Zatanna was on monitor duty in the JLA Satellite one quiet evening. There had been no emergencies, nothing that required the League’s attention. The Mistress of Magic sat in the comfortable swivel chair at the communications console, her hands folded behind her head and her feet up on the console, watching television. She was wearing her stage magician’s outfit; the top hat rested on the console, and the high-heeled shoes stood empty beneath it.
A warning light on the console let Zatanna know that the satellite teleportation entry system had been engaged. She watched the readout for a second, until the LCD display read passenger acknowledged — Black Canary. Zatanna then turned her attention back to her television program.
“Evening, Zee,” Black Canary said as she walked into the communication room. “What are you watching?”
“The Wonder Years,” Zatanna said. “You’re older than I am, Dinah, can you possibly explain this fascination with the ’60s? I mean, it wasn’t that great when it was going on, was it?”
“Oh, that’s just nostalgia,” Canary said. “Happens all the time. When most people reach a certain age, they get disgusted with how little they’ve accomplished, so they start yearning for their younger days. In the ’40s, they were nostalgic for the ’20s. In the ’60s, it was the ’40s. And, by the time the new millennium rolls around, they’ll be yearning for the ’80s.”
The young magician wrinkled her nose. “I can’t imagine anyone ever getting nostalgic for valley girls and Reaganomics.”
“It’ll happen, trust me,” Black Canary said. “Why the stage outfit, anyway? Are you going back to that full-time?”
“Oh, no,” Zatanna said, wiggling her toes in their sheath of fishnet-patterned nylon. “I had a show just before my monitor shift; came right from there. These are just my working clothes. What brings you to the satellite?”
“Research,” Canary said, holding something out to her friend. “Take a look at this.”
Zatanna swung her long, lithe legs off the console and to the floor and reached up to take what Black Canary offered her. It appeared to be a wristwatch, but it was heavier, with a stranger design. “What is it?”
“A weapon used by Lachesis, one of the so-called Secret Sorority of Super-Villainesses,” Black Canary explained.
“Oh, yeah!” Zatanna said. “Shayera told me about that. A bunch of wannabe super-villainesses you two fought; patterned themselves after male villains!”
“Exactly,” Canary said. “They said they bought their weapons from criminal scientists doing work for hire. I want to find out who. If there is a custom-order super-weapon shop out there, we need to shut it down.”
“I couldn’t agree more,” Zatanna said, stepping into her shoes.
Zatanna followed Black Canary into the JLA’s forensics lab. “If there are any clues on this watch,” Canary said, “our equipment will find it.”
“The police already checked for fingerprints, didn’t they?” Zatanna asked.
“Of course,” Canary said. “I doubt anyone smart enough to design this would be stupid enough to leave prints, anyway. But crooks like this are usually vain. Maybe he put some kind of trademark on it, something so small or so hidden he never thought anyone else would see it. Or maybe he left some other kind of clue. If there is anything, we’ll find it.” Black Canary put the watch into a small, cube-shaped glass receptacle. She closed the door of the box and manipulated a few control dials. The watch was bombarded by semitransparent light beams from three dozen different angles; data began scrolling across an accompanying computer screen faster than her eyes could follow.
“So, Dinah,” Zatanna said, while they waited, “what’s new?”
Dinah, sensing the tone of the question, heaved a loud sigh. “Not you, too, Zee,” she said. “I expect it from the guys, but not you!”
“Expect what?” Zatanna asked. “I only asked what’s new. You know, read any good books lately, seen any good movies…”
“Answered any questions,” Canary finished. “I know everyone’s dying to know, Zee! Thing of it is, I don’t know the answer myself.” Before Zatanna could respond, a slight chime announced that the scanner was finished. Canary stared at the readout screen and muttered a curse.
“Nothing,” she growled. “No trademark, no DNA traces, no unique materials, nothing! It’s a phantom.”
“Let me have a try,” Zatanna said, opening the door of the cube.
“You think you can do something?” Canary asked. “I mean, no offense of course, but I thought your powers had been greatly diminished. I thought creating from thin air was beyond you any longer.”
“It is,” Zatanna acknowledged. “But that’s not what I’ll be doing.” She held the watch in the upturned palms of her hands. “Quite often, objects are left with a psychic imprint of the mind of whoever touched them. The craftsman who created this, probably more so; it’s a child of his brilliance, or he’d see it that way, anyway. Let’s see what we can find.” Zatanna held the watch up at eye level and chanted in her backward tongue, “Wohs su eht rekam fo siht!”
The air above the watch shimmered for a moment like a heat-image. A face slowly coalesced in it, causing Dinah to gape. “I don’t believe it!”
Zatanna smiled. “Recognize him?”
“I think so,” Dinah said. “I’ve seen him before, somewhere! Probably in the JLA files! I studied them a lot when I first migrated from Earth-Two, you know, familiarizing myself with the criminal element of my new homeworld. Any way you can get that image into the computer banks?”
“I can try,” Zatanna said. “Let’s see now. Egami emoceb atad, nioj eht ALJ selif!” As the women watched, the floating face changed from full color to a lime-green outline, then launched itself into the bank of computer machinery lining the wall.
“Whoa! Very Ghostbusters,” Canary commented. “Good job, Zee! Now let’s see if we can get a match.” Black Canary manipulated the computer console, brought up the brand-new image Zatanna had added, and ordered the computer to scan for a match. Faces of known criminals whizzed by in a blur until another chime announced that the search was finished. The computer screen was split in two vertically, showing two views of the same face.
“Bingo!” Black Canary said. “That’s our boy, all right!”
“So who is he?” Zatanna asked, peering over Black Canary’s shoulder.
“His name is Dr. Albert Nathaniel Davis,” Black Canary said, reading the legend on the computer screen. “Let me pull up a history on him.” The computer searched for a second, then a text biography of the criminal came up. “OK, he fought Ollie a couple of times, eleven years ago. Once he worked on his own, forced an innocent man to rob for him using his high-tech inventions. (*) After that he was one of several criminals working for Professor Amos Fortune; that was the case where Ray joined the League. (*) He hasn’t been heard from since; he isn’t even on parole anymore. He’s a completely free man.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Man Who Defied Death,” World’s Finest Comics #125 (May, 1962) and “The Menace of the Atom Bomb,” Justice League of America #14 (September, 1962).]
“Been keeping a legitimate profile since his release, I guess,” Zatanna said. “But he definitely made that watch!”
“Clever,” Canary said. “Keeping below the radar of the law, making weapons for other criminals at a tidy profit. I wonder how he takes his fee. A straight, upfront cost, or a percentage of his customers’ take?”
“Either way,” Zatanna said, “we have to find him. Any ideas?”
“One,” Canary said, grimly. “I’ve got a lead I’m going to follow.” The blonde-wigged crime-fighter strode toward the forensics lab door. “I’ll see you around, Zee.”
“Wait, Dinah!” Zatanna said. “Let me go with you.”
“What?” Canary said, stopping. “Think I can’t handle it myself?”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Zatanna said. “I just want to go along, help out. It’s been a while since we two worked a case together, you know.”
Canary’s eyes narrowed suspiciously for just a moment. “Aren’t you on monitor duty?” she asked.
“I’m due to be relieved in ten minutes,” Zatanna said. “If you can hang around that long, we can be off. Come on, what say?”
“Very well,” Canary acquiesced. “Who’s relieving you?”
“Hal,” Zatanna said. “He’s usually very punctual; he ought to be here very soon.”
“Oh, geez, not Hal,” Canary sighed. “Look, why don’t I teleport down ahead of you and meet you later?”
“What’s wrong?” Zatanna asked. “You don’t want to see Hal?”
“Who doesn’t?” Green Lantern’s voice came from the hallway outside the lab. Before either woman could reply, the powerfully built man in green and black entered the lab. “Oh! Dinah! Hello. I didn’t expect to see you.”
“Hello, Hal,” Dinah said. “How are you doing?”
“Fine, just fine,” Hal Jordan said. “How’s Oliver? I haven’t talked to him in a couple of days.”
“Ollie’s fine,” Dinah said.
“Is he?” Hal asked. “That’s good, that’s real good. Just… fine, is he?”
“He’s fine,” Dinah said.
“Hal, Dinah and I are going on a case,” Zatanna said, changing the subject. “Nothing out of the ordinary; you should have a quiet night on monitor duty.”
“A case?” Hal asked. “Need any backup?”
“We’ll let you know if we do,” Zatanna said. “Looks like a two-woman job, though.”
“Well, OK. Take care of yourselves. Dinah, say hi to Ollie for me.”
“I will, Hal,” Canary said frostily. The two women left the lab.
“Don’t be too hard on Hal,” Zatanna said as she and Black Canary entered the teleporter tube room.
“How can I not?” Black Canary asked. “Almost all the men on the team have been like this! I’ll answer when I’m ready to answer; don’t they understand that? This is a big decision! It’s not like deciding what to have for lunch!”
“True, but the guys have been waiting for years for Ollie to finally ask you,” Zatanna pointed out. “It’s only natural they’d be a little impatient, now that he finally has.”
“Yeah, whatever,” Black Canary said, punching in the coordinates of the teleporter. “Well, come on, if you’re coming,” she said, striding into the teleporter tube. Zatanna barely had time to catch up with her before the tube hummed to life. In seconds, Black Canary and Zatanna emerged from the tube atop Star Tower in Star City.
“Where are we going?” Zatanna asked.
“To check out a lead,” Canary said. “If Davis has been making custom super-weapons since he got out of prison, it’s likely he’s had a few other customers than the Secret Sorority girls. And I’ve got a fair idea where we can find one.”
“What a pleasant surprise,” the young man smiled, welcoming Black Canary and Zatanna into his home. “It’s not often I get such charming callers!”
“Oh, I doubt that, Owen,” Black Canary said, returning the smile and shaking the young man’s hand. “You’re the up-and-coming young sensation in Star City’s art community. I’m sure you’ve had lovely ladies up here before.”
“Posers and snobs,” Owen scoffed. “Wouldn’t know true art if it bit them on the ankle, well-turned though it be.”
Zatanna marveled at the ultramodern design of the posh apartment. Kidney-shaped coffee table, spherical hanging lamps, colorful abstract paintings. It was like being in Andy Warhol’s nightmare.
“Actually, Owen,” Black Canary said, “we didn’t come to talk to you about art. It’s about your… past endeavors.”
The young man frowned. “You mean Ozone. Well, thanks to your boyfriend’s pull with the D.A., I got probation. I understand he also talked Oliver Queen into getting me the news promotion I needed to make it in the art community. Ozone is behind me, for good and all. I don’t know how I can help you.”
“I understand what drove you to become Ozone, Owen,” Black Canary said. “But where did a struggling young artist get those bizarre spray-can weapons you used?” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Getting Up,” Detective Comics #527 (June, 1983), “Poisoned Art,” Detective Comics #528 (July, 1983), and “Lost in the Ozone,” Detective Comics #529 (August, 1983).]
“What, that?” Owen asked. “Well, I bought them. I had heard word on the street that some guy was doing super-weapons to order. I asked around, got a contact name. Why?”
“A contact name, you say?” Black Canary asked.
Owen grinned, the penny having dropped. “I get it! You’re after the guy, the weapons maker! Well, I can’t help you much. None of the customers ever see him. All the business is done through a proxy, an agent.”
“And how do we get in touch with this agent?” Black Canary asked.
Owen hesitated. “You didn’t hear this from me, understand.”
“Certainly,” Black Canary said.