DCM Knights
Detective Comics

Stranger in a Strange Land: Part II
co-plot and script by Black Condor
co-plot by Chip Caroon

J'Onn J'Onzz

I was standing there in one of the basement offices of the Monte Verde Nuclear Power Plant, faced with my foe Z'Onn Z'Orr.

He was about to torture some manner of secret out of a small, gray-haired scientist with large glasses.

I was trying to capture him as I had been unable to do on Mars, but I was suddenly unable to fight him. As hard as I tried, I could not use my Martian vision, or any of my other powers, on Z'Orr.

But he was still able to use his powers, to deadly effect. I dodged just in time as a blast impacted into the wall.

"Ah, J'Onn J'Onzz. Somehow, I knew you would come here, to interfere with my plans."

He turned his fist into a huge spiky ball and swung it at me. It missed me by an inch and made a dent in the wall.

"My eternal foe, on Earth as well as on Mars! You don't even know why you came here, do you?"

He tore a metal bar from the wall and cracked me across the chest with it.

I fell back against the opposing wall. If my Martian powers had been at full strength, that blow would not have hurt me. But in this weakened state, I could ill afford another hit like that one.

"I've been on this Earth as long as you have. But I came directly to Dr. Erdel here, while you went off to have your little adventures. I first arrived on Earth in Erdel's laboratory . . . after I tortured him just a little, he explained how we were brought here."

The poor old man looked like he had been tortured. I saw burn marks and bruises on his face. Only a savage like Z'Orr would injure such a nice old man, and H'Ronmeer only knew to what kinds of tortures Z'Orr had subjected Dr. Erdel.

"Yes, I'm responsible for you two being here," Erdel said.

"This inferior human created a vortex that reached across time and space to open a hole on Mars that we were able to enter." Z'Orr pointed disdainfully at the Doctor. "Because he's just a human, he did it by accident. But I have been putting his 'genius' to good use!

Dr. Erdel shrank into the corner as Z'Orr boasted.

"Dr. Erdel has been working on some useful inventions for me . . . Bring my weapon out, cur!"

Erdel obediently opened one of his file drawers and pulled out a small weapon that I recognized from my Martian Elite Police training. I wondered what other tools of destruction were hidden in Erdel's laboratory.

"A particle beam generator!"

"Yes . . . and this is just the prototype, J'Onzz. This human dog was intelligent enough to follow my directions on how to build one. With this, and with the other weapons he has built for me, along with the power to travel through time and space, I will be unstoppable." His eyes glowed with power and greed. "I'll go back to Mars, and get my old associates together, and, armed with these weapons, we'll rule this planet!"

Z'Orr thought for a moment, and then smiled. "I'd ask you to help me rule these foolish humans, but we were never friends on Mars, so why should we be friends here?"

The general alarm kept sounding throughout the nuclear plant. I knew that the plant security forces, if not the Army, would be along soon, if they weren't already here.

"Now to use this particle beam generator on those fools who would think to stop me!" Z'Orr shoved me out of the way, and then went out of the door of Erdel's office, and flew up the stairs to attack the oncoming security forces.

As he left, I could feel my Martian powers returning. How could he weaken me just by his presence? I would have to find this out before I could stop him.

"Are you all right?" Dr. Erdel asked.

"I should be asking you that question. How long has he had you under his power?"

"Since he appeared one day, a couple of months ago." Erdel adjusted his glasses, and collected himself, so he could tell the story properly. "I was conducting a vortex experiment, as a way of harnessing nuclear energy for long-distance space travel. If I could open up a gateway on Earth, and use nuclear energy to tear open an exit on another world, I could revolutionize space travel.

"But my experiment had awful results. Right after I opened up the vortex, he came." Erdel shuddered at the thought of Z'Onn Z'Orr. "He came in a flash of light, all of a sudden. He grabbed me in his strong arms, and very nearly killed me the moment he met me! But he saw that I was a scientist, and that kept him from hurting me more. He said that he would have use for me."

Erdel pulled himself out of his story and turned his attention back to me. "But I didn't mean to tear you away from your world, wherever it is."

"You didn't tear us away, Dr. Erdel. Z'Orr was fleeing me when he went into the vortex. I was an officer in the Martian Elite Police, and Z'Orr was evading arrest. I followed him into the vortex . . . so neither of us really got here by accident."

Time was running out. If Z'Orr had his way, this nuclear power plant would either become a slaughterhouse for anyone who stood in his way, or, worse, a burning, radioactive disaster. The disaster of N'Orr Ridge on Mars quickly came to mind.

Dr. Erdel clutched at my cape. "Can you stop that man, before he takes over the Earth?" Dr. Erdel asked nervously. "I would hate to have to spend the rest of my days inventing things for him . . . Oh, the things he threatened to do to me if I failed to make weapons for him!"

"I'll try to stop him!" I said. "See if you can find a way out of here. If I'm not able to stop Z'Orr, he may decide he wants to destroy this entire nuclear plant. But I'll do my best."

I opened the door, and flew up the stairs after Z'Orr.

As I rushed to find Z'Onn Z'Orr, my reawakened mental powers sensed the presence of someone familiar who had returned to the nuclear power plant.

Marcia was inside the building, and I could tell from her thoughts that she was in a measure of distress.

I landed on the stairs, and had to stop for a moment and concentrate on her thoughts, to see if she was in danger. It was my duty, as the person for whom John Jones had died, to make sure that Marcia did not come to harm.

I made mental contact with Marcia. She, along with a number of scientists, was trying to stabilize a control rod structure that had been shaken by Z'Orr's mounting attack on the nuclear plant. The scientists who were left were doing what they can, and Marcia was doing a good job of helping them. She had been trained by Dr. Erdel, among others, so the power plant was in good hands, as far as she was concerned. If I didn't break the mental link immediately, I might accidentally distract her from her work, with potentially disastrous results.

It was best to leave Marcia to her work now, and for me to go after the source of the chaos, Z'Onn Z'Orr.

I flew toward where I could hear shouts, screams, and gunfire. Z'Orr had started his reign of terror already, starting with attacking the security forces in the nuclear power plant.

I had to approach him carefully, in case my powers faded away while I was fighting him.

I could see that a large group of security guards were trying to resist Z'Orr's onslaught. The bullets from their weapons bounced off his invulnerable skin. The guards were even firing high-caliber weapons at him, to no effect.

"We don't have anything that can stop him!" said one of the guards. Their ranks were shrinking as Z'Orr mercilessly picked them off with his Martian vision. Men turned into piles of ashes as he blasted them.

"It'll be at least a half an hour before we can get the National Guard here!" commanded the guard captain. "Shoot him with whatever ya got!"

As I neared Z'Orr, I could feel my powers weakening. Something on him was weakening my powers, and it wasn't telepathic.

He turned on the particle beam generator and sent a blast rippling through the security guards' ranks. Five of them were vaporized instantly. He energized the beam for another deadly blast.

I was soaring toward Z'Orr. I didn't care that my powers would be fading away; if I soared fast enough, the force of my impact against him would be enough to do him some damage.

He turned to face me just as I smashed into his chest. There was a momentary pain such as I had never felt before, but this soon faded.

Everything went black for a moment and I found myself in Z'Orr's hands, his fingers around my throat. I could hear him breathing hard, so I must have hurt him somewhat. The pendant on the center of his bastardization of a Martian Elite Police uniform was cracked.

"That . . . was quite a clever gambit, J'Onzz. You managed to shatter the pendant that was draining your powers. Ultimately ineffective, though, since I now hold your life in my hands. And I'm going to take that life, right now!"

I blasted him in the eyes with my Martian vision. He clutched his eyes and I punched him in the face before he had time to recover. I had the advantage for a moment, but the two of us were still equally matched in power. Z'Orr would fight back, eventually, and I feared what would result.

At that moment a vortex opened up behind where Z'Orr was standing. The pull of the vortex was irresistible, and it took all of Z'Orr's strength to hold himself back. I held on to one of the columns in the room. The remaining security guards fled and hid behind desks to avoid its inexorable pull.

Z'Onn Z'Orr saw Dr. Erdel coming into view.

"You did this! Disobedient cur! For this insubordination, you will die!" Even as the vortex pulled him in, he blasted Erdel full in the chest with his Martian vision.

I let go of my hold on the column, and shape changed my arms so they grew to ten-foot length. The vortex began to pull me forward, but I was still able to push Z'Orr in. Z'Orr disappeared into the vortex and I withdrew my arms, and flew away from the vortex, just in time.

Dr. Erdel slumped against the wall. "It worked!" he exclaimed as loudly as he could manage. But he had a smoking hole in his chest where Z'Orr's Martian vision had burned him through. He fell to the floor, and some of the security guards gathered around him. One of only guard captains who was left alive after Z'Orr's assault ordered two of his subordinates to contact the plant's medical staff to help Dr. Erdel.

Dr. Erdel motioned to me with a hand that was losing life by the second. "My friend . . . I . . . recreated the vortex so that it would have an opening . . . but no end point . . . so there's no way out . . . " Erdel tried to explain what he had accomplished, between gasps and wheezes. "Z'Onn Z'Orr should be trapped within it for the rest of his days."

Suddenly, Marcia appeared. "I would have come to see you earlier, but they needed me in my area. Z'Onn Z'Orr destabilized a control rod structure during his first attack, but after he moved on to attack the security guards, we were able to get in there and fix it. The plant is operating normally, thanks to J'Onn, and to you, Dr. Erdel."

"Thanks to you as well, Marcia . . . " Erdel gasped. "I'm so proud of you . . . "

I, too, felt much admiration for Marcia at this moment. She was both the vivacious, energetic woman that I had gotten to know over the past couple of months and a budding scientist, all at once. In this, she was a kindred spirit.

It was too bad that she, and me, and Dr. Erdel had not met under different circumstances. My heart saddened as I thought of the interesting conversations, or the inventions, that a group such as we could have shared. But this was not to be.

"Oh . . . Dr. Erdel, please don't die!" Marcia sobbed, holding the old man's head in her hands.

"Goodbye, Marcia . . . keep up the good work. Goodbye, green stranger," he said, clutching my hand. "Thank you for freeing me from the slavery that would have been my life, if Z'Orr had been allowed to rule the world . . . now I can rest in . . . "

And at that moment, Dr. Erdel died. After all that fighting, the only sound then was that of Marcia's sobs echoing off the cold linoleum of the floor.

In the days that followed, I had plenty of time to reflect on what my place was in this new world, and what I should do with my life here.

I felt that Z'Onn Z'Orr deserved his fate, for what he had done both on Mars and on Earth. It was better for him to be forever trapped between worlds than to be brought to justice-better for such a vile being as Z'Orr was to never have contact with another living creature again.

Unfortunately, Dr. Erdel, the only one who could ever free him or send me back home was now dead, so I was trapped on this world. He was the only one who knew the secrets of the vortex technology, which was seized by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and as far as Marcia or I could figure out, confiscated by the Defense Department. I hoped that the humans would not want to use Erdel's technology for war, as Z'Orr had hoped to use it.

Marcia was very kind to me, but she loved John Jones, even though he was gone. Now that she knew that the real John Jones was dead, she wanted to see if she could rebuild her life without him. This would mean less contact with me, but it would have been too much to ask her to extend her love of John Jones to me. We would be friends, and I would come and help her if she needed me, but we would remain nothing more than friends. I would continue using the identity of John Jones, when it was necessary. He did not have much of a family beyond Marcia, so his appearance here or there would not cause concern. Marcia told me to look out for the forces of Deadly Ernest, a powerful crimelord with operations both in Canada and the West Coast. Deadly Ernest's forces were responsible for the real John Jones' death, and if they saw me in his form, they would come after me, too.

Although there were now no other Martians left on this planet, there were others who used their special abilities to protect people, as I had done. I had heard about the exploits of the JSA, and other groups of superheroes. They had accepted supernatural beings and those from radically different cultures into their ranks as equals. I would have to seek other heroes out, and perhaps together we could understand one another.

It was reported that there were more superbeings in New York City than on the West Coast -- perhaps I would find my way there, and join up with some of them.

I would have to make the best of my situation, alone as I was on this strange world. I hoped that I would not be alone for long.

Next issue: The Sinister Six!