The Justice League of America v. Taiwan (Part Two of Three)
I. The curtains open upon the Justice League headquarters, where the Flash, the Martian Manhunter, and the Green Lantern are gathered before a computer screen. All three heroes look worried.
The Flash: Still no word from Superman, Batman, or Wonder Woman. What could’ve gone wrong?
Green Lantern: Yes, it's odd they haven't reported back yet. It was just a routine diplomatic mission to Taiwan, after all.
Martian Manhunter: At any rate, we'll be able to investigate their disappearance while we are there. Now that a week has passed, it is our turn to visit Taiwan, and to discover what dangers may lurk there.
The Flash: Yes, and as we appear to be characters in a play, the next scene will find us on the island. No need for airplanes and airports!
Martian Manhunter: Flash, as usual your Earth humor confounds me. What is this "play" you speak of? And how can we be characters in it if we have not elected to perform? I think that perhaps you are dehydrated again, and that you are hallucinating.
Green Lantern: Yes, my friend. Have a gatorade. One of the green flavors, of course.
II. Martian Manhunter and Green Lantern arrive in Taipei. They are standing in front of the Presidential Palace. They lost sight of the Flash just outside of Justice League headquarters, and there has been no sign of him since.
Green Lantern: Where's Barry?
Martian Manhunter: I don't know. I cannot locate his mind anywhere. It could be that he has gone somewhere beyond the range of my powers, though why this is I do not know. Perhaps he felt the need to return home and masturbate. I am told he does this often.
Green Lantern: Could be. Anyway let's find this Chiang Ching-kuo fella, and see what he's about. Maybe he knows where Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman are.
Martian Manhunter: Yes, let's do that.
The two heroes enter the confines of the palace, where they find Chiang Ching-kuo sporting with one of his many mistresses.
Chiang Ching-kuo: A-ya! Ni men liang ge dzai gan shen me?
Green Lantern [embarrassed]: What?
Chiang Ching-kuo: Ni men dze me ke yi je yang dze sui sui bien bien de jin lai? Wo de guan li yuan dzai nai li? Ta men dzai da ma jiang, dui bu dui?
Green Lantern [to Martian Manhunter]: What's he saying?
Martian Manhunter: He is upset that we have intruded upon his revels with this young girl. He is wondering where his security guards are, and whether or not they are playing something called "ma jiang." He does not know that I have used my telepathic powers to render his security forces senseless.
Green Lantern: OK, but does he know where Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are?
Martian Manhunter: Yes, I think he does. It seems... Yes, it seems that our comrades have met with a series of unfortunate accidents while visiting this island, and that they are with us no longer.
Green Lantern: What? Dead? How did this happen?
Martian Manhunter: It seems that Superman drank something called "super supau." Batman was eaten - accidentally. Wonder Woman crashed her jet while attempting to leave. The man who poisoned Superman has thus far evaded the police, who are searching for him, and I can detect no foul play in the deaths of Batman and Wonder Woman.
Green Lantern: Superman was poisoned? Well then, we'll have to help find his killer!
Martian Manhunter: Yes, but this man does not know anything that is of any use to us, and he is well apprised of the police investigation that is underway. Fortunately I can use my telepathic powers to find the poisoner. If he is still on the island, a routine patrol ought to put me near enough to detect him, and I also know from the President here what he looks like.
Green Lantern: Great! Let's get going!
The two heroes leave the Presidential Palace, while Chiang Ching-kuo and his mistress look on in stunned silence.
Chiang Ching-kuo: Damn, I thought they'd never leave!
End scene two.
III. Back at the Justice League headquarters, the Flash has returned. He spends a few moments looking for his companions.
The Flash: Those guys took off fast! This is what I get for going home and jerking off! No matter, I can always catch up! I'll just have to run a bit faster this time!
The Flash runs offstage.
End scene three.
IV. Back in Taiwan, where the Green Lantern and the Martian Manhunter have entered a large factory. Beakers of bubbling liquids and pipes of all sizes fill the room they are in. At one end of the stage a man dressed in a lab coat performs chemical experiments.
Green Lantern [to Martian Manhunter]: So this is the guy? You're sure?
Martian Manhunter: Yes, this is him. He has been expecting us.
Green Lantern: Alright, fucker! Prepare to get... justified!
Just then the man in the lab coat looks up from the table where he is working and smiles. He is very calm.
Man in Lab Coat: Well hello, my foreign friends. How are you?
Martian Manhunter: Villain! It was you who murdered Superman! You can explain yourself to the authorities!
Green Lantern: Yeah!
Man in Lab Coat: Yes, I expected you would say something like that.
Using his ring, the Green Lantern creates a giant green hammer, with which he intends to smash the man behind the table. He does not notice, however, that underneath his white lab coat the man is wearing a yellow jumpsuit. As the hammer comes down, the man also places a yellow hat upon his head, and discards the lab coat he is wearing. The hammer destroys the table and everything upon it, but the man remains where he is, untouched.
Man in Yellow Jumpsuit: Yes, I figured you'd do something like that. You two have always been the lamest and most predictable members of the Justice League.
Green Lantern: Lame? Predictable? I'll show you lame and predictable!
And then the Green Lantern uses his ring to create a giant green net, which likewise passes through the man without harming him.
Man in Yellow Jumpsuit: Yes, very lame. What good is a superhero that is powerless against ripe bananas, lemons, post-it notes, or anything else that's yellow? All I have to do is turn something yellow and you're as helpless as a baby!
Green Lantern: Shut up, you! Or I'll--
But before he can finish this sentence the man in the yellow jumpsuit has produced a yellow baseball bat, with which he knocks the Green Lantern senseless. The Martian Manhunter can only look on as his companion is knocked to the floor.
Martian Manhunter: You monster! How dare you! You haven't beaten us yet!
Man in Yellow Jumpsuit: No? Well what about this?
He pulls out a lighter from one of his jumpsuit's many pockets.
Martian Manhunter: What? No! How did you--
Man in Yellow Jumpsuit: Come on, man... hunter. We have your comic books like everyone else. Of course everyone in Taiwan knows that your weakness is fire! It's even in the cartoon!
And as the man advances all the Martian Manhunter can do is retreat towards the door. He looks mournfully towards the fallen Green Lantern, but he is powerless against the lighter in the man's hand. The man flicks his thumb against the lighter and a large, unwavering flame flickers forth, striking fear into the heart of the last remaining Martian.
Martian Manhunter [as he slips out the door]: Why... you... you haven't won yet! I... We'll be back, I tell you! We'll be back!
Man in Yellow Jumpsuit: Yes, I'm sure you will. And I'll have more lighters and candles handy for when that happens! Goodbye!
The Martian Manhunter leaves. The Man in the Yellow Jumpsuit returns to his table, setting it aright.
Man in Yellow Jumpsuit: Superheroes. So predictable. Always poking their noses where they don't belong. At least the Lantern didn't upset my experiments too much. I'll have this right again in no time. I think--
By sports drink Kal-el met his end,
By Krypton filtered did portend,
His gasping choke as ballroom dancing,
Did prevent his last romancing.
Batman, carried to the street,
Was later tendered into meat,
Over rice wine served with golden rice,
I'm told he tasted mighty nice.
And Wonder Woman, drugged and faint,
Was later told with great restraint,
How both in League were here no longer,
And then, at last, her jet did wrong her.
Later still, with Lantern full of rage,
Yet tortured by the yellowed page,
I knock him henceforth to the floor,
From there towards the factory door.
The Martian hunting also keen,
But fire had not yet lost its sheen,
I think he'll not be back again,
For festive fires will yet offend.
For all, there's yet one left to fight,
Yet I will not leave on the light,
For he has run so far, so far I fear,
That he will overpass the years I'm here.
Green Lantern [stirring from unconsciousness]: Uhhh... dude. What are you talking about? What is that? Poetry or something? I thought... I mean Flash said... are we in a poem or a play?
Man in Yellow Jumpsuit [hitting him in the head again]: Neither, my friend. Now if you don't mind, I'll return to my experiments. Having invented the sports drink of the future, I will now set about inventing a new kind of Taiwan beer! Yes! Gold Medal - your time has come!
End scene four.
EXT - AFTERNOON - THE PACIFIC OCEAN
Flash: Hey, wasn't this supposed to be a play?
AGAIN. EXT - AFTERNOON - THE PACIFIC OCEAN
Flash: Okay, okay. No need to get worked up about it! So what am I doing, anyway?
The Flash is using his super speed to run over the ocean. As he is in a hurry to reach his companions, he accelerates too quickly, leaving the surface of the globe. Moving faster than light, he passes around the curvature of the known universe, thus traveling forward in time over 35 years, to the year 2015, when this play/screenplay/poem/story was written.
Flash: But wait, wouldn't passing around the curvature of the known universe mean that I was traveling backward in time, and not forward? Wouldn't it be 35 years before the “present” date, or about 1943?
No, not if you apply Hindu cosmology - which is cyclical in nature - to the play/screenplay/poem/story at hand. In one sense you'd be traveling backward, but you would pass beyond the present age, or yuga, to the one before it. As history endlessly repeats itself, you would find yourself in the year 2015 of the previous age. Got it?
Flash: No, but let's pretend it all makes sense to me. So I've traveled into the future, it's 2015, and...
EXT - AFTERNOON - THE PACIFIC OCEAN
The Flash arrives in Taiwan, unaware that he has not only arrived late, but missed his companions’ arrival by several decades. He comes to a stop in Taitung, on the east coast of Taiwan in the hopes of tracking them down. It is a scenic, beachfront community resembling Hawaii minus all the big hotels (for now).
Flash: Whew! Boy am I tired! I feel like I just ran around the curvature of the universe! I'll have to track down one of the locals and figure out where to start looking for the Green Lantern and the Martian Manhunter!
The Flash knocks on the nearest door, in the nearest village.
Flash: Hello? Hello? Is anyone there?
Local Person: Ni gan she me? Ni chuan she me chi guai de yi fu?
Flash: None of these people speak English! But wait, I see a white man over there!
The Flash races over to the author of this story and his family. They are walking back up the stairs from the beach in front of the abandoned hotel. They are very sandy and very tired.
Flash: Hello, do you speak English?
Me: Why yes I do. I'm also the person writing this screenplay.
Me: I'm not really here, you see. I'm typing this in my living room, in a city south of here. I am imagining all of this.
Me: Oh anyway, how can I help you, Flash?
Flash: I'm trying to find the Green Lantern and the Martian Manhunter! Has there been anything in the news about them?
Me: Well, you're about 35 years too late to do them any good. Martian Manhunter made the mistake of hiding in a park during Chinese New Year. I believe he was posing as a tree. Anyway, they started setting off firecrackers and bottle rockets while he was there, and the poor guy had a heart attack.
Flash: Oh my God!
Me: Yes, in this instance I might just be your God. But yeah, the Martian Manhunter didn't end well. But I think the Green Lantern made out OK. He later moved out to Taitung, took up surfing, and opened Hal's English School up in Dulan, about ten minutes away. You can't miss it. Just head up the highway here, and when you get to the town on top of the hill you'll see the sign on the right.
Flash: Great! Thanks so much! And about that other stuff you said...
Me: Don't worry about it. I was just killing time on the computer.
The Flash speeds away, and the author of this story and his family return to their red Nissan Tiida. His wife and children tell him that the Flash was a hallucination, and that he was talking to a nearby palm tree. He responds that there is a fine line between hallucination and imagination, and that it may just be the case that he was the one imagining all of them all along.
EXT - DULAN VILLAGE - AFTERNOON
The Flash slowed to a stop as this screenplay became a story. It was a bit dizzying at first, primarily because all of his actions shifted into the past tense. “Goes” became “went,” “runs” became “ran,” and “does” became “did.”
Being a very speedy, active sort of person, this use of the past tense annoyed him. He was always waiting for what he did to catch up to his present understanding of events, or for his past understanding to inform his present actions. Having already traveled around the curvature of the universe, having already traveled 35 years into the future by traveling countless eons into the past (as the Hindus would have it), he now had to contend with this difficulty at considerable mental expense. He had run far, he was growing tired, and he still hadn't found his friend the Green Lantern.
The cram school mentioned by the (strikingly handsome) foreign man was easily located. It was on Highway 11, the main route through the town, just after a gas station. There was a sign over a house reading "Hal's English School," and the Os in "School" had been painted to resemble Hal Jordan's power ring.
The Flash entered the house without knocking, and inside the living room he found Hal Jordan, the Green Lantern, teaching a class of five elementary school students. He was wearing surf shorts and a T-shirt, and since the Flash had last seen him he'd gained several pounds and lost a lot of hair.
"Cat," said Hal Jordan to the class, slightly disconcerted by the scarlet speedster's arrival, "C-A-T. Cat. Is the cat big?"
"No," said all of the students, the class's attention fixed on a picture from an English book, in which a cat slept on a table. "The cat is not big."
"Well," said the former (?) Green Lantern, "That's all for today, kids. Don't forget your pencil boxes! See you next week!"
"See you next week," said the students in unison. They stood up together and began walking out the door. The Flash's uniform drew several exclamations from the students as they filed out of the room. "Is it Halloween?" said one.
After they had left, the Flash found himself alone with the teacher, who gestured him to sit down in one of the student's chairs. The room was very small, and decorated with English-learning posters and several bookshelves holding books. At the Flash's back the students peered through the outside window, curious as to the Flash’s identity, and why he was wearing such strange clothes.
"Good to see you," said Hal Jordan without further ado, "How have you been?"
"Fine," answered the Flash. "But I guess I'm getting here a little late. You want to tell me what happened?"
The former Green Lantern had to think about this for a moment. Where should he begin? How to explain it all? "Well," he finally began, "You last saw me in… what? 77? 78? Back at headquarters?"
"Yeah," said the Flash, "But I was in too much of a hurry, so I accidentally ran around the curvature of the universe. I know it's a long time for you, but for me it was yesterday, or at least the last Hindu epoch, or something like that."
"Forget it. So what happened after you guys got here? All those years ago?"
"OK," the Green Lantern began again, "So... we were looking for Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, right? Well, as it turns out they were dead before we got here. Superman got poisoned, Batman got eaten, and Wonder Woman crashed her jet. After that the Martian Manhunter and I went looking for the guy who poisoned Superman, and then he knocked me out with a yellow baseball bat. While I was unconscious he pulled a lighter on the Martian Manhunter, and he went running into a park, and some people were lighting off fireworks, and that was it for J’onzz."
The Flash took a few minutes to process all of this. Had the Justice League really been defeated so easily? "And how did you get away from Superman's poisoner?" he said after a long time, "Did you catch him? Did you find a way to defeat him?"
Hal Jordan just smiled at this. "No," he said, "He just let me go. He flushed my ring down the toilet while I was out, and I haven't seen it since. I was too embarrassed to go back to America after that, so I found a girl, settled down, and had some kids."
"But what about the guy who took your ring? The guy who killed Superman? Didn't you want to bring him to justice?"
"I thought about it, yeah, but what could I do? I didn't have my ring anymore, and there was no one left to call. I thought for a while that you might show up, but after a couple years I figured it just wasn't going to happen."
"So you just... started teaching English?"
"Sure, why not? What else was I supposed to do? It pays better than being in the Justice League - that's for sure."
"And what about Superman?"
"What about Superman? Face it, Barry, the guy was a major asshole. His poisoner did the world a favor."
"But what? There's nothing left to fight for anymore, Barry. Why not just hang out here for a while? I've been checking the charts and the surf looks good today. I've got an extra board I can loan you. What do you say?"
The Flash turned to look at the kids, still staring at the two adults through the screened windows. What could he say? He couldn't argue that Superman hadn't been worth doing in, but questions still nagged at him, and doubts lingered.
"I can't stay here," the Flash finally said, "Not until I know how Batman and Wonder Woman died. I need answers."
"Answers?" laughed the Green Lantern, "Answers to what? It's just Taiwan, man. It just doesn't agree with some people. Up is down here. And left is right. You'll learn that eventually."
But "eventually" was spoken to the Flash's back as he emerged from the house. He had already decided to run to Taipei, and once there he planned to investigate what had really happened during that night in the late 1970s, when Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman had been the guests of honor. Maybe their deaths hadn't been the work of a single person or organization, but he had to be sure.
He began running north along the highway. His legs moved quicker, but he did not really accelerate - not as much as he'd been expecting. A brisk run only brought him to the local 7-11, where he stood in the path of speeding cars, short of breath. What had happened? Where was his super speed?
Just then a sonic boom thundered through the town, and a man on a red and yellow scooter decelerated from the speed of sound to a standstill in a matter of seconds. This man was wearing red shorts and a yellow T-shirt. He parked in front of the 7-11, gave the Flash a confused look, and entered that establishment for the purpose of buying cigarettes. The Flash followed him through the automatic doors, not sure of what he was going to say or do.
Still uncertain as to the manner in which events were progressing, the Flash entered the 7-11 and approached the man, placing a careful hand on his shoulder. Something about this man seemed very familiar. It was almost like looking at an Asian version of himself.
"Excuse me," said the Flash as the man turned to meet his gaze, "But, um, did you steal my speed force?"
"What?" said the man, "What's a speed force? Are you on drugs or something?"
"Um, no," said the Flash. "The speed force is what gives me my power. It gives all speedsters their power. I can't run fast anymore, and I saw you come into town, and I just thought maybe..."
"You're crazy dude," said the other man, now turning to look the Flash over. "My scooter could do that since last June when the big typhoon came through. I got drunk and spilled a bottle of super supau all over my scooter, and then I rode home in the rain. On the way home I got hit by lightning, and after that my scooter could go REALLY fast. I'm the Taitung Flash, haven't you heard of me?"
"No," said the Flash, suddenly realizing the problem, "But if you're the Taitung Flash... hey, what Earth is this?"
Comprehension dawned on the other man's face. "Ohhhh.... Oh yeah, I get it! This is Earth-T, man. Short for "Earth Taiwan." You're from another Earth, aren't you? Like Earth One?"
"Yes," said Barry Allen, "I'm from a parallel universe. Earth One. So I guess I didn't just travel in time. I also ran into another universe. That means that Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and the Martian Manhunter probably never died on my Earth, and that Hal never became an English teacher. It also explains where my speed force went – I left it behind on Earth One!"
"Hal?" said the Taitung Flash, "You mean like 'Hal's English' Hal? Oh hey I know that guy. Wasn't he the Green Lantern before or something? Or wait - was he? If you guys came from another Earth, does that mean there's another one somewhere? Dude, you're tripping me out!"
By this time the two of them had moved out to the exterior of the 7-11. Cars, bicycles, and scooters passed them by as they spoke, and the sun was sinking lower behind the buildings on the other side of the road. Had it truly been another reality? And how was he going to get back to his own Earth? Trying to find the Superman's poisoner began to seem even more pointless, now that he found himself on Earth-T.
"Hey," said the scarlet speedster, "Can I borrow your scooter? I need to get back to my own Earth!"
The Taitung Flash considered this for a moment, looking up and down the road. "No way dude," he finally said, "But maybe I can give you a ride back to your own Earth and time. I told Hal I'd go surfing with him later, but I should be back before I left."
The Flash could not help but embrace his Taiwanese counterpart. A great sense of relief washed over him. In the space of a few minutes he had gone from being the sole remaining member of the Justice League to being the victim of an innocent mistake.
The author of this story had been wrong. He hadn't only traveled to the future/past. He had gone much farther… and it meant that there was still hope.
"Yeah, that would be great," he said. "Let's go. I'll buy you a beer when we get to my Earth."
"Awesome" said the Taitung Flash. And then the two men boarded the red and yellow scooter, and began their acceleration down the highway. In a few seconds they were a blur, and a few seconds after that another sonic boom announced their departure for Earth One.
The Flash would return to his own time and place, and once there he would tell the Justice League that it was better to stay in America, where it was safe.
"Hold on," said the Taitung Flash, "It gets bumpy after this part!"