Earth-349: Crisis on Earth-348
by Anton Psychopoulos, Ph.D.
Crisis on Earth-348Disclaimer #1: This story is set on a hypothetical
parallel world within the pre-Crisis DC Universe, based on a story in
Superman #349, but is not limited by that story or any other.
Disclaimer #2: Some characters appearing in this story are based on
copyrighted characters owned by DC Comics, Inc., Marvel Comics and
others. Their use here is not intended to infringe or disparage those
Disclaimer #3: This story is not recommended for persons under 18 or
the easily offended.
Outwardly, the minibus in the left northbound lane of the Pacific Coast Highway
could have been any one of millions of Volkswagens driven by young people all
over the world. Better-kept than most, with no rust or dents, and perhaps its
motor sounded deeper and quieter than the sewing-machine rattle of the usual
VW, but at a glance it was just another Type 2, with four well-groomed kids
In fact, only the hood ornament and some of the exterior panels had been made
at Wolfsburg. From its tires (which would not go flat even if punctured by
bullets) to its windows (which bullets would not penetrate at all), it had
been custom-built from exotic materials by brilliant craftsmen at the Dugan
Motor Works. Its young owners called it the Type 2000. It had absorbed almost
half of the two million dollars Roberta Wayne and Jolene Dodds had allotted to
Dick Gordon was driving. Dick always drove. He rarely let them forget that he
was Batwoman's partner, or how much of the Teen Titans' budget came from his
patroness. In jeans and a red turtleneck, he still looked like a boy wonder.
Jenny West was riding shotgun, in purple bellbottoms and a white peasant
blouse. A red and gold medallion that dangled between her small breasts
concealed the tightly-compressed costume of Impulse, the Flash's young
Behind them sat Danny Dunbar and Paula Manning (known to the Atom and Green
Lantern, respectively, as Dyna-Mite and Lamplighter). They sat well apart, to
avoid Jenny's teasing, waiting impatiently for a stop so they could make out.
The Teen Titans were on their way to Coast City.
Barely a year before, Robin had gotten together with Impulse and Sandy the
Golden Boy, just for a lark. They'd brought a minor criminal to justice. More
importantly to their way of thinking, they'd hit it off as friends and decided
to get together on a regular basis. Their respective guardians had loved the
idea and bankrolled it quite generously; Dodds had persuaded the other adults
not to try to run the group themselves, letting the kids find their own way.
Their way hadn't been easy to find. By the time they moved into their New
Jersey headquarters (an old artillery emplacement they called "the cave"), they
had been joined by Aqualass and Dyna-Mite, who had quickly become an item. A
rude remark by Sandy about "interracial" romances had led to a fight between
the two boys, Sandy had been expelled from the group and Aqualass had
resigned. Since then, Lamplighter had joined, Ant Boy had come and gone, and
the team had been on the verge of disbanding at least twice.
It hadn't been easy keeping up interest in the team during the school year, but
they'd spent an exciting summer together, travelling around the country
helping teenagers in one bad scene after another. Now they hoped to get in one
more good session in Coast City before heading back East.
In the city people called "The City", trouble was brewing between the adult
authorities and the local non-conformist kids. Dick talked easily
about "calming things down", as though the four of them could make peace
between generations in a single busy weekend. Danny wasn't talking about the
mission at all, a sign that he expected trouble . Jenny was mainly interested
in finding out what these "hippies" were really like. She suspected that Paula
would fit right in.
The highway was an endless series of curves and loops, hugging the coast. Now
the van was following a long curve to the right, and a dense fogbank loomed
ahead of them.
"Look at that," Dick said happily, "good old Pelican Bay fog. We must be almost
Dick exclaimed aloud as the fog enveloped them, and proved so thick he could
see almost nothing, not even the road under them. He flicked on the
headlights, then threw the switch that boosted them to floodlight level, but
still the gray fog swallowed them.
"Slow down, Dick," Paula urged, holding up her chinese-lantern pendant to send
a beam of green light out into the fog.
Dick braked, then braked more sharply as a human figure suddenly appeared
before them. He brought the van to a stop and noticed that the shape remained
some ten feet in front of them, and that its feet did not appear to touch the
"It's some super-type," Jenny observed, and the figure did appear to be a woman
in a white skintight bodysuit, accented with a small green skirt, green
slippers, gloves and a hooded cloak.
Then Jenny noticed that the woman had a white face, and white nipples with
white areoles. The white was not skintight fabric but deathly pale skin.
"Spectre," Paula whispered.
"Huh?" said Danny, still goggling at the woman's pale but shapely knockers.
"There was a policewoman named Bridget Corrigan --"
"There may well have been," said a deep female voice that seemed to come as
much from within the van as from the figure floating in the fog before it. "Or
an acrobat named Phoenix Brand, or a florist named Alicia Simmons. Speak
whatever mortal name you please, it matters not to the Spectre."
A chill that had nothing to do with fog settled over the Titans as the voice
"What matters is the task that awaits you in the great city on the bay. The
future of Earth Three Hundred and Forty-Eight depends upon what the Teen
Titans do in the next twenty-four hours."
The Spectre lifted her cloak and it billowed out enormously beside her. The van
rolled forward unbidden, driving into the darkness of the cloak as though it
were a tunnel entrance. Dick seized the wheel as they rolled into darkness and
then suddenly into daylight again as they left the fogbank, rounded another
curve and saw the city, the bay and the bridge laid out before them.
But instead of the graceful white curves of the world-famous Sunset Bridge,
they saw the tall square towers of a span that was painted, of all colors, a
brilliant bright orange.
The shaken young heroes sat around a table at the first coffee shop they had
seen beside the road. Danny had paid for four sodas with his lucky silver
dollar (Dick had advised against trying to spend any of their more modern
money), and Paula was holding her lantern over a handful of change, discreetly
trying to turn their own coins into the Woodrow Wilson dimes and Ulysses Grant
quarters Danny had been given. Dick joined them with a tabloid-sized books with
a cardboard cover that read "Inventorum for 1944". Apparently it was something
like an almanac.
"Okay, Dick," Danny said, sipping an odd cola drink, "you seem to have some
idea what's happened to Coast City, so let's rap."
Dick opened up the "Inventorum" to what appeared to be a map of the United
States and put his finger on the West Coast.
"Nothing's happened to Coast City. It's just that this isn't Coast City,
Califia. It's Golden Gate City, in the state of Eldorado, on a parallel world
called Earth-348. Also, the date on the calendar over there is June 5th, 1944."
"The day before D-Day?"
"Dummy up, Dan-o! I'll explain about that in a minute."
"Earth-348. The Spectre used that term," Paula said. "So, you've been to this
other world before?"
"Not me personally, no. But two years ago, the Flash was chasing three of her
enemies when they tried to escape through a sort of portal into another
dimension. She followed them here, to a world similar but not identical to our
"She met up with a super-speedster of this world, called Quicksilver," Jenny
Dick glared at her but she went on. "Together they defeated them, and three of
Quicksilver's foes they'd teamed up with. Flash took hers back to our world and
back to prison. Quicksilver, um, killed hers."
Dick took over. "Last year, Batwoman and the Flash and some other heroes
visited their world again. I guess it's something that can happen every year
around this time."
"Is this, like, an alternate history kind of thing?" Danny asked. "Like it's
the world the way it would have been if the South had won Civil War II?"
"More like a parallel history," Dick said. "Things happen differently, but tend
to come out the same in the long run."
He pointed to the map, with its unfamiliar state boundaries.
"Like, they have 48 stars on their flag, the same as we did in '44, but they're
not the same 48 states. And they never had a Civil War I, but there was
something like a second War of Independence a few years later, and Jackson was
the Army leader and wound up as President, and they had what they call the War
Between the States in the 1860s, almost the same as on our Earth."
"So they're still gonna beat Hitler on this world, right?" asked Paula, a bit
"Probably. But it might take another two years here, or there might be a coup
in Germany and the war be over tomorrow. No way of knowing exactly how the
parallel history will work out. So don't go around making any predictions to
people, or talking about some secret military operation before it's even begun."
Paula leaned over and punched Danny's shoulder.
"Or making any bets at the racetrack."
A gray-haired man walked past their table, looking them up and down, lingering
on Paula's minidress. Their clothes were fairly conservative, but obviously not
for Earth-348 in 1944.
"Crazy kids. Dressed like circus clowns. The Justice Battallion is in town,
they'll straighten you out."
The young heroes exchanged glances.
"I guess we're about to meet the home team."
They were driving down yet another of Golden Gate City's impossibly steep,
absurdly straight boulevards (had they laid out the streets without even
looking at the hills?) when Danny spotted the odd-looking aircraft with a
fireball flying rings around it. It was hovering over a large plaza just ahead
of them, preparing to land.
Green energy flooded the Type 2000 and all four Titans were instantly in
costume. Dick parked hastily and they got out. Paula, in the green Asian dress
and purple domino mask of Lamplighter, formed a green platform to carry them
onto the plaza, over the heads of the quickly-gathering crowd.
"Susan?" Lamplighter called to the flaming figure that still flew overhead.
"Susan Storm, is that you?"
The flaming figure landed and the flames vanished from around her, revealing a
tall blonde woman in a red bodysuit.
"Oh, sorry. I thought you were the Human Torch, a hero from our world."
"I am called the Human Torch," the woman replied in a well-modulated voice,
"but my real name is Galatea Horton, and I'm afraid I've never met you."
"There are a lot of people, heroes especially it seems, who are near-matches
between our world and this one," Robin explained to his comrades. "If we're
here long enough, you'll run into a lot of familiar names: Hercules, Black
Widow, the Falcon, the Vision. . . ."
The aircraft's hatch opened. A broad silhouette filled the darkened opening.
"And who might you be?"
If the contralto voice had been any deeper, it would have been considered
freakishly low for a woman's. The tone was that of an officer who could get a
dozen princes to march in step. The owner of the voice was tall and broad-
shouldered, with muscles that again were almost too much for a woman, though
subtantial breasts distorted the white star at the center of her blue scale-
"Uh, I'm called Robin, and these are Impulse, Lamplighter and Dyna-Mite. We're
from the same world as Batwoman and Aquawoman and those guys."
Impulse stared at Robin. She'd never seen his air of calm, assured authority
crack so badly, except when Batwoman had been present.
The flag-draped woman smiled.
"Oh, yes, visitors from the future or something. Wasn't in on that caper, but I
heard about it."
She shot out a red-gloved hand.
"Captain America. You've already met the Human Torch, and here's --"
A tall, lean man, dressed only in a pair of scaly green swimming trunks,
stepped from the aircraft. He raised one long eyebrow, regarding the young
"Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner."
Robin stared at the strange, prick-eared apparition (his near-nudity
reminiscent of the Spectre) for a moment before hastily grasping Captain
"Wow, Captain America, for real? There was a Captain America on our world in
the '40s, sort of. But she was a symbolic figure like Uncle Sam, not a real
person. Just something they used to sell bonds."
Cap laughed ruefully.
"Sometimes it seems like that's all I ever do."
A few minutes later, the seven costumed heroes were gathered in a meeting room
in City Hall. The Justice Battallion had been expected, and the unfamiliar
young heroes were accepted by the authorities as merely some new recruits.
While they waited for the police captain who would brief them, the heroes of
two worlds made further introductions and explained their respective missions,
which turned out to be strangely parallel.
On Earth-348, there was a subculture named for the weirdly-cut "zoot suits"
worn by the young men. A few days before, in another El Dorado city, there had
been a riot for which the zoot suiters had been blamed, though apparently it
was common knowledge that it had really been an unprovoked attack by sailors on
"The situation is complicated because the zoot suiters are Mexicans, who aren't
the most popular people in El Dorado," Captain America explained. "And those
sailors in Todos Santos, well, with a war on, folks are very reluctant to
Dick saw how uncomfortable his teammates were looking, especially Lamplighter.
He began talking rapidly, trying to keep the Titans from saying anything to
alienate the Justice Battallion heroes. He explained how they faced a similar
situation on their own world, and how they had hoped to mingle with the young
people and learn more about them, before taking action.
"An excellent plan," Cap said crisply, "and workable of we can only move fast
enough. We're operating under a deadline, you see. John Hoover, the National
Ombudsman, wants to shut down the dance clubs, ban jazz music, round up all the
zoot suiters and stick them in the camps."
Paula gaped, appalled.
"Camps? Like, concentration camps?"
"The same camps where they're keeping the Japs."
"So like, Japanese nationals have been interned for the duration," Dick said
"Them," Cap admitted, "and native-born Americans of Japanese descent, and
anybody else whose loyalty has been questioned. The camps were built before the
war to house the refugees from the midwestern drought."
Paula opened her mouth. Jenny squeezed her hand to silence her. Dick took a
deep breath and said, "We never had . . . such camps in our America."
The three heroes of Earth-348 exchanged glances, suggesting that they envied
the Titans their youth, and their world, which seemed happier than their own.
"So, how about if we, the Titans, go out tonight, try to gather some
impressions," Dick pressed. "Maybe the police have some young-looking rookies
they could lend us."
"I can pass for 17 when I have to."
Her smile broadened at Dick's dubious look. She removed a glove and raised her
hand to her throat, as though reading her own pulse. For a moment she just
stared, eyes glazed, into the distance. Then she shrank within her costume,
until it hung on her like a tent. The young woman Dick now saw was shorter than
himself, with no noticable muscle and not much of a figure. She smiled at him
shyly, showing slightly irregular teeth.
"That is, if you don't mind being seen with the real me."
It was still before seven when they got there, so the club was pretty quiet.
Dick looked acceptable in a jacket from a police evidence locker and the one
pair of slacks in his suitcase that wasn't flared. Gloria Rogers, the
unenhanced version of Captain America, was perfect in a fuzzy blue sweater, a
calf-length pleated skirt, white socks and saddle shoes. Dick paid at the door
and they drifted towards the bar.
Dick looked over the unfamiliar list of soft drinks.
"What looks good to you, Glory?"
The kid behind the counter smirked, and Gloria said softly, "I'm dying for a
Hi-Ho, if that's all right with you, Dick."
Dick bought two bottles of a frighteningly red liquid. The bartender opened
them both and dropped in paper straws without being asked, handing Gloria hers
first, then giving the other to Dick with a raised eyebrow.
As they moved away, Gloria whispered, "You should have ordered for both of us
without consulting me. When he handed me my own bottle instead of giving them
both to you and you didn't snatch it from his hand to give to me, you confirmed
that you're a rube who doesn't know enough to treat a girl like dirt. I'm
afraid you've just lost some credibility."
"Shut up, girl, you're boring me."
"That's the idea."
There was no amplification to the music, and Dick knew that Rock&Roll was a
good decade away, but the band beat their instruments with energy and style,
and the place was alive with what he could only call good vibrations. He saw
Danny and Paula dancing off to one side with more energy than grace. Jenny and
a tall rookie cop were doing a better job, since the cop knew the steps and
Jenny was a fast learner. Applying the skills of observation Batwoman had
taught him, Dick had figured out the most common steps and set about applying
them with Gloria. After the first number, it was less of an effort, and he
began to enjoy the activity for its own sake. And Gloria's.
The entrance doors burst open, and a dozen cops waving nightsticks burst in.
The exits to either side of the stage opened, and more uniforms appeared there.
The music stopped. The kids drew back, crowding together, backing away from the
cops but still defiant. Jenny had vanished, probably vibrating into
invisibility to try to intervene unseen. Her dance partner was looking around
for her, fumbling in his pocket for his badge. Dick couldn't see what Danny or
Paula were doing.
One boy stepped forward, almost nose to nose with a particularly large officer.
His face was pale under dark coloring, but he stood up to the big man.
"We ain't doin' nothin', man! We don't got to take this from you!"
The cop raised his stick and snarled, "You'll take whatever we --"
On the stage, Lamplighter had materialized a microphone and loudspeaker from
green energy. The crowd goggled at the apparition, and at her amplified voice.
Everyone paused, and Dick prayed that she would find the right words to say.
Then she began to sing, and Dick's heart sank.
She doesn't understand, Dick thought, she thinks these kids are squares because
their clothes and their music seem old-fashioned to her. But they're not
squares, they're not old farts -- they won't buy it!
Then he looked around the room, and saw that they were buying it. They were
listening. And then he understood.
It was new to them. They'd never heard it before. The song had never been
written on Earth-348.
They listened, while she sang about a wonderful country, a country with land as
beautiful and resources as rich as the souls of its people, a country where a
new civilization was rising that would outshine anything that had ever existed
before. And gradually they understood that Lamplighter wasn't singing about the
flawed and fearful country they lived in, but the country they could have one
day, if they -- all of them -- were worthy of it.
They listened, and they listened, through all four verses, and everyone --
kids, cops, the band, and Dick, too -- were in tears by the time Paula reached
the last refrain:
"And crown thy good with brotherhood
"From sea to shining sea."
In the silence that followed, Paula said softly, but clearly thanks to her
amplifier, "This is our city, our country. It belongs to all of us. In war or
in peace, we're all in this together. We don't have to fight with each other."
The sticks were holstered. Cops and kids were talking now, some of them
smiling. In the back, Dick saw the manager talking with a plainclothesman.
Photographers were preserving the moment of amity between cultures and
generations, creating images that would be in papers all over the country the
next day. So, he suspected, would the words to that memorable new song.
Dick turned towards Gloria, who was still watching Lamplighter as she dissolved
the amplifier and tried to make her escape.
"I think, Dick, that we just saw what you kids came here for."
He put his arm around her shoulder and squeezed.
"No. What she came here for. Paula's the hero this time; we were just along for
The music started up again.
"Dick, do you like this kind of music?"
"Not much, to tell the truth."
"Me neither. Let's go some place quieter."
They stopped at the police station. The department had rented rooms for the
Justice Battallion group, and Gloria picked up a room key from the desk
sergeant. They walked the few blocks to the hotel.
Dick looked up at the building.
"What do you know? The Dominion Hotel. They have this same place in Coast City."
"Were you going to stay there?"
"Nah. We're almost out of money. A Motel Five, most likely."
The room was expensively furnished, but lacked the amenities of a first-class
hotel room on Earth-349 in 1964: no refrigerator, a simple AM radio instead of
a stereo system, and of course there was no TV. But Dick didn't mind a bit,
once they were settled on the couch, soft music playing, room service drinks in
front of them.
Gloria tugged at the sleeve of his jacket.
"You look good in those clothes."
"Thanks. It's never been the style back home, but I can see how it could catch
"Your Robin costume, it, well . . . ."
"Makes me look stupid?"
"I was going to say, it doesn't flatter your build."
"That's a very polite way of putting it. Yeah, well, when I first became Robin,
three years ago, I was just a skinny kid, built kind of like a dancer."
Gloria reached up and squeezed his left biceps.
"Now you're built like a football player."
Dick stared, then burst out laughing.
"I hope that means on this Earth boys play football!"
Gloria's hand was still on Dick's arm. He put his hand over hers and returned
her smile. They moved closer, and in a moment were kissing.
Dick was surprised to feel Gloria's tongue in his mouth, but he adapted
quickly. He held her for a long time, enjoying the feel of her body against
his, through their clothes. When they broke, she stepped back and placed a hand
at her throat.
"Just a minute, and I'll change back to Cap."
Startled, Gloria dropped her hand.
"Well, don't you want me at my best?"
Dick took her hand and kissed the inside of her wrist.
"Am I complaining?"
Gloria blushed and ducked her head.
"Do you really want me . . . the way I am?"
He raised her chin and kissed her lightly on the lips.
"I've only ever done it as Cap, never as Gloria."
Dick stroked her cheek.
"Want to know a secret? I've never done it at all."
Like two virgins, they made love slowly, cautiously, but with only a little
clumsiness. Gloria surprised him by whipping out a condom and opening it with
"On my world there's a pill women can take for birth control."
"Does it keep the clap away, too?"
Dick had to admit that it didn't.
"Then this way is better, isn't it?" she smiled, expertly rolling it onto him.
"Sure feels nicer."
Later, she did change to Captain America, and rode him hard to climax. His
hands gripped her steely thighs, his neck craning so he could reach her nipples
with his lips and try to suck an entire breast into his mouth.
"You'd have better luck trying that with Glory!"
Dick had intended to go out to look for more signs of trouble afterwards, but
it felt so good to just lie there, his muscular limbs tangled with Cap's, and
he was so tired, besides . . . .
It was broad daylight when they were awakened by a pounding on the door. Dick
dove for the bathroom with his pants while Gloria calmly answered the knock,
pulling a sheet around herself.
From the bathroom, Dick heard Namor's voice at the door, excitedly telling Cap
that they needed to get to back to England immediately. When he emerged,
dressed, Namor gave him a thumbs-up, ignoring Cap as she pulled on her chain
"There's something big going on over in Europe, they've invaded France or
Dick nodded grimly.
The early reports would be confused, of course, but soon enough they would know
the truth: on Earth-348, as on Earth-349, this was D-Day: Dust Day, the day
Allied planes dropped a load of radioactive powder on Berlin. As on Earth-349,
over a hundred thousand Berliners would die (though Hitler would escape), and
all of the city's millions would become homeless.
After the war, the Allies would enclose the poisoned city in a high concrete
barrier. The Berlin Wall would stand for decades, until the deadly dust had
finally decayed to a safe level, and the grandchildren of present-day Germans
could reclaim their ancient capital.
D-Day would ensure an eventual Allied victory, but a victory that was tainted,
as surely as Berlin was tainted, a victory that would burden the whole human
race with horror.
Well, it was their problem, their history, to deal with as best they could, just as Earth-349 had.
Robin shook himself and smiled at Cap.
"I think that's our cue for an exit."
The others had also spent the night at the Dominion, and Dick had them gathered
quickly at the Type 2000.
Impulse was reluctant to go.
"We haven't really solved anything, you know."
"But we helped. They'll all see things from a new perspective: the authorities,
the kids, maybe even the great and terrible National Ombudsman."
"But will that be enough?"
"It'll have to be. 24 hours is all the Spectre gave us."
Jenny nodded, knowing that would have to do.
With their seat belts fastened, Robin started the engine.
"Back to the highway, I guess."
But before he had driven out of the plaza, the black fog suddenly enveloped
them again. Dick wondered for a moment what their departure looked like to the
people left behind on Earth-348, then his attention was drawn to the oncoming
headlights of a huge bus with a rounded rear end. He caught a glimpse of people
in the vehicle, people who seemed to be dressed for winter, and then it was
"Do you think something's wrong," Jenny asked as another pair of headlights
loomed. "There wasn't any, um, traffic the other time. Maybe I should get out
and scout at super-speed."
"No! That sounds like a great way to get lost but good."
Dick drove on through the fog, which seemed to go on forever, passing a stream
of traffic that included a mammoth old truck hauling a passenger trailer,
something that looked like a 1920s touring charabanc, and a flying saucer with
"Hey!" cried Danny. "Did you see that lady in the red T-shirt driving that old
car? She looked just like Tom Smart, except instead of that Egyptian thingie,
she had a Greek letter on her shirt!"
"Duesenberg," Dick muttered.
"Eye of Horus," Paula said softly.
"Psi," Jenny finished.
"Maybe the next Human Torch we run into will be a guy!"
Just then the fog parted, and Dick was driving along a lonely stretch of highway
that he guessed was part of the agricultural region south of Coast City. Then a
highway sign informed the travellers that they were actually just outside
Piscataway, about 40 miles from the "Cave".
"Well," Jenny observed, "I guess the Spectre gave us a lift. Better than no
reward at all."
They spent a few hours relaxing in their headquarters, showering and snacking,
but then it was getting late, time for the young heroes to call in to their
respective guardians, parents and mentors.
Danny, in an Aztec Gold suit, was combing his hair before hopping into his
Mustang for the long drive to Ivy Town.
"Hey, guys, what are your plans for the month? Anything big in mind?"
"Not me," Jenny declared. "Just decompressing before school starts."
"Green Lantern wants me to go along on a trip to Alpha Centauri," Paula said.
"I probably won't have time for any big projects after that."
Jenny turned to Dick.
"How about you, Dick?"
"I was thinking of dumping the Robin schtick and developing something more
"I suppose you're going to start dressing all in black and gray, like all the
other Bat-types in Gotham."
"No, I like wearing bright colors, staying upbeat.
"What'll you call yourself, then, the Rainbow Batman?"
"No. I was thinking of a name more like, I don't know . . . Captain America."