Supergirl, Colossal Boy, and the Spear of Destiny arrived at the Legion's headquarters several minutes after their departure from Israel without incident. Her red-booted feet touched ground on the plaza, her leg muscles absorbing the shock of landing. She released her arms from about Gim's chest and he tumbled out of her grip. He poked the blunt end of the spear against the ground to regain his balance.
"Whoo, not even time to get a holopostcard or call up the relatives," said Gim. "When this is over, I've gotta go back for awhile."
Then, when she didn't say anything in response, he asked, "Kara, what's wrong?"
Her jaw muscles were tight. "I'm nerved, Gim. This is something beyond even my experience. You've got something there that's supposed to be the spear that penetrated Jesus Christ's body at Calvary. It made my hands feel burned. Later, we're supposed to go on a mission that's in the neighborhood of Hell itself, if Constantine is right. Mordru's going to try and make himself one with the Power of Evil. I've been up against the Anti-Monitor himself and lived to tell about it...but this seems heavier."
Gim looked at Supergirl. She was as brave a warrior as he'd ever known, but nobody was totally fear-free. He was coping by putting most of what they had to do out of his conscious mind. He put a reassuring arm about her shoulder.
"There's a thing Rabbi Tuchman used to tell us in temple," he said. "‘If we stand, God is with us. If we fall, God is still with us. So don't be afraid to fall, but do everything you can to stand.'"
She smiled with the corner of her mouth. "Thank your rabbi for me. I'm not chickening out, Gim, don't worry. Let's join the others."
The two of them flew into the headquarters building.
In the space above Daxam, twenty minutes yet remained till the asteroid entered a dense enough level of atmosphere. Fifty phase engine ships had arrived, and were deployed about the titanic world. The regular Daxamite ships were still keeping up their efforts to restrain Ar-Ual, and still having little luck.
Inside the Legion cruiser, Element Lad and his fellows waited. Lightning Lass said, "Assuming enough of these things got here to help, how much time would they need to do it?"
"I don't know," admitted Jan. "I don't think they've ever shifted a planet of this size before. I'm going to get suited up. Maybe I can still transmute enough of it to make a difference when she spills it."
"I cannot believe a planet of this size has no lead deposits," rumbled Blok.
Mon-El said, "Daxam has lead. It's like uranium or plutonium on Earth. We have detectors for it. We don't go near the stuff." He struck his hand against his thigh. "Blast it to the Pit. I just can't stand this waiting."
Sun Boy replied, "We've got no choice, Mon. We've done what we can. Now, it's in the hands of the crews on those ships."
"Yeah, yeah," retorted Mon. Then something caught his eye on the viewscreen. He pointed at it. "Jan. Jan, was that ship there before?"
Element Lad swung his gaze to it. It was a phase engine ship. Was it new?
He stuck an interfacer on his forehead. "Computer, give me a count on phase engines around Daxam."
The synth voice replied, "51 standard phase engines. 52 standard phase engines. 54 standard phase engines. 60..."
"That's enough, computer," said Jan Arrah. He took off the interfacer. But he moved in closer to the monitor, around which the other Legionnaires were now crowding.
"It's working," said Element Lad. "It's working."
"Thank you, Creator," breathed Mon-El. His hand was plastered to the viewscreen.
Pol Krinn, Magnetic Kid, slapped Element Lad on the shoulder. "Way to go, Jan! Using phase engines to teleport other phase engines to Daxam. Who'd have thought of it?"
Element Lad said, "If I'd thought of it a few hours ago, we wouldn't be in this fix. We still need a lot more of them to make this thing work. We also need at least as many tractor ships to be displaced in their place. Keep praying."
The Daxamites had to send up at least 100 ships whose places could be taken by the phase ships. The phase engine ships around Rokyn could lock on to the Daxamite ships and exchange places with them, using their teleportational beams. The Daxamite ships would, in turn, appear near Rokyn once the exchange had taken place. In this way, the 100 phase ships could be brought into position around Daxam. If enough Daxamite ships were sent aloft, if the exchanges could be made in time. If.
Lightning Lad regarded his friend. "Jan, in case I've never said this, I think you're one hell of a good Legion leader."
"Thanks, Garth. We've still got about twenty minutes left to see if I'm worth a damn."
And more phase engines appeared from warp-space, and positioned themselves about the world of Daxam.
The woman pushing the asteroid forged ahead. One way or the other, within about twenty minutes, she would lay her burden down.
In another section of warp-space, the six Supermen and Dev-Em hurtled towards the Cosmic Axis.
<There's a slight irregularity to its motion, a bit of up-and-down wobble,> said Superman IV. <That must be the problem.>
<Use your mike-vision, sons,> ordered Superman II. <Find that bit of rock on it, and find it fast.>
Dawnstar put her tracking skills to play, and quickly flew in the direction her senses indicated. She pointed. <That area. Look. You may be able to see it.>
Dev was the first to spot it. A small bit of brownish rock imbedded on the surface of the great shaft. <I've got it,> he said, and broke formation at top speed.
<Dev,> called Superman III. He followed, but the Kryptonian spy was moving at top speed. The Axis was turning like a cosmic centrifuge, and the Supermen well knew that any section of their bodies could be pulped like an Earther's if they impacted it the wrong way.
Perspective seemed to shift as one neared the Axis. The thickness of its shaft, which had seemed of planetary size, now appeared to be hardly bigger than a man. But it didn't shrink beyond that point.
What Dev-Em was attempting was no less dangerous than breaking into the active area of a 20th Century NASA centrifuge, dodging its swinging, multi-G-velocity arm, and picking a stray bolt off of its central point. Even with the multi-light speed and planet-moving strength and nigh-invulnerability of a Kryptonian, it was more dangerous than that.
And recovering the fragment of Eternity Rock was only half the battle. The awry movement of the Axis had to be stopped. The Supermen would have to somehow put it back on proper track, without miscalculation.
That was the only chance for Rokyn to survive, and Rao only knew what would happen to the rest of the multiverse if they screwed it up worse.
Dawnstar had to stop outside the reach of the Axis's great arm. She switched her telepathic plug to PM, without specifying a user, and muttered prayers to the Great Spirit.
The former Knave of Krypton reached the Cosmic Axis proper. The great rainbow aura surrounding it now sparked off his form as well, like the hues of Rainbow Canyon on his dead homeworld. Dev was very aware of what would befall him if he missed his mark. But he was more aware of what would happen to Rokyn, if he faltered.
Before any of the Supermen could reach him, he positioned himself below
the Axis, gathered himself, and sprang upward. He reached a speed
that would have shamed a commercial spacecraft.
Superman III tried to launch himself after Dev. His father caught him by the cape and hauled him down.
<You'd've been off a fraction,> said the elder Superman. <If he doesn't make it out...I'll try next.>
By the time Supergirl and Colossal Boy got to the Legion's meeting table, Krellik, Professor Zoom, and Tyr had been stored in Inertron cells alongside Black Adam. Drang still fumed in his chalk circle prison, not far from the meeting table. He looked at Kara and snarled.
The first thing Kara noticed was Laurel, flying towards her with a giddy smile on her face. The next thing she noticed was that Laurel had no flight-ring on her hand.
"What gives, Laurel?" asked Gim, who hadn't noticed her missing ring.
Laurel landed barefoot beside Kara. "Oh, Kara, watch this!"
Before Supergirl could protest, Laurel scooped her up bodily and tossed her towards the ceiling.
"Laurel, what--", Kara began. Laughing, Laurel caught her and threw her up again. When Kara reached the ceiling, she used her flight power to keep herself up there. "Am I seeing things, or have you got--powers?"
"Don't worry, Kara, she's been throwing everybody up and catching them," said Ultra Boy. "She's got powers, all right. She's gonna wear them out, too."
Colossal Boy stepped forward to hug Laurel, and did so, forgetting he was holding the spear. "Ouch!" she yelled, and pushed him away, hard. He went sprawling. The spear clattered to the floor and rolled against a wall.
"Grab it!" said Constantine. Phantom Girl stepped over, extended her hands cautiously, ready to phase out if something untoward happened, and touched the spear. Then she picked it up, and carried it back to Gim.
"What have you got there?" said Laurel. "It felt like a hot iron on me. Don't tell me I've lost my invulnerability!"
"Calm down, Laurel," said Kara, descending to the floor. "It did me that way, too. It's got supernatural energies. A no-no for us Krypts."
"Can say that again," said Constantine. "Keep ahold of that, Colossus. Treat it like an M-16, ‘cause that's what it's going to be for you in this one."
"What he means is, don't let it out of your sight," said White Witch. "But don't get too near me with that. From its energy output, I wouldn't even handle it with lead gloves."
Captain Action opined, "I wouldn't want to touch it, myself. Even though I'm an Episcopal, my powers derive from the energies of beings like Zeus, Hercules, and Heimdall, as Carl's do from Mercury. It might not like us."
Dream Girl asked, "The spear's anti-Episcopal? What is that?"
"Skip it, Nura," sighed Mysa.
"So, Laurel, this is fabulous!" said Kara, holding her kinsman by both bare shoulders. "Tell me how this came about. Were your powers latent?"
"Well, oh, gosh, sort of," bubbled Laurel. "Just a minute. ‘Power off.'" She seemed to shudder for a second, then came back to herself. "Brainy told me not to use them too long. He said they'd take a lot of energy from my body and my, oh, I don't know--'alter-body', I think he said. It's like spirit, only it has to do with energy levels. Like, here's how it happened. He asked me if I wanted to try an experiment that might affect my power output. I said, ‘Sure, anything.' I mean like, invulnerability is nice, but--"
"Yes, honey, go on," prompted Kara. "And then what?"
"Oh, and then he took me to one of those reclining chairs, had me grip a pair of handles, and he said he needed to put me in a trance, you know, hypnosis. I don't know just what he said when he had me under, but it worked. When I say, ‘Power on,' I can do this." She leaped 20 feet up and touched the ceiling, coming back down to the carpet with a huff. "Then I say, ‘Power off', and I'm myself again."
"Wow," said Kara. "Just like Mary Marvel and ‘Shazam'. That's incredibly neat, Laurel. And is there any time restraint on your powers?"
"About six hours a day. Anything more than that, and Brainy says I might get an overstrain. But, I mean, like, that's enough! For 25 per cent of the time, I can be a real Kryptonian. And--" Laurel's face fell, slightly. "Oh, Sheol. I'm sorry...I forgot about Rokyn, for a minute."
Supergirl's eyes widened. "You don't mean it's..."
"No, Kara, not as far as we know," said Cosmic Boy. "We're still waiting to hear from Dev, Dawny, and the Supermen. As for Element Lad, we're monitoring the situation."
Kara relaxed a bit. "So where is Brainy? I feel like giving that crazy green Coluan a big hug and a peck on the cheek for what he did for you."
"He's in quicksleep, Kara," said Laurel. "He should be out in about an hour. But he was really tired, and, like, he said, ‘There's nothing I can do about the other situations. When I wake up, Rokyn and Daxam will either be there, or they won't.' Then he got a sleep-patch and went to bed."
"Oh." Kara looked at all the others for a second: Laurel, Gim, Cosmic Boy, Tellus, Power Boy, Sensor Girl, Shrinking Violet, Phantom Girl, Ultra Boy, Captain Action, Action Boy, Dream Girl, White Witch, and Constantine. And with all that power, there was nothing they could do to save two planets. Brainy was right. It was all up to Element Lad's team, and to Dev's team.
"How much longer on Daxam?" she asked.
Sensor Girl responded.
"Fifteen minutes," she said.
Element Lad was not in the Legion ship as the final phaser engine ships materialized. Blok counted them off with the computer's tally. "146...148...150," he said. "Given five minutes for power-up and an undetermined time for activation and displacement..." His booming voice trailed off.
"Then what, Blok?" asked Magnetic Kid.
"Then it is still indeterminate," admitted Blok. "It works, or it does not."
"It'll work," said Saturn Girl. "It has to work."
Judiciously, nobody else replied to that.
The cruiser had been brought above the asteroid and Ar-Ual, outside Mordru's force-field. Element Lad and Mon-El hovered below the great rock, pacing it down. Jan could sense the gravity of the giant planet tugging at him, and upped the gain on his flight-ring to compensate.
Mon-El couldn't do anything, but was not willing to sit inside the Legion ship at this moment.
Both of them could see the expression of grim terror on Ar-Ual's face as she pushed the asteroid downward, its tide of molten lead splashing on its surface. "Doesn't look like she's doing this willingly," observed Jan.
"Doesn't matter," said Mon-El.
Jan checked the time readout on his helmet. "They've got about five minutes before she dumps this thing," he said. "We'll be just above the horizon of the phase-out, if they can do it."
"Don't say ‘if'," said Mon-El.
Element Lad sighed.
Around the entire massive globe of Daxam, the world that was big enough to be Krypton's twin, the 150 phase engine ships of the United Planets fleet positioned themselves. They linked up to four adjoining ships by long, loose tractor beams. The entire fleet was hooked into the communications system of the lead ship.
One minute till the asteroid hit dense enough atmosphere.
The fleet commander hit a button on his console. He said nothing.
An activation signal was sent to the 150 ships.
Almost as one, their teleportational beams lanced down to the surface of Daxxam.
The blackness of space was fading and the daytime sky of Daxam was coming into view for Element Lad and Mon-El.
Ar-Ual was turning the asteroid.
Jan Arrah swore at the top of his lungs.
The damnable lead was flowing over the side...
"You bitch!" screamed Mon-El, hurling himself upward, his propulsion unit on full, pushing him up towards the great rock, a stream of molten metal spattering off his suit.
Element Lad loosed his power, up to maximum coverage, and knew it wouldn't be enough.
At that moment, Daxam shimmered and vanished.
Another planet, from the universe that Daxam now temporarily existed in, materialized. Its name was Thoron. If one had not been looking at Daxam when the changeover was made, one might not have noticed it in time.
But Element Lad had been, and had noticed it.
He still kept spraying out his transmutation power, turning the hurtling lead into so much helium. Inevitably, some lead got down, vaporizing on the way to the planet's surface. Admittedly, it would have been rough going for the Thoronites, if they had possessed the same weakness as the Daxamites. But they did not.
There was no telling what damage an asteroid strike of this size would do, though. And Mordru's force-field had faded.
"Grab that rock!" shouted Element Lad, hurling himself away from it, trying to transmute as much of the massive meteor as he could.
Within the Legion's cruiser, Magnetic Kid positioned his feet against the side of the ship, said, "Blok, anchor me," and held out his hands. From them came a magnetic force almost as powerful as that of his brother, Cosmic Boy.
The elements of iron within the massive meteor responded to his power. The asteroid slowed a bit, but dragged the Legion ship down with it. The commander of the phase engine ships was alerted to the situation. "Hit that with tractors," he ordered.
10 ships, in the right position to do so, did. Twenty Daxamite ships, still left after the exchange, joined in. The latter had suffered massive power drains from their earlier efforts, but they still made it work.
The beams grabbed the massive asteroid, slowed its descent, and finally immobilized it. The Legionnaires, hurtling towards it, reversed polarity and made a safe landing on its surface. Blok, holding Magnetic Kid, fell back on his stony kiester. His charge was safe. Lightning Lad, Lightning Lass, Saturn Girl, and Sun Boy were a bit bruised, but unhurt.
The asteroid hung between sky and earth, and the Thoronites below marvelled at it, and wondered if they were under attack, or had just been saved.
Before much else could be said, the inner door of the airlock opened. Mon-El, still in his space suit, came in, carrying an unconscious Ar-Ual.
"Get her to sick bay fast," he clipped. "The red sun hit her when the field came down. She's almost dead."
Kara and the others were celebrating in table-banging glee at Element Lad's words. He looked like he'd been through a war against the Time-Trapper, but he was still smiling.
"So we managed to haul the asteroid back up, and the cruiser picked me up as well. After we stabilized the rock in orbit, the ships reversed the phasing and brought Daxam back, atmosphere, oceans, dirt and all. The fleet's hauling the rock away now. We've got Ar-Ual in sick bay, but I think she'll come around once we get out of red sun influence. She hasn't awakened yet."
"Carrying a Kryptonian's like carrying a cobalt bomb on board," mused Power Boy.
"They've got Mon-El," pointed out Kara. "He'll be able to deal with her. But this is just fantastic, Jan. Congratulations!"
He rubbed the back of his neck. "Thanks, on behalf of the group and me. I'm going to get some sleep before we make home. Keep us posted when you hear from the Kryptonians, okay?"
"If we hear from them," said Action Boy, quietly.
"Never say ‘if'," snapped Element Lad. "I said and meant ‘when'. I'm out."
The screen image winked out and was replaced by computer readouts.
Laurel threw her arms around Kara. "It's great! They did it! They saved the whole frabbing planet--oops, excuse me!" She hugged Supergirl.
"It's all right, dear. They did save the whole frabbing planet." Kara hugged her back. But over Laurel's shoulder, she picked out White Witch and Constantine looking at her.
One ordeal was over. But two more remained. And the roughest one would fall to Kara, Gim, and whomever else would aid them, from whatever distance.
Despite herself, she shivered.
Elsewhere in Metropolis, a figure in a hat and cloak seated himself against a building wall and ignored most of the passers by. He wore an archaic cloak and hat, though his dark clothing was in fashion. The brim of his hat shadowed his eyes. He held a black walking cane between his knees, and waited.
Around the corner a strange apparition limped.
It appeared to be a man, of six foot height. His clothes might once have been white, but they were dirty and frayed at the elbows and knees. The shoes were padded with paper in an attempt to plug the holes in their soles. His hair was white, he had a scraggly beard, he carried a dirty white trenchcoat over one arm, and he, too, walked with a cane. The limp showed that he needed it worse than the other man. The cane, too, was white.
On his eyes were a pair of very dark sunglasses.
The cloaked man got up from his perch and took the other man by the arm. The white-haired one recoiled in panic and tried to bring up his cane. "Peace, friend, it is me," said the man in the hat. "Lower your stick."
The old man with the white cane still looked frightened. "Do I, I know you? What are you, what orientation? What are you called? When am I? Am I still walking?"
"Yes, you know me. Our paths have crossed more than once. We have fought in several campaigns, but my path leads to places you have already forsaken. You are still walking. Come. We are needed."
"Needed where?" said the old man, gasping. "I have been walking so long."
"Yes, my friend, but we must walk a little further, and a little more quickly. Come, I will help you." He encircled the old man's arm with his own, at the crook of his elbow, and guided him along.
"Where are you taking me?" spluttered the blind man.
"To a situation of great complexity," said the other. "The Dark rages again. We will join other champions of this time to attempt calming it."
The old man seemed to calm a bit. "The Dark," he said. "I know The Dark. Do I know you?"
"Yes, my friend."
"And what are you called?"
And the two walked on.