“And this is the master control for our media monitoring system,” the Flash said, gently twisting a dial with his scarlet-gloved fingers. “With this, we are instantly notified of any news story requiring our attention… and, I have to admit, sometimes I use it to catch the ballgame when I’m on monitor duty.”
Kid Flash chuckled at his uncle’s artlessness. “It’s keen of you to give me this crash course, Uncle Barry,” the young speedster said. “I’m still impressed with all the high-tech stuff you Justice Leaguers have up here!”
“Well, Wally, the day may come when you replace me on the Justice League,” the Flash said, a touch of pride in his voice. “You never know — I may choose to retire someday, perhaps start a family.”
“If you make half as good a dad as you do an uncle,” Kid Flash said sincerely, “they’ll be the luckiest kids in the world.”
“Youngster, you’re going to turn my head!” the Flash said, warming with emotion at his nephew’s praise. “Now let’s get back to work. Over here is the–”
And the Flash was gone.
“Uncle Barry?” Kid Flash asked, looking around. It had happened so fast, even the fastest teen alive had been caught unaware. One nanosecond the Flash was there; the next, not.
“Uncle Barry?” Kid Flash called, a little louder. “If this is some super-speed joke, i-it isn’t funny!”
Kid Flash then took off like a golden comet, searching the satellite at superhuman speed: the trophy room, the gymnasium, the living quarters, the laboratory; everywhere. The Flash was nowhere to be found. Kid Flash quickly checked the teleporter tubes and the inter-dimensional transmatter cube, as his uncle had shown him how to do; nobody had left the satellite that way. It was inexplicable, but somehow the Flash had simply… disappeared.
Kid Flash was on the verge of panicking. What was he to do? He had to find out where the Flash had gone and what had happened. Was it possible he had left of his own volition, somehow? But no. The only thing that could inspire him to do that would be a sudden emergency, and he would have said something first. And even if he had, how had he done it? He had not used the teleporter or the transmatter cube, and what other avenue of exit was there? No, the Flash had somehow been taken.
Suddenly, the communications system roared to life as a voice tinged with urgency came through it. “Robin calling the JLA Satellite!” a voice very familiar to Kid Flash called out. “Robin calling the JLA Satellite! Please respond!”
“Dick?” Kid Flash responded. “Dick, it’s Wally! What’s the problem?”
“Wally?” Robin answered back. “Wally, what are you doing on the satellite?”
“Dick, I was here with Uncle Barry! He was on monitor duty, and he was showing me around… sort of a training course!”
“What do you mean ‘was’?” Robin asked, sensing the urgency in his friend’s voice.
“Dick, he — he vanished!” Kid Flash confided. “One second he was here, and the next–! I-I don’t — but wait. Why are you calling?”
“Because the same thing happened to Batman!” Robin declared. “I’m on spring break from Hudson, and I’m visiting Bruce. We were here in the Batcave doing mock combat, and he vanished! I thought maybe the League might have somehow snatched him away for some emergency or other, but if the Flash vanished too–!”
“Dick, there’s a JLA teleporter in the Batcave, isn’t there?”
“Yes, there is. It hasn’t been used, if that’s what you’re thinking.”
“Neither has the one in the satellite. But I’m going to bring you up; we need to put our heads together on this!”
“Right!” Robin emphatically agreed. “Because I have an uneasy feeling about this — what if it’s not just Batman and the Flash?”
It was not just Batman and the Flash.
Reports quickly came in of other heroes, many other heroes, mysteriously vanishing. Within an hour, the Justice League Satellite had become a command center for the young heroes to combat what was swiftly becoming a crisis. Although the Teen Titans had officially disbanded months earlier, following a case involving demonic creatures called Moonlings, they had swiftly remobilized to meet this new threat. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Inherit the Howling Night,” Teen Titans #43 (January-February, 1973).]
“Status report,” said Robin, the silently-agreed-upon leader of the group.
“It looks to be just as bad as we thought it was,” Kid Flash said, turning from the JLA monitors. “None of our efforts have found a single adult hero left in the world.”
“There seems to be no pattern to it,” Wonder Girl added. “All of the Justice Leaguers are gone, and it isn’t limited to active or even former Leaguers. Wonder Woman vanished from Paradise Island, and our efforts to locate any other super-hero have failed. Metamorpho, Zatanna, Supergirl — all of them are missing.”
“And it isn’t just super-powered heroes,” Speedy put in. “But we knew that, from Green Arrow and Batman’s disappearances.”
“It also doesn’t seem to make any difference if the heroes are in their costumed identities at the time,” Aqualad offered. “Clark Kent vanished while taping a promotional spot for GBS News.”
“Gang… I hate to be the one to say this,” Kid Flash began, his voice trembling a bit, “but… but what if…?”
“They’re not just ‘gone’?” Robin asked, and then sharply shook his head. “I’ve thought of that, and I don’t buy it. And that’s not just wishful thinking, either. In every case, there hasn’t been any trace of the vanished heroes — nothing left behind, not even a molecule of ash. Matter cannot be created or destroyed. No, I firmly believe they’re in one piece, just… somewhere else.”
“Such specific targeting,” Wonder Girl said. “It begs the question: why not us?”
“Whoever’s behind this doesn’t think we’re a threat,” Aqualad offered.
“Or, for some reason, whatever they used to do it only affects adults,” Speedy countered.
“So what do we do now?” Kid Flash demanded. “Uncle Barry and the rest of them, all gone! And we just sit around here talking about it?”
“Patience, Twinkle-Toes,” Speedy said calmingly. “I’d love to be out there busting heads, too, but we don’t know whose head to bust.” The teen bowman nodded at Robin. “But I’d bet my best arrows that Dick has a plan to find that out.”
“Thanks, Roy,” Robin said. “And I think I do. It’s simple, really. If there’s an intelligence behind this — and I don’t see how there can’t be — it was done for a specific reason. Possibly revenge, but more likely to get the heroes out of the way so that some grand purpose could be achieved. If we accept that, all we should have to do is wait a bit. The mastermind is likely to reveal himself–” A glance in Wonder Girl’s direction. “–or herself, by word or deed. Then we’ll know whom we’re fighting.”
As if on cue, the Justice League media monitors flared to life. “People of Earth!” A thin, reedy voice screeched out.
Kid Flash raced to the monitor control and put the transmission on the big view-screen in the meeting room. The five young heroes gathered to see the message that had cut in on every communications system on Earth: a small humanoid figure with pink skin and huge insectoid yellow eyes, standing on a disc-shaped platform hovering thirty feet in the air in front of the United Nations Building.
“I am Kanjar Ro,” the being announced, “and effective immediately, I am the new ruler of Earth! Yours is a backward planet, lacking in even the most basic technologies, but it does possess many resources which will be useful to me in my campaign to become emperor of the known galaxies. I am not an unreasonable sentient; I will give you two of your solar revolutions — ‘hours,’ I believe is the local term — to officially turn over all power to me! If you refuse, please observe this small sample of the armament I have at my fingertips.”
The image suddenly changed to one of the windswept Ural Mountains. Seemingly from nowhere, a dazzling purple energy beam sliced through one of the mountains like a butcher’s knife through a gelatin mold, shearing the top hundred feet of solid rock clean off. The image returned to Kanjar Ro.
“And do not look to your much-vaunted ‘super-heroes’ for aid. I have cut them off from you, inextricably! Remember: two hours!”
The Justice League communications center began lighting up like a hyperactive Christmas tree. At a gesture from Robin, Kid Flash switched all incoming calls to one channel, so that their reply could be heard by all. The teen heroes confirmed that Kanjar Ro’s boast was truthful, at least so far as the adult heroes went, but that the Teen Titans would bring him down. He only wished he felt as confident as he made himself sound.
“All right, so now we know who did this!” Kid Flash declared. “Let’s go clobber that bug-eyed goon and get the grown-ups back!”
“Not so fast, Wally,” Robin declared. “None us really know what we’re up against. The League is certain to have a complete file on this Kanjar Ro; let’s take a look at it before we go charging against something we don’t know how to fight.”
Reluctantly, Kid Flash admitted the wisdom of this and brought up the file. The young heroes quickly perused it.
“No inherent powers,” Aqualad observed. “Does all he does through his gadgetry.”
“But what gadgetry!” Wonder Girl said. “Just look at all those things he’s been able to do! Even the Justice League, at full strength, only barely defeated him.”
“Well, we’re all the world’s got right now,” Speedy declared, “so we’re going to have to beat him!”
“Simply but inarguably stated, Roy,” Robin said. “Wally, set the teleporter coordinates for the U.N. Building.”
Kid Flash complied without a word, for none were needed.
“Half of one of your ‘hours’ has passed, people of Earth,” Kanjar Ro declared. “Ninety more of your ‘minots’ — is that correct? No matter. Ninety more, and then you capitulate or die! Please do not bother asking for extensions, for I will grant none!”
“Fair enough,” a defiant voice called from the top of the United Nations building. “I suppose we’ll just have to defeat you instead!”
“What?!” Kanjar Ro cried out, his head snapping around in the direction of the shout, to see five brightly costumed figures hurtling toward him. “Impossible! How did you escape the extra-dimensional prison?”
“That’d be telling,” Speedy declared, firing an emerald arrow. The shaft shattered uselessly against the energy-screen immediately erected by Kanjar Ro’s personal defenses.
“Wait — you’re not the Justice League!” Kanjar Ro snarled as the young heroes came closer. “I thought at first — but no! I don’t know who you are, or how you escaped my dimensional transporter — but you won’t stop me!” The alien villain swung his arm around and brought his scepter into play, firing bolts of energy from its tip.
“Wonder Girl–!” Robin cried.
“On it, Robin!” the adolescent Amazon declared, leaping in front of her teammates and deflecting the bolts on her bracelets.
“Why — you are but children!” Kanjar Ro scoffed. “Immature specimens of this planet’s dominant race! From your costumes and accoutrements, youthful imitators of the Justice League, no doubt. And you dare to challenge Kanjar Ro?”
“We dare,” Kid Flash cried, racing at the alien at near top speed. Kanjar Ro’s automatic defense screen sent the young speedster ricocheting off like a deflected meteor, and Wonder Girl arced through the air to catch him before he struck the unyielding concrete.
“Such bravery in those so unequipped to challenge me is admirable, but futile,” Kanjar Ro declared, swinging his scepter around. A wave of alien energy pulsed forth, sending Robin and Speedy tumbling head over heels. Aqualad, more used to such tidal force, remained upright but was forced back several yards.
“I should destroy you now,” Kanjar Ro sneered, “but let your defeat serve as an example to the world’s governments! Leave here now, like the whipped dogs you are, or I shall destroy yonder edifice with the weapon you saw me use on your mighty mountains!” The Titans gasped as Kanjar Ro pointed his scepter at the twin towers of the World Trade Center. “I do not know what those buildings are, but as they are the largest of these great structures, I surmise they have some importance.”
“You rotten scum!” Speedy growled. “No way are we gonna back down! We’ll fight you until–”
“No!” Robin cried, putting a firm hand on his old friend’s shoulder. “We can’t let him harm the innocents in the Towers, Speedy. He’s got the upper hand… for now.”
“‘For now’?” Speedy turned on Robin. “And then what? He took what we threw at him and laughed! What are we gonna–?”
“We fall back and re-strategize,” Robin said firmly. “Now.”
Speedy’s arm tensed, fighting the urge to make a fist. Then, he simply nodded once.
“That’s right, run!” Kanjar Ro laughed as the Teen Titans made their way back to the roof of the U.N. and the JLA transporter tube there. “Did you see, people of Earth? The last ditch effort of your ‘heroes’? I derived such amusement from that little game, I will not even count it against the time I gave you to decide! You still have ninety minots, Earthlings! But after what you have just seen, I doubt you will need that long to surrender!”
Kanjar Ro’s mocking laughter rang in Robin’s ears as the transporter hummed to life.