The first real sign the Rokynians had of what was going on was the fading from view of their great red sun.
As a whole, the Rokynians are a rational race. But no one could be expected to remain quietly at home when, ages after Rokyn had quit being a phaseworld, the sun started vanishing from view.
There was terror. There were a few short-lived, small riots. There were some suicide attempts, and a few successes.
Adding to the fear, of course, was the fact that Rokynians, descendants of the ancient Kryptonians, viewed their sun as symbolic of their god, Rao. Thus, added to the existential terror of losing their bringer of daylight and warmth was the theological terror of possibly losing favor with Rao, somehow.
If this had happened a thousand years before, the Rokynians would have been prepared for it. Then, and for some centuries afterward, Rokyn had been a phaseworld, and regularly changed places with its counterpart, Dakkam, in another dimension.
The Drygur Moliom of Rokyn and the Science Council had a meeting just after the former's declaration of emergency law and his appearance on the public holovid system that Rokyn was temporarily becoming a phaseworld again, that this had happened before in the past, and that the condition would right itself within 48 hours.
But the Moliom and his councilmen, and more than a few others across the planet, knew better. Bleary-eyed from being dragged out of bed, a councilman responded to the Moliom's latest question.
"Drygur, we do not know why the phasing has begun again. We only know that it has, and we must assume that, if such is the case, that within 48 hours we can expect to phase into Dakkam's space."
The Moliom stood, as tense as he had ever been in his 13 years of holding the job, and posed his next statement.
"And there is no more Dakkam."
"No, Drygur," said another councilman. "Only a portion of space occupied by a small segment of a nova star."
The Moliom drew a breath. "We will be phasing into a star."
One of the scientists, a more sensitive type, broke down and wept. The Moliom turned on him. "Frab that, man, we need your brain here."
"My wife...my son..." the man murmured. "God above us, it's the Destruction all over again."
"Cease this!" snapped the Moliom. "Tanth Re, take five minutes, go to the recession area, and compose yourself. If we are to die, let us die doing something about it. Tren-Lor, can warp engines be adjusted to phase people into another plane, rather than across space?"
"Something to work on," said Tren, a black-bearded man in a purple suit. He was the best of the group and projecting an emotionless surface. His hands, which were clenched tighter than a safe door, were hidden beneath his desk top.
The Moliom, a 52-year-old man with a hawk nose and light blue eyes, said, "Let's keep this out of the public for as long as we can. Be back here within an hour with whatever proposals you can give me. Dismissed."
He turned his back and stalked out of the brightly-lit meeting room, down an arched, guard-lined corridor, back to his office. Great Rao, was it like this during the Destruction? No, of course not...the bulk of the Council back then didn't believe Jor-El. Now they all knew of the crisis, and it wouldn't do them any good.
No place in this warpsphere to rocket any infants, even if they could find suitable planets. They were cut off until they emerged from the phasing.
When they emerged, if it was where Dakkam used to be, the planet would be vaporized within seconds.
"Something to work on," muttered the Moliom, as he entered his office and shut the door.
"Mommy, why is the sun gone out?"
"It's a long night, dear. We have them every so often."
"Is Rao mad at us?"
"I don't think so. I hope not. You don't think he'd be mad at you, now, would you? Rao's better than that."
"I stole a cookie the other night."
"Ask Rao for forgiveness, Nimmy. Now go play in your room."
"Can't I go out?"
"No. It's too dark."
"But it's 3 p.m."
"And it's dark. You can't go out. Go play."
"Can I use the holocom?"
"I disconnected the feed."
"Because. Now go play in your room."
"When can I go out?"
"When it gets light again."
"Mommy, why does Dad have the gun behind the table?"
"Because it was too damp in the storage safe. Now go play in your room!"
Kara began to whirl herself about like a top in the dirt of the Zerox arena. By the time she had completed ten turns at hyperspeed, her feet had left the ground and she had taken to the air, her speed making her already invisible.
Below her was the unmoving, unconscious form of Satan Girl, a trail of blood leaking from one corner of her mouth, and Drang, whose magic bolt had gone through the space which she occupied a nanosecond before.
Supergirl pierced the time barrier and made a five-minute jump, controlling her spatial flight so that she materialized at a spot behind where Drang had been standing. If she needed to escape, or dared some sort of attack, she would be at a point of better advantage for it.
The only problem was that Drang wasn't there anymore.
The Kryptonian girl's eyes narrowed in suspicion. She approached Satan Girl, still sprawled full-length in the dust, one leg curled awkwardly underneath her.
Information, she needed. The crowd of over 8,000 was getting restive, wondering what had just occurred, and what new wonders would follow. From the sound of the conversations she picked up, though, everyone was glad Satan Girl had gotten the short end of things, though they weren't quite sure about Supergirl's nature.
Kara pushed off of the dirt floor of the arena and lit on the area of the tier nearest where the judge of the event sat. Once again, the people seated nearby crowded away from her. She ignored that.
The judge himself was trembling at the sight of the powerful girl, not two feet distant from him. "Congratulations, milady," he said. "We applaud your hard-won victory."
"Yeah, right," said Kara, irritably. She absently rubbed a palm across her face and noted the presence of blood in her hand. "What happened to the orange wizard who was here a few minutes ago?"
"We, ah, we do not know, milady," the judge replied, spreading his hands. "We assumed you and he had gone to the same other-realm. He vanished not two breaths after you did. Milady--" He hesitated.
"What?" asked Kara, rubbing her hand dry against her skirt.
He grasped her wrist. "Would you please, please take the Evil Woman with you when you go? She is a plague! She has murdered! She will murder again, unless you take her. Please, please take her!"
Kara sighed. He was practically slobbering on her. But still...these were medaeval people, despite all the high-tech that had intruded in their lives. And, if she had been in their place, she admitted that the presence of Satan Girl would have been like harboring the Devil in an apartment two blocks away.
She also didn't know where Drang had gone. Maybe he decided to take a powder after she beat Satan Girl. Nah, not likely. But none of her senses could detect him anywhere within their reach. Well, worry about him later. Unless he jumped her from behind, or something.
What about Cham?, she thought. What am I supposed to do about him? I can't haul him across all those parsecs of warp-space without a suit or a cruiser...he's not like Dawny. If I take the time to steal a starcraft, Satan Girl could be up and running again. Yeah, great choice.
On top of that, she wasn't in the greatest shape herself. She really needed some time to recuperate. Satan Girl had been fighting to kill. If Muhammad Ali had been a Kryptonian in his prime, she felt that going up against him couldn't be much worse than what she'd experienced. She didn't even want to think of what she'd look like in a mirror.
Cham and Satan Girl. Little picture, big picture. All right, Kara, choose. Make Dev-Em proud of you.
She turned to face the crowd in the rest of the seats, still standing beside the judge. "Listen to me, people of Zerox." The spectators gasped. The guards stood their ground, tensely. Some made the sign of the Evil Eye against her.
"I must go, for the moment. I shall take the Evil Woman with me. As much as it is in my power, I shall keep her from returning to you. My name is Supergirl, and she is my dop--my dark side. My Hellsister. But I shall take her with me, and leave your world.
"These three conditions I impose on you, and you must fulfill them. First, my friend who changes shape is to be tended to, to be aided in his healing, and not to be imprisoned again. You must tell him that Supergirl and his friends will return for him as soon as we can. If Mordru returns before we do, you must hide my friend from him. If you do not...remember, I wield the power of my sister."
There were murmurings. She gave the crowd a steel-blue stare that let them know she was deadly serious.
"Second, you must aid us, when we return, against the Evil Woman's two helpers. This may be as simple as giving us information when we request it. It may be more substantial. But this must be done, if we are to free you."
A few shouts of agreement were heard. The Zeroxians liked this prospect better. Kara raised her hands again for silence.
"Third, when we return, you must aid us against Mordru." The huzzahs were replaced by cries of terror. Women clutched their children to them. The guards were beginning to shake off their fear of her, and replace it with a greater fear of Mordru. Three of them started shoving their way through the crowd at the bottom of the tiers of seats, wands at the ready. Supergirl noted them, leaped into the air a few feet to give herself the proper angle, inhaled deeply, and expelled a great gust of super-breath at them. The three guards, and about ten people near them, tumbled over the bottom seats onto the concrete lip that abutted the safety wall about the arena. When they got up again, they had lost their aggressiveness. They kept their wands holstered.
"Again, you must aid us against Mordru," she repeated. "When we return, we will do what we can to free you from his tyranny. But we must have your cooperation, even if it has to be in secret. You must aid us with information, you must aid us with your secret support. And afterward, if we are triumphant, then you must be the ones to retain your liberty yourselves. You must not submit to his tyranny again, nor any other. You must once again make Zerox a free world."
A crowdster yelled out, "Easy for you to say, blonde-hair! You don't have half the Dread Lord's power!"
Supergirl turned to face him. "No. But I have my own power. And my friends have their own power. In the past, that has been enough. Now...it must be enough again. We will return. Remember my three conditions...and remember my power."
With that, Kara leapt from the top tier, amidst the gasps of the Zeroxians, and arced gracefully towards Satan Girl's body. The villainess was almost beginning to stir. Supergirl's red boots chuffed into the dust beside her enemy. She knelt down, placed her hands on a certain part of Satan Girl's neck, and rendered her fully unconscious again. Then she removed her own red cape, wrung it into a makeshift rope, and tied Satan Girl's legs with one end of it. She hogtied the woman's wrists with the other end. Then she took Satan Girl's leaden mask and turned it around on her head, so that the blank side faced her eyes. The lead in it would prevent her from using her vision powers.
There were restraints that could be applied to her foe at Legion headquarters.
With a final sigh, feeling as though she'd really like a nice long stay in a Rokynian recovery bed, she leapt into the sky with her grim burden.
The people watched till she was gone from sight.
Krellik wondered how long Zoomy could keep schussing about the room and the rest of the installation like it was his personal luge. The Prof had hypermuttered something about the "speed force" when Krellik asked him, on one trip by. Krellik sneered, spat on the floor, and hoped that wasn't a bunch of cops as fast as the Flash.
Tyr was sitting up, eating with his normal hand--they'd had the mess make them up some food that looked digestible, and, when Krellik's hidden-motives detector had found some poison in one morsel, he'd broken a cook's arm--and keeping his other hand, the one with the built-in gun rig, trained on the Legionnaires in the stasis capsules.
"One big friggin' happy family," said Krellik, and gave a tied-up guard a kick in the ribs.
There was a cry of pain. And it didn't come from the guard.
Krellik heard something going thop-whack-boom about the walls of the chamber, making dents in them, like an invisible minnie ball caroming off them. He clenched his fists, involuntarily. What was going on? His sixth sense hadn't kicked in. "Tyr!" he called, in warning.
The caroming object made a dozen more circuits of the walls before it spiralled to a yellowish heap on the floor, beside a large viewscreen apparatus. Krellik swore. It was Zoom. Null and void, bruised up a lot from his pinballing against the architecture.
"TYR!" yelled Krellik. Out of the corner of one eye he saw a short figure in a beret seeming to materialize, skidding to a halt on the tiled floor, burning trails in it. His warning-sense still hasn't kicked in.
As fast as he thought, Karl Krellik still wasn't in time to turn fast enough to throw a punch against the familiar, black-and-blue suited guy in the captain's hat, who just popped out of a warp-portal.
"Hello, Krellik," said the man, and unloaded an uppercut that had Krellik's number written across all five knuckles.
"Arn--" was all Krellik could get out before his feet left the floor and he crashed against a defense-control machine, destroying it. He was hurt, and dazed, but not yet out of it. Krellik yelled, "Tyr! Blast the kids!", even as he wrenched the metal and plastic debris away from his sides and lunged back at his old foe. Krellik's hand reached behind him, for the place at the back of his belt in which he had strapped the deadly, all-cleaving Sickle of Megaera against his body.
His opponent stretched forth his hands and unleashed thunderbolts at him, catching the metal of the sickle as Krellik raised it. The villain screamed.
The hero moved in and unleashed blow after blow into Krellik's body and jaw. The bald man tried to defend himself, tried to fight back, but within ten seconds it was over. His nose broken, his mouth bleeding, he sagged to the floor and didn't come up.
Action Boy took the sickle out of Krellik's unmoving hand. Captain Action pulled off Krellik's right boot, making sure the coin of the evil gods was within it, and thus reduced his unconscious foe to mere mortalhood.
"Nice work, son," said the Captain.
The youth, his son, who utilized the coin of Mercury, grinned. "Thanks, Dad. He may have been faster...but I don't think he was ready for somebody to trip him just then."
Tyr had problems of his own. Huge ones. At about the time Krellik had yelled his name the first time, the space-warp had opened and disgorged a bunch of Legionnaires. A large bunch of Legionnaires. To his credit, he had triggered a blast of death at the captives. But White Witch, who had brought the Actions to the room, had already materialized a shield of mystic force between him and the captive heroes.
She was the only one of Brainiac's group to join the fray, and she was soon rendered redundant.
Mon-El reached over, turned Tyr's gun-hand into shrapnel, and slammed the villain as hard as he dared. Tyr slammed against one console, bounced off, rolled on the floor, and whumped against the base of an anchored chair.
Several other Legionnaires were already freeing their fellows from the stasis capsules. Power Boy was one of the first ones out. He looked groggily at the two unfamiliar heroes. "Who are they?" he asked, supported between Lightning Lad and Sun Boy.
"They're from the 20th," said White Witch, tiredly. "The only ones who could bypass Krellik's clairvoyance alarm. Captain Action and Action Boy. We brought them here."
Colossal Boy, free at last, lurched into the arms of Cosmic Boy. "Cos, listen, you've got to hear...I had a dream..."
Cosmic Boy grinned, lifted a metal chair with his magnetic powers, shifted it under Gim, and scuttled him through the still-open warp portal into the Legion cruiser on the other end of it.
"Everybody's having dreams," sighed White Witch.
Element Lad, manning the ship, surveyed the scene in the Defense Command Center on his monitor and nodded his head, briefly.
For once, things were starting to come together.
Black Adam got the word about Satan Girl's defeat and he really didn't give a damn. He dismissed the official messenger who had brought the news to his apartment. So Supergirl had beaten the bitch in purple? Fine.
He had been given no directives by Mordru about looking after Satan Girl. If he had, he would have attended to her. But he didn't like her, he didn't feel like attending that stupid fight she had with Supergirl, and if she got walloped seven ways from the rising of Ra, it mattered little to him. She was Mordru's lover. Let him take care of her.
Still, he had to admit to a little concern for the other girl, Ar-Ual. Now, there was a woman with some sanity in her. Not to mention several other points Knum must have given her well when he shaped her younger-self on his pottery wheel of humanity. No question about it, Ar-Ual would be worth warming a bed for. Most likely, he reasoned, she felt the same about him. How could she not? So he hoped she'd be back before long. If not, it would be worth the effort to see if he could track her down.
The 30th Century had many creature comforts. Not too many places on Zerox had them, but the ones that did were nicely equipped for incoming travellers and the occasional diplomat. Black Adam was idly examining a 3-D hologram of a fractal puzzle while reclining on a bed of incredibly soft synthetic material.
Someone smashed through the ceiling above him at the same time four others came through a wall apiece. They all wore blue. Black Adam jackknifed from his bed, jumping to a fighting crouch without thinking about it.
A hole opened up in the floor and Dev-Em rocketed up from it, landing a stiff uppercut on Adam's jaw. "Hello, mate," he said, watching the Egyptian crash into the bed and splinter it.
Black Adam, his jaw throbbing, looked round about at all the newcomers. They were all dressed the same, all in Superman costumes. They were all Supermen.
Five Supermen. Superman Marks II through VI. Gods, had Superman created an entire dynasty? He shuddered to think that the blasted Marvel Family might have done as much, on his world.
Dev-Em reached out and grabbed him by the shirt-front. "You look at me, brother. You worry about me. These five are backup for me and they really don't like the way you've treated one of their kin. Got me?"
Black Adam managed a sneer. "Couldn't handle me alone, eh, man? Not that I expected any less."
Dev slapped him hard across the face. "To hell with that. Tell me what's been done with Kara. I've heard word she was here."
"She was here," said Adam. "And is gone. Gone with that purple-dyed pain in the soul. Now, if you'll excuse me--"
"Uh-uh-uh," said Dev, and pulled Adam to a standing position. He shoved him into the arms of Superman II. The son of the first Superman smiled and thrust him into the vicinity of Superman V, who propelled him over to Superman III, who gave him over to Superman VI, who completed the circuit by shoving him to Superman IV.
The Egyptian wasn't used to such treatment, and didn't much like it. He crouched and pushed off the floor, intending to make another hole in the ceiling and escape. Superman III grabbed him by an ankle and hauled him down again. Within seconds, each one of the Supermen had their hands on him, four of them grabbing a limb apiece and the last one holding his head firmly.
It would have taken six men with the power of Shazam's godly and heroic patrons to break their grip. And Black Adam was only one.
"Should we work him over a bit, guys?" asked Superman VI, possibly the most ruthless of the bunch.
"No, Six," replied Superman II. "Not unless he gets too belligerent. I think he's smart enough to keep still."
Black Adam kept his face as neutral as possible, but he was breaking a sweat. Six Kryptonians. If any of them knew where he had been, what he had done, then each and every one of them might be tempted to take what they held and pull as hard as they could, until five pieces of Black Adam came off. Better assume they didn't know, and not give himself away.
"Let's take the babootch with us," said Dev. "Gentlemen, you're about to get a look at Earth in the 30th Century. But don't take too much time to sightsee."
The six Kryptonians and their Egyptian prisoner surged upward, carrying
the rest of the penthouse apartment ceiling with them.
Superman III, in mid-air, turned to his father. "Just like old times, Dad," he said.
Superman II looked at his son. "You mean, we're going to do this again?"
Supergirl almost flopped out of the warp above the Earth. Even flying as fast as she could, it took longer than she really wanted. She was nearly exhausted. Once during the flight, she'd put the old nerve pinch to her enemy again, just to make sure she stayed quiescent. Within half a minute of her emergence, she was over Metropolis's airspace. Even before they could identify her precisely--she was too tired to care what they did--she whooshed past the SP air cruisers, swooped down towards ground level, bowled over a squad of five Science Police, vanished into the depths of Legion HQ, and arrived in the Legion's brig. There she lay the bound Satan Girl down in front of a cell with walls of Kryptonian metal and an opened door.
She went to a wall compartment, opened it with a handprint, and took from a hook within a lead suit. From another compartment she took a set of glowing, low-level Kryptonite shackles. Turning Satan Girl on her stomach, Supergirl fumbled with the lead gloves for a few seconds but finally managed to untie her cape from the villainess's hands and ankles, letting her legs flop down on the synthotile floor.
After that, Kara gingerly took the Kryptonite bonds and affixed them to Satan Girl's wrists and ankles. Enough to deprive her of powers, maybe even make her a little sick, but not enough to kill.
Silently, Kara debated herself as to whether or not she dared take that course. Luckily, at this point she didn't have to. When the shackles were made fast, Supergirl picked up her foewoman and placed her in the Spartan confines of the Kryptosteel cell. Then she went to a control console and manipulated its surface. The door, also of Kryptonian metal, extended itself across the opening in the front and locked itself tight.
Kara sighed, stripped off her leaden clothing, hung it in the compartment, and shut it once again. Then she flew to her reserved quarters. Really, she meant to take a bath, maybe even launder her uniform if she could drum up the energy to do so.
Instead, she rolled onto the bed and was sound asleep, her bruises notwithstanding, within three seconds.
Even Computo couldn't get her up.
That was sad, because he had a message from Chief Brannard of the Science Police, about Rokyn.
Within the confines of the cell, light fell from luminous strips in the ceiling, and air molecules were recycled by a device that eliminated the need for an airshaft.
Satan Girl still lay on her back, unconscious.
The being within her was not.
Drang the Destroyer groused. Possession was such a limiting thing. He couldn't get out of her body that easily, once he'd gotten into it. And he wasn't able to rouse his host-body to wakefulness.
Well, he told himself, she would wake up of her own accord in a few hours, at the most.
Then let them see how much good Kryptonite bonds and Kryptometal walls did against the power of a superwoman and a sorceress.
To be continued...