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Justice League of America


The Stone King

By Alan Grant

for my granddaughter, Abby Rose


The Mysterious Pyramid

Gotham County, September 23

"This is Anneka Marram, for GCTV, reporting live from the Gotham County Dam, where a disaster of unparalleled proportions is fast becoming reality!"

The television station's news helicopter circled in the evening air, as Chuck Gaines, the pilot, brought it another fifty feet closer to the top of the massive dam that lay below them.

Inside, the ride was remarkably smooth. Gaines was an Air Force veteran and had been piloting choppers for twenty-five years. He liked to keep his passengers happy.

Flicking a twist of her curly, honey-colored hair from her face, Anneka Marram craned to get a better view from the chopper's open observation window.

From their vantage point a hundred yards up, she could see the large crack that zigzagged down the concrete wall of the dam. Jets of water spurted through in a half dozen places, each one blasting a spray of fine debris out into the air with it. Surely it couldn't hold much longer. Two billion cubic yards of water were putting that crack under intolerable stress.

Anneka shook her head slightly, as if unwilling to entertain the thought of what might happen next. She leaned across the chopper's cramped cabin and touched Les Dowd, her cameraman, on the shoulder. He nodded without looking and started to pan his lens across the top of the dam.

Countless police cars and fire engines were parked at each end, looking like little more than toys from this height. Human figures stood in clusters close to the vehicles, monitoring the water that poured more forcibly from the dam's damaged area with every passing minute.

The mayor was at the scene, taking personal charge of the emergency. Commissioner James Gordon of the GCPD was on hand as well. There was little they could do but wait. All staff had already been evacuated. The relief sluices had been opened, carrying roaring torrents of water away from the eight-mile long lake that had been formed when the dam first closed off this stretch of the Gotham River.

But everyone who stood there–police officers, public officials, dam and hydroelectric personnel–all knew that it was futile. It might take an hour, it might be only a minute–but the dam was going to burst.

Dowd slowly raked his lens down the face of the massive concrete structure. On her monitor, Anneka saw the picture shift to follow the course of what had once been the mighty Gotham River. Its raging waters had flowed here for millennia, carving out a steep-sided gorge that was fifty feet deep and double that across. Now the river was little more than a stream meandering away from the dam, dwarfed by the bluffs on either side.

A quarter-mile downstream Anneka could see the hydroelectric station. A dozen figures straggled away from it, making for the high ground above the steep banks, abandoning the installation completely.

Anneka lifted her microphone closer to her lips to blot out the steady thrum of the rotors and began to speak: "The generating station is in the process of being evacuated now, and I'm informed by dam management that all personnel have been accounted for."

She paused as her monitor showed Dowd's camera panning down the valley toward distant Gotham City. "An estimated twenty thousand people live between the dam and the city. And although the authorities are doing their best to evacuate those at risk, there are serious fears that there are just too many people, and not enough time."

Pausing again, Anneka twisted her head to look back at the dam through the opposite window. The sun was starting to sink, casting a purple autumn glow over the wooded hills. But there was light enough for Anneka to see that the main crack had doubled in size, and several new, smaller ones in a spiderweb network were already gushing water.

A never-ending flood would wash away dozens of farms and thousands of acres of fertile soil as it swept down to the ocean. Anneka shuddered to think what would happen when that wall of water and mud roared into Gotham City itself.

It's only a question of time, she thought, and, perversely, a surge of excitement coursed through her. She'd been junior reporter on the GCTV chopper for almost six years now, spending her life describing traffic jams and highway accidents. They'd been on their way to a three-vehicle pileup on the interstate this afternoon when the emergency call came in about the dam. Now she was reporting real news. And the station would be relaying her report not just across the state, but to the whole country. She'd be seen by a hundred million viewers. A billion, if it went global.

It might be a black day for Gotham City, but Anneka's career was going to skyrocket.

Anneka switched her mike off. "How does this sound, Les?" she asked the lensman. "We go down, hover in front of the dam for some close-up shots of those water jets. Then back up to five hundred feet, wait for the final collapse . . . and follow the wall of water all the way down the valley till it hits the city."

"Good thinking." The lanky cameraman nodded. Straight out of journalism school, he'd been with the station only a few months. But if they caught this on film, it would be Hollywood calling. "We better move it, though. Be dark in another half hour."

"Can we do it, Chuck?" Anneka called to the gruff, middle-aged pilot.

He shrugged his shoulders without turning to look at her. "Strap in tight," he rasped, his voice hoarse from a lifetime of cigarette smoking. "We're goin' for the money shot!"

Chuck hit the controls and the chopper banked steeply, turning back toward the dam, dropping as it approached. Fifty feet from the valley floor, just level with the top of the banks, Chuck leveled out, hovering directly in front of the massive, cracking wall.

Les's camera raked up the face of the dam, visible

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