ISSUE #3 (May 2020)
Written by John Cheese
"The Star and the Three Headed Eagle"
Batman scowled as he glared into the back of King Faraday as he gave the pilot instructions to fly to their next destination. Standing next to him Wesley Dodd’s, the Sandman, his head bowed and eyes closed as he probed the dreamscape. Ever since stepping back onto the jet, Wesley had been erratic, dropping into sleep. A lay person may consider it narcolepsy, but Batman suspected that Dodd’s was fighting on the dreamscape, trying to make whatever the threat was pay for every foot it advanced towards the waking word.
“So, you wanted to talk.” Batman growled as Faraday turned around to look him in the eyes. “Let me guess, the government want their own Justice League, one slaved to Checkmate and that will pursue superhuman threats and their own foreign policy.”
“Can you blame them?” Faraday replied as he fished out a tape recorder and pressed play, a salvo of white noise filling the cockpit. “That’s a transmission intercepted from the surface of the Mars; analysists are saying that its battle chatter from the White Martians. There not the only ones, rumblings are coming in from Apokolips, suggesting that they know the League is no longer intact. And then there’s the problem in Angor that Mr Dodds has been tracking.”
“The answer is no.” Batman replied as he turned to look at the neophyte League. “You hope to have either me, Clark or Diana come back and endorse your League. There’s a reason why we refused the government’s original offer, it compromises us.”
“I studied the files, all of them from the initial formation all the way to the Hub City Blitz. Tell me, did you determine who was behind the Legion of Doom’s formation?” Faraday asked as he placed the tape recorder back in his jacket. “All evidence suggests Mister Twister was the mastermind behind its formation but…well I don’t need to tell you.”
“The true mastermind won’t hide for long.” Batman stated as he caught sight of the jet’s navigation heads up. “You’re heading to Angor; the country is currently recovering after the break-up of Yugoslavia. I know for a fact that the United States does not have authority to operate within its borders.” He added as Wesley jerked awake with a gasp.
“Angor won’t have borders if we don’t hurry,” Wesley stated in a dour tone, “its awake and searching for the sleeper. We don’t have much time!”
Point Peryton Nuclear Research Centre, Angor…
Corporal Laura Nielsen woke with a start from her bunk, a burning star shaped halo round her head before the infernal fire retreated back into her mind. Sliding off the bed, Laura holstered her pistol, tied her hair into a bun and pulled on her fatigues emblazoned with a three headed eagle on the shoulder.
<Extremists have taken over the control centre.> A silver tongued voice hissed as Laura robotically marched out of her room and into the main corridor of the barracks, flickers of flame snaking up the other sleeping soldiers and jerking them awake, the same burning corona around their heads. <Your nation’s safety is at stake.> It added, as Laura and the platoon of mind-controlled soldiers exited the barracks and formed up, marching towards the nuclear power station.
Reaching the security checkpoint, three guards, two dressed in the uniform of the Angor armed forces, and one in a trench-coat and gasmask blocked her way.
“Identification soldier.” One of the guards stated as Laura’s hands gravitated to her holster and then to her pocket removing a key card. Taking the card, the guard scanned it, seemingly unaware of the gas masked man standing next to him.
<<You must wake up>> The gas-masked man ordered Laura, as the gate guards swiped the ID and checked the credentials. <<You are being used.>>
<You’re too late Sandman, I was lost in dreams.> Laura replied in a cool voice. <Now I am that which slays them, this host dreamt of peace, of her country prospering. Today I end that dream, use her desperation, a nation’s desperation as fuel for the fire.>
“You are cleared for entry Corporal Nielsen.” The gate guard stated as he handed Laura back the key card and lifted the barrier. With an inhuman grin Laura opened her mouth and a tongue of flame shot out and slashed through the Sandman, causing him to collapse into a file of clothes.
<The dream is dead.> Laura hissed as she walked towards the power station. <Only the nightmares of a million burning corpses remain.>
Screaming in pain, Wesley Dodds reawakened, blood tearing from his eyes and nose. Sitting in the seats around him the rest of the neophyte Justice League looked on in shock save for Aztek, the helmeted superhero rushing forward.
“Sandman, Mr Dodds what happened?” Aztek asked as his helmet scanned the blood leaking from the elderly man’s eyes, while his hands dabbed at the fluid. “You have suffered massive amounts of psychic stress.”
“The alien, its awake and it’s on the move.” Wesley spluttered as he looked past Aztek towards King Faraday.
“It has a host now, I can’t stop it on the Dreamscape because it’s no longer there, not wholly anyway.” He added as the other league members looked at Faraday with confused looks on their faces. Looking up at his old friend Wesley spluttered, “Tell them everything, they need to know.”
King bowed his head, weighing up the possibilities.
“He can’t, he has so many lies and secrets that he can’t.” Batman stated as he tapped something on his gauntlet. “Isn’t that right Agent Faraday, you won’t expose your dark past in Angor.”
“It was the seventies; I was liaison to the Justice Society of America.” King stated as he ignored Batman’s jabs.
“Angor was a part of Yugoslavia and one more flash point in the Cold War. An alien had fallen to earth there, at least we thought it was an alien. Whoever controlled him would control how the Cold War would end. Being neutral, Yugoslavia called both the Soviet Union and us, it was a race to see who would get their first. We send the JSA, the Soviets sent their metahuman agents led by Corneal Anatoli Knyazev to secure the prize.”
“I have read about this.” Cold Warrior stated his voice cautious, as if he didn’t want to reveal too much. “There was a weapons discharge that levelled a city.”
“No, I ordered it to be levelled, the alien had taken everyone in their sleep, nobody could contain it, not us and not the Soviets.” King replied as he looked at Wesley. “Well, almost nobody.”
“I begged you to give me more time, it was hubris that prevented me from sealing the creature’s mind away in the Dreamscape.” Wesley announced as he got up and pushed Aztek away. “I understood why it had to be done, but it could have been averted.” He added as the rest of the League looked at each other with shock on their faces. “Knyazev took the rap for it, was charged with war crimes.”
“That led him to become the KGBeast, I’ve met him before.” Batman finished as he looked at the League as they got to their feet. “This is who brought you together, this is why the government shouldn’t be able to pull the strings of superhumans.”
“We agreed to go to Angor!” Wesley stated as he stood up to look Batman in the face, all signs of weakness now gone. “To a man we agreed, I don’t like the result but it was far better than what the alternative would have been!”
“Then surely they should have the same choice.” Batman replied coldly as he turned away and stalked towards the cockpit. “We’ll be in Angor in two hours, anyone who wants to leave should decide now.”
Congorilla scratched the golden hair on his head, Green Flame sent sparks arching along her fingers, Cold Warrior appeared emotionless in his armour and Hummingbird tapped her foot nervously as the four individuals all thought privately about the same question. Aztek knew that they would fold if given long enough, Batman, while powerless in many ways, had manipulated Faraday into disgracing himself.
“So, the Justice Society failed to keep this thing contained…” Hummingbird stated breaking the silence. “What chance do we have?”
“As good a shot as them.” Aztek answered as he looked at her and saw what bravery the woman had left begin to fade even faster than he thought it would. “We are the Justice League; we are the ones who stop things like this ‘Alien’.”
“Why should we, isn’t this why we have Superman and the others?” Hummingbird asked as she increased the tapping of her foot. “I don’t want to seem like I’m a coward but this is too much.”
“The police will be there, emergency responders too, they have no powers and yet they’ll put themselves on the line.” Congorilla grunted as he clenched his fist and closed his eyes.
“That’s why we should be there.” Aztek announced as he looked at Green Flame. “Are you with me?”
“Better to try and fail.” She replied as she turned to the Cold Warrior. “What do you think Yuri?”
“This fight will come to us all eventually.” Yuri gulped as he cocked his head. “Better to be on the front line, is it not.”
“It’s our duty.” Congorilla sighed as he got to his feet, his golden fur rippling as all eyes turned to Hummingbird. “Will you run away?”
“I want to,” Hummingbird answered as she stopped tapping her foot, before meeting Aztek’s eyes “I could.”
“Nobody is stopping you.” A voice from the cockpit door announced as Wesley walked in. “For what it’s worth, I know that everyone isn’t able to handle this.”
“How could I look anyone in the eye. My father ran, and my sister ran, and it got them killed because they ran away.” Hummingbird sighed as she picked up her helmet, rainbow coloured streamers shaking with every movement. “I need to run, but run the right way, because if I don’t,” She placed her helmet against her forehead.
“Because if we don’t there won’t be any place to run too.” Wesley finished as he looked at the neophyte Justice Leaguer’s. “It’s already started, it might already be over.”
Point Peryton Nuclear Research Centre, Angor…
Corporal Nielsen entered the control room of the Point Peryton Nuclear Research Centre, the technicians watching the dials jerking up to see who had entered the high security area.
“Corporal you don’t have access…” One of the technicians began only for a burst of flame to engulf his body, reducing his body to ash. Stunned the second technician reached for a pistol on his belt holster as one of the security guards fired a three-round burst at the attacker, the bullets melting together before dropping to the floor.
<My ascension is at hand.> Laura hissed as smoke vented from her mouth and encircled the guard vaporising the skin and flesh off his bones. Turning to the technician, Laura levitated the pistol out of the technician’s hand and spun it around, pressing the barrel against his skull. Seconds later a shot rang out and Laura was the only living person standing in the room. She wasn’t the only person in the room, sitting in one of the chairs was a figure formed of energy, a single rent where one of his eyes was.
“Well it looks like your nap hasn’t dulled your edge.” The figure in the chair stated as he put his hands together.
<You look pleased with yourself.> Laura stated as a burning halo of flame erupted from her head. <Your life is not spared even after your assistance Titan.>
“And here I thought I was going to get a favour.” The Titan stated as Laura reached for a one of the keys that would offline the coolant system for the nuclear reactor.
<I don’t do favours for mortals.> Laura hissed as a burning tendril coiled around the second key to the nuclear reactor controls.
“But you’ll like this one.” The Titan stated as his mask like face split into a vile facsimile of a smile. “All I need you to do is light the touch paper,” He ordered as Laura’s body collapsed and a second burning hand grasped the key, flames forming into a vaguely humanoid space with a burning star shaped corona for a head, “and deal with the moths attracted to the flames.” He added as his digital presence exploded into white sparks, the energy discharge swallowed up as the reactor overheated and detonated, the flames stoked into a giant star that hung over the countryside, the sound of inhuman laughter echoing across the plains.