Friday, December 31, 2010

Earth-349: The Last Story, Prologue 2

Earth-349: The Martian Manhunter
by Anton Psychopoulos, Ph.D.

Disclaimer #1 This story is set in a hypothetical parallel world within
the pre-Crisis DC Universe, based on a story in Superman #349, but 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, especially those who are uncomfortable with such topics
as transgender, undocumented immigration and linotypism.

The police had Etaoin Shrdlu in custody, with eight finger cuffs
added to the handcuffs to ensure he didn't get a chance to work his
powers on any typewriter or telephone dial he might pass. The
typesetting machine Shrdlu had stolen (a priceless artifact, the
one Mark Twain had bankrupted himself trying to perfect) was
undamaged, in the custody of a curator from the Hub City Museum of
Science and Industry. The police already had the usual anonymous
statements from the Flash and from herself. She could spare a few

The Martian Manhunter laid a blue-gloved hand on the Flash's shoulder.

"If you need me, I'll be up on the roof."

"Something you need to do?" the Scarlet Speedster asked, mildly

"Just going to look at the sky. Join me if you want."

After a minute, she did.

The sun was just below the horizon, the sky clear, dimming slowly.
Two stars were just visible, low in the west.

"Which one's Mars?" the Flash asked.

The Manhunter turned, her face betraying surprise.

"Mars is somewhere to the east, not visible yet to human eyes.
Those are Venus and Mercury."

"Oh. I just assumed --"

"Seeing Mars as a tiny orange dot just makes me feel more homesick,
Rose. But a double evening star makes me feel right at home."

"Oh, right. You can see this from Mars, can't you?"

"It's quite common. Of course, on Mars it's more likely to be
Earth and Venus. But this is nice."

The sky was darker now. Five or six stars were visible directly
overhead. The Manhunter pointed upward.

"Leaping J'emm, the one you call Orion, is also familiar.
Something to remind me that I'm not too far from home. A long way,
but a measurable distance."

The Flash placed a hand on the shoulder of the Manhunter's red

"You'll get home, Joanie. It'll happen."

The Flash left moments later for another of her endless patrols of the city.
The Manhunter considered her options. The Middletown police were expecting
Detective Joan Jones to be on duty in about twelve hours. She could fly, which
would get her home at about three in the morning, exhausted (she was no
Superwoman). She could catch a commercial flight to Philadelphia and take a
cab from the airport, but that was a lot of money on a police officer's salary.

She finally decided to try her luck at Corkin AFB. Flying under her own power
to just outside the gates of the base, she landed behind a defunct gas station
and began to change.

At her mental command, her red bodysuit began to crease ad seam itself into the
blue uniform of a Captain in the U.S. Air Force. The technology that allowed
her to alter her suit had been derived from her race's innate ability to alter
their bodies. She'd tried to explain it once to Natalie Richards of the
Fantastic Four, but the concepts had been so alien to Terran science that she
hadn't made much progress.

The suit changed faster than the Manhunter's body, but she soon caught up. Her
robin's-egg blue skin changed to a peachy pink. Her close-cropped black hair
turned blonde, and grew out enough to need to be pinned up. Pins emerged from
her skin and migrated into place. Her tall and heroically muscular body shrank
to a more modest stature, with bigger breasts and hips. She'd tried to explain
principles of Martian biology to Dr. Nelson Fate once, but he also hadn't
understood much.

It would take a fellow Martian to really understand J'Onn J'Onzz.

She walked up to the guard post at the gate and produced the ID of Cpt. Jane
Jahns. The Captain was listed with the base's Intelligence office as on
detached service, mission usually classified, liable to show up at any time and
to be shown every courtesy. She had to persuade the base commander that she
didn't need a fighter jet and pilot commandeered for her, that a space on the
MATS flight to Olmstead at 2100 hours would be fine.

The alterations that reality underwent that night were minimal in most parts of
the country, including Middletown. None of the Manhunter's special martian
senses noticed anything. The disruption was more severe in New Devonshire, New
Troy, Califia and Wabash, and most especially bad in central Ohio, inand around
Hub City. There is no way of saying what effect the event might have had on
J'Onzz's Martian body and mind if she had still been in Hub City when it

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