance barely gave M’gann enough time to phase away before a burst of icy energy lanced through her transparent form. She swallowed hard, continuing to speed on alongside the others. “Where is this bunker again, guys? He’s catching up, he’s going to get us! He’s… he’s going to get me!”
“It isn’t far, senorita,” Jaime shouted above the sound of dry air whooshing past his helmeted head. “Or at least, it shouldn’t be – we’ll have to rely on the demon and the villain to give us the signal. I’m not sure I’ll be able to find it with the cloak on!”
It had been only moments after leaving R’aih unconscious in his little cave that things had gone awry. An uprise from the white martians had set Bizarro into a sort of violent frenzy when they had started to make their true feelings known – blaming him when their technology had spontaneously stopped working. Needless to say, he hadn’t reacted well.
M’gann took a deep breath, almost a gasp, as the splintered team swiveled their flightpath around a bend of red rock. Bodies littered the ground, those of the white martians. Bizarro had already been here ahead of them, had killed… killed hundreds of them. Even if they were not kindred to her, they were her kin – she had no idea that Superman’s clone could possibly be capable of this carnage, even in this fit of rage. Maybe he wasn’t the eternal victim he wanted everyone to think he was.
“This is… terrible,” Starfire said quietly, barely heard by her companions. The small team didn’t stop moving, however, continuing to rush along at their minimum top speed with Jaime lagging slightly behind.
“Don’t pay attention to it,” Power Girl spoke now, “This is why we have to get rid of him – whether or not he’s this sympathetic, confused villain? He’s still a monster. A wolf may just be trying to eat, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have to be put down.”
The rest of the group flew on with their heads lowered, not… stunned, exactly, by their leader’s words. But they did sting. The JSA was supposed to be great and noble, like the Justice League. The idea of doing whatever it took to get Bizarro off of Mars was not thrilling to anyone there.
Besides Etrigan, and the Riddler. They were totally stoked about the whole thing.
“So, a man is walking, alone, down a boardwalk….”
“Lucifer’s tears, not another.”
“Shush, you’ll like this one.” Riddler leaned back against the wall of the bunker, keeping his gaze focused on the small windows in anticipation of the return of the JSA. “So a man is walking, alone, down a boardwalk, and stops by a small restaurant upon seeing the sign outside, which states that the restaurant serves soup with albatross found on an island not too far away.”
“Okay…” Etrigan growled quietly, closing his eyes and letting out a small sigh.
“He goes inside and orders a bowl. After taking one sip of it, he spits it out and leaves the restaurant, starting to walk around behind without paying his bill. He draws a revolver out of his jeans, puts the barrel to his head, and pulls the trigger. Why?”
“The soup was that bad?”
Edward smiled softly. “No. The man had just returned from a vacation, that had ended with his plane crashing and he, and his family, being trapped on a deserted island for several months. The pilot, and a few others that had survived, stated that there had been albatross on the island, and had frequently brought the beasts back to their camp for food. He had enjoyed it then, and in his lonely time of struggle as the only survivor of that trip, had decided to remind himself of that time by eating albatross again. After tasting the soup, he realized that it wasn’t albatross, as he was quite familiar with the taste. He shot himself because he had been eating what he could only assume was the partially-digested corpse of his own wife.”
“…That’s not even a riddle, it’s just a really morbid story that doesn’t even make sense. How did he know that it was his wife?”
Eddie offered a particularly sinister grin. “Because he had already eaten the captain.”
“You’re a sick bastard, I ever tell you that?” Etrigan smirked. “I love it. You need to tell more ‘riddles’ like that o – shh.”
Riddler gave his demonic companion a lazy glance before turning back to the window in front of him. “Uh oh. You remember the signal?”
Etrigan puffed out his chest and stood. “I’m a lord of Hell, and you should do best to remember that, you insignificant pinprick… of course I remember the signal.” The demon lunged forward, placing both taloned hands against the side of the open window and leaning his head out to belch forth a long, powerful gout of hellfire.
“There they are! Etrigan’s fire is the signal!” Kyle shouted out, little green rockets forming on the sides of his outfit and quickly starting to shoot out emerald fire, hurtling the Lantern forward.
“Quick, regroup before he finds us aga—ahhh!” Power Girl screamed out as she was hurled forward, another blue bolt sending her sprawling into the crimson dirt, face-first.
“You have… you have come for Bizarro… turned Bizarro’s only friends against him? Are you so eager to see Bizarro unhappy?!” By the time Kara had brought herself to her feet, a hulking, blue-and-purple figure had blitzed past her, sending her sprawling yet again.
“Friend Karen!” Koriand’r shouted, spinning around mid-flight and hurling a volley of starbolts towards Bizarro, who seemed unimpressed – what few missiles struck into his muscular hide seemed to have no effect whatsoever. In response, the hulking clone only turned, his deep crimson eyes fading through the shades of deep purple until they burned with an unholy sapphire light.
“If Bizarro may have no friends, then neither may you,” he growled before letting loose, the beams from his eyes freezing Starfire solid before the other heroes (or… villains) could react to help her. “You wanted to see Bizarro become angry and sad… this is what he looks like when he is angry and unhappy.”
“And this is what I look like, Peter Pan,” Power Girl growled, sending a fist rocketing into the huge kryptonian’s jaw, making his jaw tilt subtly.
“Your strike is like the bite of an insect – unpleasant, but no more than that. Bizarro has learned from his time on earth, but none of you have learned from your time among Bizarro – I am stronger than you.” A casual backhand sped toward’s Kara’s face, barely blocked in time by a spiked steel wall made of green energy. The spikes dented and the energy construct shattered, but it saved Power Girl in time.
“Thanks Kyle,” she cried out, zooming away from Bizarro to join the rest of the league, scooping up the still-frozen Starfire along the way and sending a quick blast of heat vision into her body.
“No problem, bunker’s this way—glllk!” Kyle’s eyes widened, small streaks of green energy streaming out from around Bizarro’s closed fingers as the hulking clone of Clark Kent held the Lantern up by the throat, his eyes burning blue again.
“You think you can evade me? Lose Bizarro? You are no threat to me, merely an annoyance.”
“Enough of this,” Etrigan barked, leaping from the open doorway to the cloaked bunker, his own tattered blue cape billowing absently behind him from Mars’ low gravity. His bare-footed step spoke of years in Hell, seeing physical and emotional hardening that someone like Bizarro could barely even dream of. The Thing of Steel turned his head from a wiggling, gasping Kyle Rayner, glancing to Etrigan with a barely-respectful nod.
“I see you, demon,” he growled. “What do you want with Bizarro? To assist him in crushing these bugs? Do you see how they hunt Bizarro, finally?”
“Oh, believe me, big blue, I’d like nothing more,” Etrigan said with a snarl, his thin, dry lips twisting into a sort of smile. “But I’m on a sort of community service at the moment, and I’m playing nice – you, however, are not. What do you propose we do about that?”
“Bizarro could crush you, as well,” the imperfect creature offered.
“Fun, though I think you may find it more challenging than you suspect. Besides, there are some issues with crushing myself, or any other member of the ‘Justice Society of America’. A friend of mine, whose name shall go unsaid to prevent you from doing anything rash, just happens to have access to the very weaponry you’ve been failing to sufficiently harness.”
“Etrigan, what are you—“ M’gann began, only to be silenced by the demon’s raised hand.
“While these mortal insects have been attempting to think of a way to talk you into exiling yourself yet again, myself and my… friend, have found a way to keep you gone. If you don’t want to see what that way is, I suggest you leave Mars and don’t return to any other inhabited planet.” Etrigan casually shifted his gauntlets, tightening the barbed-wire straps that held them on, doing his best to seem utterly unconcerned.
Bizarro blinked a few times, his eyes fading to a dull violet. “I can crush this man before you use any weapon against me.”
“Go ahead,” Etrigan said simply.
“Wait, wait… what are we talking about?” Jaime spluttered. “Are we talking about killing him? We don’t do that! We’ve never done that!”
Only because you won’t let me. The suit whispered into the young man’s ear.
“Yes, and that’s because… because we’re the good guys! We can’t do this, we can’t even threaten it! The Justice League would never kill him!”
“That’s why he’s still alive,” Etrigan said simply. “That’s why thousands of white martians are dead and dying on the surface of this planet. We aren’t the Justice League… we have to do what they wouldn’t, or we have no purpose.”
“I… I have to agree with Jaime,” M’gann whispered, stepping aside to stand next to the blue-suited boy. “We can’t do this. We can get him to leave.”
“…Kara?” Kyle said quietly, turning to the kryptonian, whose eyes were downcast in thought. “You don’t support this, do you?” His voice was strained – even being held gently by Bizarro meant that his throat could be effortlessly collapsed at any instant, and the little bit of green light that he had ringed around his throat was all that had kept him alive until now.
Power Girl glanced up at the Lantern with a deep breath, before tilting her gaze to Etrigan, who had been acting as her second-in-command until this moment. “What weapons are you talking about, Etrigan? What weapons does Riddler have?”
“All of them.”
“On Tamaran, this tactic would have been resorted to long ago… universal enemies have to be removed by any means, to preserve our way of life,” Starfire said from her gasping position on her knees, her deep orange skin faded to a pale gold color from the cold still shaking her body. Bizarro turned to her with a cold stare, his fingers tightening around Kyle’s throat.
“Etrigan… if Bizarro doesn’t leave, tell Nigma to fire. This is your last chance, monster.” Kara’s voice was little more than a whisper, strained and quiet, but audible in the thin air. Miss Martian cupped one hand across her mouth and took a step back.
The Imperfect Superman clenched his free fist. “You are no better than the rest of them. You exile Bizarro to life alone on some desolate planet, under threat of destruction. I hope that you see the error of your ways, someday. I hope that you have the opportunity to understand Bizarro’s pain and exile, someday.”
“Go, Bizarro.” Power Girl said softly.
There was a soft vibration before Bizarro seemed to vanish, leaving Rayner’s oxygen-deprived body lying in the dust. Those whose eyes could follow his movements, such as Kara and M’gann, could see the Thing of Steel fly up and away, shooting himself out of Mars’ atmosphere.
The team sat in silence for several long moments, with Power Girl, Etrigan, and Starfire exchanging soulful glares with Miss Martian, Blue Beetle, and the Green Lantern. A minute or so later, a power-suited Edward Nigma came slithering out of the cloaked bunker, idly trying to scratch at an itch hidden safely beneath his armor. “So, did we win?”
“I guess,” Miss Martian intoned softly.
Many lightyears and many isolated planets away, a lone, imperfect kryptonian with no true name landed his violet-booted feet into the soft brown turf of his new home. A small smile curled his chalky lips as he gazed out along the wide, grassy turf of this side of his new planet. No intelligent life besides him. Nobody to hurt him or betray him, nobody to drive him away. No Superman, no Lois, no martians, no weapons. Nothing and nobody but Bizarro and six perfect sides.
The new line-up of the Justice Society of America returns in JSA #7.
The Riddler will return in his own series, Riddle Me This.
Where was Atlee this whole time? Find out in Terra/Misfit: World's Finest vol. 1 -- Cold Comfort.