Following the Mole Men’s attack on LexCorp’s telluric lab facility and Luthor’s abduction, the heroes had returned to the Watchtower with the wounded Mole Man. Cave Carson had determined that the creature was undoubtedly dying from injuries sustained in the attack and time on the surface. So Cave and the Mole Man were teleported to his island base to make preparations to travel below the surface to the underground realm of Moleria, both to try to save the Mole Man’s life and rescue Lex Luthor. Meanwhile, Troia, Mary Marvel and Batgirl readied themselves for the mission.
The gathered heroes were then teleported to Carson’s island, while Black Canary remained behind to call for other heroes to assist those already committed to the mission. Batman was the first to respond and was teleported to where the other heroes were waiting, followed closely by Superman and then Firestorm. Deciding time was of the essence, they entered the opening into the dead caldera of a volcano, where Carson had his Mighty Mole II digging vehicle waiting for them. As they descended the rickety wooden ladder down to where the Mole was poised over an opening in the Earth, they found that Carson had the ailing Mole Man strapped into a futuristic looking medical gurney. Carson told them he’d found it waiting for them with a note from Timemaster Rip Hunter stating he’d delivered it there in response to a message Cave would send him–the following week.
Cave filled the heroes in on what he knew of the Mole Men–their telepathic abilities and that, though different from us, they weren’t truly evil–most likely just responding to try to protect their realm. He expressed concern for the Mole Man–that he might die if not gotten below soon. But first he told the heroes that they needed to take some additional precautions if they were to survive the journey below. He gave all of them a special pill one of his former colleages had concocted for trips below the surface. He explained it was designed to help counter the increased heat, radiation and pressure they would encounter down below. Still, he cautioned, if they overexerted themselves–especially in the use of their powers–they could burn out quickly. Cave hoped such exertion wouldn’t be necessary given they were on a peaceful mission to negotiate Luthor’s release and an end to the conflict with Moleria.
Cave then reaffirmed that since he was leading the mission, he was responsible for all of them, and expected them to follow his guidance, which the heroes readily agreed to. He also offered to provide them with any additional equipment they might feel the need for, including helmets, spelunking gear, and even a customized “elephant gun” that fired special bullets giving off a powerful electrical discharge on impact, to stun even the hardiest of creatures they might encounter below the Earth. The heroes declined, however, as they felt they had what they required for the mission, and guns weren’t their style, even special ones. Batman had even brought a long a tranquilizer he’d synthesized from tissue samples he’d taken from some of the fallen mole monsters that he hoped might affect those below.
Cave then introduced them to The Mighty Mole II, his drill-headed digging conveyance. Although it had some similarities to the vehicles the Mole Men had used, as Troia noted, Cave said that it was actually of human origin, built at least a century or more previously by persons unknown. He’d discovered it on one of his journeys below and reclaimed and refurbished it. It ran on purely mechanical systems, though its power source was telluric in nature, so it was mostly impervious to radiation that might make other systems malfunction. As they were about to board the Mighty Mole, Mole Man and gurney in tow, however, the floor of the caldera began to shake unexpectedly. Suddenly, several reptilian looking creatures came burrowing swiftly out of the ground and rapidly began to move in on the heroes–though they seemed to be converging primarily on the ailing Mole Man.
Cave quickly informed the heroes that these were reptilian hounds, which the Mole Men used as trackers and retrievers and that they’d probably been sent to bring the Mole Man back to Moleria. The problem was, it was probable that the Mole Men thought their comrade dead, because he would be unlikely to survive a trip back below, dragged home by the near mindless hounds. Cave declared that to save the Mole Man, they had to stop the reptilians–and that they couldn’t hold back as the creatures were tough and fierce and unrelenting. And they would mercilessly attack anything in their way. Superman responded by trying to freeze two of them with his super-breath, while Mary sped around the creatures at superspeed to try to distract and confuse them. Troia roped one with her Lasso of Persuasion in the hope there was enough intelligence in it to reason with it.
Unfortunately, as the Man of Steel neared the creatures, a wave of weakness washed over him, and his breath wasn’t quite powerful enough to do more but enrage the reptilians and spur them to rush him . . . though they appeared to move more sluggishly from the cold. Mary’s attempts to distract the creatures seemingly had no effect, and Troia’s lasso didn’t phase the almost mindless creature she’d entrapped in it. Suddenly a second trio of the creatures came boring out of the ground and moved toward the heroes and the Mole Man they were protecting. Firestorm, meanwhile, noticed yet another three of the reptilians emerging from the ground on the other side of the Mighty Mole and prepared to deal wiith them, as Batman tried throwing darts loaded with the tranquilizer he’d devised at two of those in the main group. Batgirl, too, had spotted the three on the other side and threw batarangs at them as she warned the other heroes of their presence.
In response to Batgirl’s query as to whether the creatures had any vulnerable spots, Cave told them to try for the eyes, as their hides were like armor. And he aimed his gun at one of the onrushing hounds and fired. Superman, meanwhile was slammed by the two reptilians attacking him–and weakened as he suddenly was, he felt it. He also felt weaker as they closed in on him, and he could detect a faint glow on the beasts . . . Unfortunately, Batman’s darts and Batgirl’s batarangs had no effect on the tough hide of the creatures, which repelled them all, while Cave’s electrical bullet, having missed the eye, merely slowed his target for a moment. Except for the two attacking Superman and the one Troia held tight in her lasso, the reptilians moved in on the prone Mole Man.
Hearing Cave’s instructions, Mary charged one of the creatures and punched it hard in the eye. Troia threw the one in her lasso at another to try to take two of them out that way. The one Mary hit went down hard, and suddenly, the one in Troia’s lasso seemed to lose some of its strength and speed. But when she slammed it into the other reptilian, it turned on its comrade and tore it to pieces. The others kept moving toward the dying Mole Man. Firestorm attempted to turn the caldera floor under two of the hounds coming from the other side to quicksand to impede their movement, while Batman moved into position to throw a special freeze-batarang at the third–something he’d reverse engineered from Mr. Freeze. He then moved to help the weakened Superman, activating the tasers in the knuckles of his gauntlets to take on the reptilians.
Batgirl, following the Caped Crusader’s lead, switched to her own freeze-arangs and threw them at the oncoming creatures, aiming for their eyes. Cave meanwhile aimed his rifle point blank at the eye of one of the other oncoming reptilians. Having seen what had happened with the ones Mary and Troia hit, he’d suddenly remembered something about the creatures. “They’re pack creatures! They hunt in threes. Take out the alpha and the others lose strength!” he shouted to them. The ones Firestorm had put quicksand under were only momentarily slowed down, as was the one Batman hit with his ice-arang . . . though it howled horribly as it was hit. Of Batgirl’s three targets, one knocked the ‘rang aside, while the one Batman had already hit slowed down even more–and the third was hit in the eye, going down and ceasing to move as its head froze over. Cave scored a bullseye on his and his target went down, its eye sparking as it dropped. The others kept advancing on the Mole Man.
Helped up by Batman, Superman took to the air to try to get as far away from the weakening effects the reptilians seemed to have on him. Once above them, he used his heat vision to attack those going for the Mole Man, aiming for the eyes. Mary, too, went after another Mole Man with a punch to the eyes, hoping to hit the alpha of that pack. Troia went after the same one, who’d torn apart its comrade, landing a flurry of blows on it. Between the two women, they quickly took the reptilian down. The first Superman attacked was also taken out by a heat vision blast to the eye, but the second moved fast enough that it only sustained a burn down its tough hide, though with its alpha down, it was moving more slowly now. The one slowed by the freeze-arangs lept sluggishly toward Batman, while its comrade managed to reach the gurney, tearing the top sensors off and taking the Mole Man into its scaley arms.
Firestorm attempted this time to transmute the ground under one reptilian to snow, as Batman blocked the attack on himself with his gauntlet, striking back with his taser at the creature’s eye. Batgirl attacked the reptilian that had grabbed the Mole Man, striking at its eye with one of her freeze-arangs. Cave, seeing he didn’t have time to reload, tossed away his rifle and attacked the one Firestorm had mired in the snow with his pickax, aiming for its eye. Slowed down by the snow, the creature fell to Cave’s blow. Batman’s taser charge penetrated his reptilian attacker’s eye and it, too, went down. Though the one grasping the Mole Man–the alpha of its pack–managed to deflect Batgirl’s attack and hold onto its prize. It appeared the creature was poised to return to the ground with the Mole Man when suddenly a voice cried out in everyone’s minds . . . “Stop!”
As the Mole Man appeared to stir in its arms, the reptilian froze while the heroes stopped, too, puzzled at first by what had happened. The reptilian, on mental command, then lay the Mole Man gently onto the ground and turned and disappeared back into the Earth. Concerned for the Mole Man, the heroes gathered around it as its voice in their minds began to grow fainter. He asked if they were friends, and they affirmed that they were trying to save his life. The Mole Man could tell from their thoughts that they were truthful. He sensed their goodness, and especially that of Mary, whom his mind had first touched back in the attack on LexCorp, asking her to come closer. He then bid her to take within her his essence, to return it below to his King in Moleria so that he could see what the Mole Man had seen. And then the war would end. He begged that she would honor him and his people that way.
Mary could feel the Mole Man’s essence come to her, and she decided to accept it and return it to his home. He then told the heroes to take it below to his King so that he would free “their King” and stop the war. (It seemed the Mole Men had mistaken Luthor for the king of the surface world, which was why they had kidnapped and were holding him.) But as Mary accepted the essence, the Mole Man’s voice stopped in their minds and he expired. The heroes vowed to get his essence back home to honor him and help stop the war. Cave led them back to the Mighty Mole, where they all strapped down and prepared to embark . . . “Into the Earth.”
(To be Continued . . .)
Heroes present: Superman, Mary Marvel, Troia, Firestorm, Batman, Batgirl, Cave Carson. (At the Watchtower: Black Canary.)
Also present: Dying mole man, reptilian hounds.