Following the hero’s retreat from the Iceberg Lounge and Starro the Conqueror’s drones, they gathered again at the Justice League Watchtower to take stock of the situation and decide on a course of action. Zatanna was still unconscious, having expended so much effort trying to combat Starro’s mental assault that she needed time to rest and recover. The comm screen still had a static image of Oracle on it, flickering in and out from the same interference that had cut off all communications with Gotham City. Suddenly, a teleporter beam flashed and, to everyone’s surprise, Red Hood beamed into the Watchtower.
Hood had apparently been in Metropolis and had picked up on the original call Oracle had put out for heroes to investigate the situation in Gotham. But he’d only just gotten teleported in, though how that had occurred would have to wait as the heroes found yet another guest entering the Watchtower–Miss Martian! The Last Daughter of Mars had been in the Australian desert when she detected a huge burst of mental energy coming from the United States. She’d immediately returned to America and had come to the Watchtower seeking J’onn J’onnz to see what was going on.
When she hadn’t detected J’onn’s mental signature in the Watchtower, she decided to reveal herself to the gathered heroes and offer her assistance, especially as she heard them describing what had happened. She recognized the threat of Starro the Conqueror from mental records that J’onn had implanted in her mind previously. Just then, the comm screen buzzed back to life, flickering and with a distorted image, but Oracle’s voice came from it loud and clear, hailing the Watchtower.
Oracle explained to the heroes that she was piggybacking her signal onto the transmission from the LexCorp communication satellite that had gone nonresponsive previoiusly. Apparently it was back online, but not under LexCorp’s control–and it was somehow jamming all communications in and out of Gotham City, plus in some manner amplifying Starro’s mental barrier around the city that was keeping everyone out and putting those inside the city under the Star Conqueror’s control. So far, Oracle had been able to resist and jam the signal, but the headache it was causing her was increasing in intensity. She’d managed even so to beam Red Hood to the Watchtower, thinking the heroes would need all the help they could get.
She suggested to the heroes that they could beam down to Gotham outside the mental “dome” of Starro’s influence if they wanted to try to get back inside, though they’d need something to protect them from Starro’s mental control. Or they could possibly take out the satellite’s transmission, which might lessen the mental force field holding the city in thrall. Suddenly, however, Oracle’s transmission cut out, unable to keep penetrating the jamming from the LexCorp satellite. Hearing the situation–and especially after learning that Batman was among the missing–Red Hood offered to work with the heroes to try to stop Starro.
Looking to Troia as one of the senior members, along with Flash, Miss Martian suggested that she might be able to mentally shield the heroes from Starro’s mind control, though it would take a lot of effort on her part and make her less effective otherwise. But if it would protect the heroes and enable them to act against the threat, she’d be willing to do that–if they would allow it, of course. The heroes agreed, though only Red Hood, surprisingly, agreed to give her full access to his mind.
The heroes quickly discussed strategy, with Hood suggesting they split up and hit both targets–Gotham and the satellite–at the same time. Troia disagreed and thought they should stay together, and Miss Martian agreed that she could protect all of them mentally only if they remained together. The heroes decided to make the satellite their first priority, hoping that once its transmission was stopped, it would make their task in Gotham easier. Or at least not so difficult, even with the Martian’s mental protection.
Having been shown how to operate them by J’onn previously, Miss Martian recalibrated the Watchtower scanners so that they could get a video feed showing them the LexCorp satellite. The viewscreen image showed them the satellite with a space shuttle attached–the rumor of LexCorp having sent a repair crew to the satellite proving to be true. Though what had happened to them was less clear. Miss Martian then entered the coordinates for the satellite into the Watchtower teleporter so that the heroes could beam directly to it when they were ready to go.
Flash wondered how Starro had taken over the satellite, if that was indeed the case, since the information he had was that Starro was vulnerable to extreme cold, such as that in space. Miss Martian confirmed that this was what J’onn had mentally imparted to her about the Star Conqueror as well–though she was detecting some kind of mental emanations from the satellite that were similar, though weaker, than those she’d detected from Gotham. Still, she felt she could shield the heroes from those as well.
Flash speculated that if Starro was indeed on the satellite, perhaps they could suck him out into space somehow and defeat him that way. Red Hood asked if there were any cold weapons aboard the Watchtower he could borrow, but nothing was available. Though Flash pointed out that Firestorm could turn things into ice, and Troia speculated that she could perhaps still summon cold from the time she’d thought she was the goddess of the moon. Having set on a plan, the heroes were ready to transport to the satellite, and Miss Martian triggered the teleporter to take them there.
The heroes beamed in to the airlock for the emergency crew portion of the satellite, containing all the manual override controls. Soon as they arrived, they could feel the mental oppression from within, giving them headaches and a whispering in the back of their minds . . . till Miss Martian managed to dampen it for them. Mentally, she could detect a number of sentient beings on the other side of the airlock door, some human, others not. Though the minds of the humans seemed to be mostly slumbering.
Though she didn’t have any information on how to open the airlock door, Miss Martian speculated that pressing one of the buttons on a wall panel next to them might do it. To Flash’s surprise, when she pressed the button, the door opened . . . to show a room full of consoles and an energy core–plus seven LexCorp space crewmen, including a guard, all with Starro spores attached to their faces. One of them–the spore attached to the mission commander–gave them a greeting and an invite to “join the hive” . . .
As the heroes rushed into the room, the commander drone ordered the others to get them, and three of them shot energy beams from the eyes of their spores at the group. Flash rushed forward at super-speed, dodging the eyebeams, to try to knock down the drones, while Troia used her bracelets to deflect the eyebeams so that none of the heroes were hit. Livewire activated an electrical field around herself to prevent any Starro spores from latching onto her, while the guard’s spore shot off another eyebeam, though he was knocked down by Flash’s assault.
Suddenly, Firestorm–apparently having forgotten that any attack on the spore would also harm the drones they were attached to–loosed a massive nuclear energy bolt at the drones, while Red Hood began shooting them in nonfatal locations, hoping that by disabling the drones, it would stop the spores. Horrified to see Firestorm’s attack on the drones, Miss Martian put herself between them and the nuclear bolt to keep it from killing anyone–only to be stunned by the force of the blast. She fell to the ground, barely moving, as her mental protection of the group ceased, allowing their headaches to return along with the renewed mental whispering to “join us . . .”
As the drones Flash hit went down, they fired off wild eyebeams around the room, while a pair of drones hidden on either side of the door attacked Flash and Livewire from behind with their eyebeams. The commander-drone also fired off an eyebeam. The drones Red Hood hit with his bullets didn’t seem to notice their wounds, and those Flash had knocked down quickly climbed back to their feet. Troia continued to deflect the eyeblasts with her bracelets, but doing so kept her from taking any other action against the spores.
The eyebeam shot at Flash fortunately only gave him a glancing blow due to his speed, and he began to look for a fire extingusher, hoping to use it against the spores, despite the building headach that was making it difficult to think. Livewire, pained by the headache, nevertheless managed to transform into electricity and jumped into one of the control panels to try to shut the satellite down. She did so just as the eyebeam hit so was unaffected by it. And in electrical form, the mental assault was lessened enough she could attempt to shut down the controls, though she was still not at full capacity.
It was Firestorm’s turn to be horrified as he saw Miss Martian take the bolt he’d shot, not meaning to actually hurt anyone. Red Hood, hit by the splitting headache and mental whispering, moaned and holstered his gun, pulling out a taser and jumping for the nearest Starro drone–and into the path of an eyebeam blast! Fortunately, Miss Martian’s alien physique enabled her to shrug off enough of Firestorm’s blast that she was able to recover sufficiently to intercept the eyebeam with a blast of her Martian vision, so that it gave Red Hood only a glancing blow. Though it did knock off his helmet. She also tried to reestablish her mental shield over the heroes.
Flash managed to locate a fire extinguisher and get it working to fire it in the face of a pair of the Starro drones. The spore’s eyes closed and the drones fell, and the spores dropped off their faces, inert from the cold. Though the men now seemed to feel the bullet wounds Red Hood had inflicted on them and were crying out in pain. Troia managed to deflect all the other eyebeams shot toward her and Firestorm, while Livewire managed to shut down two of the control consoles from inside, dimming the power source and decreasing the strength of the satellite’s transmission to Gotham. Red Hood managed to strike the drone with his taser, and the drone went down, but the Starro spore left it and attached itself to Hood’s face.
Flash was hit by one of the wild eyebeam blasts, which coupled with the mental assault still hitting him caused him to drop the fire extinguisher. He decided to try another ploy while he could still think–racing around the room fast enough to suck the oxygen out and, hopefully, knocking out drones and spores alike. The decrease in oxygen from Flash’s maneuver did knock out the body of the guard-drone, but the spore seemed to be able to keep going, firing off more eyeblasts, as did the spores on other crewmen who dropped due to the oxygen depletion. Miss Martian, now almost fully recovered thanks to her Martian physiology, rushed up from the floor to stand between the flying eyebeams and the other heroes, her indestructible skin shrugging off the blasts, freeing Troia from the defensive role she’d been forced to take. At the same time she got her mental shield back up to lessen the continuing assault on the hero’s minds.
Livewire managed to knock out more of the control consoles from within the satellite’s wiring, as the remaining drones–including now Red Hood–fell unconscious from lack of oxygen. The spores continued to fire off their eyebeams, but Miss Martian intercepted them. Troia, meanwhile, concentrated now on lowering the temperature inside the satellite, hoping to force the spores into hibernation. Flash began helping Troia by forcing the cold air toward the spores. Suddenly, all the spores went inactive and dropped off the faces of the men they’d been infecting, going inert from the cold that Troia had generated. Meanwhile, Livewire burned out the last of the satellite’s communication circuits, shutting down its transmission to Gotham.
As soon as the Starro spores went inactive and the satellite transmission died, the mental assault on the heroes that Miss Martian had been combatting ceased. The room was quiet, except for the moans from the men Red Hood had shot. Miss Martian proclaimed the Starro spores defeated and suggested they needed to get the wounded men back to the Watchtower for treatment. Just then, however, the Starro spore who’d been attached to the mission commander beamed a final gloat to their minds, telling them that the hive-father would not fall so easily to them . . . before its mind, too, went silent.
As the heroes cleaned up and Flash beamed the wounded men back to the Watchtower, they learned what had happened from the remaining LexCorp crew. The Starro spores had apparently smashed into the satellite in their icy coating from the Echino meteor shower, damaging the satellite and taking it offline. When the repair crew had arrived and sealed the hull breaches, warming up the interior, the spores came to life and took over the crew, causing them to send out the jamming signal that had isolated Gotham City.
With the satellite back in order, and the jamming/amplification signal into Gothem cut off, the heroes returned to the Watchtower to ready for their next move. Oracle was back online now and congratulated the heroes on cutting off the jamming signal. Unfortunately, though it was now greatly lessened, the mental barrier around the city was still in place. Oracle could still get signals in and out, but she’d still not been able to contact Batman or other of their allies who’d not been in the Iceberg Lounge, taken over by Starro spores. Nor could she contact the Gotham PD. Ominously, though, she’d picked up military signals indicating that the government was considering dealing with the Starro threat by hitting Gotham with tactical nukes!
Oracle suggested that the heroes need to get back into Gotham and stop Starro before the city was destroyed. She said she could set them down outside the mental bubble with the League teleporters, but it would then be up to them to get into Gotham and stop the Star Conqueror. Miss Martian expressed confidence she could protect them from Starro’s mental influence once inside of Gotham now that the satellite wasn’t amplifying it. They just needed to start from a safe place. Oracle suggested that she could set them down at the Batcave, since it was outside the mental force bubble. They should be shielded from detection there and able to get into Gotham unnoticed.
The heroes agreed, and so Oracle triggered the Watchtower teleporter and all the assembled heroes disappeared in a burst of teleporter energy, headed to the Batcave . . .
(To be continued . . .)
Heroes Present: Flash (Wally West), Troia, Livewire, Firestorm, Miss Martian, Oracle (via comm).
Also Present: Red Hood (helping the heroes).
Villains Present: Starro drones (LexCorp Space Crew), Starro drone-guard, Starro spores.