Batman, Green Arrow, and Hawkman waited tensely in the meeting room while the Atom and the Flash ran medical examinations on their fallen friends with the med-lab’s equipment. Nobody said anything during the long wait. Finally, two hours later, the scientist heroes emerged.
“We’ve figured out what it was,” Flash said. “A virus.”
“A virus?” Green Arrow repeated. “What, you mean they’ve got the flu or something?”
“Nothing like that,” Atom said. “This is some new strain, something we’ve never seen before. I’ll tell you this, though; it’s the most powerful virus I’ve ever seen.”
“Yes, so powerful that a non-superhuman body would most likely be killed by it,” Flash agreed. “It was strong enough to affect the likes of Superman and Wonder Woman to the point where it drove them mad, but a normal human–”
“But Green Lantern is a normal human,” Hawkman pointed out. “His power ring is the greatest weapon ever devised, but that’s all it is. He has no super-powers himself.”
“His ring protects him from harm,” Batman pointed out. “Apparently, the virus was so strong it couldn’t protect him completely.”
“Batman’s right,” the Atom said. “Anyway, we think we can cure them of it through constant bombardment of Wonder Woman’s purple healing ray. But it will take time.”
“How much time?” Green Arrow asked.
“Seventy-two hours, minimum,” Flash said. Atom nodded in silent agreement.
“That’s bad,” Batman said, grimly. “We’ve already told Colonel Wilcox that we will meet King Anton the day after tomorrow. If half of us don’t show up–”
“The Commies will get the sub base,” Green Arrow finished.
“Impossible, Batman,” Colonel Wilcox said over the two-way videophone. Batman stood in the JLA headquarters communicaton room, a grim look on his face. “We can’t cancel now. King Anton will take it as an insult.”
“I realize that, Colonel,” Batman said. “But as I’ve said, something unexpected has happened.”
“Deal with it,” Wilcox said. “Your country is counting on you. Wilcox out.” The image faded from the screen, and Batman turned to face his friends.
“Any ideas?” Green Arrow asked. “Five of our members are incapacitated for three days, but if they don’t show up the day after tomorrow, America loses a vital military installation.”
“What if we contact the Justice Society on Earth-Two?” Flash said, snapping his fingers. “Perhaps some of their members could impersonate our fallen comrades.”
“Negative,” Batman said. “I thought of that, but the Earth-Two dimension is currently out of phase with ours. We won’t be able to cross the dimensions for a few months.” Batman’s grim expression softened somewhat. “However, what you said about impersonations gives me an idea. Superman once told me about… someone.”
“And that gives me an idea,” Green Arrow said, “concerning something J’onn J’onzz once told me!”
“And Green Lantern mentioned something to me that could help us,” the Flash said.
“Come to think of it, I recall Aquaman saying something like that,” Hawkman said.
“And Wonder Woman once told me something useful,” Atom said. “You know, gentlemen, I think there may be a way out of this after all!”
“Thank you for receiving me on such short notice, Your Highness,” Batman said, showing the proper respect for the royal personage who sat before him.
“Think nothing of it,” the prince said, and Batman couldn’t help but marvel at his face. “I am honored to receive the great Batman. Tell me, what can I do for you?”
“I come on behalf of a mutual friend of ours, Prince Mark,” Batman said. “You knew him as Superboy; today, of course, he is known as Superman. He told me of how the two of you met.”
“Yes, he helped me greatly, many years ago,” Prince Mark said thoughtfully, reminiscing to years gone. (*) “And you are here on his behalf?”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Man Who Hunted Superboy,” Adventure Comics #303 (December, 1962).]
“Yes, Your Highness,” Batman said. “Superman needs your help now, even as you needed his long ago.”
Prince Mark, whose face bore an uncanny resemblance to Superman’s, stood up at his throne. “He shall have it,” Prince Mark announced. “The affairs of state of Sardonia shall wait on Superman’s welfare! How may I serve?”
J’onn J’onzz, to all appearances, sat at a makeup table in a small studio dressing room, putting finishing touches to his makeup. A knock came at the dressing room door. “Sorry, no autographs until after the show,” he said.
The door opened, and Green Arrow entered the room. “I’m not here for an autograph, Mr. Clark.”
Barry Clark did a double take. “You — you’re the Green Arrow! What brings you here?”
“A mutual friend of ours,” Green Arrow said. “The Martian Manhunter needs your help, Mr. Clark.”
“What, now?” the actor said. “But I’m due on the set in ten minutes! I’m one of the celebrity contestants on the $10,000 Ziggurat this week! Me and Adam West!”
“Who?” Green Arrow asked. Then he shook his head. “Forget about that. Look, the Manhunter helped you out when you really needed it, saved your career and — the way I hear it — your life. (*) You gonna help him now, or are you gonna play games?”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Man Who Impersonated J’onn J’onzz,” Detective Comics #298 (December, 1961).]
Clark looked ashamed. “Of course. Forgive me, Green Arrow. What do you want me to do?”
At a posh outdoor cafe in California, Jim Jordan was having lunch with his girlfriend, Sue Williams. “This chateaubriand is excellent,” Jim said. “Probably the best I’ve ever had.”
Before Sue could comment, there was a scarlet blur and a sudden gust of wind. Then a figure in crimson and gold was standing beside their table. “Sorry to interrupt,” he said.
“Th-the Flash!” Jim stammered in surprise.
“I knew it!” Sue cried out in triumph. “I always knew you were Green Lantern, and this proves it! The Flash must be here to get your help on a case!”
The Flash smiled indulgently at Sue. “I assure you, Miss, Mr. Jordan here is not Green Lantern.” Flash turned to Jim, the younger brother of the man he knew as Green Lantern, his close friend. “But I do require your help, Mr. Jordan.”
“W-what do you mean?” Jim asked.
In a building in Lima, the capital city of Peru, the telephone rang. “Moulton Street Shelter, Mrs. White speaking,” a dark-haired nurse with glasses and a severe bun said in Spanish. “How may I — oh!” She gasped as a tiny figure hurtled out of the telephone receiver. The figure landed on her desk and looked up at her.
“Wow!” the Atom said. “I can’t believe it! You really are a dead ringer for Wonder Woman! You could be her twin!”
Nurse Diana White looked down and recognized the Atom from the American newspapers she subscribed to since she moved to South America to join her fiancé and now husband, Bill White, agreeing to lend her identity of Diana Prince to Wonder Woman. “She told you, then, about the deal we made when she first came to America?” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Startling Secret of Diana Prince,” Wonder Woman #162 (May, 1966) and “The Secret Origin of Wonder Woman,” DC Special Series #19 (Fall, 1979).]
“She did,” Atom said, nodding. “She’s in trouble now, Nurse White, and she needs your help.”
“How, exactly?” Diana asked.
“Hey, John,” a young CPO said excitedly, poking his head in Lieutenant Blake’s office. “Wait till you see who’s out here!”
Blake half-rose from his desk as a tall, muscular figure strode into his office. The man folded the wings on his back together as he passed through the narrow doorway.
“Hawkman!” Blake exclaimed. “This is a surprise! What brings you to a naval recruiting station? Don’t tell me a high-flying hero like yourself wants to sign up for the service of the seas?”
Hawkman was silent a moment, marveling at the uncanny resemblance between his JLA colleague and this naval lieutenant. “No, sir, nothing like that. I’ve come because a mutual friend of ours is in trouble.”
“Aquaman?” Blake asked, raising an eyebrow. Hawkman nodded. “Aquaman turned my life around, got me back on the right track. (*) Whatever I can do to help, Hawkman, please let me know.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Coward and the Hero,” Adventure Comics #220 (January, 1956).]
“I feel ridiculous,” Jim Jordan said, looking down at himself. He was wearing a Green Lantern costume; he felt very self-conscious, like the whole world was staring at him. The Flash was staring; he couldn’t get over how much Jim looked like the real Green Lantern.
The five impostors had been brought, blindfolded, to the JLA’s secret mountain headquarters, where they had been outfitted with costumes to carry off the impersonation. Batman stood before them, inspecting them for detail.
“I think it will work,” he announced finally. “The resemblances are unbelievable, but if I didn’t know better myself, I’d swear you were the genuine articles!”
“We won’t have to do anything, will we?” Barry Clark asked. “I mean, on stage I have props to help me simulate the Martian Manhunter’s powers, but…”
“No, we’ll just have to show up,” Batman said. “Mr. Jordan, is that phony power ring I made for you working?”
Jim clenched his right fist, and a flash of green light shone from the ring on his finger. “Working fine, Mr. Batman,” he said.
“Good; it should lend credence to the illusion. Before we go, I want to thank you all for agreeing to do this. It’s a great service you’re performing for your country.”
“There’s nothing dangerous about it, is there?” Diana White asked. “I mean, it’s just a meet and greet, right?”
“We wouldn’t ask you to do it if we thought there were any danger, Mrs. White,” Batman said. But in the back of his mind, indeed in the minds of the other heroes as well, was the nagging worry: What if whoever did this to their five most powerful members decided to strike again?
“Nice place you’ve got here,” the Mad Hatter said, looking around the room at the key-shaped light fixtures and keyhole-shaped doorways. “Who’s your architect? I’m looking into having my hideout redone.”
“You should have seen the Mirror Master’s last digs,” Captain Cold said. “Mirrors everywhere! By the time I could find the bathroom… well, I didn’t need it anymore.”
“By the way, Key,” I.Q. said, “what’s your angle in bringing us into your caper? If you have knocked out the five most powerful JLAers like you’ve said, why do you need us to help you polish off the others? Why not grab all the glory for yourself?”
“Don’t let your own greed color your perceptions, I.Q.,” the Rainbow Archer said. “The Key merely wants to share his greatest triumph with men of similar minds. Isn’t that right, Key?”
“Precisely,” the Key said. “Our victory will be great enough to go around! This time tomorrow, when the mighty Justice League is no more, the entire underworld will be at our command as the conquerors of the World’s Greatest Heroes!”
“And the fruits of our labor will be bountiful, indeed,” Plant Master said. “When do we strike?”
“Tomorrow morning at ten,” the Key said. “The Justice League is due to meet King Anton then. While they are tripping over their capes trying to explain why only half of them showed up, we will attack and destroy them!”
And the six costumed villains laughed.