Dance With the Demons
The man in the green, black, and white costume focused the energy of his power ring on Selina Kyle's body. As before, he knew it would be enough to sustain life, but not to cure.
Hal Jordan, the Green Lantern, knew that there had to be some yellow material in the poison that ravaged the former Catwoman. Even the ring had limits. It always would.
Sometimes, those limits cost lives.
Alfred Pennyworth sensed the problem, grimly, and set his jaw. God only knew how he would keep the knowledge from Mistress Selina of her plight. Perhaps she already knew. But at present, the Lantern's pouring of life-energy into her body was disguised as a "routine examination".
Thankfully, the woman in the Batcave cot appeared to be doing better.
Karl and Kathy, the Cat King and the Batwoman from Earth-Two, looked on apprehensively. Neither had met the Green Lantern of this Earth, who shared only a name and a similarly-powerful ring with Alan Scott of their world. But at least he seemed to be doing the job.
After a few more minutes, Green Lantern said, "That's about it. Blood pressure, heart rate, EEG...I'm no expert, but the ring seems to indicate your signs are within the norm, Mrs. Wayne."
"Thank you, Green Lantern," said Selina. "I feel better already. You put something in that ring-blast of yours to pick me up?"
"Just an exam," lied Hal. "You'll be in good hands with Alfred. I'm going to give your prisoners an amnesia treatment and get ‘em out of here, now. After that, we'll be moving you to the JLA satellite for safekeeping."
"No," said Selina.
All four looked at her. "Mrs. Wayne, forgive me," said GL. "You're in danger here. I can't stand guard duty on you. The satellite is secure enough against intruders, and--"
"I don't care," Selina Wayne retorted. "I'm not going to be put in a tin can in orbit. When Bruce comes back, I want to be here for him. I'm staying."
Alfred said, "Mistress Selina, it's an absurdly easy matter for Master Bruce to get to the satellite. There are transport stations in every major American city. And Master Lantern is correct in that you are more vulnerable here than you would be in outer space, you'll forgive me saying. We have already weathered one intrusion."
Batwoman stepped forward. "Alfred's right, Selina. If this Kobra sent these hoods, he can send more. He knows where you are, and he's apparently tried to kill you twice now."
Selina propped herself up on an elbow, defiantly. "Mrs. Gordon, I knew damned well what I was getting into when I married Bruce. I've been on the run from the law for half my life. Now the other side of the law's trying to kill me. But I knew that when I became the wife of the Batman, I was going to be in greater danger all the rest of my life. Either by being exposed to Bruce's enemies...or by knowing that Bruce could die any time he went out on a mission. It was part of the agreement.
"I could die tomorrow. I could die tonight. Maybe I won't die for forty more years. I don't know. But I do know that I could get my ticket pulled without a bit of warning, every day I've got coming to me. That isn't going to stop me. I'll be in this house, waiting for Bruce when he comes back. And he's going to come back, I know it. Even if the Secret Society of Super-Villains, the Injustice Gang, and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir try to storm this house, we're going to hold on. We're going to be here for Bruce when he gets back. Not in the Justice League satellite, or anywhere else."
Green Lantern lifted his hand. "I'm not going to argue with you, Mrs. Wayne. Arrangements have been made, and you're coming with me."
"No, she's not." Batwoman stepped between him and Selina. "I may not agree with her reasoning, Lantern. But if she wants to stay here, she stays here. I'll help look after her. So will Robin and the others. Besides, if your ring can't work against yellow...you know what the main color of my costume is."
Tiredly, Hal said, "My beam could reach around you, over you, or under you. It's already been demonstrated that the Batcave isn't safe from intrusion."
Karl Kyle got to his feet. "With all due respect, Mr. Lantern, I believe we've shown that we can keep Mrs. Wayne safe in an emergency. I think she can stay. Besides, you don't have any doctors on that satellite, do you?"
"We have medical equipment and monitors," said Green Lantern. "We also have a member on duty round the clock."
"But if Selina's life was really threatened by a relapse or something, do you have the expertise to save her?" asked the King of the Cats.
Hal Jordan hesitated. Then he admitted, "Well, no. But we could get her to the necessary personnel in time, I'm sure."
"But you might not," said Batwoman. "I don't know how long it'd take to get from that satellite to a hospital, but it sounds like it'd be longer than from here to Gotham General."
"Not necessarily," said Green Lantern. "We can teleport to just about any spot on the globe. You'll forgive me for saying this, but keeping her here is insane."
"Stop talking about me like I wasn't here," snapped Selina. "I'm not going with you, Lantern. And that's it."
The Guardians' agent on Earth folded his arms. "If that's your decision, ma'am, that's your decision. You can live with it, and you may die with it."
A horrified expression crossed Alfred's face. Hal seemed to catch it, adding, "If another band of terrorists breaches the Batcave, that is. I can tell you from first-hand experience, Kobra is not a run of the mill Gotham bad guy. He's one of the deadliest foes we've ever fought--I met him once, with Aquaman and Bruce--and we haven't brought him down yet."
Selina said nothing.
"All right, Mrs. Wayne," said Green Lantern, resignedly. "I've done all I can without your consent. If you need any more help, or you want to reconsider, call on me. I'll take care of your other problem, now."
"I'll show you where they are," said Karl Kyle, and walked with Hal to the Batcave chamber where Kobra's squad was caged.
Alfred sighed. He had heard from the Batman that this Green Lantern had lost his ring awhile back, been replaced by a substitute Green Lantern named John Stewart, and then regained his ring somehow. Now there seemed to be a whole colony of Green Lanterns in California, some of them not even human. All the same, he was glad he had this Green Lantern to rely on.
A light on a wall of the Batcave indicated someone had been admitted to the mansion above. Batwoman saw it, too, and guessed its import. "Go on, Alfred," she said. "I'll stay with Selina, here."
"Thank you, Mistress Batwoman," said Alfred, resignedly, and started in the direction of the steps to the grandfather clock entryway.
Selina shifted and turned to Batwoman, seeing that Hal and Karl were already out of the room. "Sorry I had to act like that," she admitted. "But I just can't see me playing astronaut in a sickbed while Bruce is tracking down bad guys. Guess I'm too much the dutiful wife, huh?"
Batwoman took Selina's bare hand in her gloved one, and was glad to feel some renewed warmth from it. "It's all right, dear. So far, the ‘family's' been here to protect you. I think we can manage for the duration. Are you feeling all right?"
"Better," Selina replied, feeling her forehead. "I was so warm beforehand. Thought I was having the mother of all hot flashes. Kathy, do they know something they're not telling me?"
Kathy shrugged. "If they haven't told you, they haven't told me. But there is something I'm curious about. You've said your origin is different from our Selina's. How did you become the Catwoman?"
Straight-faced, Selina said, "Because I didn't think calling myself the Dogwoman would be a great idea."
Both of them cracked up. And were very glad to.
"I'll tell you after dinner," said Selina. "I'm feeling kind of hungry. How about you?"
Batwoman shrugged. "If your Alfred is as good a chef as ours was, I think I can eat."
Alfred Pennyworth had already entered the library of Wayne Manor through the grandfather clock door. The library was kept locked on such occasions, as it was today. The butler secured the lock on the clock-door, concealing the Batcave entrance again, and unlocked one of the library entrances. Then he stepped out, hearing a hubbub of familiar voices from the den.
The "family", as Batwoman had referred to them, had returned from their clash with the Joker's company already. Coming into the den, Alfred saw them all, both young and old Dick Graysons, Helena Wayne, Jason Todd, and Barbara Gordon, in civilian clothes, sitting or standing about, all of them facing two newcomers whom young Dick had admitted to the mansion.
Both of them were women, and both brightened and hurled themselves at Alfred as he stepped into the room.
"Uncle Alfred!" squealed Daphne Pennyworth, hugging him. "I told you I wasn't going home till I'd seen you again!"
Julia Remarque smiled and hugged Alfred where Daphne wasn't. "I don't have as far to go as Daphne does, grandfather, but I wanted to see you, too. After we got hustled out at the wedding, both of us wanted to make sure everything was all right."
"Julia, Daphne," said Alfred. "Well. We certainly can make time for each other, if anyone can. Masters Dick and Jason, will you check on Mistress Selina?"
Helena said, "We'll all go see her, Alfred. You keep your girlfriends company."
Daphne, who was an actress with England's Royal Shakespeare Company, murmured, "We want to see Selina, too, uncle. Is she doing all right?"
"As to the first, it is regrettably not possible at present," answered Alfred. "As to the second, I can honestly say she is doing better at this moment. And now, if you two ladies will accompany me to the kitchen, you'll learn that I can indeed converse and prepare a meal for us all at the same time."
"So can we, grandfather," said Julia. "They haven't tasted my French cuisine yet."
"Us Brits will match you Frogs on the table any day," responded Daphne. "Let's make this a three-cook meal, and show these poor Yanks what they've been missing all their lives."
"Missing?" Alfred sniffed. "Ladies, until you sample the products of Alfred Pennyworth's hand, you both have known only culinary deprivation. Come, both of you."
The Masters of Disaster were, in a way of speaking, the anti-Outsiders. Every superhero team seemed to spawn its opposite number, and the MOD took that role for Batman's band. Both groups had clashed more than once, and both knew the power of the other.
The thing about the Masters that was unique was their mercenary nature. They preferred not to rob banks or steal valuable objects. They did jobs for pay, and they commanded a decent salary, thanks to their performance against the Outsiders. So they had been retained for this caper as well.
The woman who led the band was called New-Wave, and all that was known of her was that her first name was Becky, she had the power to turn herself into water-forms such as a wave, steam, rain, or vapor, that a former MOD member named Windfall was her sister, and that she had killed their mother. Her skin was whiter than a fish's belly and she wore a two-toned blue outfit, with all her head shaved but one topknot that was dyed pale blue.
Shakedown was the strongman of the group, and looked it. He was at least thirty per cent bulkier than any of the others, bald, brawny, bearded and mustached, dressed in a green costume. Besides super-strength, Shakedown had the power to generate vibrations and send them through various media towards a target; hence, his name.
Heatwave and Coldsnap were lovers, named, respectively, Joanne and Darrel. Dressed in a yellow-and-red uniform and with ankle-length flaming red hair, Heatsnap could radiate blasts of heat or flame and had flight powers. Coldsnap wore a blue and white uniform and, conversely, had power to generate ice and cold. Both of them, because of their current conditions, couldn't touch the other without causing damage, so their main goal was to accumulate enough cash to find a cure for themselves.
There had been a fifth Master of Disaster in the original group, the aforementioned Windfall. She had power over the winds, and could use them either to glide upon or as weapons against her foes. But she was by far the most reluctant Master (or Mistress), and had finally broken with the group, sojourning for a time with the Outsiders. She was not present. A new fifth member had been added.
She stood beside the others on the cleared field near the mountains which served as a landing strip for Kobra's planes, and now would serve as such for both Batplanes. She wore a uniform of red and blue and had the cold eye of the assassin.
"I see ‘em now, too," she said. "Both planes. Think we should be out in the open like this?"
New-Wave sneered. "That's just what we want. Get them to think we're still dealing from the same deck."
Shakedown lifted his binoculars to his eyes, then lowered them, blinked, and raised them for another peek. "N-nuh-New Wave, huhhow many Batplanes are th-there s'posed to be?"
"What do you mean, Shakes?" asked Coldsnap. "How many are you seeing?"
Heatwave pointed to the sky. "I'm seeing it, too, Darrel. Hell, I'm seeing them."
All five of them looked upward.
Where two planes had been, seconds before, now fifteen occupied the sky. All Batplanes, all identical.
And their number was growing.
"Damn!" said New-Wave, throwing a splash of water at the soil. "Must be that illusion power of Halo's. Doesn't matter, though. Two planes or fifteen, they've still gotta land down here. We'll hand it to ‘em then."
"We could make some interesting updrafts, if you want to try a wind shear experiment," offered Heatstroke.
"Stand your ground," ordered the wave-woman. "We'll hit ‘em when they land. That's the drill."
The multiple Batplanes descended, slacked speed, and came in for a landing on the field, as close to side by side as could be safely done. Illusions of thirty other Batplanes before and after them boxed them in like a squadron landing in formation. For the moment, none of the Masters of Disaster could tell which planes were the real article.
Shakedown put his hands to the ground and transmitted his power through it.
The earth underneath the landing strip quaked from side to side. One of the Batplanes, and its corresponding illusions, went onto one wing. Within seconds, the doors of both craft opened, emergency landing chutes inflated, and what looked like a small army of Outsiders emerged from their interiors. Batmen, Katanas, Metamorphos, and all the rest, on foot or in flight.
"Couple of new faces," said the fifth Master. "Who the hell is the yellow guy?"
"Let ‘em come to us," said New-Wave. "They're suspecting something's up, but they don't know what."
"Gonna find out," said Coldsnap. "Boy, are they gonna find out."
Halo saw the new MOD member. For that reason, she spurred herself on before the rest, flying straight at their foemen. She screamed out the name of her chosen opponent:
"Good to see you again, honey," said the villainess, unleashing her electrical whip. "How's the family?"
Halo sent a heat blast at her hated foe. Syonide leaped away from it, still swinging her whip in an arc as the Outsider's burst made the ground steam. The whip connected with Halo's body, sending a power surge through the flying girl. Halo screamed in pain.
A hurled shuriken knocked the metal whip from Synoide's hand, but did not cut through it. Katana was coming on the run. Syonide crouched, whipped a gun from a holster, and started firing in the Asian's direction. Katana hit the ground and rolled, her blade magnetized flat against a metallic disk on the back of her uniform, getting nearer the female killer of Halo's parents.
Metamorpho and Element Girl attacked in unison, forming themselves into aluminum gliders shaped like paper airplanes. New-Wave gestured, and Heatwave and Coldsnap hit the two elementals with temperature bursts. Rex and Rainie plummeted to Earth, resuming their humanoid forms on the way. Meta turned his bottom half into an iron shock absorber to take the impact of landing, while El Girl formed herself into a copper spring, bounced off the airfield's surface, and hurled herself at their enemies.
New-Wave decided to take a direct hand in matters and exerted herself to full extent. Before the eyes of the charging heroes, her body shifted shape, enlarging within seconds and transforming into a great wave of water. It would only retain forward motion for a few seconds, but they were enough. Batman, Plastic Man, the Creeper, Geo-Force, Looker, and Black Lightning were all swept off their feet and inundated in choking water for a telling instant. By the time the wave went past them and reformed into a woman, the heroes were bowled over, trying to regain their breaths, feet, and senses.
Katana and Syonide were attacking and parrying each other's attacks, sword against whip, shuriken against guns. Halo yelled at Tatsu to get out of the way so that she could take out Syonide. Katana paid her friend no heed.
Metamorpho had turned himself into liquid nitrogen and was chasing after Heatwave, who fled, blasting ineffectual heat-blasts at his terrifically cold form. Element Girl had become solid diamond, shrugging off Coldsnap's icebursts and elongating her arms to capture him.
Batman had regained his feet and held a Batarang at the ready. Facing New-Wave and Shakedown, his allies beside him, he called out: "Consider the odds, Wave. You have three seconds to surrender. Or pull out a secret weapon, if you have one."
"Thought you'd never ask, Batman," said New-Wave, calmly. "We have several."
At that, a section of ground opened up like a trapdoor, which it was. A very small man, no more than three feet in height and clad in a green uniform and goggles, was first out.
"Thought you'd never give the cue," said Gizmo.
A jetpack on his back hurtled him straight at their foes, knocking Batman and Black Lightning to the ground. By the time the two had rolled and leapt to their feet again, four others had emerged from the concealed bunker. Both of them, and all the Outsiders save the four newest members, knew who they would be facing, for they had battled the newcomers before alongside the New Teen Titans.
A huge powerhouse of a man was next out, followed by a yellow-clad redhead whose hands glowed with power. Then an Indian beauty in a white costume and a horned headpiece, and, last of all, a red-robed man whose brain was encased in a transparent cranium, glowing with power.
Respectively, they were Mammoth, Shimmer, Jinx, and Psimon, and, with Gizmo, they were known as the Fearsome Five.
"We're the reinforcements," said Shimmer, smiling. She raised her hand.
The Batman was already running towards them, dipping into his utility belt. He had only two words for his comrades: "At ‘em."
New-Wave, already reforming into another water-shape, yelled, "You've beaten both of us separately, Batman. But together? I don't think so!" As a wall of ice, she smashed into Looker. The redheaded model was knocked to the ground, a crushing bulk of glacier landing upon her, threatening to squash her.
Then an orange burst of power reduced New-Wave to watery form, and a newly-wet Looker emerged from the sogginess. Looking up, she said, "Thanks, Halo."
"Don't mention it," said the flying girl, dodging a blast from Gizmo's ray gun.
Jinx, an Indian villainess and the Fearsome Five's newest recruit, pointed both her hands at Metamorpho and Element Girl, who had almost overtaken Heatstroke and Coldsnap. She chanted a brief chant. An unseen rush of mystic power erupted from her fingers.
The nitrogen Metamorpho and diamond Element Girl turned and fell into each other's arms.
The coldness of Rex's form shattered Rainie into a million gleaming fragments. The shock of the contact returned Metamorpho to his normal form. An instant later, he felt a surge of mental force attacking him, deadening his consciousness, rendering him inert. He had time to put the blame on Psimon before he, too, fell to the ground.
Plastic Man and the Creeper, closest to Shakedown, performed a team attack. Nimbly, the green-haired Outsider performed a series of flips that brought him near the big bruiser, increased his momentum, and then enabled him to slam both his red-booted feet into the villain's broad chest. Shakedown moved back a step, but that was it. The Creeper grabbed Shakedown's neck and tried to find an appropriate nerve to pinch. Plastic Man wound his rubbery form, python-style, around their foe and pinned his arms.
That worked until Mammoth sprinted up, grabbed his feet, unwrapped him like a piece of cellophane, and threw him away.
The Creeper found Shakedown's fingers at his own throat, and the strongman wasn't worried about rendering him unconscious. Even desperate kicks to the face didn't dislodge him. Mercifully, Shakedown drew a fist back, ready to pulp the Creeper's yellow face.
Before he could land it, Mammoth brought a fist down on the top of the Creeper's head, and the hero became dead weight in Shakedown's hand. The Master of Disaster looked disgusted. "You didn't have to do that," he said.
"Didn't wanna waste time," said Mammoth, and turned away.
Still running, Batman hurled pellets from his utility belt at their foes. His pitches had the accuracy of a professional baseball pitcher. Explosives detonated on impact, knocking Psimon, Shimmer, New-Wave, and Coldsnap off their feet, but bagging Katana as well. Smoke grenades emitted clouds of black vapor. He didn't count on their effectivity for long, but too many of his allies were down. Whatever worked in his favor, however slightly, had to be used.
He rolled, leaped through a cloud of ebon, found himself in front of a startled Coldsnap. His fist lanced through the billows just as his foe tried to release an iceblast. All Coldsnap had time to do was to accumulate a bit of frost on Batman's midsection before five knuckles of iron smashed into his jaw and knocked him, as punning Fate would have it, ice-cold on the field of battle.
A burst of heat from above seared Batman's cape, though it had been made flame retardant. He rolled to put it out, glimpsing Coldsnap's lover Heatstroke hovering in the air above him. She didn't hover long, however; Halo blasted into her and bore her to the ground, both of them fighting as they hit.
Katana had finally smashed the whip from Syonide's hand and knocked her gun away as well. She closed on the villainess, her blade held before her, still wary of the concealed weapons Syonide carried.
Then she looked at her blade.
It had been transformed into a stick of gnarled wood. The spirit trapped within screamed, a voice she heard with her mind, in the agony of change.
Shimmer's spell would only last for three minutes, but that was enough. Syonide pulled a mini-crossbow from her belt, sent a drug-tipped dart into Katana's body, and backpedalled as the samurai charged towards her with her last bit of consciousness.
Katana bore them both to the ground, but Syonide was unhurt. By the time the blade returned to its normal form, Tatsu was unable to appreciate its restoration.
Black Lightning had gotten into the fight after Jinx loosed her hex on Metamorpho and Element Girl. He didn't know what the girl had done, but didn't want to find out first-hand. Lifting his own hand, Jeff Pierce sent an electrical charge through the Indian mystic. It knocked her off her feet and stretched her out senseless.
"Score one for the visitors," murmured the Ebon Bolt. He saw Halo in an apparent catfight with Heatwave, both women rolling over on the ground, slugging, grappling, and trying to loose powers on each other. He didn't like to hurt ladies, but Halo needed the help.
The problem was that, as soon as he started in her direction, the ground began shaking up a storm.
Black Lightning was thrown flat face-down against the ground. Splaying himself against the quaking land, he raised his head enough to see what he suspected: Shakedown had his palms against the field, about twenty yards ahead of him, and was making it impossible to stand up.
"Won't be a whole lotta shakin' goin' on after this," Jeff said, and raised his hand to throw another bolt.
That was when he felt a tremendous impact in his back, knocking the wind out of him.
He was unable to see that Gizmo had made a fists-first landing on him, propelled by his jet-pack. The three-foot-tall villain's costume was insulated against electricity, not that it made much difference at the moment.
Efficiently, Gizmo pulled a mallet from his weapons pouch and conked Black Lightning on the head with it. Jeff tried to retain his senses, even with the white lights blanking everything from his vision.
Gizmo gave him another conk for good measure, and Black Lightning succumbed.
Halo and Heatstroke had kicked apart from each other and, quickly, raised their hands and unleashed their powers at each other. For a second, Halo felt the terrible heat of her foe's fireburst. But only for a second. The might of her green stasis aura took effect, and Heatstroke was frozen in place, her hands still raised in the air. After two more seconds, she fell over.
The Outsider girl felt as if she had received a painful burn, but bit her lips and resolved to help the others against their foes. After all, she was one of their most powerful members, with a different ability for every colored aura she wielded. Maybe a good old orange force-blast in the right place could scatter these baddies and even the odds.
She steeled herself against the remaining pain and turned in an arc, ready to take on whatever foe showed his or her face.
Halo stopped when she faced Syonide.
The woman who had murdered the Harpers stood not fifteen feet away from her. Grinning like a jackanapes. Hands on her hips, not even trying to grab a weapon.
The heroine lifted her hand, ready to blast Syonide into next month.
Then she wondered if that would be a good idea.
Then she wondered what the idea had been in the first place.
Then it became as hard to push thoughts through her brain as peas through concrete.
Calmly, Syonide walked up to her, cocked a fist, and let Halo have it on the point of her jaw. The girl fell backwards and lay still. Syonide looked over her shoulder at Psimon. "Thanks," she said.
"No thanks," said Looker, not far distant, and unleashed a brainblast that rendered Syonide comatose, not without pain.
Then the Outsider's psionic turned to Psimon, who was already facing in her direction.
<I've never faced you before,> he sent. <Actually, I've been looking forward to it.>
<I'll try not to disappoint,> said Looker.
They began battering at each other's minds, erecting shields, ramming at each other's defenses, trying to control, trying to assault, causing psychic pain, drilling at the other's psyche. It was cruel and devastating mental war, and neither wished to give an inch.
After a few minutes, both slumped. Whether one or the other blasted through the other's protective psi-walls, or both succumbed from the pain of the mutual battering, will not be known. All that mattered was neither Psimon nor Looker was anymore in the fight.
Plastic Man had picked himself up painfully after his encounter with Mammoth and sought to get back in the fight. Blocking his way was the pale woman in the blue outfit. "They call me New-Wave," she said. "You're one of the new ones on this team, aren't you?"
"Yep," Plas allowed, as he formed himself into a plastic piledriver and positioned himself above her. His payload began to descend with great force. She might be a woman, but she was a dangerous woman.
In response, New-Wave transformed herself once again into ice-form. She gauged that it would be proof against Plastic Man's pounding. But there was an added benefit: Plastic Man was vulnerable to extremes of temperature.
The cold of her icy state spread over him as he contacted her. Plas pulled away from her, but a large portion of him was frozen into immobility. With an unfrozen arm and leg, he tried to crawl away.
New-Wave threw herself upon him and spread her rimefrosted form over his body. Plas stretched an arm back, encircling her neck with it, but it froze along with the rest of him. The villainess remained upon him for a few more minutes, until she was sure that her foe was as stiff as a freeze-dried dinner.
She looked up at the battlefield, taking stock at a glance as to which friends and foes remained in the fight.
Only one of the heroes was left on his feet, and she saw that he had taken down two of their number himself. Gizmo lay non compos mentis, a batrope around his feet. Shakedown had been rendered senseless, though by what means it was not obvious.
But Shimmer, Mammoth, and herself were left to face him. Mammoth stood not ten feet away from the masked man. Shimmer's hand was ready to loose a transformative spell. She, herself, could pelt Batman with pellets of solid rain.
Batman was only standing there, waiting.
"Take me to Kobra," he said. "Let the others go."
"Not before this," said Mammoth, and stepped forward.
It took all three of them together, but they brought him down.