For Director Shusuke Kaneko, the man who breathed new life into Gamera in the 1990s

(Shusuke Kaneko also directed the 2001 Godzilla film 'Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah:

Giant Monsters All-Out Attack', which is also known as GMK. I had the utmost pleasure

of meeting Mr. Kaneko in Saddlebrook, New Jersey in July 2000 & June 2002).

For gajin actor Carl Craig, who portrayed Boy Scout Jim in 1968's 'Gamera vs. Viras',

a.k.a. 'Destroy All Planets' (I had the honor of meeting Mr. Craig in Saddlebrook, New

Jersey in June 2001 & 2002. He was a real gentleman & a pleasure to talk to).

To all the multi-talented writers & artists at DC Comics who have brought new life to

the superhero community with 'Justice League of America' back in 1960.

To the loving memory of Noriaki Yuasa, the creator of Gamera & who directed many of

Gamera's films from the Showa series, 1965-1971 (Noriaki Yuasa passed away on June 14,

2004 due to suffering from a stroke. He left behind his wife Junko & two kids).

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA/GAMERA:

UNUSUAL ALLIES

2002, 2010 by Anthony Ogozalek

PROLOGUE

20 years ago, 3000 miles above Earth:

The two ships were smoking pretty bad.

Large plumes of it were spitting out of the two intergalactic vessels from the rear, creating a pair of eerie storm clouds in the vast vacuum which quickly evaporated in the airless void. While their course were both set to Earth, their appearances were as different as night is to day. The craft on the left was somewhat in the form of a pie crust, with windows that blinked yellow all around constantly, like some sort of electric sign on a building but displaying no message. On the dome of it were a multitude of multifaceted bubbles which flashed many different colors, going from bright to dim then bright again in a continuous arc. Its sides & front sprouted short blunt wings, as the one facing forward also had a bulb of some kind just under it but remained inactive. Just above the flashing colors on its dome were a strip of sharp pointed fins, resembling those of some giant shark.

Its damaged counterpart was pentagonal-shaped, as its main body was composed of five separate compartments, each rounded in shape & colored yellow with black stripes circling each in a horizontal fashion, giving the separate compartments the appearance of striped tennis balls or large rounded bumblebees. The five compartments were each held together by connecting tubular hallways.

Realizing their crafts were in their death throes, the two ships made contact with each other by radio as the Virian ship (the pentagonal-shaped craft) transmitted the first message:

Virian ship: This is the Ship of Viras to the Ship of Zigra. Come in, Zigra.

Zigran ship: This is Zigra. Go ahead, Viras.

Virian ship: Our vessel has taken insufferable damage from our enemies. We will not be able to hold out for very much longer. If we continue on like this, we will be destroyed for sure.

Zigran ship: Yes. My ship cannot remain in this condition for a continued amount of time. It will be destroyed soon, considering the hits it has sustained. Fortunately for us, our goal is just straight ahead.

Virian ship: Yes. We've reached our destination at last--the planet our comrade calls Earth. You remember the plan, I assume?

Zigran ship: Every detail. We will lay dormant until the time arises. Our comrade who compiled this scheme has promised us to rule the Earth alongside him when the time is right. Knowing his reputation, he is good on his word.

Virian ship: I have no doubt of that, Zigra. But unless we arrive on Earth safely, our journey--and his plan--will be all for naught, & even we would not be able to survive our ships should they detonate before then.

Zigran ship: Then I believe it best we leave our main vessels behind & jettison them beforehand. While we'll be stranded on Earth indefinitely, it will be well worth it once the plan is set in motion.

Virian ship: Yes. Quickly--we must all flee to our escape pods if we are to see the plan come to 's no telling how much time we have until our ships detonate.

Zigran ship: Agreed. We will head straight down to the Earth & remain incognito to all of its inhabitants until he calls us. Zigra out.

All communications between the two dying vessels cease indefinitely.

Before long, a craft emerges from both dying vessels: the Virian ship jettisons a pod which is identical to any of its five compartments, only much smaller in scale, measuring about the size in height & width of a small trailer. From within were six individual humanoids dressed in black from head to toe as one of them steers the pod with his hands but not physically touching the console in any way. Just behind them standing in a large cylinder is a silver-skinned creature that resembles an upright squid, sprouting half a dozen tentacles & three flower-like pedals flailing about on the top of its head. Its eyes were yellow with red irises that flashed like the humanoid's eyes do, & it had a short but sharp beak for a mouth, something like a parakeet's. In the hands of one of the humanoids was a diamond-shaped device, measuring a foot in height.

Speaking telepathically, the squid-creature known as Viras instructs its crew.

We will be arriving on Earth in about one hour of the planet's time, it said. Remember, none of you are to alter the plan in any way unless it is commanded by me--or by him. Understood?

"Understood, Master", said one of the humanoids. "We will do anything & everything you & our comrade instruct to the letter with no questions asked."

Excellent. Activate our cloaking device & get us to Earth. We & Zigra must not be detected by the planet's inhabitants before we're ready to expose ourselves.

"Yes sir."

A simple finger over a triangular button was all it took for the craft to suddenly become nothing more than a blur, followed by Zigra's own ship, whose escape pod was basically identical to its mother ship in every way but on a smaller scale, being about 1/3 its size. It traveled along with Viras' escape pod in parallell with each other. The two now-invisible crafts were about 200 yards from their doomed vessels when they abruptly exploded with great force, creating brief twin suns in space before the bright flashes of fire dissipate, sending debris scattering in all directions throughout space. Both Viras' & Zigra's pods were fast enough to escape the momentum of the blast, but some pieces still managed to strike their vessels but causing no damage whatsoever.

Their trek towards Earth remained unabated & undeterred.

Just before hitting the atmosphere, the two ships parted ways & went in separate directions from each other: Viras & his crew flew towards the American landscape while Zigra flew his ship straight for the Pacific Ocean. Their re-entry still caused the friction of anything attempting such a feat, but should anyone see it on radar or even looked up in the sky, they would probably think a small chunk of rock was burning up into nothingness & not give it another thought about it.

In no time, Viras' ship lands in America as Zigra's made a splash in the Pacific & sinks like a stone to the bottom, keeping its cloak on at all times until he hits the ocean floor. As he stated to Viras before, he is stranded on Earth, as his smaller ship is only good for escapes & cannot travel great distances in space. It did not matter to him anyway--even if he could abandon Earth in his vessel, he will not do so. He plans to make the planet his own along with Viras & the one who had orchestrated for their arrival on the third planet from the sun.

Reaching an underwater outcropping of rock, Zigra blasts the side of it with his craft's nose laser several times, causing a rockslide which buries Zigra & his ship completely.

He is now just literally part of the underwater scenery.

Until the time is right, Zigra says inside his craft.

He is asleep instantly, his mind thinking & dreaming thoughts of world conquest with his two companions.

CHAPTER I

New Guinea, three months ago:

The Rainbow Valley, like most of New Guinea, was sweltering hot with temperatures up to & around one hundred degrees. Sounds of numerous animals echoed in the distance, ranging from the call of birds to the scuttling of little feet from creatures such as rodents. Even crocodiles can be heard splashing around in nearby lakes & streams, & bats in nearby caves. Just everywhere one looks or turns their head the sounds of the jungle teems alive with wildlife. Were one not thinking of where they are, they would possibly believe that they were trekking through the African jungle.

It's not impossible to think that, especially for the quartet traveling deep within its thick underbrush, using machetes to hack away any impeding branches.

Two of the men were Caucasian while the other two were African-American. The two Caucasian men--named Travis & Bob--were each fairly built, while wearing light kahki shorts with matching boots & a white shirt, with large backpacks hanging from the rear & sunglasses covering their eyes. They both wore hats to help keep the sun's rays off as best they could, but underneath the men had short, Dolph Lundgren-style haircuts like the actor had in the fourth 'Rocky' movie, in which he portrays a boxing Russian. The only difference was that while Travis' hair was blonde & sandy in color like the actor's himself, Bob's was as black as charcoal. The black men--known professionally as Fists & Knuckles--also wore the same attire as Travis & Bob, but without a hat placed upon their heads. Fists had an identical Fats Domino-like hairstyle on his head but sported a thin goatee on his face & chin, unlike the famed singer from New Orleans, Louisiana. Knuckles was completely bald & always wore his shades, even at night. Both he & Fists were built like heavyweight champion George Foreman, & can match the famed boxer move for move. They are the perfect protection as bodyguards--give them enough money, & there would be nothing they wouldn't do for you, be it taking a bullet meant for you, assassinating any individual, or finding something in places others would fear to tread.

Travis & Bob, on the other hand, weren't as muscular as their black companions but what both men lack in superior strength, they more than atone for in intelligence, which is why they are in lead & in charge of their expedition. They are also very good at handling any kinds of firearms--you name it, they can wield it like pros. In fact, both men carry a .57 Magnum at their sides, & a pistol-grip shotgun in their packs in case things got a little too tough on their expedition.

All in all, the men were prepared for it from demeanor to equipment, but that still didn't keep them from feeling the scorching heat of their surroundings, even with a full canteen of water hanging at their sides.

"Damn, it's hot out here!", Fists complained. "How the hell are we ever gonna find whatever it is we supposed to be lookin' for in this humidity?"

"Try to take it easy, bro", Knuckles said to him. "You just gotta learn to ignore it as best you can, that's all."

"Huh! That's easy for you to say! You're bald, man!"

"That don't make any difference, gee. I just learned better to pay it no mind."

"And what the hell do you mean by that?", Fists says, clearly annoyed & looks at Knuckles hard & straight in the eye. His partner returns the cold stare.

"Come on, you two, knock it off!", Travis says to diffuse the situation before it can escalate out of control. "Fists, you know damn well what we're searching for here on New Guinea--a rare specimen of bird to take back to our employer for preservation. Last we heard, it was spotted here in the Rainbow Valley area of this island."

"But we've been on this damn island for three whole days already, & haven't even got a glimpse of this bird we supposed to find!", Fists goes on. "Why not just throw in the towel & let someone else take the reigns for this?"

"Come on, Fists, you know we can't do that", Bob intervenes. "Our employer is paying each of us a fortune for this job. Plus, he put in a lot of money for all our supplies, transportation, & so forth. If we go back to him empty-handed after all this time & money he invested & put in for this expedition, let's just say he's not going to be very forgiving for a botched assignment--not in the slightest."

"And besides, bro", Knuckles adds, "all four of us really need this job & the pay it promises afterwards. We damn well can't afford not to be paid."

That kept Fists quiet because he couldn't argue the matter any further. Before landing this job, the four of them had been out of work for a solid three months since being released from Stryker's Island Penitentiary in Metropolis. Each had a non-pleasant run-in with the law in the city where the Man of Steel dwells. Fists & Knuckles were both partners at a local cabaret in the City of Tomorrow, working as security guards. It was a cushy job until one day they were beating a man for being too rowdy to the other patrons waiting on line to get inside the club. Sadly, they went a little too overboard, & the man was hanging onto dear life by a thread by the time they stopped. Realizing what they'd done, Fists & Knuckles took off into the night, hoping to avoid the authorities, which they did.

But they couldn't avoid Superman.

The Man of Steel effortlessly swooped down on them like a bird of prey & hauled them off to Police HQ. Even though the man they had beaten was saved by paramedics, Fists & Knuckles were tried in court & charged with assault & battery, landing them in Stryker's for three years.

Travis & Bob fared no better: they were once assigned to the Metropolis Police force, & they were two of the best the M.P.D. ever had. Captain Maggie Sawyer even made them her top lieutenants, right behind Daniel Turpin. For a year-&-a-half, they were everything in what Sawyer & company could ever hope for in any officer(s). But one night, a thief broke into Travis & Bob's homes & killed their wives for trying to be heroes. Filled with grief, the duo singlehandedly went in pursuit of their wives' killers, finally catching up with them in a dark alley within Metropolis' Suicide Slum, putting a bullet in their legs with their guns & beating them with their bare hands in retaliation.

Were it not for the timely intervention of Superman, Travis & Bob would've murdered the men who killed their wives.

Their reckless actions & reasons for it didn't cut no ice with the Man of Steel, let alone with Captain Maggie Sawyer. Because of the police brutality they displayed, Travis & Bob were not only stripped of their ranks, they were sentenced to Stryker's Island for five years--exactly two years before Fists & Knuckles were sent there. During their time at Stryker's, the four men were discovered as to sharing similar charges placed on them & decided that when they get out, they would form a team & look for work they can all share. It proved to be more difficult than they had realized: due to their prison record, nobody wanted to hire them, not even those who were quite desperate in hiring employees. Therefore, the quartet left Metropolis for good to try their luck somewhere else, taking their shame & their loathing of Superman with them.

But their current employer changed everything: they'd been each given a clean slate in a city which couldn't care less about one's past, regardless of how shady it may have been once. And with this new task, it was only a matter of time before they could get back on their feet again--and possibly even the score with a certain Kryptonian once they can afford the proper tools for that particular job, one the quartet are no doubt plotting somewhere in the back of their minds even now.

But like the old saying goes, 'Business before pleasure'.

With that in mind, Fists said nothing else & continued on their journey through the hot New Guinea jungle of the Rainbow Valley.

It was another two whole hours searching through the sultry jungle since Fists' discussion about whether to give in & quit, when suddenly Bob spots something out in front of him, only six meters from where he stood.

I wonder…, he says to himself, a glare of hope in his eyes as he rushes towards what lay in front of him. He had thought of calling the others upon seeing it, but he first wants to make sure & not get their hopes up if it turns out to be nothing.

As luck would have it, it didn't turn out to be nothing.

"Hey! All of you, come here!", Bob shouted. As one, Travis, Fists & Knuckles rushed to Bob to see what it was that got him excited.

"Wassup, Bobby boy? You find something?", Knuckles asked.

Bob pointed to where there was an opening to a large cave. The ground in front of it was littered with all sorts of bones, human & otherwise. This eerie sight nerved the men for about two-three seconds before spotting something else that caught their attention whick became a welcome sight to their hot, stinging eyes. Travis & Bob clear away a mesh of bones to uncover the contents which lay underneath, & their eyes go wider with excitement with their hearts beating rapidly.

"Hot damn! Are those what I think they are?", Knuckles wonders with glee in both his eyes & voice.

"Knuckles, if they aren't, then may we be damned by the Joker!", Travis said, grinning from ear to ear with joy as the rest join in his gayful demeanor. What they were looking at which made them all as giddy as pigs in shit. A trio cluster of ivory eggs with thin gray patches lay in a pile as neat as billiard balls ready to be broke apart. Each egg was a solid ten inches across.

"Gentlemen, I had a dog & his name was…", Fists started to say as the four men said the final part cheerfully in unison.

"Bingo!"

Travis, Bob, & Knuckles each unslung their backpack & took out a thick beige cloth from within. With the utmost care, the three men wrapped each of the eggs in each individual cloth & placed them in their backpacks, one for each. Fists kept on searching the immediate area to see if he can get as lucky as his comrades in finding an egg of the acclaimed species of rare bird. As he checked & surveyed the graveyard of bones in hopes of finding a fourth egg, Fists came across an object which made him glitter inside.

"Oh man!", Knuckles said happily. "Just wait until our employer gets a load of these babies right here! I betcha he'll pay double, if not triple, of what he's offering us!"

"Oh shit!"

Travis, Bob, & Knuckles turn at the sound of Fists' profanity, the latter of whom rejoins the group.

"What happened, Fists? You find an egg too?", asked Bob.

The black man shakes his head.

"Something even better! Take a gander at this!"

Even before Fists got halfway, the others can see what he held in his hand. It was about an inch shorter than what his teammates have found.

And it wasn't an egg, even though it was shaped like one.

"What is that you've found, gee?", asked Knuckles as he & the rest keenly eyed the shiny red object.

"It ain't no egg, I can tell you that!", Fists said with glee.

"Is that by chance…a jewel?", asked Travis.

Fists just nods excitedly with a huge grin.

"If you're right, that'll make our employer very happy!", Travis says happily, also with a grin on his face. "It can also mean that we may get even more of a bonus for bringing it back to him!"

"And why not?", a smiling Bob says. "From what we know of him, he's quite the enthusiast when it comes to collecting vast riches wherever they happen to turn up, aside from his love of his 'fine-feathered friends', as he calls them!"

The four men share a hearty laugh at Bob's last statement.

"Yeah well, he can keep the birds & the mess they make!", Fists says, wrapping the red jewel in a beige cloth like his friends have done with the eggs before placing it in his own backpack. "I just want to get what's coming to me, now that we have what we came here for!"

"And now that we do have what he wants, I'd say it's time we started on our way back to the docks", said Travis. "We'll take our motorboats back to the main ship. It leaves by tomorrow morning bright & early, & we can't afford to miss it, since it's our only ticket home. Let's get cracking, gentlemen."

Approving nods from his companions is the only answer he gets but it's all he needed, & in no time at all, the quartet replace their backpacks with their valuable merchandise inside & begin heading back the way they came, retracing their footsteps with precise accuracy.

We going to have ourselves a damn fortune!, Fists says to himself, happy to have completed his task, & as soon as he can reach the main ship that will take him & his comrades back to good old civilization, he'll be even more happy.

From a distance of about twelve meters behind the men, two Japanese females watch from behind a large boulder as they keep an eye on the four intruders. One of the women seemed to be in her late twenties or early thirties, wearing a light tan shirt & black mini-skirt. Her long black hair was braided in a ponytail in the back, & she wore triangular-shaped earrings. The other girl was a little bit younger, possibly somewhere in her early to mid-twenties. This one wore a yellow shirt & blue mini-skirt. Her long black hair was unbraided, & she had star-shaped earrings. From her neck dangled a necklace with a dark comma-shaped bead attached to it. Both women wore a hat upon their heads & boots on their feet to help keep their heads cool & protect their feet from any unseen dangers on the ground, but even those won't be able to help them from the danger in which they now face.

"Dammit Mayumi, we're too late!", said the young girl in an angry but low voice. "Those four men don't realize what they have in their hands! We should've done something to get those eggs away from them!"

"I understand how you feel, Asagi, but it wouldn't have done any good if we did", Mayumi says matter of factly. "Those men were armed. Had we tried to impede their progress in any way, I have no doubt they would've killed us in the attempt without a second thought."

Asagi nodded her head slowly, but still held her ground.

"But what can we do, Mayumi? If they take those eggs back to civilization, think of the dire consequences!"

"I agree with you there, Asagi, but that won't be the only problem we now face. Remember what the people from the Rainbow Valley village told us about the ancient legend they dreadfully fear to this day?"

"You mean the one they called 'Barugon'?"

Mayumi nods.

"We may not be able to have stopped them from taking those eggs & that 'jewel' that they believe it to be, but perhaps we can try to prevent the inevitable from occurring. That means by following those men incognito to where they'll be taking their 'treasures' to."

"Then let us not waste any more time about it."

A nod later, & both Mayumi & Asagi trailed behind the four men who practically removed dynamite from the Rainbow Valley of New Guinea. Now they need to discover just where they will be bringing the unstable merchandise to & stop a national disaster from happening.

They only hope they can do it in time.

Wester Island:

An archaeological expedition has just finished uprooting an ancient statue which had been buried deep within the ground for what appears to be centuries & now a trio of powerful Flying Crane helicopters have placed it atop an expedition ship that resembles an aircraft carrier the Navy & Marines use. The statue reached a length of about one of the copters carrying it, if only a few feet longer. It was pointed at one end & had a face carved at the other, resembling an angry Aztek god or some other. Throughout its trip from its point of origin to the ship it's being loaded onto, the statue made a noise like a klaxon alarm for a drill or evacuation. Once down on the ship & the copters detach it, the sound dissipated & all became normal again.

But the noise remained in the minds of those at the expo site.

"Man, that noise gives me the willies", said one scientist. "I hope we don't have to hear it anymore for the trip home. I might go mad if we do."

"Not a problem, William", said another scientist. "I'll have that thing wrapped up in a thick tarp to muffle that awful sound. You & the rest of us won't even know it's there."

"Thanks, Jack", Williams says gratefully. "But awful sound aside, I gotta admit it's quite a find. Our top scientists at the National Museum of American History in Washington D.C. will all have a field day with this little discovery once we get it there."

"Not to mention ourselves. How did you know of where to find this beauty anyway?", Jack asks curiously.

"A couple of scientists back home recommended it to us very highly. They said it would make a most memorable impression in our nation's capital. In fact, they were very insistent about it."

"Insistent? I wonder why. What sort of impression could this discovery make in D.C. when we already have the Washington Monument, the U.S. Capital, & of course the White House?"

"Your guess is as good as mine right now, Jack. All I know is, they're willing to pay very handsomely for its return to D.C.. I guess we can figure out the hows & whys once we're home again."

"I suppose so, William. Since everything is in its proper place, why don't we do just that? I for one am getting quite homesick. How about you?"

Williams gives Jack a smile. "Sounds good to me. Let's go home."

As their ship set sail for the open seas, the statue--layed across the surface--stayed silent as a sleeping baby, thanks to the thick tarps that cover it from tip to tip. It seems to be smooth sailing from this point on, as the old saying goes.

Only an hour after the ship departed Wester Island, a strange rumbling from the spot where the statue was unearthed began to shift slightly as rocks started to tumble like something was trying to dig its way out from below.

A low animalistic grumble was the next sound that emitted.

CHAPTER II

Gotham City, September 11th, 12:05 a.m., present day:

Since it was erected in 1939, the Wayne Building--main HQ of both WayneCorp & the Wayne Foundation--has been a mainstay in business & power. It has aided Gotham during the dreaded Great Depression of the 1930s, weathered World War II, thrived through a horrible Ebola Gulf-A plague outbreak, & became one of the few structures to survive devastation during the city's dreaded 'No Man's Land' after a massive earthquake leveled all but a few buildings to rubble. Today it still stands as a major power force & nerve center for the city's financial district & labors in philanthropic endeavors both at home & from across the seas.

Tonight, however, it's become the target for a madman's fury in the underground parking garage of the building.

And this isn't just any madman--this individual is dressed in a stylish purple suit, green & orange undershirts & tie, black shoes, white gloves, & orange boutonniere over his left breast. His face is bleached white with red lips, & his hair is dyed green. This man has terrorized Gothan time & again with his petty but deadly practical antics, has maimed & killed several of the Batman's friends & allies (most notably Jason Todd, the one who replaced Richard 'Dick' Grayson for the role of Robin, the Boy Wonder) --and all for putting a smile on his ghastly face.

He is known as the Ace of Knaves, the Harlequin of Hate, & the Clown Prince of Crime.

But mostly, he's known as the Joker.

He stands in the parking garage's center with a box to his right that measures a foot in both height & width. A fully inflated balloon hangs from a nail on two of the garage's concrete posts only six feet from him. In his hand he holds a small green device with a red button. As he usually does, the Joker seems quite proud of himself.

"Who--weeeee!", he says gleefully with a laugh. "Now, I'm not one to brag--or maybe I am--but this time I've really outdone myself! I can't imagine as to why I haven't though of it before! I mean, my patented Laughing Gas is always a hoot, don't get me wrong. But why create a bunch of giggling simpletons today of all days? They say that history always has a way of repeating itself when we least expect it, so why not let Gotham have its own 9/11? And the Wayne Building will be the perfect target for Gothamites to run fleeing from once I set off my little toy! Just call me Osama Bin Joker!"

The Clown Prince of Crime starts laughing maniacally when a deep voice from an unseen individual echoes the lot.

"Oh, don't worry, Joker! You rank right up there with Bin Laden!"

That's when a small bat-shaped boomerang hits the Joker in the hand which holds the green device hard, forcing him to drop it like a hot potato. The thing shatters upon impact with the concrete floor, & suddenly five figures in different costumes come out of the shadows to reveal themselves to the Ace of Knaves.

They were Nightwing (the one who spoke before), Robin, Batgirl, Huntress, & the Dark Knight himself, Batman.

Most of them held weaponry in their hands: Robin held his staff, Nightwing had his Escrima sticks as Huntress held her handheld crossbow, aimed at the Joker. Batman & Batgirl held no weaponry in either of their hands, but that didn't mean they were unarmed, as evidenced by the Batarang the Caped Crusader threw only moments ago.

"Well well, if it isn't the entire Bat-Family!", the Joker says as if it were no big deal. "If I'd known you were all coming I'd've baked a cake! Oh wait--I did know you were coming! How can you beat that? I take it you all got my calling card--you know, the one I left with the dead folks at Mortimer Avenue?"

"Forget it, Joker!", Batman said firmly. "Did you actually believe that you'd get away with causing an attack similar to the ones in Manhattan & Washington, D.C. several years ago right here in Gotham City?"

"Gee, to be honest--YES!"

As the Joker spoke, he swiftly pulled out twin playing cards (which are razor-sharp) from each of his sleeves & throws them at the two opposing posts where the balloons are. The cards pop the balloons with ease, releasing a gas from within each one. And since the Bat-Family were standing right between them, they all take the full brunt of the gas, coughing & slowly but surely sinking to the floor, causing them to drop their weapons & giving them no time to pull out a gas mask to pervent them from breathing the fumes.

"I…can't move!", Robin says, his words coming out as stiff as he felt.

What the Boy Wonder was experiencing was felt by the others in the Bat-Group.

"Neither…can I!", Nightwing says.

"What were…in those…balloons?", Huntress says through gritted teeth.

"A simple concoction for a paralyzing mist which leaves the affected immobile for five to ten minutes, which is more than I'll need!", the Joker explains. "I told you all I was expecting you to be here, hence my calling card, & I came prepared for it!"

The Joker reaches into his suit pocket & pulls out a device--one identical to the one he had dropped & broke previously.

"A…decoy!", Batman said.

"Righty-O, bat-breath! Once I press this button, out pops my little Jack-in-the-box that happens to be loaded with a powerful nitro-glycerine that will level the Wayne Building down to its foundation faster than you can say taicongaroga--if thou can say taicongaroga!"

"You'd…be killed…too. With us!", Batgirl says.

"Wrong-O!", the Joker said, waving a finger. "Once activated, my little toy will detonate in under five minutes, giving my charming self more than enough time to get to safety while you all become well on your way to being transformed into worm food! Say goodnight, gracies!"

The Joker was about to press the button to his real detonation device, when a voice sounds from behind him.

"Goodnight, gracies!"

As the Harlequin of Hate turns around, he gets just a glimpse of a well-aimed arrow that hits & destroys his real device even as he holds it in his hand, shattering it into a pile of useless scrap like his previous one. At that same time, snakes of three blue wires emerge from out of the shadows & make their way towards the Joker's doomsday device. Their pointed tips pierce the box & discharge slight electric shocks which last for about eight seconds before detaching & withdraw back in the gloom.

This the Clown Prince of Crime does not like!

"Hey! What gives?", he pouts angrily.

As if in answer, two figures step into the light. The first was a man who stood at five feet & eleven inches tall, dressed in green from head to toe. He wore a green mask & had short blonde hair & a goatee on his face. In his left hand he holds a bow, & wears a backpack loaded with all sorts of arrows to shoot with. The other stood at five feet & eight inches, & is completely encased in what appears to be a metal suit of blue & black with yellow eyes. It was from this figure that the seemingly living wires originated from, as the last of them are contracted by the metal fingers from the right hand.

They are in actuality Oliver Queen & Jamie Reyes.

But while in costume, they are known as Green Arrow & Blue Beetle (the latter of whom is the third to bear that title, after the late Dr. Daniel Garrett & Theodore 'Ted' Kord).

"Hello, clown", Green Arrow says. "Was that your remote detonator I just KO'd, or are you just happy to see us?"

"You despicable dunderheads!", the Joker fumed. "What have you done?"

"If you're talking about your little surprise in that box of yours, you can grant me guilty as charged", Blue beetle says. "I simply rewired & deactivated it. Right now, the bomb in your box is about as dangerous as Dora the Explorer!"

Even unable to move their bodies, the Bat-Family manage to put a smile on their faces.

Good timing, Oliver!, Batman said to himself.

Quick thinking, Jamie!, Robin said to himself.

"I think this is the part where you're supposed to say, 'Curses! Foiled again!'", Green Arrow jokes, twitching pretendingly his goatee like a classic B-movie villain would.

"I'll stick with the jokes, you poor excuse for a Robin Hood!", the Joker snapped, shaking a fist in rage.

"Hold that thought!"

In nearly the blink of an eye, Green Arrow pulls another arrow from his satchel & points it at the Joker. This one he shoots has a sort of substance at the end rather than the traditional point of most arrows. Then again, this is Green Arrow, & not all of his stash are traditional. Once the arrow hits the Joker, he becomes completely covered in a sticky ivory substance that turns harder & harder by the second. After ten seconds, the Clown Prince of Crime is totally immobilized by the arrow's surprise, leaving only the clown's head visible.

"What's this stuff?", the Joker barked.

"A little concoction of my own, clown", said Green Arrow. "An experimental substance I've been dying to try out for some time now. Nice to see it works like a charm, wouldn't you agree?"

"Experimental? You've never tried this stuff before until now, so you test it out on moi? I can't believe it! I'll sue! I'll get a lawyer! There'll be hell to pay!"

"You can do it from your cell at Arkham", said Batman, now mobile again as is the rest of his group.

Despite his predicament, the Joker can't resist a smile.

"Oh! And how did you get loose, Little Miss Sunshine?", he playfully asks.

"You can thank Blue Beetle for that", said Nightwing. "While you were trying out your new straightjacket, he managed to sneak over an antidote for that paralyzing gas you lay upon us. We were all free in five seconds."

"Bah, humbug!", the Joker pouted,frowning as he does.

"Eh, close enough", Green Arrow said sarcastically.

That got a grin from everyone in the room.

Everyone, that is, except for Batman!

Ten minutes later:

An anonymous call to the G.C.P.D., & the Joker was taken--harden substance & all--into a paddy wagon by a group of officers led by none other than Commissioner James W. Gordon. As soon as the paddy wagon charted the Joker off to be taken back to Arkham Asylum & the other officers have left, Gordon was alone with his mysterious, longtime friend.

"Unbelievable", Gordon started. "The Joker's been on the loose for three months, & all of a sudden he decides to create a catastrophe tonight, of all nights. I'm starting to believe September 11th is a day of utter taboo--more so than usual. Then again, who are we to talk? We suffered much worse things than what Osama Bin Laden put Manhattan & Washington, D.C. through back on this day in 2001."

Batman stayed as still as a statue, but he was listening to every word his friend is saying.

"I mean, we were almost wiped out by a virus, trampled underfoot by a massive earthquake which destroyed all but a few buildings, & even a gang war that went on for three days. I'm not saying…"

"I know what you're trying to say, Jim", Batman said, cutting Gordon off politely. "But even by comparing Manhattan's & Washington, D.C.'s tragedies to our own, it hardly matters. What does is that people are able to pull themselves through the rubble & look towards tomorrow with hope & compassion for their fellow man. Even here in Gotham, there are those who'll lend a hand to those less fortunate in times of need."

"In short, as long as we stay strong no matter what, our spirits can never be broken."

Batman allows himself a small smile.

"That's the basic idea, Jim."

Gordon nodded.

"There's logic in that, Batman. My officers hold a memorial service every year here since the attacks over at City Hall District in the morning at 9 a.m. to honor the near 3,000 who lost their lives on this day. That's our way of telling the families of the victims from Manhattan, our nation's capital, & those who died in that plane crash in Pennsylvania that we haven't forgotten about them."

"I know. I watch it every year on television. Your police & the good people of Gotham City do them a great justice, Jim. I'm positive it's appreciated by them there."

"Well, how can we ignore their pain? Those people in Manhattan's Twin Towers were just ordinary citizens who got their lives snuffed out by Afghan terrorists for no good reason. What I wouldn't do to get down to Afghanistan & haul Bin Laden's ass out of his hiding hole & give him the punishment he deserves. But for that, I ought to get in line, shouldn't I?"

Jim Gordon turned to face his friend with that last statement, but Batman has disappeared from sight & nowhere to be seen. He was talking to himself again.

Sighing, Gordon went to his patrol car & took off for HQ.

Batman met up with the others on a nearby roof, one block away from where he & Gordon were having their little pep talk. For a moment everyone stayed still & quiet, unsure of what he'd say or do.

Then he breaks the silence.

"Arrow…was it Canary who sent you down here?"

Green arrow was speechless for a moment or two before answering.

"She, uh…monitored the situation from the Hall of Justice & asked me to 'lend my friend a hand', so to speak. Hey, if that's a problem, Bats, then take it up with…"

"It's not a problem, Arrow. Considering what went down tonight, I'm glad both you & Blue Beetle arrived as you did."

"Yeah well…you're part of the Justice League. We take care of our own. Don't we?"

"Same goes for the Teen Titans", said Blue Beetle. "Robin asked me here to…"

"To help you hone your skills since you're a new member of the team."

"Uh, yeah, well, it's like the old saying goes, 'Practice makes perfect', right?"

Batman stares at Blue Beetle for a full ten seconds, making the young hero believe that the Dark Knight might scold him for being in his city. But the Caped Crusader simply turns & heads towards the building's edge, readying his grapnel.

"Good work back there, Beetle. Make sure you keep it up", he says before firing his gadget & swinging off into the night, leaving the rest of the group.

"Ha! Whaddya know, kid, you've been praised by the Bat…again!", Green Arrow says, giving beetle a pat on the back. "I think he's taking quite a liking to you, junior, so ya better cut it out!"

"Don't worry, Beetle. Batman meant what he said", Robin assures him. "Even I believe you did good back there. You still need a lot more training, mind you, but tonight was a rather good experience in your favor & you came through with flying colors."

"I'll say you did", Huntress said. "Were it not for you & Arrow, we would be feeding the worms right now, along with everyone else who was left in the Wayne Building at this late hour."

"Speaking of which, we should head back out on patrol", Nightwing reminds them. "Just because one disaster was stopped doesn't mean there won't be any others tonight."

"Then I guess it's time for me & Green Arrow to vamoose, huh?", Blue Beetle asked.

"Actually, now that you're here, Beetle, I think a night patrolling Gotham with me would help hone your skills more", Robin said. "Just follow my lead & act when & where I tell you to. Do you think you can handle that?"

"Batman won't mind? I mean, it's his city & all."

"It's also mine & Nightwing's, don't forget."

"And we're giving you--and Green Arrow--our full permission", Nightwing added. "So, you in with us tonight?"

"In like Flynn, bird-boy!", Green Arrow said with a grin.

"Perfect. Robin & Blue Beetle will go as one group, Huntress & Batgirl can go as another, & you & I will go our own way."

"Just the teams I had in mind, Nightwing", Robin said. "Let's get cracking. Just like New York itself, crime never sleeps."

That said, the assigned groups took off in three different directions into the Gotham City night.

2:05 a.m., Gotham's Iceberg Lounge:

Wearing dark clothing to blend in with the night, Travis & his group searched thoroughly the immediate area to make sure they weren't being followed by any curious onlookers or any of the city's masked costumed vigilantes, most notably--and especially--the Batman himself. None of the men could afford to be nabbed & sent back to prison, & they were taking every precaution to ensure they arrive at their destination. Wearing their backpacks, they have reached their goal & it allows them to breathe a lot easier.

Coming up to the club's rear entrance, Travis knocks three times.

Eight seconds later, the rectangular hatch on the door opens up to reveal a pair of female eyes staring back at them.

"Yes, gentlemen? Can I help you?", she asks.

"Sorry to bother you at this late hour, miss, but the four of us are here to see Oswald Cobblepot", Travis answered. "We're here on business."

The female lets out a sigh. "I'm very sorry, sir, but Mr. Cobblepot…"

"Happens to be right here."

The voice from behind the female took her by surprise. She turned to see an obese Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot, also known as the Penguin, one of Gotham's most nefarious criminals & illicit businessman. Standing at a height of five feet & two inches, the Penguin is dressed in his usual tuxedo & top hat even at this godly late hour of the night. A glass monocle covers his right eye, & a long cigarette holder gets held securely by his teeth, with a lit smoke at the end. Taking a drag from it & blowing out the smoke, the Penguin addresses the female in a reassuring tone.

"It's quite all right, Gladys. You may let those men in, as they were expected", he says as he grabs an umbrella sitting by the wall.

"Very well, sir", Gladys says, closing the rectangular hatch & undoing the locks on the door to allow the four men waiting outside in. Starting with Travis, they came in as quick as they could without giving Gladys a second glance in her direction but not out of being disrespectful; it was in case any one of the costumed patrollers out there decides to look their way & make an unwanted acquaitance. The sooner they were in the lounge, the better.

Right after Knuckles made his way in, Gladys closes the door & resets all the locks as the Penguin addresses her again.

"Gladys, my guests will be here for quite a while", he says. "Would you be so kind as to make some coffee for us? Afterwards you may call it a night & head home."

"Right away, Mr. Cobblepot", Gladys says, heading right for the kitchen.

It took Gladys only fifteen minutes to prepare the coffee for Oswald & his men, after which she wished them all a good night & took off for home, leaving the men with their business. The Penguin led them into a different room from the one they entered once Gladys was gone. It was quite spacy inside,about the size of a master bedroom. A table lay in the center with five chairs placed before it. Placed at one wall was a large glass container that was fifteen feet across, five feet high & two feet wide. A lid with holes was set aside next to it, & the inside had a setting of small trees & a grassy bottom to give birds the feel of being in their natural habitat.

Travis & company removed their backpacks & set them on the floor next to them as they all took a seat with Oswald.

"So then, you gentlemen have them?", Oswald asks as all four men nod.

"They were right where you believed them to be, Mr. Cobblepot", Travis says as he, Bob & Knuckles began digging into their packs to carefully remove an item wrapped in cloth. "Our trip to New Guinea was a grand success, in more ways than one. Plus, we kept them in those specially-made cryo-compartments to keep them preserved for the trip home like you wanted us to."

Travis, Bob & Knuckles unraveled the cloth from the items & revealed its content hidden within--an ivory egg with thin gray patches ten inches long. The Penguin's eyes had grown wide with pleasure & pride, followed by a grin from his mouth.

"Ah, Wunderbar!", he says with glee, carefully taking one of the eggs in his hands & begins caressing it like one would do with a puppy or kitten. "So the stories I've heard of which involve the discovery of a new rare species of bird are true after all. Not only that, I have the proof right here in my hand, & now that they're in my custody, I can help keep them safe from extinction & they'll make a nice added attraction here in my club. Needless to say, I have quite the affinity for our 'fine-feathered friends', so to speak."

The five men share a chuckle from that last remark, reminding Travis & company of the same kind of crack Bob had made back in New Guinea.

When the laughter faded, the Penguin was all business again.

"By the way, none of you gentlemen happen to catch but a glimpse of the bird that layed these eggs, did you?", he wondered.

The four men shook their heads.

"Sorry, Mr. Cobblepot", Fists said. "Like the others, I came up empty on that part, let alone on getting an egg myself, but I did find something else that's much more valuable for you--a little something that'll put a little 'shine' to your life."

Before Oswald could say anything, Fists went into his own backpack & pulled out his cloth & placed it on the table. The Penguin wondered what could be more valuable to him than helping a rare bird species from going the way of the dinosaur. Smart as he is, he couldn't think of a thing to help him decipher what Fists was referring to. What he does know is that if he's pulling a fast one on him, he's going to live to regret it big-time in the harshest possible way.

"Mr. Cobblepot, feast your peepers upon this!", Fists says proudly, unraveling the cloth to reveal the red jewel he found near the eggs back on the island. At first glance at the shiny object placed before him, Oswald's eyes went even wider that his monocle fell out. His mouth did the same, & his cigarette holder nearly came loose & almost joined his monocle. Carefully placing the egg back on the table, the Penguin took the jewel & examined it closely.

"Unbelievable!", he proclaimed excitedly. "This was on the island of New Guinea?"

"Found it not far off from where the eggs themselves were", Fists explains. "The moment I saw that thing, I just knew it had your name on it!"

"It is a beauty, Fists! I've never seen one this big before in my entire life!" Oswald looks at the four men with enthusiasm. "Boys, you've all done an exceptional job--a most exceptional job indeed! Expect a big bonus for each of you by the end of next week!"

That bit of good news put huge smiles on each of the Penguin's employees.

"In the meantime, let's get our newly formed friends in their new home", Penguin says as he gestures at the eggs with one hand. "Place them carefully inside that properly-made aviary I had prepped for them."

The men nod & take the eggs with the utmost care as Travis, Bob & Knuckles attend to the chore. One by one, the three men place the eggs in the large container as Fists prepares to place the lid on top once his comrades were done. As soon as Fists places the lid on, a low noise fills the room, getting everyone's attention.

"What's that?", asked Bob.

"Hey look--something's happening in there!", Knuckles says, pointing to the inside of the aviary. The men all gather closer towards it & watch as the three eggs start moving slightly & the shells begin to crack, spider-webbing across their surfaces.

"Well, whaddya know? They're starting to hatch!", said Fists.

What impeccable timing this is!, the Penguin thought happily, being able to get his first glimpse of the rare species of bird he's strived & labored to help keep safe from extinction. The first couple of egg shells break off & get flung from what appears to be a wing from inside which breaks away completely unimpeded. The three birds spread their wings to the max & let out a low screech, acting like a person waking up & yawning in the morning. Each one of the birds were a foot in height as they stood on two legs, with a wingspan of over two feet in width with three-clawed fingers jutting out from each wing center. They also had claws on their three-toed feet, & their tails were almost as long as their legs & had something like a fin. The necks were elongated like a lizard's which supported an arrow-shaped head that had red reptilian eyes & a mouth full of little sharp teeth. They were a dark brownish-red in color & had no feathers anywhere on their bodies whatsoever.

Upon seeing the birds for the first time, the Penguin's men were skeptical.

"What the hell kind of birds are these?", Bob wondered.

"And where are their feathers?", Knuckles asked. "I may not know much about birds like you do, Mr. Cobblepot, but I do know that all kinds have 'em."

"Like I told you all before, this is a rare kind of species", Oswald said. "It wouldn't matter if they had bad cases of acne. But that's not important to any of you right now. We need to prepare to move them to my other aviary I've prepared them for out in the main dining room. Bob, I want you, Fists & Knuckles to have them safely tranquilized & brought there. And have some meat ready for them by the time they awaken."

"Right away, boss", Bob replied, & the three men went on about their tasks.

The Penguin then asks Travis over to him.

"Travis, my boy, tomorrow--or rather later today--at 9 a.m., you & I will be taking a trip over to the Gotham Museum, in which I will donate my other 'prize' Fists has found for me."

"You mean you want it put on display?", asked Travis.

"Precisely, dear fellow."

"Pardon my asking, but why? Don't you keep your valuables close to you to be kept safe?"

"Oh, it'll be kept safe, my boy. You see, since no one has ever seen a gem of that size, a lot of folks will want to get a rather good look at it. That's why I'm donating it to the museum. Those folks there will pay me a rather handsome price to place it there under the condition that I charge the people an extra fee in order for them to get that up-close-&-personal look at it, & in another room all to itself. Word of mouth will spread, & soon all of Gotham will be emptying out their pockets to see my newfound treasure."

"With you keeping the profits of that 'extra fee' the people will pay."

"Exactly! That, combined with my new pets in the Iceberg's aviary, I'll soon be one of the most powerful & wealthy men in all of Gotham! Why, the profits I make from my birds & jewel in one year alone could be enormous!"

"So I guess you'll be raising the price of admission to your club too, right?"

"A mere twenty dollars extra. It's not like the folks in this town can't afford it. Besides, they all know that my club is the place for an exotic evening out. I wouldn't worry a thing about it."

"Brilliant as always, Mr. Cobblepot! It's no wonder you were basically the most powerful man during No Man's Land!"

"Thank you, I am!", Oswald says with a slight chuckle. "Now, let us get some rest. We've got ourselves a big day--and night--ahead of us, dear lad." Penguin turns to face Travis' partners. "Go turn in as soon as you three are done, gentlemen."

"Just five minutes more & we will be, Mr. Cobblepot", Bob addresses him.

"Very good."

Without another word, Travis & Oswald headed off to bed.

CHAPTER III

September 11th, Manhattan, Ground Zero, 9 a.m.:

As early as 5 a.m., people from all over the city & other neighboring regions--even those from other countries--have gathered at the spot where the famed Twin Towers once stood since 1973 up until the first hijacked plane, American Airlines Flight 11, crashed into the North Tower at 8:46 a.m., followed by United Airlines Flight 175 into the South Tower at 9:03 a.m.. The South Tower collapsed at 9:59 a.m., with the North Tower following suit at 10:28 a.m.. The total death count of those killed came up to 2,995 people, from civilians to hijackers to members from the FDNY to the NYPD. Every year on this day since the attacks occurred in 2001, a memorial is held at Ground Zero as every single name of those who died that day are being read, beginning at 8:46 in the morning coupled with a chime & followed by a second one at 9:03. Along with the names being read, people have placed things such as flowers, wreaths, American flags, & even yellow ribbons on the fence that surround Ground Zero & at the St. Paul Chapel & Cemetery in between Church Street & Broadway just across the street from Ground Zero. Inside the chapel are people lighting candles & saying prayers to all the victims, including three individuals in particular who have come to offer their condolences. Two of them were males, & their comrade is a female at six feet tall with long black hair & dressed in a red outfit with matching shoes. A pair of dark shades cover her sparkling blue eyes. The first male stood at six feet & two inches, wearing a short-sleeve green shirt, brown pants & shoes. His eyes & hair were a matching brown, & on his right hand there was a ring in a shade of green. The second male stood an inch taller & wore a thin long-sleeved dress shirt with blue tie, black pants & shoes. His hair was jet black, & covering his blue eyes were a pair of reading glasses.

As far as anyone knows, they were Diana, Hal Jordan & Clark Kent.

But secretly, they are known as Wonder Woman, Green Lantern & Superman, three of the greatest heroes the planet has ever seen.

Like everyone else, the trio lights a series of candles located near the entrance wall & sit at an uninhabited bench where they can chat privately, staring at the statue of Jesus on the cross right behind the altar.

Keeping their voices low, Diana broke the silence between them.

"I'm glad we can take the time to do this every year on this day", she said.

"More than that, Diana. We need to do this", said Clark. "We owe it to these people."

"Come on, Clark", Hal cuts in. "How many times are you going to feel guilty about what happened here back in 2001? What occurred here wasn't any more your fault than it is Diana's, or even mine or anybody's in the league."

"I know what you're saying, Hal, & I can appreciate that, don't get me wrong. It's just that this kind of act was simply one of terrorism cowardice on Al-Qaeda's part. We should've been able to have prevented something like this in a heartbeat."

"Clark, it doesn't matter if what we face is a global threat like when we fought the White Martians & Starro, or something like suicidal hijackers from a country that loathes & despises America & what it stands for. In times like these, there will always be casualties, & they will come at a time when we least expect it. I know how that must sound to you, but you know I speak truthfully."

"Like Topeka, Kansas during the Imperiex war?"

"That's one way to put it. Another is when Darkseid invaded my home of Themyscira & killed half my Amazon sisters in order to find the location of New Olympus, believing I hold the key to it. While to this day it still pains me to know it happened, I thrive on & not delve too deep into that horrible memory. The people who have lost friends & loved ones when the hijacked planes struck the towers, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., & United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania are the same. They still mourn their loved ones, but they have the strength to go on with their lives."

"In other words, the people still have faith in the world."

Diana smiles warmly at her longtime friend, as does Hal.

"And they're braver than some folks give them credit for", Hal says. "Let's not forget that the hijacked United Airlines Flight 93 was intended to crash into the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., but the passengers rose & fought against them, even knowing full well they were going to die. They chose to die as heroes rather than victims. Surely that should tell you something."

Now it was Clark's turn to smile.

"It does, Hal", he says. "It's called 'strength of the heart'. It's true power & fighting prowess remains a mystery."

"See? Now you're catching on, Clark. It's like I always say, 'You just need to have faith'.", Diana says.

"And you always had that in me, Clark", Hal says. "Even when I became the power-hungry Parallax & the Spectre soon afterwards, you never lost your faith in me. I cannot thank you for it enough times, therefore we ask of you to never stop having so in ordinary people."

"As if that will ever happen, Hal", Clark said with a smile. "I've got a wife & I work with regular people every time I head to work at the Daily Planet in Metropolis. I'm not about to give that up, if ever."

"Now that's the Clark Kent we know & love", Diana says proudly. "While we can't be everywhere we're needed in time, it doesn't mean we never stop trying to do what we can. That's no different from all the brave firefighters of the FDNY & the police officers of the NYPD who gave their all to save as many lives as they could when the towers were struck, & who continue doing so every day of their lives in this wonderful city."

"The same goes for those in Gotham, Metropolis, Keystone, & everywhere else.", replied Hal Jordan.

"Now that we can all be proud of", Clark says. "It wouldn't be an exaggeration if we call them 'real-life superheroes', would it? These are people with no super-powers of any kind, & yet they brave any & all obstacles to help put the bad guys away and/or save lives."

"Not in the slightest, Clark. Speaking of heroes", Hal raised his ring hand to his two best friends, "what say the three of us put in an appearance? I mean, really put one in?"

Clark & Diana's grins went wider, as did Hal's.

Somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico:

Deep within the waters that are almost surrounded by the United States & Mexico itself, a large life form swims in rapid succession, moving like a torpedo for something that measured 80 meters in length, from the tip of its tail to the front of its horned creature was a large quadruped & orange-tan in color, sporting an orange-red fin on its back. Its reptilian face has an assortment jutting out from the top of its head, two in front of its eyes, & two more still right below. It had a mouth full of sharp teeth, & on the bottom of its feet were things that resembled the suckers on the arms of a squid or by even the largest things beneath the waves, the creature resembling a ceratopsian or 'horned dinosaur' kept swimming underwater.

The monster known to the ancient people of Wester Island as Jiger was making her way along the American coast.

Soon she will reach her destination.

Somewhere in the Pacific Ocean:

The rock burial which was the Zigran's home for two decades was now shaken & shoved away like so much dust, allowing his ship to roam free beneath the waves. But his craft doesn't get too much off the ocean floor before it detonates into useless scrap metal, shattering the debris everywhere. Despite the explosion, the ship's main occupant--Zigra--was relatively unharmed in even the slightest way. Zigra resembled something of an alien fish, or more precisely, shark, who measured 40 meters in length. He was silver in color, & had two sets of fins sprouting from his sides, the set closer to his head being the larger pair. Its head was a most unusual shape for any kind of sea creature, being slim & thin which is pointed at both ends. His eyes were red with a black vertical iris, & had a long beak pale yellow in color with sharp teeth inside. Between his beak & front point, a red jewel was embedded. Five large dorsal fins protruded from his back, & were as sharp as razors.

Zigra's length of 40 meters did not last too long once he was out of his ship: in just mere moments, he began ballooning to twice his original size, becoming a staggering 80 meters. He seemed to be quite pleased with this new development, & Zigra roars with delight, making a high-pitched screech like a hissing snake.

It would seem that the pressures of Earth's waters are lower than that of my home planet, enabling me to grow to this huge size, he mused to himself. Excellent--it will make our conquest of this planet easier than before. Comewhat nightfall, we shall begin our takeover of this world & everyone on it. The time has finally come at last!

Screeching once more in triumph, Zigra swims off to explore the oceans of his soon-to-be new home.

Gotham Museum, 10:05 a.m.:

The museum opened its doors to the public five minutes previous, allowing those eager to learn of Earth's history & take notes of all its fascinating & priceless treasures. But as patrons & students were walking in, Oswald Cobblepot & Travis were walking out & away & back to the black limo that awaits them at the curb, both of them as happy as sandboys.

"Now that's what I call a big payoff, Mr. Cobblepot!", Travis exclaims giddily.

"How true, Travis! How true!", Oswald says in the same manner. "A refreshing million dollars for my prized jewel to be displayed here at the museum for the patrons to see--for a price, of course! Coupled with that of my newfound birds at my Iceberg Lounge, they could make me a fortune even more than, dare I say, Bruce Wayne himself!"

"Or probably make you their dinner instead!", said a voice from behind them. Both Travis & Oswald turn to see a pair of Japanese females staring at them with a look of contempt on their faces. The first one was taller, wearing a white business shirt & black slacks & shoes. Her hair was braided in the back of her head. The other was younger, & had on a pink shirt & red mini-skirt with matching shoes. Her hair wasn't braided like her friend's, & a rope necklace with a comma-shaped bead hung from it.

"Well now, a long way from the Land of the Rising Sun, aren't we?", Oswald jokes. "And just who in the world might you fine ladies be?"

"Mayumi Nagamine, ornithologist", she answers. "And you, Mr. Oswald Cobblepot--also known as the Penguin--are making a very grave mistake, with an emphasis on the 'grave'!"

"Whatever can you mean, Miss Nagamine? I've done nothing to be suspected of any foul play on my part. I'm merely a businessman, nothing more."

"You'll be suspected of it soon enough. Those 'birds' you're keeping over at your club are not birds at all. They're flesh-eating creatures called Gyaos. They grow at an alarming rate, & feed upon humans. And that's not even thw worst part: just one Gyaos has the capacity of going from male to female, giving it the ability to reproduce all by itself. If that should happen, all of Gotham City--and soon the world--will become their feeding grounds!"

"Gyaos, huh? Thank you, Miss Nagamine. Now I know what to call them", Penguin says with a little chuckle.

"This is no joke, Mr. Cobblepot!", the younger female snapped. "Dammit, haven't you been listening to what Mayumi's been telling you just now?"

"Well, how rude! And you are…?"

"Asagi Kusanagi", she says. "Mr. Cobblepot, you haven't seen the death & destruction those creatures had caused in Japan back in 1995. Agood number of people are still haunted by the memory of it!"

Travis & Oswald look at each other, seemingly unconvinced.

They turn to the girls again as Oswald speaks.

"I assume there's a point to all this?"

"Mr. Cobblepot, don't let what happened in Japan take place here in Gotham", Asagi tells him. "Can't you see what we're trying to say? You're playing with fire, & if it isn't extinguished immediately, it's going to blaze out of control! But it's not too late--get rid of the Gyaos while there's still time & have them destroyed at once!"

The last statement put the Penguin in a state of shock.

"Get rid of them?", he fumed. "After all the money I've invested in finding & bringing them back to my sanctuary safely? Dear woman, are you mad?"

"We're only asking you to do what's right!", Asagi begs him.

"My dear Asian friends, fabled stories that may or may not have happened from years gone by are seldom any proof of their behaviors, let alone any reason for me to drop my plans which I have in store. Next you're going to tell me that red jewel I donated to this museum will hatch out a monster & start destroying the city."

"Funny you should mention that, Mr. Cobblepot", Mayumi said. "Because that's precisely what it is! An ancient legend from New Guinea tells of…"

By now, Oswald was getting quite annoyed of hearing the girls.

"That's enough!", he fumed. "I've wasted too much time hearing these ridiculous claims of yours! I've done nothing to put the lives of these citizens in danger whatsoever, & I will not take kindly to being harassed by foreigners who think otherwise! Ladies, I am reporting you to this museum's curator, telling him not to allow either of you near my jewel, let along the building itself! The same goes for my Iceberg Lounge club! Should you dare to get within a hundred yards of either place, I shall have you both arrested for trespassing! Now, I suggest you both remove yourselves from this building before I have Gotham's finest place you in hancuffs! Let's go now, Travis! I've a luncheon to attend!"

"We're outta here, boss!", Travis says as he heads for the driver's side of the waiting limo. The Penguin takes a last, loathsome look at Mayumi & Asagi before getting in the back seat as his employee starts the motor & takes off, leaving the girls behind as they watched him drive off.

"Damn him!", Mayumi growls. "And I thought Mr. Saito back home was most arrogant, stubborn & selfish! He's obviously only concerned about what happens here in his home, being oblivious to anything & everything that takes place outside this city's boundaries!"

Asagi steps in to calm her down.

"Mayumi, please. I understand your feelings, but exploding in anger won't help our cause any. We need to find someone who will listen to reason & help us put a stop to this."

"But who, Asagi? This is Gotham City--one of the most crime-riddled cities in all of the world. Even New York is tamer than this town. Who can we turn to here that'll help us?"

Asagi smiles.

"Think about it for a minute, Mayumi", she says. "We're in Gotham City. Who do you think dwells here?"

Mayumi thought of it for a moment or two, & just like that, it hit her from out of the blue like a sudden remembrance of an anniversary.

Of course--the Batman!, Mayumi thought to herself. If anyone in this burg would listen to reason & help us, he would! And he also has young proteges who'd do the same!

Now it's her turn to smile.

"Good thinking, Asagi!", she says. "Now all we need to do is find them!" That's when her smile faded again. "But there's a problem with that."

"Which is?"

"From what I understand, he only comes out at night, & it's just after ten in the morning. We can't wait that long to get in touch with him. What can we do until then?"

Asagi thought for a moment before the answer hits her.

"I have someone in mind who can get in touch with him rather quickly, Mayumi", she says.

"Who might that be, Asagi?", wondered Mayumi.

"Follow me. I'll explain on the way."

Asagi took off in a fast walk as Mayumi trailed right behind her. Getting two blocks, they brush past a group of seven teenagers, four girls & three guys, with one of them being in a light hooded jacket, hitting him in the arm slightly.

"Sorry!", they both apologized & hurried along their way.

"Well well, just when you thought this day couldn't get any more boring, there comes along a brief stint of excitement to brighten things up!", said the teenage girl with long white hair & a black eye patch over her left eye.

"That wasn't funny, Rose", said the kid in the jacket, rubbing his arm slightly. "That kinda hurt. Is everyone here in Gotham City this rude, Tim, or is it just me?"

"Don't take it personally, Eddie", Tim says with an apologetic smile. "Besides, they did say they were sorry, didn't they?"

"And from the looks of things, those two girls looked Japanese, so they could be here seeing the sights", said the third guy with hair similar in style to Tim's. "I guess they're just eager to see as much as they can before they need to head back home."

"And think of it this way, Eddie", said the first of two blonde girls with a pair of thin-rimmed glasses. "At least you're not in Tokyo, or else you'd be trampled right about now!"

That evoked chuckling from the others, making Eddie sulk.

"Gee thanks, Kara", he pouted.

"Come on, Eddie. Have a sense of humor about yourself", said the second blonde. "On a day like today, it couldn't hurt."

"Easy for you to say, Cassie", Eddie retaliated. "You don't spend your days hiding inside a coat to hide what you really are, do you?"

That made the others stay silent. In reality, the kid inside the jacket is Eddie Bloomberg, also known as Kid Devil, one of the current members of the Teen Titans. When he was just but a lad, Eddie's Aunt Marla was a producer in Hollywood who was down on her luck. One day, she came up with a script called 'Blue Devil'. Once it started shooting, actor Daniel Cassidy who played the lead role, was soon battling an actual demon on set & in the ensuing fight, mystical energies from the creature melded Danny's costume to his body, turning him into a real Blue Devil. Though other people were more or less freaked out by Danny's 'new look', Eddie still believed in him. So much, in fact, that he made his own costume similar to Danny's & dubbed himself 'Kid Devil'. It didn't go over well for him--he was scolded by just about everyone, from his parents to the people he helped save from a hijacked plane to Blue Devil himself. Determined to be as good as his hero, Eddie went to see Zachary Zatara, cousin of magician Zatanna. From there they entered the underworld, where the demon known as Neron ruled. He offered to Eddie the power of a Real Kid Devil, similar to what Danny himself went through. But as with any wish made with one such as Neron, there came a catch: if Eddie Bloomberg should ever lose faith in his hero, he would belong to Neron on his twentieth birthday. Sadly, that came sooner than he had realized: Neron told Eddie that Daniel Cassidy was indirectly responsible for the death of his beloved Aunt Marla, who was killed in a helicopter crash while scouting for scenes in the movie. A bigger shock came to Eddie is that he destroyed an unmanned power plant which caused Marla's death--and all so Daniel could become a star. Filled with outrage & betrayal, Eddie had immediately lost his faith in Daniel, & now once he reaches twenty years of age, he will belong to Neron for all eternity.

And because his flesh is red & can melt things with but a touch, Eddie has to hide for the most part from the general public, so as not to cause an unnecessary panic, hence his current attire.

"None of us had meant any harm by that, Eddie", said the redhead of the group. "We just thought to lighten things up due to today's date, that's all."

"He knows, Megan", said Tim. "Are we cool, Eddie?"

Eddie takes a deep breath & lets it out, forcing himself to smile, if even just a little.

"We're frosty", he says. "Anyway, as gloomy as the day's theme is, it was pretty nice to attend that memorial service over at City Hall. Thanks for inviting us to it, Tim."

"Same here", said Jamie. "Even though that kind of tragedy didn't happen here in Gotham, I found it most heartening to see the citizens paying their respects to those who lost their lives in Manhattan, Washington, D.C., & those brave folks who fought the hijackers on United Airlines Flight 93 that crashed in Shanksville, PA."

"Yes it was, Jamie", said Megan. "Those people didn't have any special powers or fighting skills like we do, & yet they rose against them even at the cost of their own lives. That is what is called bravery."

"I hear that!", Rose said. "Those folks from that plane are my kind of people, rising up to their aggressors like they did! My heart definitely goes out to them!"

Well…it's a start, I suppose, Cassie said to herself, doing the best she can to cope with the daughter of Slade Wilson's negativity.

"Thanks for the kind words, everyone", Tim said. "Anytime a tragedy like this happens anywhere in America, the effects are felt all across the country from coast to coast."

"And when people from all over start pitching in & sending prayers to those who lost their lives & loved ones from it, it unites us & makes us stronger", said Kara.

"That's one of the reasons as to why this country is called the 'United' States of America, isn't it?", Jamie put in.

"I guess that is one way of putting it, Jamie", said Cassie. "So, where exactly do we go from here today?"

Tim Drake turns to the group.

"Why don't I show you folks around Gotham while you're all here?", he suggests. "I don't think any of you have seen much of this city, so I'm offering you a grand tour of it. What do you folks say?"

"A tour of your hometown?", said Jamie. "You are different from Batman!"

"As I told a friend once, I'll never be Batman. Now, where should we start? We got quite a lot of ground to cover."

"How about someplace to eat? I'm starved!", said Eddie as everyone looks at him like he was from another planet, making him redder than usual.

"What?", was all he could say in an attempt to hold his ground.

And not being successful at it.

Gotham City Police Headquarters, 6:00 p.m.:

Asagi has told Mayumi of the one person who can get in touch with the Batman, & that was Police Commissioner James W. Gordon, as he is basically the one (but not the only one) at HQ who can turn on the giant Bat-Signal on the rooftop to summon the Dark Knight. But Police Headquarters wasn't where the girls raced off to immediately. Their first destination was at the Gotham Public library to check out the archives, gathering all they could about the Gyaos as well as their fight with the giant turtle known as Gamera, from their ancient history in Atlantis to the battle that took place in Tokyo in 1995. It also meant gathering everything that is known of the ancient legend the people of New Guinea called Barugon. Making photocopies of everything they've managed to scrounge up & placing it all in folders, the girls then made a beeline for Police HQ, in hopes they would find Jim Gordon at the station.

They didn't.

An officer on duty tells the girls that Gordon was out on patrol for the entire day, needing to step up police protection on this day since the Joker's attempt to bring down the famed Wayne Building just after midnight, especially since this day is 9/11. He tells them that Gordon won't be back to HQ until at least six in the evening.

It pained the girls to have to wait several hours for the one man who can contact Batman, but with what's at stake, they didn't have much choice. They excused themselves to grab a bite to eat, stating they would be back an hour early.

Now with the deadline just about up, Mayumi & Asagi sit on a bench outside of Gordon's office, folders in their hands & awaiting the man's return.

A minute or two later, they were approached by a man standing at five feet nine inches tall, dressed in a white dress shirt, red tie, brown pants, black shoes & light brown overcoat. He had blue eyes that were hidden behind a pair of glasses. His hair was short & white, & a brush of a mustache sprouted between his nose & upper lip. A black belt held up his pants, & he held a Browning BDAO 9-mm automatic pistol.

"I understand you two have been looking for me", he says. "I'm Police Commissioner James Gordon. Sorry to have kept you two waiting all this time."

At the sound of his name, Mayumi & Asagi rose from the bench & introduced themselves.

"It's no problem, Mr. Gordon. I'm ornithologist Mayumi Nagamine, & this here is Asagi Kusanagi", she states as they both bow in their respectful Japanese greeting.

Gordon basically does the same.

"Well ladies, how can I be of service to you?", Gordon asks.

"Commissioner, this city & its people could be facing a horror which once occurred in Japan years ago", Mayumi explains. "To help put an end to it as soon as possible, it requires the assistance of your 'friend'. That's why Asagi & myself wanted to come directly to you."

Gordon studied the two Japanese girls for a moment. The fact that they would want to talk to him directly & not tell other cops in the G.C.P.D. about it, he surmised that what they brought to his table must be of the utmost importance, especially if they practically beg for the assistance of his friend the Batman, a fact known throughout the building.

Gordon inhales & exhales before answering.

"Step into my office, ladies", he says. "It seems that we have much to talk about."

"Domo arigato, Commissioner", Asagi says. "We do."

With Jim in the lead, Mayumi & Asagi follow the Police Commissioner to his office.

With him by their side, disaster may be averted after all.

CHAPTER IV

Gotham City, the Iceberg Lounge, 8:00 p.m.:

The last of the daylight fades away, plunging Gotham into its familiar gloom of twilight as the streets become more lively. Tonight, however, the main spot of attention is Gotham's famed Iceberg Lounge, as dozens of patrons line up from around the block to enter to check out the new attraction that's been added as posted on a large sign just outside the main entrance:

NEW ATTRACTION: GIANT RARE EXOTIC BIRDS!

COME SEE THEM LIVE IN GOTHAM CITY!

THIS WEEK ONLY: GET 1/3 OFF ON EVERY MEAL

ENJOY YOUR EVENING!

Oswald Cobblepot, Owner

Like they did in Metropolis before being sent to Stryker's, Fists & Knuckles were standing outside the entrance as security, keeping their posture in check & not wanting deja-vu to repeat for either of them. They will have their hands full for sure tonight: word of mouth about the club's latest addition didn't take long, & the line forming at the entrance was longer than usual.

From across the street & hidden from view of the club's two security personell, Mayumi & Asagi watch rather helplessly as the club allows, slowly but surely, its customers who have been waiting for more than an hour, the ones with advanced tickets going in first. Seeing those people enter the club made the girs' stomachs uneasy; it was like seeing cattle being led straight into the slaughterhouse to be maimed & killed into slices of beef to be later sent to the supermarket.

Only in this case, with the Gyaos inside, those who enter will possibly not be coming out as anything, except as digested food for the ancient terrors.

And they can do nothing to prevent it.

At least,not on their own.

"Not a big fan of that particular club, girls? I know the feeling."

The voice came from behind Mayumi & Asagi, taking them by surprise & scaring them by more than a bit. A woman standing at five feet & eleven inches tall steps into view in what little light the alley allowed. She was dressed in a costume of purple & black, with white lines on the top part of her suit. A pointed purple mask covers her a portion of her face, with blue eyes staring at them. She had long jet black hair, & a purple cape draped from her shoulders. A satchel hung from her hips & on her legs. In her hands she wields a weapon in each--a handheld crossbow in her right, & a silver staff in her left.

"Easy ladies, I'm not gonna hurt you", this new arrival assures them. "I'm one of the white hats in this town. My name is Huntress."

Mayumi takes a step forward.

"Are you with the Batman?", she asked.

"We've…worked together, yes", Huntress says. "Are you girls in trouble of some kind?"

"It's more like the city is in trouble, Huntress!", Asagi says. "And the particular trouble I speak of is right inside that lounge, and we're forbidden by the owner to enter it!"

That would be typical of the Penguin, all right!, Huntress thought, knowing how stubborn Gotham's club owner is.

"Why don't you girls tell me about this kind of trouble, & I'll get inside to put an end to it before it should get worse", Huntress says with a reassuring smile.

Sensing they can trust this costumed individual, the girls waste no time in giving her the information.

Gotham City Museum, 8:10 p.m.:

The museum's curator didn't put Oswald's jewel on display immediately as soon as he had paid him the million he asked for. He told him that a private display room for it would take time in getting it set up: a particular room needs to be chosen, certain artifacts would have to be moved, & so forth. While the Penguin was impatient with the minor, petty details such as these, he nevertheless allowed the necessary time for it to be set up. He knew it would be all but worth it in the long run, collecting the extra fee for having it put on display for the patrons to bear witness to such a large sparkling jewel.

Therefore, it will be placed in safety in the treasury room, along with other rare & priceless artifacts waiting to be placed on display. The curator placed it in a glass display case he happened to come across, complete with a light atop the underside of the top lid. It was about a foot long all around & six inches high. He neither knew nor cared as to where it came from, let alone who found it. All he knew it would make it the perfect place for the red jewel until the room for it is completed.

Sitting alone in its case, the light atop begins to glow as red as the jewel itself, bathing it in its crimson rays. In under a minute, the jewel begins forming a black spot on its surface that both grows & smokes, rocking back & forth like something was alive within. Smoke begins to fog the inside of the case, & if anyone was witnessing this scene right now, they would be able to see the jewel crack & split open like an egg. From within, a small lizard-like creature about a foot long emerges & surveys its surroundings, seemingly relishing the crimson light that shines upon it from above.

Giving off a sound like an exotic bird, the creature slowly but surely begins growing in size, eventually breaking out of its glass home.

The Iceberg Lounge:

Inside the club was a full house. Noit a single table, much less chair, was left unoccupied anywhere. Soft music was playing in the background, & people were dining, drinking, & chatting with friends everywhere. Most were excited about catching their first glimpse of the club's latest attractions, knowing the owner always likes to push the envelope whenever he can, making the Iceberg Lounge Gotham's most famous hot spot. Hanging at one wall of the club was a large white curtain that was ten feet in height & thirty feet in width. Everyone surmised that the 'giant rare & exotic birds' the billboard said outside were right behind it, & they all with baited breath to see what they looked like.

They didn't have long to wait.

Oswald Cobblepot, dressed in his favorite stunning tuxedo & top hat, comes before his audience with an umbrella in one hand & a hand-held microphone in the other. Walking on his newly constructed platform, the lights dimmed slightly & a lone spotlight shone on the owner as he began addressing the audience with his microphone.

"Good evening, fellow patrons! I'd call you ladies & gentlemen, but you know what you are!", he starts to say with a smile.

The people in the club gave out a good heartfelt laugh before Oswald went on.

"Tonight, I have a very special treat for all of you. Behind this large curtain just behind me are a species of birds who are quite scarce, they would probably make the Dodo & Passenger Pigeon seem plentiful. It has taken me close to a decade to find this rare breed, & tonight I proudly present them to you before your very eyes first-hand. So, without further ado, it gives me great distinctive pleasure to present to you the rarest of birds--the Gyaos!"

Oswald turns to his left & nods to Travis, who stands out of sight of the audience along with Bob. He nods back & presses the button on the wall next to him. The curtain suddenly splits in the middle & parts in opposite directions, revealing the prize behind it in what appears to be shatterproof glass. The audience gasps in amazement as they bear witness to the three Gyaos right behind the only thing preventing them from escaping their aviary. Even Oswald himself gasped when he turned to look at his club's latest addition. He was astonished at what he saw--the Gyaos were at least two or three times bigger in size than when they first hatched from their eggs eighteen hours ago.

All three were cuddled up & asleep in their new home.

How in the hell could they grow to this size in so fast a time?, Oswald thought frantically to himself. Even baby chicks don't grow this rapidly! Maybe Bob had a point--what kind of birds are these Gyaos?

That's when the three Gyaos from within the club's aviary began to awaken, opening their shield-plated eyelids & staring at all the people watching them in awe (and more than a few in fear). That included Travis & Bob, as they approach their boss with deep concern.

"We've got a funny feeling about this, boss", Bob says in a low, trepidatious-filled voice. "What if those things should suddenly get out & attack us? You know how carnivorous they are."

"Don't you boys fret none. That shatterproof glass is electrified", the Penguin assures them as best he can, although there is a hint of fear in his own voice. "It's set at a voltage that will give them just enough of a shock to urge them to stay away from it. Trust me, there's no way for them to escape."

I certainly hope not!, Travis & Bob thought nervously.

The Gyaos were now fully awake, & they eye all the people who sit & stare at them from behind the glass. But all the creatures see are food--lots of food!

The Gyaos in the middle approaches the glass & touches it with the tip of its beak. A quick & painful charge of electricity strikes it on contact, forcing it to pull back & screech in surprise & pain. The other two Gyaos get the message & roar out as well, the sound echoing throughout the club even from behind the glass. A yellow glow builds up inside each of their mouths, making more than a few patrons nervous & Oswald can hear several chairs being pushed across the floor as they attempt to flee for the door.

Not wanting his paying customers to leave abruptly, Oswald does his damnest to assure their safety.

"Please don't be alarmed, ladies & gentlemen! That glass which they hide behind is extra strong! Believe me, there's no way they can…"

The Penguin never got to finish his statement. In unison, a trio of yellow beams shoot forth from the mouths of the Gyaos, going through the glass like it was made out of butter. The people were now in a frenzy as they hurriedly got up from their seats & ran for the door, eager to escape being devoured by the club's main attractions. Several people were unlucky enough to be sliced in half by the deadly yellow beams the Gyaos were firing, causing much damage to the inside of the complex. Oswald would've been one of the unfortunates were it not for Fists & Knuckles' quick reflexes, diving at Penguin & getting him out of the line of fire in time.

"Let's get you out of here, Mr. Cobblepot!", said Fists.

"Agreed!", Penguin says. "Travis & Bob can subdue the Gyaos with tranqs as we escape!"

"I wouldn't count on that, boss!", Knuckles said, pointing to their aforementioned partners.

Penguin & Fists turn to where Knuckles was pointing at. Before them was a grisly sight which made even their blood freeze.

Travis & Bob were laying on the floor--without their heads!

The Gyaos severed their heads just as the two marksmen went for their tranq guns which were hidden inside their tuxes, & are now laying in a puddle of their own blood with their heads only three feet from where their bodies lay, a look of shock & horror frozen on their faces.

Using this as a distraction, Fists & Knuckles led the Penguin away from the horror that has befallen his beloved club, making his way for an exit towards the rear with his two remaining employees. Making their way towards the rear door as quickly but quietly as they can without drawing the Gyaos' attention, the three make it safely & enter through, going by a hallway that will lead to the rear door--the same one Travis & company were led into eighteen hours ago.

By the time they turned a corner, two figures were standing in their way & the terrified trio froze in their tracks. One was Huntress with her weapons in her hands. The other was a figure of a well-muscled man of six feet & two inches, wearing a gray suit, blue boots & gloves, a golden utility belt around his waist, a black bat insignia on his chest, & a blue cape & cowl that covers his face & drapes over his shoulders.

It doesn't take a criminal genius to know that the three men were looking at the Batman, a constant thorn in Oswald's side. Even if they weren't scared from the horror show now occurring in the main room, there was no time for Fists or Knuckles to take the offensive. Ironically, this is one of those rare times that Oswald was glad to see his longtime foe.

"Batman, I…", Penguin started to say until the Dark Knight bent down to literally face his enemy as Huntress kept a close eye on his two henchmen.

"I'll deal with you later, Oswald!", Batman said menacingly to him with a scowl to match. "Right now, you three need to get out of here!"

This was one time that the Penguin didn't argue with him, & without hesitation he, Fists & Knuckles quickly made their way towards the rear--and safety.

"Let's go, Huntress…quietly", Batman says as he takes lead with her right behind, weapons at the ready.

When Batman & Huntress approached the door Oswald & company used to flee, he opens it with as much silence as he can muster, & both heroes take a look inside the club which has now turned into a showcase of horror. The sight made Batman grind his teeth with fury.

"Mary mother of God", Huntress says in a horrified whisper, fighting to keep her gorge down. It was a scene from straight out of a George A. Romero picture, but in this case instead of zombies feeding upon human flesh, it were genetically-engineered birds created long ago. The trio of Gyaos were tearing the meat off their victims & swallowing them in big chunks, much like alligators & crocodiles themselves do. Feeding on their unfortunate victims, the Gyaos trio were oblivious to the appearances of the Caped Crusader & Huntress.

Forcing herself to stay strong & not let her personal feelings of seeing the people getting eaten get in the way of her duty, Huntress aims her handheld crossbow at the closest Gyaos.

"Huntress, don't…", Batman starts to say as he caught sight of what she planned to do.

He caught it too late: Huntress fired her crossbow, & her arrow streaked across the room & struck the nearest Gyaos in the back of the neck, doing no noticeable damage.

It does, however, catches its attention.

Turning its head from its meal, the Gyaos Huntress hit eyes the two crime fighters & yells out a screech, causing the other two creatures to lift their heads & look in their direction. They bellowed a screech as they have now found some fresh meat.

Oh no!, Huntress thought, instantly regretting her choice.

"Run!", Batman bellowed, grabbing his partner by the arm & taking her back out the way they came as fast as he could. But not before he leaves a little surprise: just as he yelled, he went & pulled out a cache of capsules from his utility belt & tosses them at the now-pursuing Gyaos. The capsules each exploded with a flash-bang, blinding the creatures & causing them to cease their pursuit of their new prey, screeching their defiance.

"They won't stay blinded for long, you know!", Huntress says as she & Batman exit the club's rear. "Before you know it, they'll be in pursuit of us again, & I hope you got something else besides a few pellets in that belt of yours!"

"I have", Batman said matter of factly, pointing skyward. Huntress looks up to see a bat-shaped aircraft hovering in mid-air with a mini-ladder dangling from it, presumably as to how he got down. The thing was hardly making a sound.

"Grab hold! Quickly!", Batman ordered her. Huntress did as told, & with the press of a button, both heroes were lifted swiftly into the air towards the Batplane. In no time, both were comfortably seated inside, with Batman at the controls & Huntress taking a back seat.

"Hold tight!", Batman ordered as he suddenly takes off into the skies.

Back inside the club, the effects of Batman's flash-capsules have worn off, & the Gyaos can now see once more, finding their new prey gone. Not wanting to know what other surprises they may have in store, the Gyaos exit the Iceberg Lounge at the main entrance, smashing their way out & scattering debris all over the streets as unexpected bystanders dive for cover. Watching the Batplane pass by, two of the Gyaos take off into the sky in hot pursuit as the third goes its own way.

Seeing this horror unfold before them from atop Police Headquarters with James Gordon & Sgt. Harvey Bullock, Mayumi & Asagi dreaded the moment as much as two of Gotham's Finest themselves did.

The Gyaos were loose in Gotham City!

The comma-shaped bead on Asagi's necklace begins to glow a golden shine, catching everyone's attention.

"What the heck is that thing?", a confused Bullock wondered.

"He's coming", was all Asagi said.

The Gyaos that went its separate way from its flock flew over the Upper West Side portion of the city, searching for even the smallest morsel to kill & consume. People who looked up to see the creature soaring overhead all headed for cover, taking shelter inside their homes & the closest business store they can reach in time. One group of teenagers weren't fast enough, & one of them--a girl--tripped, accidentally falling on her friends as they all tumble to the ground. This the Gyaos saw as a grand opportunity for another feast & swooped down for the kill.

Looking up at the oncoming horror, the teens were too scared to even scream.

The Gyaos was about to dine on more humans when two opposing forces stepped between it & its prey. Two seemingly young warriors--one dressed in black & blue armor, the other with red flesh, twin horns on his head, white hair & wearing a pair of dark blue jeans--stood firm as the Gyaos came within striking distance of its intended victims.

The two warriors, known as Blue Beetle & Kid Devil, won't allow that.

"Oh no you don't, Big Bird!", Kid Devil shouted, blowing a powerful plume of fire from his mouth as Blue Beetle does the same from his wrist. The two streams of flames keeps the Gyaos at bay, being shot at on either side of it. Disliking the intense flames, the Gyaos screeches angrily & loudly.

"Good work, boys! You keep the heat going on this big ol' turkey while I do the carving!", said a female figure dressed in a light & dark blue suit with orange boots, orange belt, & a mask which is blue on the left side & orange on the right where the mask's only visible eyepiece is placed at.

Once Rose Wilson was one of the Teen Titans' greatest enemies, & the daughter of Slade Wilson, a.k.a. Deathstroke the Terminator.

Now she serves alongside with them as Ravager.

Howling out a battle cry, Ravager leaps from the roof of a three-story building, wielding twin swords in her hands. She plummets like a stone towards the Gyaos being kept in check by Kid Devil & Blue Beetle's flames. Pointing her swords downward, Ravager stabs the Gyaos in the back of its neck, causing it to raise its head & screech in agony. Keeping one of her weapons buried in the monster's flesh, she uses her other weapon to stab & slash at the Gyaos madly in the rear of its neck, followed by spots along its back & placing a deep slash across its neck below its lower jaw. Pinkish blood spurts & spills with each cut & stab she makes, spraying it all over as it thrashes wildly, trying to shake off its attacker. But no matter how hard it tried, Ravager stayed on it like a tick on a dog. Wanting to deliver a fatal blow, Ravager now attempts to plunge her sword into one of its eyes, since her earlier attempt at its head failed on account it was armored. Despite the Gyaos' constant thrashing, Ravager held on & readied her weapon for the killing strike. With all her effort, she rams her sword into the creature's right eye & twists it, causing the beast to screech its loudest & let loose its yellow beam, which hits nothing in the empty sky above it.

The combination of blood loss & unbearable pain caused the Gyaos to collapse to the ground, cracking the pavement under its mass. Ravager gave the beast a final stab from right behind its arrow-shaped head for good measure. The Gyaos had made no sound as she stabbed it, indicating it was as dead as Disco.

Kid Devil & Blue Beetle had ceased their inferno as Ravager jumped down from the dead Gyaos & landed next to her two companions, her swords dripping with pink blood.

"Not too shabby, boys!", she says, wiping the blood off with a cloth from her belt.

"You didn't do too bad yourself, Ro…Ravager", Kid Devil says, almost compromising her real identity. If Ravager was upset about it, she didn't show it.

The young hero trio turned to the Gyaos' intended victims to see if they were all right. They cringed as Kid Devil offered his hand to help them up with a smile, & took off running like foxes who were being chased by dogs.

Disparaged by the gesture, Kid Devil sighed in sorrow.

"How do you like that, gang?", he said lowly. "They were more afraid of me than this thing that attacked them."

"Don't let it get you down too much, Eddie", Ravager said in a compassionate voice. "They're probably just not used to seeing someone like you. Remember how folks reacted to Daniel Cassidy when he became an actual Blue Devil?"

Eddie felt comforted by Rose's words. She & him have felt like outsiders to the Teen Titans--Eddie for his 'condition', & Rose just because she's Slade Wilson's daughter, the father of the Teen Titans' greatest foe. No matter how much she wanted to escape her father's influence & not end up being a carbon-copy of him by joining up with the Titans, she still gets suspicious looks from those who once fought against her, even though they fought alongside together on several missions. If anyone can understand how Eddie feels, it's her.

"Thanks, Rose", Eddie said to her & meaning it with a relatively small smile.

Ravager smiled back.

"I'd hate to break up the Hallmark moment, you two, but news reports say there are two more of these things out there!", Blue Beetle says. "And Robin wants us to head on over to the Iceberg Lounge to search for any survivors & assist them. They're on their way over themselves as we speak."

"Then let's not speak about it & head over, bug boy! Time's a-wastin'!", Kid Devil said as he & Rose were taken in one arm by Blue Beetle & they headed on over to the Iceberg Lounge, being careful not to attract the attention of the other two Gyaos, who were currently engaged in an aerial dogfight with the Batplane.

On their custom motorcycles, Robin & Nightwing race to the Iceberg Lounge after the former radioed to Blue Beetle those orders. Batgirl raced with the Boy Wonder from behind, placing her arms around his waist like any typical cycle passenger. With Nightwing in the lead, they race down the street, fast approaching the Gotham Museum.

"I just radioed Blue Beetle, Kid Devil & Ravager to the Lounge", Robin said. "They'll assist Wonder Girl, Supergirl & Miss Martian in finding any survivors there."

"Glad to hear it, Robin", Nightwing said. "Batman & Huntress are handling those flying creatures in the Batplane, which gives us all the help we can muster down here. If we're lucky, our assistance won't be needed after all."

"But we should get there nonetheless just in case", Batgirl says matter of factly.

"I concur fully, Cassandra", Robin adds. "But that's why I sent those three ahead. They can search through rubble faster than we can. We should be hearing from them very soon if all goes…"

That's when they approach the museum & saw people screaming & running out of the place in droves. They mostly split to the left & right like ants avoiding an object too large to move on their own.

"What's going on here?", Batgirl wondered.

"We'll soon find out!", Robin said, getting on his radio. "Cassie, this is Robin! Once you guys are finished over at the lounge, we need you here at the Gotham Museum at…"

The trio were at the museum as Robin spoke but before they can even begin to slow their cycles down, the front & top of the museum abruptly explodes outward with debris, causing the heroes to skid on their vehicles to a sudden & violent halt. Terribly shaken by the blast, the trio clear their visions to see mostly everyone heading to safety, but a few were crushed to death by the debris that sprayed outward.

None of the heroes had time to ask if each other was okay, as they were now looking at a literally monstrous sight which caused the destruction to the museum. It was a giant four-legged quadraped, shaped very much like a lizard & a dark brown in color. It had a massive set of jaws like those of an alligator, & a long pointed nose horn jutted out from its snout, while sprouting a smaller pair just above its large round eyes. A twin row of short spikes rose from its back, but down its long tail was only a singular row. The tip of ita tail also had a few spikes jutting out from it, & one did so over its rear legs & just ahead of its front ones. From tip to tip, this creature measured about 100 meters long, & when it roared, it sounded like a combo of a screeching bird & a blaring foghorn.

According to the villagers of the Rainbow Valley of New Guinea, this is the monster of legend, Barugon.

And like the Gyaos, he is loose in Gotham.

Oh man!, Nightwing thought. And I thought dealing with human monsters each night was tough!

At least those who were able to leave did so!, thought Robin. Now I hope it doesn't notice any of us! We're in no condition to currently deal with it, not after the unexpected beating we all just took!

Unfortunately for the Boy Wonder, it had been wishful thinking on his part. Not only does Barugon see them, he fires his tongue out from his mouth like a frog would do in order to catch a bug & gobble it up, as it had a thick lump on the end of it. The three young heroes can do nothing as their death shoots forth towards them.

In a second, the trio was gone from sight, & Barugon's tongue smashed a portion of the pavement where they had been before retracting it into his mouth again.

When the three opened their eyes again, they found themselves atop the building of Police Headquarters with Mayumi, Asagi, Jim Gordon & Harvey Bullock.

"You three okay?", Jim asked, getting nods of confirmation from them.

"What happened just now?", a wondering Batgirl asks.

"You three kiddies just got your butts rescued by Super-chick!", Bullock notingly jokes with a smirk.

Thanks Kara, thought Robin, knowing who the police sergeant was referring to. We owe you one.

"In case you're wondering, your friend Supergirl rushed off to face the creature Barugon--the same one that crashed out of the museum", Asagi says.

They're the same girls who bumped into Eddie earlier!, Robin thought.

"I'm sure she did", Robin says aloud. "And she won't be alone either. Wonder Girl & Miss Martian are no doubt there already."

"You called the creature Barugon", Nightwing said, not a question as he looks at Asagi.

"Yes she did", Mayumi says. "It's something the people of New Guinea have feared for many generations."

"Hey, am I missing something here?", Bullock wondered, clearly in the dark of all going on around him. "How did giant lizards & birds suddenly show their ugly heads in our town?"

"Any explanations will have to wait for now, Sergeant", Gordon says. "Right now, our main priority is putting them down."

"Right now, Batman is taking care of the Gyaos in the sky", Mayumi said. "While your three friends, Robin, can deal with Barugon."

Gordon nodded.

"We'll step in when they're done. It's not worth getting any cop killed if there's no reason to have them tackle these things unnecessarily."

Good strategy, Gordon, Nightwing said to himself, seeing as to how his mentor & him are such good friends for over a decade.

Staying on the roof of Police headquarters, the group watch the two battles from the air & on the ground take place, praying for success from their friends.

Seconds after Supergirl swooped in & rescued Robin, Batgirl & Nightwing, Wonder Girl & Miss Martian struck Barugon in his long snout & his middle. The blows sent the creature in a daze for several seconds before Cassie roped the thing's nose horn with her lasso (one similar to Wonder Woman's own, presented to Cassie by Ares, the God of War). Upon contact with it, a surge of powerful mystical energy stings Barugon, causing him to cry out in anguish & thrashes about wildly like a wild buck at a rodeo. Wonder Girl gripped her lasso as tight as she can while Miss Martian grabs the end of Barugon's tail, keeping him still until the creature passes out from the lasso's intense power.

But Barugon was more resilient than his frail appearance shows, & he swings his tail up & forces Miss Martian to release her grip. At that time, Wonder Girl's lasso comes loose from his nose horn & sends her staggering back several yards in the air. Getting them off-balance, the lizard creature rears back slightly to launch himself at Cassie & swallow her whole.

Just as he gets one foot off the ground, Barugon is struck by a red-&-blue blur in the side, plunging into the remains of the museum & causing a slight shockwave in the immediate area, making the monster shriek.

It was Supergirl.

"Hey there, room for one more?", she asks as Cassie & M'gann regroup with her.

"There will always be room for you, Kara Zor-El", M'gann says gleefully, making the teen Kryptonian smile along with the Amazon.

"Thank you, M'gann", she says before getting serious again. "Now let's knock this thing down before it can try anything else & keep it down!"

"Yes!", Wonder Girl & Miss Martian said simultaneously.

As one, the three super-teens rush forward at Barugon, aiming for his head. Barugon was anything but helpless, though: like a bolt of lightning, Barugon lashed out at the girls with his clubbed tongue, forcing Cassie & M'gann to split to the side.

Supergirl wasn't so lucky: she took the full brunt of the attacking tongue in the chest, sending her sprawling backwards a full city block. Regaining her composure, the Maid of Might rushed back towards the beast but barugon had another unpleasant surprise for her. From the clubbed end of his tongue, a white spray of freezing mist shoots forth & hits Supergirl dead-on & covers the immediate area with a blanket of freezing snow. Barugon continues his freeze attack on Supergirl until she becomes a frozen statue in mid-air of snow & ice, causing her to go into free-fall.

"Kara!", Wonder Girl & Miss Martian shouted, seeing their friend being turned into a living popsicle. Acting fast, Cassie wraps her lasso around Barugon's tongue & swiftly lifts it up towards the sky as his mist makes like December & snow falls like a premature storm. The shock Barugon received earlier hits him again, & he retracts his appendage back into his mouth, getting free of the lasso once again.

If it were anyone else who was flash-frozen like Kara Zor-El is, they'd shatter upon impact like glass. But due to her Kryptonian genes, it wouldn't be so even if she had hit the ground. She breaks out of her cold straightjacket with little effort & shatters the ice & snow everywhere. She gets in closer, trying a different tactic.

"Give me a cold shoulder, will you? Well, let's see how you like this!", Supergirl said, her eyes glowing red with heat. M'gann catches on & lights up her own eyes with the same crimson energy. Both girls release their heat beams at Barugon--Supergirl at the beast's head, Miss Martian at his body. The twin beams scorch Barugon's left side of his neck from Kara as M'gann leaves scorched marks on the monster's back. This pain makes Barugon screech, not enjoying the experience & lashes out with yet another attack at the bothersome girls. His dorsal spikes light up & out stretches a pure rainbow of energy.

What the hell…?, thought all three girls, seeing this new development from the creature. A second later & M'gann gets hit by this method in the arm, scorching her in intense heat & causes her to cry out. Like J'onn J'onzz, the Martian man hunter himself, she possesses the vulnerability to fire, & this rainbow ray of sorts is like stepping into a furnace. The rainbow continues its trek across the Gotham City night sky & reaches as far as the Fashion District. Seeing where this new weapon of barugon's will land, Supergirl rushes over to the area & rescues as many people as she can before the ray touches down, using her super-speed. When the beam strikes, all it destroys are buildings which are now empty due to Kara's heroics.

Barugon's deadly rainbow comes awfully close to the Batplane, nearly cutting one of its wings off.

"Jeez! Where did that come from?", Huntress snapped in surprise.

Batman didn't answer her, as he was too busy keeping the plane steady after narrowly avoiding the rainbow that shot out of nowhere. The two pursuing Gyaos also avoid it themselves, swerving around it & kept on the Batplane's tail. The Gyaos tried firing their yellow beams at the craft in front of them, but Batman saw in his rear-view screen what they were about to do & was prepared.

"Brace yourself!", the Dark Knight said to Huntress as he pulled on the control stick of the plane & made a sharp climb, just as the Gyaos fired their yellow death rays. Both of the beams were shot harmlessly skyward, being kept away by Batman from causing any property damage or loss of life to Gotham than there already was.

Now he needs to avoid the deadly beams himself.

Turning abruptly in the air, the Batplane dives down past the Gyaos & swoops up again, firing its machine guns at the creatures without needing to worry about accidentally hitting any civilian in the city. But Batman was no more successful at hitting the Gyaos than they were at hitting him. The flying terrors break away in opposite directions, staying clear of the strafe of gunfire coming at them. The Batplane comes around for another passing strafe, but by now the Gyaos were wise to his plan & act first: one of them fires its yellow beam at the plane, & this time the projectile hits its mark. Like a scalpel on skin, the beam cuts the Batplane's left wing & causing sparks.

"What just happened?", Huntress demanded, feeling the impact.

"Damn thing just clipped off the left wing!", Batman yelled back.

"What?"

"Just hold tight! I'll try to make it to the water!"

It was more difficult than Batman realized. With the wing sliced off, it became next to impossible to maneuver the craft even for the best pilot that lived. It was like trying to drive a car through a muggy swamp. In the cockpit, Batman & Huntress can see Gotham City spinning round & round as Gotham Harbor quickly comes nearer & nearer than they liked. Should they hit the drink at this speed & condition, it's more than likely they'll be killed either in an explosion or drown once they splash into the water, & with three of the most powerful teenage girls currently occupied in duking it out with Barugon, it seems to be the final resting place for two of Gotham's costumed crime fighters.

And atop Police headquarters, all Jim Gordon & company can do is watch as the inevitable occurs.

The comma-shaped bead on Asagi's necklace glows its brightest.

"Gamera", she whispers.

Becoming scared more than she can handle, Huntress begins seeing images of her life flash before her as the plane comes closer to its doom. In the last several seconds of his life, Batman watchse the water of Gotham Harbor suddenly erupt right in front of him.

Then his plane came to an abrupt halt, shaking him & Huntress inside. Were it not for their seat belts, they would be jarred so violently they would've received many broken bones. Shaking off the nausea, Batman & Huntress look out the window of their wrecked craft--and their hearts race as they find themselves in the hand of yet another huge creature.

Mostly no one from Police Headquarters' roof--including the newly arrived Blue Beetle, Kid Devil & Ravager--could believe what they were now witnessing before their eyes. Even the Dark Knight himself open his eyes agape as he sees what lay before him & Huntress. The thing emerged from Gotham Harbor with the damaged Batplane in its hand. It stood an impressive 80 meters tall on two legs, with green flesh that was a lighter shade of it in its midsection. On its back was something that resembled the shell of an armadillo, or more precisely, a turtle. Its head looked like a combo of the gecko lizard from the 'Geico' TV commercials & the Muppets' Kermit the Frog, only it had reptilian eyes & a mouth full of sharp teeth. On each side of its lower jaw was a pointed tusk that, when closed, reached the level of its eyes. The thing was more or less a giant turtle with a pair of arms.

Still holding the Batplane in its hand, the giant turtle opened its mouth & roared a sound that was somewhat like an elephant before it shot out a ball of fire at the two approaching Gyaos, one following the other. The one in front dives to the right to avoid the fireball, but the one behind it wasn't so lucky: the fireball blew that Gyaos apart upon contact, shattering its remains into many flaming pieces.

Damn! And I thought my fire was pretty nasty!, Kid Devil said to himself, seeing as to how inferior his flames are compared to this turtle-creature's.

What will that thing do to both Bruce & Helena?, Nightwing said to himself, worried about how the new arrival will treat two of their Bat-Family, with them in its mercy.

Nightwing needn't have worried: the giant turtle--whom Asagi & Mayumi call Gamera--gently places the Batplane down on the rooftop of a nearby building, the legs of Gamera become self-propelling rockets & takes off into the air in pursuit of the Gyaos that avoided being blown to pieces by the giant turtle. The last remaining Gyaos turns tail & flies off away from Gotham, heading north. Gamera fires twin plasma fireballs at the retreating creature, with neither of them hitting their mark & thankfully no structures in the city, as they hit & explode way past the city limits & onto unoccupied land. Gamera passed over Robinson Park when he was struck from out of nowhere by a large object in mid-air, causing it & him to plummet & crash into the ground with an earth-shattering thud. It was Barugon, & he saw Gamera as a fine meal to dine on & chomped down on his left arm as green blood was drawn & the big turtle cried out in pain.

Gamera wasn't the only one to cry out & bleed.

Asagi gave out her own yell of pain, & her left arm suddenly developed small holes which bled. Clutching her arm, Asagi sank to her knees.

"Asagi!", Mayumi & Gordon called out in concern, going over to her side & catching the rest's attention.

"Hey, are you okay?", Blue Beetle asked.

Barugon tried again to take a bite out of Gamera, but this time the big turtle avoided the giant jaws just as they snapped shut on his bruised arm. With his good arm, Gamera took the back of barugon's head & slammed it on down into the ground as hard as he could with great impact. The giant frost-blowing lizard tried to wriggle his way free, but Gamera held him firmly. He was about to spit out another plasma fireball & blow off his foe's head like a melon, but got smacked in the head by a long tail that blinded him temporarily, enabling Barugon to get loose & attack again. This time he lunges forward at Gamera in an attempt to pierce the giant turtle with his nose horn. Even blinded, Gamera sensed the danger & moves to one side, making Barugon overshoot his mark & crash at the park's reservoir, his front feet landing in the water. Barugon immediately cried out & pulled himself out, just as Gamera races toward him to finish him. But his enemy would not give in easily: he lashes out at Gamera with his tail, striking the turtle over & over across the face. After more than a half-dozen blows, Gamera grabs his foe's tail & holds it firm, putting pressure on as he squeezes it. Now he was ready to hit it with a fireball & spits one out at Barugon. But the giant lizard dodged it on his left & turned to face Gamera even as he held his tail, shooting forth his tongue & striking the turtle in the chest. Putting some distance between himself & his adversary, Barugon shot out his tongue once more & spat his freezing mist at the giant turtle. Gamera felt himself going stiff in his limbs as the cold vapor started to cover him with pieces of ice. Thinking quickly, Gamera launched a plasma fireball at Barugon, hitting the lizard square in the face & forcing him to withdraw his tongue as it & his face were burned by the intense heat. It helped to thaw Gamera out, & he pressed his attack by launching another fireball at Barugon, this time hitting him hard in the side, the pain making him screech in anguish as he thrashes around in an attempt to cool himself. The hit burned a good portion of his side as a purplish fluid leaked out of a terribly scarred wound. His purple blood spilling onto the lawn of Robinson Park made Barugon weaker & weaker by the second, & the intense pain from Gamera's plasma attack made Barugon pass out & crash to the ground, his legs giving out from under him.

His eyes closing shut & remaining immoblie, Barugon seemed a threat no more.

Seemingly satisfied, Gamera roars in triumph & shoots off for the sky again, his limbs now tucked inside his shell & fire shoots out from where his arms & legs were as he begins spinning like a flying saucer, taking off as he heads north back in pursuit of the escaped Gyaos which by now has a good headstart due to Barugon's delay.

In no time at all, Gamera was gone from sight of Gotham City, traveling almost as fast as any of the Flashes or Kryptonians.

Thankfully, there were no civilian casualties during the battle between Gamera & Barugon, & property damage was kept at a severe minimum, sans a few buildings suffering frostbite.

"Can anyone care to tell me what that was all about?", Kid Devil asked.

"Yeah, I mean, giant flesh-eating birds, big lizards that can freeze things with its tongue, & a giant fire-spitting turtle that can fly is a bit much to take in!", Blue Beetle said.

"For the answer to that question, Blue Beetle, I suggest you turn to Mayumi & Asagi", said Batman as he & Huntress were being carried over inside of a green bubble by one of the three newcomers to the group--Green Lantern, Wonder Woman & Superman. They, along with Miss martian, Supergirl & Wonder Girl, touch down on the roof of Police Headquarters with the rest as Green Lantern withdraws his bubble to let Batman & Huntress out.

"It looks as if we're a little late to crash this party", Green Lantern says.

"It couldn't have been helped, Lantern", Superman said, addressing the group. "The three of us were engaged in fending off an earthquake that was caused by Irazu in Costa Rica. Thousands would've died were the three of us not there."

"But we did receive a call from Black Canary on Monitor Duty at the Watchtower about Gotham's crisis", Wonder Woman said. "How relieved I am knowing that you people were here in helping to deal with it."

"Not to mention Gamera", Asagi said as all eyes turn to her & Mayumi. "This disturbance may have been dealt with here, but with that one Gyaos on the loose, it may become an even worse situation than what you went through just now."

Superman walks up to the two Japanese women.

"I take it you came here to get in touch with Batman about this to help prevent it from happening, am I right?", he asked.

"Yes. And because we know that he's a member of the Justice League, he can get in touch with you & everyone else in the league, Superman", Mayumi said. "In the past, Gamera has put an end to the Gyaos threat, but now that they've returned & brought to your shores, we had to get a hold of you people to inform you of this dire threat Tokyo itself once faced."

"Then Mayumi, let's bring you & Asagi to the Watchtower so that you may give us this information & to whoever else is currently present & active", Wonder Woman says.

"Thank you, Wonder Woman. This is something you all need to know about, & the more of you who knows about it, the better."

"That's gonna include us, right?", Kid Devil asks. "I mean, we gotta know more about all of this too!"

"Don't blow a gasket, Devil. Of course they're gonna tell us!", Ravager said. "We ain't wearing diapers, & we sure as hell ain't takin' a back seat!"

"Maybe you kids should, Ravager", Green Lantern said firmly. "We're not dealing with someone like Brother Blood or the Injustice Gang here!"

Ravager walked up defiantly to Green Lantern & got right in his face.

Green Lantern got in hers, showing no sign of cowardice any more than her.

"First off, greeny, don't call us kids!", Ravager said with clenched teeth. "Secondly, the original Teen Titans went up against & triumphed over Trigon, for Christ's sakes! And he was the same size as those monsters were, if not larger! And you have the mitigated gall to tell us we should step down from this? Like Mayumi just said, you'll need all the help you can get--and that means we're going to this Watchtower with you people even if we have to literally get on your backs about it! Comprende?"

"And if we should refuse, little miss?", Green Lantern said defiantly.

That's when Superman stepped between them.

"Let's not fight amonst ourselves", he said. "Lantern, Ravager's correct."

"Are you sure about this, Superman?", the Emerald Crusader asks. "Half of these kids are either too inexperienced and/or too stubborn."

That last statement was meant for Ravager, as Hal looked straight at her.

"Hey!", Kid Devil & Blue Beetle said in defiance.

Superman held up a hand to gently silence them as he continued.

"I wouldn't exactly say that. During their short time with the Teen Titans, Devil, Beetle, Miss Martian and Ravager have proven themselves rather worthy to their team. Furthermore, we have no time to argue the matter. We're letting them in on this, end of discussion."

Hal Jordan wanted to say more, but when Superman puts his foot down, there's nothing more to say. Plus, he knew he had a point: the monsters faced here could be a prelude to worse things yet to come, & they can't spend the time playing mother hen to teen heroes.

Still, Hal has to have his say.

"All right, Superman. They come with us. Just don't make us regret it."

"When has he ever?", Batman said, turning to one of his proteges. "Nightwing, I'd like for you, Batgirl & Huntress to remain here in Gotham & keep an eye on Barugon. Keep a channel open at all times so that you can hear what we do at the Watchtower, & inform us the moment you should happen to see him get up. Just because he's lying on the ground with a nasty wound, we can't assume he's really dead."

"Got it", Nightwing said, getting nods from Batgirl & Huntress.

"Batman to Watchtower. Prepare fourteen for teleportation up."

"Watchtower to Batman", a voice in his earpiece says. "Black Canary here. Teleportation commencing in three seconds."

True to Canary's words, the twelve heroes & two Japanese women are all enveloped in a bright light for a second or two before it disappears, taking them with it & leaving Nightwing, Batgirl, Huntress, Jim Gordon & Harvey Bullock alone on the roof of Police Headquarters.

That never ceases to amaze me, Nightwing says to himself with a smile.

"Hey Commish, wanna fill me in on all the hubbub, or are ya gonna be as mysterious as Bat-breath?", Bullock asks.

"Bullock, let's head inside.", Gordon says, placing an arm around the Sergeant's shoulders & making their way in. "I've got quite a lot to tell you about."

Now it was the three costumes left on the roof.

"Let's get going ourselves", Nightwing said to Batgirl & Huntress.

"Lead the way", said Huntress as Batgirl simply nods.

Firng grappling lines, the three heroes swing off into the Gotham night, heading for Robinson Park.

CHAPTER V

Washington D.C., the White House, 8:50 p.m.:

As usual, the home to the President of the United States was teeming with life & busy as bees as they rush back & forth to perform their daily chores from sending important papers left & right to getting the President's newspaper & coffee in the morning. But today, the inside of the building that housed people from John Adams & Abraham Lincoln to the likes of Alexander 'Lex' Luthor & so on is even busier than usual, as today marks the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks in Manhattan & the nation's capital. In the morning hours, the President went to memorial services in both places (meeting Superman, Wonder Woman & Green Lantern at the sight of Ground Zero in Manhattan), & sending his condolences to the families of the United 93 flight that crashed in Shanksville, PA via telegram sent the day before by his associates.

As he now sits in his oval office, the President listens to two of his informers about the current disaster in Gotham City that occurred under a half hour ago.

"Let me see if I have this straight, gentlemen", the President started saying. "At about 8:10 this very evening, a group of ravenous, carnivorous birds & a giant lizard creature measuring 100 meters from head to tail suddenly appeared in Gotham City right under their noses & began going on a rampage, therefore killing a number of citizens & destroying a good portion of its property before those in both the Justice League & the Teen Titans intervened."

"As well as the giant green turtle that showed up not too long after, Mr. President", said one of his informers, a man named Paul who stood next to his partner Patrick. Both men were six feet in height & were attired in jet black suits & shades that covered their eyes. White earpieces enabled them to keep in touch with other men of security within the building.

"Our informants say that the birds that attacked the city are creatures called Gyaos, sir", said Patrick. "They're to be the same beasts that once invaded Japan, most notably in Tokyo. The large turtle it did battle with at that time is said to be called Gamera, Mr. President, & according to legend, Gamera had been created by an ancient civilization to destroy the Gyaos, which were made first but turned on their creators."

"Gamera succeeded in destroying all the Gyaos back then, sir, but couldn't save the people who created them both", Paul went on. "Therefore, they lay dormant for a time until 1995 when they reawakened in Japan & began their battle anew. The Gyaos that attacked Tokyo was beaten & its eggs destroyed, but the discoverer of the Gyaos, an ornithologist by the name of Mayumi Nagamine, was worried that Gyaos eggs could still be found anywhere on Earth & awaken."

"And what of this giant lizard, gentlemen?", asked the President. "Do we have any kind of information on it whatsoever?"

The two men looked at each other before Patrick spoke.

"Not at this time I'm afraid, Mr. President. We already knew of the Gyaos, & that was why we were able to gather the info on it quite quickly. As for the lizard creature, our top men will need more time to look it up to know what we're dealing with. All we do know of it is that it has the capability to produce a freezing mist from its tongue & a beautiful but deadly rainbow from its dorsal spikes, both of which were displayed upon the city unfortunately."

Then Paul spoke.

"The lizard creature fought Gamera in Robinson Park & was fatally wounded. It lays there bleeding as we speak, but no one can tell if it's really dead or not, sir."

The President nodded & leaned back in his chair, letting out a heartfelt sigh.

"And all of this just had to happen today of all days", he says, shaking his head slowly. "I can't decide whether it's a coincidence or not, but I wouldn't place any money on that."

"What are your orders, Mr. President?", asked Patrick as both men waited patiently for an answer. The President thought for half a minute in pondering the situation before giving it.

"Gentlemen, have the National Guard entered Gotham yet?"

"They should be there between fifteen to twenty minutes, sir", said Paul.

"Good. Tell the one in charge that they are to fire upon this creature the moment that they can, whether it's alive or dead. Gotham City has suffered enough during No Man's Land, among other things. I won't allow them to suffer from this thing any longer than they already have today, especially on this day!"

"Yes sir!", both men said in unison & rushed out of the oval office, leaving the President by himself. He wondered who could be responsible for such a disaster to occur on this day & have lightning strike twice. Saddam Hussein's people in retaliation for executing their leader & President not too long ago? Or has Osama Bin Laden decided to give America another sense of deadly deja-vu, having done so once without warning? Perhaps it was both, choosing to join forces & deliver this incredible blow. It was possible, considering neither culture are big fans of the United States in any way. But then it occurred to him: how could they know of the Gyaos, & if they did, how in the world were they able to get them inside the country right under everyone's noses as they had?

It didn't make any sense to him.

He made a fist & struck his open palm, shaking his head in frustration as he had no proof of the ringleader behind this holocaust.

He only wished he had that proof.

The Pentagon:

The staff of the second building to suffer heavy damage back in 2001 during the terrorist attacks was bustling with life as it basically is, but more so on this day. And it wasn't because of the attack's anniversary either: it was because history was now repeating itself upon this day on American soil, only this time it was on a worse scale than having suicidal Al-Qaeda terrorists ramming hijacked planes into famous American landmarks, killing hundreds.

In this situation, it was giant monsters running rampant in Gotham City in place of Osama Bin Laden's people.

But whether it be human terrorists or overgrown creatures, the fact remains that the United States of America is under brutal attack again on the very same day that changed everything for it since the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, putting the nation involved in World War II.

And with this latest hit on the U.S., it could become yet another World War, unless something was done about it.

One of the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff approaches a young soldier with a sheaf of papers in a folder tucked under his arm. Upon approach, the young man saluted his superior--a battle-hardened Colonel--as the gesture was returned.

"At ease, soldier", the Colonel said. "What's the situation?"

"Colonel, the President has just given the word for the National Guard to fire upon the big lizard immediately on sight in Gotham City", the young man said.

"Can they tell if it's dead already, son? From what I understand, that big turtle in which they call Gamera mortally wounded the thing."

"It doesn't matter to the President, sir. He said he wasn't taking any chances with it, & has given the order to be certain it's no longer a threat."

The Colonel stayed silent for a moment, hearing the young soldier's words. It wasn't long ago that Gotham was struck by a massive earthquake, causing untold destruction. Congress had declared Gotham City a certified No Man's Land, & had it ordered separated from the mainland with no hope of retribution or revitalization. Even Gotham's favorite son Bruce Wayne had failed to convince Congress to give the city a second chance at brand new life, despite his passionate speech. And then Lex Luthor stepped in, succeeding where Bruce Wayne had failed: defying Congress itself, he set up construction sites throughout the major metropolitan suburb & started rebuilding the city from the ground up. This act of supposed heroism helped Luthor to achieve high public opinion from the people in a bid for the ultimate prize--U. S. Presidency.

Until Superman took that away from him, during the time when Luthor had accused the Man of Steel of crimes against humanity as a giant meteor of pure kryptonite--the one substance which can hurt, even kill Superman--headed towards Earth. Dressed in a green battle suit, Luthor fought Superman over the skies of Metropolis where Lex's deception was made public. He fell from office, & the meteor was destroyed, thanks in due part of a giant Superman/Batman robot created by a thirteen-year-old genius by the name of Hiro Okamura, piloted by the hero known as Captain Atom who once served under Luthor's wing in the White House.

Deep down, the Colonel felt for the people of Gotham City: while it's a crime-riddled pit to most folks, it's still a part of America, & the Colonel has sworn under the U. S. Democracy to defend all of his mother country no matter what the threat may be.

"I can't say I blame him for it, son", he said at last. "If this thing is still alive, it'll be more dangerous than before, since it became wounded. Send out a squadron of F-16s to go lend them a hand. I'm sure they could use it."

"Right away, Colonel", said the man as he saluted his superior & headed off. Making his way down the hall, he runs into six men which were seemingly going his way.

"Look out fellas. Comin' through", he says, making his way through the group.

"Where are you off to, uh…", one of the six men asked. "I'm sorry--some of us are terrible with names."

The young man turned with a smile.

"Don't sweat it, it happens. I'm Private Smith. As to the answer to your question, I'm off to scramble some of our F-16s to help assist the National Guard in putting that giant lizard in Gotham City down for good. Want to come along?"

The six men looked at each other as one of them smiled back at Smith.

"We'd be delighted to, Smith. Take the lead", he said.

Nodding, Smith went straight to the communications room with the half-a-dozen soldiers following right behind him. Private Smith made some small talk with the men as he reached his destination & opened the door, still chatting. He stopped in mid-sentence when he saw what was in the room: the others inside were all lying on the floor in puddles of their own blood, their deaths caused by being shot--some in the chest, others in the head.

But that wasn't what disturbed Smith the most as he walked in: standing only twelve feet away was a twelve-foot-tall cylinder with a sort of energy barrier surrounding it. Inside this thing stood a silver-skinned creature that measured just over the height of a man. It had yellow eyes, a beak like a parakeet's, six tentacles, & three pedal-like appendages on its head that resembled a partially-opened banana. It was a humanoid squid of some kind, & it screeched when Smith had locked eyes with it.

The door to the room closed behind him, & Smith turned to the six men.

"What's going on here? Who the hell are you people?", he demanded, reaching for his gun. One of the men pulled out his own piece & shot Smith in the stomach before he could get his weapon free from its holster. The young Private made a grunting sound before falling to the floor, his solar plexus bleeding badly as he did his best to put pressure on the wound.

The six men approached the fallen soldier & stood over him.

"We are this planet's saviors", one of them said. "For too long, we have watched as you humans torture & destroy one another for your own personal gain. Now is the time to give this world a brand new order--one that will make things right & evenly balanced."

Smith tried to say something, but by then his throat & mouth began to fill with blood as he watched the backstabbers approach the cylinder where the squid-like creature resides in. One of them grabs a diamond-shaped device & holds it in front of him, enabling him to communicate with it.

My minions, the thing began saying telepathically, for two decades of this planet's time, we have lived among the humans & studied their behavior & culture. I have just received word from our comrade that the pieces are now in place, & the time to strike is now! Let the humans beware & fear our power! All we need to do first before accomplishing our goal is to eliminate the so-called 'heroes' of this planet, & also that of the creature they call 'Gamera'!

"We are ready, Master", said the one holding the device as he places it down on the floor & presses a button from on top of the cylinder. In an instant, the front of the thing dissipates & opens up, allowing the creature within to step, or rather slither, its way out. The six humanoids all stand in a parallel line, side-by-side. From his place, Smith watches in horror as the creature their servants call Viras raises a tentacle & makes a swing at his followers from left to right in one swift gesture, severing their heads as if cut by an invisible blade. The heads fall to the ground like inflated beach balls, leaving decapitated corpses in their wake. But not one of the headless bodies collapses to the floor, as one might think: to replace the heads they lost, the six bodies instead grew a trio of silver pedals, identical to the ones on the main creature's head. In fact, as they shed their clothing from their bodies, they each resemble the thing in all its aspects from top to bottom. No longer human, the six identical Virases begin to merge, one by one, towards the original creature.

And Viras began growing larger & larger with each merger as Smith kept his eyes on the bizarre sight for the remainder of his life.

The Pacific Ocean:

Between the Marshall & Hawaiian Islands deep down to the bottom of the ocean, the well-renown Russian submarine, the Mikhail-Boris (named after two of the country's most popular former Presidents, Mikhail Gorbachev & Boris Yeltsin) travels the ocean floor to investigate an underwater explosion that was reported earlier by a Japanese fishing vessel passing by on its scheduled run. Being able to withstand the intense pressures of the deep, the Mikhail-Boris was dispatched & on its way.

Inside the sub, the crew was hard at work as they got near to the spot where the explosion occurred. The Captain of the sub stood by, observing everything within with a most keen eye, not letting even the slightest detail escape his eagle-like vision. Dressed in a dark gray uniform, he was an impressive six-foot-five in his late thirties with a mug that could shame Al Capone's. His hair was short & flattened on top, & like the American gangster, had a scar on his left cheek he received in a bar fight with a jealous patron as he attempted to dance with his date. The jealous fool used a straight razor to give him the scar, but got a hard knuckle sandwich for his trouble, & was literally carried out of the bar by security.

While painful, it was a good memory for the sub's Captain, & he smiled at it.

His smile disappeared when one crew member called for him, & he was all business again.

"Captain, we have approached the spot where the explosion was reported to be at & have searched the immediate area thoroughly", said a man at the console.

"Have you found anything that might've caused it?", the Captain asked.

"All we've found are pieces of scrapped metal laying across the floor. As to what caused it to detonate, we cannot speculate."

"Have you analyzed the metal?"

"Yes we have, Captain, but…"

"But what?"

"It's not like any metal known to man, according to the scanners", said another man.

"It's not a downed satellite?"

"No. According to our computers, this metal we've found is not equivalent to anything known here on Earth. If I were to give a pretense here & now, I'd say that these are the remains of an alien craft which touched down & exploded recently."

That made the Captain ponder the situation, getting more questions than answers. How is it that an alien ship (if that's really what they've found) can come to Earth & not be detected by any of their satellites, be it Russian or otherwise? How long has it been down here on the ocean floor? And what are the intentions of the craft's occupants? Are they benevolent or malevolent?

It was becoming a mystery of sorts, & the Captain hated mysteries.

"Captain! We have an unknown object coming at us on a collision course!", one man said, bringing the Captain out of his stance.

"How far away is it?", the Captain demanded.

"1200 meters & closing in on us!"

"Did you get an estimate on its size?"

"I did! According to the radar scanners, it measures to about 80 meters in length!"

"Eighty meters? That's absurd! Even the blue whale doesn't begin to get that big! Are you sure you're reading the instruments correctly?"

"Yes Captain! I've double-checked them to be sure! The thing is now 1000 meters away & still closing in! At the speed & direction it's heading, we can assume it's very hostile!"

"Have you tried getting in contact with it yet?"

"We did that, Captain! Three times!", said a man with headphones on. "There has been no response from it whatsoever!"

Any doubts about its nature went away with the information his men have just presented at him, & the Captain gets his crew in attack formation.

"Get the torpedos ready to fire!", he instructs the sub's crew from the speakers. "If this thing should get within 600 meters of us & beyond, launch two at it!"

"Captain, I have something you should hear!", said one man.

"Put it on speaker for us to hear!", he ordered.

The man nodded & did his job. A push of a button, & sounds from the ocean can be heard by all. For a couple moments, nothing unusual can be detected by the ears of the crew. Then it hits them--a screech like a hissing snake echoes throughout the Mikhail-Boris. It sounds three more times inside the sub, giving the crew shivers up their spines. It was definitely animalistic in nature, but it was unlike any deep-sea animal they're aware of, making their suspicions of it being alien in origin all the more solid.

What kind of sea animal makes a sound like that?, the Captain nervously thought.

From 700 meters ahead, the thing continued on its trek towards the Mikhail-Boris, picking up speed as it did.

The Justice league Watchtower, 9:00 p.m.:

Batman & everyone else who were beamed up from Gotham City were met with others who have been on standby: Red Tornado, Red Arrow, Green Arrow, The Flash, Black Lightning, Green Lantern John Stewart, Vixen, Black Canary, & Hawkgirl. Superman had made formal greetings quickly to Mayumi & Asagi, & gathered around the meeting room as the two ladies from Japan went right down to business about the current crisis they now face which might rise & escalate to nastier things if not dealt with immediately. Mayumi began by explaining the origins of both Gyaos & Gamera like she had done with Gotham City Police Commissioner Jim Gordon, only she did so in less time but as thoroughly as possible. Asagi did the same, with her telling both the Justice League & Teen Titans of their reappearance in Japan back in 1995, about how Mayumi was asked (or forced to, according to her) to capture the Gyaos in preservation of a rare species of bird which soon spiraled out of control by the sudden appearance of Gamera, who was created long ago to destroy them. When Gyaos went too much beyond their control to try to capture it, the Government of Japan chose instead to attack it. Conventional weaponry were all but useless against Gyaos, but then Gamera came along & after a terrible fight with his ancient foe, he destroyed it with a plasma fireball & Gyaos was no more.

But it didn't mean that Gyaos would never appear in the world again, & this day was more than substantial proof of it. They also included the legend of Barugon from the Rainbow Valley of New Guinea, & how the Penguin had sent men to bring them back for display--and profit.

The two teams of heroes & heroines listened & soaked up every word.

"I must say, little ladies, it's quite the story", said Green Arrow. "But after what the Bat-Family & his friends went through in Gotham half an hour ago, you can't deny their existence."

"But let's see if we got this straight", said Black Lightning. "Long ago, an ancient race of people, who could be related to those from Atlantis, were masters of bio-engineering & created the Gyaos, which turned on them. Thus, they created Gamera to wipe them out."

"It proved to be a double-edged sword", Black Canary adds. "Although Gamera succeeded in destroying all the Gyaos at that time, he was too late to save the people who created them both. Thus, he went into a deep hibernation & remained that way until the Gyaos once again awoke into the world."

"So it's kind of like the tale of Dr. Victor Frankenstein's monster from Mary Shelley's classic story, only on a much larger scale, is that it?", asked Red Arrow.

Mayumi nods.

"That is one way to put it, Red Arrow", she says. "As to why the Gyaos had reawakened back in '95, we can only speculate that changes in the Earth's environment may have been the cause, becoming the perfect habitat for these deadly creatures."

"You mean like the slow but sure deterioration of our ozone layer, for instance?", asked Flash.

"That, & the continuing, careless release of carbon monoxide & other harmful gases into our atmosphere", Red Tornado says. "Not that it's anyone's fault, but mankind should be more careful with such endeavors in the future."

"We can worry about environmental issues at a later date, Reddy", said Hawkgirl, her mace in hand. "Right now, putting an end to those Gyaos creatures are our top priority before they can reproduce & create an army too big for even us and Gamerato handle."

"Do you readily believe that Gamera is on our side, Hawkgirl?", Batman says as all eyes turn to him. "Somehow, I'm not entirely convinced of his intentions."

"How can you say that, Batman?", Wonder Girl asked. "Don't forget it was Gamera who saved you & Huntress from sleeping with the fishes back there."

"I'm just looking at it from every aspect like always, Wonder Girl", Batman said. "While it's true he was created to destroy their early mistake, did they program him to be mindful of his surroundings & avoid causing any unnecessary loss of life? That's what concerns me most. From what Asagi has told of us, that amulet she has around her neck allows her to communicate with Gamera, correct?"

"That's correct, Batman", Asagi says. "With this, Gamera & I can read each other's minds, enabling me to offer advice to him. Such was the case when he fought Gyaos in Tokyo that time. Why do you ask?"

"What if that amulet should ever fall into the wrong hands somehow? I can name dozens of people who would kill to get their hands on something like that & make Gamera do their bidding, & I doubt it would be benevolent."

Asagi was somewhat appalled by Batman's behavior: she & Mayumi came to Gotham City to help him rid the city of the Gyaos with his assistance, & now he's accusing Gamera of being a loose cannon as much as Gyaos is, despite the fact that the giant turtle saved his life tonight.

She will not tolerate such arrogance from this mystery man.

"Look here, Batman!", she says with steel in her voice. "You can judge Gamera all you want, I don't care! But he was there when Gyaos attacked Tokyo & triumphed! Let me ask you all this: where the hell were you people when that happened? Battling a clown who gets his kicks by making innocent people suffer for his own amusement? Or maybe butting heads with a bald ex-President wearing a green battle suit? Maybe it was a super-intelligent gorilla who just wants to make the movie 'Planet of the Apes' a reality, who knows? I may not know everything there is to know about Gamera, but I do know that I trust him! And if you're going to be even the slightest suspicious about him, then maybe Mayumi & I should try asking elsewhere for help against the Gyaos--folks who won't have their suspicions about a giant 80-meter-tall turtle! For God's sakes, we came to you & the League for help, & this is what you do?"

Everyone stayed silent for several moments, most shocked that someone as young as Asagi Kusanagi would dare to address the most feared 'cape' of all the Justice League. She has now become another in that list, next to Hal Jordan, Oliver Queen, Aquaman, Jim Gordon, & Amanda Waller (the leader of the current Suicide Squad), & a couple others.

Oooh, she disses the Batman of all people! I like you, Miss Kusanagi!, Ravager says to herself with a smirk from the corner of her mouth.

Things settled down when Black Canary came to her side to ease her.

"Forgive him, Miss Kusanagi. He's merely being cautious, nothing more. And just so you know, we'll do everything we can to help with stopping the Gyaos. You're right--none of us had been there when Gyaos attacked Tokyo. I do wish we could've to offer our assistance, but please understand that the other problems we deal with, from handling those aforementioned villains to threats from beyond the stars, are things that require our attention as well. To ignore it would be as big a crime as those who commit them. All right?"

Canary ended her statement with a warm smile that put Asagi at ease, even giving one of her own.

"Asagi, please know that you have our undivided attention in this matter", Superman says, & that made her & Mayumi more at ease: a quote from Superman is a guarantee, as many people have learned in the past, with none of them regretting it to this day.

Smiles from (mostly) everyone seals it.

"And we'll support Gamera in any & every way that we can to end this threat", said Miss Martian.

"Domo arigato, Justice League, Teen Titans", Asagi says proudly, bowing in respect as Mayumi does the same.

"But be that as it may, I just gotta say this!", Kid Devil says. "This threat from the Gyaos would never have happened if that fat bloak of a bird got his hands on those eggs & jewel-egg from New Guinea & brought them back to Gotham! All he cares about is getting whatever small change he can in his pocket, regeadless of who suffers for it!"

"You know, I have to go with Kid Devil on this one", Blue Beetle says. "And don't forget what today is, folks--a day that hit America hard since December 7, 1941. I mean, this just had to happen today of all days! There are still countless people who are hurt emotionally from those attacks by Al-Qaeda on this day in 2001! Someone ought to string the Penguin by his tail feathers for this, as his time for it is long overdue!"

Blue Beetle & Kid Devil glanced over at Batman to see if he was watching them as they spoke, which he was. An uneasiness quelled over them, fearing he might scold them for talking about a problem occurring in his city like they might do it themselves.

Batman doesn't scold them at all, let alone scowl in contempt.

"I understand your feelings in the matter, gentlemen", he says in a calm & even voice. "No one here can blame you for it, but you needn't worry. He'll be dealt with soon enough--after the Gyaos have been disposed of."

"But the boys have a point, Batman", John Stewart said. "Why would something like this happen today on the anniversary of the Al-Qaeda terrorist attacks in Manhattan & our nation's capital? I suspect that someone may have plotted this from the get-go in advance."

"Do you suppose the Joker may have plotted this like he did in his attempt to bring down the Wayne Building just five minutes after this day began?", Green Arrow asked. "After all, nothing floats his boat like death & mayhem of this magnitude."

"True, but I doubt it", Batman says. "The Joker hardly plans for something like this. He's more into random chaos than an orchestrated attack. No--there's more to this than what we've seen so far, & we need to shed some light into it." Batman rises from his chair.

Robin does the same.

"Heading back to Gotham?", he asks his mentor.

"It looks as if I'll be dealing with Oswald sooner than I figured", Batman says. "Robin & myself will be heading back. Canary…"

"We'll see if we can find that remaining Gyaos", she finished for him as the Dark Knight nods.

"Not all of you", Robin said. "I'd like for Kid Devil, Blue Beetle & Ravager to accompany us to Gotham. Don't forget--Barugon is still lying in Robinson Park, & if he's playing possum, we'll need some extra backup for Nightwing & Batgirl."

Robin looked at Batman in case he objects to his decision, but is more than willing to argue the matter if it comes to that.

But he doesn't.

"Let's go", was all that he says, & the five heroes head off to the teleporters for their ride back to Gotham. When they get within ten feet of them, Batman looks at his young protege.

"Robin, a moment of your time?", he says.

The Boy Wonder turns to the others.

"Folks, could you all excuse us for a minute?", he asks.

A nod from Blue Beetle was all they need to give the bat & the bird some privacy.

When they were alone, Batman started speaking.

"Are you sure it's a good idea?"

"Batman, we need the extra help on this. Even you can see that", Robin says.

"That's not really what I meant, Robin."

"Then what do you mean?"

"I mean, do you think it's wise to have Ravager as a member on your team? I'm sure that you're aware that she's the daughter of Slade Wilson, alias…"

"Deathstroke the Terminator. Yes, I get that. Your point?"

"From what I understand, she's quite unstable, having been injected by the same serum Slade was to enhance her abilities."

"All the more reason as to why she wants nothing to do with her father. Having been shot up with it once, she fought to escape his influence, & joining the Teen Titans is a perfect way to do it. Don't forget--it was Nightwing who further trained her & teach her the values of becoming a hero. I know you have your doubts, & maybe perhaps I can't blame you for it, as she is rather headstrong most of the time, but I have faith in Rose & I decided to keep her onboard the team."

"It's a risky decision, Robin."

"It's still mine to make, & I stand by it. Besides, I don't see how it's any different from you revealing your true identity to Catwoman without consulting Nightwing, Alfred or myself."

Batman didn't know what to say at first. During the 'Hush' incident, Batman had teamed up with Catwoman to fight against a kryptonite-controlled Superman by Poison Ivy, an agitated Killer Croc, & battled the Joker's girlfriend Harley Quinn at an opera house, eventually running into the Clown Prince of Crime himself. In these moments, Batman developed more than just a mutual respect for the one-time master thief--he actually fell in love with her. So much in fact, he took off his mask to reveal himself to be Bruce Wayne underneath the face that has scared many criminals throughout his career. The only thing is, relationships & romance are two things Bruce is no expert on, unlike everything else. And being mindful of Selina Kyle's checkered past as a master thief, he still has his suspicions about her, forcing them to part ways for the meantime.

"It was still my choice to make", was what Batman says next.

"And having Ravager as one of the Teen Titans is mine, like I said", Robin said defiantly.

Batman stares at his young protégé for a moment more before closing the matter.

"Don't make either of us regret it", he says.

"Duly noted, Batman. Now before we forget, we have a literal monster in Gotham that we need to deal with, & the others are waiting for us, so let's get going."

The two catch out of the corner of their sights Kid Devil, Blue Beetle & Ravager coming from behind a corner.

"Let's go", Batman says.

The heroes make their way to the teleporters again. Just before embarking off, Ravager speaks softly in Robin's ear.

"Everything okay between you two, Robin?", she asks.

"Yeah, Rose. Everything's just peachy", Robin says before stepping in with the rest.

In seconds, they were gone again.

The screen in the meeting room was trying to pinpoint the whereabouts of the Gyaos which fled Gotham earlier by tracking its path where it was last spotted prior to leaving the city. Black Canary was about to make a summary when Red Tornado stepped in.

"Excuse me, Dinah. I'm sorry to interrupt, but I'm getting two separate distress calls", the crimson robot says.

"What kind of distress calls, Reddy?", Vixen asks as everyone rises from their seats.

"The first is from a Russian submarine deep in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Reports say they are under attack by a large marine creature that attacked them five minutes ago. They have suffered heavy damage, & will be destroyed should the creature continue its assault."

"And the second one?", asked Red Arrow.

"Reports of two giant beasts that literally appeared out of nowhere are now attacking…"

Red Tornado listens to where the call is originating from, & his metallic eyes go wide.

"What's wrong, Reddy?", wondered Flash, noting the look on his face.

"These two monsters are attacking Washington D.C.!"

That bit of news hit everyone hard like a punch in the gut, stunning even Superman to the max. For a second, no one moved or even spoke. The horror of September 11th, 2001 has made a horrid comeback, & this time it's giant monsters instead of foreign terrorists. Blue Beetle was right when he said that people were still hurt in an emotional sense from the terror of this day in 2001, & now it strikes back with a vengeance. Even Mayumi & Asagi were stunned by the news of this latest development, hearing the horror of the attacks in America's capital & Manhattan from Japan. John Stewart could very well be right as well--this may be planned by someone that had thought about it for what could be weeks, months, or even years in advance.

But they can't waste time thinking of who that might be. Right now, they have two crises to deal with, & they get right on it as the temporary shock wears off as suddenly as it began.

"We need to split into two teams & fast!", said Vixen.

"Agreed, Vixen", said Hal Jordan. "You & I will tackle the creature that's attacking that Russian sub in the Pacific, while the rest of you get to Washington D.C. & stop those other two beasts before they level the place!"

"That'll do it, Lantern!", Superman said. "Let's move, everyone!"

Superman flies off to the teleporters with every hero in the room following close behind but Black Canary, Green Arrow & Red Arrow stayed behind temporarily.

"The coordinates set for the Pacific & Washington D.C.?", she asked Green Arrow.

The Emerald Archer ran right to the controls & started pressing buttons & switches, along with typing a few commands with the keyboard, taking only several moments to accomplish.

"All set, pretty bird!", he says. "Just hop in, & you're well on your way!"

"What about me?", Asagi asked. "If giant monsters are attacking your capital, then there's a chance that Gamera will be there too! Take me with you!"

"Are you crazy?", Red Arrow says. "It's a battlefield over there, Asagi! We can't fight those things & look after you & Mayumi!"

"But you don't understand…"

"No, little missy, it's you who doesn't understand", Green Arrow says. "This ain't no zoo we're going to! You're both staying put right here, even if we have to pin you both to the wall!"

"I concur with them, girls", Black Canary said. "It'll be too dangerous for you. These two will be keeping you company until we get back."

That felt like a stab in the ass for the two archers.

"Hold up, Canary!", Red Arrow says. "You expect us to sit this out & babysit these two here in the Watchtower? Who are we--Mother Goose & Little Bo Peep?"

Black Canary gestured the two archers closer out of earshot of Mayumi & Asagi.

"Roy, Ollie", Dinah whispers to them in a huddle. "Knowing these two, they'll try to find a way to get back to Earth on their own, thus wrecking a lot of important & dangerous equipment in the process. I need some trustworthy hands to make sure they don't try anything rash, & you both are the best candidates. All right?"

Both archers look at Dinah's face, which is full of truth & honestly (& a look of puppy eyes couldn't hurt either!).

It's a face they just cannot resist.

"All right, Dinah", Oliver says. "Since you put it that way, Roy & I will keep tabs on them here in the Watchtower. Who knows? We might give them a guided tour of the place."

"I can't see anything wrong with that", Dinah says. "I'll see you both later. Love you."

"Right back at you."

"Ditto", Roy said as Black Canary ran off to join the others. When they checked to see her safely teleported to Washington D.C., Oliver shut off the device, keeping him, Roy, Mayumi, & Asagi in the Watchtower high above the Earth. Feeling defeated, the two Japanese girls sink down in two empty chairs with a heavy sigh (& heart).

"Don't take it too hard, girls", Oliver said with passion. "Believe me when I say it's nothing personal against either of you."

"And we don't like making you do something you don't want to do against your free will", Roy added. "The team is just watching out for your well-being. We do that for everyone when we go out in battle, as our primary concern is the safety of the civilians. That's all."

"But like I said before, you just don't understand", Asagi says, showing the two archers her comma-shaped bead on her necklace. "With this, I can help guide Gamera when he goes into battle. I did so during his fight with Gyaos in Japan. I can do it here & now, & believe me, the Justice League & Teen Titans are going to need Gamera in this battle. That's why I need to get close to him."

"But there's a side effect to that, Asagi", said Green Arrow. "From what you told us, your link with Gamera is a double-edged sword--the pain & injuries he receives, you receive. You're lucky that when Barugon bit Gamera before, he didn't rip off his arm instead of making a nasty wound on it. Otherwise, you wouldn't be having most of your arm right now to place that bandage on."

"I think you're being too quick to judge Miss Kusanagi, Green Arrow", said a voice that took the two archers & Japanese girls by surprise. Oliver & Roy ready their bows & arrows in a heartbeat as Mayumi & Asagi huddle together, staying close to the heroes.

"I thought everyone had left the Watchtower", Mayumi said. "Who else could be up here?"

"And how could he know my name like that?", Asagi asks, being a little nervous. "Who is this person?"

"Someone you needn't fear in the slightest, Asagi", said the voice again.

"Then why don't you show yourself & prove it to us?", Red Arrow demanded.

"Very well."

From a shadow just ten feet before them, a figure emerges out in full view of the quartet. It was a man who stood six feet & two inches tall, wearing a stylish blue business suit with a white undershirt, & a pair of shoes to match. He had white gloves on his hands, & a yellow necklace hung from his neck with a medallion dangling at the end. A blue cape drapes over his shoulder, & his white hair is mostly concealed by a blue gangster-like hat. Even though he wears no mask, his eyes were shrouded in shadow. Green Arrow & Red Arrow lower their weapons, knowing their new arrival is no one to be concerned about.

While his origins are a complete mystery, Oliver & Roy know the name that he goes by.

"Phantom Stranger", Green Arrow says. "You do know how to make an entrance. You could probably give ol' Bats a run for his money."

"Good evening, archers", said the Phantom Stranger. "My apologies for arriving in your sanctuary unannounced like this."

"Manners aside, you mentioned something about Miss Kusanagi before, Stranger?", asked Red Arrow.

"Yes I have", Stranger says, turning to Asagi with a small smile. "Konbanwa, Miss Asagi Kusanagi, & to you as well, Miss Mayumi Nagamine."

Seeing the sincerity of this new arrival, Mayumi & Asagi feel at ease with him.

"Konbanwa", they say in unison, rising from their seats & approaching the Phantom Stranger without any hint of trepidation.

"Are you a magician of sorts, Mr. Phantom Stranger?", asked Asagi.

"In part", he says. "While I am a man of mysterious origin, you can both rest assured that I serve on the side of justice, & have aided many in the past such as Superman, for instance. Now I come here to…"

"You said we were too fast to judge Asagi, Stranger", said Red Arrow. "How did you mean by that?"

"I have watched Asagi during Gamera's fight with Gyaos in Tokyo, & have looked into her heart. The compassion she possesses within has made her the perfect candidate for the amulet she wears around her neck made of the ore called Orihalcon, a metal used in the city of Atlantis. Her heart is pure, & the amulet has sensed this emotion, making her its host & enabling her to share a telepathic link with Gamera."

"But Stranger, she also shares the same pain Gamera receives", Green Arrow says. "That kind of link may be too much for her to take. What if she dies should the pain be too severe?"

The Phantom Stranger turns to Oliver.

"When Superman fought Doomsday for the first time, he knew the fight could cost him his life, which it did for a time. But did he yield? No, he kept on battling the beast until its rampage was stopped. I don't see Asagi's acceptance for receiving Gamera's pain as being any different. And what of the time when you gave your life to stop a terrorist from bombing Metropolis before your friends resurrected you, body & soul? Wouldn't you have done it all over again to protect the innocent from men like him?"

Oliver let out a heavy sigh. He saw the Phantom Stranger's point: he did know he would probably lose his life when he attempted to stop Metropolis' bombing, but Oliver Queen still went ahead & foiled his plot.

And he would do it again if actions warranted it.

"All right, Stranger. Let's see what Asagi's got for us", he finally says.

That made the two Japanese ladies & even the Phantom Stranger smile, flashing their teeth.

"Just one thing", Red Arrow wondered. "We don't exactly know where Gamera is at the moment. How can Asagi make contact with him?"

"That is where I come in, Red Arrow", said Phantom Stranger. "With my powers, I can help to amplify Asagi's connection to Gamera, even from many miles above the Earth."

"Domo arigato, Phantom Stranger", Asagi proudly says.

"Doo itashimashite, Asagi", the Phantom Stranger kindly replied.

"We only hope that what you're about to do will be enough", Green Arrow said.

"It will be, Green Arrow", Mayumi says. "In the ancient prophecy, there was something the people had once called Gamera before they died."

"Really? What's that?"

Mayumi, Asagi & the Phantom Stranger smiled at the archers.

"The Last Hope", they said simultaneously.

CHAPTER VI

Gotham City, 9:10 p.m.:

Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot is currently not a happy man.

Shortly after the Gyaos broke out of their aviary the Penguin made for them in his Iceberg Lounge club & began attacking--and therefore killing & eating--several of his guests, authorities informed him that his club will be closed temporarily for renovation and investigating. Penguin wasn't even allowed to stay in his penthouse just upstairs his own nightspot. Thus, he was forced to get a room over at the Gotham Plaza Hotel in Downtown Gotham, far from where the creature they call Barugon lays dormant. Fortunately, Oswald had a good deal of money to spend for a room for a few nights, having Fists & Knuckles sharing one just next door in case trouble should erupt at any time. Disgusted by the local news on his room's television, Penguin turns it off & sits on his bed.

At least he can relax & let the authorities handle their business, believing they can't pin the incident upon him.

Or so he thinks.

Because not all authority in Gotham wears a blue uniform & badge on their person.

"I don't blame you, Oswald. I'm just as disgusted by tonight's news as you!"

The deep voice from behind him made Oswald turn in surprise--and was suddenly staring at the Batman & Huntress, the latter of whom is armed with her crossbow & staff.

In spite of their appearance, the Penguin remains unfazed by his uninvited guests.

"I don't suppose you two have warrants to be here!", he snaps.

Neither crime fighter was insulted: Batman reached over the bed & grabbed Penguin by the lapels of his tux & lifted him up to his face, his eyes scowling.

"I know what you did tonight, Oswald!", the Dark Knight growled to him.

"I've done lots of things, Batman", Penguin says, trying to sound defiant. "You'll have to be a little more specific."

"You know damn well what he's referring to, bird!", Huntress snapped.

That's when Batman brought his right fist up--and slams it in the face of an unsuspecting Fists, who was sneaking up silently from behind the two vigilantes by the door of their ajoining room with a survival knife in his hand, hoping to stab the Caped Crusader literally in the back.

He fails--miserably.

Huntress, totally unaware of Fists' approach, catches Knuckles at the door & reacts as he sees Fists smacked, falling to the floor, reaching for his gun at his side.

But Huntress was quicker, & she aims her crossbow at him before he can even touch it.

"Don't even think of going for your piece, buster!", she snaps.

Knowing he was outmatched, Knuckles kept his hands wide as if under arrest.

"Just keep him at bay, Huntress", Batman tells her before addressing Oswald again. "No more games, Oswald! Where did you come by the information that allowed you to find the Gyaos eggs that you brought to Gotham?"

"Batman, please, I just wanted to…", Penguin says with trepidation, losing his composure.

"Where?"

"I-It came from an anonymous source, honest! I got the message six months ago of a rare bird species in hopes I could save it from becoming extinct & make it an added addition to my club, that's all! You know about my fondness for birds, Batman! If there's a chance I can help to preserve a species, I just keep it safe--nothing more! I swear it!"

"The same as with that 'jewel' you donated to the museum?", added Huntress, keeping her gaze on Knuckles.

"Whatever can she mean by that?", Penguin asked Batman.

"First of all, the Gyaos are not birds, & that was no jewel, Oswald!", Batman pointed out. "That, too, was an egg! How else do you think Barugon was able to destroy the Gotham Museum from within like he did?"

Penguin thought back to when he argued with the two Japanese women at the museum as they argued with him about destroying the Gyaos before it was too late & telling him that the red jewel would hatch into a giant monster, destroying a portion of the city.

Those two women were right, blast them!, Oswald thought abhorrently.

He couldn't say anything else--to himself or out loud--as a voice in Batman's earpiece came to life.

"Batman, it's Nightwing! Come in!"

"Go ahead, Nightwing", he replied.

"We've got big trouble! Barugon has reawakened & attacked the National Guard before they could strike, & losses are down by fifty percent!"

Batman stayed silent for a moment & listened for any sounds of gunshots or missiles being fired within the city. Although faint, he can hear machine guns shooting in his earpiece & the sound of Barugon roaring in the background.

"Batman?", Nightwing said.

"I'm here, Nightwing! Are you & Batgirl…"

"We're both okay! We got out of Dodge as soon as he woke up & seeked safety! But we're totally outgunned here, Batman!"

"Not for long, Nightwing! Help is on its way! Just stay out of Barugon's sights until we get there! Batman out!"

Communication was abruptly cut off, & Batman issued a final warning to Penguin.

"I've got an emergency right now, Oswald! But this conversation isn't over yet! I'll be back to discuss more 'business' with you! Don't even think about trying to leave the city! Do you hear me?"

The slightest nod was all Batman needed, & he throws Penguin at Knuckles who catches him without effort & places him down swiftly but gently. With his boss safe, he reaches for his gun & aims it at the two vigilantes.

But he had no targets to shoot at, for Batman & Huntress were both gone from sight. Their only indication of them being here was a spare Batplane that lay close by & flies off with hardly a sound.

At that time, Fists woke up & rubs his head.

Not bothering to ask if he was all right, the Penguin gives his two henchmen new orders.

"Boys, I want you to go & follow the Batman & that broad to where that creature is! I wish to hear every detail that happens--especially if it involves our caped friend's demises underneath its huge four feet!"

"With pleasure, boss!", Fists & Knuckles say together, heading back into their room to go gather up their supplies before embarking on their quest. Once they were gone, the Penguin sits back on his bed as he straightens his tux & looks out the window, thinking a way out of his tight fix. He knows he can't just up & leave, even temporarily: the Batman has his ways of finding any individual in no time flat. But he & his partners will be engaged in a battle against an enemy far larger than any crook/criminal in the city, & it'll be far more difficult for them to bring it down, if they even can. If the Penguin can calculate correctly, the odds of the Bat-Family surviving this creature are about ten thousand to one, & that's at the minimum.

Hmmm, Penguin thought. If that Barugon creature really can rid our fair city of our bat infestation, then perhaps all the death & destruction those monsters have caused will be well worth it!

With that in mind, Oswald's smile began to grow like a weed.

The Pacific Ocean, 9:30 p.m.:

Aquaman swam around the ocean for most of the day, searching high & low for the 'unnatural disturbance' his contacts beneath the waves (various sea creatures) have reported to him. Dressed in green tights & boots, orange scaled short-sleeved tunic, gold bracelets & holding a staff with three sharp points at both ends, the blonde-haired King of the Seven Seas continues his search for this new threat to his home which covers two-thirds of the Earth's surface.

I've been treading the ocean floor for hours, & I still see no sign of what could spook the inhabitants of the deep like they were, he thought. What kind of creature could do such a thing to my undersea friends?

Then he stops short like a car driver slamming upon his brakes to avoid a collision with a second automobile, & he gets a glimpse of what his friends of the deep were referring to, his eyes going wide: the creature was silver in color & reached a length of 80 meters, with red eyes & a pointed head at the front & back. It had a beak full of sharp teeth, & a red jewel between it & the front point.

Never mind! I see what it is my friends were talking about!, he thought dreadfully. In all the seven seas, I've never seen a creature such as this! Could it be a possible mutation of some kind? Or maybe it isn't from this Earth?

Aquaman had no time to ponder on the possibilities of its origin: this thing was in the midst of attacking a submarine & heavily damaging it, from what he can see. He wastes no time as he swims like the fastest minnow & points his staff before him. The creature, known as Zigra, was too preoccupied with the sub he was attacking to notice Aquaman's approach until it was too late. A bolt of lightning shot from his staff, hitting Zigra in the neck. The sting seemed to hurt him, & the shark-like creature bellowed out an echoing screech.

Now Zigra was mindful of Aquaman, ignoring the heavily damaged Mikhail-Boris.

"Hey creature, how about tussling with me instead of that sub?", Aquaman bellowed at it.

The two combatants lock eyes with each other in an unusual fascination. Zigra is amazed at Aquaman's andantes by the water's deep-sea pressure without any kind of protection, other than the clothes off his back. The space shark wondered if he would be able to withstand the pressures of the waters from his homeworld.

This human is unlike any I've known about, Zigra says to himself. It must be one of the so-called 'super-heroes' our comrade informed us about. It hardly matters--like the rest of the weak & pathetic humans of Earth, it will fall before our might!

"Foolish human, my name is Zigra!", he says out loud without moving his mouth, his voice a low & menacing baritone. "And before this day is done, this planet you humans foolishly mistreat will belong to us! You don't deserve this world, therefore you will surrender it to us! If you don't, we shall take it from you by force!"

"And I am Arthur Curry, King of the Seven Seas", he says, pointing his staff at Zigra. "But that's 'Aquaman' to you, Zigra! As for surrendering our planet to you, to coin a phrase from the humans on the surface--Fat chance!"

"Then you shall become the first to die by my hand like the humans in this submarine, 'Aquaman'!", Zigra bellows, screeching out in anger & making a swift lunge for Arthur. The King of the Seas barely had time to dodge the monster's oversized jaws as they snap down like an oversized moray eel. Aquaman retaliates by firing another beam from his staff that hits Zigra in the back, causing him to screech in pain but doing no noticeable damage to his armored hide. Zigra makes a swift turn at a speed whick belies his size & rushes at Aquaman again, this time aiming his razor-sharp fins in an attempt to cut him in half. Aquaman swims off to avoid these nasty fins, but couldn't do so entirely as he receives a cut on his left leg that begins to bleed.

As I feared!, Arthur says to himself. Those dorsal fins of his looked razor-sharp, & they are! If I'm not careful, he'll cut me in half & do away with those stuck in that sub! I'm gonna need reinforcements--fast!

Concentrating on his telepathy, Aquaman calls out to several of the largest marine life who are in the closest proximity of him. He does not have long to wait for a response--a school of sperm whales, finback whales, & a few blue whales (the latter of which are the largest animals living today) rush in attack formation at Zigra, who has turned for another pass. But Zigra was well aware of the King's telepathic abilities, having felt them as he feels his own fins, & counterattacks as the red jewel on what passes as his forehead comes to life & fires a cone-shaped yellow beam at the oncoming cavalry of sea mammals, covering the whole fleet. Caught in its path, the whales feel their wills ebbing away & begin to drop to the ocean floor like flies caught in a spray of Raid bug killer. This sight infuriates Aquaman, & he responds by firing another powerful beam at Zigra, hitting him in the chest which stings but does not stop him.

Zigra screeches as if mocking Arthur with laughter.

"Your power is great, Aquaman, but it still does nothing to impede my progress of taking control of your oceans!", Zigra says. "Even if you called upon all life in the seas to attack me, I will still emerge triumphant! You cannot hope to defeat me alone!"

"Don't worry, Zigra! Aquaman's never alone!"

As they both turn to the new voice, Zigra gets walloped by a massive green fist that sends him tumbling away from Aquaman & the Mikhail-Boris sub like a car caught in a tornado's full fury. Arthur knew that green fist belonged to Green Lantern (Hal Jordan).

And he didn't come alone: by his side were two recruits, Vixen (who simply says 'shark', giving her the power from a mystical Tantu totem, enabling her to breathe & swim like one) & Power Girl, the latter of whom wears a transparent oxygen mask covering her mouth & nose, & was attached to a gold harness around her waist with multiple oxygen cartridges.

"Hal! Karen! Mari!", Aquaman greeted them with a smile. "Are you three a sight for these wet eyes!"

"We got the sub's distress call from the Watchtower", Hal Jordan said. "Picking up Power Girl along the way, we searched the Pacific for a time & saw you & Zigra fighting it out!"

"Speaking of the sub, gentlemen…", Power Girl says, as she & Vixen rush off towards the damaged vessel & getting underneath it. Placing firm hands on the underside, they push up with all her might even as Mari says 'blue whale!', granting her the strength of the largest animal on Earth. It's a bit of a trade-off: because the blue whale is a mammal, she cannot breathe while underwater, but her newfound strength more than makes up for it & the sub rises with ease as the girls quickly head up to the surface.

"Take care of Zigra!", Power Girl tells Aquaman & Green Lantern, who nod.

"We'd better do it fast, Arthur!", Green Lantern says. "As a member of the Green Lantern Corps, I'm only too familiar with the Zigrans! They're an evil race of aquatic creatures who feed upon surface dwellers, just the opposite of what we do here! And while I just knocked him for a loop, he'll return with a vengeance!"

"How right you are, green fool!", Zigra growls as he swims towards the two heroes like a bullet with his mandibles wide open to take a bite out of Arthur & Hal. They scatter like little minnows as Zigra snaps his jaws shut, getting nothing in his mouth but empty water. Hal Jordan forms green chains with his ring that wrap themselves around Zigra, making him immobile for the moment, even as he thrashes around wildly like a wild horse, screeching madly in protest.

"You are a fool, Hal Jordan!", Zigra says as he faces his hated foe. "We Zigrans have both battled & killed many members of the Green Lantern Corps in the past! Do you really think that one such as yourself--strong-willed as you are--has a chance in all of Oa of defeating the likes of my people?"

"I don't think so, Zigra!", Hal said, straining to keep the chains wrapped aroung the alien shark. "I know so!"

During their conversation, Aquaman was forgotten about by Zigra temporarily & uses this as his chance to do some real damage. Swimming behind him, Arthur points his staff again but instead of firing another lightning bolt, he only lights one end up & swims toward Zigra's left eye. The alien shark catches Aquaman too late, & the King of the Seven Seas uses his staff to make a deadly & deep cut into Zigra's eye. Zigra screeches loudly in anguish as Aquaman makes a bloody incision, filling the immediate area with red. Hal Jordan follows it up with a second strand of green energy from his ring & forms a pair of giant tweezers at its end. These tweezers tightly pinch the red jewel just above Zigra's beak, breaking it like one would pop a zit. Arthur quickly comes around the other side of the creature's head, his staff still glowing with energy.

"You cannot hit--or eat--what you can't see, Zigra!", he says, ready to repeat the process with his other eye.

"I'll KILL you!", Zigra bellows, breaking free of Green Lantern's chains before Aquaman can blind him on his other side. Now freed, the alien shark begins swimming in rapid succession, going around Hal Jordan & Arthur in circles & creating a giant whirlpool that starts sucking in whatever remains close by. The two heroes feel the pull & strength of the whirlpool Zigra has manifested, & soon they'll either be crushed by its awesome power or eaten up in one gulp as the creature still has one good eye in which to see from.

Or maybe he intends to ram us while we're blind!, Hal Jordan thought along with those other possibilities. Well, two can play at that game, Zigra!

With his ring, Hal Jordan conjures up a green brick wall at a moment's notice in Zigra's whirlpool, placing it at a precise & critical time when Zigra least expects it. It works just like a charm: Zigra's momentum brings him in full contact with Hal's lantern-made brick wall, being unable to avoid it, let alone slow down in time. The alien shark shatters the wall & the blow from it leaves him disoriented, seeing spots in his good eye. But unfortunately for Hal & Arthur, the plan doesn't leave Zigra in that state for long, as his race is more or less resilient to such attacks. Before they know it, Zigra is up & about & ready for more fighting.

But so are Green Lantern & Aquaman themselves: Arthur shoots more lightning from his staff as Hal whips up a school of great white sharks with his ring & has them attack Zigra from all angles, biting fiercely into his alien flesh & drawing more of his blood. Zigra screeches in pain & anger as he thrashes around to get the lanternized man-eaters off his hide.

"So Zigra, how do you like being feasted upon by those who resemble your kind?", Hal asks him. "Not very pleasant when you're on the receiving end, is it?"

"You will learn, Hal Jordan, that I can take anything you happen to throw my way!", Zigra says defiantly. "Like so!"

Zigra starts spinning again, but unlike last time he stays in one spot & twirls around like a giant top or dreidel. As powerful as they are, Hal's green sharks cannot hold him for long & they start being flung away in many directions like they were bits of mud on a dog that shakes off as it does. Almost like lightning, Zigra charges Aquaman & Green Lantern before they can launch another attack on his person. Temporarily stunned by the alien shark, Hal & Arthur float in the water as Zigra closes in on them to put the bite on both heroes.

But them something bites him.

Out of nowhere comes a large green object which places a vice-like grip with its jaws on Zigra's neck & crashes onto the ocean floor. The earth-shattering impact jarred Green Lantern & Aquaman awake, & they see Gamera wrestling with Zigra on the ocean floor as they each try to gouge one another with their limbs & mouths.

Was that…Gamera?, Aquaman said to himself, having known of the ancient civilization in the studies he endured in the history of his home in Atlantis. In no time, sand from the ocean floor & Zigra's blood began obstructing their view of the two battling monsters, their fight now intensifying by the second & their howls & screeches can be heard within the sand/blood cloud.

The fight lasted for almost a minute before it got all quiet again. Arthur & Hal Jordan both waited & listened patiently for any signs of life, wondering who would emerge victorious.

That's when Power Girl & Vixen (now able to breathe underwater again) rejoined their friends.

"How's the sub, Karen?", asked Green Lantern.

"Doing fine", she replied. "Everyone inside survived, & right now they're being treated by doctors on a Navy vessel that happened to come across the sub's distress call as you folks did."

"Good going, ladies."

"What happened with Zigra?", asked Vixen.

"I believe Gamera happened to him", Aquaman says.

"What's a 'Gamera'?", wondered Power Girl.

"Oh, that's right, we didn't get to fill you in on everything yet, did we?", Vixen began to explain until Hal cut her off.

"Later, Mari. Something's coming out of that cloud! Be ready!"

A large shadow appears in the cloud of sand & blood, & in moments Gamera shows up out of it with a prize in his hands--Zigra's decapitated head!

"That's Gamera?", Karen asks, amazed by the giant turtle's appearance.

"All eighty meters of him!", Green Lantern says. "It's okay, Karen--he's on our side!"

"Wow! A giant turtle monster on the side of justice? Now I've seen everything!"

Eat your hearts out, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!, Power Girl says to herself as an inside joke.

"At least Zigra's been dealt with, so now we can concentrate on Washington D.C.!", Vixen reminds her friends. "There are two other monsters there, & the other members of the league are battling them as we speak!"

"And though badly wounded, Barugon may still pose a threat in Gotham City!", said Green Lantern. "But Gamera can't be at two places at once, & we need him on this!"

"I think I can talk to Gamera telepathically & tell him we need him at Washington D.C., since the danger is twice as deadly as that in Gotham!", Aquaman says, concentrating again on his telepathy to 'communicate' with the giant turtle. Gamera listens to Arthur's message in his own mind, & nods as he understands the predicament. Wasting no time, Gamera launches himself through the water with his jet propulsion & heads for his new destination.

That's strange, Aquaman thought. While I gave him the message, I felt a second presence in Gamera's mind, almost as if someone else was trying to communicate with him.

But Arthur had no time to give it more thought, & he turns to his friends.

"You three, go with Gamera to Washington D.C.! I'll go assist Batman with Barugon in Gotham! Knowing him, he & his allies are assessing the situation there & may need extra help!"

"We're on our way!", Green Lantern said, encasing Vixen in a green bubble & all three go off in the same direction as Gamera went, doing their best to match his speed. Aquaman rushes off to where Zigra zapped his whale friends & do what he can to help. When the cloud finally subsides, Zigra's headless body lays on the ocean floor as a school of deadly man-eating sharks--hammerhaeads, makos, & great whites, to name a few--begin to emerge on the dead alien & start feasting upon his flesh like they were a school of piranhas.

Like Hal asked you before, not so good being on the receiving end--is it, Zigra?, Aquaman said to himself with a smirk, watching the sharks feast on his headless carcass.

Needless to say, Zigra was in no condition to answer his question.

Gotham City, 10:00 p.m.:

Aside from the bleeding wound he received by Gamera, Barugon rose from his resting place at Robinson Park & began assaulting the National Guard as ground & air forces struck the beast with cannon fire from M-60 tanks & missiles from F-16 powerful as these attacks were, they still could not prevent Barugon from going on a rampage through their defenses as he smashes the ground forces with his massive size & tail, while spraying some of the jets with his freezing mist after extending his clubbed tongue, making the metal brittle & fall apart as if they were made of plaster, the pilots with them. Some get detonated by the extreme heat of Barugon's deadly rainbow ray, exploding in mid-air. The ray also strikes & destroys several buildings that have thankfully long been abandoned by Nightwing & Batgirl even before Barugon had revived. Even Batman, in his new Batplane with Huntress in the backseat, is having trouble with the beast like the National Guard had, despite using his plane's best weaponry.

Having helped Commisioner Gordon & his men getting the people of the immediate area all to safety, they now turn their attention to the creature itself.

"Well, if any of you folks got any ideas on how to deal with wonder lizard here, don't be shy about them!", a rather nervous Harvey Bullock says.

"There is a way, Bullock!", Nightwing says. "According to legend, Barugon has a great weakness to water, due to his unusual cellular structure! If we can lead him to a body of it, we can defeat him!"

"But there's a problem with that!", Gordon says. "Barugon is standing smack dab in the middle of the city! The ocean is blocks away from here, & with the National Guard disabled, I can't see any way as to how to lead him there! Even Batman can't…"

"We're closer to a water source than the ocean, Commissioner!", Batgirl interrupted.

The four of them thought for a second before the answer hits them, with one of them being none too optimistic about the idea.

"The Reservoir?", Bullock said. "You can really mean that, junior! That's where we all get our clean drinking water from! If he dissolves in it, we'd be sipping monster left & right!"

"Do you have a better idea, Bullock?", Batgirl asks. The police sergeant stares hard at the young girl in black as Cassandra does the same, never giving an inch.

"Well, do you, Bullock?", that coming from Gordon.

"Commish, you can't be serious about this, can you?"

"We can worry about decontamination for the water later! Right now, if they're right, we can end his rampage here in the park!"

Sagging his massive shoulders in defeat, Bullock nods.

"Batman, did you get all that?", Nightwing asked in his earpiece.

"Loud & clear", he replied. "I was thinking the same thing, & it's a good plan. Have all the people been evacuated on your end?"

"They have. You can take it from here."

"I intend to. Get yourselves to safety & wait for my word. Batman out."

Communication between them ceased.

"Batman's got this, folks", Nightwing says. "We should get to cover."

"For once, I agree with you wholly there, junior!", Bullock said, taking another look at Barugon. "There's nothing in my job description saying I gotta tackle with 100-meter monsters!"

Bullock ran off, wanting to put as much distance as he can from Barugon. Nightwing, Batgirl & even Gordon share a grin with each other, noting Bullock's feelings in the matter.

Five seconds later, they run off to join him.

In another part of Gotham City, Robin, Kid Devil, Ravager & Blue Beetle rush towards Robinson Park after the Boy Wonder picks up a spare motorcycle from a multi-car garage his mentor has laying around for him & his proteges. He speeds through town with Ravager riding in back, as Blue Beetle carries Kid Devil. On his helmet radio, Robin listens to Batman as he relays his plan to lure Barugon into the reservoir at Robinson Park.

"Got it, & it's the best idea I've heard so far!", Robin replied. "We'll all be there shortly! Robin out!"

He ceased contact with his mentor & raced faster through the city streets.

"So, what's the plan exactly?", Kid Devil wondered.

"Batman & Huntress in the Batplane want to lure Barugon into the reservoir at Robinson Park & drown him", Robin says.

"And how is he going to do that? Leave a trail of bread crumbs for him to follow?"

"Duh! He's going to need help, doofus! That's where we come in!", Blue Beetle says. "Am I right, Robin?"

"Correct, Jamie!", Robin replied. "That's why I asked you three to join me here!"

"It's going to be quite a challenge, Robin", Kid Devil said. "That's just like having Jerry to square off against Tom, who's many times his size."

"Don't sweat it, Eddie", says Blue Beetle. "Don't you remember? Jerry always triumphs over Tom! If he can do that, we ought to do just fine with Barugon! And besides, water is his Achilles' heel! Remember the report by Mayumi & Asagi?"

"Of course I do--if the ancient stories are true."

"They're true, Eddie. I trust those two, & it's what we're going to do to end his reign of terror in Gotham", Robin said.

"They have a right to be worried about this, Robin", said Ravager. "How exactly are we to pull off this little miracle?"

"There's always a way, Rose. We'll find it."

That's real comforting, Boy Wonder!, Ravager thought as they sped faster through the empty streets to reach Robinson Park.

The Batplane launched another barrage of missiles at Barugon which struck him hard at his gaping wound on his side. It hurt the creature but doesn't slow him down.

But Batman knew that, & he was counting on it: the missiles were meant as but a mere distraction. While the missiles detonated on Barugon's hide, the Batplane had launched a pair of thick cables from its rear that strike the monster on his right side--one in the neck, the other near his tail, just above the rear legs. The cable ends penetrate his flesh, & the Batplane comes to a sudden stop (but still hovering) as Barugon slowly but surely gets dragged along the ground by the plane's powerful propulsion as Batman puts it at full power. Barugon roars out in pain & anger, pulling himself away from the thing which has snagged him like a fish. He tries lashing at the Batplane with his long tail, but it was too far away for his reach. All he hit were the cables which were bound to his flesh, & even that did nothing to pry loose his quarry except shake it slightly.

But it was still enough for the plane's occupants to feel the brunt of it, & both Batman & Huntress were jarred by the impact. The Caped Crusader fought to keep his vessel airborne as Huntress looked out the window ahead of Batman. It was faint at first, but seconds later she got a better glimpse of an object heading right for them--and her heart started palpitating madly.

"Oh no!", she said just above a whisper.

"Stay cool, Huntress. We'll get Barugon into the reservoir. Just sit tight", Batman said, as his attention was currently at the plane's gauges.

"It's not Barugon I'm worried about anymore, Batman!", she answered back, more forceful this time. Her partner looked up from the gauges & out the cockpit window himself, & he saw what it was that got her riled up.

Batman gritted his teeth.

Robin, Ravager, Kid Devil & Blue Beetle continued racing through the city streets on a block where they can now see the Batplane playing a deadly game of tug-of-war with Barugon when a shrieking sound cuts through the night air, causing them to stop in their tracks.

"You all heard that, right? Please tell me you did!", Kid Devil said.

"I certainly did, Eddie!", Blue Beetle said. "And believe me, I wish I hadn't! Could that sound possible be who I think it is?"

"There's no mistaking it, Blue! I'd know it anywhere!", Ravager said, pulling out her twin katana blades. "That's Gyaos! Well, if Big Bird wants to tussle with me again, I'm more than ready to carve him up like I did his friend!"

Robin looks skyward to see if he can spot the winged horror before his friends do.

As he does, his eyes widen.

"You sure you want to go & do that, Rose?", he says, pointing to where he has spotted the returning creature. Ravager & the rest turn to where Robin is pointing at, & that's when they see Gyaos themselves. The only difference about him is that now, the creature has grown a whole lot larger than when he first escaped from Penguin's Iceberg Lounge earlier that evening. Even from a distance, the four Teen Titans can see that Gyaos' body height measured about 85 meters in height, & his wingspan was almost twice that. Approaching rapidly from the north where he retreated to before, Gyaos continues coming towards the quartet who were alone on an open street, becoming living beacons for Gyaos to simply swoop down & gobble them up like a hawk would do to a mouse. The full-grown Gyaos screeches again, its sound echoing the night.

Dammit!, Robin said to himself, thinking of that very notion.

But much to their surprise (& relief), Gyaos flies right past the quartet, his huge shadow covering the entire block as he does, ignoring the Teen Titans completely.

But now a new problem arises, one Robin is too dreadfully aware of.

He's heading straight for Bruce & Helena!, he thought. Get out of there, you two! Quickly!

Fortunately, Batman thinks quick & detaches the cables still embedded into Barugon's side & flies off to the right, only moments before Gyaos soars right past, ignoring them as well.

His current target is Barugon himself!

Meaning, food for Gyaos--tons of food!

Without slowing his speed, Gyaos rams into Barugon with his feet placed in front of him, digging his claws into his enemy's sides & drawing purple blood. Barugon lets out a painful roar as Gyaos sinks his teeth into the creature's neck behind his head in an attempt to tear flesh off & start feasting. Barugon isn't able to reach his ravenous enemy with his tongue despite several attempts, but his tail is another matter: lashing it out like a whip, his tail smacks Gyaos many times on the top of his head before finding the side of his face, causing him to release his vice-like jaws on his neck & backing away. Using the time given him, Barugon now faces Gyaos & lashes out with his clubbed tongue twice, first striking him in the face & then in the chest. Being blinded further, Barugon rears up & hurls himself at Gyaos like a living rocket. His long sharp nosehorn strikes Gyaos in the abdomen, causing pink blood to ooze from the deep puncture & a loud shriek of anguish echoes through the night. Desperate & angry, Gyaos' mouth lights yellow inside & launches his beam th Barugon, hitting him in the tail & causing a bleeding nick. But it was more than enough to convince the giant lizard to back off from his foe, withdrawing his horn from Gyaos' stomach & putting distance between them. Barugon retaliates by shooting forth his tongue again, spraying his freezing mist at Gyaos, who lifts up in the air with a mighty leap to avoid being frozen. Then he retaliates by firing his yellow beam & cutting off Barugon's tongue with ease, sending the severed part many yards away. The stump bleeds like a faucet as Barugon retracts what remains of his tongue back into his mouth. Angry, Barugon rises up on his hind legs like a begging dog would to try & reach his airborne enemy, snapping his jaws open & shut to try & eat him. Gyaos would have none of that, & in a swift maneuver he swoops down at Barugon with his feet out in front of him again, but instead of grabbing him with his claws he kicks him with all his might, hitting the giant lizard in his unprotected underbelly. This maneuver sends Barugon soaring across Robinson Park into a row of completely evacuated buildings.

Well, almost completely evacuated.

From one of the buildings, Fists & Knuckles were watching through a window at the battle between Batman & Barugon, then Gyaos & the giant lizard, hoping to see the demise of the Dark Knight as ordered by their boss. But their priorities quickly change when they witness Barugon being body-slammed by Gyaos & heading in their direction.

"Oh shit! RUN!", Fists shouts, as he & Knuckles race frantically for the door. They barely make it there when Barugon crashes into it, turning the building they're in to rubble in moments.

Their screams, loud as they were, became lost in the sound of crumbling debris, crushing both men three seconds after their death bellow.

His underbelly still exposed, Barugon tries to right himself but is too late in doing so when Gyaos uses his the claws on his feet to grab hold of the unprotected flesh. Thin streams of purple blood flow from the punctures Gyaos' claws have made. He tightens hid grip on Barugon by sinking his teeth into his neck on the left side of his head. The giant lizard rakes & scratches his enemy with his own claws on his feet, but Gyaos ignores these even as bleeding cuts in his flesh are made. Even Barugon's thrashing tail doesn't convince his winged foe to release him, no matter how hard he hits him with it. Satisfied with his catch, Gyaos lifts up off the ground with Barugon in tow & heads east, out of Robinson Park & over the city.

Robin & his group watch the violent battle from the edge of the park, keeping out of sight of both creatures. As Gyaos heads east with his intended prey, he sees opportunity come his way.

"Do you notice where Gyaos is taking Barugon, gang?", Robin asks his friends.

"Yeah, he's trying to take him out of Gotham", Kid Devil says, seeing the picture & a grin comes on his face. "Ha! Who would've thought that Gyaos would be assisting us? I guess he was good for something after all!"

That got a smack in the back of the head by Blue Beetle.

"Ow! What gives, Blue?", Eddie wondered, rubbing his head.

"First of all, there's nothing 'good' about the Gyaos, flame-brain!", Beetle scorns him. "Don't forget what they did to all those people at that Iceberg Lounge tonight! Will you at least try to be considerate for the families & friends of the victims and for the victims themselves, will ya?"

Blue Beetle's statement made Eddie quit his wisecracking.

"Yeah, I'm…sorry, Blue. I wasn't thinking clearly."

Why am I not surprised by that?, Jamie thought.

Robin, however, didn't seem bothered by the crack.

"More than that, Eddie", he said. "He's taking Barugon over to the Aparo Expressway & beyond that…"

"To the ocean!", Kid Devil, Blue Beetle & Ravager said together.

"Or more precisely, to Miller Harbor! All we have to do is to get him drop his quarry at the precise moment they get over the water! If we're lucky, both of them will drown!"

"Now that'll be something to see!", Ravager said with glee & a grin.

"Batman, did you get all that?", Robin asked his mentor as he kept the channel open for him to hear.

"Every word, Robin", Batman said back as he & Huntress watched the battle unfold in the safety of the Batplane. "I'll calculate from where they are on the plane. As soon as they're both in position, I want Kid Devil & Blue Beetle to unload on Gyaos with everything they got."

"I'll relay it to them. Robin out."

He turns to his teammates.

"Eddie, Batman wants you & Jamie to fire upon Gyaos at the right moment. Keep your channel open & wait for his signal. Go!"

"We're off!", Blue Beetle says, taking Kid Devil by the arms & rushing in the direction of the two monsters, leaving Robin & Ravager alone.

"Let's ride, Rose", he says, getting back on his motorcycle with Ravager in the back seat & wrapping her arms around the Boy Wonder's stomach.

Robin revs his cycle & speeds off to catch up with his comrades & the creatures, going through Robinson Park to gain more ground.

Gyaos was over the Miller Harbor as Barugon continued scratching his enemy with his claws in order to force a let-go. But Gyaos paid it no mind whatsoever: he was very hungry, & his ravenous hunger overrode everything else, including caution.

They were just a few yards from the middle of it, making Blue Beetle & Kid Devil anxious with itchy trigger-fingers to start firing.

Even at a far distance, Batman can sense their impatience & gets Blue Beetle on his radio.

"Just wait a bit longer, Blue Beetle", he says. "Let them get dead-center in the harbor first to give them no chance of escape. They'll be getting to it at about right…"

Several tense moments pass before Batman gives the order.

"Now!"

"Now, Eddie!", Blue Beetle says as he unleashes a barrage of missiles from his metal suit & Kid Devil shoots fireballs as fast as he can, almost acting like an inferno machine gun. Batman adds to the assault with the last of his plane's missiles as they streak towards the two monsters. A display of fireworks erupts as all shots hit home. Gyaos & Barugon roar & screech painfully in the assault, but neither creature even began to drop earthbound. The winged horror had suddenly veered towards the right, heading for the south portion of the Aparo Expressway bridge--& land.

No!, Batman thought with frustration. He gets on the radio with Blue Beetle.

"Beetle! Gyaos is heading towards land! I've used up my missiles, so it's up to you & Kid Devil to make him change course again! Go!"

"Got it! Hang on, Eddie!", Blue Beetle says & flies off with Kid Devil in tow after the two fleeing beasts. Pushing as hard as he can, Blue Beetle rushes past the two creatures, both of whom pay them no mind. He abruptly turns around, & both teen heroes face their foes as they unleash like they had done before. This round, they hit Gyaos where it hurts him most.

His face.

But also, Blue Beetle held another surprise for the winged horror.

Out of his wrist, he fires a capsule straight at Gyaos, & a bright flash of light erupts in front of the heroes & monsters. This made Gyaos drop Barugon, & the giant lizard lands with earth-shattering force at the bridge's south side.

Gyaos, however, went down on the bridge itself, smashing off a large chunk as both it & he make a splash into the water.

"Dammit!", Blue Beetle cursed.

"What's the matter?", Kid Devil asked. "We got them down, didn't we?"

"Yeah, but it was Barugon who was supposed to land into the water so that he can drown himself, not just Gyaos!"

"Well, one out of two ain't too bad!"

Thank you, Eddie!, Blue Beetle thought furiously, shaking his head as they make for the ground themselves at a distance from the monsters.

"Come on, let's finish this!", Blue Beetle said, raising his arms to fire his wrist-mounted lasers aimed at Barugon & Kid Devil readies for more literal hell-raising. That's when the water around Gyaos & close to Barugon erupted, sprouting large tentacles that wrap themselves around the monsters. From beyond the bridge rose a thick geyser of water, & Aquaman rises from the waves with staff in hand. Pointing it forward, he commands his multi-armed friends of the deep--a pair of large squid--to drag their quarry into the drink & drown them, like Batman & company wanted to happen.

"Whoa!", Blue Beetle & Kid Devil said together, watching the amazing spectacle before their eyes. From the edge of the Aparo Expressway bridge, the giant squid that grabbed Barugon pulls with all its might as the giant lizard fights to stand his ground, battling fiercely even as his purple blood begins to spill anew.

Even out of his element, Gyaos refused to surrender & fights furiously with the giant squid which has a firm hold on him. Aquaman's squids get help from the Batplane by strafing the winged horror with machine gun fire. Screeching angrily, Gyaos fires his deadly yellow beam at first the Batplane, missing entirely, then at the giant squid fighting him. Only here, he succeeds at hitting it with his weapon, striking it in its soft body & causing its arms to go limp before falling beneath the waves. In a frenzy, Gyaos fires his beam all over the place, striking buildings, the water itself, & even the squid that has a hold on Barugon, severing its arms as the animal joins its brethren under the surface. The beam also heads for Aquaman, Kid Devil, Blue Beetle, the Batplane, & even the newly arrived Robin & Ravager. All heroes dive for cover to avoid getting sliced to ribbons by Gyaos' primary weapon.

"Man, what I wouldn't do to have the strength of Gamera's fire & end this deadly farce!", Kid Devil says, avoiding Gyaos' beam with Blue Beetle. "I just don't have the juice for it!"

Then, as suddenly as Gyaos' deadly barrage started, it ceases by a most effective method.

Gyaos' head literally explodes!

The winged horror's head blows apart like an overripe fruit by a large fireball, spraying flaming pieces of flesh, blood, & ichor all over the immediate area. The body of Gyaos--minus his head--squirts pinkish blood from the stub of the neck, & sinks down beneath the water as he vanishes from sight.

It didn't take a Dark Knight Detective to know where the fireball came from.

"Hey Eddie, it looks like your prayers have been answered! Look!", Blue Beetle said with a grin, pointing towards the sky. The sight made Eddie Bloomberg smile too: Gamera soared over Gotham City heading right towards them.

Or more precisely, towards Barugon.

Gamera slams into Barugon with sledgehammer force that almost drives the giant lizard into his grave. But Gamera takes the offensive: using his giant tusks, he drives them into the left side of his neck, spraying his blood on his face. Barugon roars in pain as Gamera now drags his foe into the water, going in feet first. The giant lizard tries to fight & resist the pull, but unlike the giant squid Aquaman has sent, Gamera was much stronger, & the continuing blood loss made Barugon's vitality & stamina drop faster than ratings from Chevy Chase's short-lived talk show.

I thought Gamera was heading to Washington D.C.!, Aquaman thought, watching him drag Barugon to his death. Why is he here in Gotham? Unless…of course! That other mind-link he has! That person must've convinced Gamera to come here & deal with Gyaos & Barugon!

Finally, with his strength totally spent, Barugon could not resist any longer, & Gamera drags him into the water as they both disappear from view. Beneath the harbor, Gamera takes Barugon to the very bottom & keeps him there for several moments as the lizard's cells began to break down & dissolve, creating a mist of purple. Like diminishing lights, Barugon's eyes flicked once, twice, then stayed dark.

Right above the spot where Gamera & Barugon went under, the water churned white which was followed by Barugon's rainbow, but this deadly projectile only rose up a few dozen yards before detracting & disappearing for good. It was a bit of a bizarre spectacle, but they all knew of one thing.

Gyaos & Barugon were no more.

Just as he appeared, Gamera burst out from the water & headed straight towards his next destination, one of which Aquaman had no doubts about.

The heroes all gathered at the end of Murphy Avenue by the harbor's edge. The Batplane hovered silently above them with its rope ladder dangling from it. Even Jim Gordon & Harvey Bullock joined the group as Aquaman gave them all the rundown of the attack on the Russian submarine--the Mikhail-Boris--by the alien shark called Zigra, & now he gives the details (what he knows of) on two other giant beasts attacking America's capital as told to him by Vixen.

No one was happy in hearing the news in the slightest.

"That's horrible!", Kid Devil says. "It's bad enough that Gotham here had to suffer from Gyaos & Barugon's assault, but now Washington D.C. too?"

"And on this day--September 11th--of all days!", Bullock said. "I can't believe this one bit! It's got to be some kind of coincidence! Something this terrible doesn't just happen on the same day!"

"It's no coincidence, Bullock!", Nightwing said. "After hearing Aquaman's story from his battle with Zigra out in the Pacific, this has got to be a planned attack!"

"Sadly, it's working!", Blue Beetle said. "Someone wants America to feel the emotional effects of this day by orchestrating this--and magnify it a thousandfold!"

"That could be it!", Huntress says. "People are still hurt by the events on this day back in 2001, & by this taking place, their pain has been dramatically increased like Blue Beetle said!"

"But who'd be nasty enough to cause deja-vu like this for America, other than Osama Bin Laden himself?", Batgirl asked.

"Finding out the mastermind of these attacks by monsters is something I'd like nothing better to solve", Batman said. "However, we have no time to debate on it. Our nation's capital is currently under siege, & our allies in the Justice League are there battling the threat right now. It's time to join them there. Huntress, stay here in Gotham & assist Nightwing, Batgirl, Bullock & Gordon with anyone who may be trapped in rubble."

"Ravager, you, Blue Beetle, Kid Devil & myself will be heading to Washington D.C. to assist the league, as well as Wonder Girl, Supergirl & Miss Martian", said Robin.

"Not so fast, Robin. I need for you to come with me temporarily. The Batplane's weaponry is dangerously low, & we'll need more than what it's currently stocked with if we can assist the other members of the league."

Robin nodded & turned to his teammates.

"You three go on ahead. Batman & I will rendevous with you at D.C.."

"Your friends can get there my way, Robin", Aquaman said as three great white sharks pop up from the harbor & await their passengers. "They're the fastest swimmers, & can get you to D.C. in no time. Don't worry--they won't bite!"

The three look at each other with skepticism.

"There's no time to waste you guys!", Robin said. "You can trust Aquaman! Now go!"

"Don't make us regret it, fish-man!", Ravager said as she, Eddie & Jamie all got on the great white's backs & held their dorsal fins good & tight. They took off like shots, with Aquaman following suit.

"Nice friends you keep, Batman", Gordon says sarcastically before turning serious again. "But we wish you & them the best of luck. Now go end this reign of terror."

Batman nodded.

"Let's move, Robin", he tells him as he & the Boy Wonder climb back into the hovering Batplane & head north.

Now it was two of Gotham's finest alone with three of the Bat-Family's members.

"All right, let's start sifting through the rubble & see who needs us", said Gordon.

Nightwing, Batgirl, Huntress & Bullock all nodded, & off they went to search for any survivors left by the monster's wake of destruction.

Bruce, Tim, please be extra careful!, Nightwing said to himself in prayer.

CHAPTER VII

Washington D.C.:

Not since the War of 1812 where British forces burned down the White House or the Al-Qaeda terrorist attacks on this day in 2001 has the nation's capital experienced such a grave & unnerving crisis. The alien squid known as Viras was growing in size from within the Pentagon after six of his henchmen (posing as military personell for two whole decades until now) shot & killed a soldier & revealed their true nature, literally joining into their master & thus breaking out of the building & going on a rampage, trampling much of the famous landmark & doing more destruction to it than the Al-Qaeda terrorists did. The danger was escalated when the monster known as Jiger came ashore from the Potomac, emerging from the south. Jiger first attacked the National Museum of American History & grabbed the statue which was removed from her home on Wester Island--using some kind of strange suction she can emit from the bottom of her feet--& smashing it to pieces by stomping it with the foot that used the suction into a shattering wreck. In a rush, the U.S. Military deployed its tanks, missile launchers & jets to repel & destroy the two attacking monsters with everything they had, only to meet a swift defeat by Viras' electric attack from his three-petaled head & brute strength, while Jiger had more of an arsenal at her disposal.: she was equipped with spears of solid saliva which were shot from her front nasal horns placed before her eyes that made short work of the jets passing overhead & a good number of tanks. The next weapon she deployed was a cone-like light orange ray she hit the army personell with, & had terrible results--the men were literally stripped of their flesh & turned into skeletons within seconds!

And that was when the Justice League of America & Teen Titans arrived.

Seeing the horrible display of contempt for human life by Jiger & the relentless attack on the Pentagon & beyond by Viras, the two groups of heroes split up into two teams & launched a counterattack on the two beasts: the men took care of Jiger, while the ladies would handle Viras.

That was over an hour ago.

In that amount of time, Washington D.C. was being evacuated in record time due to The Flash's power over the speed force, getting all non-essential inhabitants (up to & including the President himself & his staff) to a safe location as he could before joining his comrades in the fight against Jiger & Viras. But as hard as they fought, both monsters were able to withstand anything & everything the heroes could throw at them. Even with Green Lantern Hal Jordan, Kryptonian Power Girl & Vixen arriving to assist, the creatures still would not yield or submit to the beating they've been taking by the planet's last line of defense. Even the three Kryptonians (Superman, Supergirl & Power Girl), both Green Lanterns (Hal Jordan & John Stewart) & two Amazons (Wonder Woman & Wonder Girl) all fighting side-by-side proved to be a difficult battle, more so than usual. Viras attacks the ladies with lashing tentacles the same way a person would swat at irritating flies with a wave of their hand. One of the strikes from the creature clobbers Supergirl, Wonder Girl & Miss Martian with one swipe while hitting Wonder Woman & Power Girl with his electric shock from his head. On the ground, Black Canary hits the alien squid with her sonic scream as Vixen, using the power of an angry cat, attempts to climb the thing & rake it badly with claws. Hawkgirl, having avoided the other attacks, flies close to Viras & lets out a battle cry as she swings her mace in Viras' face.

While it did sting Viras, it did not stop him or even slow him down.

Hawkgirl barely avoids getting clobbered herself as Viras swipes at her with a tentacle that now heads for Black Canary on the ground. Dinah dives out of its path as the ground shakes from the impact that jars Vixen loose, the latter of whom yells 'hawk' to take on its flying ability & swoops down to grab Dinah & get her at a distance from Viras.

"That was too close for comfort, Mari!", Black Canary says, being placed on the ground again. "My scream is having nil effect on this overgrown calamari!"

"Same here, Dinah!", Vixen said. "I kept scratching its hide as badly as I could, but didn't draw one single drop of its blood! Its hide is too damn thick! I doubt it even felt my presence on it because of that!"

"Then we'll have to try something else!", Miss Martian says as most of the other heroines regroup as Hawkgirl keeps fighting Viras.

"What did you have in mind, M'gann?", asked Dinah.

"We can try to knock this creature into the Potomac!"

"Is that really wise, M'gann?", Supergirl asked. "It's a squid! It'll be right in its element if we do that!"

"But not its lightning attack! Perhaps by submersing it underwater, it will refrain from using it, lest it wants to give itself a shock & possibly die from it!"

A second was all it took to get an answer from M'gann's suggestion, & they all nod in its approval.

"I think Miss Martian has something there!", said Wonder Girl.

"Yes she does, Cassie!", said Wonder Woman. "It's a logical ploy worth trying! Let's put it in motion straight away!"

"Yes!", Power Girl, Supergirl, Miss Martian & Wonder Girl say, & they follow Diana as the Amazon Princess relays their method of attack to Hawkgirl via communicator, & she quickly follows suit. As a group, the six super-heroines put distance from Viras, who was luckily only at about twenty yards from the water. Screeching angrily, the alien squid launches another electrical attack at the fast-approaching group, but the six ladies dodge this by splitting up & reforming as soon as it passes, never slowing their momentum. With their clenched fists placed before them (& Hawkgirl with her mace ready), they slam themselves into Viras' midsection with the force of a giant sledgehammer that echoes throughout most of Washington D.C., successfully knocking Viras into the Potomac as planned with a big splash as all--sans Hawkgirl--dove in after him. At the Navy Department (or what's left of it after Jiger had attacked it), the quadrapedal creature felt the vibrations caused by the heroines' assault on Viras even from this distance, & she cries out as if in pain, giving Superman & his group a slight advantage.

This clear fact does not go unnoticed by Black Canary & Vixen, & they begin to converge on the subject.

"Dinah, did you see how that creature…", Vixen started to say.

"Yes I did, Mari!", Black Canary said with a gleam of hope. "That monster seems to be vulnerable to sonics of sorts! That gives me an idea!"

Dinah got on the radio with Green Lantern.

"Hal, it's Dinah! You saw what we did, right?"

"I certainly did, Dinah!", Hal Jordan said. "Hang on! Let me pick you up & send you on over to our side!"

Without another word or thought, Hal Jordan rushed over the Potomac to the ruins of the Pentagon building to Black Canary & Vixen. Fixing Dinah with a green harness complete with a pair of large actual canary wings, he takes her across the Potomac with Vixen following after she calls out 'eagle' & takes to the skies.

On her way over, Black Canary now gets on the radio with Superman & reveals her plan to him.

"A good plan, Dinah, & I'll go it one step further!", said the Man of Steel.

"What do you have in mind, Clark?", asked Dinah.

"We can push this thing into the Potomac like Diana & the others did with the giant squid! Once they're both in the water, I can use my freeze-breath to put them on ice! Let's just make sure that they're in the clear first!"

"Leave that to me, Superman!", said Black Lightning as Hawkgirl joins in.

"Got your message", she says. "How do you want to do this--same way as Diana did?"

"In part", Superman explains. "First, we'll have Red Tornado & Flash to create a strong wind to…"

"I understand your strategy, Superman", Red Tornado said.

"Same here. Let's do this!" That coming from Flash.

Both crimson-clad heroes get in front of Jiger, putting themselves in parallel with her & the Potomac. Just as Jiger recovers from the aftereffects of the aftershock, Red Tornado & Flash begin waving their arms around in front of them as fast as they can, creating a very powerful wind which blows everything in its path that isn't nailed down. Superman himself adds to the gust by taking a deep breath & letting it out slowly. Jiger roars defiantly as the winds created by the three heroes starts to push her back towards the water, slowly but surely.

Then, still in her Green Lantern-made harness, Black Canary ups the ante.

"Sing it your song, pretty bird!", Hal Jordan says, bringing Black Canary close to Jiger but staying behind her wind-blowing friends. Opening her mouth, Dinah unleashes her sonic scream at the ceratopsian creature, hitting it dead-on. Jiger's roars of anguish get louder as the pain gets to be excruciating & loses her footing, sliding along the ground more thoroughly than before.

It's working!, Hawkgirl, Black Lightning, Vixen, Hal Jordan & John Stewart all say to themselves proudly, seeing the effects of Dinah's scream & Clark, Wally & John's powerful man-made winds going to work simultaneously in repelling Jiger towards the Potomac in order to join Viras & placed right after in cold storage.

But Jiger was more resilient than her appearance shows. Even under great agony, she still finds the will to resist & fight back. From the spot on her forehead in parallel with her eyes, an orange light begins to flash just before her skeletonizing ray shoots forth, aiming directly towards those who are causing it the worst harm.

Realizing all too well what this attack can do, Superman shouts for everyone to scatter like roaches before they get in the ray's proximity. They barely manage to get clear of the ray as it hits the spot they were at only a second or two ago, striking nothing but asphalt & grass.

"Folks, I think it's way past time we put an end to that ray!", Black Lightning says, firing a powerful stream of lightning at the spot Jiger's ray originates from.

As nasty as it was, the ray kept on operating normally.

"I agree, Jeff!", said John Stewart, pointing his ring at Jiger's face. Shooting an arrow of emerald energy, John Stewart hit's the ray's origin like Oliver Queen or even Roy Harper would with their own bow & arrows. John's arrow strikes it dead-on, causing Jiger to cry in pain & a small flow of pink blood from the puncture before the arrow disappears.

Oh, if only Ollie & Roy could've seen that shot! They'd be so proud!, he said to himself as a grin came across his face.

"That should help swing things in our favor a bit!", John Stewart said orally. "Now, what say we do things Green Lantern style for a change?"

"Sounds good, John!", Hal Jordan said, dropping Black Canary off upon the roof of the Federal Triangle building before joining John. Whipping up thick green cables from their rings, Hal & John wrap them firmly around Jiger's armored head.

The gesture was clear to Superman.

"Good thinking, you two!", he says. "You boys pull & Hawkgirl & I will help to push!"

"I like that!", Hawkgirl says, her mace raised high & ready to strike. Hal Jordan & John Stewart start pulling on their emerald tow lines as Superman & Hawkgirl rush at Jiger, aiming for her head. They make contact with the side of her armored head with such force that it sounded like a bomb went off. But it works: Jiger is being dragged along the ground & is being taken right for the Potomac as planned.

That's when Viras erupts out of the water.

His head now pointed like a dagger or an arrow, the alien squid bursts forth from out of the Potomac & gets airborne, soaring through the air until he lands atop the Federal Triangle where Black Canary stands upon. She gets rescued by Flash moments before Viras crashes through the roof in the center of it, bringing up debris as he flails his tentacles around like a child with a temper tandrum. His abrupt reappearance made both Lanterns lose concentration for a moment, giving Jiger to turn the tables on them: she manages to break free of her binds Hal & John had conjured up, & the momentum caused them to tumble away like debris sifting through space. The men were stopped short by Wonder Woman & Power Girl, who have resurfaced when Viras did, along with Supergirl, Wonder Girl & Miss Martian.

"Nice save, you two!", Hal Jordan praised.

"You guys wouldn't happen to know where a giant squid went by any chance, have you?", Power Girl asked.

"As a matter of fact…oh no!", John Stewart said, staring at a horrid sight.

Viras was clear of the Federal Triangle building & heading for…the White House!

"Oh no you DON'T!", Cassie yelled angrily, taking off like a shot in Viras' direction with Diana, Kara, Karen, & M'gann rushing off with her. Cassie & Diana ready their golden lassos & wrap them around two of Viras' lashing tentacles before they can be brought down on the house which became home to many important people who ran the country. Upon contact with Cassie's lasso, Viras gets stung by a powerful electric charge which is followed by an lightning attack by Black Lightning (brought close by Flash).

"Ha! Let's see how you like getting shocked, creature!", Jefferson Pierce bellowed. Viras screeches in agony between the lightning strikes by Cassie's lasso & Jeff's own bolts, followed by Kara, Karen & M'gann's eye beams, all hitting Viras in various spots & leaving cauterized marks on his flesh.

Jiger shot out a barrage of solid saliva spears at the Green Lanterns, Superman, Hawkgirl & Red Tornado, all of whom have been able to easily dodge each & every one. Hal & John both whipped up a large green tarp that they use to pin Jiger down to the ground & immobilize her on the spot.

"We got it pinned down, Superman!", John Stewart said, straining with Hal Jordan to keep Jiger in place. "Think you & Hawkgirl can render it unconscious?"

"We can but try, John!", Superman said.

"This'll work better!", said Hawkgirl. "Carry it unconscious to the water & then you can put the big chill on it!"

"And we'll do the same to the other creature too! Let's hit it!"

Hawkgirl didn't need to be told twice: she raised her mace above her head as she & the Man of Steel swooped down on Jiger to beat on her armored head until she loses consciousness in order to make getting her (& Viras) to the Potomac easier if they're in no condition to resist or put up a fight. Jiger, however, proves to be more than a match for any foe, even for a Kryptonian, a warrior with inherited wings & Nth metal belt, & a pair of two of the greatest warriors ever to grace the Guardians of Oa. Mustering up all her strength, Jiger broke free of the Lantern's hold on her, shattering their custom-made tarp to pieces. In a move that belies her size, Jiger makes a swift 180 degree turn towards the Green Lanterns, smacking Superman & Hawkgirl with her tail & sending them to the very tip of the U.S. Capital building, knocking it clean off. Even as she hit them, Jiger fired her gill jets from behind her armored head & made a high leap at Hal Jordan & John Stewart, launching a volley of her sharp saliva spears. Hal & John avoid these easily, but her tail was another matter: in mid-air, Jiger slaps the two Lanterns, sending them in opposing directions like two differently charged ions. Jiger lands on her feet with ease & now heads over to the Lincoln Memorial, now just 300 yards away.

With Red Tornado, Flash & Black Canary assisting Black Lightning & the ladies, Viras gets pushed back from the White House with a combonation of high-force gale winds, lightning bolts, sonic scream & good old-fashioned brute strength. They were successful in dragging the alien squid a good fifty yards away from the home of the President across the South Lawn, hitting Viras with every ounce of power the heroes can muster up, but by now Viras has had enough. Bellowing an angry screech from his beak, the giant squid unleashes a powerful bolt of lightning from his pedal-like head. The bolt stung the heroes from head to toe, sending them scattering in all directions. Flash, Red Tornado & Black Canary were knocked into the White House's south façade as Black Lightning was knocked to the side, landing hard on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Not all of the heroes were sent flying away: with his tentacles acting like striking snakes, Viras snatched Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Wonder Girl, Power Girl & Miss Martian in five of his six appendages, grabbing & holding each one tightly, pinning their arms at their sides. Viras has suffered greatly from these powerful inhabitants of the planet he plans to conquer with the others, & now it is time for them to share his pain, slowly but surely.

Even with their great strength, none of the captured heroines could escape Viras' grip, & can get no leverage with their arms pinned to their sides. Miss Martian, Supergirl & Power Girl quickly light up their eyes to shoot their heat beams, but Viras anticipated the maneuver & starts to literally put the squeeze on all of them with incredible pressure. Instantly they find it difficult to breathe, & they all fine their visions beginning to go dark.

Viras puts more pressure upon his tormentors, screeching triumphantly.

It can't end like this! Hera, give us strength!, Diana says to herself, her body feeling like it's about to implode from the inside.

Then she finds she can suddenly breathe again, & her vision returns to normal after she shakes her head.

Diana is proud to see Cassie & the others alive & well as they are released themselves from Viras' deadly grip. A noise that sounded like a jet engine is heard over near the Lincoln Memorial where Jiger is now only thirty yards from demolishing it.

But the sound they hear is no jet engine, & Jiger never makes it to the famous landmark.

It was the name of a savior Miss Martian proudly says aloud with a grin.

"Gamera!"

Arriving from the north, the giant turtle grabs hold of the alien squid by the pedals on his head, thus forcing his release on Wonder Woman & company. They watch as Gamera takes Viras & heads over to Jiger, who notices his approach & shoots a volley of her saliva spears. Using the alien squid as a living shield, Gamera places him in the spears' path, striking Viras in two of his snake-like limbs. Putting on a burst of speed, Gamera slams Viras into Jiger before the Lincoln Memorial can be even chipped in the slightest. Both monsters tumble in a mess of tentacles, tail & legs as Gamera lands on the ground seventy yards away from his foes, his jet propulsion once more becoming legs. Viras & Jiger get free of one another & turn to face Gamera as the Justice League themselves regroup for another go-round with Viras & Jiger, rejoining at the Department of Commerce building which was heavily damaged at one corner.

"I see everyone is accounted for!", Superman said.

"That may be true, Superman, but Red Tornado took quite a jolt to his system!", Flash says as the Man of Steel took a look at John Smith with his X-Ray vision.

"It does seem bad, I have to admit. John, how long will it take for you to be up & running properly?"

"My auto-repair systems are fixing my interiors as we speak, Superman", Red Tornado says. "However, it will be a while before I reach full capacity."

"No problen, John", said Diana. "Flash, take him to a place for him to recouperate where he won't be disturbed in doing so."

"I got just the place for it, Diana!", Flash said & sped off in a red & yellow blur before he even finishes his sentence. Seconds later, he was back with the group again.

"Done!"

Wow! That was fast!, thought Cassie, thinking of Bart Allen, Barry Allen's grandson from the far future who came to the 20th Century first as Impulse, then as Kid Flash.

"Good job as always, Wally", Hal Jordan said. "And now that Gamera's arrived, what say we give him a hand?"

"Nothing we'd like better!", Superman says. "Hal, you, Diana, M'gann & Kendra come with me! John, you take Mari, Kara, Karen & Cassie! Dinah, can you & the rest…"

"We don't mind, Clark", she says. "The rest of us are pretty rung out ourselves. We'll take a little time to regain our strengths. You all assist & support Gamera. Good luck to you!"

Superman nods & the ten heroes take off in the direction of the trio of giant monsters had made their stand at, eyeing each other. When the Man of Steel comes within range, Gamera does something neither he nor his friends expected.

He holds out his hands to his sides in their path, stopping them all in mid-flight.

"Hey, what gives?", wondered Vixen. "Why is Gamera stopping us for?"

Miss Martian swiftly reads Gamera's mind, & the answer hits her as she now telepathically relays it to the others.

Everyone, Gamera is asking for all of us to stand down. He wishes to deal with these two monsters himself, even though he trusts us & is glad we are here. I vote that we respect his wish. What say the rest of you?

It didn't take long at all for the rest to give their answer to M'gann--they all vote 'yes'.

"A noble gesture if ever I heard one--even from an 80-meter-tall turtle!", Wonder Woman says.

"I couldn't agree more, Diana!", Superman says as he & his friends back away, giving Gamera space & a smile. "They're all yours, Gamera! Go get 'em!"

Slightly turning in Kal-El's direction while keeping his sights on Viras & Jiger, Gamera nods proudly with a low noise. As the ten heroes retreat back to Dinah & the rest, Gamera's foes screech & roar defiantly as they now face something more their size, & are both spoiling for a real brawl instead of fighting things they can hardly see clearly. Simultaneously, Viras attacks with a lightning strike from his head as Jiger shoots a quartet of her saliva spears. Gamera turns his back to his foes in a quick 180 degree twist, becoming shielded from both attacks as both the electricity & spears hit & bounce off his shell without doing any damage to him at all. Once the barrage is through, Gamera turns & counterattacks with a double dose of plasma fireballs he spits from his mouth at his enemies. Both monsters avoid being scorched by his attacks, with Jiger dodging to one side & Viras launching himself in the air, using his tentacles like giant springs to jump up & out of its reach. Once in the air, the alien squid closes the pedals of his head & turns it into a sharp point, intent on impaling Gamera with it. The giant turtle ducks down & lands on his hands & knees as Viras reaches him, his pointed head scraping his shell & doing no harm as he hits the ground & sprays dirt & grass on either side of him. Gamera then actvates his jet propulsions again, just in time to witness Jiger closing in on him fast, using her gill jets. She shoots off another set of saliva spears, only to get the exact same effect as before--bouncing off harmlessly of his shell as he goes skyward.

That was Gamera's mistake: rising up made his underside unprotected & vulnerable to an assault, & Jiger takes advantage of that. The ceratopsian creature fires twin saliva spears which pierce Gamera in his underside, drawing green blood from the punctures. Roaring in pain, the giant turtle loses control of his flight & crashes to the ground, landing on his shell with his belly staring skyward. His legs return upon the crash, & Jiger continues her assault on him, firing more spears into both his legs, followed by his arms. Gamera cried painfully as the spears pierce his flesh four more times. From where he landed, Viras erects himself off the ground & turns to the giant turtle's direction, his head still kept pointed. The alien squid saw a grand opportunity: his enemy was on his back, & with spears logged in his limbs, he is unable to use his jet propulsion & is therefore helpless.

Viras screeched happily & launched himself in the air again, heading straight for Gamera.

Like a living torpedo, the alien squid aims himself at his fallen foe as his pointed head is aimed right for Gamera's own head; one strike of impalement, & it's all over. Then he & Jiger can turn their attention towards the Justice League & Teen Titans & wipe them out like he will Gamera.

But being laid down on your back & being helpless can be two different things sometimes, & Gamera still has plenty of fight left in him, despite his current predicament. As Viras closed in on him, Gamera grabbed the pointed head with both hands & stopped the deadly impalement only inches from his neck & head. The alien squid wails his tentacles in the air like banners in the wind before Gamera slams him down to the ground beside him, coughing up a plume of smoke, dirt & grass. It hardly fazed Viras: he piched himself up & began wrapping his tentacles tightly around Gamera's neck, arms & legs. The giant turtle was then bombarded by lightning attacks from Viras that struck him in the abdomen. Shrills of agony escape from Gamera's mouth as hit after painful hit pounds him at point-blank range, each hit getting more intense than the last.

Then Jiger comes along to add to his troubles.

Pulling alongside the giant turtle, Jiger comes up with a new weapon--a needle of some kind erupts from the tip of her tail to its full size. Turning around, she intends to inject Gamera with this new method of attack as she aims the needle for his left shoulder right below his neck.

Getting bombarded by Viras' electric attack, Gamera neither sees nor acknowledges Jiger's needle attack.

Luckily for him, somebody does.

"Uh-uh, creature!", Hawkgirl barks, bringing her mace down on Jiger's needle & smashing it to pieces. The quadrapedal creature howls in anguish as she loses her tail needle & wags it like a dog would if it caught on fire.

"Whatever you had planned on injecting Gamera with that thing, it ain't gonna happen!", she finishes.

Hawkgirl wasn't the only one to lend the giant turtle a brief hand: Hal Jordan conjures up half a dozen green tentacles from his ring, each one ending with a giant pair of tweezers. These pluck & remove all six of the saliva spears Jiger has pierced Gamera with & throws them into the Potomac.

"There!", Green Lantern says, withdrawing his energy. "Now let's see if these two beasts can battle Gamera in a fair fight!"

"One second, Hal!", Superman says, flying in front of Jiger & firing his heat beams at the two horns that launch the saliva spears. The heat sears the openings & clogs them up like gum or cement in a pipe. Again the ceratopsian creature cries out, now having all her primary weapons deactivated.

"Now let's see how they do in a fair fight!", Superman said as he, Hawkgirl & Green Lantern withdraw as suddenly as they appeared to offer their tiny assistance. As Green Lantern left, Viras unwrapped his tentacle that was wrapped around Gamera's neck to lash out at Hal in anger, taking his attention off the giant turtle.

And that was Viras' mistake.

When the alien squid takes a strike at Hal Jordan & misses as the Emerald Crusader flies away, Gamera spit's a plasma fireball in Viras' direction, forcing his enemy to release his grip on him & nearly getting scorched in the process. His limbs now free of both Viras' tentacles and of Jiger's saliva spears, the giant turtle uses his jets & launches himself in the air, taking off upside down. Righting himself, Gamera turns 180 degrees & heads right for Viras, who jumps straight at him for another attempt at impalement. Again he fails, as Gamera grabs him by his tentacles & holds him tight. With Viras' head still pointed, Gamera aims the point in front like a jousting knight & dives straight for Jiger on the ground. The two monsters know what the giant turtle has in mind, & will have none of it: Just because Jiger can't use any of her primary weapons, it still doesn't mean that she's any less dangerous. She launches herself in the air with her gill jets & leaps up & over Gamera & Viras. As she passes, Jiger smacks the giant turtle in the face with her tail, which causes him to be temporarily blinded & releases his hold on Viras & so he plummets downward, landing on the ruins of what was once the Navy Department building. Viras lands next to the Washington Monument, smashing it to rubble with his tentacles. Jiger lands into the National Academy of Sciences building, destroying one side as rubble & debris cover her hide. The two monsters appear on opposite sides of Gamera & watch him with keen eyes, awaiting his next move. The giant turtle does the same, thinking of a way to dispose of his foes once & for all.

And then an idea comes to mind.

Gamera again fires his jet propulsion & takes off like a rocketship, going straight up. As he gets to a height of two hundred feet, Viras & Jiger launch themselves in the air after him. They believe that if they can slam into Gamera's head & render him unconscious, they can finish him off at last before dealing with the heroes of Earth.

They get within fifty feet of the big turtle before something happens.

Gamera shuts off his jet propulsion & drops down!

This maneuver takes Viras & Jiger completely by surprise: with absolutely no way to cease their forward momentum, both monsters slam into each other full force as Viras' pointed head pierces Jiger's underside underneath her head & comes out the top, spurting flesh, bone, blood & brain matter. Jiger's dying scream lasted for four whole seconds before she permanently became silent. The monsters fall downwards to the ground & create a crater next to the remains of the Washington Monument. Gamera lands on his feet thirty-six yards away & wals up to the two creatures, one dead & the other still stuck in its head, thrashing his tentacles about & screeching angrily from his failed attempt. Giving an angry growl himself, Gamera shoots out a plasma fireball from his mouth which hits Viras square in what passes for his chest. The impact blows the alien squid to pieces, his tentacles blown across the nation's capital & burning madly from the heat of his fireball. The Kryptonians, Green Lanterns & the Scarlet Speedster quickly round up & extinguish the burning pieces of the late alien squid to prevent them from causing any more unnecessary damage to America's capital; while they've agreed to take a back seat to Gamera's fight with the monsters, it didn't mean they'd let property damage escalate if they can help it.

Gathering the remains of Viras (& Jiger's body), they dump them all into the Potomac & allow for the inhabitants of the water to deal with.

"That's the last of them", Flash said. "All that's left to do is start the rest of the clean-up, I'd say."

"That shouldn't be too much hassle, Flash", said Hal Jordan as he & John Stewart land on the ground with the three Kryptonians. "While severe, it didn't spread too far much beyond this point, so this should be quite the breeze."

"And thanks to me, we won't be finding any bodies underneath the rubble. I just wish we could've saved those army guys who were skeletalized by that monster's orange ray, though."

"Same here, Flash", says Black Lightning. "But those men died in service of their country, & we should honor that, however repulsive their lives were taken from them."

"Agreed", Black Canary adds. "We'll find out their names from their dental records, & give each & every one the proper burial they deserve."

"We will, Dinah", Wonder Woman says. "Plus, their names will be carved in stone so that people will know who it was that gave their lives to protect their land. Such bravery as that can offer no better reward."

Everyone nodded.

That's when they hear the sound of an approaching aircraft--black, & bat-shaped in color swiftly heading right towards them. Gamera hears & sees the craft coming as well & refrains from attacking, sensing no hostilities from those within it.

It was the Batplane--another variation of it.

Inside were Batman & Robin, the latter in the backseat.

The Batplane lands twelve feet away from the group as the cockpit slides open to allow its pilot & passenger out, & they climb down to join up with the others.

"I swear, Bruce, you go through more Batplanes than most folks go through pairs of socks or underwear", Dinah jokes.

"Hello Dinah, everyone", Batman says flatly like always.

"Looks like we're a little too late to try & crash this party, huh?", Robin said.

"Sorry we couldn't save any action for you & your mentor, Robin", Miss Martian says.

"Don't be, M'gann. That's why I sent you, Kara & Cassie on ahead here to Washington D.C. while we dealt with Barugon & Gyaos in Gotham."

"Hold on!", Cassie says. "Gyaos returned to Gotham City?"

"Don't worry, Cass", Robin said, holding up his hands & jerking a thumb at Gamera. "We had assistance from super-turtle here. Trust me--Barugon & Gyaos are nothing more than two bad memories now, thanks to him."

"And what about Blue Beetle, Kid Devil & Ravager?", Supergirl asks.

"Still on their way. They're 'hitching a ride' on some of Aquaman's friends even as we speak."

Eddie, Jamie & Rose riding on sea creatures?, Wonder Girl thought to herself amusingly. Now I've heard everything!

"Arthur got in on the game?", Wonder Woman asked.

"That's right, Diana", Hal Jordan said. "When Vixen & I had joined up with Power Girl & searched for the giant shark named Zigra who was attacking that Russian sub, he was already engaged in battle with it."

"You seem to know of this Zigra, Hal", Hawkgirl said. "Have you encountered it before?"

"Not us, Kendra", John Stewart said. "But when Hal & I joined the Green Lantern Corps, we were briefed on all the enemies the Guardians & Oa ever had during its long history, & that included the Zigrans. They're a nasty race!"

"But thanks to Gamera, this one's no longer a problem", Hal Jordan said. "But one thing still puzzles me."

"What would that be exactly?", asked Black Lightning.

"Robin said that Gamera helped to eradicate Gyaos & Barugon in Gotham City before he came here. Aquaman sent him a telepathic message to come straight to Washington D.C. to help deal with those two creatures who hit. How is it possible that…"

Hal Jordan stopped as he thought of the same conclusion Batman announces orally.

"I believe there's only one explanation for that, Jordan."

"Asagi!", they all said together, the answer hitting them all at once.

"But how can that be?", wondered Vixen. "She's way up in the Watchtower several miles above the Earth! There's no way her link with Gamera can have that long a reach!"

Ollie, Roy, I swear to God…!, Dinah thought angrily to herself, believing it to be her two favorite archers responsible for it somehow.

Until a new voice catches their ears.

"Unless she happened to have some help, Mari McCabe."

That's neither Ollie nor Roy!, Dinah thought.

From out of a corner of the damaged National Museum of American History building, a group of five individuals reveal themselves to the two groups of heroes & walk up to them.

All of them were instantly recognized.

"Phantom Stranger", said Superman.

"Mayumi. Asagi!", said Vixen.

"You two!", Black Canary snapped, being careful as to not say Green & Red Arrow's true names in front of the two Japanese girls despite being irate with them.

"Didn't I tell you two to watch Mayumi & Asagi closely?", Dinah barked.

The two archers looked at each other nervously before the Phantom Stranger stepped in.

"Please do not fault the two archers, Dinah. Neither one is to blame for Asagi's stepping in."

"Then it's you who's responsible for it!", Hawkgirl says, pointing an accusatory finger at the Phantom Stranger.

"As mortal man is prone to saying, 'Guilty as charged' ", the mystery man says. "Asagi is a most gifted young girl, & when she touched the amulet that binds her to Gamera for the first time, it has chosen its host well. Like I explained to the Arrows here, it's no different from when Superman first battled Doomsday, or when Diana fought & lost her life battling the demon we call Neron to prevent Hell on Earth. Even when Batman was spent of his strength & stamina, he fought the villain known as Bane to the end before breaking having his back broken. Asagi here knew what she was getting herself into when accepting the amulet & thus becoming Gamera's soulmate in the process. Can any of you fault her for it, or weigh it with the decisions you made throughout the years?"

They all look at each other in complete silence. The frustration Dinah had for both Ollie & Roy suddenly subsided, remembering the former's sacrifice long ago.

Her thoughts were shared all around.

Barry Allen did what he had to in order to stop the Anti-Monitor's Antimatter Cannon from destroying the Earth, Wally West remembers gravely. If it were me, I wouldn't have made a different choice.

Captain Atom made the right choice when he piloted that Superman-Batman robot to stop a meteor of pure kryptonite from hitting Earth, Superman thought about the time when then-President Lex Luthor had accused him of crimes against humanity because of it.

I've never been so proud of Jason when he tried to shield his mother from the bomb the Joker set in that warehouse, Batman thought, remembering when Dick Grayson's replacement as Robin set off to Ethiopia to find his real mother Sheila Haywood & the Clown Prince of Crime.

My mother, Queen Hippolyta, gave her life to stop an Imperiex probe from reaching the planet--an act I myself wanted to perform, Wonder Woman thought, fighting back tears forming in her eyes.

The thoughts lingered in everyone's minds until Green Arrow breaks the silence.

"Well folks, it seems we all owe Miss Kusanagi a big heartfelt apology", he says.

"It seems we do", Black Canary said. "Asagi, we…"

"No need for any kind of apologies, Miss Canary", Asagi said with a smile. "You're the Justice League & Teen Titans. You're always looking out for people like us & keep us safe. The world needs you all about as much as it does Gamera himself."

"Thank you, Asagi", says Vixen. "Your coaching Gamera in helping us get rid of all those monsters that attacked today has proved quite the asset. We're all eternally grateful to you."

"I know Gamera feels the same way. Even without me sharing a link, he knew you all were trying to accomplish the same mission he was."

"So it was you who told Gamera to have us stand down while he…", Wonder Girl starts to say before being cut off by a shake of Asagi's head.

"No, Wonder Girl. Gamera did that on his own. That one thing, I had nothing to do with."

That took most of the heroes by surprise.

"You mean to say that you didn't tell Gamera to ask us to take a back seat with your…", a wondering John Stewart began to say when he noticed something literally missing from the whole equation. "Asagi, where's your amulet? Shouldn't it be on your necklace?"

"During the time Gamera was getting hit by the giant squid's electric bolts, the amulet had shattered in my grip, thus severing my contact with him."

"Thus, the Phantom Stranger must have reconnected you with him somehow, yes?", asked Black Lightning.

"I'm afraid you're quite mistaken, Lightning", says the mystery man. "I did not re-establish Asagi's link with Gamera. Everything the Chelonian Guardian had done to dispose of the squid called Viras & the ceratopsian creature the natives of Wester Island have named Jiger had all been Gamera's own doing--and that was before Asagi's amulet had broke."

"It seems to me that Gamera is a more resilient & resourceful creature than some of us had first realized", says Superman, looking at the Caped Crusader. "With or without a link."

Batman just stared at him, not admitting being wrong & not entirely convinced Gamera is on their side, in spite of the evidence.

Just you wait, Bruce. You'll see, Kal-El says to himself, knowing what his longtime friend is thinking.

"Say, whatever happened to your red robot friend?", Mayumi asked, looking around the immediate area. "I don't see him anywhere."

"Red Tornado? He got a bad jolt when we tangled with Viras a while ago", explained the Flash. "I took him to safety, but his internal repair systems will have him back on his feet in no time."

"I'm glad to hear that."

"And the rest of us are equally as glad that this recurring nightmare has finally come to an end", Supergirl says.

"No, young Kara Zor-El of Krypton. It has not!"

Another brand new voice--one as dark as the night sky--erupts in the evening, getting their attention. As they look around, a hologram of a figure sixty feet high stands erect at a distance of thirty-six feet from where the heroes, Mayumi & Asagi are. This also captures the attention of Gamera himself, watching the hologram appear from a farther distance where he stood. This lone individual was a massive & horrible sight for all to behold, having dark gray skin & wearing an outfit of dark blue, including boots, gloves & a piece of headgear that exposes his stone-like face & crimson eyes. Were he not a mere hologram, this figure would stand a staggering eight feet & nine inches tall. Mayumi & Asagi watch with agape eyes in fear, having never seen this figure before in their lives, but to all the heroes, he is an individual they are all too familiar with, having knowing who the voice belonged to even before his hologram appeared.

His real name is Uxas, but Superman, through clenched teeth, calls him by the name he has been hailed as by his homeworld.

"Darkseid!"

"None other, Kryptonian!", Darkseid says proudly.

"You…know him, Superman?", Mayumi asked, staying by the Phantom Stranger's side, as does Asagi.

"All too well, Mayumi!", the Man of Steel said. "As do the rest of us! He's the lord & ruler of a terrible world called Apokolips! He's tried to conquer the Earth for many years!"

"And he's a master at manipulations!", Supergirl says. "He tried to turn me against all my friends & cousin not too long ago!"

"He attempted the same with a friend of mine named Greta Hayes, who was also known as Secret! Plus, he killed one of our teammates, Slo-Bo!", Wonder Girl said, recalling the memory of when she & Robin had still been in the team of Young Justice as Darkseid corrupted Greta Hayes for a temporary time before restoring her humanity to 'punish' her when she refused to kill her friends she thought were against her, & killing a younger version of the last Czarnian Lobo, the galaxy's most feared bounty hunter & mercenary.

"And the worst act in my book--he attacked my home of Themyscira & had slaughtered nearly half of all my Amazon sisters!", Wonder Woman spat, her rage focused on Darkseid & not on her friends.

"All those atrocities & more I would commit if they would serve my needs, Amazon!", the ruler of Apokolips says with pride.

"Stewart, it looks like the perpetrator behind these attacks in Gotham, the Pacific & here in Washington D.C. has just been explained!", Batman said to him before turning to Darkseid. "You wanted all this to happen on this particular day, didn't you, Darkseid?"

"The Detective, as always! Yes, it was I who had the creatures Viras, Zigra, Gyaos, Jiger & Barugon arise on this day of September 11th! The fiends from space, Viras & Zigra, came here to Earth twenty years ago at my request, as we were to share this planet once we've taken control of it! Zigra hid out in the pacific, while Viras' followers spent the last two decades as personell of the U.S. Government, learning all they could of Earth! Then, learning of the legends of Jiger of Wester Island, Barugon of New Guinea, & later on, the creations of both the Gyaos birds & Gamera himself, I patiently waited until I decided the right time for all to be revealed!"

"So you were the anonymous source who told the Penguin the whereabouts of the Gyaos!", Robin deduced.

"Correct, little bird! I also had my soldiers plant the Gyaos eggs on New Guinea, along with Barugon's egg, knowing that the Penguin's greed would know no bounds! Once brought to Gotham City, my incognito agents made sure that Barugon would grow to full size after getting bombarded by infra-red rays as the Gyaos would be put on display at the Penguin's famous club, where the Gyaos would cause such beautiful havoc upon its citizens!"

Batman clenched his teeth & fists hearing Darkseid's plan being unfolded, but fought to keep his anger in check.

"And so you chose this day to incite even more fear into the hearts of the American people like it did back in 2001!", the Dark Knight growled.

"Yes! Even now, it still never ceases to amaze me that the human race continues to attack & kill its fellow man!", Darkseid goes on. "How enticing it was to watch as New York's famous World Trade Center skyscrapers catch fire & crash to the ground, killing those trapped inside as they try in vain to escape! The same as with the Pentagon, seeing those killed unexpectedly! It was the perfect time to give the people of Earth--most notably here in America--that deadly sense of a hideous deja-vu & listen to them panic!"

"Just when we thought you couldn't be more evil, Darkseid, you stooped to a whole new level of malevolence!", Hal Jordan spat. "Hearing your slaves on Apokolips cry out in anguish & pain doesn't please you quite enough? So you try this--on a day where a lot of people are still in pain over what happened some years ago?"

"You should know by now, Emerald Crusader, that it can never be enough for me! I'd go & listen to the suffering of an entire planet's population if I believe it would be music to my ears!"

Superman has had as much trouble keeping his own anger in check as Batman has, & feels he needs to let some of it out before it consumes him.

"Darkseid, if you think in your twisted, sick & malicious mind that just because you create a dreadful sense of deja-vu to the people of this great nation or even that of the entire Earth that they'll cower in fear like you wish them to, then you obviously don't know the human race very well like you believe you do!", he snapped. "No matter what gets thrown their way, they always find a way to rise above it & endure, rather than live in fear of their enemies! They did it back in 2001, & they'll do it now!"

"The human heart is a strength that remains one of life's great mysteries, Darkseid!", said the Phantom Stranger. "Its fire for compassion & fighting on when all seems lost is something one such as yourself could never hope to understand, being as cold as the vacuum of space itself like you are!"

"I understand only this, Phantom Stranger!", Darkseid presses. "The joy of causing such an unparalleled amount of chaos & fear in one's enemies or subjects, or crushing your foes as if they were nothing more than mere bugs underfoot! And that is precisely what I still intend on doing this very day!"

As if answering to a mental command, a string of white circled lights appear from behind Darkseid's hologram in a vertical manner. They subside from sight about as soon as they appear, leaving something in its place.

It was a horrible sight.

CHAPTER VIII

Washington D.C.:

The Justice League, Teen Titans, Mayumi & Asagi stared at the hideous monstrosity that stood behind Darkseid's hologram. Even Batman was stunned by its appearance as the creature stood twenty meters taller than Gamera did. It was bright reddish skin & had thick, muscular legs with three sharp black-clawed toes on each foot. The tail was long & slender & ended with two curved points. Its body was like that of a professional athlete, & six rounded scars appeared in a vertical position, three on each side of its chest & stomach. Its arms were long like a chimpanze's that almost reached its knees, & its three-fingered hands also had sharp black claws protruding from each. On its wrists were a small opening, placed right underneath the palms. On its back were pointed fins & large leathery wings that were currently folded, much resembling those of a gargoyle's. The neck was lizard-like, long but short, & its head looked very much like a meat-eating dinosaur's but with longer jaws (looking somewhat like Barugon almost). Only here, it had two large horns on its snout & two more in the rear of its head. In its mouth were sharp teeth, with two fangs being twice as long as the rest, giving it a vampire touch. A long forked tongue hung out like a snake's & licked its lips. The eyes were yellow without any visible irises. It gave off a gurgling growl which chilled the blood of Earth's defenders, as the thing looked just like a demon straight from Hell, & considering it was Darkseid who had brought the creature here to Earth, it probably was.

Even Gamera stood motionless at this new monster, observing it from head to toe.

"Simply beautiful & magnificent, is it not?", the ruler of Apokolips says with an evil grin on his face. "I have even given it the perfect name which suits its appearance--Lucifer!"

"Taken from John Milton's 'Paradise Lost', where it means 'The Devil'?", Superman barked. "You're right about that at least, Darkseid! It fits you as well as it does him!"

"All too well, Superman!", Batman adds. " From the Bible it reads, 'How art thou fallen from Heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning'! Isaiah, verse 14:12!"

"Like I said before, the detective as always!", Darkseid says.

"Great Hera!", Wonder Woman said. "I never knew that Apokolips was home to such hideous monsters as this!"

"There is still a lot about my domain you are unaware of, Amazon! As for Lucifer here, he is merely a creation of ours, but a masterpiece of one! Having taken DNA samples from Zigra, Viras, Gyaos, Barugon & Jiger, we combined them into what you now see before you!"

"So you never intended to share this planet with those other creatures, did you?", Green Lantern Hal Jordan deduced. "Like everything else, they were mere Chess pieces for you to go & discard once they no longer served a use to you!"

"I take it Zigra told you about our 'partnership', did he? It matters not! And you are wrong, Emerald Crusader: I did intend to allow the monsters you & Gamera all battled to become part of my organization here on Earth once it became mine! I just never thought they'd be defeated so easily as they were!"

"You underestimate your opponents like you always do, Darkseid!", Hawkgirl snaps. "It's why this planet hasn't fallen into power under your heel!"

"And it never will, no matter what you happen to throw our way!", John Stewart defiantly states. "I figured you ought to know that by now!"

"Does any tyrant quit for good once he suffers his first of many defeats from his enemies? No! He keeps scheming & planning countermeasures against them until he is finally successful in his mission, regardless of how many setbacks he endures!", Darkseid notes. "We are fighting a war, one I intend to win once the obstacles in my path have been disposed of! And while we're on that particular subject…"

Darkseid's hologram turns slightly to the left towards his monstrous creation.

"Lucifer…attack! Kill the heroes of Earth and Gamera!", he says & turns back towards the heroes. "Let the massacre of September 11th continue for all year round…and eternity!"

A grin as wicked as the Chesire Cat's from 'Alice in Wonderland' is Darkseid's departing signature before disappearing from view. Even before he vanishes, Lucifer lets out a growl which echoes again in the night, followed by one from Gamera. The Chelonian Guardian unleashes a plasma fireball at his new enemy, heading straight for him. Lucifer takes to the air as the fireball strikes the ground where his feet were a second ago, hitting nothing but dirt. The Hellish creature then shoots himself at the giant turtle at top speed. He slams into him with sledgehammer force & places Gamera on top of his shell as Lucifer gets on top of him, raking his claws on his enemy & drawing green blood from each slish he makes. Lucifer even sinks his teeth on Gamera, which penetrates even his hard shell as he bites him on his left shoulder. Gamera cries out in pain & he returns the favor by digging his own claws into Lucifer, scratching & squeezing as hard as he could & drawing red from each wound.

"Well, are we going to just sit here & watch, or are we gonna give the giant ninja turtle a hand, ladies & gentlemen?", Green Arrow asks, getting his bow & arrows ready to fire as does Red Arrow.

"I'm with him!", the younger archer says. "For better or worse, we're all in this together!"

"Of course we're going to assist Gamera, don't be foolish!", Black Canary says. "First, we need to get Mayumi & Asagi out of here! Stranger, you…"

When Dinah turned to the Phantom Stranger, the mystery man was gone from sight, along with the two Japanese girls.

Good going, Stranger! Now keep them safe!, Dinah says to herself.

"Well, that was easy enough!", said Flash. "Now we can concentrate completely on the big problem at hand, with the emphasis on 'big'! So let's get cracking!"

"All right, we split into three teams!", Superman says. "Hal, you, Power Girl, Hawkgirl, Flash & Diana come with me! Robin, you get in the Batplane with Batman & have Supergirl, Miss Martian, Wonder Girl & Red Arrow by your side! The rest of you…"

"We read you, Superman!", Black Lightning said. "Dinah can be field leader with the rest of us! Let's move!"

Superman nods, & the heroes all scatter off in their picked teams & head straight off in the direction of the two dueling monsters. Robin heads for the Batplane when the Boy Wonder sees him standing, not moving at all.

"Batman! Come on! Aren't you coming?", he asks his mentor.

"You go take the Batplane, Robin! I have my own wings! Go!", Batman said, pressing a button on his utility belt. From within his cape, a pair of metal blue wings erupt & spread out to his sides attached to a mini-harness with straps that come across his chest. The wings measure to about seven feet in height & two-three feet wide. Twin jets shoot flames from out of the harness, & Batman is airborne.

Alfred, you are full of surprises, aren't you?, Robin said to himself as he announces to his team that a change is being made, with Red Arrow accompanying him in the Batplane as he rushes off for it, getting in the pilot's seat with Roy in the passenger seat.

Starting the engines, Robin & Red Arrow take off & join their friends.

Gamera & Lucifer continue to claw at & bite each other, having caused many bleeding cuts on their person in their scuffle. As valiantly as Gamera fought, he still cannot get his foe off, as he is larger & somehow more massive.

Fortunately, Gamera doesn't have to fight alone: a small explosion erupts on Lucifer's face like someone popping a zit beneath a magnifying glass. The Hellish Beast turns to see none other than Green Arrow, already aiming another arrow at him.

"Hey Satan!", he mocks. "How's about you fool around with a couple of tidbits first before going straight to the main course?"

Green Arrow shoots his other arrow at the beast, this time aiming for his eye. Lucifer gets notice & diverts his head to avoid the hit as the soaring projectile goes past. While it doesn't hit its target, it does keep him distracted long enough for Gamera to gain the upper hand. The giant turtle grabs his neck & squeezes tight, cutting off Lucifer's air passage. Struggling to get free, the Hellish Beast gets himself off his downed enemy & breaks his grip. This allows Gamera to fire his jet propulsion & takes off for the air, with Lucifer in hot pursuit.

So are Superman, Wonder Woman, Power Girl, Hal Jordan & Hawkgirl.

"Damn, those two can move!", Hawkgirl says. "I can barely keep up, even at top speed!"

"Then let's make things a little more simpler!", the Man of Steel says. "Karen, Hal, you two ready?"

"Let's do it!", they said in unison. As one, Kal-El & Karen fire their heat visions as Hal Jordan launches a ray of green energy from his ring & forms it as a large lasso. The heat beams hit Lucifer in the back where his dorsal fins are, reflecting off like they were pointed mirrors. It mattered little: Hal's green lasso latches itself on the thing's tail & goes taught, giving him a firm & secure hold. Wonder Woman uses her own lasso & wraps it around Lucifer's tail, & they both pull with all their might. Soon they are joined by Superman, Power Girl & Hawkgirl as they help their friends. Lucifer feels the incredible strain on his tail, & turns to see the five heroes pulling on his appendage. Ignoring Gamera, he lights up his eyes & fires a beam of yellow from each eye that heads for them. Hal Jordan sees the oncoming projectiles & quickly generates a green shield to block the deadly beams. But in doing so, he loses his lasso & now it's only four heroes tugging on him, losing a fraction of the strain on him.

Green Lantern's shield begins to smoke & burn.

"Dear god! These beams are similar to Gyaos' own!", he says.

"If he wants to use eye beams, we can accommodate him on that!", Power Girl says as she & Superman fire their heat visions. Their beams strike Lucifer in the chest, leaving cauterized marks but doing no other damage to him.

Great Krypton!, Superman thinks. His skin is so tough, I doubt he even feels our beams searing his flesh! I hate to say it, but Darkseid made Lucifer quite sturdy!

But while the two Kryptonian's beams are unfelt by Lucifer, the Hellish Beast does feel what hits him next: transforming himself into a spinning saucer after tucking his limbs in & jets of flames shoot out from where his arms & legs were, Gamera rams Lucifer in the side, & the impact sends him careening through the air over the heart of Washington D.C.. The Hellish Beast uses his wings to slow his momentum & hover in the sky, flapping them at a leisurely pace to keep him airborne. John Stewart, Supergirl, Wonder Girl (using her lasso), & Miss Martian all simultaneously hit Lucifer with beams of energy & heat, but the creature ignores it all & concentrates only on Gamera, who comes in pursuit as a spinning saucer. From his eyes, Lucifer fires his yellow laser at his foe, but the shots bounce off the giant turtle's shell like ping-pong balls as he comes in closer. Once he comes within range, Lucifer turns 180 degrees & swaps Gamera with the tips of his tail on his underside. Upon contact, the Chelonian Guardian is stung by a powerful electric charge that jolts him throughout his body. Letting out a cry of sudden pain, Gamera plummets to the earth & hit's the Smithsonian Institution, crumbling it to the ground in a heap of rubble.

Unbelieveable! His electric attack is just as powerful as Viras'!, Black Lightning thought while firing some of his namesake up at the Hellish Beast. His attack hits Lucifer dead-on, but does no more damage than Kal-El & Karen's heat visions had. Even his friends who are at close proximity with Lucifer & hit him with all they have does little or no indication of even slowing him down in the least, & now that the creature has grounded the giant turtle, it was time for him to deal with the 'little people'.

Using a combination of his tail's electricity & his yellow eye beams, Lucifer fires his weapons at his enemies, not scoring a hit with his latter attack but being very successful with his former one. As the heroes gather together to strike the Hellish Beast all at once, Lucifer lets out a powerful discharge that strikes most of the heroes as they cry out in agony & begin to drop from the sky like flies.

"Flash!", Batman says, being one of four heroes (Vixen & the Batplane being the others) who avoids being shocked.

"I see them, Bats! Leave it to me!", the Scarlet Speedster replies, rushing off & creating a whirlwind beneath the fallen heroes in order for them to land on the ground safely. Once on the ground, it takes a few moments for Superman & everyone else to regain consciousness as Flash & an approaching Green Arrow, Black Canary & Black Lightning.

Still in the air, the Batplane fires a volley of machinegun rounds at Lucifer as Vixen calls out 'elephant' & goes into free-fall above the creature's head, hoping to at least give him quite a migraine in his head & disorient him. Though they find it a little bizarre, Batman & Robin see her plot & keep the thing busy by firing bullets & missiles from both the Batplane & the Caped Crusader's wing gear, striking the Hellish Beast full force while avoiding those deadly yellow beams & electric tail of his.

Good going, you two!, Vixen says to herself as she gets nearer to Lucifer's head. Just keep him distracted a little bit more!

Unfortunately for Mari, Lucifer sensed her approach & in a move that belied his great size, the Hellish Beast moves his head out of her range, taking Vixen by surprise. He then slaps her as one would swat a fly with such force that it sends her crashing into Batman, & both heroes go into a tumble across the sky. He then turns his attention towards the Batplane & shoots a barrage of yellow beams almost like a living machine gun. Being under fire from too many angles, Robin has no choice but to put distance between him & it.

On the ground, Hal Jordan & the others awake from Lucifer's strike, still stunned & stiff in spots but otherwise no permanent damage done on their persons.

"Is everyone all right?", asked Black Lightning.

"A bit tingly in some spots, but we'll live", says Hawkgirl. "Where'd that devil of a beast head off to?"

"Where do you think, little bird?", Green Arrow said, pointing towards Gamera as the giant turtle gets to his feet just as Lucifer lands on his, swooping down from the sky. Groggy as he may be, Gamera is still ready & able to fight & fires a plasma fireball in his foe's direction. Lucifer ducks to avoid being scorched & counterattacks with placing his palms out in front of him & firing a slew of saliva spears from the openings placed there. The Chelonian Guardian turns 180 degrees to allow the spears to bounce off his shell harmlessly like bullets do with Superman. Tha barrage continues for nearly half a minute before it ceases altogether. That's when Gamera turns back around to launch another plasma fireball, but Lucifer anticipated this & strikes first: rearing his massive head back, the Hellish Beast unleashes a blast of white that begins to engulf Gamera from the top on down. At first, what the heroes were seeing was that Lucifer is burning their big ally alive, but in actuality Gamera was getting the opposite.

He was being frozen!

In no time, Gamera was fully encased in ice, his hide glistening in the night sky & totally immobile.

Before Vixen was slammed into Batman she called out 'eagle' to assume its ability & much lighter weight to assuage the Dark Knight's brace of impact. Had she retained the mass of the elephant as she hit him, Batman would probably have many broken bones & his flying gear would be inoperable right now. They recover to see Gamera being frozen by Lucifer's white ray from his mouth. They also witness the Hellish Beast approaching his helpless foe in order to strike at & smash him to many frozen pieces.

The Justice League & Teen Titans would have none of that!

"Don't you even think of it, you test-tube Hellspawn!", Hal Jordan said as both he & John Stewart create large green fishing rods with their rings & snag Lucifer with the giant hooks at the end of their cast-out lines on his back just above his wings. Using their willpower, Hal & John begin reeling Lucifer in & get some extra help from the three Kryptonians & two Amazons, with a little more from Miss Martian & Hawkgirl as they slam into the Hellish Beast's chest, driving him away from their frozen ally. Green Arrow, Black Canary, Black Lightning & Flash offer more assistance with lightning bolts, sonic screams, multiple arrows with its own special trick & strong gales of wind to push Lucifer back, away from Gamera. Lucifer growls & roars loudly as he is bombarded by powerful fists & energy attacks, struggling to get himself free from the lines which hold him fast.

Watching the battle from the air, Vixen & Batman feel dread in their stomachs.

"This is no good, Batman!", Mari says. "All they're doing is getting Lucifer mad, & sooner or later…"

"I agree, Mari!", Batman concurred. "While they're being successful at getting him away from Gamera, they should know he can't be beaten this way!"

As usual, the Dark Knight speaks truthfully: Lucifer lashes out at the League & Titans with his electrically-charged tail, first aiming for Hal & John. His appendage smacks & shatters their green rods to pieces. Lucifer then takes off into the air, raining down yellow beams at his small but powerful enemies before taking off.

"No, Ares curse him!", Wonder Woman says. "This foul monstrosity of Darkseid's will not venture off & spread his terror elsewhere!"

"You got that right, Diana!", Wonder Girl said. "Washington D.C. is as far as he goes! This is where we draw the line, & he's not crossing it!"

That's when Robin speaks into her radio.

"Cassie, wait! Let the others handle Lucifer for the time being! We got another task to accomplish first!"

"Robin, what could be more important than stopping Lucifer's rampage?", Cassie asks.

"How about getting Gamera unfrozen so he can help us stop Lucifer's rampage?"

That made Cassandra stop her pursuit.

"Gee whiz, I almost forgot already! So, how can we get him out of his icy prison?"

"Have M'gann, Kara, Black Lightning, Green Arrow, Black Canary & Flash to where Gamera is, & I'll explain everything!", Robin said, turning the Batplane around as Red Arrow relays the Boy Wonder's request to keep Lucifer focused on them for now.

"Your message is relayed to us, Roy!", Hawkgirl says over the Batplane's radio. "We'll be making sure that Hell-beast doesn't leave this vicinity! The rest of you do what you can to help Gamera out of his icy straightjacket!"

"Copy, Kendra!", Red Arrow replied.

Then Batman's voice comes on the radio, sounding less enthusiastic than the others.

"Robin, are you sure this is a good idea? We need every available hand if we're to defeat Lucifer!"

Robin did not yield.

"I'm fully aware of that, Batman! And that's why we need Gamera's help on this! Like it or not, he's on our side & he is a part of 'every available hand'! Just as Asagi & Mayumi do, I trust Gamera, & so should you! Didn't he save us--including you--twice in Gotham City before? Are you still not convinced of his intentions?"

Batman was silent for a few moments before replying.

"Do what you have to to revive him. And Robin…"

"Yes?"

"Please be careful."

That made the Boy Wonder smile.

"Thanks, I will. Don't forget--I had a good teacher. Robin out."

"That makes both of us, Tim!", Red Arrow says with pride as Robin's grin remains.

I suppose it does, Roy!, Tim Drake says to himself.

The heroes Robin asked to gather around Gamera's frozen form wait patiently as the Boy Wonder lands the Batplane fifty feet away from the giant turtle, & he & Red Arrow step out & join their friends.

"All right, Robin. We're here as you requested", said Wonder Girl. "Now, care to tell us as to how we can awaken the giant ninja turtle from his icy slumber?"

"Remember Mayumi's story at the end during Gamera's climactic fight with Gyaos in Tokyo?", he asks the group, putting the others in deep thought.

Black Canary is the first to come up with the answer.

"He was engulfed in flames which renewed his strength & stamina!"

"There you go, Canary!", Robin says.

"Ah, now we see your plan there, junior bat!", Green Arrow says. "You want to start a mini inferno & melt all that ice off of Gamera!"

"And restore his vitality in the process!", said Red Arrow.

"That's it, & that's why I need your help to do it!", Robin said. "Flash, you, Cassie, Kara & M'gann find anything that's highly flammable & bring it back here to put around Gamera!"

"Leave it to us, Robin!", Miss Martian says, & the four heroes rush off into the nation's capital to search for the necessary materials.

"Let's hope this works, Robin", Black Lightning said, a bit skeptical of the plan despite the logic involved.

Yeah, me too!, Tim said to himself, hoping for the best.

Lucifer fired almost everything in his arsenal of weaponry he had, & though he may have slowed the heroes down a bit, he does not stop them: Superman, Wonder Woman, Power Girl & both Green Lanterns attack the Hellish Beast in numerous spots on his person with all their might as they are careful to avoid the deadly yellow beams, electric tail, saliva spears from his wrists & ice breath. Hawkgirl adds to the melee by smashing her mace wherever she can on the creature. Even Batman enters into it by launching missiles from his winged backpack that strike Lucifer in many areas. But the Caped Crusader has another plan up his sleeve, & he relays it to Vixen, who stays by his side.

"As long as he can be airborne, Lucifer will be nearly impossible to beat!", Vixen says. "If only we can keep him on the ground!"

"I have just the thing, Mari!", Batman says, going into his pouch to take out two round & metal objects & hands them to her. "Here! Go & plant these right behind Lucifer's head!"

"What are they?"

"Highly powerful detonators! When they go off, they should disrupt his attention & cause him to fall! Afterwards, we can have Flash…"

"I see what it is you have in mind, & I like how it sounds! Be right back!"

Vixen soars off towards the Hellish Beast, staying out of his sight until she reaches the back of his head as Batman requested. Calling upon the power of the cat, Mari uses her claws to get a firm grip on Lucifer's skin so as not to fall off while he's engaged with her friends.

Armed with Batman's detonators, Vixen gets to work.

Flash, Supergirl, Wonder Girl & Miss Martian all return with what they were supposed to find at Robin's request--gasoline barrels, barbeque tanks & even a trio of tankers. They all get placed around Gamera's frozen form as if making a perimeter for a campfire. Ironically, it's just what the Boy Wonder has in mind.

"Here's what we could find, Robin", says Flash. "Do you think it'll be enough for what we have to do?"

"Yes, I believe it will", said Robin. "Good work, you four."

"So now we ignite them, am I right?", Green Arrow asked.

"That's where you, Roy, Lightning, Kara, & M'gann come in. Once you five ignite the fuel & get the fire going, Black Canary & Cassie can up the ante with their sonic scream & lasso, giving Gamera some extra assist in getting revived."

"Same with me", Black Lightning says. "My electricity can add to helping Gamera with his wake-up call. Let's get to work!"

They all nod & put distance between them & the Chelonian Guardian. At a safety of about forty yards, those instructed to ignite the fuel get ready at Robin's command, with Ollie & Roy aiming their arrows, Supergirl & Miss Martian lighting their eyes red, & Black Lightning with his fingers in front of him.

As soon as they were in position, Robin gives the word they've been waiting for.

"NOW!"

All at once, they fire their weapons at the base of the custom-made campfire & it explodes with a fiery inferno that rings the ears as it burns bright. The flames reach up as if to consume the frozen form of Gamera, which is precisely what the heroes were looking for.

"Excellent! Now for phase two!", Robin says.

"Phase two coming right up!", Black Canary said, unleashing her sonic scream as Black Lightning fires electric voltage from his fingers & Wonder Girl wraps her lasso around Gamera's left arm, sending shocks all over. This keeps up for a minute & a half with no reaction from the giant turtle, even as Supergirl & Miss Martian assisting with their heat beams.

Then a crack or two suddenly fills the air, followed by a repeated chorus of it.

Even as Lucifer attacks her friends left & right, Vixen stays on her task at hand, resisting the urge to just go to the Hellish Beast's eyes & gouge them out like ants or earthworms digging through dirt. She has installed the two detonators Batman handed to her. Installing the second device on the right side of Lucifer's head with the sticky adhesive on the bottom of it, Mari made sure it was secure before taking off away from the creature at a great distance.

She gets in touch with the Dark Knight on her communicator.

"Batman, the detonators are in place exactly where you want them to be! If you're going to set them off, now's the time!"

"Good work, Mari! Brace yourself!"

Three seconds later, Lucifer was hit by a stinging pain in the rear of his head as both of the Caped crusader's devices go off simultaneously with powerful blasts. The Hellish Beast bellows an angry, hurtful roar as his vision gets all fuzzy momentarily along with his sense of direction. Unable to think clearly due to the disturbance, Lucifer begins to fall to the ground, his wings giving him no brakes to halt his descent as he cannot concentrate to make them work properly.

During Lucifer's plummet to earth, Batman flies over to Flash & hands him more of his powerful explosives along with instructions.

Lucifer lands upon the National Gallery of Art, flattening a good portion of it to rubble. As he struggles to get up, Batman gives Flash the signal: the Scarlet Speedster, carrying a multitude of Batman's detonators in hand, races off up to Lucifer & literally races up on him on his crimson flesh. Even if Lucifer was more oriented than he is now, he was unable to feel Flash as he speeds swiftly upon the creature's leathery wings, planting Batman's weapons on numerous spots, sticking to the surface like plastique. In just two seconds flat, Flash uses every detonator that was handed to him by the Dark Knight, & he radios him to say that all the packages have been delivered.

As soon as Flash gets to a distance of fifty yards, the detonators all go off at once in a fiery holocaust. The explosions literally shred Lucifer's wings apart like a pair of giant hands ripping them up like many paper shredders operating at once. The Hellish Beast bellows again even louder than before, losing his means of flight violently. Pieces of what remained of his wings went flying everywhere, & when the fireworks were all said & done, all that was left of Lucifer's appendages were two badly bruised handless limbs with little bits of flesh dangling off it.

"Now we're talking!", Hawkgirl says, observing the action from above. "With his wings clipped but good, we can keep him grounded & not worry about any more aerial dogfights with him!"

"Just don't take him for granted, Hawkgirl!", John Stewart said. "Even without the use of his wings, Lucifer's no less a danger! He's still got that arsenal!"

"Than let's disarm that & put him out of commission along with his wings!", said Power Girl. "I'll take point!"

"It's all you, Karen! Take it!", Wonder Woman said. With the heroes following Power Girl, they swoop in hard & fast towards Lucifer as the creature notices their approach, the last of his grogginess fading away. His mouth begins to light up white inside, signaling his frost attack.

"I don't think so, Jack Frost!", Hal Jordan said as Batman launches two missiles from his wing harness that fly right into Lucifer's open maw. Using his ring, Hal uses a green tendril to wrap his mandibles shut just as the missiles detonate inside, putting the brakes to a custom-made snowstorm. The intensity of the missiles' heat mixed with the creature's frost caused a serious burn in his mouth, & smoke of both mixtures gush out all over as he gurgles in agony.

"Nice, Batman!", said Hal. "What'd you use? Napalm?"

"A higher concentrate of it! Ten times more powerful than what the Army uses!", the Dark Knight simply said.

The Man of Steel uses his X-Ray vision to take a peek at Lucifer's throat to assess the damage done to it.

"It worked like a charm, Batman!", Superman says. "The heat from the napalm fused with the bitter cold caused a disruption in his pipes! He's no longer able to use it!"

"Good! One less weapon in his arsenal to use!", said Vixen. But their victory of cancelling out Lucifer's frost was by no way a total one. The horns in the back of the Hellish beast's head began to glow like Christmas lights before it unleashes a ray in rainbow colors that aimed straight for the League, almost as fast as his eye beams. Power Girl & company had barely enough time to dodge to one side as it came rushing at them, hitting the already damaged Pentagon from across the Potomac & shattering another wall to rubble.

Unbelieveable!, thought Black Canary, watching from where Gamera is, still frozen solid in his icy tomb. Lucifer has just about all the powers of the monsters Darkseid cloned him from! And if that's true, then maybe…

Dinah gets on the radio to pass her theory to her team.

"Listen, everyone! Remember when Darkseid said he cloned Lucifer from those other five creatures? That would explain as to why he has their strengths, like Gyaos' sonic yellow beam & Barugon's rainbow ray! But it could also mean…"

"That he could possess their weaknesses, such as Barugon's to water!", Wonder Woman says. "That may be very possible, Dinah! If we can get Lucifer into the Potomac & keep him in it, this battle could finally be won!"

The Flash arrives just as Diana got halfway through her statement.

"I'll take Ollie, Dinah & Jeff over to give them some extra pairs of backup!", the Scarlet Speedster says to Robin. "The rest of you…"

"We understand, Flash!", the Boy Wonder cut him off. "Roy, Kara, Cassie, M'gann & I will remain here to continue to revive Gamera! Go!"

With that, Flash sped his three teammates over towards the edge of the Potomac one at a time at a spot where the Memorial Bridge was seventy yards away.

"We're in position, folks!", Black Lightning says. "Now it's time for our 'guest' to come & join us!"

"He'll be there before you know it, Jeff!", John Stewart said as he & Hal Jordan shoot green enrgy from their rings & form then into large clamps that snap around Lucifer's ankles & wrists, with an extra around his eyes in order to prevent him from using his yellow beams. Power Girl flies in with Superman & together they smash the creature's rear horns to put his rainbow ray out of commission at the same time the two Green Lanterns lift him off the ground & send him over to where Green Arrow, Black Canary, Black Lightning & Flash are, awaiting the prize catch of the day as Lucifer fights & struggles against his emerald bands.

"You're almost there, boys!", Green Arrow says. "Just a couple more meters & you can dunk tall, dark & supremely ugly into his watery grave where he can share eternity inside Davy Jones' Locker!"

"If Davy Jones even decides to take him, Ollie!", Hal Jordan says jokingly. "But we'll let him choose for himself! Here he…what?"

Hal & John turn to Lucifer & see the Hellish Beast struggle even more rigorously than he did before. Then they watch an impossibility: Lucifer fires his eye beams that go straight through the Green Lantern's clamp, shattering it to bits. He then does the same to the binds that grasp his ankles & wrists & goes into freefall, landing with earth-shattering force right at the edge of the Potomac, only forty meters from where he was originally supposed to be dropped at.

Flash got his friends out of harm's way by keeping them at a distance of two hundred feet from where Lucifer landed as the other heroes (sans the Teen Titans) gather round.

The Hellish Beast stands at the water's edge, awaiting his enemies' charge.

"It would seem that Lucifer has decided to make his final stand with us here!", Wonder Woman states.

"He's probably aware that we are of his aversion to water as Barugon was!", says Black Lightning.

"Well, too damn bad for him!", Hawkgirl says, patting her mace in her hand. "Like it or not, this DNA-spawned hell-beast is gonna get his evening bath!"

"Then the best way to do that is to give him the old bum's rush & knock him right in the drink!", says Green Arrow, readying his bow & three arrows, each one filled with his most highly explosive TNT encased within. "Just give the word, folks!"

"On my say, everyone!", Superman says, his friends & teammates poising themselves for the moment.

And Kal-El of Krypton gives it.

"GO!"

As one, those who can fly rush in at Lucifer at full throttle, with backup from Flash's high whirlwind as he waves his arms speedily, Black Lightning with his most powerfull attack of his namesake, Black Canary with her sonic scream & Green Arrow with his already launched trio of arrows. Batman strikes with a quadruple missile attack from his harness, & he adds rapid-firing machinegun action to the mix. But even before the heroes can get halfway to Lucifer, the Hellish Beast lights up his two front nose horns & a cone-shaped yellow beam of energy hit's the heroes in one fell swoop, both in the air and on the ground.

Zigra's immobilization ray…!, Hal Jordan thought as he feels his will ebbing away, having been too familiar of the shark creature's powerful weapon, now in the hands of Darkseid's DNA-spawned beast.

Try as they might, the heroes succumb to Lucifer's new attack as all celluar activity of their beings cease to function. Even those of the strongest willpower--from the Green Lanterns to the Dark Knight, & even the Kryptonians & Amazon Princess--fall prey to the beam's effects, & they drop to the ground like flies caught in a mist of bug spray.

Seeing his foes go down in a heap of bodies, Lucifer roars in triumph. He then takes a step closer to them & bends down to take a satisfying look at his fallen foes, his forked tongue hangs out of his mouth like a person savoring the aroma of a fine-cooked steak.

Lucifer is about to feast on the Justice League of America!

CHAPTER IX

Washington D.C., the edge of the Potomac:

They are the world's greatest heroes.

They have fought enemies who have threatened the Earth from on & off planet, such as the entity Mageddon who came from the farthest reaches of unknown space to more Earthly enemies like the Injustice Gang, led by Lex Luthor & featuring a gallery of rogues like the Joker & Circe, for example. No matter what gets thrown their way, the Justice League has been triumphant.

Now it seems they are about to become food for an entity created by the lord of Apokolips, as Lucifer edges closer to his fallen & helpless victims.

But instead of feasting on heroic tidbits, he howls in anguish as a pair of plasma fireballs strike & blow apart what was left of his wings to pieces, leaving nothing but cauterized stumps. Lucifer looks up to see Gamera lunging right at him, his wounds & bruises all healed up & back at full strength after a refreshing fire bath due in no small part to the Teen Titans, as Supergirl, Wonder Girl, Miss Martian & Robin & Red Arrow (the latter two in the Batplane) fly alongside him. Lucifer retaliates by firing his eye beams at the Chelonian Guardian & his saliva spears from his wrists at the young heroes, but the former gets blocked by Gamera's shell & the latter avoided by quick aerial maneuvers by the Teen Titans. As Gamera gets closer to his enemy, the Hellish Beast skids to one side as the giant turtle passes by without doing any damage. Making a quick turn, Gamera heads back towards Lucifer, & this time, he hits his mark by slamming into him at full force, sending the creature flying back several hundred yards.

Gamera goes after him to get in close with Lucifer, firing a trio of plasma fireballs in the process.

As the two monsters fight it out, the Batplane lands next to the comatose heroes as Robin & company rush over to their mentors & friends.

"What did that beast do to them, Robin?", Red arrow wondered fearfully.

"I can't really say, Roy!", the Boy Wonder said, placing his hand over Batman's heart. "That beam of Lucifer's put them in some kind of suspended animation--or worse! I don't feel any kind of heartbeat from Batman!"

"Nor I from Green Arrow!", Roy replied.

"Same here with Diana!", Cassie said.

"Even Superman here is no different!", said Supergirl. "I should do an X-Ray scan to see what happened exactly!"

"And I should try & read their minds to see if they really are dead or not!", Miss Martian says. Both girls get to work on scanning the League for any signs of life within them. After a fast & thorough search, they report their findings.

"Anything?", asked Cassie.

"It's strange, Cassandra", M'gann says. "Their brains are still functional, & yet they do not react to the sounds of battle right now or even our voices."

"The same with their celluar structures & anatomies", Supergirl steps in. "Everything is in perfect working order, but they're not dead. It seems your first guess was correct, Tim--they've been placed in a state of suspended animation."

"Like they're frozen in time?", wondered Roy.

"Something like that."

"Perfect!So how do we revive them?"

"We'll worry about that later, Roy", Robin said. "Right now, we need to help Gamera any way we can! If Lucifer uses that paralyzing beam on him…"

"But what about them, Tim?", Red Arrow says sternly. "We can't just leave them like this! What if Lucifer decides to come back & finish them off while they're in this state? What then? In case you've forgotten, Green Arrow--Oliver Queen--is my surrogate father!"

"And Batman, Bruce, is mine, Roy! All the more reason to help Gamera & make sure that doesn't happen!", Robin said. "If Lucifer isn't brought down, then the entire world may end up like them, or worse! Think for a minute, Roy--what would they have us do? What would they want us to do?"

A moment or two left Red Arrow in thought, & he heaves out a heavy sigh.

"They would want us to keep on fighting the good fight", he says defeatedly.

"Good man, Roy", Robin said, placing a hand on his shoulder & smiling. "Oliver trained you well."

"And Bruce, you", he retaliated. "So, how do we go about doing this?"

"First, that immobilizing ray Lucifer has must be dealt with!", Miss Martian says. "Cassie, Kara & myself will deal with that!"

"And Roy & I will give backup in the Batplane!", Robin says. "We've still got a pretty full arsenal in it, so let's move! Titans--together!"

The other four shouted their catch phrase, & they raced to lend their assistance to Gamera who, as of right now, is engaged in a fierce one-on-one struggle with Lucifer, tossing one another into buildings & structures & bringing them down into heaps of rubble, roaring in defiance & rage. Lucifer attempts another deadly bite on Gamera's shoulder, but the giant turtle learns from his past mistake & grabs his enemy's bottom jaw & squeezes it tight. The Hellish Beast feels the pressure & pulls away out of his grip. Instead, he lights up his front nose horns to unleash his immobilizing ray that he used on the Justice League only moments ago. Grabbing Gamera by the arms so he cannot escape what's coming next, Lucifer strikes in three…two…one…

Rather than hitting Gamera with his weapon, Lucifer himself gets hit by three fast-moving objects--two red & blue, the other green & white--striking the DNA-spawned hell-beast in his twin horns with such force that they crack & break off like pieces of a stone statue. Miss Martian & Supergirl grab the pieces of horn they broke off & toss them into the Potomac as Lucifer sees the three young heroes & growls angrily at them for their deed, taking his sights off Gamera & shooting his eye beams at the Kryptonian, Amazon & Martian.

Gamera uses the distraction to act upon: like Lucifer did to him before, the giant turtle bites down on his enemy's left arm & draws red blood from the wound. Lucifer shouts out his protest & rakes Gamera with his clawed hands on his head, but the Chelonian Guardian ignores them & keeps the pressure on his arm, just as the Batplane arrives & launches a pair of mini-sidewinder missiles that strike Luciferin on his left side. Wanting to break away, Lucifer lashes at Gamera with his tail & strikes him in the head, giving him pain he is unable to ignore & is forced to release his grip on his enemy as the Hellish Beast takes a leap back to put some good distance between them. Reeling from the electric shock, Gamera attempts to launch another of his plasma fireballs but is stopped short of doing so: a shot of Lucifer's eye beams hit Gamera chest, causing a slight cut in it as green blood leaks out. This gives Lucifer the chance to strike, but not with his beams: from the six circled scars on his abdomen, long snakelike tentacles shoot forth from these openings & wrap themselves around Gamera's ankles, wrists & neck, squeezing him tightly. The giant turtle's oxygen is cut off as the appendages (similar to Viras' but a bit thinner) get tighter & tighter, making Gamera struggle feverously as he gets no air in his lungs. Lucifer then fires his eye beams again, & now Gamera gets cut in his face, one slice on each side like he was cut with a large scalpel. Gamera roars in pain as he tries but fails to shoot a fireball from his mouth--a most impossible feat when one's air is stopped.

"Damn! That's a new trick up his sleeve!", Red Arrow says.

"Don't worry, Roy! We've got a couple good ones ourselves still!", Robin says, turning the Batplane around for another pass at Lucifer. Pressing a button, the aircraft spits out several discs two feet in length. These discs embed themselves on Lucifer's tentacles, drawing more blood & setting off electrical discharges for about ten seconds before self-destructing with explosive force. This causes Lucifer to lessen his grip on Gamera,& once the giant turtle learns that he can breathe again, he grabs the nearest tentacle (on his neck) & begins pulling on it, getting it off. He follows it up with a duo attack of his plasma fireballs that blow off the tentacles from the middle.

No longer attached to the main host, those around Gamera's wrists & ankles drop off on their own, & Lucifer recoils what's left of his appendages back into his body, bleeding.

It hardly seemed to deter him in the least: in no time he was rushing towards Gamera with rage burning deep within him. He leaps at his hated foe & the two monstrous combatants clash in another brief but fierce raking of claws & gnashing teeth. Putting his tail out on front of him, the Hellish Beast snatches Gamera by the throat again & throws him down The Mall as Gamera lands on his shell & goes skidding along the way, causing dirt & debris to fly on either side of him.

He stops short of the U.S. Capital building, only several meters away.

Whoa, close one!, Robin & Red Arrow both say to themselves, realizing how close they were to losing one of America's most beautiful structures & relieved that it wasn't.

But the image of it might come true after all: Lucifer races towards Gamera, firing his eye beams at the Chelonian Guardian. Luckily the giant turtle sensed his approach & he blocks the beams with his shell, getting to his side & rising up on his feet. In no time the two beasts locked arms with each other as Lucifer pressed onwards to the U.S. Capital as Gamera used all of his strength to push him back & spare the building a demise in rubble. The Hellish Beast fires his eye beams at the building but the Chelonian Guardian pushes his face skyward from underneath his bottom jaw, aiming them in the air & hitting nothing but empty space, sparing the famous landmark even the slightest scratch.

I wonder…does Gamera somehow know that the U.S. Capital is an important structure to the American people?,thought Robin as he watches Gamera's noble & brave deed of keeping the building intact. Or did Asagi tell him to try & make sure that it & the White House are to be guarded at all costs before her link with him was severed?

The Boy Wonder didn't have time to give it more thought: even if Gamera doesn't know what the building meant to the United States, he does know that Lucifer needs to be prevented from carrying out the unthinkable.

"Ladies, we need to get Lucifer…", Robin started to say as he flew the Batplane closer to the Hellish Beast before Miss Martian cuts him off.

"We know, Robin! And this monstrosity will not so much as touch that building!"

"I heard that!", Wonder Girl added. "If he wants to go & trample one of our most famous landmarks, he'll have to get past Gamera--and us!"

"And that's not gonna happen--not on our watch!", Supergirl adds.

The three girls race with Robin & Red Arrow towards the battling monsters, still pushing & gnawing against each other as one strives to destroy America's symbol & the other striving to save it from annihilation. Robin fires the Batplane's machine guns at Lucifer, making sure he hits him & not the building. The same goes for the heroine trio as Super girl & Miss Martian fire their red eye beams. Their shots hit Lucifer in the back, doing little damage other than making him roar in anger.

It mattered little: grabbing Lucifer by his arms, Gamera launches his jet propulsion from his legs & shoots straight up into the sky just after the Batplane makes a pass. With his catch in tow, the giant turtle heads down The Mall from above in a diagonal direction, rising in altitude.

"Where the hell's he taking him? Space?", Red Arrow wondered.

"I honestly couldn't say, Roy", Robin said, unsure of the giant turtle's intentions.

Gamera gets to a height of over 1000 feet in the air with his enemy before he suddenly cuts off his jet propulsion & goes into freefall with Lucifer still held firm in his grip, who tries but fails to get free no matter how hard he struggles, kicks, thrashes or scratches.

They were on a direct falling course down towards the Potomac itself.

That's when it occurred to the young heroes.

"Of course!", Wonder Girl said. "Gamera's taking him out to the water! He must also know that Lucifer possesses Barugon's weakness to it as we do!"

"But how does he even know about it, Cassie?", wondered Red Arrow. "As far as I can tell, Gamera doesn't communicate with us telepathically or in any other way, or vice versa!"

"I would assume Gamera knows by natural instinct alone", Miss Martian says. "And while I can communicate with him by telepathy, I gave him no such instructions in doing so, Roy. This is all his doing--again."

"It would seem that Gamera has this fight down then", Supergirl says. "A simple dunk in the drink, & this fight goes in the history books."

"Be that as it may, Kara, we should still head over to Gamera & lend a hand", Robin said. "Just in case things don't go according to plan."

"You mean Lucifer might still escape his death bed?", Red Arrow asked.

"There is always a chance of that, Roy. Just because a plan sounds good on paper, it still doesn't mean that it always works out the way you want it to."

Roy nodded.

"All right, Tim. Take us to him. I, too, have a feeling in my gut that this isn't over yet."

"Hold tight! Cassie, Kara, M'gann…"

"Understood, Robin", M'gann says, & the young heroes head over towards the Potomac just as both monsters make a big splash in the middle of it, about five hundred feet away from the Memorial Bridge on the opposite side of where Superman & the rest of the League lay comatose. In almost no time, Robin & the others make it to the edge of the water where Gamera & Lucifer made their splash which would make any Olympic swimmer jealous & green with envy. Several tense moments pass as the young heroes search the surface, looking for any sign of life.

"It's been almost a full minute, & I see no signs of either Gamera or Lucifer", Wonder Girl says. "Maybe we weren't needed after all."

"Let me do an X-Ray scan first before we can relax, Cassie", Supergirl says, scanning & seeing the water below the surface. At first the Maid of Might saw nothing out of the ordinary except small minnows swimming away in a school, possibly from…

From fear.

Kara Zor-El's eyes widen.

A huge geyser of water erupts in front of the three heroines, & Lucifer jumps out from what would've been his death sentence & onto land, making a thunderous crash on the water's edge on the north side of the Memorial Bridge, just a stone's throw away from the famed Lincoln Memorial. The Batplane & three heroines barely had time to avoid being knocked out from the air by the Hellish Beast's abrupt emergence.

Damn! This is one time when I hate being right!, Robin said to himself, fighting to keep the aircraft under control. But as he levels out, he & Red Arrow see a bizarre sight.

"Would you look at that!", Roy says at the sight ahead. Lucifer was smoking in spots like he literally did just come from Hell, & his crimson flesh had blisters & scars in places, muscle being visible in spots. The beast growled in agony & threw his limbs in anger, the pain causing him to be irrational. Gamera resurfaces from the water himself & heads for his enemy, as ready as the Teen Titans are to take him down once & for all.

But even though he's heavily bruised & battered, Lucifer refuses to throw in the towel: he snatches Gamera with his tail by the neck & slams him down to the ground with a thunderous sound that shakes it. The Batplane fires more of its sidewinder missiles at Lucifer & strike his back--with disastrous results.

While the hits did hurt him, Lucifer roared in uncontrollable rage & he lashes out with his hand at the aircraft, striking the right wing & tearing it off like it was nothing more than tissue paper.

"Hold tight, Roy!", Robin yelled inside the cockpit as the Batplane went into a smoking tail spin as sparks & smoke fill the inside, causing the heroes to cough & not being able to see where they're going--straight for the Lincoln Memorial.

But just as they were about to crash & explode into it, they were stopped short with a violent jerk before landing safely on the ground, & their cockpit gets ripped open by a pair of powerful hands, allowing the smoke to dissipate as Robin & Red Arrow climb out into the night air, coughing out the last of the smoke that entered their lungs.

When their vision cleared, they saw it was Supergirl & Miss Martian who have rescued them both from annihilation.

"Are you two okay?", Miss Martian asked.

"Thanks to you & Kara, M'gann", Robin said. "Is Cassie…"

That's when an alarm goes off within the ruins of the Batplane, as the four turn to it & the Boy Wonder's heart races.

"That doesn't sound good--does it?", Red Arrow asks.

"Not at all!", Robin says. "That's the plane's self-destruct warning! In under a minute, it will detonante with a powerful blast! We nedd to get away from it--now!"

"There's no need, Robin!", Supergirl says as she & Miss Martian together grab the plane's good wing. "Let's send this thing to where it will do the most good for us!"

Like throwing a Frisbee, the young Martian & Kryptonian fling the ready-to-blow aircraft at the one place it will serve a lot of good.

Towards Lucifer.

After knocking the Batplane's wing off, Lucifer turns to Gamera, his tail still around the giant turtle's neck & sending electricity through his body, stunning him. Lucifer lights up his eye lasers & fires them at his foe, but Gamera thinks quick & places his enemy's tail in their path, just as Lucifer shoots his beams & cutting off his own tail & the electric current flowing through him. The tail slackens & bleeds, giving Gamera time to recouperate. Having cut off his own appendage, the Hellish Beast roars in pain as Wonder Girl wraps her lasso around Lucifer's own neck & giving him an electric charge all over his bruised body.

"Let's see how you like it, you filthy animal!", Cassie barked. Lucifer growls loudly & in anger from the current & the fact that his flesh is badly bruised, making it more excruciating. The pain adds in intensity when the Batplane remains come twirling at him thus hitting & exploding upon his chest in a ball of flame. When the fire dies, there lay an opening on Lucifer's chest that exposes his beating heart as blood gushes from the wound.

"Ha! I bet that stung badly as well, didn't it?", Cassie pressed.

"He thinks that was bad, these will really make him cry for his mama!"

The new voice from behind Wonder Girl was accompanied by several launching missiles which strike Lucifer in the back & head, making him do exactly what the new arrival said it would do.

Cassie turns to see who the new arrival is.

Or rather, three new arrivals--Blue Beetle, Kid Devil & Ravager as the former give the latter two a lift in the air by grabbing their hands, his blue armor smoking where the missiles were launched from.

"Beetle! Devil! Ravager! Am I ever glad to see you three!", Cassie says with a big toothy grin.

"Same here, Cassie!", Kid Devil says. "So tell us--you got room for three more, or what?"

"Join the party, gang!"

"Don't mind if we do, blondie!", Ravager says, taking one of her katanas with her free hand & telling Blue Beetle to drop her off at Lucifer's neck. Giving her a swing for momentum, Ravager soars through the air & lands on the creature's neck & starts climbing up towards the top of his head, wearing special handhelds to get secure grips upon his flesh. Like Vixen before her, Lucifer doesn't even feel her ascent on him.

Blue Beetle still holds onto Kid Devil, & they join up with Wonder Girl, Supergirl & Miss Martian.

"Whoa! And I thought that Lobo dude was ugly-looking!", said Kid Devil.

"An understatement, Eddie!", Blue Beetle said. "So folks, situation rundown?"

"Long story short--creature named Lucifer created by Darkseid from the DNA of five other monsters, including Gyaos & Barugon!", Wonder Girl explains. "Don't have time to go into any more details for the moment!"

"I'll say! Heads up!", Blue Beetle cried out.

His shout alerted the rest of Lucifer's lunge at the young heroes woith a swipe of his clawed hand, narrowly missing the kids but succeeding in forcing Beetle to let go of Kid Devil as he plunges towards the ground. Luckily, a savior by the name of Gamera safely catches Eddie & lowers him to the ground without a bruise on him, even as Lucifer's claws strike his shell & do no damage to it.

Rising to his full eighty-meter height, Gamera roars & faces off against Lucifer anew.

Arriving with Kid Devil, Blue Beetle & Ravager, Aquaman swims through the water of the Potomac to his friends in the Justice League who lay on the ground unmoving. He does a quick telepathic scan of their minds, & his suspicions are confirmed: they've been zapped by Zigra's immobilization ray caused by that creature the Teen Titans are fighting. Arthur didn't have the time to ponder on how it came to possess Zigra's weapon; he had friends & comrades to awaken.

Fortunately, he knows just how to do it just like he did with his friends of the deep who tried aiding him in the Pacific. His staff in hand, Aquaman points it down on his friends & lets loose a low electrical charge that covers everyone. He keeps this up for over a minute before he sees some reaction, first from Superman & followed immediately by Wonder Woman & the others.

He ceases his electricity as the heroes start to see clearly & recognize their reviver.

"Arthur?", Diana says in a slight groggy voice as the King of the Seven Seas takes her hand & helps her on her feet.

"Hello Diana, everyone. Long time no see", Aquaman says. "How are you all feeling?"

"How can I explain without using foul language?", Hawkgirl says.

"I remember getting hit by Lucifer's yellow beam from his two front horns", Power Girl said. "The same kind of weapon that…"

"Zigra himself used, yes", Hal Jordan said, cutting in. "I should have anticipated that Darkseid would equip him with such a weapon!"

"I'm amazed we're even still all here!", said Vixen. "Lucifer had us at his mercy &…"

The second mentioning of the Hellish Beast's name made everyone sober up in nothing flat, & suddenly they were charged up & ready for action again. They look to see Gamera in duel with the aforementioned creature dangerously near the Lincoln Memorial.

With the Teen Titans caught in the midst of it all!

Where's the Batplane? And Robin?, Batman thought with his fists clenched, fearing the worst.

Where the hell is Roy? What's happened to my proud son?, Green Arrow wondered in a fury shared by Black Canary.

Cassie!, Diana thought in the same manner, seeing her young sister in battle with Lucifer, even with her friends by her side.

It was not enough for them, & too much for the League to take.

They had to go help.

"Let's move it, Justice League!", Superman says. "We should…"

"Should nothing, Superman."

Kal-El & the rest of the League turn to find the Phantom Stranger just twenty yards away, with Mayumi & Asagi at either side of the mystery man. As they walk up towards them like they were on a Sunday stroll, the Phantom Stranger continues but only after a few of them get their say in first.

"We have no time for this, mystery man!", said Green Arrow, his rage clearly visible. "My son is out there somewhere, dead or worse! And you have the nerve to tell us we should sit here & twiddle our thumbs while those young kids…"

"Your compassion for your young protégé is highly admired, Green Arrow", the Phantom Stranger says. "I don't fault you or any of you for it. But please don't despair: you'll be pleased to know that both Robin & Red Arrow are alive & in one piece."

While it is soothing to hear that bit of news (especially for Bruce, Diana & both Oliver & Dinah), it still didn't make the current situation any easier to cope with.

"Then why do you persist in us not doing anything to give the Teen Titans assistance?", Superman asked. "Those kids are fighting for our country, our world, & not to mention their very lives! Why have us on the sidelines like this?"

"Don't forget, Phantom Stranger, that those young heroes are the Justice League's future!", Wonder Woman says. "By letting them battle Lucifer alone--even with Gamera at their side--you could be foolishly throwing that future away like a used towel!"

"No, Diana. It's you the rest of you who seem to have forgotten", said the mystery man. "If some of you recall, a few of you were reluctant in letting some of those young heroes becoming one. Batman, you did not take your current Robin for a time because you feared he would share the same fate as the second one who wore the costume when the Joker mercilessly killed him in Ethiopia. Diana, you would not permit young Cassandra Sandsmark to join with the Teen Titans when Young Justice disbanded because you felt she wasn't ready for it yet. Still a good number of you believe the current members are too inexperienced to function as a team. And what of you, Superman? I sense within you that you still have a need for being with your cousin Kara Zor-El of Krypton to help keep her safe from dangers like Darkseid when she kidnapped & brought her to Apokolips to try & turn her against you."

"What exactly are you saying, Stranger?"

"Simple, Diana. As you often say so yourself, 'You just got to have faith'. I'm asking you all to believe in those young heroes & allow them to fight & finish this battle their own way. They know the risks to a mission like this as much as any of you do. Isn't it wise for you to show initiative towards their bravery & let them end this?"

Diana & company look at the battle not too far away. It was tough for them to remain where they are & not go off to assist their young proteges in defeating Lucifer, even when each nerve of their bodies & their brains tell them they should. But they knew the Phantom Stranger raised good points: Tim Drake, Cassandra 'Cassie' Sandsmark & the rest do know what they were getting into the day they started putting on costumes and/or receiving super-powers.

It was no different as to when they started out, only to become the true heroes they are now.

"All right, Stranger. You win", said Green Arrow, his rage all but evaporated. "Just don't make any of us regret it."

The Phantom Stranger smiles.

"When have I ever, Green Arrow? Besides, I sense that this fight will be ending soon."

Before anyone could ask him how soon it would be, a horrible sight occurs right before their eyes.

A living flamethrower in the face courtesy of Blue Beetle & Kid Devil distracts Lucifer long enough for Gamera to take the offensive. Grabbing his tail by his mouth & biting down hard on it, the giant turtle begins spinning his enemy around half a dozen times before releasing him. Lucifer gets thrown across the land right to the edge of the Potomac with an earth-shaking thud. Having been too weak due to blood loss & his previous bath in the river, the Hellish Beast was too groggy to get back on his feet as Gamera moves as fast as he can to get to him on foot with the Teen Titans following carefully behind, being sure to give their giant ally plenty of elbow room in case Lucifer is playing a diabolical game of possum. Ravager got off of the Hellish Beast & picked up by Miss Martian before Gamera gave him the whirl of his life, explaining that she wanted to gouge one of Lucifer's eyes out with her swords & give further advantage to the team.

"A fine plan it was, Rose, but had you been on Lucifer during his wild ride…", M'gann began saying until Rose cut her off.

"Yeah, I know. I'd be barfing up my lunch right now! That's okay--Slade never took Joey or myself on any amusement park rides when we were kids anyway. No big loss. Just give me another shot at this overgrown test tube baby! I'll show him how it felt to get your eye gouged out against your will!"

"Unless Gamera makes short work of him in the next couple moments, Rose", Kid Devil says. "And personally, I hope he does! This horror has gone on long enough today!"

"Now you're talking, Eddie!", Blue Beetle says, carrying his red-skinned partner by the arms. "That's something we can all agree on!"

"Thanks, Jamie. Uh, about what I said back in Gotham…"

"Hey, don't sweat it. Think of it like this: those killed by the Gyaos have been avenged in full by super-turtle here. Surely that should count for something, right?"

"Of course it does. But that Penguin creep needs to pay his debts too, don't forget."

"He'll get his, Eddie, I promise you", said Robin, being carried by Wonder Girl & Red Arrow by Supergirl. "But he can wait. Right now, there's an apocalyptic creature to stop!"

"And Gamera's just about right on top of him to blow him straight back to the hellhole he was spawned from!", Red Arrow says.

Roy Harper was right: the Chelonian Guardian was now looming above the fallen Lucifer, who was struggling still to get up. Gamera prepares to launch a deadly plasma fireball at his downed enemy when the unthinkable happens: with a slish of his tail, Lucifer smacks Gamera in the face, blinding him for a few seconds. That brought him just enough time to commit an act of terror. Doing a swift turn, Lucifer rose right up to his feet & slashed Gamera clear across the turtle's throat, creating three deep cuts that began spilling green blood trickling down. He follows it up by raking his claws down on his chest, creating another trio of bleeding cuts. His cry of pain a gurgle as his blood fills his mouth, Gamera falls backwards on his shell & crashes to the ground with a hard thud.

Closing his eyes & becoming motionless, Gamera appears to be no more.

The Chelonian Guardian is dead.

So Lucifer was playing possum! Damn him to Hell!, Robin thought, seeing the horror unfold before him & his friends, & their eyes go wide from it.

Lucifer still has plenty of life left in him, & he now plans to take that very essence away from the young heroes, beginning with firing his eye lasers.

Supergirl, Wonder Girl, Blue Beetle & Miss Martian all scatter to stay clear of the deadly projectiles & avoid being skewered. They place the non-flyers on the ground & rush up to face Lucifer head-on to knock him into the water & settle the score for what he did to Gamera. Red Arrow uses whatever arrows he has in the satchel on his back, not caring what trick/weapon it's carrying & fires each one at the Hellish Beast. Kid Devil begins to rush off to join his team, but gets stopped by Robin as he grabs him by the arm.

"Eddie, wait!", he says. "Gamera needs our help!"

"How can we help him, Robin? He's dead now!", Kid Devil said. "It's up to us to stop Lucifer now!"

"Yeah, get a clue, Robin!", Ravager said, pointing towards the fallen turtle. "He got his damn throat slit three times, as did his chest! Ain't no way he's getting up from that!"

"We don't know that for sure, Rose!", said Robin. "If there's even the slightest spark of life still within Gamera, then we need to ignite it quickly, & that where you come in, Eddie!"

Eddie Bloomberg points a finger at himself, clearly puzzled.

"Me?"

"Yes! Listen: Gamera feeds on flames of any kind, so if you shoot your flames directly at him--notably at his wounds--he'll get enough juice to rise up & help us defeat Lucifer!"

"Are you sure it'll even work, Robin?", asked Ravager, clearly skeptical of his plan. "If what you say is true, he's going to need a lot more than Devil-Boy here!"

"There's no time, Rose! Eddie, please get started! If Lucifer defeats us, then…"

"All right, Robin, I'll do it! But you better be right about this!", Kid Devil said, turning to Gamera's neck & taking in a very deep breath. When he exhales, a huge gout of flames erupts from his mouth & begins coating the giant turtle's neck with his fire.

It worked before--it's got to work again!, Robin thought.

Blue Beetle, Supergirl, Wonder Girl & Miss Martian attacked Lucifer with everything in their arsenal & power they could muster, from their hardest punches to their searing heat visions. They even tried going for the creature's exposed heart in his chest to put him down for the count, but Lucifer wouldn't allow any of them the chance to exploit his Achilles' heel, no matter how valiantly & brutal the young heroes attack him.

"Dammit, we're hitting him with everything but the kitchen sink & he still won't go down!", Blue Beetle says, firing a barrage of rapid laser shots at the creature's torso.

"All we really have to do is get him into the water, Beetle!", Miss Martian said. "Once he goes in, his celluar structure will get weak & he'll dissolve!"

"You mean like the Wicked Witch from 'The Wizard of Oz'?"

"That's one way to put it, yes!", Wonder Girl said, lashing out with her lasso as Lucifer swipes at her with a clawed hand, which she avoids. "He's already gotten dunked once! A second attempt will mark the end of him!"

"Then what are we waiting for, ladies? Let's give this smelly gargoyle his second bath of the night!"

"On three, then!", Supergirl says as the heroes regroup into attack formation.

"Three!"

The quartet rushed towards Lucifer with all their power & speed, but even that didn't help in accomplishing their task. The Hellish Beast was too familiar with their tactics, & was more than ready for them. In a move that defies logic, Lucifer swipes at & hits the four young heroes before they could avoid or counterstrike. The blow sent them straight for Robin, Ravager & Kid Devil on the ground, the latter of whom was still belching flames at the seemingly defeated & dead Gamera in hopes to revive him. They were knocked into each other & they all tumble down into a heap, stunned intently by the impact & unable to do anything but stare at the impending doom closing in on them from above. Lucifer lights up his eyes in preparation of his eye lasers that will shred the Teen Titans like ripe fruits.

And they can do nothing to stop him!

But somebody else can, & it's not one of the Justice League members.

It was Gamera.

Just before Kid Devil's fire got cut short, the Chelonian Guardian was conscious enough to absorb what Eddie Bloomberg belched at him & regain his strength. With it, he opens his eyes & lifts his head up to launch a plasma fireball at Lucifer. It came at him too fast for him to avoid the oncoming pyre, & the shot hits the Hellish Beast dead center in the chest where his heart was exposed. Upon contact, the front & back of Lucifer explodes in a fiery heap of blood, bone & red flesh. Both Gamera & the Teen Titans were splattered in the monster's blood as Lucifer bellows out his dying roar at its loudest, sounding like a klaxon blaring into the night as his insides burn from the intense heat of Gamera's fireball. His mouth, opened at its widest, gurgles & spurts his blood like a small fountain of red. Taking a step or two back in a spasmatic move, Lucifer falls into the water with a big splash, & it begins to bubble & steam as his cells start dissolving even before disappearing beneath the surface, his mark being a pool of red.

Lucifer will most definitely not be getting up from that.

Gamera rises to his feet, his cuts still visible but no longer bleeding. The Teen Titans do the same, & they all observe the spot where Lucifer fell into. After two whole minutes watching it carefully to ensure he doesn't resurface, the young heroes breathe a collective sigh of relief & is confirmed of what they had hoped for.

Lucifer is dead.

In spite of the wounds on his throat & chest, Gamera lets out a victory roar that fills the night air as Supergirl uses her super-speed to clean herself & her friends off of Lucifer's splashed blood, everyone looking about as spotless as before.

Hot damn!, Ravager says to herself as she looks up at the Chelonian Guardian with a grin. This one doesn't take any prisoners whatsoever! I soooo like you, Gamera!

Getting thanks from her friends, Supergirl heads back towards the Justice League as she, Wonder Girl, Miss Martian & Blue Beetle each take a partner to carry.

Seeing Gamera defeat Lucifer & the Teen Titans returning safely towards them made the Justice League both happy & greatly relieved.

"It would seem you were correct in your assumption, Stranger", Wonder Woman says as a smile on her face (& that of almost everyone else) grows. "This battle between Lucifer, Gamera & the Teen Titans did not last too much longer from when you showed yourself to us again."

"I guess we owe you an apology, mystery man", Green Arrow says.

"None are necessary, archer", said the Phantom Stranger. "It was only natural that you all were concerned for the well-being of your proteges, the same as any mother or father would for their own children. I'm sure they would feel the same way."

"Of course we do, Stranger", Supergirl says as the young heroes arrive. "As long as we're not smothered too much, we're very appreciative of their love & support of us. Right, Kal?"

"Right you are, Kara", a happy Superman says.

Almost upon arriving, several of the Justice League members had surrounded the younger heroes & gave them warm hugs, most notably Green Arrow & Black Canary with Red Arrow. It goes for Diana & Cassie as well, sharing a tender moment between two Amazonian sisters.

"Scared as I was for you, young sister, you fought valiantly along with your team members back there", Diana says proudly. "I always knew there was something special about you when we first met in Gateway City."

"Thank you, Diana", Cassie says, no less proud.

"I myself have always been proud of Cassandra & her friends."

A new voice brings everyone looking skyward to see a fully functioning Red Tornado in flight (with his legs twirling at Flash velocities to keep him airborne) as he now touches down to rejoin the group, his legs returning to normal.

"Hey Red!", Flash says. "How you doing?"

"Much better now, Flash", he replied. "My capacity is at 100 %. I have been for quite some time. Before any of you ask, I chose not to interfere in the Teen Titans' affair when they were in battle with Lucifer because I had my faith in them. Don't forget--I was adult advisor for Wonder Girl & Robin when they were still known as Young Justice. Had I even the slightest doubt they would not prevail in assisting Gamera to defeat Lucifer, I would've gladly stepped in & offered my own assistance."

"Thankfully, you didn't need to", said Hawkgirl. "But then, these kids are tougher than they appear to be. I like that!"

"That includes the new guys", John Stewart said, walking up to Kid Devil & Blue Beetle as he extends his hand. "Good job back there, you two. Your mentors would be most proud of you right now."

Blue Beetle shook Stewart's hand first, followed by Kid Devil, though a little reluctant at first. Eddie didn't know whether or not Daniel Cassidy would approve: it was him that got Eddie in his mess in the first place, having been responsible for his Aunt Marla's death & that he'll be Neron's for all eternity once he reaches his twentieth birthday. But he wouldn't spend his life in despair because of it: he's going to enjoy his life as best he can, whether he's fighting threats like Lucifer or having great times with the other Teen Titans when they're not out saving the world.

To hide his shame & troubles, Eddie Bloomberg smiles & shakes Stweart's hand proudly.

"I'm sure they would, Mr. Stewart", he says, sounding as proud as he felt--and being successful at it this time.

"Heads up, folks! Gamera's approaching!", Vixen says, & everyone looks up to see the Chelonian Guardian making his way towards the heroes on foot, stopping short of the Arlington Memorial Bridge. Gamera stares at them all in wonder as they do the same back at him. That also includes Mayumi & Asagi, both of whom do it with pride, knowing what he stands for. Gamera looks down on them with fascination & great respect, having never before seen such small life forms that can fly like he can, run at super-speed, fire red beams from their eyes, & so forth. He knows instinctively that they fight threats like his longtime enemies, the Gyaos, among others. Gamera is further honored by his small but very powerful allies when both the Justice League & Teen Titans give the giant turtle a salute like a military soldier would to any of his superiors. The Phantom Stranger, Mayumi, Asagi & even Batman himself salute the giant turtle, who more than understands the gesture towards him & gives them all a nod of approval twice. Gamera then lets out another roar of triumph in the night before tucking his limbs inside his shell & firing his thrusters from where his arms & legs were, rising to an altitude of 120 feet in the air. He then begins spinning like a race car wheel at a rapid speed, the fire making him look like a flying saucer before taking off like one as he leaves the nation's capital, heading west.

When Gamera was out of sight, everyone lowered their arms.

"So Gamera was called 'The last hope' centuries ago", Green Arrow says, facing Mayumi, Asagi & the Phantom Stranger. "Nice to know that still holds true to this day, even with the ever-vigilant presence of the Justice League & Teen Titans."

"Let's not forget the Justice Society & regular Titans while you're at it", Black Canary says with a smirk, giving her old team credit.

"Perish the thought, little bird!"

"Actually, that credit should in part go to the Teen Titans this day", Asagi says as they look at her. "While it's true that Gamera delivered the final blow to Lucifer that finished him off, it was the work of the Teen Titans that helped to revive him after Gamera got both his throat & chest slashed. Were it not for their efforts, Gamera wouldn't be here now & evil would've won on this day."

"So in short, neither Gamera nor us would be victorious--let alone alive--had we not worked together", said Vixen. "Am I right?"

"I believe that is correct, Vixen", said Mayumi. "Even someone like Gamera needs a hand when in battle. Sometimes a job is much too big for one hero to handle, whether it be one of you or a giant turtle created centuries ago to eradicate a grave mistake."

"That is exactly why we formed teams like this, Miss Nagamine", said Black Lightning. "A danger of this magnitude requires as many hands it can get its hands on, regardless of race or species."

"But even you guys gotta admit", Kid Devil said. "Whoever thought we'd be teaming up with a giant turtle to help save the world? That's gotta be original!"

"What's even more original is that you of all people would help to save the life of 'The Last Hope' so that he can be our last hope!", said Blue Beetle. "Who knew you had it in you, eh Eddie?"

"What Blue Beetle means by that is you showed great initiative as much as any in your team, Kid Devil", said Robin. "We're proud of you."

The multitude of smiles in his direction gives Eddie Bloomberg new reason to be happy.

Up yours, Neron!, Eddie says to himself. You may own my soul when I reach twenty years of age, but I'm still gonna fight the good fight & enjoy my life as a Teen Titan while I can! Who knows? I just might be able to find a way to break our deal, & I won't rest until I do find it!

"Just doing my part, folks!", Eddie says with a grin.

"Make sure you keep up the good work", Hal Jordan praises as he now looks at Ravager, who stares back. "Ravager?"

"What is it?", she asks, not expecting what he does next--offers his hand.

"Good work back there, & in Gotham City earlier tonight."

Reluctant at first, Ravager takes the offered hand & shakes it.

"You more than proved your worth to the Teen Titans", Hal continues. "I think you'll fit right in with Robin & the rest."

"I'm …pleased to know that", Ravager said. "I'll be sure to do that. Thanks."

You know something? He ain't half-bad…and he's kinda cute too!, Rose says to herself.

"I guess Gamera's heading for what passes for home", Red Arrow says. "I wonder--will we be fighting alongside him again in the future?"

"It's always a possibility, Red Arrow", said Miss Martian. "I briefly read Gamera's mind before he took off, & felt that he was comfortable battling the threats with us. He may have been an unusual ally, but an ally nonetheless. So yes--we will fight with him again."

"Especially with the threat of more Gyaos eggs somewhere on the planet", said Mayumi.

All eyes turn to the Japanese ornithologist as she went on.

"Remember what I said at the briefing, people: just one Gyaos is capable of reproducing all by itself, creating more in no time. We should all be prepared if one day the Earth is suddenly faced with dozens, hundreds or even thousands of attacking Gyaos. While it's unlikely, it's not by any means impossible."

"I agree, Mayumi", said Superman. "This is a big planet we live on, & even I couldn't be able to scour the entire world in search for those eggs."

"Same goes for me & all the other Flashes", Flash said. "The best we can all do is remain vigilant & deal with the threat if & when it presents itself."

"Therefore, we might be seeing the Gyaos again, much to our dismay", said Power Girl.

"I'm afraid so, Power Girl", said Aquaman. "Just like seaweed, they're bound to turn up somewhere in the world again. But that's why the ancient Atlanteans created Gamera--to destroy the Gyaos at all costs."

"But at least Gamera won't have to do it alone", says Red Tornado. "He knows that he has allies in the Justice League & Teen Titans for support."

"We can worry about that at a later date", said Superman. "Right now, there's a large mess which needs to be cleaned here. It's the least we can do to help bring this sense of deja-vu to an end on this day."

"A grand idea, Superman", said John Stewart. "We can form three or four teams to begin the clean-up, & we'll start near the U.S. Capital."

"You all do that with my blessing", Batman said, walking up to Robin. "I'm needed back in Gotham to patch up a few loose ends. Robin, let's go."

The Boy Wonder turns to his friends.

"Sorry gang. In a situation like this, Gotham does come first", he says.

"Go then, Robin", said Wonder Girl. "We'll see you soon."

Robin nods, & he & Batman walk a distance from the others before the Dark Knight faces his young protégé. They stare at each other for a full minute before Batman breaks the eerie silence.

"Robin, today was a very dangerous task you were involved in this evening", he says. "It was one where you could've lost your life indefinitely."

"Batman, I'm well aware of that, but you need to understand…", Robin started to say until his mentor put up a hand to silence him. "I just need to tell you…"

Here we go, Tim thought, ready for a scolding by Bruce.

"You did great, Tim", was what came out of Batman's mouth, stunning the Boy Wonder.

"Pardon me?", said Robin, his eyebrows raised.

"You did great", he repeated. "You showed good judgement with your fellow teammates during this battle against Lucifer & assisting Gamera, and…I'm proud of you. Plus, I'm relieved to see that you're all right."

"Thanks, Bruce. That means a lot."

"Granted. Let's head back to Gotham."

"How? Lucifer totalled the Batplane."

"I have a much quicker way for us to get home", Batman said, speaking into his earpiece. "Batman to Watchtower. Two to beam."

"Firestorm here, Batman. Teleportation for two commencing in three…two…one…"

As the Nuclear Man commences on the countdown, Batman stares off in the direction that Gamera took off in & allows himself a little smile.

Thank you, Gamera, Batman thought. You saved my life twice in Gotham, & helped Robin as best you could. One way or another, I'll return the favor.

Before Batman can finish his silent praise, white light engulfs him & Robin for about two seconds before disappearing, taking both Gothamites with it.

Apokolips:

Darkseid sat in his massive throne as a lone figure standing five feet & eleven inches tall enters through the doors which gains entrance to his quarters. He wore a sickly magenta robe with a hood that partly conceals his wrinkled face & blue eyes. This individual has served the lord of Apokolips for many years, specializing in creating & inducing many forms of torture & suffering towards others.

He goes by only one name, which Darkseid now addresses him with.

"Desaad. Enter", he commands. The torturer does as ordered without question & walks up to his master.

"Do you have a progress report on Lucifer?", he asks.

"Yes I do, Lord Darkseid", Desaad says. "The news I bring you is not good, I'm afraid. Lucifer has…been destroyed."

"By Superman & the Justice League?"

"No, my lord. By the creature called Gamera. He blew a hole through Lucifer's chest with one of his plasma fireballs. Lucifer then fell into the body of water called the Potomac & began to dissolve, his life ended indefinitely."

Darkseid did not reply immediately, having absorbed every one of Desaad's words & now ponders upon them in silence while his servant does the same, not daring to utter one syllable & enrage his master unnecessarily. Instead, he just stands there like a statue, awaiting what it will be that his lord says about the outcome.

Finally, he begins to speak.

"I see. It seems I have misjudged Gamera's character & fighting prowess: he is a warrior in heart & spirit, just as the ancient Atlanteans had created him centuries ago in order to wipe out the Gyaos creatures, which turned on their creators. I take it Gamera had the League's assistance in defeating Lucifer, Desaad?"

"Them, & the young heroes known as the Teen Titans, my lord. Their combined strengths proved more than a match for our dear creation--and of the other creatures Lucifer was spawned from."

"Then it seems we will have to take steps in making sure our next creature will become more powerful than Lucifer was, capable of destroying our enemies & bringing me their heads as trophies & mementos."

"We can get started in creating it right away, my lord. All the scientists need is your word to begin and…"

The palace was rocked by a loud & violent explosion, causing Desaad to almost lose his footing & fall.

Darkseid pressed a button to his throne & gets in contact with the ones in the radar room of his palace.

"What happened?", he barked, rising from his throne.

"Our laboratory has been attacked & destroyed by unknown assailants, Lord Darkseid!", a technician said.

"What? Who would dare to…"

The Lord of Apokolips was interrupted when one wall of his throne room suddenly made a hole, shattering debris in his direction as Desaad took cover behind his master. From the hole emerged two figures, one standing six feet & seven inches tall. He wore a yellow & black outfit with a black circle emblem on his chest. Golden bracelets covered his wrists, & his skin had a purplish tint. His eyes & hair were black, & he was encased by a yellow energy aura created by a yellow ring he wore on a finger of his left hand.

Once he was the greatest of the Green Lanterns, who became their greatest enemy, most notably to Lantern Hal Jordan, who was once his pupil.

His name is Sinestro, & he brings someone encased in a yellow energy bubble whom he places on the floor of Darkseid's throne room & retracts it. This 'passenger' stood about the same height as Darkseid himself, only having red flesh & sharp black claws on his fingers & toes. The only piece of clothing he has on are a pair of black pants & a blue cape that drapes down from his massive shoulders. His mouth was filled with sharp teeth & had pointed ears, violet eyes & a fin of sorts on top of his bald head. Above his eyes was a third eye which had hypnotic capabilities.

He hails from the planet Kalanor, & he goes by the name of Despero.

His vastly muscular body is matched by his temper.

"We dare, Darkseid!", Despero growls angrily.

Undaunted by their rude & bold presence, Darkseid takes this in strides.

"Do you gentlemen have business here on my domain, or do you wish to be sent to early graves which I will gladly provide for you?", he states menacingly.

"Cut the deception, Darkseid!", Sinestro snaps. "You know damn well why we're here!"

"Enlighten me, Korugarian!"

"Twenty years ago, a Virian ship blindly arrived & attacked my home planet when I was still a Green Lantern! I recently discovered that they were in league with you in an attempt to take over Earth!"

"The same thing happened with a Zigran ship that hit my domain of Kalanor!", Despero barks. "As with Sinestro, my home suffered mass devastation from this race of undersea dwellers due to your ambitions!"

"Even though what you say is true, do you believe me to be sympathetic for your troubles & apologize for the atrocities caused by my allies?", Darkseid wondered, unfazed by Sinestro or Despero's rage. "Be thankful your home planets still exist! Now leave Apokolips, both of you--before I lose my leniency & execute you two where you stand!"

Darkseid turns his back on his two gatecrashers, believing them to do as he instructed.

He could not be more wrong.

Hearing footsteps behind him, Darkseid turns to see briefly a clenched red fist come flying at him at full throttle. The force of Despero's punch sends Darkseid flying into another wall as it gets dented with the Apokoliptic ruler's massive body. Desaad's eyes go wide with shock as he witnesses his master getting clobbered by someone of great strength other than the Kryptonian or Amazon Princess.

Caught off-guard by Despero's punch, Darkseid falls to the floor of his throne room.

"Don't you DARE order us around as if we are your pathetic underlings, Darkseid! Do you hear me?", Despero shouted furiously.

"That, Despero, is a foolhardy mistake on your behalf!", Darkseid says, getting up from the floor & wiping the blood from his mouth with the back of his hand. With speed that matches a prize athlete's & then some, Darkseid launches himself at Despero with clenched fists & lands a right hook in the red-skinned alien's face, knocking him back a few steps.

"So it's like that, is it? So be it!", Despero shouts & wails his fists at Darkseid again as the Lord of Apokolips responds in kind. Both combatants throw equally massive fists at each other, connecting almost every time one makes contact. Their blows cause the throne room to tremble & shake like bombs going off. Desaad, hiding behind the throne, decides to make a break for it by racing towards the doors that lead out of the room, but a yellow tendril with a claw at the end conjured up by Sinestro's power ring puts the brakes to that idea. The claw grabs the torturer by the waist, & he is reeled in by the former Green Lantern.

"And just where were you running off to, little man?", Sinestro sneers.

"N-Nowhere, honest!", a terrified Desaad replied. "Please don't kill me!"

"Under other circumstances, I would! But lucky for you, we're here to send your master a simple message, so you're staying here & witness us deliver it to him! Now be silent!"

Desaad does as he's told as Sinestro turns him to see his lord & master trade blows with Despero as both tyrants continue trading fists, with neither getting the upper hand over the other, being too evenly matched. Darkseid could easily end this conflict with a blast of his deadly Omega Beams, but he prefers to do it this way to teach Despero a lesson upon entering his home without any permission from him, as physical pain is a great motivator.

Unfortunately for Darkseid, Despero has the very same plans for him & is solidly content on making him getting it through his head, even if it means doing it the hard way.

Especially if it means doing it the hard way!

Just when this battle seems to go nowhere, Despero finally gains an advantage over his foe: he swipes at Darkseid's legs with one of his own, knocking down the Lord of Apokolips on his back. Before Darkseid can even think of counterattacking, Despero pins him down with his legs on his chest & grabs his head with his left hand while pounding him with his right fist. Despero punches his enemy hard a good dozen times before relenting, leaving Darkseid's face bruised & bleeding from his mouth & nose. Using both hands, Despero grabs his fallen foe by the throat & lifts him up to eye level.

"Listen & listen good, Darkseid, as I'm only going to relay this to you once!", Despero spat in Darkseid's face. "The next time one of your schemes come across either mine or Sinestro's home uninvitedly, our next visit to you will be even more unpleasant than this little encounter! Do you understand me? Speak!"

Just then, an army of Apokolips' Parademon Shocktroopers come bursting through the doors of Darkseid's throne room, all armed with powerful rifles aimed at Despero & Sinestro. A second army await outside the hole the two alien intruders made, their weapons also at the ready.

In spite of his pain, Darkseid manages a grin with a few missing teeth.

"I've only this to say to you & Sinestro, alien!", he says defiantly. "One word from me is all it would take for my Parademons to bring you both down to your knees! The next time either of you come to my home uninvited will be your last! I am Darkseid, Lord of Apokolips--and I answer to no one, least of all you!"

Despero wanted nothing better to do than tear his foe's head clean off his shoulders & keep it for a trophy. But his Parademons were carrying rifles that looked as if they could take him down easy if he tried, same with Sinestro. He will give this to Darkseid--he comes well-prepared for a fight, & at anytime.

It's no less than what Despero himself would do.

Furious, the red-skinned alien drops his beaten enemy to the floor as the Parademons all place their rifles on their triggers, ready to fire.

Amazingly, Darkseid puts a hand up to cease them at the drop of a hat.

"Don't bother, my troops!", he says. "These two were just on their way out to leave! Isn't that correct, Despero?"

Despero stares hard at Darkseid for a few moments, as does Sinestro. Then they look at the Parademons aiming weapons at them. The former Green Lantern could probably take them all out of commission easily with the power of his ring, were it to come to that.

But like Despero, he's certain that their point has come across to the Lord of Apokolips, despite how stubborn he is.

"You're right about that at least, Darkseid!", the red-skinned alien says. "Sinestro & I are leaving--but not because you said so!"

Despero turns towards the Korugarian as Sinestro tosses Desaad away like used socks at his master. He then uses his ring to generate a bubble to cover Despero completely.

"Come, Sinestro. It's time we were off!", Despero said as he was being covered up in yellow energy.

"Yes, Despero. I believe we've made our point!", the rogue Lantern said, taking off into the sky with his passenger until they were gone from sight. The Parademons made no attempt to follow or even fire upon them, as Darkseid gave no order to do so.

Undaunted by this turn of events, Darkseid gets in contact with what remains of the lab to speak with one of his servants.

"Lackey, are all the DNA samples of the five creatures still in existence?", he asks.

"Unfortunately no, Lord Darkseid", the lab technician says. "When they attacked us, all DNA samples of Zigra, Viras, Gyaos, Jiger & Barugon have been all but eradicated. We cannot create more beasts because of this."

"Get the lab fully functioning again immediately. You will work around the clock until it is so. Understand?"

"Yes, Lord Darkseid. Several staff are already at work on it."

"Good. That will be all."

Darkseid cuts off communication with the lab & orders his Parademons to leave his throne room, leaving him & Desaad by themselves.

"What will we do now, my lord?", Desaad braves to ask.

"What we always do, Desaad: we come up with the next available plan to set into motion & crush our enemies with", the Lord of Apokolips says. "And we make certain that it becomes successful."

Desaad smiles at that.

"As always, you remain strong in the face of utter defeat, my lord", he states. "It becomes as no surprise that you are more than fit to rule here!"

"And that is the nature of order here, Desaad", Darkseid says. "My order. Anything less than that will not be tolerated & dealt with severe penalties. There is but one rule here. And that is to live, serve, & die…for Darkseid."

The Apokoliptic ruler's eyes glow a bright red at that very thought, mixed in with a bit of rage burning inside him. It was rage for Gamera: he had such high hopes for his creation Lucifer in destroying both the Chelonian Guardian and the constant thorns in his side, the Justice League, most notably the Man of Steel Superman & the Amazonian Princess Wonder Woman.

In his mind, he can see their crushing defeat at his hands.

He vows to make it a reality…and soon.

Gotham City, September 12th, 12:15 a.m.:

Oswald Cobblepot was tired in more ways than one. First off, his two henchmen Knuckles & Fists never reported back to him to confirm if his greatest foe was dead, so he's assuming they must've been killed by the monster Gyaos or Barugon, or both. Therefore, he gives up on them as easily as he did with Travis & Bob when the Gyaos killed them at his Iceberg Lounge only hours ago. As for his beloved club, authorities tell him that it will be off-limits to him until further notice. He wasn't that worried: he can take it easy for that amount of time before he can get back to business as usual. Dressed in his formal sleepware, a glass of the hotel's finest wine & a good magazine in hand, the Penguin lays in bed with his umbrella next to him, thinking of the finer things in life.

The Batman was not one of them.

"You seem pretty calm considering what our fair city experienced this evening, Oswald", he says, entering silently through the window.

Undettered by his sudden appearance, the Penguin turns in his direction & sits up.

"Well, it would seem that those two monsters have failed in their task", Oswald says in a nonchalant tone. "You're still among the living!"

Like lightning, Batman grabbed Oswald by the collar of his pajamas & brings him to his face, scowling.

"Listen to me really good, Oswald!", he says coldly. "You're damn lucky we were able to put an end to this threat before it got too much out of control! I don't suppose you care, but you were just being used as a pawn in someone else's scheme to take over Earth--and he did it right under your nose!"

"And I'm supposed to buy that rubbish?", Penguin snaps. "I'm a businessman, rodent! Pure & simple!"

"It don't matter if you do buy it or not, Oswald, but you better buy this: The next time this city is endangered in any astronomical way because of your greed & lust for power, I'll pay you another visit, & I guarantee you will never, ever, sleep soundly again! Do you hear me?"

Dropping the Penguin to the ground, Batman casually heads for the window of the hotel room as Oswald picks himself up & openly defies his tormentor.

"Do you actually think you can pin this rap on me, Batman? I received the information of those birds & that jewel-egg from an anonymous source! And with all four of my assistants now pushing up daisies, there's no way this case will hold up in court with no one to testify against me of it! The police will never be able to touch me!"

At the window's edge, Batman turns to Penguin with a sly, sinister smile.

"I'm not the police, Oswald", he says calmly. "You should know that by now."

Aiming his grapnel, Batman shoots it at the nearest building & swings off into the Gotham City night, leaving Oswald by his lonesome. Climbing into bed, he nervously pulls the covers over him up to his face & turns off the lights, his eyes darting back & forth in search for any more unwanted visitors, shivering in fear under his covers.

For Oswald Cobblepot, it's going to be a long night.

Arkham Asylum, 12:30 a.m.:

The Joker rested comfortably in his cell at Arkham Asylum, his covers up to his neck as he stares at the ceiling with his usual grin. He isn't too worried about his current predicament: he's escaped from the place more times than he cares to count, & he runs smack dab in the mitts of his favorite rodent each time for a few laughs which also includes a couple homicides & other means of comedic chaos all for his amusement.

If he can keep this fun but deadly game of cat & mouse between him & Batman for the rest of eternity, he'd jump at the chance like frogs on a lily pad.

While he expects to see the Bat again in the near future, the Joker didn't expect to see him this soon. The door to his cell opens up to allow the Dark Knight entrance as one of the two orderlies closes it shut with a clang. Watching him approach, the Joker's grin grows wider as he is always happy to see his favorite visitor under any circumstance.

As usual, the Batman does not return the grin given him by his longtime foe.

"Batsy-poo!", the Joker cheerfully says as he sits up & gets out of bed, wearing nothing but a blue pair of pants & long-sleeve shirt with a serial number on the left breast pocket. "How kind of you to come pay your old friend a visit! Now that's companionship!"

Batman remained still.

"This isn't a social visit, clown", he says, all business. "And I'm not your friend. I came here to ask if you've been watching the news here at Arkham about what's happened to this city in the last few hours."

"Ah yes!", the Joker said with glee. "It's 9/11 all over again! How ironic, Batsy! I worked hard to give Gotham its own feeling of the attacks in Manhattan & Washington D.C. right here in our fair city, & wouldn't you know it: a group of six large nasty beasties does the job better than I could ever have imagined it! In the lounge, I was laughing so hard they brought me back here to calm my nerves! It looks like I got what I wanted after all, Bats! Is that poetic justice or what?"

"You tell me", Batman said as he looks at the wide grin on the Joker's face, his fists tight.

BOP!

The noise echoed the room & was heard by the orderlies outside as they open it up to see the Joker dancing around in a weird fashion with a red bruise on his forehead.

"And the lights went out…all over the world!", the Clown Prince of Crime reiterates in a childish manner, imitating Daffy Duck from a classic Warner Brothers cartoon. Dizzy from the blow to his head, the Joker topples upon his bed with his eyes crossed & his tongue hanging out of his still-smiling mouth.

"What happened in here?", one of the orderlies asked.

"He banged his head on the wall in frustration", Batman lied as he casually starts to walk out of the Joker's cell. "I'd get him to medical to make sure he doesn't have a concussion. Good night, gentlemen."

As the Dark Knight leaves, the orderlies get to work in bringing the Joker his medical treatment.

EPILOGUE

Washington D.C., 9:00 a.m., inside the White House:

Superman, Wonder Woman, both Green Lanterns, Flash, Black Lightning & Black Canary were all asked by the President of the United States to remain in the nation's capital after they had assisted with the clean-up of the destruction caused by Viras, Jiger & Lucifer (& some which was unintentional by Gamera). With the heroes' help, the clean-up lasted until 3:00 a.m. as the authorities say that they can handle the rest, thanking them immensely for their assist. Most of the others had left, but these seven chosen stayed behind as the Oval Office where the President will be seated at shortly teems with life with reporters & camera crews sitting & standing for the first glimpse of the President. One of these reporters happens to be Pulitzer Prize-winning Lois Lane & photographer Jimmy Olsen from Metropolis' Daily Planet (the former being married to Superman's alter-ego Clark Kent), who have been sent by Perry White to cover the President's speech for their paper along with all the others. The seven heroes all stand behind the President's desk as three of the White House officials stand in front of the ladies & gentlemen of the press as one of them starts addressing the crowd.

"Ladies & gentlemen of the press", he states as the crowd becomes silent. "We want to thank you all for showing up this morning. The President will be arriving at any second now, but I want to inform you all that he will not be taking any questions at this time from anybody. We ask that you refrain from doing so as he recites his speech to the nation. And now, I give you the President of the United States, Mr. Barrack Obama."

As soon as Obama enters the room, cameras begin flashing like a sea of white as picture after picture gets taken of the current President. With his wife Michelle, he walks up to his seat as Michelle stands next to Black Canary, exchanging warm smiles with each other before Obama begins his speech, facing directly into the news camera that is broadcasting coast to coast.

"My fellow Americans, I bid you all a good morning on this day. Yesterday on September 11th, we took the time to remember the near 3,000 people who were most unjustly killed by a group of terrorists residing from Al-Qaeda, as they hijacked four planes & rammed three of them into the World Trade Center towers in Manhattan, destroying them both, & into the Pentagon just right across the Potomac from where we are, as the fourth plane--United Airlines Flight 93--crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania after the passengers there fought their hijackers & died as heroes instead of victims. Each year on that day, we recite their names in their memory, fondly giving them the recognition they rightly deserve after their lives were taken for no good reason other than for these terrorists to show what they think of our nation in great contempt. It had been the worst attack on this great country since December 7th, 1941, when the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor out of the blue. Unfortunately, history has a way of repeating itself without even the slightest hint of a warning. Just last night, America suffered a deadly sense of deja-vu by a group of monsters of another breed. In Gotham City, the creature known as Gyaos ran rampant & killed several people at the city's famous Iceberg Lounge, while a second creature known from ancient legend as Barugon emerged from the Gotham museum. In the Pacific Ocean, an alien shark that went by the name of Zigra hit & nearly sunk a Russian sub, & the worst of it occurred right here in our nation's capital by three other creatures--Viras, Jiger & Lucifer. One was an alien squid which destroyed a portion of the Pentagon, another came from the place known as Wester Island, & the third from what I've been told, was a creature created from the DNA of these other five beasts by an otherworldly dictator who sought to take control of not just our nation, but our entire planet. Good people of America--and of this entire Earth--this interstellar tyrant thinks we are but a weak & puny race for him to do with as he pleases, whenever he feels like it. He is wrong! The people of this great nation & our planet are much stronger than one gives us credit for! We are stronger than we give ourselves credit for, & with that strength, we will rise above anything & everything that gets thrown our way, whether it should be another Pearl Harbor, September 11th, or even an Imperiex War, we will stand strong & pick ourselves from up out of the rubble & look towards tomorrow with renewed hope! And one does not have to be weilding a power ring, run at incredible velocities, an Amazon Princess given to us by the Gods themselves or even a savior from a long-dead world who once gave his life to protect us from a genetically-created & indestructible monster! No, ladies & gentlemen, true strength comes from the heart, & that can be found in us all if we look hard enough & believe in our fellow man, regardless of his race or color! This otherworldly tyrant known as Darkseid thought that by intentionally & deliberately creating this disaster on a day we are still trying to get back on our feet from will cause us to lose all hope & strike fear within our hearts that will last for all eternity! If that's what he believes in us, then he doesn't know the American people, let alone the entire human race, as well as he wants to think! We are not slaves to this alien fiend, nor do we intend to be--ever! We will stand strong, & we will resist this evil & any other like we always do whenever it should arrive at our very own doorstep! That, ladies & gentlemen, is what we are: heroes in our own right! Every single one of us has the power & the courage to boldly face & defeat the worst kinds of evil that dares to come challenge us, whether it be from beyond the stars or right here at home! Every day, our firefighters & police officers put their lives on the line to help keep us safe & secure 24/7 in every major city & town, not just in Manhattan! These people don't have any special abilities to be able to do what's necessary: they do it because they have the strenght & bravery within them to function properly! The same goes for our brave men & women in our armed forces--the Army, the Navy, the Air Force & the Marines! They risk life & liberty to make sure that freedom rings for us all! Speaking of whom, let us all take a moment of silence to honor those brave people as they fought valiantly to protect us from these hideous creatures that attacked our nation's capital, along with those who were unjustly killed in Gotham City."

Everyone from the President to the press & the Justice League members fell silent as by the President's request, staying that way for several moments before Obama resumes his speech.

"I would like to thank them for giving their all during last night's horrific conflict, & may God love & bless their souls for it. I also wish to express my deepest thanks to the members of both the Justice League & Teen Titans for doing what they do best during a crisis such as this as they always do. And, oddly enough…" Obama allows himself a little laugh before continuing. "I would also like to extend my thanks to the giant turtle known as Gamera. From what I was told, he was created long ago by an ancient race to wipe out the Gyaos after they went & had turned upon their creators. I had seen him fight alongside these brave heroes against these hideous beasts & prevailed valiantly. Battling side-by-side, they brought down the worst of what we faced yesterday, & it was through that teamwork & cooperation that allowed them to prevail. Had they not, evil would still be present among us even as we speak. And this unusual but effective match-up can help to teach us something: if our costumed heroes here can join forces with a giant fire-spitting turtle, then maybe those who live beyond our shores will see us in a different perspective & peacefully co-exist with us, without any hatred beamed in our direction from them. Only time will tell if that day finally arrives or not, but we will not cease in our attempts for worldwide peace between all our races & cultures, becoming united as one for all eternity."

Obama takes a monute of silence to allow his words to sink in with everyone, watching on television & in the Oval Office with him.

Finally, he finishes up with the simplest of gestures.

"Thank you, America. Again, I wish you all a very good morning, & may God bless each & every one of you."

A nod later, & then an echo of claps erupts in the room as flashes go off again as Barrack Obama now turns to the Justice League members & starts shaking their hands, beginning with Superman himself.

You're a natural, Clark!, Lois Lane says to herself with a smile, watching her husband shaking hands with the President as Jimmy Olsen takes photos of him doing so with each hero.

9:30 a.m.:

After all the reporters (including Lois) have gotten their fill of questions for the President, they embark on their way back to the airport & get their portion of the speech to their perspective newspapers for publishing.

But Lois Lane & Jimmy Olsen don't join them--not yet.

Just outside the White House, Metropolis' two best employees wait with Superman & the other members of the League as Mayumi Nagamine & Asagi Kusanagi meet up with them, being brought to them by an officer. Thanking the cop in their traditional Japanese bow, the officer does the same before he gets back in his vehicle & drives off.

"I take it your stay last night in the U.S. Capital was pleasant?", Wonder Woman asked.

"Indeed it was, Wonder Woman", Mayumi said. "And Asagi & I wish to thank you for having the officials there to allow us the luxury."

"You're most welcome, ladies. And please, call me Diana."

"Diana it is, then", Mayumi said with a smile as Diana returns the gesture.

"Will you ladies be staying in America for much longer?", John Stewart asks. "There's a lot we can show you, & we'll be happy to take you anywhere you wish to go."

"Only for a few days I'm afraid, Mr. Stewart", Asagi says. "Mayumi needs to head back to the Fukuoka Municipal Zoo for work again, & I need to be heading for college."

"Then why not stay in Metropolis for that time?", Lois suggested. "My husband Clark & I can have a room ready for you in nothing flat."

"You'd do that for us, Miss Lane?", Mayumi wondered. "We wouldn't be a bother?"

"I wouldn't think so, ladies", Superman says. "I happen to know the Kents personally, & I'm sure they'd be delighted to give you a room for a few nights."

Like I said, Clark, you're a natural! It's why I love you so much!, Lois said to herself.

"That'd be swell!", Asagi said. "Besides, I always did want to see the Big Apricot!"

"Same here!", Mayumi added in.

"Then allow me to give you girls a lift", Hal Jordan said, raising his ring. "You'll be there in no time."

"We better get going ourselves", Lois says, turning to Jimmy. "Let's get a move-on, Olsen. Perry wants those photos ASAP."

"One moment, Miss Lane", Jimmy says, raising his camera. "I'm sure Mayumi & Asagi would like to take a memento home with them."

"Jimmy, what do you mean by…oh, I see!", Lois says, grasping Olsen's meaning. The two Japanese ladies do as well, & they gather close to the heroes in a group as Jimmy aims & shoots his camera, taking a most elegant photo.

Wait'll my dad sees this!, Asagi says to herself with glee, imagining her father's reaction once he sees his daughter in a photograph with some of the world's greatest heroes.

The thought made her smile.

September 15th, Metropolis International Airport, 8:00 a.m.:

During their time in the city, Mayumi & Asagi saw & did as much as they could, from seeing the Daily Planet building to Centennial Park where the bronze statue of Superman proudly stands, along with doing a little fishing & horseback riding among the festivities there.

Now, with their bags packed, they head for the terminal & await their flight number to take them back to Japan.

Lois Lane & Clark Kent accompany them.

"So, did you two have a nice time here?", Lois asked.

"Is Superman in the Justice League?", Asagi asks, getting a laugh from everyone, including herself.

"Well, I guess that answers that, doesn't it?", said Clark. He then sees up ahead of him a woman standing near one of the benches. She stood five feet seven inches tall, wearing a black shirt, skirt & shoes. A white undershirt lay beneath, & her legs wore nylons. She had blue eyes, long jet black hair, & a pair of white gloves covered her hands.

She is the daughter of one of the greatest magicians the world has ever known.

She is who Lois & Clark were meaning to see at the airport.

"Hey you two", she says, eyeing the happy couple.

"Zatanna!", Lois says as the group walk up to her. "Glad you could make it!"

"Hello Lois, Clark. I'm here at a request from some 'friends'." Zatanna looks at the ladies from Japan. "You must be ornithologist Mayumi Nagamine, yes?"

"That'd be me", Mayumi says. "Zatanna, I presume?"

"Guilty as charged. And your friend here must be Asagi Kusanagi."

"That I am", Asagi said.

The young magician walks up to the two Japanese ladies as they all huddle.

"Asagi, I have something for you. Give me one sec", Zatanna says softly as she recites something backwards just as softly, but not before checking over her shoulder to make sure no one else is watching.

She held out her hand in front of Asagi.

"Teluma, raeppa!"

A soft glow appears in her hand, & in seconds an object appears in place of the light that was attached to a rope necklace.

It was an object that the ladies were familiar with, & Asagi's eyes go wide with joy.

"My amulet!", she says, taking it from Zatanna & placing it around her neck.

"Amazing!", Mayumi says. "You're a magician?"

"One of the best, Miss Nagamine", Zatanna said. "It was a gift from Aquaman himself. He brought it to me from his home in Atlantis at Superman's request to give to you before you went home. He regrets not being able to do so himself, due to 'Atlantean business', & all that. But he wanted me to tell you that of all the people on the surface, he couldn't imagine anyone else to be in possession of such an essential artifact, & that no one deserves it better than you."

"The next time any of you should run into him, please give Aquaman my sincerest thanks", Asagi says.

"We most certainly will, Asagi", Zatanna said, just as the flight being bound for Japan gets announced over the speakers.

"That's us, Asagi", Mayumi says as the young lady nods. The girls grab all their personal belongings & head for the gate which their flight is waiting.

"Sayonara, everyone! Take care! And thank you for everything!", Asagi says, as she & Mayumi wave their goodbyes as Lois, Clark & Zatanna do the same.

Ten minutes later, the plane bound for Japan takes off into the sky as the trio watch from a window.

"Remind me to thank Bruce for the fare home for them", Clark says.

"I already did, Clark", Lois says. "He says to think nothing of it."

"How typical of him!", they all said simultaneously, grinning. They look out the window again to see the Japan-bound plane become a dot on the horizon.

"I wonder", said Lois. "Do you believe that the Justice League & Gamera will be fighting alongside again someday?"

"Stranger things have happened in life, Miss Lane", Zatanna said.

"Somehow, Lois, it just wouldn't surprise me if they did", Clark added with a grin.

The sun shone brightly overhead as Mayumi & Asagi's plane disappears from view.

A day that makes you feel glad to be alive, Clark said to himself.

And thanks to him & the League, the rest of the world can feel like that too.

A note to the readers:

You of course know by now that this story takes place (mostly) on the day of September 11th, the day the Al-Qaeda terrorists attacked the United States by hijacking four planes & crashed into both the World Trade Center towers in Manhattan & the Pentagon in Washington D.C., while United Airlines flight 93 crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania when the people on that flight had fought against the hijackers & died heroes instead of victims. I just want to let all of you know that, if any of you had a family member, friend or loved one that was killed in these attacks, this story is in no way meant to be offensive in even the slightest way. It is meant to be just a fast-paced tale of heroism in the face of utter danger, only in this case with super-heroes & giant monsters in it, making the situation relive that time in a metaphorical (make-believe) way. It's the same as with 1954's 'Gojira', where the movie recites the events of World War II, & that Godzilla himself is the atomic bomb (the weapon the Japanese really suffered greatly from) made into a dinosaur-like creature. You can say the same for 2008's 'Cloverfield', where a giant beast attacks New York City, depicting 9/11 for us. So again, to who reads this story who has had lost those they loved in the September 11th, 2001 attacks, I hope & pray that you were not offended by it, & that you can (& have) enjoy this story for your reading pleasure. I also want to say that for all those who have lost loved ones on that day, my heart indisputably goes out to you for your loss (even though I didn't suffer any, I always go down to Ground Zero in Manhattan on that day to pay my respects to all those who have). As with all my other stories, comments & reviews are always welcome. Thank you, & may God bless you. Long live America!

MEMORIALS:

2002 Memorials:

'Outlaw' Waylon Jennings, Famed Country Singer, 64 (1937-2002)

Howard K. Smith, Pioneering Newscaster, 87 (1914-2002)

Chuck Jones, Animator for Warner Bros., 89 (1912-2002)

Sylvester 'Pat' Weaver, Created 'Today' & 'Tonight' shows, 93 (1908-2002)

Milton Berle, Actor-Comedian, Proclaimed 'Mr. Television', 93 (1908-2002)

Dudley Moore, Comic Actor, 66 (1935-2002)

Billy Wilder, Movie director, 95 (1906-2002)

Lisa 'Left Eye' Lopes, Rapper-Singer, 30 (1971-2002)

Ruth Handler, Creator of 'Barbie', 85 (1916-2002)

2010 Memorials:

Freya Von Moltke, Part of Anti-Nazi Resistance in World War II, 98 (1911-2010)

Joe Shannon, Bay of Pigs Pilot, 88 (1921-2010)

Rory Markas, California Angels' Announcer, 54 (1955-2010)

Aristides Michael 'Harry' Giosasi, Eatery Owner & Songwriter, 72 (1937-2010)

David Gerber, Award-Winning Television producer, 86 (1923-2010)

Mary Daly, BC Theologian & Voice for Feminism, 81 (1928-2010)

Tim Davey, NFL Executive, Ex-Jets Trainer, 58 (1951-2010)

Jean Biden, Mother of Vice President Joe Biden, 92 (1917-2010)

Art Clokey, Creator of Stop-Motion Character Gumby, 89 (1920-2010)

James Cheek, Headed Howard University, 77 (1932-2010)

Jerilyn Ross, Psychotherapist, 63 (1946-2010)

Stephen Huneck, Folk Artist & Dog Lover, 60 (1949-2010)

Miep Gies, Hid Anne Frank From Nazis in World War II, 100 (1909-2010)

Fritz Lohman, Co-Founded Gay Art Gallery, 87 (1922-2009)

Joseph Rollino, Coney Island Strongman, 104 (1905-2010)

Gloria Nord, Star Skater in 1940s & 1950s, 87 (1922-2010)

Eric Rohmer, Filmmaker, 89 (1920-2010)

Hasib Sabbagh, Arab Industrialist, 90 (1919-2010)

Sir Allen McClay, Founder of Pharmaceutical Giant Almac Group, 77 (1932-2010)

Art Rust Jr., Pioneering African-American Sportscaster & Author, 82 (1927-2010)

Donald Goerke, Creator of Chunky Soup & SpaghettiOs, 83 (1926-2010)

Teddy Pendergrass, Soulful R&B Singer, 59 (1950-2010)

Alastair Martin, Tennis Official & Champion, 94 (1915-2010)

Edward T. Romaine, World War II Veteran, 93 (1916-2010)

Tony Jerome, Longtime Newsday Lensman, 58 (1951-2010)

Mary Thomas, Mother of Basketball Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas, 86 (1923-2010)

Paul Geddes Pennoyer Jr., World War II Hero, 89 (1920-2010)

Bobby Charles, Singer-Songwriter, 71 (1938-2010)

Dennis Stock, Hollywood Photographer, 81 (1928-2010)

Rev. Clinton Rabb, Missionary Killed in Haiti, 60 (1949-2010)

Glen W. Bell Jr., Founder of Restaurant Taco Bell, 86 (1923-2010)

Carl Smith, Country Music Hit Maker, 82 (1927-2010)

Erich Segal, Author, Wrote Famed Novel 'Love Story', 72 (1937-2010)

Robert Parker, Crime Novelist, 77 (1932-2010)

Kate McGarrigle, One Half of Folk-Singing Sister Act, 63 (1946-2010)

Jennifer Lyon, 'Survivor' Contestant, 37 (1972-2010)

John Halligan, New York Rangers & NHL Executive, 68 (1941-2010)

Harold T. Meryman, Blood Researcher, 88 (1921-2010)

Bobby Bragan, Nicknamed 'Mr. Baseball', 92 (1917-2010)

James Miles, World War II Marine Corps Veteran, 84 (1925-2010)

Jean Simmons, Actress, 80 (1929-2010)

Robert Mosbacher, Driving Force Behind NAFTA, 82 (1927-2010)

Frances Buss Buch, First Female TV Director, 92 (1917-2010)

Earl Wild, renowned Classical Pianist, 94 (1915-2010)

James Mitchell, Actor, 'All My Children' Regular Since 1979, 89 (1920-2010)

Jesse Oldshein, NYPD Model, 92 (1917-2010)

Pernell Roberts, Actor, Starred in 'Bonanza', 81 (1928-2010)

Louis Auchinclose, Attorney, Novelist of Upper-Class Life, 92 (1917-2010)

Howard Zinn, Leftist Historian, 87 (1922-2010)

Zelda Rubenstein, Actress, Played medium in 'Poltergeist', 76 (1933-2010)

J.D. Salinger, Legendary Author, 91 (1919-2010)

Jasmina Anema, 6-Year-Old Who Waged Inspiring Cancer Battle

Paul Jones, Philanthropist & Noted Art Collector, 81 (1928-2010)

Lee Archer, Tuskegee Airman, 90 (1919-2010)

Louis Harlan, Historian who Chronicled Booker T. Washington, 87 (1922-2010)

Tomas E. Martinez, Longtime Rutgers Professor, 75 (1934-2010)

Luis Leal, Chicano Literary Scholar, 102 (1907-2010)

Marshall Nirenberg, Renowned Biochemist, 82 (1927-2010)

Ng Teng Fong, Billionaire & Singapore's Richest Man, 82 (1928-2010)

Aaron Ruben, Television Comedy Writer & Producer, 95 (1914-2010)

David brown, Hollywood Producer, 93 (1916-2010)

Ivan Vranetic, Rescued Jews in World War II, 84 (1925-2010)

Charles C. Baccari, World War II Veteran, Avid Sailor, 87 (1922-2010)

Dick McGuire, New York Hoops Icon, Played for the Knicks, 84 (1926-2010)

Evelyn Hass, Philanthropist, 92 (1917-2010)

Frances Reid, Actress, best Known for 'Days of Our Lives', 95 (1914-2010)

Phillip Martin, Indian Chief from Mississippi, 83 (1926-2010)

Cec Heftel, Lawmaker for Hawaii, 85 (1924-2010)

Stanley Michalowski, World War II Veteran & Firefighter, 85 (1924-2010)

'Bullet' Bill Dudley, NFL Great & Hall of Famer, 88 (1921-2010)

Franco Ballerini, Italy's Cycling Coach, 45 (1964-2010)

John Dankworth, Jazz Composer & Saxophonist, 82 (1927-2010)

Frank Magid, Television 'News doctor', 78 (1931-2010)

John Murtha, Congressman, 77 (1932-2010)

Felice Quinto, Celebrity Photographer, 80 (1929-2010)

Krzysztof Skubiszewski, Post-Communist Polish Leader, 83 (1926-2010)

Jimmie Heuga, Ex-Olympic Skier, 66 (1943-2010)

Edmund Gann, Racing Owner, 86 (1923-2010)

Charlie Wilson, Lawmaker of Film Fare, 76 (1933-2010)

Phil Harris, Skipper on 'Deadliest Catch' Program, 53 (1956-2010)

Carl Braun, Cornerstone of New York Knicks, 82 (1927-2010)

Walter Morrison, Father & Inventor of the Frisbee, 90 (1919-2010)

Alexander McQueen, Famed British Designer & Fashionist, 40 (1969-2010)

Bernard Lander, Touro Founder, 94 (1915-2010)

Irina Arkhipova, Russian Opera Legend, 85 (1924-2010)

Fred Schaus, Coached Los Angeles Lakers, 84 (1925-2010)

Nodar Kumaritashvili, Olympic Lunger, 21 (1988-2010)

Frederick C. Weyand, Vietnam General, 93 (1916-2010)

Dick Francis, Bestselling Author, 89 (1920-2010)

Doug Fieger, Lead Singer of The Knack, 57 (1952-2010)

Sylvia Pressler, Pioneering NJ Judge, 75 (1934-2010)

Marvin Stein, Illustrator & Vintage Comic Book Artist, 85 (1925-2010)

Jim Bibby, Former Major League Pitcher, 65 (1944-2010)

Bill Gordon, Designed Famous Arecibo Telescope, 92 (1917-2010)

Emilio Lavazza, Maker of Expresso Coffee, 78 (1931-2010)

Kathryn Grayson, Actress, Starred in Musicals, 88 (1921-2010)

Albert M. Kligman, Discovered Skin-Care Drug Retin-A, 93 (1916-2010)

Sam Hamilton, U.S. Fish & Wildlife director, 54 (1955-2010)

Caroline McWilliams, Actress, Star in TV's 'Soap' & 'Benson', 64 (1945-2010)

Leonard R. Totora, Vietnam Veteran & Owned L&L Camera, 79 (1930-2010)

Thomas J. Connelly, Civil Rights Advocate, 77 (1932-2010)

Mosi Tatupu, Ex-Football Player for New England Patriots, 54 (1955-2010)

Lionel Jeffries, Actor, Best Known for 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang', 83 (1926-2010)

Alexander Haig, Former Secretary of State, 85 (1924-2010)

Dawn Branceau, Veteran SeaWorld trainer, 40 (1969-2010)

Andrew Koenig, Actor, Best Known for 'Growing Pains', 41 (1968-2010)

Patrick Brosnahan, World War II Navy Veteran, 87 (1922-2010)

Kermit Tyler, Pilot Who Dismissed Pearl Harbor Warning, 96 (1913-2010)

Linda Grover, Developed Global Day of Peace, 76 (1933-2010)

Jeanne Holm, Air Force Gender Pioneer, 88 (1921-2010)

J.C. Elder, Celeb NASCAR Crew Chief, 73 (1932-2010)

Michael Blosil, Son of Entertainer Marie Osmond, 18 (1991-2010)

Mable Hoffman, Pioneer of Slow-Cooker Cookbook, 88 (1921-2010)

Ernst Beyeler, Famed Art Collector, 88 (1921-2010)

Steffi Sidney-Splaver, Actress, Starred in 'Rebel Without A Cause', 74 (1935-2010)

Carlos Montemayor, Mexican Author & Activist, 62 (1947-2010)

David Bankier, Prominent Holocaust Scholar, 63 (1946-2010)

Max Farash, Upstate Real Estate Tycoon, 95 (1914-2010)

Greg Rita, Longtime Professional Golf Caddie, 54 (1956-2010)

Bernard Coutaz, Founder of Record Label Harmonia Mundi, 87 (1922-2010)

Tom 'T-Bone' Wolk, Bassist for Hall & Oates, 58 (1951-2010)

Winston Spencer Churchill, Grandson of British World War II Leader, 69 (1940-2010)

Barry Hannah, Novelist, 67 (1943-2010)

Keith Alexander, Football Player & Manager, 53 (1956-2010)

Mark Linkous, Singer-Songwriter, 47 (1962-2010)

Hank Rosenstein, An Original for the NBA, Played for New York Knicks, 89 (1920-2010)

Manus 'Jack' Fish, Led Park Service in Washington D.C. Area, 81 (1928-2010)

Ron Banks, Singer for the Dramatics, 58 (1951-2010)

Nan Martin, Prolific Actress of Stage, Film & Television, 82 (1927-2010)

Raimund Abraham, Austrian-Born Architect, 76 (1933-2010)

Nathan Scott, Composer for Film & Television, 94 (1915-2010)

Aaron Cohen, Headed Johnson Space Center, 79 (1930-2010)

Philip Langridge, Grammy-Winning British Tenor, 70 (1939-2010)

Charles Pierce, Independent Filmmaker, 71 (1938-2010)

Richard Stapley, Actor, 86 (1923-2010)

Mary Josephine Ray, Oldest American, 114 (1895-2010)

Edgar Wayburn, Sierra Club Leader, 103 (1906-2010)

Emilio Moschella, World War II Veteran & Electrician, 83 (1926-2010)

Bruce Graham, Designer of Iconic Chicago Skyscraper, 84 (1925-2010)

Willie Davis, Played for Los Angeles Dodgers, 69 (1940-2010)

Corey Haim, Actor & 1980s Teen Heartthrob, 38 (1971-2010)

Doris 'Granny D' Haddock, Activist, 100 (1909-2010)

Howard Landis, World War II Fighter Pilot, 89 (1920-2010)

Tim Holland, World Backgammon Champion, 79 (1931-2010)

Merlin Olsen, NFL Icon-Turned-Actor, 69 (1940-2010)

Henry Wittenberg, Gold Medalist in Wrestling & World War II Veteran, 91 (1918-2010)

Fatima Meer, Friend & Biographer of Nelson Mandela, 81 (1928-2010)

Brian Pitman, Financier, Led Lloyds Bank, 78 (1931-2010)

Peter Graves, Actor, Best Known for 1960s Series 'Mission: Impossible', 83 (1926-2010)

Derek J. Saint, World War II Veteran, 88 (1922-2010)

Joseph Dembo, Radio Executive, 83 (1926-2010)

Charles Moore, Civil Rights Photographer, 79 (1930-2010)

Ron Lundy, Radio Personality, 75 (1934-2010)

Alex Chilton, Singer, Sang With the Box Tops, 59 (1950-2010)

Fess Parker, Actor, Played Davy Crockett & Daniel Boone on Television, 85 (1924-2010)

Robert White, Famed Test Pilot, 85 (1924-2010)

Stewart Udall, Environmentalist, 90 (1919-2010)

Liz Carpenter, Press Secretary & Author, 89 (1920-2010)

Alexis Pilkington, West Islip Soccer Star, 17 (1992-2010)

Elinor Smith Sullivan, Pioneer Aviator, 98 (1912-2010)

Wolfgang Wagner, Opera Director, 90 (1919-2010)

James Black, Nobel Prize-Winning Pharmacologist, 85 (1924-2010)

Marva Wright, Singer of Gospel & Blues, 62 (1947-2010)

Colleen Kay Hutchins, Former Miss America Pageant Winner, 83 (1926-2010)

Robert Culp, Actor, Best Known for 'I Spy' Television Series, 79 (1930-2010)

Johnny Maestro, Pioneer Singer With a Golden Voice, 70 (1939-2010)

Justin J. Wilson, Lance Corporal in the Marines, 24 (1985-2010)

Chet Simmons, Founding Pioneer & President of ESPN, 81 (1928-2010)

Marty Lederhandler, Associated Press Photographer, 92 (1917-2010)

Blanche Thebom, Famed Opera Star, 94 (1915-2010)

June Havoc, Actress & Writer, 97 (1912-2010)

Jamie Escalante, Teacher Who Inspired Film 'Stand & Deliver', 79 (1930-2010)

Elijah Alexander, Former NFL Linebacker, 39 (1970-2010)

Robert White, Retired Air Force Major General, 85 (1924-2010)

Sid Fleischman, Newberry Award-Winning Author, 90 (1919-2010)

Margaret Moth, CNN Photojournalist, 59 (1950-2010)

Stanford Parris, Virginia GOP Lawmaker, 80 (1929-2010)

Dan L. Duncan, Pipeline Tycoon, Benefactor, 77 (1932-2010)

Herb Ellis, Jazz Guitar Legend, 88 (1921-2010)

David Mills, Veteran TV Writer, 48 (1961-2010)

Dr. Henry Edward Roberts, Computer Pioneer Who Inspired Bill Gates, 68 (1941-2010)

Willie E. Jenkins, Tuskegee Airman, 85 (1924-2010)

Anthony Jimenez Jr., Served in United States Marines, 21 (1989-2010)

John Forsythe, Actor, Best Known for TV's 'Dynasty', 92 (1918-2010)

Eugene Allen, Butler for the White House, 90 (1919-2010)

Mike Cuellar, Ace Pitcher for Baltimore Orioles, 72 (1937-2010)

Jerald F. terHorst, Former Ford Press Secertary, 87 (1922-2010)

Thomas Moyer, Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice, 70 (1939-2010)

Joseph Berbenich, U.S. Marine Who Fought in the Korean War, 79 (1930-2010)

John G. McCoy, Driving Force Behind Bank One, 97 (1912-2010)

Tom Wisner, Famous 'Bard of the Chesapeake', 79 (1930-2010)

Malcolm McLaren, Manager for the Sex Pistols, 64 (1945-2010)

Meinhardt Raabe, Actor, Played Munchkin Coroner in 'The Wizard of Oz', 94 (1915-2010)

Betty Paraskevas, Children's TV Show Writer, 80 (1929-2010)

Dixie Carter, Actress, Starred in TV's 'Designing Women', 70 (1939-2010)

Frank Navratil, World War II Veteran, 91 (1919-2010)

John 'Jack' Agnew, WW II Veteran Whose Unit Inspired 'The Dirty Dozen', 88 (1921-2010)

Bob Franks, New Jersey GOP Lawmaker, 58 (1951-2010)

William 'Bill' Walker, Opera Baritone, 78 (1931-2010)

Anna Walentynowicz, Polish Solidarity Leader, 80 (1929-2010)

Walter Haas, Ex-Nassau Police Inspector, 69 (1930-2010)

Arnold L. Kanter, Respected in Intelligence Community, 65 (1945-2010)

Harriet Benjamin, Helped Create Cancer Support Network, 85 (1924-2010)

Spann Watson, Pioneer Tuskegee Airman, 93 (1916-2010)

Daryl gates, Los Angeles' Ex-Top Cop, 83 (1926-2010)

Peter Steele, Frontman for Band Type O Negative, 48 (1962-2010)

Carlos Franqui, Cuban Writer, 89 (1920-2010)

Andrew Droskoski, Freelance Film Producer & Videographer, 28 (1981-2010)

Dorothy Height, Godmother of Civil Rights, 98 (1912-2010)

Joseph Argenzio, World War II Hero, 82 (1927-2010)

Guru, Rapper Who Blended Jazz With Hip-Hop, 43 (1967-2010)

Juan Antonio Samaranch, Former Olympic President, 89 (1920-2010)

Glenn M. Walters, Cubicle Marketer, 85 (1924-2010)

Alejandro Robaina, Grower for Top Cuban Cigars, 91 (1918-2010)

Whitney harris, Prosecutor at Nuremberg, 97 (1912-2010)

John Carl Warnecke, Noted architect, 91 (1918-2010)

Gene Lees, Jazz Writer & Song Lyricist, 82 (1927-2010)

Dede Allen, Pioneering Film Editor, 86 (1923-2010)

Keli McGregor, Colorado Rockies President, 48 (1962-2010)

Ray Barton, Created Minnesota Twins Logo, 80 (1929-2010)

W. Willard Wirtz, Labor Secretary in Kennedy & Johnson Administrations, 98 (1912-2010)

Allison Stacey Cowles, Member of Spokane Family & Smithsonian Institution, 75 (1935-2010)

Michael Martin, Assistant General Manager of the Jets, 68 (1932-2010)

Archibald Hamilton Rowan Jr., World War II Veteran, 88 (1922-2010)

Franklin Mieuli, NBA Owner of Golden State Warriors, 89 (1921-2010)

Alan Sillitoe, British Writer, 82 (1928-2010)

Elizabeth Post, Expert Authority in Etiquette, 89 (1920-2010)

Kevin Restani, Played for Milwaukee Bucks in NBA, 58 (1952-2010)

Alice Miller, Pioneer in Children's Analysis, 87 (1923-2010)

Leslie Buck, Designer of Iconic New York City Coffee Cup, 87 (1922-2010)

Gerald Simon, Actor, 71 (1939-2010)

Gerry Ryan, One of Ireland's Best-Known Broadcasters, 53 (1957-2010)

Jason Santora, Long Island Soldier Killed in Afghanistan, 25

Bill Lancer, A Longtime Neighbor & Friend of Mine, 92 (1917-2010)