The Coming Storm
July 24, 1940
The Gotham Broadcasting Company offices were a flurry of activity, a storm that Alan Scott was caught in the middle of. Telephones were ringing every few seconds, assistants hustled papers across the floor and people barked out orders. Election season.
Less than two weeks ago, Franklin Roosevelt had been nominated as the Democratic candidate for president, running for an unprecedented third term. Just before that, the likely candidate for the Republicans, Wendell Wilkie, was beaten out by the dark horse nominee Tex Thompson. The New Deal president versus the Texas-born adventurer and oil man. The papers and radio companies couldn't have asked for a more dramatic matchup. Everyone had to have a piece of the action. Particularly, since both men were scheduled to speak at campaign rallies in New York within the next week.
"Alan I don't usually employ hyperbole, but if we drop the ball on these rallies we can pack it in right now," said Leonard Wheeler. He stood with his back to Alan, looking through the window of Alan's office, absentmindedly smoking.
"We can do it," said Alan. "We've prepared for this."
"Run it for me one more time," said Leonard.
"Live coverage from our stations in New York. Of both rallies. I'll be on hand to observe. A television broadcast here after both of them. We've got enough people to cover both rallies twice over."
"When you say it like that it's not as bad."
"We're not getting muscled out by CBS or NBC. It will go well," said Alan.
"It has to," said Leonard.
They were interrupted when Holly, Alan's secretary, leaned in through the doorway to say, "Call for you Mr. Scott."
"Take it. I'll leave you to your preparations," said Leonard. "Don't screw this up."
Alan picked up the phone.
"Alan Scott. To whom am I speaking?"
"How very formal of you. Take a guess," said a familiar voice.
"Ted? Ted Knight?"
"Ah good. I was worried I'm that forgettable," said Ted.
"Impossible," said Alan. He felt that flutter in his chest, the one he had dulled.
"Let me tell you it took some effort to track you down. I called your old offices, but they told me you're a big wig at the GBC now. I'm surprised your secretary even let me through."
"It sounds more impressive than it is. I feel more like a mechanic, keeping the gears greased enough that the whole thing doesn't screech to a halt."
They both chuckled. It was nice laughing with Ted, enjoying his laugh. Alan hadn't realized how long it had been since they talked.
"Where have you been Ted?" said Alan.
"I got tapped by Uncle Sam to come and give them a hand. Just some astronomy research, nothing too interesting.
Listen, the real reason I called is I'm going to be in New York this week and I was hoping we could meet up. Like last time in Opal. I've been cooped up in my lab for so long I've gone half-mad."
"You were already half-mad."
"Then I'm full crazy by now. A proper loon.
So, what do you say?"
The swell of excitement broke on the rocks of responsibility.
"It's sounds great Ted. But, I'm all booked. The GBC is covering the presidential campaign and if I don't steer the ship well enough I'll be on the chopping block."
There was a pause.
"Ah, well. Another time."
"Another time. My treat, I promise."
"Hang in there, Alan."
"You too, Ted."
July 31, 1940
Not for the first time, Carter Hall wished he was at the other campaign rally. He knew why Green Lantern assigned him to Tex Thompson's display at Yankee Stadium. If a crisis did occur, the open air of the stadium would be far more maneuverable for his wings than the enclosure of Roosevelt's rally at Madison Square Garden. The tactical considerations did little to ease his discomfort with the nature of those in attendance of this rally. They were Americans that heard the call to remain isolated and inward and responded with enthusiasm. They looked at the hard won progress of the New Deal and desired its conclusion. Thompson offered them the possibility of another path, a more self-serving path and they flocked to him. He took some slight consolation that his companions suffered the same discomfort.
"If I have to listen to too much more of this guy's nonsense I'm tempted to take a dive off the nosebleeds," said Al.
"It's just noise," said Rex.
"Music to their ears though," said Al, gesturing at the packed stands.
Carter admitted that it was disheartening to see how many turned out for Thompson's rally. He had been hoping for a meager display.
"The chutzpah of this guy too. The fact that he got the nomination," said Al.
Thompson continued to call on his supporters to do everything in their power to spread his message. He was a charismatic speaker, unfortunately. There was a rhetorical weight to his call for neutrality. But, Carter could see the undertones.
"I wonder if this is how it started in Germany," said Rex.
"Perhaps," said Carter.
"He says foreign influences. They hear Jews. And more," said Al.
Carter knew what Al meant. He was only of the few black people in the stadium. That weren't staff. He could sense the looks that he got from others in the crowd. Questioning his presence.
He thought of Shiera back in Midway. It would be good to return to her. They had been working on recovering more of their memories. From their past selves. It was no simple task. Meditation, hypnosis, sensory stimulation. It was inconsistent, but Carter knew the value of their revelations. Shiera was eager to return to North Africa. To pay back in kind what was done to her people at the dig site. Carter found himself in the odd position of being the voice of patience, a trait he was not known for. He remained convinced that America would not stay on the sidelines of the war for much longer.
Unless Thompson got his way.
"I'd feel more confident if Jay or Kent were here too," said Dinah.
"They can both be here in seconds if need be,"said Wesley. "I know it's stressful, but Alan knows what he's doing."
They were high in the stands of Madison Square Garden, listening to the various speakers at Roosevelt's rally. Mayor La Guardia. Governor Lehman. Various labor leaders. The president himself.
Dinah didn't pay much attention to the words spoken, instead focused on scanning the crowd for any potential threats. There was no indication of violence, but Alan had decided that the JSA needed to be on hand in case anything went wrong.
"Did you get a glimpse of Wonder Woman?" said Wesley.
"No. I missed her," said Dinah.
"They've got her somewhere backstage."
"Probably don't want her stealing the show," said Dinah.
Manhattan was a wonder in its own right. A dense maze of concrete, steel and glass, populated by hordes of people and streets clogged by rumbling automobiles. Diana had never seen buildings so tall. They pierced the sky, commanding the landscape with their prodigious size. Steve called them skyscrapers.
She stood behind the stage in a cavernous hall known as Madison Square Garden. There was an election coming up and the current leader of America was intent on winning it. Diana was here officially as a gesture of good will in her ambassadorial efforts. Unofficially, she suspected they wanted her as both protector and symbol.
The people of this land named her Wonder Woman for her actions in the capital. It was a pleasant enough title that Diana relented to it. She cared little for what they called her so long as she was able to continue her mission. Steve's report was received with no small amount of skepticism, even with her powers. She could tell that the procession of officers, politicians and bureaucrats she met with had little idea what to make of her or her claims of Themyscira.
Either through a slow winning of their trust or out of a desire to hedge their bets, they finally gave Diana a meeting with President Roosevelt. He was warm in their conversation, but evasive on how committed he could be to the cause of peace. There was a war on after all, one that supposedly prevented Diana from traveling to much of the world. She had other thoughts on the matter, but for the sake of Steve and the possibility of a treaty with America, Diana remained patient.
Roosevelt was a skilled orator. The crowd followed his speech closely, rising and falling with the measure of his words. He spoke of the danger of changing course in the middle of such tumultuous times, of the progress that had been made, dragging the country out of its perilous spiral. Steve had told her of the deprivations of the Depression. It shocked her to think that so many people would be left to suffer from events beyond their control. An all too common problem she determined.
It was over before Carter or any of the others could react. In retrospect, it was underwhelming. There was a commotion in the lower section of the stands, right above the field. Some shouting, followed by the loud crack of a gun going off, then a ripple of screams that enveloped the stadium. Thompson was hustled off stage by security, as people mobbed the would-be assassin.
What followed was more disturbing still. Thompson returned, against the wishes of his protectors, to continue his speech. He decried the attempt on his life as cowardly, as a show that his message had power, validity. That only through violence could he be stopped. Carter knew this would only strengthen his position.
"What a schmuck," said Al.
It was on the way out of New York City, as President Roosevelt made his journey to his family's estate in Hyde Park that trouble reared its head. Diana was in a car with Steve, several places behind Roosevelt's limousine. The rally went smoothly, though she had heard reports that his rival, a man named Thompson, had been nearly shot.
"Do they make a habit of killing their prospective leaders here?" said Diana.
"It's not unprecedented," said Steve. "Though it isn't exactly common."
She nodded and stared out the windows as the sprawl of buildings gave way to greenery. Diana wasn't entirely sure why she was being brought along on this leg of the journey, but she trusted Steve's judgement.
"There's talk that you could go to Britain at the very least," he said.
"Is it not under siege?" said Diana.
"There's a risk, but they think your presence could be beneficial."
"I worry that your superiors confuse me with a tool for propaganda. They forget that my loyalty belongs to peace alone."
"I hope that's not the case Diana," said Steve. "I know this can be frustrating, but I'm glad we're reunited.."
He was an earnest man, for being a spy of sorts. There had been a drift ever since they reached the capital. Steve's time was taken up more and more by matters of military decision making, while Diana was occupied by the slow progress of her mission. Their time together had become a precious commodity. Diana put her hand on Steve's. They linked fingers. Little more was said during the car ride.
It was nearly an hour into the drive when their car began to slow. It came to a complete stop, the driver muttered impatiently. Steve leaned forwards, attempting to see what the interruption was.
The clamor of gunfire cut through the air. There was a loud crash somewhere ahead. The front half of a car landed beside Diana's window, nearly smashing their vehicle. Their driver was out the door with his service weapon drawn. Diana kicked her own door off its hinges, sending the wreckage skidding away. Steve emerged on the other side.
"Stay back for now," she said. "I'll see what caused this."
"Be careful," he said.
Diana smiled. She enjoyed his concern for her well-being, even as he was in far greater danger. She ran ahead, along the column of vehicles. The bodies of several Secret Service agents were on the road, blood still leaking from them.
Surrounding Roosevelt's limo were close to a dozen women. They wore armor of bronze and silver, with pointed, winged helmets. Many of them carried spears and swords. Four of them were mounted on horses that had large wings protruding from their backs. One of their number, taller than the rest, in green and gold scaled armor, acknowledged Diana's approach.
"Hail warrior. We have no business with ye," said their leader.
"You attack these people. Slay them. Explain yourselves," said Diana.
"I am Gundra of the valkyries. I would ask you take your leave. Lest we be forced to demonstrate our might," said Gundra.
"You have already shed blood, with intent to spill more. I cannot allow that," said Diana. Her hand neared her lasso.
"I admit I hoped you would say that," said Gundra.
Gundra whistled loudly. The nearest trio of valkyries sprung at Diana. She took two back steps and spun her lasso in a tight arc. It caught the wrist of the closest valkyrie, whipping her into the other two. Diana flicked the lasso back at the end of the swing, sending the three of them into the nearby woods, their bodies crashing through the trunks of trees.
She leapt forth at the others, who were about to begin tearing apart Roosevelt's limousine. Her knee connected with the jaw of the next opponent. Diana followed it up with a kick that downed another. The remaining valkyries were forced to give her space.
"A warrior true," said Gundra.
Gundra charged Diana. Her spear stabbed out. Diana evaded it, but her opponent was fast. She did not cease her assault, pressing Diana further away from the vehicle. It would be difficult to protect the president and the others at the same time.
The other valkyries closed in on the limo. A woman with silver hair raised her spear over her head, intent on thrusting it through the window. Diana used her lasso to wrap around Gundra's latest strike, driving the tip of the spear into the road. She threw her tiara at the aggressor, hitting her on the temple. The valkyrie dropped.
A fist hit Diana's gut with enough force to vacate the air from her lungs. A second punch sent her rolling back into the hood of the car behind Roosevelt's. Gundra retrieved her spear.
"You fight well, but this is a losing battle."
Diana regained her footing to the sound of a hunting horn being blown. From the shadows of the trees emerged more valkyries, along with a number of gunmen clad in black outfits, their faces covered by masks. A contingent of valkyries armed with bows took aim at her and the limo. Diana braced.
The arrows loosed. A gust of wind roared down the road.
Diana blinked. A man in a red and blue costume with a lightning bolt on his chest stood in front of her. The arrows were in a pile at his feet, all of them broken in two. The valkyries that fired the volley were on the ground, entwined in a rope.
A wall of green flame surrounded Roosevelt's car, blocking it off from the interlopers. Diana traced its origin to a man lowering himself out of the sky.
"I bet you could have handled this on your own, but we figured we could help," said the man with the lightning bolt.
"One or three, it matters not," said Gundra. "We will triumph all the same."
"Don't count on it," said the man with the flames.
A golden light slashed through the twilight gloom. A rapid procession of costumed figures emerged from the rift, the last being a man in a golden helm and a pale figure in an emerald cloak.
"What's the play Green Lantern?," asked a short man in a blue mask.
"Flash and Doctor Fate get the people out of here. The rest of you: take them."
"About time," said the short man.
Diana joined their charge into the mass of wailing valkyries.
Hawkman slammed his mace into the back of the last of the flying valkyries. The woman grunted and fell to the earth, her steed following her loyally.
He beat his wings to gain altitude, taking a look at the state of the battle. The fight had spilled out from the road into the forest on either side. The bulk of the valkyries and their gunmen had been laid low, but there were pockets of fighting. The Flash and Doctor Fate succeeded in evacuating the majority of the non-heroes. The last Hawkman saw of the Flash was when he carried off Roosevelt.
An eruption of green light in the distance gave away Green Lantern's presence. Hawkman resolved to join him. Before he could make much headway, he heard a thin scream of pain on the wind. On instinct, Hawkman followed it to the source.
He soared over a clearing a few miles south of the attack. The Flash was sprawled on the ground, President Roosevelt next to him. The former clutched his calf in pain, while the latter looked up in fear at their attacker, an imposing woman in high leather boots wielding a whip.
"If you think I'll beg, you're going to be disappointed," said Roosevelt.
"I don't much care what you do as long as you die," said the woman in a sadistic tone.
Hawkman folded his wings to his body and dove to the earth. He landed hard, between the woman and her prey.
"Ah. The bird man," said the woman.
He lunged at her with his mace without so much as a grunt. She avoided the blow with ease. The whip cracked out. Carter felt pain race up his arm.
"One for me," said the woman.
Hawkman continued to attack. He threw out strike after strike. She dodged or blocked each one, giving him continued tastes of her whip.
"Two, three, four, five. You are allowed to avoid the whip, you know?" she said.
He roared and brought the mace down into the ground in front of her. The energy contained in its head buffeted outwards, at last catching her in its wave. She was knocked backwards, though she landed with more grace than he anticipated.
"A neat trick."
The whip cracked. Carter couldn't breathe. It was wrapped around his throat, cutting into his skin as his foe lazily advanced, tightening the coil. He grabbed at the whip and tried to pull her closer, but she resisted with a greater strength than he imagined.
"I like your tenacity. Maybe I'll keep you as a pet. I need to break in someone new."
The pain in his neck was peaking, blood flowing onto his chest and shoulders from the broken skin.
A bolt of gold split the whip in two. Hawkman fell to his knees. Doctor Fate descended between them. To his left, Wonder Woman, Hourman and Black Canary emerged from the trees.
Diana did not expect the woman with the whip to start laughing when confronted with the new array of opponents. It was a callous laugh, stripped of any warmth.
"Your comrades are defeated," said Diana. "It's only you left."
"Unfortunate. But, educational. And not entirely unsuccessful," said the woman. She pointed at Roosevelt.
The man was on his back, barely propped on a nearby tree stump. Black veins bulged on his face and there was a cloudy look to his eyes. His lips moved erratically as if grasping at words he couldn't find. Doctor Fate landed near him to take a closer look.
"All it took was a single nick," said the woman.
Doctor Fate spoke in a language Diana was unfamiliar with and waved his hand, opening a golden portal. He stepped into it, followed by the green cloaked Spectre.
"It appears they've lost their desire to fight," said the woman.
"Your odds have not improved," said Diana.
Hawkman and the Flash were back on their feet, unsteady, but ready to continue. In the sky, Green Lantern neared their confrontation. Sandman and the Atom arrived as well. Diana began to approach the woman.
"No need for impatience Amazon. We have plenty of time to settle our differences," said the woman.
Diana hesitated at the mention of her origin. Who was this woman?
Her foe chanted something under her breath. The earth glowed a deathly blue, before it cracked open to reveal a swirling haze. All throughout the forest and back towards the road a similar blue light spilled forth.
"See you soon, Diana of Themyscira," said the woman as she leapt into the hole. The group rushed towards it, but the ground was sealed up by the time they arrived.
"Folks," said the Flash. "We've got a real problem."
Roosevelt was wracked with convulsions, a foamy substance leaking from his mouth. There was a small cut on his wrist that splintered off into the black veins that wrapped his entire form.
"Poison," said Hourman.
"Can we do anything?" said the Atom.
"Not with this little time," said Sandman.
They watched in horror as the president writhed in pain. Diana's mind raced for a solution. She saw Steve step from the treeline. The Flash was too injured to take Roosevelt anywhere.
The golden portal surprised all of them. Doctor Fate fell out of it, onto his hands and knees. The Spectre flew out, their cloaks ragged and torn.
"Quickly," hissed the Spectre.
Doctor Fate staggered to his feet. He raised a bottle of purple liquid to the president's lips and poured it in. Both figures chanted in tongues unheard by mortal ken.
There was a minute of collective held breaths. The black veins faded on the president's skin. The color returned to him. Breathing resumed. He took a deep, bountiful gasp of air. Everyone loosed some tension from their body.
Doctor Fate collapsed.
Alan felt like he had been awake for days. The adrenaline that coursed through him had worn off, leaving only the shroud of exhaustion in its place. He watched the exterior of the hospital, the slow trickle of people in and out.
The president appeared perfectly healthy after whatever potion Doctor Fate procured had been administered. The Secret Service required that he be looked after in a hospital to assure his continued health. The Flash, Hourman, the Atom and Hawkman were also receiving medical attention, a reward for their valor. Doctor Fate had been carried off by the Spectre to parts unknown after their feat of healing.
Black Canary joined him in his watch.
"It could've been worse. Much worse," she said.
"We got lucky," said Alan.
"This is why we're a team," she said. "If we didn't have Fate with us… This is what we're here for."
Alan sighed. Dinah nodded towards Wonder Woman, who also stood watch over the building. She was poised like a statue, impressive in her posture.
"What do you think of her?" said Dinah.
"I think she's the reason we're at a hospital and not a morgue. I'm half-convinced she could've taken that whole group on her own," said Alan.
"I was talking with Sandman. And Hawkman…" said Dinah.
"They suggested we invite her to the team."
"We don't know her," said Alan.
"You didn't know most of us before this started. But she's powerful, and more importantly, she's willing to lay down her life to help others."
Alan stared at Wonder Woman from afar.
"She's one of us. Come on Alan. You know it as much as me," said Dinah.
Diana's mind was in turmoil. There was a familiarity to that woman that she could not shake. Knowledge of her homeland was not readily available, or so she had been assured by the Americans she met with. They continued to doubt whether Paradise Island was a myth even now. That that woman knew of it was of great concern.
She was snapped from her worries by the approach of Green Lantern and Black Canary. The latter proved her valor in the fight. She did not appear to possess any powers.
"We didn't mean to startle you," said Black Canary.
"Please, don't apologize. I was merely lost in thought," said Diana.
"I can relate," said Green Lantern.
Green Lantern and Black Canary shared a glance.
"We've talked about what happened today. Namely how it would've been much worse without you there to help us," said Green Lantern.
"I could say the same," said Diana.
"The Justice Society formed so that we could fight the battles that were bigger than any one of us. To devote ourselves to the collective good as a team," said Green Lantern. "We were hoping that you would consider joining us in that fight."
Diana was taken aback. It must've read loud and clear on her face because Black Canary quickly added, "That doesn't mean you give up your own life or your own mission. Only that you aid us when needed."
"I came her on a mission of peace. From my homeland, Themyscira. I intend to fulfull that mission," said Diana.
Green Lantern and Black Canary nodded, their faces impassive, clearly bracing for rejection.
"I would be honored to join such a team. To share in your desire for justice and a better world," said Diana.
Black Canary broke into a grin. Green Lantern gave a more reserved smile. Canary clasped Diana's hand into a firm grip. Diana pulled her into a friendly embrace.
"Welcome to the JSA."
August 2, 1940
"It sounds like you saved the president," said Inza.
Kent Nelson sat next to her on a bench overlooking the seaside. There were plenty of sailboats out on the water today. He could see children and their parents playing on a sandy beach a ways down the coastline. He felt vacant. Except when he looked at Inza.
"In a way I did," he said.
"Why the hesitation?" said Inza.
"I don't remember doing any of it," said Kent.
This was it. The threshold he had not crossed in his reports to her. She had listened without judgement in the past, offering her support. But, he had never told her about the true nature of his arrangement with the helmet.
"What does that mean?" she said.
"My mentor. Nabu."
"He offers me guidance. As a voice in the helm."
"So you've said."
"There are times when he decides… that I can't handle the problem on my own. When his intervention is required."
Inza stared at Kent, her face impassive, only the flicker in her eyes betraying the deep well of curiosity.
"When those situations arise, Nabu possess me. I become a passenger at best. Its like I'm watching someone else. Other times…" said Kent.
"You don't remember any of it," said Inza.
"This was one of those times. All I know is the journey was costly."
They let the silence remain. The boats drifted by without a care in the world, the shouts of the children carrying faintly on the breeze.
"Did you know about this aspect of the role before you took it up?"
"And you took the helmet all the same?"
Kent didn't ask what Inza was doing when she took his hand and led him off the bench. When they walked along the path, through the summer foliage back into Salem proper. When they got to her cottage and she let go of his hand only to open the door and beckon him inside. Kent was a man bound by fate.
Who was he to deny his own?
August 5, 1940
"You've got a great deal of nerve contacting me directly," said Lex Luthor. "Make this brief."
"I know what you found in that crater in Montana. And the trace sample from your mine in Bolivia," said the raspy voice.
"Your point?," said Luthor.
"I won't belittle you. You've analyzed the radiation coming off of the meteorites. You know their properties. As do I."
"You want them for yourself," said Luthor.
"Only a portion. A pittance."
"To what end?"